|The Week That Was
June 3, 2006
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Worried about global warming? Don't be - it's too late to do anything
about it. Sir James Lovelock, an eminent scientist thinks at least 80%
of the population of the planet is about to be wiped out. But then he
becomes sensible: "All talk of sustainable development is complete
moonshine. wind farms are producing almost no energy. It's an expensive
folly." So what's the answer: Nuclear and coal. (Item #3)
*** QUOTE ***
The Law of the Sea rears its ugly head (Item #5)
Arctic warmth 55 million years ago (Item #8) - without human intervention.
An update on an extensive PBS interview on GW (Item #9)
Finally, the Winning Letters (Item #10)
Al Gore's new global warming movie is apparently causing some to think that a major turning point in the debate is at hand. The ranks of the so-called global warming "skeptics" were supposedly thinned this week when prominent environmental commentator Gregg Easterbrook announced his defection in a May 24 New York Times op-ed. "As an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism. But based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert," wrote Easterbrook, a senior editor with The New Republic and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Easterbrook a "skeptic"? With "a long record of opposing alarmism"? Are there two Gregg Easterbrooks?
Though Easterbrook is far from a household name, readers of environmental commentary are certainly familiar with his reputation as a left-of-center eco-contrarian - an image secured by his 1995 book entitled, "A Moment on Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism." Publicly reviled by environmentalists and hailed by their opponents, Easterbrook's book examined human impact on the environment and concluded that the environment was getting better, not worse.
But 1995 is so over and now in 2006, Easterbrook concluded in the Times that "[Global warming] research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger."
So what changed Easterbrook's mind? Ironically, it was a report from the Bush administration released earlier this month. [SEPP Comment: Actually it was the press release, which misrepresents the CCSP report.] Before we get to that, consider what developments Easterbrook says in his op-ed didn't persuade him.
Easterbrook writes that, in 2003, the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Service "both declared that signs of global warming had become compelling" and "In 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that there was no longer any 'substantive disagreement in the scientific community' that artificial global warming is happening." He also notes that in 2005 the national science academies of the U.S., U.K., China, Germany and Japan issued a joint statement announcing that "significant global warming is occurring."
But it wasn't "case closed," according to Easterbrook's op-ed, until the Bush administration's Climate Change Science Program announced this month that research supports "a substantial human impact on global temperature."
It's difficult to take this alleged conversion seriously. Since at least 1998, Easterbrook has consistently regurgitated global warming alarmism.
In a 1998 New Republic article, Easterbrook wrote that "the scientific consensus on global warming has strengthened," that projected warming could be "quite nasty" and that "coming temperature increases appear cast in stone."
In 2000, Easterbrook criticized CBS for "trivializing the greenhouse effect" by broadcasting the 1993 miniseries "The Fire Next Time," which depicted the U.S. as destroyed by global warming in the year 2007. Later in 2000, Easterbrook wrote, "The signs of global warming keep accumulating realistic steps against global warming could start right away. A warming world need no longer be our destiny."
In 2003, Easterbrook criticized Democrats for being too critical of President Bush and discouraging him from "proposing meaningful global warming rules."
In 2004, Easterbrook wrote that, "There are troubling problems with Bush administration attitudes toward science, especially greenhouse gases." In 2005, Easterbrook wrote that "restraining greenhouse gases" was "our next great environmental project."
Contrary to assertions in his Times op-ed, Easterbrook's writings indicate that he became a global warming convert long ago - not just this month. So what's up with the melodramatic announcement of his "conversion"?
Easterbrook may be thinking that Al Gore's movie and attendant hoopla will finally cause sufficient public panic to catapult the global warming alarmists to rhetorical victory. If so, Easterbrook may want to atone to the environmental activist community that he previously alienated by "A Moment on Earth" and any other eco-contrarian "moments" he has had over the last decade.
Easterbrook will no doubt be welcomed and forgiven for any past sins by the environmentalists since, as a prominent eco-contrarian writer, his supposed "conversion" from skeptic to convert purports to signal the public that a major turning point in the global warming debate has been reached.
I suppose a major turning point has been reached - Al Gore and the alarmists have seemingly gone over the edge in thinking that a movie rather than scientific debate is the way to resolve the global warming controversy. There certainly has been no change in the science - there is still no persuasive evidence that humans are adversely affecting global climate or that humans can manipulate global climate by regulating greenhouse gas emission.
Moreover, it's quite ironic that the tipping point for Easterbrook was a statement about global warming from the Bush administration, whose viewpoint apparently is not credible until it coincides with his own.
It's quite laughable that Easterbrook and the New York Times fancy his imaginary status as a new convert of any importance to the global warming debate. It's the science that's important, not a journalist's self-aggrandizement for political and possible career-advancing purposes. \
And if there are two Gregg Easterbrooks, will the real skeptic please
By Gretchen Randall
Here are some of the catastrophic consequences it predicts:
Lovelock argues that global warming is so far advanced that extreme climatic
change is inevitable. "It won't make any difference if we stop producing
carbon dioxide tomorrow," he says. And we are going to notice dramatic
effects very soon. "I think it will be pretty bad by the middle of
this century. By then all the floating polar ice will be completely gone
and you'll be able to sail to the North Pole. That is a huge effect and
adds enormously to the amount of heat been received by the Earth as all
that white ice used to reflect solar heat. It's a pretty grim picture,
there's no question about it."
But why should anyone listen to the dire warnings of this silver-haired
86 year old? Well, apart from anything else, Lovelock is sprightly and
eloquent for his age, and speaks passionately about his science. Indeed,
he is not sitting around at home but is on an intensive world tour of
lectures to spread his message and promote his new book, which goes by
the appropriately dramatic title The Revenge of Gaia.
Furthermore Lovelock is highly respected for his body of work, which
includes the invention of the electron-capture detector - a device that
can detect minute quantities of pollution - the microwave oven and, most
significantly of all, the Gaia theory. Widely accepted within the environmental
community, this states that the earth is a self-regulating mechanism where
ecosystems and the elements needed for survival, such as the atmosphere,
have evolved to work in harmony together. The problem is, mankind's activities
have upset this equilibrium to such an extent that Gaia's response is
to chew us up and spit us out.
Lovelock has warned about the consequences of global warming for many
years, but his concern about the state of the planet took on a new urgency
after a visit to the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction
and Research in Exeter. "I get on well with the scientists there
and they invited my wife Sandy and I to go along and see what they were
doing. We went from one group of people to another and everyone had a
very gloomy story to tell. But they hadn't factored in the whole picture."
Lovelock says scientists tend to work in relative isolation on tightly
focused pieces of research. As a scientist whose Gaia theory is all about
the big picture, he put these individual stories together and realised
that the human race was on the brink of disaster. "The problem is
we have all been in denial about it for much too long, and didn't realise
how serious it was," he says. "All talk of sustainable development
is complete moonshine. What we need is a sustainable retreat."
According to Lovelock, rapid temperature rises will turn most of the
food-producing countries of the world into desert and scrub before the
end of the century. "The four horsemen of the apocalypse will ride
again - famine, pestilence, war and death," he warns. "We are
talking about huge deaths. We would be lucky if a billion survive; it
is more likely to be half a billion." Most survivors will try and
get to the Arctic where conditions for survival should be just about right,
According to Lovelock, survivors will also try and get to the UK, which
is where a note of slight optimism is sounded. "My hope is that these
islands will survive it because of the Gulf Stream," he says, referring
to the warm ocean current that keeps us some 8 deg C warmer than we should
be at this latitude. Global warming will switch this current off, but
the fall in temperature will be balanced by global warming. "It won't
happen smoothly, but on the whole the British Isles will do a lot better
than the rest of the world. We are a very desirable bit of real estate,
but we'd better run it decently and properly."
Lovelock compares the UK's current situation to that of the Second World
War. "You have to pull together and do everything you can to stop
it," he says. "We can't stop climate change, but we can protect
ourselves and save civilisation in these islands to a considerable extent."
He describes rising sea levels as a "nuisance", in that they
won't have an immediate impact, but storm surges such as that which wiped
out New Orleans are a real possibility. A lot of new homes will also be
needed, partly to house those displaced by floods but also because energy
efficiency will become essential. "All our houses are inefficient.
We should really be thinking of replacing our housing stock with appropriate
housing for the new world to come, which is going to be very strange,"
says Lovelock. "We have got to start thinking about high-density
living, as we will need every scrap of land for food production. Building
houses with gardens will be utterly out." These new communities will
resemble dense medieval cities because the rarity of cars will make wide
roads redundant. Houses will have to be built from locally sourced materials
as the cost of energy will prohibit long-distance transportation.
Lovelock's view that it is too late to stop global warming means he has
an unusual take on energy supply. He dismisses renewable energy and has
a particular disregard for wind power, describing it as a "pointless
In terms of generating new power, nuclear is the answer. "I'm so
glad the prime minister has gone nuclear because it's the only way of
keeping business going," he says. His support of nuclear power has
infuriated many in the green movement, which venerated Lovelock for the
Gaia theory. Nevertheless, Lovelock wants new-generation nuclear - and
fast. "We often hear that it will take 10 years to build a nuclear
power station," he says. "This is rubbish. The first ones that
were built in this country took three-and-a-half years and some are still
working. It's the constipated civil service that slows everything down.
It's got to be woken up and shaken up."
The main reason behind why a man who thinks it is too late to stop global
warming wants nuclear power would surprise many. Lovelock describes it
as potentially the cheapest source of energy there is. He says it is made
expensive by planning and excessive health and safety regulations. "It's
such a safe industry - nobody has died in it since it started in Britain,
and nobody has been injured by radiation as far as I know."
He also describes the 70bn needed for decommissioning and dealing with
nuclear waste as a complete waste of money. Those who raise their eyebrows
at this should bear in mind that Lovelock is prepared to put his money
where his mouth is. "I have offered many times to take the full output
of any nuclear power station in the country and put it on the land I own
because it's not unsafe - I know what it is because I have worked with
radiation all my life. It could go in a concrete pit. It's perfectly safe
- I would have my grandchildren sit on it."
According to Lovelock, 30-40% of our energy needs should be provided
by nuclear energy. He says it could be even higher - if politics didn't
prevent it. The rest of our energy will have to come from coal. "Global
warming is going to happen whether we burn coal or not and the UK's contribution
is tiny. For us to burn coal to generate electricity would probably add
0.5% to the total of the world's CO2," he says. He adds that nations
such as China and India are burning vast amounts of coal and nothing we
do will stop them.
To anyone who spent time watching hurricane forecasts last summer, Max Mayfield may seem like a hero. The director of the National Hurricane Center predicted many of the season's worst storms. But a day before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, environmental groups called for Mayfield and other officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to resign.
"NOAA is actively covering up the strong and growing scientific link between more powerful hurricanes and global warming," said Mike Tidwell, who represents a group called the U.S. Climate Emergency Council.
The groups demanded that Mayfield and NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher step down. "They must resign immediately," said Tidwell, in front of about 30 protesters who'd gathered for a morning rally outside NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.
NOAA officials declined to be interviewed today but released a statement saying the agency had not taken a specific position on the relationship between global warming and hurricane behavior.
"We recognize there is an ongoing scientific debate and will continue
to support research that might identify detectable influences of global
warming in hurricane frequency and/or intensity," the statement said.
The Law of the Sea treaty does not simply set rules for commercial activity beneath the high seas. It establishes a new international tribunal and new international bureaucracies to interpret and apply a wide range of rules for activities on the seas and to proceed with such rules even against U.S. objections. It threatens to introduce international legal complications into national security missions of the U.S. Navy. It threatens to complicate not only deep-sea mining if it ever becomes a realistic commercial prospect but also fishing and other commercial activities at sea and perhaps even on adjacent lands. Above all, it sets a very bad precedent..
The EC's message to the people of Europe: make do and mend
The European Commission campaign You Control Climate Change is the latest
high-profile initiative aimed at tackling global warming through modifying
our personal behavior. The campaign slogan, now emblazoned across an enormous
poster next to the EC's main building in Brussels, is: 'Turn down. Switch
off. Recycle. Walk.' (1)
That perfectly encapsulates the message behind popular climate change
initiatives, which are always urging us to scale down our ambitions. We're
forever being asked to temper our desires to live life in the most convenient
and enjoyable ways possible, and instead to keep a constant eye on our
natural environment and its future.
The EC's message is similar in essence to the poor housewife's proverbs
'make do and mend' and 'waste not want not', which were traditionally
used to encourage people to conserve materials during wartime shortages
and rations. So, the green slogan 'think globally, act locally' asks us
always to be mindful of the bigger picture and yet modest in our own pursuits.
Rather than reining in our behavior for the sake of any war effort, today
we are asked to ration ourselves in the service of something more intangible
- the alleged needs of the planet and of future generations.
Since neither the planet nor future generations can speak for themselves,
environmentalists and others have a blank cheque to babble on their behalf,
and to assume the moral high ground in the process. In truth, neither
planets nor the unborn are capable of having interests, since neither
of these entities is capable of formulating or pursuing interests. It
is only we who live in the present who can determine our interests and
shape our future accordingly. And whether our interests are best served
by defining ourselves, almost to the exclusion of everything else, as
Environmentally Responsible is highly dubious.
When challenged about their tendency to revere nature at the expense
of the needs of humanity, environmentalists tend to take the fallback
position of appealing to our desire for self-preservation. Never mind
the tree hugging, they say, what about the continued existence of the
human race? However, merely continuing our existence is hardly the highest
goal one can think of. Human history is a history of progress - of forging
ahead and improving our lot by changing our circumstances, not accommodating
Take fossil fuel. Doubtless, fossil fuel is not the greatest means of
generating industrial, domestic or locomotive power that humanity will
ever devise, and work on developing viable alternatives is ongoing. But
this resource has benefited us immeasurably, remains useful to us in the
here and now, and still stands to improve the quality of life for millions
in the developing world. However, these facts barely get a look-in in
current debates, instead being subordinated to concerns over the environmental
impact of fuel emissions and how we might fare if and when the fuel runs
If our first instinct is always to project from our present capabilities
and cower at daunting scenarios ahead, we will never be able to grapple
fruitfully with the challenges presented by nature. 'Nature's revenge'
is a popular theme in today's discussion of the climate - but why would
nature need to exert her revenge when we seem so keen on devising and
enacting it on her behalf?
None of this is to deny the importance of forward planning based on expert
knowledge. Those global warming 'sceptics' who claim that we can never
fully understand nor hope to influence the climate are as misguided in
their own way as the doom-mongering greens. But to present the complexities
of climate change as a brute set of geophysical facts, the only sensible
response to which is to scale down the way we live now, does an immense
disservice to humans' ability to devise solutions and shape the world
Inasmuch as climate change poses us with a challenge, it needs to be
met with the most ambitious and innovative solutions that our finest minds
can muster. Wagging the finger at us for enjoying the hard-won conveniences
of modern life, and telling us to be more austere, does not constitute
any kind of solution. In fact, that stance has little to do with taking
a scientific approach to the climate, and is more about those in authority
forging a new morality for which the climate is a useful pretext.
Lacking any grand political vision that might engage us, the European
authorities resort instead to issuing high-handed advice on our habits
and lifestyles. According to EC president José Manuel Barroso,
the You Control Climate Change campaign 'makes clear to which extent we
all are responsible for climate change and what individuals can and need
to do to limit this threat'. Holding us responsible for climate change
in this way is like the Church of yesteryear holding us responsible for
averting the wrath of God - an invocation of a phantasmagoric higher power,
which dulls our passions and underlines our subservience to the ruling
The message 'You Control Climate Change' suggests that the most significant
control we can exercise over our circumstances is the reduction of our
impact upon the natural environment. In political terms, we may as well
be told 'you control nothing'. Fortunately, some of us aspire to greater
freedom and a better future in the dynamic, open-ended world of human
affairs, not the dismal cul de sac of natural facts misrepresented as
A good first step in asserting real control of our world would be to
tell Mr Barroso where he can stick his climate change campaign.
William Koch (May 22) misses the wind farm for the turbines in his economic analysis of the proposed field of wind turbines off Nantucket Sound. Yes, the proposal is uneconomic, even with massive subsidies. But that is not the point: For years the environmental lobby has joined hands with the Northeast liberal left to force a myriad of "environmental" requirements and projects upon the rest of the country, with actual environmental benefits either nonexistent or negative. And now we find Senator Kennedy and many of the other "environmentalists" in opposition to just such a monstrosity in their back yard. Is it because of the famous Cape Cod concern with benefit/cost analysis? Or is it far more likely that yet again we are observing the hypocrisy of the leftist elite? Whatever the numbers, this project should be forced upon them as a matter of justice.
The first detailed analysis of an extraordinary climatic and biological
record from the seabed near the North Pole shows that 55 million years
ago the Arctic Ocean was much warmer than scientists imagined - a Floridian
year-round average of 74 degrees.
Arctic's tropical past uncovered
Fifty-five million years ago the North Pole was an ice-free zone with
tropical temperatures, according to research.
The core holds layer upon layer of compressed fossils and minerals, which when studied can tell the story of millions of years of Arctic history. The bottom end of the cylinder helped scientists to uncover what had happened to the Arctic during a dramatic global event known as the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which occurred about 55 million years ago.
"This time period is associated with a very enhanced greenhouse
effect," explained Appy Sluijs, a palaeoecologist from Utrecht University
in the Netherlands, and the lead author on one of the papers. "Basically,
it looks like the Earth released a gigantic fart of greenhouse gases into
the atmosphere - and globally the Earth warmed by about 5C (9F). "This
event is already widely studied over the whole planet - but the one big
exception was the Arctic Ocean."
1. Satellite data now show a slight global warming trend over the last 25 year instead of a slight cooling trend. [Note that I am talking about GLOBAL Average Temperature.]
2. Is this an indication of a human cause? A direct comparison with greenhouse models is not sufficient. Recall that different GH models have sensitivities that vary by a factor of 5. So you can match any observed global trend to a suitable model. One therefore needs to match the PATTERN of warming, both geographic ( by latitude zone) and by altitude.
We have done both and published our results in two papers in the peer-refereed literature (Geophys Res Lett. 2004). There is no match. The models have not been validated.
We have just extended our analysis, using recently corrected data and some 20 climate model results. There is still strong disagreement between observed trends and those derived from models. We have just submitted these new results t GRL for publication.
3. In the discussion of what happens when CO2 doubles, triples, quadruples,
etc, I forgot to mention an important fact (on which there is complete
scientific agreement): Acc to GH theory, the effect of increasing CO2
is not linear but logarithmic. This means that each additional increment
is less effective than the previous one. So if we are now at 50% towards
a CO2 doubling, the additional temperature increase will be much less
than double. The physical reason is that the GH effects of the CO2 saturate
as its level increases.
From: Richard S Courtney (Dr)