|The Week That Was
June 10, 2006
New on the Web: The Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) of the UN-IPCC, due in 2007, has now become widely available. Its more lurid conclusions are being hyped in popular journals.** It seems timely therefore to critique its Summary for Policymakers (SPM): While the global climate may be currently warming, there is no good evidence that it is human-caused. Hence, no reliance should be placed on IPCC estimates of future warming based on greenhouse (GH) models.
** See, for example, "New UN Report predicts climate catastrophe."
In SPIEGEL ONLINE (5/26) http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/erde/0,1518,418165,00.html
"Some Like It Hot": Where would Al Gore, IPCC, and assorted NGOs be without GW, plus all those good folks that are soaking up $5 billion a year from the feds?
More comments in my letters to Roger Ebert and the WSJ about the Gorey
movie and the "science" behind it (Item #2). And: Al Gore's
telling whoppers again (Item #3). Plus: a real 'gem' from the website
of realclimate (Item #4).
Emissions trading in Europe: A scheme designed to punish polluters
is rewarding them (Item #8). And here we thought only Enron was gaming
Norway goes off the deep end. Norwegian firm Statkraft says subaquatic
sea-tide-harnessing machines could in future provide 3 percent of the
EU's electricity. http://euobserver.com/9/21737/?rk=1
Finally, once in a while the slick surface of public relations and
spin-doctoring pulls back to reveal the messy -- and often entertaining
-- truth. That happened recently when President Bush visited Pennsylvania
to talk about nuclear energy. Greenpeace was ready. Or almost ready. It
prepared a "fact sheet" denouncing the Exelon Limerick Generating
Station outside Pottstown where Bush made his remarks.
A spokesman for the environmental group said it had not meant to release
that early draft of the broadsheet. Nevertheless, it's good to know Greenpeace
sticks by its anti-nuke stance even when it can't explain why.
The scientists also compared data from ice samples collected during an
expedition to Greenland in 1991. The most recent samples contained the
lowest recorded levels of beryllium-10 for more than 1,000 years. Beryllium-10
is a particle created by cosmic rays that decreases in the Earth's atmosphere
as the magnetic energy from the Sun increases. Scientists can currently
trace beryllium-10 levels back 1,150 years.
I agree with your review http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060601/REVIEWS/60517002
It is also very persuasive -- to anyone who doesn't know the science.
Just two items:
1. Are you really sure that the current warming trend (which followed a cooling trend from 1940 to 1975, which had followed a warming trend from 1920 to 1940, which had .. and so on) is human-caused? Not an easy question to answer, is it? Thermometers can't talk and tell you the cause.
We have analyzed the recent pattern of warming and find that the observations do not agree with what greenhouse models calculate. We published this result in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Of course, we cannot (and do not) deny the existence of manmade greenhouse warming: But it's just so small and insignificant, it can't be seen.
2. The claimed consensus of 925 ( or 932 or whatever) published scientific papers is phony -- completely phony. It is based on a flawed piece of research (by Naomi Oreskes), published in the journal Science (in Dec. 2004) and never corrected. Why not? Because the ideologically motivated editor (Don Kennedy) refused to publish a correction. He only published the author's correction in which she admitted that in her search she had overlooked 11,000(!) published papers. But she did not retract her wrong conclusion. All this is a matter of record.
And by the way, science does not advance by consensus. Never has.
2B. An Inconvenient Truth?
A press release of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) <http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2623.htm> and a NOAA briefing of Senate staff (WSJ May 3) claimed that the current warming trend was due to human-caused emission of greenhouse (GH) gases. But an earlier warming, from 1900 to 1940, and certainly the subsequent cooling, were not caused by GH gases. So how could they tell?
Well, they said that the patterns of warming, derived from surface and atmospheric measurements, agreed with what GH models calculate. But an "inconvenient truth" contradicts their claim. The government-sponsored report (from which they supposedly drew their conclusion) clearly shows that observed temperature trends disagree with theoretical GH trends by a wide margin in the tropical zone - the most sensitive region for proving or disproving GH effects. They are forced to admit this discrepancy but then downplay it and try to blame it on bad data. Anyone willing to check Figure 5.4-G in the report <http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/finalreport/sap1-1-final-chap5.pdf> will immediately be convinced that the climate models are unable to explain the observed trends. (You too can become a climate skeptic just by clicking on your Internet browser.) We don't deny basic GH theory; but using the data put together in this otherwise fine report, we don't see evidence for a significant human contribution to current warming.
Note to editor:
The SP-1.1 report, first of 21 reports from the U.S. Climate Change
Science Program (CCSP) is found at
Fig. 5.4-G is at
Al Gore will be in Houston this week promoting his movie and book, An
Inconvenient Truth. Predictably, his message is dire. The planet must
be saved - and quickly - from manmade carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions produced
by coal, petroleum and natural gas usage. Self-interested consumer choices
are the culprit, and a government-directed reshaping of energy production
and consumption is necessary.
Reader: From what I've read, Gore's movie begins with the
assertion that "debate no longer exists regarding the causes and
effects of global warming". There is a claim that "no reasonable
climate scientist" disputes the reality of global warming. Yet..
today, I read that William Gray directly disputes the notion of anthropogenic
global warming. Let me see... who do I trust more, William Gray? or Al
Gore? Sorry... I don't need to see or hear ANYTHING further from this
Response by realclimate: If you really think Bill Gray
is a more reliable authority on global warming than Al Gore, I don't think
we need to hear the rest of your comment (which has therefore been deleted).
It found that many publications now claiming the world is on the brink of a global warming disaster said the same about an impending ice age -- just 30 years ago. Several major ones have reported on three or even four different climate shifts since 1895.
In addition, BMI found:
o Several publications warned in the 1970s that global cooling posed a major threat to the food supply. Now, remarkably, global warming is also considered a threat to the very same food supply.
o The media continue to point to glaciers as a sign of climate change, but they have used them as examples of both cooling and warming.
o The media treat global warming like it's a new idea. In fact, British amateur meteorologist G. S. Callendar argued that mankind was responsible for heating up the planet with carbon dioxide emissions -- in 1938. That was decades before scientists and journalists alerted the public about the threat of a new ice age.
o Longtime readers of the New York Times could easily recall the paper claiming "A Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable," along with its strong support of current global warming predictions. Older readers might well recall two other claims of a climate shift back to the 1800s -- one an ice age and the other warming again. The Times has warned of four separate climate changes since 1895.
Newspapers that pride themselves on correction policies for the smallest
errors now find themselves facing a historical record that is enormous
and unforgiving. It is time for the news media to admit a consistent failure
to report this issue fairly or accurately, with due skepticism of scientific
claims, says BMI.
In this week's Science magazine, editor Donald Kennedy opines that "Not only is the New Orleans damage not an act of God; it shouldn't even be called a "natural" disaster." Could it be that he sees the significance of millions of people and trillions of dollars of property in locations exposed to repeated strikes from catastrophic storms? Unfortunately, not at all.
Prof. Kennedy is a Johnny-come-lately to exploiting Katrina for political advantage on climate change. He writes, "As Katrina and two other hurricanes crossed the warm Gulf of Mexico, we watched them gain dramatically in strength. . . We know with confidence what has made the Gulf and other oceans warmer than they had been before: the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human industrial activity, to which the United States has been a major contributor."
I suppose one could make the convoluted case that Prof. Kennedy is [just a bad writer/only talking about statistics/dumbing-down the science/anticipating inevitable future research results] and didn't really mean to link Katrina's damage (or Katrina) with global warming. But he did, clearly. The current state of science doesn't support such claims. Let's review:
From Kerry Emanuel's MIT homepage:
"Q: I gather from this last discussion that it would be absurd to
attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming?
From Webster et al. (2005) in Science (PDF):
From Rick Anthes at UCAR (who effectively used the "act of god"
metaphor in his essay):
"I can assure Mr. Gore that no one from the South Pacific islands has fled to New Zealand because of rising seas. In fact, if Gore consults the data, he will see it shows sea level falling in some parts of the Pacific." -- Dr. Chris de Freitas, climate scientist, associate professor, University of Auckland, N.Z.
- - -
"We find no alarming sea level rise going on, in the Maldives, Tovalu, Venice, the Persian Gulf and even satellite altimetry, if applied properly." -- Dr. Nils-Axel Morner, emeritus professor of paleogeophysics and geodynamics, Stockholm University, Sweden.
- - -
"Gore is completely wrong here -- malaria has been documented at an altitude of 2,500 metres -- Nairobi and Harare are at altitudes of about 1,500 metres. The new altitudes of malaria are lower than those recorded 100 years ago. None of the "30 so-called new diseases" Gore references are attributable to global warming, none." -- Dr. Paul Reiter, professor, Institut Pasteur, unit of insects and infectious diseases, Paris, comments on Gore's belief that Nairobi and Harare were founded just above the mosquito line to avoid malaria and how the mosquitoes are now moving to higher altitudes.
- - -
"Our information is that seven of 13 populations of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (more than half the world's estimated total) are either stable or increasing..... Of the three that appear to be declining, only one has been shown to be affected by climate change. No one can say with certainty that climate change has not affected these other populations, but it is also true that we have no information to suggest that it has." -- Dr. Mitchell Taylor, manager, wildlife research section, Department of Environment, Igloolik, Nunavut.
- - -
"Mr. Gore suggests that the Greenland melt area increased considerably between 1992 and 2005. But 1992 was exceptionally cold in Greenland and the melt area of ice sheet was exceptionally low due to the cooling caused by volcanic dust emitted from Mt. Pinatubo. If, instead of 1992, Gore had chosen for comparison the year 1991, one in which the melt area was 1% higher than in 2005, he would have to conclude that the ice sheet melt area is shrinking and that perhaps a new Ice Age is just around the corner." -- Dr. Petr Chylek, adjunct professor, Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University, Halifax.
- - -
"The oceans are now heading into one of their periodic phases of cooling.... Modest changes in temperature are not about to wipe them [coral] out. Neither will increased carbon dioxide, which is a fundamental chemical building block that allows coral reefs to exist at all." -- Dr. Gary D. Sharp, Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study, Salinas, Calif.
- - -
"Both the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps are thickening. The temperature at the South Pole has declined by more than one degree C since 1950. And the area of sea ice around the continent has increased over the last 20 years." -- Dr. R.M. Carter, professor, Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
- - -
"From data published by the Canadian Ice Service, there has been no precipitous drop-off in the amount or thickness of the ice cap since 1970 when reliable overall coverage became available for the Canadian Arctic." -- Dr./Cdr. M.R. Morgan, FRMS, formerly advisor to the World Meteorological Organization/climatology research scientist at University of Exeter, U.K.
- - -
"The MPB (mountain pine beetle) is a species native to this part
of North America and is always present. The MPB epidemic started as comparatively
small outbreaks and through forest management inaction got completely
out of hand." -- Rob Scagel, M.Sc., forest microclimate specialist,
Pacific Phytometric Consultants, Surrey, B.C., comments on Gore's belief
that the mountain pine beetle is an "invasive exotic species"
that has become a plague due to fewer days of frost.
ALL new policy instruments have teething troubles but the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has more than its fair share. Designed to discourage the production of greenhouse gases and encourage investment in cleaner forms of energy, it has rewarded polluters rather than penalising them, and failed to boost alternatives.
The ETS was set up in 2005 to cover five industries, and 13,000 factories and plants, rated as particularly dirty. They were given tradable allowances covering their existing emissions; firms wanting to exceed those levels had to buy permission, either by purchasing allowances from other firms, or by buying permits from developing-country companies. Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) established by the Kyoto agreement, developing-country companies which clean up their operations can (once they have approval from the UN) sell EU companies the right to pollute by an equivalent amount.
Three problems have emerged. The first is the consequence of handing allowances free to existing polluters (a process known as "grandfathering"). The polluters pocketed them, passing on the extra cost of production to their consumers. Moreover, once trading took off, the price of allowances rocketed to €30 ($40) a tonne. Developing countries, meanwhile, were selling permits for about half that (because they cannot yet be traded, and are regarded as riskier). So polluters have been cashing in their allowances, buying cheap CDM permits-and keeping the difference. According to a report by IPA Energy Consulting, Britain's power companies alone have profited to the tune of around £800m ($1.5 billion) a year.
The second problem was that when the scheme started there was little information about how much pollution the 13,000 factories were emitting. The original levels claimed by member governments were not much more than guesswork, and not surprisingly were generous. Now that levels are being monitored, it turns out that Europe is not emitting as much as it thought it was. When this emerged last month, the price of carbon allowances crashed.
Third, the current phase of the ETS lasts for only three years. Nobody knows what level of allowances will then be set. Since the payback period for cleaner power-generating technology is at least five years, there is no incentive for producers to invest in cleaner technologies.
None of this suggests that using the market to curb emissions is a bad
idea. But if the EU is to create a system for airlines, it should learn
from the ETS's teething troubles. The scheme should be based on reliable
information, permits should be auctioned not grandfathered, and it should
run for long enough to get polluters to change their ways.