|The Week That Was
September 13, 2003
2. ENVIRONMENTAL FALSE ALARMS ARE JUSTIFIED, ECONOMISTS CLAIM. Retraction is called for
3. SEPP HOLDS SIX MINI-WORKSHOPS IN BALTIC REGION
4. CLIMATE DATA DO NOT SUPPORT ALARMISM
5. GROUP SUES TO ENFORCE SOUND SCIENCE LAW: Global Warming Alarmism to Face Trial
6. SOME THOUGHTS ON THE ELECTRICITY BLACKOUT
7. THE ICE AGE COMETH
8. NEW ELEMENT DISCOVERED:
It is a shoddy piece of work and should be retracted from publication. It misuses a graph (and economic argument on optimum cost-benefit analysis) published by Fred Singer in Science nearly 30 years ago. It claims "over 3 million deaths worldwide" from air pollution annually without revealing that these are caused mainly by indoor air from poor-quality fuel, like cow dung. The article also claims the ludicrous figure of 300,000 deaths averted by the control of CFCs; there is no way this number can be backed by evidence.
The article appears to be little more than an economic justification of Stephen Schneider's admission to Discover magazine in 1989 that, "To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest." Schneider, along with Paul Ehrlich and Michael Grubb, provided the authors with "helpful comments on an earlier draft."
The article also makes disparaging remarks about Bjorn Lomborg's book,
The Skeptical Environmentalist, referring to it as "officially discredited."
If anything, it discredits the so-called Danish Committees on Scientific
Dishonesty and the authors of this screed.
The argument goes like this. Our society balances risks and benefits. In the area of the environment, these decisions are informed by environmental science. Many possible disasters have a very low risk of occurrence, which means that many warnings from scientists will turn out to be unfounded. When this happens, sceptics like Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, will argue that we should ignore similar warnings in the future. The authors contend that this would be a mistake. The potential benefits of averting disaster are so great that scientists should continue to issue what they know are likely to be false alarms.
We have heard this argument before. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who provided "helpful comments" on a draft of the paper, told Discover magazine in 1989 that "to capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest". This latest study is essentially that statement dressed up in fancy economic terms. Despite its academic pretensions, it is still unprincipled nonsense. It is nonsense because it exaggerates the benefits and underestimates the risks of alarmism.
Scientists who argue for alarmism, on the whole, are not very bad men,
but the course of action they propose is very bad indeed -- for science,
for scientists, and for society as a whole.
3) For yet another take on this issue, see Prof. John Brignell's highly
recommended web site
3. SEPP Holds Six Mini-Workshops In Baltic Region
1) Copenhagen: Meeting with Bjorn Lomborg to discuss the report of his institute (see above for detail). Also meetings with Danish journalists.
2) Helsinki: Meeting with the Climate Skeptics group of Finland, who later used the information in a TV debate. TV interview, followed by briefings to press and others (sponsored by Finnish Metal-Workers Union).
3) St. Petersburg: Meeting with Prof. Kirill Kondratyev and four colleagues. Exchange of scientific information in preparation for the Moscow Climate Conference to be held Sept 29 -Oct 3.
4) Tallinn: Meeting with Prof. Olavi Kaerner and colleague. Exchange of scientific information. Also briefing of former Estonian foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
5) Stockholm: Briefing arranged by the SNS - Studiefoerbundet Naeringsliv och Samhaelle (homepage with English translation at www.sns.se ). It was a group of some 30 people, including journalists, politicians, and several scientists. The formal reason for the event was twofold - one was to present a book by two economists Lars Bergman and Marian Radetzki - on the economic consequences of Sweden's policy to do more than the Kyoto Protocol. That book already exists in an English translation.
The main part of the meeting was devoted to presentations by Fred Singer and Klaus Heiss on the scientific and economic aspects of the CO2 issue.
Prof Peter Stilbs, seated next to Prof Bert Bolin, former chairman of the IPCC, was seriously worried (he e-mailed us) that Bolin might get a stroke during the presentations - constantly shaking his head, looking very upset.
6) Warnemunde, Germany: Here we were met by German colleagues with whom we discussed both science and strategy with respect the upcoming Conference of the Parties (to Kyoto) COP-9, to be held in Milan from Dec 1 to 12.
4. Climate Data Do Not Support Alarmism
SEPP Comment: Elementary statistics teaches that the longer the series of observations, the greater the chance of seeing extreme events - whether climate records or coin tosses.
5. Group Sues to Enforce Sound Science Law: Global Warming Alarmism
to Face Trial
6. Some Thoughts On The Electricity Blackout
The laws of physics have met the laws of economics. And the result has been a morass that has prevented the building of new transmission lines at a sufficient pace. The difficulties in winning permits coupled with lack of capital flowing to such projects means that the risks of large-scale reliability problems have increased because of inadequate or congested transmission lines.
But this accidental blackout is nothing compared a situation where we had to rely on renewable energy from windmills.
From what we heard, Danish and German wind turbines were useless during the recent heat wave -- because there was no breeze. So SEPP took a look at the web site of the West Danish Electric Company Eltra and checked the performance during 2003. And sure enough: Production during 2003 varied between a max of 220 Gwh per week in January down to 10 Gwh this summer. We suppose North Germany had a similar experience. And just when they needed air-conditioning most.
Wow! A 95% cut! If that isn't a blackout, we don't know what is.
7. The Ice Age Cometh
From THE SPECTATOR 9 August 2003
By the time The Spectator goes to press, the record for the highest-ever authenticated measurement of air temperature in the British Isles may or may not have been broken. The only certainties are that the railway industry will have dreamed up yet more reasons why trains may only run at 20mph, that there will scarcely be a young, bikini-clad woman in Britain who remains unphotographed for the tabloids, and that spokesmen for the global warming lobby will have trousered a few more grand in television appearance fees.
Not even the nation's ice-cream-sellers can be whooping with joy so loudly as our climatologists. For every degree the mercury tips over 90F, they can expect a few more million pounds in funding. There will be more invitations to No. 10, more OBEs, and another round of conferences in exotic locations to enjoy long after the current heat wave has subsided and our weather returned to its normal miserable self.
That supposedly rational scientific theory on climate change is influenced by what the weather happens to be doing outside their labs is clear from the annals of scientific journals. As Andrew Kenny pointed out in these pages a year ago, the consensus of scientific opinion in the 1970s was that the world was headed for a new ice age. As late as 1975 the editor of New Scientist was warning that 'the threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind'. When the following summer turned out to be one of the hottest on record, sentiment suddenly changed and global warming took over as the great terror.
Do the temperatures in Britain over the past week at all justify the apocalyptic warnings of global warming? It depends, of course, how you wish to distort the data. True, a ridge of very hot air has swung up from the Continent and across Britain, raising the temperature to 92F at Gatwick airport on Tuesday. Yet at Skegness on the same day it reached just 68F. As Conservative-supporting newspapers cannot resist gloating, the temperature has been higher in Bournemouth these past few days than in Barbados, where Tony Blair has taken his family on a freebie holiday courtesy of Cliff Richard. Turn the statistic around and it might equally be interpreted as a warning sign of global cooling: 'Fresh fears of ice age as August temperatures in Barbados fall below those of Bournemouth.'
If you want to construct a case for a new ice age, there is plenty more evidence. In Australia it has been a beastly winter, with some places seeing their first snowfall in decades. In Singapore at this time of year, temperatures are supposed to average 90F, yet for the past few days they have been hovering at a Skegnessian 70F. Maybe the hot air of the tropics has been draining away north in one last gasp before the Atlantic fills with icebergs and the woolly mammoths march across Asia.
Of course, an attempt to build a climatic theory on the basis of a few temperature readings from around the world is fraught with difficulties. But then climatologists do not seem to be very good at interpreting data from the world's weather stations either. Averaged across the globe, temperatures recorded at weather stations have indeed been rising over the past couple of decades. Yet the alternative method of measuring average global temperatures - from satellites - shows no such rise, which suggests global warming may be a phantom effect caused by having too many weather stations among the world's artificially heated concrete jungles. As for the biblical floods widely predicted, sea levels around several islands in the Indian Ocean have actually fallen since their demise was predicted in the 1980s.
Even if the globe is warming, it is far from proven whether this is on balance a bad thing. If a few coral islands were to disappear, would their loss outweigh the gain in agriculture in northern climes? It is bizarre that Britain should be leading the world in taking action against global warming when we would benefit more than anybody: a rise of 2F would merely take our climate back to mediaeval times, when Northumbrian monks were knocking back home-made wine.
If anything, it is the risk of an ice age, which we have to fear. When ice ages arrive, the geological record tells us, they arrive quickly, within the space of a few years. A repeat of the last ice age would see the ice caps extending to the Thames. England would become like Greenland: capable of supporting marginal settlements on its southernmost fringes, but a wasteland within. What is more, the geological record shows that ice ages have tended to occur at 10,000-year intervals and are preceded by few warning signs. The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago.
For anyone reading this on a sun-lounger in Bournemouth, enjoy it while you can. For readers in Skegness, it may be too late already. Even the mass of hot air generated by the climate-change lobby will not prevent the next ice age when it does arrive.
8. New Element Discovered:
"This new element has no protons or electrons, thus having an atomic number of zero. It does, however, have 1 neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice-neutrons and 111 assistant vice-neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.
"These 312 particles are held together by a force called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
"Since it has no electrons, Administratium is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.
"According to the discoverers, a minute amount of Administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second. Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years; it does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons, vice-neutrons and assistant vice-neutrons exchange places.
"In fact, Administratium sample's mass will actually increase over time, since with each reorganization some of the morons inevitably become neutrons, forming new isotopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Administratium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as the 'Critical Morass.'"
Source: page 7, Volume VIII, No. 3 of John McCaughey's Energy Perspective: