|The Week That Was
March 12, 2005
New on the Web: Journalist and author Gregg Easterbrook has written a perceptive and critical review of Jared Diamond's "Collapse' that continues his best-selling ''Guns, Germs, and Steel." This anti-PC review is worth reading -even though it shortchanges nuclear power. For balance -- to find out why we will never run out of energy -- be sure to read "The Bottomless Well" by Peter Huber and Mark Mills (Basic Books 2005).
Wind power is running into trouble -- underperforming, and at too high a cost. And ruining the rural environment (Item #1). A suppressed German report leaked - the BBC still has no clue--and a victory in Scotland
Charles Hosler provides a ringing defense for nuclear energy and quotes Arthur Robinson's answers to many questions about safety that bother the general public (Item#2). Prof Hans Bethe, a leading proponent for nuclear enrgy dies at 98. (Item #3). He received the Nobel Prize for discovering that nuclear fusion provides the energy source that keeps the Sun shining bright. [Credit should also be given to Fritz Houtermans for the same discovery.]
The IPCC has been losing credibility at a rapid rate - as documented in Item #4. The Hockeystick may be the straw that broke the camel's back. It is still being defended by diehards in the blog Realclimate.org (whose funding source has not been revealed). Since it censors all comments before posting them, Steve McIntyre now has his own (and highly recommended) blog at Climateaudit.org. But the Hockey stickers -- Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt et al -- are clearly losing the war - and losing it, too. As the saying goes, "the rats are leaving the sinking ship." Even GW proponents like von Storch, Cubash, and Rahmstorf are distancing themselves from the Hockeystick - all the while protesting that it was never essential for supporting the IPCC's anthropogenic GW claim. Yeah sure. Tell that to the IPCC nomenclatura.
Alan Caruba thinks that famed novelist Michael Crichton's best-selling "State of Fear" may achieve what mountains of scientific data produced by meteorologists and others have not. It may get the public to understand that the UN Kyoto Protocol is, itself, a work of fiction. (See Item #5)
Evangelicals may buy into GW scares, thanks to missionary efforts
by Sir John Houghton, chair of IPCC's science group. (See Item #6). Houghton
is a capable atmospheric physicist; the White House will be hard put to
argue against him. But he is also ideological, considers it a sin to release
CO2 into the atmosphere, and considers Kyoto a step towards "salvation."
We now have Lord Robert May, president of the Royal Society and former chief UK science adviser, fulminating against George Bush, evil scientists who don't go along with the "consensus," and even British newspapers that print skeptical articles. (Item #7). What's with him? In January, when we had our successful skeptics' conference in London, he compared us to tobacco-company funded scientists - and now to those who deny that HIV causes AIDS.
And finally, we are reminded that nitrogen oxides can deplete stratospheric
ozone. In autumn 2003. the Sun produced extra amounts of NO in the atmosphere,
which then depleted Arctic ozone. So it's not always wise to blame manmade
CFCs; Chlorofluorocarbons were not involved in the depletion.
Wind farms are fashionable, ugly and of low practical utility.
Greens are pushing for increased development of renewable energy sources. Facing political and financial pressure, the federal government has been conned into subsidising wind power by forcing generators to effectively buy it twice. Before Canberra commits more money to the mandated renewable energy targets scheme, someone should look at what has been happening in Germany.
At last count, Germany accounted for one-third of the world's wind power capacity, much of it installed around Schleswig-Holstein near the Danish border.
One party that is highly critical of wind power is E.ON Netz, the owner of the grid system that includes 44 per cent of Germany's installed wind-farm capacity. Last year it published a report (summarised in Downtown on November 6) saying that the electricity generated by its wind farms averaged only 11 per cent of capacity.
Worse, the high variability of wind strengths meant that the wind farms had to be 80 per cent backed by conventional power. This also implies that if wind power becomes too large a component of an electricity system (15 per cent seems to be the crucial figure), its variability has the potential to unbalance the entire grid.
Wind farms have now ignited a political furore in Germany after a study commissioned by the federal government into the extension of wind power.
This is a pet project of the German Greens, who hold 55 seats in the four-party coalition that forms the German government. The Greens' target is to increase installed wind capacity in Germany from 23 terawatt hours to 77 TWh by 2015. That would equate to more than 16 per cent of Germany's electricity consumption.
The study was conducted under the aegis of the [German] federal energy agency. Those participating included the government, the big electricity concerns, the German Wind Energy Institute, Cologne's Commercial Energy Institute, and the windpower-industry body, Windkraftbranche.
They met on January 17 to ratify the experts' report, which would then go to the government. Instead of agreeing to the report, the Windkraftbranche representatives insisted on an editorial revision. Otherwise they could not allow the report to be made public.
The 490-page report concluded that wind power would be more expensive than previously claimed. Their report is still censored, but a copy has been leaked to Der Spiegel, which published the main conclusions:
* 845 kilometres of massive high-tension routes would have to be built at a cost of EUR1.1 billion to link the burgeoning wind farms to the grid.
* Despite considerable investment in improved technology, risks to the electricity supply could not be ruled out.
* The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be achieved more cheaply by other means.
* The net additional costs of the wind-generated electricity from 2003 to 2015 were estimated at EUR12 to 17 billion.
The report is sensitive because, while the Greens and the Socialists have been backing wind farms in parliament, the public is becoming increasingly restive about them. By their nature, wind farms tend to occupy shorelines, high points and open country, making them highly visible.
On top of that, investors in wind farms have been disappointed. "Capital investors must take into account that the profit forecasts by wind farm operators and investing farmers are showing themselves to be sometimes doubtful," Der Spiegel said.
This has generated a bigger political storm than any wind farm could have. The wind farmers have suppressed a scientific report, with the connivance of a friendly government. The Greens are claiming that the scientists got the numbers wrong, and so the report isn't fit to be read by the public, they claim.
Meanwhile, the president of the Federal Industrial Association, Jurgen Thumann, said: "We risk the blackout of the electricity supply if we go on with the promotion of renewable energies."
Given the doubts that are arising in Germany, the country that has embraced
wind power most enthusiastically, let's hope the Australian government
goes very slowly before deciding to throw more money at the merchants
behind the wind farms of Australia.
Wind farm worries
It sounded so attractive, so clean, so natural. But has the government underestimated the cost of wind farms, and the scale of opposition? Could power from wind end up as an expensive pipe dream?
Tony Blair has set ambitious targets for Britain to lead the world in developing wind power, with an aim of 20% from renewable sources by 2020.
It should be possible. Britain is one of the windiest parts of the world. Forty percent of the wind that blows across Europe crosses our shores. In theory, it could provide three times our current energy needs.
Taking wind power seriously would set a real example as all governments begin to wake up to the threat of global warming.
Hang on a bit ...
But worrying reports are coming across the North Sea from the country that up until now has taken the lead in wind power.
Germany has built 15,000 wind turbines in the last 15 years, half in the last five years. For every turbine, 800 miles of cable have to be laid, roads have to be built and the electricity grid has to be adapted to cope with the sudden fluctuations in power.
The Germans estimate that wind energy is three times more expensive than conventional power. To avoid emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide costs up to 77 Euros. They suggest that being more energy efficient might be the more immediate goal.
As the questions of cost grow, there is growing discontent at the environmental impact of massive wind power schemes.
The Romney Marshes in Kent are a haven for birds. But the planned new arrivals would transform these flatlands for ever.
The proposal has been unanimously opposed by every elected authority in the area, including 12 parish councils, two district councils and two county councils.
Wind power may be expensive, it may provoke anger in the communities
where farms are located. But what other option is there if we want to
save the planet?
Opponents of a windfarm proposed beside the Dounreay nuclear site in Caithness were celebrating last night after the plans were rejected on appeal - the first decision of its kind in the Highlands.
CRE Energy's plan for a 10-turbine venture on farmland was the subject of a five-day hearing at Thurso. But yesterday the company learned that Scottish inquiry reporter Bill Patterson had rejected its appeal.
In his written findings, Mr Patterson ruled that the two rows of turbines with a blade-tip height of more than 300ft would have had an unacceptable impact on nearby residents.
He stated: "From the evidence and site inspections, I consider that it would be unjustifiably complacent or optimistic not to find that there would be significant detriment to individual and community residential amenity."
The decision was welcomed by local objectors. Angie Craig, secretary of the recently-formed Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said the outcome was a huge relief for people in the area.
"The residents of Achreamie, Dounreay and Balmore are delighted
with Mr Patterson's verdict," she said. "We are very much relieved
that he has agreed with ourselves and the council. It has been a very
stressful time and yet again it has been local people who have had to
bear major costs to get the correct result."
Some of the basic concerns of nuclear energy, expressed recently by Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, President and Research Professor of the Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine, in his April 2004 newsletter, Access to Energy, are provided in condensed question (Q) and answer (A) format, as follows:
Q. Can a nuclear reactor explode like an atomic bomb?
3. Hans Bethe ---R.I.P.
One of the great physicists of the 20th century has passed on at age 98. During WW-II he headed the theoretical division at Los Alamos but then became a vocal advocate for nonproliferation and for civilian nuclear power. His seminal work in nuclear physics led among other achievements to the "carbon cycle theory" that described the energy source of the Sun and most stars in terms of nuclear fusion. If a fusion reactor is ever built, it could provide a virtually inexhaustible source of energy for humans on Earth; in the meantime fission reactors will do. Bethe fled Germany when Hitler came to power, along with many top scientists like Teller. Without them , the United Stares might not have prevailed in WW-II.
Among many honors, Bethe received the Nobel Prize in 1967.
A personal note: Bethe graciously answered some problems I encountered in writing my PhD thesis -- my only contact with him. But I knew about the famous "Big Bang" paper by Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow. That was a joke dreamt up by George Gamow, who was our consultant at APL-Johns Hopkins Univ where Ralph Alpher and I were close colleagues for four years. Bethe was not really a co-author but went along. I am told he was very pleased with the idea. SFS
The recent resignation of Dr. Christopher Landsea, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has cast new doubt on the integrity of the IPCC's policies and procedures.
In an article at Tech Central Station (TCS 1/31/2005) titled "A Dishonest Broker?" writer Iain Murray reports that: "Most recently, IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri publicly endorsed a particular policy agenda that contradicts the IPCC's role as 'policy relevant but not policy prescriptive'" Mr. Murray continues:
" Dr. Landsea's hand was forced by two factors: actions by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research-who is the lead author of the IPCC's research climate change observations-and Dr. Pachauri's reaction to Dr. Landsea's complaints about those actions. At a news conference last October, Dr. Trenberth said that global warming had made last year's hurricane season worse. This view is contrary to the scientific consensus, represented by Dr. Landsea, that 'all previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin.'"
"But the IPCC leadership dismissed his complaints out of hand, claiming variously that Dr. Trenberth had been misquoted-which Dr. Landsea's investigations showed was not the case-or that he was accurately reflecting IPCC science-which he clearly was not. To Dr. Landsea, this suggested that the IPCC process had become 'both motivated by pre-conceived agenda and scientifically unsound' and led directly to his resignation."
Clearly, the IPCC has become a political advocacy group rather than an impartial science group. It now seems the IPCC was a political advocacy group from its inception.
The first report of the IPCC was the 1990 Report and the Summary for Policymakers. The independent, research-analysis think tank Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)(www.sepp.org) studied the Report and determined that:
"The tone of the two documents, 1990 Summary and 1990 Report, is markedly different. While the IPCC Report proper is a useful compilation of then current knowledge-and filled with appropriate qualifying statements-the Policymakers Summary throws all caution to the winds. By selectively extracting from the often- conflicting statements in the Report that express existing doubts and uncertainties, the Summary's firm tone leads policymakers to believe that the existence of a climate problem has been confirmed by 'scientific consensus.'
The IPCC's action of binding the Policymakers Summary with the full Report gives the misleading impression that it arose out of the full Report. But the Summary is essentially a document of governments not of scientists."
The IPCC's 2nd assessment report was published in 1996. In this report the IPCC leadership made changes to the crucial chapter 8 after the scientists had signed off on it, going behind their backs so to speak. The SEPP website shows where chapter 8 was changed. Some changes were made for allegedly editorial clarity while others were obvious changes in meaning.
For example, in Section 8.2.5 the sentence "Current pattern-based detection work has not attempted to account for these forcing uncertainties." was changed to "Current pattern-based detection work is now beginning to account for these forcing uncertainties."
"(H)as not attempted" and "is now beginning" are different meanings. To change the meaning of someone else's writings without their consent is, I think, dishonest.
The third assessment report TAR, published in 2001 is even wilder. It relied heavily on a study done by Mann et al 1998 and 1999 which featured the now highly suspect "hockey stick" graph that purports to show our current global warming to be "unprecedented" --- which, of course, it isn't.
Still at the SEPP website I found an article by Richard Muller titled "Global Warming Bombshell: Hockeystick Broken" Feb 8th 2005. In it he reports:
"But now a shock: independent Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. In his original publications of the stick, Mann purported to use a standard method known as principal component analysis, or PCA, to find the dominant features in a set of more than 70 different climate records.
But it wasn't so. McIntyre and McKitrick obtained part of the program that Mann used, and they found serious problems. Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but also it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.
Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called "Monte Carlo" analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!"
In sports a predetermined outcome is called a "fix" and is illegal. Evidently the IPCC thinks it's ok in climate science.
McIntyre and McKitrick have been gaining some prestigious supporters. In an article at Natuurwetenschap & Techniek ( a Dutch monthly science magazine) which was picked up by Canada's National Post (www.canada.com) titled Breaking the Hockey Stick, Marcel Crok, in a Special to the Financial Post, writes:
" Even Geophysical Research Letters, an eminent scientific journal, now acknowledges a serious problem with the prevailing climate reconstruction by Mann and his colleagues. This undercuts both Mann's supposed proof that human activity has been responsible for the warming of the earth's atmosphere in the 20th century and the ability to place confidence in the findings and recommendations of the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The political implication is a serious undermining of the Kyoto Protocol with its worldwide agreements on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."
According to the same article: "On Oct. 22, 2004, in Science, Dr. Zorita and his colleague Dr. Hans von Storch, a specialist in climate statistics at the same institute, published a critique of a completely different aspect of the 1998 hockey-stick article. After studying McIntyre's finding at our request, Von Storch agrees that 'simulations with red noise do lead to hockey sticks. McIntyre and McKitrick's criticism on the hockey stick from 1998 is entirely valid on this particular point.'"
I can't say whether the IPCC is suffering from dishonesty or incompetence or both. But the bottom line is; the IPCC can no longer be trusted. Mr. Murray calls for the IPCC Chairman, Dr. Pachauri, to step down. While I think that would help, I don't think there is much doubt that the IPCC has become politicized and no longer capable of objective scientific judgment.
As more and more reputable scientists distance themselves from or become critical of the IPCC, it's becoming ever clearer that the IPCC needs to be shut down and the study of global warming commissioned to an existing scientific agency whose existence does not depend on finding ever more life-threatening "scenarios" just to keep the grant money coming in. If we're giving grant money away, some should go to make public all those studies that show global warming to be a good thing. The studies are out there. Americans need to hear about them and they won't from the IPCC.
The famed novelist, Michael Crichton, may achieve what mountains of scientific data produced by meteorologists and others have not. He may get the public to understand that the UN Kyoto Climate Control Protocol is, itself, a work of fiction.
His novel, "State of Fear", (HarperCollins, 603 pages, $27.95) is a technopolitical thriller posits that global warming is a hoax, but worse than that, it is a hoax specifically designed to harm the lives and the economy of people living in industrialized nations. It may well be the first novel to come complete with a section devoted to the data that demonstrate not only how false global warming is, but the impact it would have if the Kyoto Protocol was strictly enforced.
When first proposed, the US Senate unanimously rejected the treaty and, in his first term, President George W. Bush withdrew the Kyoto Protocol from consideration in 2001. If this action had not been taken and the treaty applied to the US, the country would have been required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7% below its 1990 level [about 40% below the 2010 level] before 2012. The only way to achieve this would have been to impose strict energy use limits.
Take away energy or greatly reduce it and you create the conditions for an economic disaster and impact the lives and health of Americans from coast to coast. You invite draconian "solutions" such as limiting the use of air conditioning, gas rationing, and how many hours factories can operate.
"State of Fear" begins with the murder of a graduate student studying ocean-wave dynamics. Other murders follow, but the UN Kyoto Protocol is tantamount to murder, too. Recall the deaths of Frenchmen when a heat wave hit that nation a few years ago. The lack of air conditioning literally killed countless elderly and others. Consider how the East Coast of the United States shut down when a massive electrical blackout occurred. Only the backup generators in hospitals prevented the deaths of seriously ill patients.
The novel references the same bogus computer models that are cited by global-warming proponents such as Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, Kevin Knobloch of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and John Passacantando of Greenpeace, USA. They predict melting glaciers, rapidly rising sea levels, and other catastrophes. They are as reliable as a deck of Tarot cards.
After the Russian Federation approved its participation in the UN Kyoto Protocol, the treaty came into effect on February 16, 2005. Its requirements for the reduction of energy use exempt China and India, both home to a billion people, and some 130 Third World nations.
There are, however, those in the Congress and in various States who would impose these harmful restrictions on Americans. Chief among them in Congress is Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman who introduced "The Climate Stewardship Act" (S. 139) that would cap CO2 emissions at 2000 levels by 2010. It is estimated this would cost the American economy $106 billion annually.
Nine northeastern states are colluding for the same goal (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) Eight States' attorneys-general are using a public nuisance lawsuit against five coal-burning utilities to achieve the same goal. All this is more than curious given the Senate resolution that unanimously rejected the UN Kyoto Protocol. The end result would be a significant slowdown in economic growth combined with a rise in the cost of energy.
I hope Michael Crichton's novel (which is soundly rooted in documented science) becomes yet another big bestseller. I hope lots of people who remain susceptible to the lies of the Greens will read it and discover what those of us who have fulminated against the UN Kyoto Treaty since the Greens first conjured it in the early 1990s. Our speeches, our articles, our books, based on real science and real economics have not slowed or stopped its ratification or implementation. Perhaps a work of fiction will achieve what we could not?
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted
on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center at www.anxietycenter.com.
One of Britain's most eminent scientists has attacked President Bush for acting like a latter-day Nero who fiddles while the world burns because of global warming.
Lord May of Oxford, the president of the Royal Society and former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said the Bush administration must accept the case has been made about the link between man-made pollution and climate change. Continuing to deny the impact of human activities on the environment may ultimately have catastrophic consequences for everyone on the planet.
In his speech to policy-makers in Berlin today, Lord May will also castigate elements within the British media who promote "misleading" opinions about the true nature of the scientific uncertainties surrounding climate change.
"If the public are misled into thinking climate change does not
pose a serious potential threat, some policy-makers could more easily
find an excuse not to act. The United States administration has shown
that this is the case," Lord May said. "All countries must accept
the case has been made ...
Lord May accused the Bush administration of doing much to undermine the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions the Kyoto treaty aimed to bring about.
In addition to urging America to ratify the Kyoto agreement, Lord May accused the Daily Mail of waging an undeclared propaganda war against the science of climate change. He accused the newspaper of misleading its readers with a misinformed campaign.
"It appears to be conducting an undeclared campaign to deny the potential threat from climate change - in the past 15 months the Daily Mail, which attracts six million readers every day, has published six opinion pieces, including four from its science editor, that have used misleading arguments against the scientific evidence on climate change," Lord May said. "It brings to mind the ill-fated and disreputable campaign by The Sunday Times during the early 1990s to deny that HIV causes Aids. It seems that some parts of the media have not learnt the lessons of that unfortunate campaign."
"[Nuclear power] has to be part of tomorrow's future. I've every
sympathy with the attitude that sees it through the emotional haze of
a mushroom cloud, and terrorism makes it even more problematic, but you
can't approach the things in emotional ways. There are real problems with
nuclear but it's hard to see it's not part of the mid-term solution, ultimately
one hopes one can move beyond it. We've got to investigate it now because
we're on the verge of losing a generation of competence in the area."
Dramatic thinning of Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic last year was the result of intense upper-level winds and an extra dose of space weather. Ozone, which screens out some of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, declined by up to 60 percent in the stratosphere over high northern latitudes in the spring of 2004. Officials even issued a health warning earlier this year for residents of the far North.
A new study concludes that an intense round of solar storms around Halloween in 2003 was at the root of the problem. Charged particles from the storms triggered chemical reactions that increased the formation of ozone-destroying nitrogen oxide (NO) in the upper stratosphere, some 20 miles up. Their levels climbed to their highest in at least two decades. A massive low-pressure system that confines air over the Arctic then conspired to deplete ozone. Chlorofluorocarbons were not involved in the depletion.
The most extreme solar flare ever recorded erupted on Nov. 4, 2003.
Upper-atmosphere winds, associated with the system called the polar stratospheric vortex, sped up in February and March of 2004 to the fastest speeds ever recorded, the new study found. The spinning vortex allowed NO to sink from the high stratosphere, some 20 miles up, to lower altitudes where most of the ozone resides.
"This decline was completely unexpected," said Cora Randall, a physicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder who led the study. "The findings point out a critical need to better understand the processes occurring in the ozone layer."
Source: March 2 online issue of Geophysical Research Letters,
The thinning of the Arctic ozone layer continues, owing in part to cold temperatures in the stratosphere, according to a separate recent study that suggests a northern hole could develop as a twin to the southern one.