|The Week That Was
March 11, 2006
New on the Web: A National
Academy committee is examining the Hockeystick (HS) controversy. Invited
speakers made presentations on March 2 and 3. Our comments pretty well
confirm that the HS is broken and dead. The irony is that the HS could
not have provided hard evidence for Anthropogenic Greenhouse Warming (AGW).
Even if the 20th century is the warmest in 1000 years. So what?
SEPP's BALTIC CRUISE -- ALL SET FOR Aug 23 to Sept 2 (CPH to CPH)
The newly-established International Panel to Stop the Incipient Ice Age (IPSIIA) will celebrate its founding in a Baltic Cruise with a series of mini-symposia aboard ship and in seven ports in a region that was covered with kilometer-thick sheets of ice during the early Holocene. Building on a successful "dry run" in 2004 with co-founder of IPSIIA Dr. Klaus Heiss, we will start and return to Copenhagen, on a 10-day cruise on the Star Princess, visiting "climate friends" at the following ports: Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallin, Gdansk, and Oslo.
Cost per person will be as low as $1600 [A BARGAIN!], depending on type of cabin. It includes tax and port charges, but not shore excursions, beverages, and tips.
Space is limited. Reserve
quickly (if necessary, paste this URL into browser)
Canada's new Environment Minister Rona Ambrose downgrades Kyoto (Item
#1). From down under, Environmentalism is the powerful new secular religion,
writes the aptly named Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald (Item
#2). Also, Aussies have given UK government's Stern Review a "stern
Meanwhile in the US, the World Resources Institute tried to assure
"The Planet Can't Wait" by David Ignatius, Wash Post columnist:
Man Bites Dog: The BBC has a piece on 'sensationalizing science' (Item
Polar Ice Melting and Sea Level Rise: First, the hype in the WashPost (Item #5).
Last week we wrote: "If we can believe their [ABC News] report (Item #7), Jim Hansen (director of NASA-GISS) predicts as much as 80-foot (!) rise in sea levels by 2050 - unless we act now. That's just shy of two foot per year -- and complete bunk." [That's about 300 times the present rate.]
Sure enough, ABC online phoned us and corrected their report. It now
So how much is "well underway toward 80 foot?" As much as
10 foot, 5 foot , or even only 1 foot by 2050? It's still much bigger
than my estimate of 3.2 inches by 2050.
Meanwhile, Europe is freezing (Item #6)
As Canada's new environment minister, my mandate is to clean up Canada's air, water and soil and I will consider any mechanism available to me to fulfill this urgent mandate.
The article [Plan to extend Kyoto on way, Feb. 25] misrepresented Canada's position on Kyoto. Our position remains that the Kyoto accord is seriously flawed and that the emissions targets it imposes on Canada are unrealistic and unattainable. The Kyoto framework does not optimize Canada's position to develop new technology or take other effective measures to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, while emissions trading systems may be part of an eventual greenhouse gas reduction strategy, in our view the government of Canada should not engage in purchasing credits from foreign countries that do not result in verifiable reductions in Canada's emissions. With my new position as President of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Canada has the opportunity to address these issues.
I want Canadians to know that our first priority is our commitment to a made-in-Canada solution that actively reduces greenhouse gas emissions by advancing domestic and international policies that reflect our mandate: to clean up Canada's air, water and soil.
Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment, Ottawa
The irony is that, in an era in which science and technology are king, irrationality and superstition are on the rise. Fundamentalist religion is gripping the globe; women's magazines are full of psychics and palm readers and gardening by the stars. Creationists are making a comeback in the classroom. Chinese herbalists are springing up on every corner, and parents take their children to homeopaths. Earth is Gaia, and nature knows best.
Global warming has followed the acid rain scares of the past, the population bomb, the Club of Rome, Silent Spring, all the environmental scares that never came to pass, as the terror du jour - "the greatest threat facing humanity today", as Dr Tim Flannery tells us in an ad for solar panels.
In The March Of Unreason: Science, Democracy, And The New Fundamentalism, the bicycle-riding British Liberal Democrat Lord Dick Taverne maps the growing irrationality that threatens to push us back to the Dark Ages.
"In the practice of medicine, popular approaches to farming and food, policies to reduce hunger and disease and many other practical issues, there is an undercurrent of irrationality that threatens the progress that depends on science and even [threatens] the civilised basis of our democracy," he writes.
At the same time as we become more gullible, we also become more cynical about government, corporations and Big Media.
Every time I write an article pointing out there is no scientific consensus on the extent of man-made - as opposed to natural - climate change, or that attacks on genetically modified food are flawed, I am accused, quite seriously, of being on the payroll of Monsanto or Western Mining.
The violent, incoherent, mouth-frothing fury from greenies to such columns puts me in mind of the insane reaction in the Islamic world to the Danish Muhammad cartoons.
Environmentalism is the powerful new secular religion and politically correct scientists are its high priests, rescuing the planet from the apocalypse of climate change, as the Doomsday clock ticks down. Kyoto is the Promised Land and Bush/Howard/capitalism/ industry/farmers are Satan.
Perth exploration geologist Louis Hissink suspects "politicised science has replaced religion as the arbiter of human affairs ... priesthoods of both organisations are concerned with what happens in the future and that current behaviour is thought to affect that future, hence it needs to be proscribed and prescribed".
It used to be men in purple robes that controlled us. Soon it will be
men in white lab coats. The geeks shall inherit the earth.
A report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent research group, has accused the UK media of sensationalising science.
It says irresponsible reporting can undermine public confidence in science and government, and on issues such as vaccination may even cost lives. The think-tank blames inaccurate reporting for the scare that led some parents to shun the MMR vaccine.
The SMF study was sponsored by mobile phone operators in the UK.
Claudia Wood of the SMF said journalists tended to seek black and white stories and looked for certainties that could not be provided by science.
"The media has to be very aware that what it says can have huge impacts on the public's behaviour," she told the BBC. "I think the media has to be very cautious in how it gives over scientific evidence, and has to make sure that people understand that there are certain risks to some things but a lot of the time evidence isn't conclusive."
The pamphlet - Science, Risk and the Media: Do the front pages reflect
reality? - was based on a meeting of experts at the three main political
party conferences, last year.
"The public's inherent mistrust of government and its motives is exacerbated by the media's sensationalist treatment of scientific stories," said Ann Rossiter, director of the SMF. "Such misreporting can have fatal consequences: in 1998, the Daily Mail devoted some 700 stories to MMR creating the erroneous impression that the vaccine was dangerous. Following this, the number of people being inoculated against MMR fell by 20%, increasing the danger of these life-threatening diseases."
The experts made several recommendations for improving scientific understanding among the public:
* Newspapers and broadcasters should employ more science graduates
Copies of the pamphlet can be obtained from the SMF in Westminster, London. ==================================
The hysteria grows: Consensus grows on climate change yells the
The Earth's temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations' team of climate experts.
A draft of the next influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will tell politicians that scientists are now unable to place a reliable upper limit on how quickly the atmosphere will warm as carbon-dioxide levels increase. The report draws together research over the past five years and will be presented to national governments in April and made public next year. It raises the possibility of the Earth's temperature rising well above the ceiling quoted in earlier accounts.
Such an outcome would have severe consequences, such as the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and disruption of the Gulf Stream ocean current.
The shift in position comes as Tony Blair is expected to pledge today to work towards a date for stabilising international greenhouse gas emissions when he meets "Stop Climate Chaos," the climate change equivalent of "Make Poverty History." The group is campaigning for a target date of 2015 for stabilisation, saying a later date would endanger the planet.
The new IPCC report will underpin international talks on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Set up in 1988 by the UN, the IPCC brings together hundreds of experts to summarise the state of climate science for policymakers. It has produced three reports since 1990, each of which has been instrumental in establishing national and international strategies to address global warming. Government officials have until June to comment on the new draft, when scientists will gather in Bergen, Norway, to produce a final version.
The IPCC's removal of the upper temperature estimation is posited on new predictions about how the atmosphere would react to the carbon blanket wrapped around it. The three previous reports assumed that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase average global temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5C. Since then, computer models have foreseen increases as high as 11C, and some scientists wanted the naturally conservative IPCC to raise the upper end of the range. Others said such a move would be increase would be misleading and alarmist.
According to sources who have seen it, the draft now assumes a doubling of carbon dioxide would cause a likely temperature rise of between 2 and 4.5C, but says higher increases are possible.
The shift follows several high-profile studies convincing some scientists the atmosphere may be much more sensitive to greenhouse gases than they had thought. Peter Cox, a leading climate expert at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Winfrith, Dorset, said: "The scientific agenda has moved from improving the predictions to thinking about what are the chances of something awful happening."
Dr Cox said the IPCC's move is significant because it will force governments
to seriously consider extreme scenarios that are unlikely but potentially
devastating. "The most probable thing is not the most important thing
to worry about. The upper end is where the big problems are, because the
impact rises as the temperature does."
Today we were subjected to breathless news reports that -- to quote the Washington Post's page one headline -- the "Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly: New Study Warns Of Rising Sea Levels". Its author, Juliet Eilperin, goes on to state that the ice sheet "is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper ..."
So what is this "trend" based upon? The trend, reported in a paper in yesterday's SciencExpress , which offers previews of coming attractions in Science magazine, is based on data collected over a 34-month period!
Sorry, Juliet, 34 months does not a "trend" make, unless you are a 3-year old, in which case you can be forgiven for thinking that's a truly long time. like ... almost forever.
Juliet, however, does go on to restore some balance to her story by quoting Richard Alley, "One person's trend is another person's fluctuation." Bravo!
Let's now look at the second part of the two-punch headline, namely, the warning regarding rising sea levels. It turns out that the resulting ice melt would raise sea level by 0.4 millimeters per year. Well, that works out to 1.6 inches per century. I guess I better hurry and relocate to higher ground -- I have heard you can drown in a thimble-full of water (and I don't swim).
That also means 1.3 feet in 1,000 years. Seems I have to live longer than Methuselah to enjoy that beachfront property. Damn!
This is the second time in a month that there has been much ado about short-term trends. In mid-February, another paper in Science reported that the glaciers in Greenland were melting more rapidly than previously thought . That paper estimated that Greenland ice sheet was losing 224 cubic kilometers per year. That means it will take another 5,400 years to melt the remaining 1,200,000 cubic km, which might raise sea level by 23 feet (7 meters), or so I am told. That is a sea level rise of 0.05 inches per year.
Now this second paper was based on as much as 9-years worth of data.
Phenomenal by comparison - but is this long enough?
To get an idea as to the answer, nearby I have two plots of temperature "anomalies' (i.e., fluctuations around the long term means) from 1880 through 2005 for the Antarctic (actually everything south of 60 degrees S). The top curve provides trends for land surface temperatures. The bottom curve is a composite for land and sea temperatures, hence the difference between the magnitude of the trend (0.12 degrees C per decade vs. 0.01 degrees C per decade).
What this shows is that you can get any kind of trend you want, depending
on when you start your 3- or 9-year period. Ditto, if you want to work
with a 50- or 60-year period.
Nevertheless, the Washington Post reports that based partly on these studies, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) said yesterday that the "United States must act quickly to impose mandatory limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."
Perhaps, from the point of view of these two gentlemen, any "fluctuation"
that lasts for 2 or 6 years is sufficiently long to base robust policy
Polish and Ukrainian authorities revised upwards the human toll from the freezing weather that has gripped eastern Europe as temperatures plummeted yet again. As of mid-January, 738 people had succumbed to the intense cold, the Ukrainian health ministry said. In Poland, the cold has 233 people since October. "Last week alone, 19 people died of cold. That's an exceptionally high number," said police spokeswoman Grazyna Puchalska. "The toll has already exceeded the total number of deaths from cold last winter, when 190 people died. And winter is not over yet," she added.
Temperatures plunged to -26C (-15F) in northeastern Poland at the weekend, while the chill returned to the Ukraine with the mercury slipping below -31C (-24F) in the northern Sumy region. Parts of Russia were even colder. In Kamchatka, temperatures fell to - 47C (-52 F), while temperatures in parts of the Magadan province reached -52C (-61F).
Record Low Temperatures in Greece - 8 Feb 06 - The temperature dropped to a record low -25C in Ohiro, northern Greece overnight. Large parts of the national road network are covered with ice, and lakes and rivers are frozen. one of the lowest temperatures this winter was recorded in most of the prefectures in central and western Macedonia. In Florina, northwest Greece, where temperatures plunged to -18C, the snow is more than 50cm deep. In Meliti, the temperature dropped to -24C. In Kastoria, northwest Greece, the lake is still frozen and the thermometer dropped to -17C. At the same time, Kozani reported-13C, Veria -11C, Serres -8C and Thessaloniki -6C. http://www.mpa.gr/article.html?doc_id=566307