|The Week That Was
December 30 , 2006
NO TWTW ON JAN 6, 2007 because of IASTED lecture COUNTERING FEARS ABOUT ENERGY
Lord Monckton, leading GW debunker, discusses problems with temperature trends, the IPCC, and the claimed “scientific consensus.” (ITEM #3). He also reminds us of Jim Hansen’s failed predictions back in 1988 when the GW furor started. Crichton was right and Hansen was wrong (ITEM #4).
We also print some painful admissions by Hansen and by IPCC chairman Pachauri about the quality of climate science in the IPCC report (ITEM #5). Even solid GW supporters must now admit that IPCC numbers are off base (ITEM #6). Economists too have doubts about GW impacts, as shown in a recent poll (ITEM#7). Polar bears have not been polled, but latest reports say they are doing just fine in a warmer climate (ITEM #8); their ancestors have seen many such warm periods and survived nicely. [But the US Fish and Wildlife Service thrives on budgets devoted to threatened and endangered species.
The UK and US have different takes on whether and how to control CO2 emissions (ITEMS 9-11).
I don't know if you have been following the ongoing debate in the AGU blog http://www.agu.org/fora/eos/2006/10/23/test-post-with-a-figure.html#comments
The BBC reports that microbiologist Howard Dalton has been knighted. He is chief scientist of Defra, the agency that advises the UK govt, and Sir Nicholas Stern, about GW science. Yes, it pays to be politically correct; look what awful fate awaits the “deniers” (ITEM #13)
And last , but not least: Lubos Motl’s review of 2006 (DON’T MISS IT)
Finally, an educated penguin; he will write yr name in the snow. Amaze the kiddies http://www.star28.net/snow.html
1. COUNTERING FEARS ABOUT ENERGY
Energy, generated mostly from fossil fuels and nuclear fission, is the lifeblood of economic growth and of rising global prosperity. Yet there are several “fears” driving energy policy, which impose unnecessary costs on consumers, lower the standards of living, and threaten the economies of the poorest nations.
1. Fear of health consequences of air pollution: This problem has been largely overcome by technology – even for coal-burning power plants. Several methods are available and compete on cost: Gasification of coal in combined-cycle burning (IGCC) and various methods of flue-gas scrubbing with lime or with bromine. Meanwhile, unregulated indoor air pollution is becoming increasingly important.
2. Fear of climate change: While carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that should cause global warming, the available observational evidence shows the effect to be insignificant. Yet many nations have been persuaded to use high-cost natural gas (methane) or even costlier “renewable” energy (wind, etc). In particular, the Kyoto Protocol would effectively ration energy. Meanwhile, economic studies indicate that higher CO2 levels and modest warming are beneficial and would raise GDP.
3. Fear of oil embargoes: With a well-functioning world market there should be little concern about oil supply security. It is in the interest of producers to keep the price from rising too high. But increasing prices are inevitable; as low-cost oil supplies are gradually depleted, they will induce more conservation and substitutions for petroleum.
4. Fear of health consequences of nuclear radiation: Politically driven fears, not scientific data, support the “linear-no-threshold” (LNT) hypothesis. In reality, natural radioactivity and small exposures to manmade radiation may actually improve the functioning of the immune system (“Hormesis”). Abandoning LNT-based regulation would lower the cost of nuclear energy generation and the disposal of spent reactor fuel.
Overcoming these fears through public education involves fighting entrenched bureaucracies and other interests – and may take time.
2. SEA-LEVEL RISE: NO PROBLEM
Re: Your editorial: Die Welt soll in Fluten versinken
Rahmstorf estimates future sea-level (SL) rise using a simple ratio of the rise in SL and in global temperature during the 20th century. His method is not only simplistic but also wrong. I would describe it using the word Quatsch, the same word used by a noted German climate scientist in commenting on the now-discredited Hockeystick. Or as my former physics teacher Nobelist Wolfgang Pauli would have said: "That theory is worthless. It isn't even wrong!"
Rahmstorf shows a graph of a steadily increasing SL during the 20th century – even during the interval 1940 –1975 when global temperatures were falling. Closer examination of his SL graph shows the rate of rise speeding up slightly during this cooling interval but diminishing somewhat during the intense warming period of 1920-1940. The likely explanation of this counter-intuitive result is given in my book Hot Talk Cold Science (1997) on pages 18-19. My discussion leads to the conclusion that anthropogenic global warming will have little if any effect on the ongoing SL rise of about 18 cm per century. Rahmstorf’s values of 50 to 140 cm are 3 to 8 times greater and exceed even the estimates of the forthcoming IPCC report (2007) of 14 to 43 cm/century. But they do not reach up to the value of 600 cm by year 2100, published by James Hansen. I suppose this makes Rahmstorf and Hansen “climate contrarians.”
Dear Fred, - Many thanks for sending me this exchange. Some comments:
(Lord Monckton of Brenchley)
4. THE GRAPH THAT STARTED THE “GLOBAL WARMING” SCARE
Hansen was widely criticized for having exaggerated his “scenario A” projection. He later responded to the criticism by updating the graph of observed temperatures to take it as far as the El Nino year of 1998. The extension to 2006 (orange on the updated graph below) is calculated from the US National Climate Data Center’s annual mean global land and sea surface air temperature anomalies, adjusted to take 1998 as the base year.
Hansen is reported as having said that his likely-outturn graph (the blue dashed line on the graph below) has proven broadly accurate. However, from 1988 to 2005 the likely-outturn graph closely follows the stabilized-CO2 graph. In 2005, the likely-outturn and stabilized-CO2 graphs are puzzlingly shown as near-coincident. However, atmospheric CO2 has not been stabilized: instead, it has continued to rise monotonically.
Observed temperatures are now diverging very considerably below the worst-case scenario. The 2006 observed temperature is appreciably below even the CO2 stabilization graph. It is becoming steadily more evident that there is little cause for the alarm generated by the original graph.
Above: The graph presented to the US Senate by Hansen in 1988, redrawn for clarity and updated (in orange) to 2006. Michael Crichton, in his best-selling novel “State of Fear”, said that Hansen had forecast a rise of 0.35% in temperature to 2000, but that observed temperature had risen by only one-third of that amount.
Year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1880 -0.1461 -0.0892 -0.1186 -0.1605 -0.2058 -0.1713 -0.1460 -0.2150 -0.1415 -0.1005
1890 -0.2460 -0.1996 -0.2635 -0.2876 -0.2482 -0.1746 -0.0577 -0.0921 -0.1998 -0.0969
1900 -0.0277 -0.0979 -0.1740 -0.2934 -0.3290 -0.2163 -0.1806 -0.3471 -0.3765 -0.3808
1910 -0.3667 -0.3626 -0.3027 -0.2857 -0.1129 -0.0553 -0.2707 -0.3267 -0.2111 -0.2068
1920 -0.1678 -0.1225 -0.2126 -0.1892 -0.1841 -0.1136 -0.0195 -0.0974 -0.0952 -0.2218
1930 -0.0235 -0.0019 -0.0251 -0.1582 -0.0230 -0.0489 -0.0170 0.0838 0.0994 0.0761
1940 0.1187 0.1404 0.1259 0.1180 0.2143 0.0687 -0.0261 -0.0274 -0.0401 -0.0668
1950 -0.1542 -0.0115 0.0347 0.1106 -0.1084 -0.1292 -0.1842 0.0601 0.0930 0.0526
1960 -0.0019 0.0738 0.0785 0.1315 -0.1387 -0.0641 -0.0190 -0.0049 -0.0306 0.0772
1970 0.0488 -0.0569 0.0280 0.1416 -0.0831 -0.0297 -0.1182 0.1249 0.0581 0.1363
1980 0.2021 0.2393 0.1202 0.2392 0.0883 0.0599 0.1289 0.2576 0.3047 0.1942
1990 0.3641 0.3206 0.1831 0.2009 0.2759 0.3889 0.2563 0.4605 0.5769 0.3938
2000 0.3625 0.4906 0.5445 0.5565 0.5328 0.6105 0.5225
5. HANSEN AND PACHAURI TRY TO EXPLAIN THEMSELVES
From the Q and A of James Hansen's speech approximately 2:17:10 from the start of the September 13 recording:
From the Q and A of Rajendra K Pachauri Chairman of the IPCC. Approximately 49:42 into the September 15th keynote speech recording:
Question from the audience: "In your 2001 report there was a very famous graph, the so called hockeystick graph which was attacked by critics and the science behind that graph was pretty much demolished. I think it really damaged the credibility of the IPCC, because it appears that you published that for political reasons to try to support the idea that this is the hottest decade in the last thousand years. What do you have to say about that?"
6. ANOTHER FAILED IPCC PREDICTION
The growth of methane levels in the atmosphere has slowed over the past several decades, and the past 7 years have seen only tiny fluctuations of the powerful greenhouse gas in the troposphere. That downturn could affect global warming trends, scientists say in the November 23 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
7. DO ECONOMISTS AGREE ON CLIMATE CHANGE? YES
By Robert Whaples : TCS, 18 Dec 2006
What long-term impact is global climate change likely to have on the economy?
To answer this question (and a slew of others), I polled Ph.D. economists, randomly selected from the ranks of the American Economic Association. Like almost everyone else, economists must, essentially, take on faith predictions and calculations by scientists about the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment. They realize that such predictions are based on complicated models and tentative scenarios, informed by self-interest. But they have been trained to understand what makes the economy hum and to think through how people will respond to changing conditions of all kinds.
Specifically, I asked this challenging question: "In comparison to a world in which greenhouse gas (GHG) levels were stable, rising levels of greenhouse gases by the end of the twenty-first century will cause GDP per capita in the U.S. to be a) more than 10 percent lower, b) about 5 to 10 percent lower, c) about 1 to 5 percent lower, d) less than 1 percent lower or higher, e) about 1 to 5 percent higher, or f) more than 5 percent higher." (Remember that GDP or gross domestic product equals the value of all final goods and services produced in the economy or equivalently the level of aggregate income.)
A couple of these choices may seem odd to the lay person, since few media accounts hold out the prospect that any global warming and other climate changes induced by rising greenhouse gas levels could be beneficial to our standard of living. However, some economists credit this possibility - pointing to the fertilization effect of higher carbon-dioxide levels on plant growth and the amenity value of warmer weather, for example.
The results show that most economists are not alarmed by the likelihood of continued carbon-dioxide emissions. The Great Depression of 1929 to 1933 caused inflation-adjusted GDP to fall a numbing 27%. Few economists think that rising GHGs will have anywhere near this impact - only one in eight predict that GDP will fall by more than 10 percent. Almost twice as many believe that rising greenhouse gas levels will cause the economy to grow. The most popular response is that rising greenhouse gas levels will have virtually no impact on income per person (less than 1 percent lower or higher). The vast majority (73.2%) predicts that the impact will be less than 5 percent one way or the other.
(Here are the complete responses: a) more than 10 percent lower = 12.5%; b) about 5 to 10 percent lower = 7.1%; c) about 1 to 5 percent lower = 21.4%; d) less than 1 percent lower or higher = 35.7%; e) about 1 to 5 percent higher = 16.1%; f) more than 5 percent higher = 7.1%.)
Assuming that "more than 10" = 15, "more than 5" = 10, and taking the midpoint of the other intervals, this averages to -1.86%. Since the end of World War II, inflation-adjusted GDP has risen by about 2 percent per year on average. Thus, the collective wisdom of these economists is that greenhouse gas emissions will shave about one year of economic growth off the economy over the next century.
Why do economists generally conclude that the economic impact of climate change is likely to be small, not large? The growing literature on this topic suggests that most parts of the economy are not very vulnerable to climate change. Just as importantly, parts of the economy that might be negatively impacted are pretty flexible and adaptable to change. If climate does change, crops can be modified, different crops can be planted and crops can be planted in different places, for example. If sea levels rise, we have the ability and resources to build protective structures or, in a worse-case scenario, simply move to higher ground. Thus, while potential climate changes might be devastating to parts of the environment, most economists don't think that it will affect our economic standard of living much, one way or the other.
The bottom line is that recent history has shown economists that the primary cause of economic growth is technological improvement. Climate change cannot staunch the global torrent of new discoveries, processes and products. Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource and - as far as most economists are concerned - rising greenhouse gas levels cannot imperil this.
Robert Whaples is Chair of the Department of Economics at Wake Forest University. This article draws on "Do Economists Agree on Anything? Yes," The Economists' Voice, 3 (9), November 2006.
8. THOSE BAD NEWS BEARS
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has proposed listing polar bears as "threatened" on the government's list of imperiled species, a step below "endangered," a category reserved for those facing imminent extinction. The Center for Biological Diversity says polar bears are endangered due to melting Arctic sea ice cover.
However, a report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Mitch Taylor, a polar bear biologist, says polar bears have, and will continue to, adapt to their environment, and are not being pushed to the brink of extinction by global warming.
According to Taylor and other scientists, the actual number of polar bears in the wild is not a cause for alarm:
o Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or are increasing in number.
o Although the current population of polar bears is said to have dwindled to 22,000 to 25,000, a half-century ago there were only 8,000 to 10,000 polar bears.
o Much of the increase has been due to hunting restrictions.
As for the reported weight loss of the bears; it may be because increasing populations are competing for the same food supply, which, ironically, a little warming might help:
o A reduction in ice cover creates a better habitat for seals, which are the bears' main food.
o Less ice cover means more sunlight producing more phytoplankton, increasing the supply of other food sources.
o On land, blueberries, which the bears adore, would become more plentiful; Taylor says he's seen bears so full of blueberries they waddle.
"Life may be good," Taylor said, "but good news about polar bear populations does not seem to be welcomed by the Center for Biological Diversity. It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria."
Source: Editorial, "Those Bad News Bears," Investor's Business Daily, December 29, 2006.
9. THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME - SOME COUNTRIES ARE GETTING RADICAL ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
10. BBC NEWS EU TACKLES AIRCRAFT CO2 EMISSIONS
Internal EU flights should be brought inside the bloc's emissions trading scheme from 2011, with all others following in 2012, officials say. Emissions from aircraft in the EU have increased by 87% since 1990, and are expected to double again by 2020. Environmental groups say the proposals do not go far enough.
"EU emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector," a commission statement says. "This growth threatens to undermine the EU's progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions." It adds that someone flying from London to New York and back does more damage than heating an average European home for a year.
The Commission's proposal, which has to be agreed by member states and the European Parliament, would issue airlines with emission allowances based on the average level of emissions between 2004 and 2006. Those that reduce emissions would be able to sell any permits they do not use. But if they increase their emissions they will be forced to buy additional permits from other businesses in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The scheme, which aims to bring Europe into line with its obligations under the Kyoto protocol, now covers nearly half of the bloc's emissions.
Air travel currently accounts for between 3% and 8% of Europe's greenhouse gases - figures issued by the industry and environmental groups vary within this range.
The BBC's Joe Lynam in Brussels says the aviation industry admits it has a role to play combating climate change. But is also quick to point out how important air travel is to economic growth. Aviation body IATA contends that grounding all airliners would have a small impact on CO2 emission - but a dramatic one on the global economy.
Environmental campaigners say the scheme should force airlines to cut their emissions, instead of pegging them at the current level. Friends of the Earth said the emissions limits needed to be part of a package of measures.
"This must include ending tax breaks enjoyed by the industry and abandoning airport expansion plans," the group said in a statement. "Our targets for tackling climate change are unlikely to be met unless we urgently tackle rising emissions from planes."
Consumer groups are worried that it will be travellers and not the airline companies who will end up paying to make the skies greener, our correspondent adds.
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/6195567.stm
Published: 2006/12/20 12:17:05 GMT
11. WSJ: KYOTO MAY BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Recent data show that the Kyoto Protocol hasn't done all that much to reduce emissions, and may even be counterproductive. And contrary to the caricature painted by proponents, the American approach may offer more, says the Wall Street Journal.
o CO2 emissions growth in the United States far outpaced members of the European Union (EU) from 1990-95 and especially from 1995-2000; in addition, the United States has outperformed the EU-15 since 2000, reducing emissions by 8 percent.
o By comparison, the EU-15 saw an increase of 2.3 points, and only two EU states, Britain and Sweden, are on track to meet their Kyoto emissions commitments by 2010.
o Six more might meet their targets if they approve and implement new, as yet unspecified, policies to restrict carbon output, while seven of the 15 will miss their goals.
Europe's dismal record is explained by its approach to reducing emissions, says the Journal. The centerpiece of the Continent's plan is a carbon-trading scheme in which companies in CO2-heavy industries receive tradable permits for a certain amount of emissions. If they emit more CO2, they must buy credits from firms that are under quota. The idea is to force companies to emit less CO2 by making it prohibitively expensive to keep the status quo.
All this scheme has done so far is provide further proof that government cannot replicate the wisdom of markets, says the Journal:
o A red-faced European Commission recently admitted that it allowed more permits than there were emissions in 2005-07, keeping permit prices low and undermining the entire system.
o When Brussels tried to make amends by ordering several member states to cut carbon permits by 7 percent more than expected for 2008-2012, industry and national capitals squealed.
Source: Editorial, "Europe v. America on CO2," Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2006.
12. THE AMQUA-AAPG-CRICHTON CONTROVERSY
From AGU blog: December 2nd, 2006 at 8:03 pm
Now that some time has passed since my letter to AGU concerning AMQUA’s up-braiding of AAPG for their award to Michael Crichton, perhaps a few more comments from me are warranted.
First, AGU is no less biased in their awards than AAPG. The last AGU journalism awards (The Sullivan and Perlman Awards) were given to Michelle Nijhuis for a series in the High Country News and to Dan Vergano for an article in USA Today. In case AGU missed the viewpoint of the High Country News, they bill themselves as, “the environmental newspaper of the West,” in their own promotional subscription materials, which ironically enough I received the week my note to EOS was published. Not a ringing endorsement for unbiased journalism. Ms. Nijhuis in her acceptance speech for the Sullivan Award states, “human-caused climate change is the biggest environmental challenge the world has ever faced,” and specifically notes there has been, “very little political action”. If the challenge is so great and indeed human induced, pray-tell please point to specific instances of harm done. Also, she evidently missed those environmental problems the world has when a big bolide hits! The call to political action speaks for itself. AGU commended Mr. Vergano in its press release announcing the award, for not rehashing the accuracy of Ocean-Atmosphere General Circulation Models (OAGCM). I specifically referenced the report by Phillips et al (2006), because they establish for the first time a benchmark of how unstable OAGCM are, “In most of the coupled runs, various ad hoc surface flux adjustments also were applied so as to minimize a problematic model behavior known as ‘climate drift’, where aspects of the evolving coupled simulation (e.g., sea surface temperatures) diverge increasingly from a realistic equilibrium state.” Obviously, the results of OAGCM are neither reliable nor unbiased. Indeed, if Mr. Vergano were reporting absent an agenda and AGU were seeking unvarnished answers, they would indeed be worried about basing predictions and making claims of causality using models where Ad-Hoc adjustment is needed to achieve realistic results. Other aspects of OAGCM are too numerous and troubling to here address in full but include failure to address variability in the rate of bicarbonate delivery to the oceans, variability in oceanic algal flux “blooms” and their effect on CO2 consumption, modeling with any degree of accuracy changes in water vapor in the atmosphere (a hugely more significant greenhouse gas), and volcanic delivery of CO2 to the oceans from the mid-ocean ridges. The OAGCM are numerically elegant and vastly over simplistic. Rather than seeking to understand fully how CO2 is buffered and removed from the atmosphere, they instead seek to identify select sources and predict predetermined consequences. Frankly, I wish the modelers would take a field trip to see some limestones in outcrop, and then go back and ponder how they'd explain these huge CO2 sinks with their models. It would hopefully be a humbling experience in viewing their own naivety.
Second, comments concerning the vested interest of petroleum geologists or others engaged in natural resource development are valid. Equally valid are claims of the vested interest of those funded to conduct climate research. I remember all too well the funding crisis in academic and government earth and atmospheric research in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when I too was an academic. To no small degree, climate research funding saved many soft-money supported scientists from seeking other lines of work. So, if resource scientists in industry have a vested interest, soft-money climate researchers have an even more vested one. Claims of peer review to those outside the grant-money research club have a hollow ring. Simply put, when everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks very much. Because a self-selected group engages in mutual reinforcement is hardly indicative of accuracy in analysis and interpretation. There are too many instances where peer review has proved demonstrably incorrect to give it the level of validity those in the publish or perish game imply. As an example, take a look at the evolution in thinking on dark matter in the universe as it evolved from intellectual pariah in the 1950’s to saviour of the expanding universe in the 2000’s. (my emphasis)
Third, for those of us in earth science with a view substantially longer than the Holocene or even the Quaternary, we note that the general state of planet Earth through Phanerozoic time was to be far warmer than the present, and with much higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Obviously, these warm times and CO2-rich atmospheres were completely unrelated to any anthropogenic effect, either pre- or post-industrial. As a consequence, it strikes me the climate scientists of today have much in common with Don Quixote: they tilt at windmills while the real battle and truer understanding are to be found elsewhere.
Finally, the most troubling aspect of the “over-heated” climate debate is, as I implied in my letter, the stridency of those who interpret an anthropogenically driven warming. It bears noting that neither AAPG nor any other industry-related scientific organization came forward as AGU did with a politically charged position statement. Undoubtedly, many members in AGU support the position statement of the society, but certainly AGU leadership made no attempt to determine the degree of agreement or support for the position statement amongst the membership prior to its adoption. Note that neither AAPG nor any other industry-related society assailed the position statement by AGU -- and not because of its inherent validity, or for lack of scientific grounds and means on which to challenge the claims therein made. The AMQUA letter and many of the comments in response to my own letter fortify my concern that AGU, AMQUA and many of their members have crossed inexorably from scientific inquiry to political advocacy. I trust all are prepared for the full spectrum of political engagement.
13. THE FATE OF CLIMATE SKEPTICS: The Crazies Sound Off