|The Week That Was
Aug. 6, 2005
NO TWTW ON AUG 20 AND 27
You can examine my somewhat technical Letter
detailing six different kinds of problems with the Hansen paper - any
of which would sink his claim for AGW. This means that if his chance for
a successful rebuttal on each of these is 50%, his probability of being
right is only 1 in 64, or about 1%. This is certainly not the first time
that Science has pubihsed an incorrect paper - even after peer review.
But the editors of late have been reluctant to accept corrections that
might expose shoddy refereeing. Oh well. Sound science will win out in
the end - whenever that might be.
This leads us naturally to the Hockeystick flap where Michael Mann
and his allies are still fighting a losing battle against the formidable
McIntyre -McKitrick audit that exposed multiple errors and shenanigans
in his publications. Nothing new here; data are frequently doctored without
this being detected. What is new here is the Congressional interest in
the fact that publicly funded work is being withheld from scientific scrutiny.
I explain the background and status in Item #2; see also the excellent
political discussion there by Sterling Burnett.
Prof Ken Chilton's letter to Christianity Today tries to stem inroads
of Global Warming thinking into the evangelical community.(Item #3). Green
orthodoxy may be responsible for both the Challenger and Columbia space
shuttle disasters - a subject we explored in these pages some years ago
(see meaty IBD editorial -- Item #4).
Ted Lofstrom (Item #5) calculates that the total biofuel potential
of the record 2004 US corn and soybean harvests would offset about 12
days of US petroleum consumption, or about 3.3% of our yearly total. Even
so, he uses industry-supplied figures for the conversion efficiency (energy
output of the fuel divided by the energy necessary to prepare it). Informed
sources (for example, Cornell University Prof David Pimentel) claim that
more energy is needed to make ethanol than can be obtained from it.
In New Zealand, the National (Conservative) Party is planning to quit Kyoto once they return to power (Item #6). But in Canada the situation is not so clear. Read climate expert Tim Ball's angry letter to the Conservative party (Item #7).
Finally, The Good News Bears: Despite fears that global warming would
hurt their population, polar bears numbers have increased worldwide. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/06/opinion/06tierney.html?th&emc=th
Observations have shown that about 84% of the total heating of the Earth
system over the last 40 years has gone into warming the oceans. Now a
Report by Barnett et al. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/309/5732/284
) in the 8 July 2005 of Science (published online 2 Jun 2005) substantially
strengthens the evidence that human activities are responsible for the
observed ocean warming. Focusing on the upper 700 meters of each ocean
-- where the greatest temperature changes are found, and where scientists
have the best understanding of ocean behavior -- the researchers examined
the patterns of warming on an ocean-by-ocean basis, as a function of amount,
location, and time. They compared the observational data to simulations
from two independent climate models and show that changes in solar radiation
and volcanic forcing cannot explain the observed pattern of ocean changes.
However, if the release of greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosol particles
is factored in, both models accurately reproduce the observed warming
pattern in each ocean basin. As noted in an accompanying Perspective by
G. C. Hegerl and N. L. Bindoff ( http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/309/5732/254
), further study of the world's oceans is still needed to better understand
ocean variability, to quantify the likelihood of sudden ocean change,
and to predict future changes in ocean biogeochemistry and ecosystems.
Letters by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to Drs. Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes (MBH) have raised a firestorm of responses. Mr. Barton is accused of intimidating scientists by requesting information related to their 1998 publication [in the science journal Nature] of the so-called Hockeystick graph; it shows temperatures over the past 1000 years, as obtained from a statistical analysis of various proxy (non-thermometer) data, like tree-rings, and has been used as evidence for the existence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
But Mr. Barton's requests are entirely proper and legitimate. It is an embarrassment to science that the matter had to be raised by a non-scientist. Consider:
1. Is the 20th century really the warmest in the past 1000 years -as suggested by the Hockeystick? Probably not. This scientific issue appears to be settled, with even supporters of AGW now admitting that the Hockeystick is not really needed to support their conclusion of substantial AGW.
2. Is the MBH analysis correct or should it be withdrawn from publication? The initial referees never conducted a detailed review of the MBH paper - in spite of the fact that it disagreed strongly with other work that clearly showed a Medieval Warm Period, followed by a Little Ice Age (from about 1400 to 1850 AD). Two Canadian researchers, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (MM), tackled the forbidding task of conducting a detailed audit. Their first publication in 2003 found that the underlying data had been manipulated in a number of ways. Full disclosure: I was a reviewer of this MM paper and recommended its publication. As far as I know, their conclusion has not been successfully challenged.
In a follow-on audit, MM found that the statistical methodology used by MBH was faulty and strongly biased toward detecting hockey-stick shapes even with random data (WSJ Feb 14, page 1). This result, published in a leading journal, has been widely supported. MBH have instead tried to claim it "doesn't matter," but then withheld the essential computer code involved in their calculations. (It was released only after the recent Barton letter.).
3. This episode bears on both the practice of science and the role of the Congress: Is publicly funded research freely available to the scientific community for legitimate purposes? After all, the essence of science is to allow results of one group to be reproduced independently by others.
I believe that in the long run the scientific community is best qualified to police its own affairs. Unfortunately, the climate issue, because of its vast public-policy consequences, has become polarized; hard positions taken on the Hockeystick controversy preclude its resolution by normal scientific procedures. This has affected even such respected journals like Science and Nature, which are no longer willing to provide a forum for conflicting views.
Congress can help the scientific community in this instance by providing
such a forum through hearings where information can be exchanged and conflicting
views freely aired.
Climate Studies Cannot Be Free From Oversight
August 2, 2005 By: H. Sterling Burnett
Scientific progress depends on the free flow of ideas and data, which let researchers independently confirm, refute or improve the findings of a specific course of inquiry. And policymakers often rely on scientific research, much of which is funded by federal and state governments, in making policy decisions. Thus, transparency of scientific data and methods is critical as faulty research can result in bad policy.
None of that is controversial, which is why it's puzzling that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton's request for data from three noted climate scientists has produced howls of protest from much of the scientific establishment and their friends in the mainstream media.
Controversial studies by the scientists, heavily funded by federal taxes, are being used by eco-activists to prod Congress into taking a more aggressive stance to combat global warming - a stance that could end up costing U.S. taxpayers and consumers tens billions of dollars annually.
So one wonders what Barton, an 11-term Texas Republican, is doing wrong when he seeks to exercise congressional oversight by having independent experts examine the scientists' data to ensure their validity.
Barton asked the scientists, led by the University of Virginia's Michael Mann, to share the data and the methodologies they used to come to their conclusion that the 20th century was the warmest of the last two millenniums. In addition, he wanted to know the sources of the funding for their research.
When Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chaired Barton's committee, he unearthed scandals and saved taxpayers billions by hauling scientists before the panel, demanding their research papers, putting them under oath and grilling them until their shirts were wet with sweat. Few in the media complained, and Dingell was praised in editorials for conducting effective oversight about the use of federal money.
When a Republican congressman from Texas acts in the same manner and with the same intentions, he is accused by the media of conducting a witch-hunt. This despite the fact that the issue of whether human carbon dioxide emissions cause any significant amount of greenhouse gasses is still the object of an intense debate among scientists.
Although Mann's research has come under serious criticism, it continues to be promoted by the U.N. and such global warming enthusiasts as the Pew Center on Climate Change as a prime reason for imposing draconian curbs on U.S. energy use.
The Pew Center, headed by former Clinton White House official Eileen Claussen, and its allies in the environmental community are spending upward of $300 million a year promoting the idea that global warming is the major cause of whatever bad weather happens to be on the horizon. Since the legislation they are pushing would impair the U.S. economy - and working Americans - costing tens of billions of dollars each year, Barton is doing a public service by trying to determine if their claims rest on a foundation of sound science.
Mann's research appears to fall far short of that standard. To popularize his theory, he produced a chart that shows nearly 1,000 years of relatively stable temperatures followed by an abrupt upturn in temperatures in the latter part of the 20th century. The graphic resembles a hockey stick on its side, with more than 900 years of statistics running along the shaft and the recent shorter period running the length of the blade.
The hockey-stick interpretation was given great currency until peer-reviewed journals published critiques by six teams of researchers that showed Mann and his colleagues "stacked the deck" by omitting key data and misinterpreting other data.
In response to this deluge of criticism, Mann's team initially offered a stubborn defense of its work, but later issued a partial "correction" - conceding it had underestimated temperature variations by more than one-third since 1400. Yet the team steadfastly maintained this major error did not affect the basic conclusions of its research.
At the same time, Mann's team adamantly refused other, more skeptical scientists the right to review its raw data or the methodology it used to arrive at its findings. Without that information, it is impossible to determine if Mann's research is valid.
Far from being a witch-hunt, Barton's request for full disclosure promotes scientific integrity. Research that is funded by taxpayers and used to promote legislation that affects their prosperity should always be reviewed for its validity by their elected representatives. In fact, billions of taxpayer dollars go down the drain every month because Congress fails to conduct vigilant oversight.
Barton, like Dingell before him, is doing exactly what he should be doing
for America's taxpayers, who, after all, will have to pick up the tab
for bad public policy. He deserves bouquets from the press, not brickbats.
Political Correctness: After 2 1/2 years and $1.4 billion spent to make the space shuttle safer, the same problem that doomed Columbia now plagues Discovery. Has environmentalism doomed the shuttle program?
After the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry in 2003, a scathing report by the Columbia Accident Investigating Board noted the contributions NASA's "organization and culture" made to the shuttle disaster.
But the root cause for both the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia due to thermal tiles damaged by chunks of insulating foam falling off the large external fuel tank, the earlier loss of Challenger, and the repetition of the foam problem with Discovery, may be the decision imposed on NASA to use parts and materials that were more environmentally friendly.
In 1997, during the 87th space shuttle mission, similar tile damage occurred during launch. NASA's Greg Katnik stated in his December 1997 review of the problems of STS-87: "During the STS-87 mission, there was a change made on the external tank. Because of NASA's goal to use environmentally friendly products, a new method of 'foaming' the external tank had been used for this mission and the STS-86 mission."
NASA was just responding to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to stop using Freon, a fluorocarbon that greenies claim damages the ozone layer, in the manufacture of its thermal-insulating foam. But the politically correct foam was known to be less sticky and more brittle under extreme temperatures.
[SEPP note: The Montreal Protocol banning Freons was signed in 1997]
Indeed, NASA found in 1997 after the first launch with the politically correct substitute that the Freon-free foam had destroyed nearly 11 times as many of the shuttle's ceramic tiles as had the foam containing Freon.
Similarly, the explosion of the Challenger after hot gases burned through an O-ring joint on one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters came after NASA was encouraged to use a new type of putty to protect the O-rings - one that didn't contain particles of environmentally unfriendly asbestos.
In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of asbestos in a wide range of paint products. NASA, through the mid-1980s, had used a commercially available, "off-the-shelf" putty manufactured by the Fuller O'Brien Paint Company in San Francisco to help seal the shuttle joints. But, fearful of legal action, the company stopped making the putty that contained asbestos.
NASA was forced to obtain a more environmentally friendly putty from a New Jersey company, but almost immediately problems were noted. A July 23, 1985, memo by budget analyst Richard Cook warned about new burn-through problems with the O-rings.
"Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the problem," Cook wrote. "Candidates include the use of a new type of putty." Six months later the Challenger blew up, killing its crew, as hot exhaust gases burned through the brittle asbestos-free O-ring putty.
Malcolm Ross, who studied asbestos as a research scientist for 41 years
at the U.S. Geological Survey, noted that, about the same time, the Air
Force had two launch failures with its Titan 34-D rockets after 50 straight
launch successes before substituting for the asbestos-based putty.
As oil prices skyrocket, officials have called for increased reliance on biomass-based fuels, such as ethanol made from corn and biodiesel made from soybeans, as substitutes for petroleum-based fuels. What is the potential contribution of biomass-based fuels to relieving America's dependence on petroleum (of which 60% is now imported from foreign sources)?
To answer this question I calculated the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that could be produced from the 2004 US corn and soybean crops and compared it to our nations annual consumption of petroleum. Crop totals are from the US Department of Agriculture; the biofuel potentials of corn and soybeans are from industry sources.
The 2004 US corn crop totaled about 11.7 billion bushels, the largest ever. One bushel of corn yields 2.66 gal of ethanol, so hypothetically the 2004 crop could be converted into 31.122 billion gal of ethanol. However, a portion of the energy in the ethanol represents energy invested in growing, harvesting, transporting, fermenting and distilling the corn. According to the corn ethanol industry, the energy yield is 1.67 Btu for each Btu consumed in production, or a net yield of about 40.1% of total ethanol produced. Multiplying the hypothetical 2004 production of corn ethanol by this factor leaves a net yield of 12.48 billion gal. But ethanol has less energy content than petroleum. One gallon of crude oil contains about 138,100 Btu, while a gallon of ethanol contains about 84,100 Btu, or about 60.9% of petroleum. So on an energy-equivalent basis, 12.48 billion gal of ethanol would equal about 7.6 billion gal of petroleum.
Using the same methodology, one can calculate the potential contribution
of soy-based biodiesel (soybeans constitute about 90% of the total US
oilseed crop). The 2004 US soybean crop was 3.15 billion bushels, also
an all-time record. One bushel of soybeans yields about 1.4 gal of biodiesel.
The energy yield of biodiesel is claimed to be about 3.2 btu for each
btu consumed in production, or a net of 68.75%, a much better rate than
ethanol from corn. The energy content of a gallon of biodiesel is much
higher, 128,000 Btu, about 92.7% of petroleum. Thus, the 2004 US soybean
crop converted to biodiesel would equal about 2.81 billion gal of petroleum.
Given that most of the US corn and soybean crop is already committed
to other uses, this analysis indicates that biomass-based fuels will have
a negligible role in reducing US petroleum consumption, which in turn
underscores that replacing petroleum in the US economy will be a monumental
In the lead article on http://www.conservative.ca/index.php?section_copy_id=19879ion_id=2023
Regardless of whether you support reduction of greenhouse gases or not (my concerns remain unaddressed by the party - see e-mail sequence below), the conservative web site statement above is totally wrong and will make anyone who knows the difference between pollution and greenhouse gases conclude that the party is either ignorant of basic high school science or simply taking advantage of the public's ignorance in the field, a strategy that is bound to backfire once you are "found out".
Similarly, http://www.conservative.ca/EN/issues_support_documents/ transit_policy_questions_and_answers/
"This approach aims to help commuters shift to public transit and is a first step in our journey to find Made in Canada solutions to meet our Kyoto commitments to reduce pollution."
Response: NO - Kyoto is NOT about pollution! This is just substance-less spin designed to keep the enviros and the CBC off your back. Besides, if you don't support Kyoto why are you endorsing "a first step in our journey to find Made in Canada solutions to meet our Kyoto commitments"?
Next you ask on the same page, "How does this policy fit within your overall climate change strategy? What other steps is the party taking?" and you respond:
"The Conservative Party has always supported initiatives that have a real impact in making the air cleaner for Canadians to breathe."
My response: This is deceptive - Kyoto is NOT about "making the air cleaner for Canadians to breathe".
Next, you say on the same page, "A Conservative Government would initiate a Made in Canada plan to transition from fossil fuels in a way that stimulates economic growth and taps into the vast talent of our scientific research and development communities."
My response/question: Why do you want to transition away from fossil fuels instead of just continuing to clean them up. Considering most of our energy comes from fossil fuels, where do you plan to get those megawatts or is this simply a promise that you have no intention of actually keeping, even if it were possible?
Next you say, "Further, this policy allows us to get beyond CO2 emissions to tackle some of the more toxic pollutants that cause smog."
My response: CO2 IS NOT A POLLUTANT - PLEASE STOP SUPPORTING THE MYTH BY IMPLYING IT IS. This is the same problem with Mr. Harper's statement reported in various papers today - "Our plan is simply to reduce our emissions, not just carbon dioxide, but a range of pollutants." This is (I suspect, intentionally) deceptive. Just as no one would rationally say, "I plan to eat more healthily, not just oranges, but a range of bread products." People would naturally respond "Oranges are not bread products" and so the same answer applies to Mr. Harper's statement - "CO2 is not pollution". Why are you afraid to say this loud and clearly?
Similarly, the answers you provide to the question "Why does the Conservative Party not support the Liberal Climate Change Plan?" on the same page are also highly deceptive - since Kyoto is not about pollution and the "Liberal Climate Change Plan" is not either (it is, not surprisingly, about climate change), then your responses are irrelevant.
I am sure anyone with the time could discover many other errors in your recent public statements about climate change. However, having provided you with a sample of these deceptions I am requesting that these pages be cleaned up by staff who actually have some understanding of the issue.
We are not playing games here - you may form the next government and
so will have a prominent part to play in the future of our country. I
sincerely hope you take this far more seriously than the amateurish and
dishonest approach we have seen to date. Canadians want leaders who do
the right thing, not just what sounds best in tomorrow's newspapers or
enviro-lobby group press releases.
NO TWTW ON AUG 20 AND 27