|The Week That Was
June 4, 2005
New on the Web: British scientist Benny Peiser's article in the National Post (Canada) documents the flaws in the claim of complete scientific consensus, advanced by UCal history professor Naomi Oreskes. Her essay in Science (Dec 3, 2004) asserted that NONE of nearly 1000 published abstracts showed any skepticism about global warming. Peiser falsified her claim by examining the same abstracts; but Science refused to publish his Letter. Worse, we now learn that the editors printed her essay while rejecting at the same time a study by German professor Dennis Bray, based on a poll of some 500-climate scientists, which showed a complete lack of scientific consensus. So, an erroneous result remains in Science, without correction.
Leading Canadian meteorologist Madhav L Khandekar wrote a sensible Letter to Physics Today (Item #1). Rejected.
EPA cites Backyard Burning as major Dioxin source (Item #2). The American Council on Science and Health's Health Facts and Fears discusses a variety of natural sources (Item #3). EPA endorses a new scheme for monitoring mercury emissions (Item #4).
UN-developed studies show that clean water advances not only human health but also economic growth (Item #5). But at the same time, the EU is undermining human health by opposing DDT use in Uganda (Item #6) and threatening trade sanctions. EU panders to environmental groups.
An unbelievable proposal from Oxford elitists: Pull down 3 million
homes in Britain in order to meet Kyoto demands (Item #7). Have these
moonbats figured replacement costs and the amounts of energy required
(i.e., CO2 emitted)?
Finally, the New Scientist reports on a weird proposal to calibrate
satellite instruments in orbit (Item #8). Why? The proposer doesn't like
the satellite results that show little if any global warming. [There must
be something wrong with the instrument --- and besides, I need money for
my project.] But the New Scientist seems to be willing to publish
anything that supports Global Warming.
The present debate on Global Warming (GW) and the review of the book "The Discovery of Global Warming" appearing in Physics Today (June 2004) has prompted me to write this letter and make a case for re-assessment of the science of GW.
Several recent studies have seriously questioned many assumptions and observational evidence of GW that have been highlighted in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Climate Change documents (2001), as well as other scientific articles and news media reports. The Earth's mean temperature over the past millennium has been derived using proxy data (tree-rings, ice cores etc.) and is often presented by the well-known "Hockey Stick Curve" which shows an unprecedented warming of the earth's surface since about 1850 AD (Mann et al, 1999), the curve between 1850-2000 being shown in red representing the blade of the hockey stick, while the rest of the curve (hockey stick) shows mean temperature below a zero reference line. Recent studies (McIntyre &McKitrick, 2003: Esper et al, 2004) have questioned the methodology which produced the Hockey Stick Curve and have come up with revised earth's mean temperature variation which shows that during the MWP (Medieval Warm Period) of 8th thru 12th century, mean temperature was indeed warmer than the present. While the debate on this issue continues (McIntyre & McKitrick, 2004), more and more questions are being asked about whether the 20th century was indeed the warmest century in the last 1000 or more years.
A recent paper by McKitrick & Michaels (2004) documents that current temperature data may be significantly contaminated by extraneous factors like population growth, economic activity, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) etc. in many regions of the world. A paper by Kalnay and Cai (2003) estimates that urbanization may account for up to half the recent increase. A comprehensive paper by Pielke et al.(2002) suggests that urbanization and land-use change may be an important climate forcing and may overwhelm the GHG forcing in future climate projections. Thus the recent increase in Earth's mean temperature, estimated to be about 0.32C in 25 years, may not be all due to increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases(GHG).
The impact of GW on present and future climate on extreme weather events is being debated extensively. In a report prepared for the Government of Alberta (western Canada), I have carefully examined 20th century data (Khandekar, 2002) and have concluded that extreme weather events like thunderstorms/tornadoes, heat waves, winter blizzards etc. are NOT increasing anywhere in Canada at present and the probability of these events increasing in future remains very small. Many other reported studies, when carefully examined, show only a tenuous link between GW and extreme weather events.
Esper, J.,D.C.Frank and R.J.S.Wilson, 2004: Climate reconstructions: low-frequency ambition and high-frequency ratification. EOS, Vol.85,No.12,23 March 2004,p.113
Kalnay, E. and M.Cai,2003: Impact of urbanization and land-use change on climate. Nature, 423, p.528-531
Khandekar, M.L. 2002: Trends and changes in extreme weather events: An assessment with focus on Alberta and Canadian Prairies. Rept. Prepared for Alberta Environment, Edmonton, AB, 56p. ( available on: www.gov.ab.ca/env/info/infocentre/publist.cfm)
Mann, M.E.,R.S.Bradley and M.K.Hughes,1999: Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties and limitations. Geoph. Res. Lettters, 26,759-762.
McIntyre, S. and R.McKitrick, 2003: Corrections to Mann et al proxy data base and northern hemisphere average temperature series. Energy & Environment, 14, 751-771.
----2004: Global temperature patterns and climate forcings over the past six centuries: a comment. Submitted to Nature
McKitrick, R. and P. Michaels, 2004: A test of corrections for extraneous signals in gridded surface temperature data. Climate Research, 26, 159-173.
Pielke, R.A.,Sr. et al. 2002: The influence of land-use change and landscape
dynamics on the climate system: relevance to climate change policy beyond
the radiative effect of greenhouse gases. Phil.Trans.Royal Society,London,A,360:1705-1719
A draft of an EPA report shows, for the first time, that backyard trash
burning is the largest single source of dioxin emissions in the United
States. According to Inside EPA, the finding may limit the agency's ability
to further regulate dioxin because it lacks the authority to curtail backyard
practices. However, EPA is pursuing agreements with state, local and tribal
agencies to encourage restrictions on barrel and leaf burning. The draft
report - "The Inventory of Sources and Environmental Releases of
Dioxin-like Compounds" - shows an 89-percent decrease of dioxin emissions
between 1987 and 2000, the most recent year of data included. EPA also
reports that municipal waste incineration, which was the leading source
of dioxin from 1987 to 1995, has fallen to third place, behind backyard
burning and medical waste incineration. Environmentalists say activism
against incineration is responsible for a large proportion of the reported
declines, but EPA policies and voluntary chemical industry initiatives
are just as significant.
In a recent article for the American Council on Science and Health's
Health Facts and Fears, scientist Jack Dini looks at how some chemical
contaminants thought to be solely industrial are in fact created in nature.
Dini notes that dioxin has been found in 40 million year-old clay deposits,
and has been released to the world throughout history by forest and grassland
fires and wood and peat burning. And while such emissions are not quantified,
he considers them to be an important source of dioxins in today's environment.
Other chemical contaminants, he suggests, may also have some natural sources.
He notes that researchers with Canada's Wildlife Service have discovered
PCB-like chemicals in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that have never
been found near industrial facilities, and that the natural chemical that
gives pine its distinctive smell is actually a polycyclic aromatic compound.
Dini also suggests that some ozone depletion may be the result of naturally
created volatile halogenated organic compounds (VHOCs) generated by rotting
wood, biomass burning, and volcanic emissions. He even offers evidence
that vinyl chloride can be the product of a natural reaction of organic
matter, an iron compound and chloride in soils.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it is considering using
a recent voluntary agreement with Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem)
as a model for monitoring mercury emissions from mercury cell chlor-alkali
plants. Under the agreement, finalized earlier this month, OxyChem would
use German-developed technology to monitor for "fugitive" emissions
of mercury that may escape its Delaware City, DE manufacturing facility
through vents during routine maintenance or from cracks in pipes. The
agreement, the first of its kind in the nation, was entered into voluntarily
with the federal government and the state of Delaware. According to BNA's
Daily Environment Report, EPA is looking to begin similar monitoring at
other facilities by the end of the year.
The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), a global policy group,
has released a report finding that access to improved water supplies and
sanitation can lead to economic growth for poor nations. The report was
developed jointly with the World Health Organization on behalf of the
Norwegian and Swedish governments. It was released this month at the United
Nations during the 13th Meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development.
According to the group's new release, not only do the human health benefits
far outweigh the costs for improved water supplies, but these investments
also can help accelerate economic development. For example, certain changes
in water storage and delivery could help boost Kenya's annual GDP growth
rate from 2.4 percent to 6 percent, SIWI says.
The EU is undermining efforts to combat malaria with threats of trade
sanctions against countries using the pesticide DDT, says Kendra Okonski,
sustainable development director at the International Policy Network,
in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. The column was co-written by Niger
Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, a civil
rights organization. Okonski and Innis criticize the EU for suggesting
to Ugandan officials that they will face sanctions if they continue to
apply DDT for malaria control without expensive technologies to prevent
residual contamination of food. As a result, Ugandan producers of flowers
and coffee have urged that DDT not be used. The EU panders to environmental
groups, who have grand designs to regulate global trade, ostensibly the
cause of all of our problems, the column says. It is extremely improbable
that the quantities of DDT used for indoor spraying would enter the food
chain or the environment. Moreover, trade inevitably helps people in poor
countries by improving incomes and living standards, such that Ugandans
might be able to eradicate malaria altogether.
Some 3.2 million homes must be demolished over the next 45 years to fulfill the Government's aspirations for tackling global warming, academics have warned. The report, by researchers at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute and Heriot Watt University, is bound to re-ignite the controversy caused by the proposed demolition of 400,000 homes in the Midlands and the North.
Households account for around 30 per cent of Britain's total energy use and the researchers conclude there is a "desperate need" for a clear strategy for housing stock to bring about the 60 per cent reduction in the country's fossil fuel emissions that Tony Blair has said he wants to see by 2050.
The academics say that Britain's 25 million homes are among the oldest
and least efficient in Europe and recommend that 14 per cent of the current
stock - 3.2 million homes - should be pulled down by 2050.
THOSE who deny global warming is happening often rely on somewhat error-prone satellite information about our planet. But a proposed probe could dramatically improve the accuracy of such readings and put an end to the climate change debate - at least as far as satellite evidence is concerned.
Climate change sceptics have often cited a 1992 analysis by John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which showed that the troposphere had warmed only negligibly since satellite records began in 1979. But many have argued that Christy's analysis ignored, among other things, uncertainties in the satellite data. "The uncertainty allows the sceptics to exist," says Nigel Fox of the UK's National Physical Laboratory near London. "As long as they can point to uncertain results, we won't be able to argue convincingly for climate change treaties," he says.
Some of the uncertainty stems from the calibration of the so-called hyperspectral sensors that are mounted on satellites, says Fox. These sensors monitor radiation from the sun and the Earth over a broad range of frequencies. They can directly or indirectly measure many parameters, including the average temperature of our planet, the amount of aerosols in the troposphere, and the health and life cycle of crops, all of which are used to assess climate change.
But despite the great care and precision that goes into calibrating these sensors on Earth, they inevitably undergo an extremely violent launch that can knock them out of true. Once the satellite is in orbit, the only way to recalibrate the devices is to compare them with those on other satellites. But these sensors have also experienced a punishing launch and, in addition, may well have become less sensitive or lost their calibration over time.
This means there is a not so insignificant uncertainty in observations of the Earth from space. For instance, the margin of error in measurements of the total solar radiation reaching Earth is about 0.3 per cent. While this might not seem much, a swing of 0.3 per cent could induce a 2°C global temperature change - enough to trigger a mini ice age of the sort Europe experienced in the 17th century.
"The way to tackle this problem is to calibrate in orbit," says Fox. He and his colleagues have designed a satellite, called Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial and Helio Studies (TRUTHS), which could reduce such uncertainties by a factor of 10. It would be the first unmanned probe to calibrate its instruments in space. For example, TRUTHS would filter specific wavelengths of light directly from the sun and use these to fine-tune its sensors. The satellite could then provide a baseline against which other Earth observation satellites could be calibrated. Fox will present his proposal at a NASA workshop on solar irradiation in Washington DC in July.
Copyright 2005, New Scientist