|The Week That Was
April 30, 2005
New on the Web: Well-known German climate researcher Hans von Storch gives an honest appraisal of climate fears in the leading magazine Der Spiegel -- and explains why scientists often collaborate in producing them. But the public is not stupid - and it will harm science in the long run.
We just saw an example this past week when Jim Hansen et al published an estimate of Earth' s energy imbalance and hyped it as a "smoking gun" for AGW (anthropogenic global warming), together with speculations about the breakup of ice sheets and sea-level rise. My reaction, in an interview published in The Washington Times, April 29, 2005 ("NASA scientists' ocean study yields 'smoking gun' )
"S. Fred Singer, director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, called the report "bunk." "The idea that energy can be stored and linger in the oceans and can later raise temperatures makes no physical sense," Mr. Singer said. "It violates the laws of thermodynamics and is not tenable"
While the Royal Society was raising unjustified fears about deleterious effects of AGW on world agriculture, Prof. David Bellamy, the colorful British TV personality, held forth in his usual blustery style (Item #1). His doubts about AGW being a problem are echoed by an Earth Day essay that decries the dangers of extreme environmentalism (Item #2).
The public knows little about global warming -- and doesn't care, an MIT survey shows (Item #3). Maybe they know from experience that they can and do adapt to large temperature changes. We have learned that coral "bleaching" is another mechanism of adaptation to higher temperatures and now learn how fish adapt (Item #4). [From CCNet editor: yet another "obvious" fact about global warming and its "dire" effects goes down the toilet ... Memo to eco-alarmists: life adapts to changing conditions - get over it.]
And before we blame developed nations and industry for global warming and other ills, we note that carbon emissions from south Asia are contributing significantly to Arctic warming, according to a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Item #5).
As an energy bill moves forward in Congress, it is appropriate to discuss what can be done to stimulate more production of natural gas through inventive leasing policies (Item #6). Meanwhile we are reminded of the exaggerated fears created by the Chernobyl accident and the depressing effect it has had on development of nuclear power (Item #7).
And finally, The Flat Earth Award goes to Fred Singer,
thanks to the support from readers of TWTW. THANK YOU! The final score
after 5565 votes is:
The Christian Science Monitor printed my "acceptance speech" on Earth Day at
Be sure also to read Comments by voters on
And for the real scoop on the Flat Earth , see Item
We now approach the "Chicken Little" Award, for which we have two obvious nominees:
1. Al Gore (for "Earth in the Balance" and invention of the Internet)
2. Paul Ehrlich (for failed predictions too numerous to mention)
We need a third nominee: what about a European lady
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland?
1. Global Warming? What a load of poppycock!
But they will be 100 per cent wrong. Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy makers are not.
Instead, they have an unshakeable in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement. Humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up.
They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock. Unfortunately, for the time being, it is their view that prevails.
As a result of their ignorance, the world's economy may
be about to divert billions, nay trillions of pounds, dollars and rubles
into solving a problem that actually doesn't exist. The waste of economic
resources is incalculable and tragic.
For a start, carbon dioxide is not the dreaded killer greenhouse gas that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol five years later cracked it up to be. It is, in fact, the most important airborne fertiliser in the world, and without it there would be no green plants at all.
That is because, as any schoolchild will tell you, plants take in carbon dioxide and water and, with the help of a little sunshine, convert them into complex carbon compounds - that we either eat, build with or just admire - and oxygen, which just happens to keep the rest of the planet alive.
Increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, double it even, and this would produce a rise in plant productivity. Call me a biased old plant lover but that doesn't sound like much of a killer gas to me. Hooray for global warming is what I say, and so do a lot of my fellow scientists.
Let me quote from a petition produced by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which has been signed by over 18,000 scientists who are totally opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed the world's leading industrial nations to cut their production of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels.
They say: 'Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in minor greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are in error and do not conform to experimental knowledge.'
You couldn't get much plainer than that. And yet we still have public figures such as Sir David King, scientific adviser to Her Majesty's Government, making preposterous statements such as 'by the end of this century, the only continent we will be able to live on is Antarctica.'
At the same time, he's joined the bandwagon that blames just about everything on global warming, regardless of the scientific evidence. For example, take the alarm about rising sea levels around the south coast of England and subsequent flooding along the region's rivers. According to Sir David, global warming is largely to blame.
But it isn't at all - it's down to bad management of water catchments, building on flood plains and the incontestable fact that the south of England is gradually sinking below the waves.
And that sinking is nothing to do with rising sea levels caused by ice caps melting. Instead, it is purely related to an entirely natural warping of the Earth's crust, which could only be reversed by sticking one of the enormously heavy ice caps from past ice ages back on top of Scotland.
Ah, ice ages... those absolutely massive changes in global climate that environmentalists don't like to talk about because they provide such strong evidence that climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon.
It was round about the end of the last ice age, some 13,000 years ago, that a global warming process did undoubtedly begin.
Not because of all those Stone age folk roasting mammoth
meat on fossil fuel campfires but because of something called the 'Milankovitch
Cycles,' an entirely natural fact of planetary life that depends on the
tilt of the Earth's axis and its orbit around the sun.
The truth is that the climate has been yo-yoing up and down ever since. Whereas it was warm enough for Romans to produce good wine in York, on the other hand, King Canute had to dig up peat to warm his people. And then it started getting warm again.
Up and down, up and down - that is how temperature and climate have always gone in the past and there is no proof they are not still doing exactly the same thing now. In other words, climate change is an entirely natural phenomenon, nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuels.
In fact, a recent scientific paper, rather unenticingly
titled 'Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Over The Last Glacial
Termination,' proved it. It showed that increases in temperature are responsible
for increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, not the other way
The real truth is that the main greenhouse gas - the one that has the most direct effect on land temperature - is water vapour, 99 per cent of which is entirely natural.
If all the water vapour was removed from the atmosphere, the temperature would fall by 33 degrees Celsius. But, remove all the carbon dioxide and the temperature might fall by just 0.3 per cent. Although we wouldn't be around, because without it there would be no green plants, no herbivorous farm animals and no food for us to eat.
It has been estimated that the cost of cutting fossil fuel emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol would be 76 trillion. Little wonder, then, that world leaders are worried. So should we all be.
If we signed up to these scaremongers, we could be about to waste a gargantuan amount of money on a problem that doesn't exist - money that could be used in umpteen better ways: fighting world hunger, providing clean water, developing alternative energy sources, improving our environment, creating jobs.
The link between the burning of fossil fuels and global
warming is a myth. It is time the world's leaders, their scientific advisers,
and many environmental pressure groups woke up to the fact.
2. The Scourge of Earth Day
Earth Day is here, and with it a grave danger faces mankind. The danger is not from acid rain, global warming, smog, or the logging of rain forests, as environmentalists would have us believe. The danger to mankind is from environmentalism.
The fundamental goal of environmentalism is not clean air and clean water; rather, it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization. Environmentalism's goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather, it is a subhuman world where "nature" is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.
In a nation founded on the pioneer spirit, environmentalists have made "development" an evil word. They inhibit or prohibit the development of Alaskan oil, offshore drilling, nuclear power--and every other practical form of energy. Housing, commerce, and jobs are sacrificed to spotted owls and snail darters. Medical research is sacrificed to the "rights" of mice. Logging is sacrificed to the "rights" of trees. No instance of the progress that brought man out of the cave is safe from the onslaught of those "protecting" the environment from man, whom they consider a rapist and despoiler by his very essence.
Nature, they insist, has "intrinsic value," to be revered for its own sake, irrespective of any benefit to man. As a consequence, man is to be prohibited from using nature for his own ends. Since nature supposedly has value and goodness in itself, any human action that changes the environment is necessarily immoral. Of course, environmentalists invoke the doctrine of intrinsic value not against wolves that eat sheep or beavers that gnaw trees; they invoke it only against man, only when man wants something.
The ideal world of environmentalism is not twenty-first-century Western civilization; it is the Garden of Eden, a world with no human intervention in nature, a world without innovation or change, a world without effort, a world where survival is somehow guaranteed, a world where man has mystically merged with the "environment." Had the environmentalist mentality prevailed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we would have had no Industrial Revolution, a situation that consistent environmentalists would cheer--at least those few who might have managed to survive without the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology.
The expressed goal of extreme environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. Intrusion is necessary for human survival. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man control his life and project long-range goals. Intrusion improves the environment, if by "environment" one means the surroundings of man -- the external material conditions of human life. Intrusion is a requirement of human nature. But in the environmentalists' paean to "Nature," human nature is omitted. For environmentalism, the "natural" world is a world without man. Man has no legitimate needs, but trees, ponds, and bacteria somehow do.
They don't mean it? Heed the words of the consistent environmentalists. "The ending of the human epoch on Earth," writes philosopher Paul Taylor in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics, "would most likely be greeted with a hearty 'Good riddance!'" In a glowing review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, biologist David M. Graber writes (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989): "Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet . . . . Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." Such is the naked essence of environmentalism: it mourns the death of one whale or tree but actually welcomes the death of billions of people. A more malevolent, man-hating philosophy is unimaginable.
The guiding principle of environmentalism is self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of longer lives, healthier lives, more prosperous lives, more enjoyable lives, i.e., the sacrifice of human lives. But an individual is not born in servitude. He has a moral right to live his own life for his own sake. He has no duty to sacrifice it to the needs of others and certainly not to the "needs" of the nonhuman.
To save mankind from environmentalism, what's needed
is not the appeasing, compromising approach of those who urge a "balance"
between the needs of man and the "needs" of the environment.
To save mankind requires the wholesale rejection of environmentalism as
hatred of science, technology, progress, and human life. To save mankind
requires the return to a philosophy of reason and individualism, a philosophy
that makes life on earth possible.
The average American knows nearly nothing about efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and is confused about the effects of nuclear power and renewable energy, according to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that researchers say has serious policy implications. MIT drew its conclusions from a survey of 1,200 people on a range of climate change-related questions.
As in other public surveys, the environment ranked fairly low when compared to other issues such as terrorism or the economy. Furthermore:
o Out of 21 national and world issues, the environment ranked only 13th as being most important.
o Global warming ranked sixth out of 10 environmental problems, below issues such as water pollution and toxic waste.
o Thirty percent of respondents believed nuclear power plants contribute to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (they don't).
o Less than 4 percent of respondents knew of the terms "carbon dioxide capture" and "carbon sequestration."
o About half of respondents supported renewable energy such as solar and wind power, but supported dropped to 25 percent when the respondents were informed of the higher costs.
However, the respondents indicated they were willing to pay up to $6.50 per month in additional utility charges to fund solutions to global warming.
Source: Brian Stempeck, "Poll Finds Public Awareness Sorely Lacking," Greenwire, March 24, 2005; Tom Curry et al., "How Aware is the Public of Carbon Capture and Storage?" Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For Greenwire text: http://www.wapa.gov/es/greennews/2005/mar2805.htm
For Curry text: http://uregina.ca/ghgt7/PDF/papers/peer/137.pdf
4. A FALSIFICATION OF THE THERMAL SPECIALIZATION PARADIGM
A falsification of the thermal specialization paradigm: compensation to elevated temperatures in Antarctic fish by Dr F Seebacher, Dr B Davison, Ms CJ Lowe and Dr CE Franklin
Antarctic fish, living in water that varies by less than
1oC annually and with a body temperature of -1.9oC, are often regarded
as the ultimate thermal specialist. Not surprisingly, past research has
shown that rapid increases in water temperature of only a few degrees
have a negative impact on the performance and survival of Antarctic fish.
Here we show that after being exposed to warmer water for several weeks,
Antarctic fish compensate for the initial negative impact of elevated
temperatures and regain their original performance levels despite being
several degrees warmer. These findings indicate that rising temperatures
do not necessarily have a long-term negative impact, and that the concept
of physiological compensation should be included in prognoses of the impact
of global warming on biodiversity. Contact: Dr Frank Seebacher, School
of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences
A08, SYDNEY NSW2006, Australia
Researchers from Columbia University and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies used satellite images to examine the effects of soot on climate change and found that Arctic warming coincided with the increase in pollution during the late 20th century.
Dark soot particles darken the surface of ice, causing it to absorb rather than reflect sunlight. As a result, ice warming increases. Soot particles also warm the air and contribute to cloud formation. Additionally:
o South Asia's industries account for about 30 percent of Arctic soot (black carbon), while North America, Russia and Europe each contribute about 15 to 20 percent.
o The worldwide burning of biomass (forests and vegetation) accounts for about 28 percent of Arctic soot.
o Russia accounts for 24 percent of Arctic sulfates, while south Asia contributes 17 percent.
o Furthermore, British scientists estimate that global warming could rise by up to 11 degrees Celsius, a two-fold increase over previous estimates.
Scientists have assumed that most emissions come from Northern Europe and Asia, but coauthor Dorothy Koch of Columbia University notes, "We were surprised to find that much of it comes from further south."
Source: Janet Pelley, "Asian Soot Emissions Linked to Arctic Melting - Study," Greenwire, March 24, 2005; and Dorothy Koch and James Hansen, "Distant Origins of Arctic Black Carbon: A Goddard Institute for Space Studies Model Experiment," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 110, No. D4, D04204, Paper No. 10.1029/2004JD005296, February 25, 2005. Courtesy of NCPA
For text: http://knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/italladdsup.nsf/0/e78fa415e4c3a68085256fce00641127?
Moratoria on natural gas production are curbing supplies, particularly at a time when national energy policy is encouraging the use of natural gas. And the drilling policies, which have been in place for decades, are becoming increasingly important as natural gas prices are up by 344 percent from 1998 levels. Proponents of more access to federal properties now off limits have therefore taken on a new tack to win greater production rights: Giving coastal states the opportunity to opt out of the federal cessation to certain offshore oil and gas leasing.
Natural gas had been labeled the fuel of choice after the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 were signed by the elder President Bush. While the preponderance of new power generation is to be fueled with natural gas, producers have had a difficult time winning new permits to drill and to lay pipe in the ground. That's pushed such prices higher as well as contributed to the reliance on other fuel sources such as coal.
The most immediate question is whether the optimistic calculations as to the demand for natural gas can hold. U.S. production has dropped by nearly 5 percent while Canadian imports have declined by 23 percent from 2001 to 2004. Meantime, existing wells are producing less gas. Those economic realities coupled with prices that are now about $7 per million BTUs, could likely curb future expected demand and force utilities to build more coal-fired generation that is cheaper and more plentiful.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the key energy subcommittee, and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., have introduced legislation to give states more authority to grant drilling rights in areas just off their coasts. Those properties have been restricted to development under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCS Act) of 1953. The current measure, which would permit gas-only leasing in those areas in which the moratoria now exist, would also allow the producing states to receive 12.5 percent of the qualified production revenues.
Supporters of the legislation say that 70 Tcf of natural gas reserves is located in those places that are now off-limits to production. Domestic gas usage now stands at 22 Tcf annually. "[We] firmly believe that we can increase access and supplies in an environmentally safe and sound manner, says Bert Kalisch, CEO of the American Public Gas Association. Restrictions are ironic in light of other federal policies which favor gas use because of clean-burning properties. These two policies cannot coexist if our economically competitive economy is to continue.
The OCS Act defines the property in question as those
coastal waters that are at least three miles offshore that are under U.S.
jurisdiction. The law gives the U.S. Secretary of the Interior the responsibility
to administer mineral exploration and development in those places. The
Interior Department has the right to grant leases to the highest qualified
responsible bidder. Currently, about 35 percent of the natural gas consumed
in the United States each year is produced in the Outer Continental Shelf.
Eighteen years ago, the world's worst nuclear accident occurred. Newspaper reports at the time reflected the near-universal public hysteria: The Daily Mail filled half its front page with the words "2000 DEAD"; the New York Post claimed that 15,000 bodies had been bulldozed into nuclear waste pits. But the overreaction to the accident caused far more harm than the meltdown itself, as it mistakenly led to the halting of nuclear programs in most Western countries, including the United States.
As Chernobyl comes of age, now seems like a good time to take an adult assessment of the whole affair. UNSCEAR's (the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) website tells a surprising story: At 1:21 a.m. on April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl's number four reactor ran a test to see how long the turbines would spin following a power cut. It was known that this type of reactor was very unstable at low power, and automatic shutdown mechanisms had been disabled before the test. The flow of coolant water diminished, power output increased, and when the operator tried to shut down the reactor from its unstable condition arising from previous errors, a peculiarity in the design caused a dramatic power surge. The fuel elements ruptured and the resultant explosive force of steam lifted the cover plate off of the reactor, releasing fission products into the atmosphere. A second explosion threw out fragments of burning fuel and graphite from the core and allowed air to rush in, causing the graphite moderator to burst into flames. The graphite burned for nine days, releasing a total of about 12 x 10^18 Becquerel of radioactivity - about 30 to 40 times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It just could not be any worse: Corners had been cut from the very inception of the reactor's design, right through construction, operation, and maintenance. Training and safety procedures were negligible. The Supreme Soviet that routinely disregarded human life was as negligent in nuclear-reactor policy as it was in everything else. Even The Simpsons's woeful nuclear power-plant owner, Mr. Burns, would have been ashamed of it.
The complete destruction of the reactor killed 31 people, including 28 from radiation exposure, most of whom were firefighters working on the roof. A further 209 people on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning and 134 cases were confirmed (all of whom recovered). Since then, an increase in childhood thyroid cancer has been reported, although it is not certain that this is not due to increased surveillance. There has been no other increase in radiation-induced disease, congenital abnormalities, or adverse pregnancy outcomes.
If this had been an ordinary industrial accident, safety standards would have been improved, and that would have been the end of the story. For instance, who (apart from those directly affected) remembers the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Toulouse, France, in September 2001? It killed 30 people, injured more than 2000, and damaged or destroyed 3000 buildings.
No, the biggest tragedy of Chernobyl was that radioactivity was governed by preposterous safety regulations that forced the authorities to take extreme and damaging action against the very people they were trying to protect. Until very recently, radiological protection (and chemical regulations) depended on the linear no-threshold (LNT) theory. This says that, because high levels of exposure can cause death, there is no safe lower limit. If this sounds like a reasonable level of precaution, consider this: 750º F will cause fatal burns, while 75º F is a lovely summer's day. Vitamin A is an essential trace chemical in our diet but is toxic at high levels. The dose makes the poison, for chemicals and for radiation.
On the basis of this false assumption, nearly 400,000 people were forcibly evacuated from areas around Chernobyl where radiation was actually lower than the normal background levels in Cornwall and five times lower than at Grand Central Station in New York. To these poor unfortunates, there was damage done. Psychosocial effects among the evacuees are emerging as a major problem. Zbigniew Jaworowski, a medical adviser to the U.N. on the effects of radiation, estimates that nearly five million people in the former Soviet Union have been affected by severe psychological stress, leading to psychosomatic diseases. These include gastrointestinal and endocrinological disorders and are similar to those arising from those that accompany other major disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and fires. Perhaps saddest of all is that as many as 200,000 "wanted" pregnancies ended in abortion, in order to avoid non-existent radiation damage to the fetuses.
It may seem crass to talk about money in this context, but according to the UNDP and UNICEF, over $100 billion was spent just in the Ukraine on post-Chernobyl "public health" measures. Just imagine how much real good could have been done with that much money. Furthermore, Jaworowski says that the cost to Belarus was about $86 billion. These are astonishing sums for relatively poor former Communist countries.
Apportioning blame between the media and the Supreme Soviet is a difficult task. But unfounded Western fears based on the LNT hypothesis undoubtedly encouraged the Soviet mass evacuation program. Yet that inaccurate LNT hypothesis still forms the basis of radiation thinking - and it's past time that was changed. Nuclear power has dangers, which are less in terms of actual deaths per unit energy produced than most other forms of energy generation. But as long as this exaggerated image of Chernobyl endures, people will continue to imagine the costs of nuclear energy to be far higher than they really are.
- Roger Bate is a visiting fellow of the American
"Will the real Flat Earth-ers please stand up?" - the global warming believers at FlatEarthAward.org prominently ask visitors to their site,
"Remember when scientists were attacked for believing that the earth was round? That same denial of scientific fact is now plaguing the world's understanding of global warming."
The Flat Earth-ers, however, are as wrong about people being attacked for believing the Earth was round as they are about global warming.
As Jeffrey Burton Russell, former professor of history at the University of California - Santa Barbara, has pointed out,
A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others, in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters -- Leukippos and Demokritos for example -- by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.
Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few--at least two and at most five--early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side, tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.
Not only is there no historical basis for notion that people were persecuted for believing that the Earth was round, even the notion that medieval people thought the Earth was flat is a myth.
Flat Earth? Global warming? I guess one myth is as good
as another for the gullible/guileful (pick one) global warmers.