|The Week That Was
November 11 , 2006
It’s been an eventful year so far: The Gore movie “An Inconvenient Truth” that distorts the science; the Stern Report in Britain that distorts the economics; and now Barbara Boxer (Dem--Calif) who will chair the US Senate Committees on Environment and Public Works, replacing GW foe Senator James Inhofe (R—OK). She announced her plan: to bring California-style regulation to the whole United States. That will be exciting to watch.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 29 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether CO2 should be treated as a pollutant, with a decision expected by early 2007. At about that time too we should be reading the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
What makes all this activity somewhat bizarre is the convincing scientific evidence against any appreciable human contribution to Global Warming (see ITEMS #1 & 2). But lawyers simply stipulate the science; it’s so much easier than looking at actual data.
To see how Stern mangles the economics, see the excellent critiques by Christopher Monckton (ITEM #3), Robert Samuelson (ITEM #4), and George Reisman (ITEM #5). I would only add: Has the Stern Report considered negative feedbacks? It envisages a 20% decline in GDP – essentially a collapse of the world economy. But we know – for example from the experience of the former Soviet Union -- that when the economy collapses, so do the consumption of energy and the emission of CO2. The surest way then to cut emissions is to collapse the economy. [An equally good alternative is to eliminate a major fraction of the world’s population. Both “solutions” may be implicit in the mitigation scheme of the Stern Report.]
Ah yes; the mitigation schemes: In an interview in Wirtschaftswoche (translated by Benny Peiser and published in CCNet), Richard Tol, like all good market economists, supports emission trading -- on a global basis. Unfortunately, he sidesteps the problem of how many free (!) certificates to issue to China and other developing nations. If each Chinese is entitled to the same per-capita energy use as the average European, the industrialized nations can just continue to emit any amount of CO2 -- while paying off the Chinese and feeling self-righteous about it. Energy costs to the consumer will skyrocket and, of course, the atmosphere won't see any difference. What a scam!
And then there are heroic schemes of physical mitigation. First there was artificial volcanoes; this week it is space reflectors between Earth and Sun (ITEM #6). Why not make it a photovoltaic source of solar power?
As most of you recall, the blog RealClimate was set up to defend the discredited Hockeystick. It has now morphed into a general vehicle for a group of Global Warming activists, used mostly to attack skeptics. I don't normally view RC but was directed to it by a friend: RC (1 Nov. AGU, AAPG, and AMQUA) chooses to misrepresent the main thrust of my letter to Eos (see TWTW Oct 28). I will have something to say about this in the Eos blog, accessible through www.AGU.org/fora/Eos/2006
RC still tries to defend the basic aim of the Hockeystick by denying the existence of natural climate cycles during the Holocene (8 Nov. Climate Shifts). Of course, they cannot ignore the evidence for the 1500-year cycle. But amusingly, a reader accuses them of promoting our new book (Singer and Avery "Unstoppable Global Warming--Every 1500 Years"). RC has a problem: they want to preserve the large climate sensitivities of conventional climate models and the primacy of CO2 as the main cause of current warming -- contrary to the evidence from CCSP (see ITEM #2).
The most disturbing item is "New Google Search Function " (RC 24 Oct). Is this an attempt by RC to “vet” Internet information via Search engines? I cannot tell and would be grateful for yr opinion.
1. WHAT PROOF FOR HUMAN-CAUSED GLOBAL WARMING?
Op-ed for NY Sun
My cousin David (by marriage), successful lawyer-businessman and champion bridge player, has a sharp, analytical mind. He enjoys intellectual combat and loves to argue about global warming. How to convince him that Al Gore’s movie is sheer fantasy and that the “Stern Report,” just released in Britain, spells economic ruin. So here is how I plan to meet the challenge:
I will pose three fundamental questions: 1] Is there evidence for or against an appreciable human contribution to current climate warming? 2] Would a warmer climate be better or worse than the present one? And 3] Realistically speaking, can we do something about climate? Is it possible to influence the climate by policy actions in an effective way?
First, the climate always changes -- either warming or cooling – on time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. Nearly 20 ice ages have come and gone in the past two million years, controlled by changes in Earth’s orbit and tilt of spin axis; our present interglacial warm period is 12,000 years old and may soon end. Geological evidence has also uncovered a 1500-year cycle, likely caused by the Sun – and also unstoppable. Since 1979, weather satellites show a slight warming trend. How can we tell whether this warming is due to human influences, such as the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, or whether it is simply another natural fluctuation?
It's no use asking the thermometers; they cannot talk. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets, the rise in sea level, severe storms, floods, droughts -- all of these are interesting, to be sure, but really irrelevant to our question. They may well be connected to a warmer climate -- or maybe not -- but they cannot tell us what causes the warming. Nor can a vote among scientists settle this issue; science is not democratic: history shows that the majority is often wrong. Climate models give scary results; but these are simply exercises -- not to be confused with evidence. Nor can we argue that the rough correlation with the rising level of greenhouse gases proves a cause-effect relationship. World climate cooled between 1940 and 1975 while energy use and carbon-dioxide (CO2) levels rose sharply. Correlation is not proof – a truth that is often forgotten.
So what’s left? All working scientists agree that one must compare the observed patterns of warming with the patterns calculated from greenhouse models: distinctive geographic and altitude distributions of the temperature trends. A May-2006 government report, using the best available data and models, gives a definitive result: the patterns do not agree. [See <http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/finalreport/default.htm> Figure 5.4G].
Logically, an agreement by itself would not prove that the warming is due to human causes; it only makes it plausible. But when we find an instance of significant disagreement between observations and models, then we can argue that the influence of human effects is minor compared to natural climate fluctuations. This discrepancy also shows us that existing models cannot be used in a reliable way to make predictions about future climate warming – and about its effects.
The second question is clearly in the realm of economics. The ongoing debate assumes, generally without much analysis, that a warmer climate presents a "danger" or a "threat" – implying serious consequences for economy, human health, ecology, etc. On the other hand, a group headed by Robert Mendelsohn (Yale University) showed positive consequences; the GNP of the United States would increase for assumed temperature increases of 2 degC [Cambridge University Press, 1999].
One can also look at historical evidence. We know from voluminous records that human existence was good and more comfortable during the Medieval Warm Period (ca. 1100 AD), when Vikings settled Greenland, than during the following Little Ice Age, when crops failed, people starved, and disease was rampant; life then was nasty, brutish, and short. Another way of looking at this question is to ask if things were worse in 1976, when it was colder than today. It becomes obvious that climate effects are minor compared to everything else that happened in the last 30 years; but that is exactly the point: Technological progress and the mobilization of capital far outweigh any climate factor that one can think of in promoting prosperity – here and throughout the world. Would a slightly warmer climate, of say one degC in a hundred years, have serious effects on the way we live, on the economy, human health, or anything else? Indeed, since most agree that a colder climate would damage the economy, one might ask: What is the probability that the present climate just happens to be the Panglossian optimum?
The third topic is perhaps easiest to deal with. People often talk about "stabilizing the climate;" what they really mean is stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But even that is a daunting task. We all know what it would take to stabilize the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: reduce emissions worldwide by between 60 to 80 percent. In practical terms, this calls for reducing energy use by comparable amounts. It is also agreed that the Kyoto Protocol is a puny effort; its effect on climate, all agree, would be minute: a calculated temperature reduction of only one-twentieth of a degree -- unmeasurable by ordinary thermometers.
Since it is unlikely that the current warming has much of a human component and since it is unlikely that something substantial can be done about reducing CO2 growth -- what is the point to vast program of costly mitigation, when, most probably, a warmer climate would produce positive benefits instead of damages?
I’ll try these arguments on David next time I am in New York, and see if he agrees.
Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He served as first director of the US Weather Satellite Service and as Vice Chairman of the National Advisory Panel on Oceans and Atmosphere. His most recent book is “Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1500 Years (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)
2. LETTER TO PRINCETON ALUMNI WEEKLY
Climate is always changing -- either warming or cooling. When it warms, glaciers will melt -- but this tells us nothing about the actual cause of the warming. Nor do model calculations or a claimed scientific "consensus" provide "proof" for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Al Gore's movie adds much confusion to this crucial issue. In fact, as philosopher Sir Karl Popper has reminded us, one can never "prove" a scientific hypothesis; one can only falsify it.
3. APOCALYPSE CANCELLED
The Stern report last week predicted dire economic and social effects of unchecked global warming. In what many will see as a highly controversial polemic, Christopher Monckton disputes the 'facts' of this impending apocalypse and accuses the UN and its scientists of distorting the truth
Last week, Gordon Brown and his chief economist both said global warming was the worst "market failure" ever. That loaded sound-bite suggests that the "climate-change" scare is less about saving the planet than, in Jacques Chirac's chilling phrase, "creating world government". This week and next, I'll reveal how politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science.
Sir Nicholas Stern's report on the economics of climate change, which was published last week, says that the debate is over. It isn't. There are more greenhouse gases in the air than there were, so the world should warm a bit, but that's as far as the "consensus" goes. After the recent hysteria, you may not find the truth easy to believe. So you can find all my references and detailed calculations here. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/graphics/2006/11/05/warm-refs.pdf
The Royal Society says there's a worldwide scientific consensus. It brands Apocalypse-deniers as paid lackeys of coal and oil corporations. I declare my interest: I once took the taxpayer's shilling and advised Margaret Thatcher, FRS, on scientific scams and scares. Alas, not a red cent from Exxon.
In 1988, James Hansen, a climatologist, told the US Congress that temperature would rise 0.3C by the end of the century (it rose 0.1C), and that sea level would rise several feet (no, one inch). The UN set up a transnational bureaucracy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The UK taxpayer unwittingly meets the entire cost of its scientific team, which, in 2001, produced the Third Assessment Report, a Bible-length document presenting apocalyptic conclusions well beyond previous reports.
This week, I'll show how the UN undervalued the sun's effects on historical and contemporary climate, slashed the natural greenhouse effect, overstated the past century's temperature increase, repealed a fundamental law of physics and tripled the man-made greenhouse effect.
Next week, I'll demonstrate the atrocious economic, political and environmental cost of the high-tax, zero-freedom, bureaucratic centralism implicit in Stern's report; I'll compare the global-warming scare with previous sci-fi alarums; and I'll show how the environmentalists' "precautionary principle" (get the state to interfere now, just in case) is killing people.
So to the scare. First, the UN implies that carbon dioxide ended the last four ice ages. It displays two 450,000-year graphs: a sawtooth curve of temperature and a sawtooth of airborne CO2 that's scaled to look similar. Usually, similar curves are superimposed for comparison. The UN didn't do that. If it had, the truth would have shown: the changes in temperature preceded the changes in CO2 levels.
Next, the UN abolished the medieval warm period (the global warming at the end of the First Millennium AD). In 1995, David Deming, a geoscientist at the University of Oklahoma, had written an article reconstructing 150 years of North American temperatures from borehole data. He later wrote: "With the publication of the article in Science, I gained significant credibility in the community of scientists working on climate change. They thought I was one of them, someone who would pervert science in the service of social and political causes. One of them let his guard down. A major person working in the area of climate change and global warming sent me an astonishing email that said: 'We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.' "
So they did.
FULL REPORT at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/05/nosplit/nwarm05.xml
Part 2 will appear in the Sunday Telegraph of Nov 12, 2006
4. THE DILEMMA OF GLOBAL WARMING VS. ECONOMIC GROWTH
It seems impossible to have an honest conversation about global warming. I say this after diligently perusing the British government's huge report released last week by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and now a high civil servant. The report is a masterpiece of misleading public relations.
5. ENVIRONMENTALISM'S SWAN SONG
o According to the report, to avoid the loss of up to 20 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP), carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced by more than 80 percent below the absolute level of current annual emissions.
o By those standards, the world economy would need to produce 3 to 4 times the output in 2050 with 25 percent less carbon dioxide emission.
o Stern also calls for public energy R&D funding should double, to around $20 billion, for the development of a diverse portfolio of technologies.
o Yet $20 billion is one-twentieth of one percent of the world's current annual GDP, hardly enough, it would seem, to reduce levels by 80 percent.
Even if the program were sound, says Reisman, it would simply not be possible to enact it in time to satisfy the environmentalists that the level of carbon buildup they fear will not occur.
Ultimately, what they offer is merely the destruction of an economic system capable of developing new and additional means to confront changes in nature. To the extent that their program is enacted, it will serve to prevent effectively dealing with global warming if that should ever actually be necessary.
Source: George Reisman, "Britain's Stern Review on Global Warming:
6. FEASIBILITY OF COOLING THE EARTH WITH A CLOUD OF SMALL SPACECRAFT NEAR THE INNER LAGRANGE POINT L1
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 3 November 2006
Roger Angel - University of Arizona, Steward Observatory, 933 North Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85721 , E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If it were to become apparent that dangerous changes in global climate were inevitable, despite greenhouse gas controls, active methods to cool the Earth on an emergency basis might be desirable. The concept considered here is to block 1.8% of the solar flux with a space sunshade orbited near the inner Lagrange point (L1), in-line between the Earth and sun. Following the work of J. Early [Early, JT (1989) J Br Interplanet Soc 42:567-569], transparent material would be used to deflect the sunlight, rather than to absorb it, to minimize the shift in balance out from L1 caused by radiation pressure. Three advances aimed at practical implementation are presented. First is an optical design for a very thin refractive screen with low reflectivity, leading to a total sunshade mass of 20 million tons. Second is a concept aimed at reducing transportation cost to $50/kg by using electromagnetic acceleration to escape Earth's gravity, followed by ion propulsion. Third is an implementation of the sunshade as a cloud of many spacecraft, autonomously stabilized by modulating solar radiation pressure. These meter-sized "flyers" would be assembled completely before launch, avoiding any need for construction or unfolding in space. They would weigh a gram each, be launched in stacks of 800,000, and remain for a projected lifetime of 50 years within a 100,000-km-long cloud. The concept builds on existing technologies. It seems feasible that it could be developed and deployed in 25 years at a cost of a few trillion dollars, <0.5% of world gross domestic product (GDP) over that time.