The Week That Was
March 31 , 2007
NO TWTW ON APRIL 7 (in London at Hotel Russell)
NO TWTW ON APRIL 14 (in Vienna at Hotel Bellevue, SEPP Climate Workshop)
NO TWTW ON APRIL 21 (in Vienna at Hotel Bellevue, EGU Assembly)
NO TWTW ON APRIL 28 (in Rome, Vatican Climate Conference)
Quote of the Week:
Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity [anon]
My lecture and interviews in Vermont produced good reactions [ITEM#2]. Except one caller asked: Do you believe in Evolutionism or Creationism? --and then called me a “neo-pagan”
Chemical regulation proceeds apace [ITEM #3]. Now they want to eliminate the CFC substitutes – what next? -- even though the ozone layer is doing fine.
Dick Armey: US Energy Policy in the Wake of Global Warming Hysteria [ITEM #4]
The Greens object to biofuels. And a new blog in No Dakota: http://policynd.org
Public misconceptions about Energy sources of the future [ITEM #6]
Better batteries for electric cars? Is this for real—at last? [ITEM #7]
California’s Green energy policies are courting economic suicide [ITEM #8]
Post-normal science: Politics must trump the facts [ITEM #9]
UK energy policy ignores reality; trouble ahead [ITEM # 10]
Reviews of “The Chilling Stars - A New Theory of Climate Change” and of “The Improving State of the World” [ITEM #11]. And my endorsement of Vaclav Klaus’ forthcoming “Blue, not Green Planet: What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?”
It takes great courage to speak out against prevailing opinion, as Vaclav Klaus does in this book. In the case of Global Warming, a herd instinct seems to have taken hold, driven by opponents of economic growth, promoters of a greater government role in controlling the lives of citizens, shortsighted scientists seduced by large research grants, eager international bureaucrats and others that stand to profit from climate fears. Ultimately, Nature will prove them all wrong, and discredit the results of imperfect climate models. But it is vital that this happens before the energy systems undergirding our civilization sustain permanent damage. “Blue, not Green Planet: What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?” takes an important step in this direction.
And a statement by Jim McConnach (IEEE, Canada) that we agree with and endorse:
“I see the Climate Change issue as one of risk management and I am increasingly convinced that focusing on technology measures for adapting to CC that will continue to occur is strategically important in managing those risks. Because of the complexities and considerable uncertainties in CC science and predictions, investment in adaptation measures to manage climate risks may prove to be of better value and have more certain, tangible benefits than CC mitigation (GHG reduction) measures. Engineers have a major role to play in this. This is particularly important for the poorest developing countries, which are least able to adapt. The risks of not developing the economies of these countries (which requires energy development as a critical driver) are far greater than the risks of CC. .
This does not mean that improving energy efficiency and reducing global dependence on fossil fuels should be ignored. There are many good reasons besides CC to pursue that strategy.”
NO TWTWs IN APRIL. So here are best Science Videos
and Responses to Gore and IPCC:
1. ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A SIXTH GRADER? APPARENTLY NOT IF YOU ARE A GLOBAL WARMING ALARMIST
By Tom Randall, March 26, 2007
Issue: Humans don't cause global warming according to a jury of sixth graders at Trail Ridge Middle School, as reported by the Longmont [Colo.] Daily Times. The students used fairly simple and straight-forward logic that has thus far eluded politically and financially motivated global warming alarmists, such as that by a student named Alexis Hegy who noted that global temperatures actually decreased in the 1960s while the global population [and carbon dioxide emissions] rose. She concluded that humans couldn’t be at fault. In picking apart the faulty data that often accompany global warming alarms, another student, Caleb Poppe, noted that a chart showing a sharp increase in carbon dioxide was based on data from Hawaii where volcanoes emit the gas into the atmosphere, which affects local measurements.
Comment 1: For those of you old enough to remember, television entertainer Art Linkletter used to do a segment entitled, "Kids Say the Darndest Things" in which kids invariably hit the nail of truth right on the head.
Comment 2: These kids aren't even being paid by "Big Oil.
Comment 3: It really is amazing that kids, using simple logic, can come up with pretty much the same conclusions as reputable scientists while many adults simply succumb to alarmist scares. People often worry about the "next generation." Perhaps we should be more concerned with this one..
Comment 4: See Al, there is no consensus.
Link: Read "Global Warming on trial" at: http://www.longmontfyi.com/Local-Story.asp?ID=15357
2. EXAMINING ORTHODOXY SERVES SCIENCE WELL
Editorial, Burlington (VT) Free Press, March 30, 2007
In the best debates, both sides learn something about not only the opposing view, but about their own position, too. But a healthy debate needs at least two sides and a willingness to listen to those who might have a different opinion.
S. Fred Singer brought his skepticism about what is rapidly becoming the common wisdom, that human activity is driving climate change, to the University of Vermont campus Wednesday in a talk sponsored by Lake Champlain International, a group best known for its fishing derbies.
Singer probably changed few minds, if any, but he did stir debate in public and in person. That in itself is a critical service. When an orthodoxy threatens to overwhelm any subject -- especially in the sciences -- there's nothing like an opposing view to spur the search for knowledge.
After all, why keep asking questions if we already know it all?
For the most part, the popular debate on climate change has left the realm of science -- if it ever was there in the first place -- and has become about faith. That's inevitable seeing as few of us have the scientific expertise to analyze, let alone collect, the data upon which global-warming theories are based. That leaves us to put our faith in one set of scientists over another.
Too often both sides, smug in their own worldview, fail to examine their basic assumptions, instead waving "facts" and "research" that back their views. As anyone who has done even a little research on the Internet knows, you can Google your way to justify just about any position.
That there's room for doubt doesn't mean that we should sit back and wait for conclusive evidence, one way or another, before taking action. Even if the human impact on climate change turns out to be negligible, many of the measures that target global warming have other benefits -- decreased reliance on foreign oil, lower heating bills and reduced air pollution -- that warrant adoption, even on a "just in case" basis. Who should bear the cost is another matter.
But to argue that the debate has been settled is to say that there's no need for further inquiry, a position that should be anathema to any true scientist or anyone else truly interested in seeing science serve the common good.
The Greek playwright Euripides said, "Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing." That's because when you have the answers, you stop asking questions and stop learning. When it comes to the future of our planet, we can't afford to ever stop asking questions.
3. EPA FINDS TWO HCFCS UNACCEPTABLE BUT ALLOWS USE DURING TRANSITION:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled that use of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b as foam blowing agents in "pour foam" applications as substitutes for HCFC-141b is no longer acceptable (Bureau of National Affairs, March 28; EPA Final Rule Fact Sheet). However, "because of technical challenges in transitioning to alternatives, existing users of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b in pour foam applications other than marine flotation foam will be allowed to continue use until March 1, 2008," notes EPA. Marine foam applications will be allowed until September 1, 2009. Under the 1993 Clean Air Act schedule, production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b for other end-uses will be phased out on January 1, 2010 in the U.S. The final rule goes into effect on May 29
EUROPEAN COMMISSION ADOPTS POPs PLAN:
The European Commission has issued an European Union (E.U.) implementation plan for the 2001 Stockholm POPs Convention (ENDS Europe Daily, March 27; see Commission Staff Working Document). The plan promises amendments to biocide and pesticide legislation and possibly to the waste incineration and integrated pollution prevention and control directives. A second policy paper due later this year will identify priority political actions. The Commission notes that the focus should now turn to thorough enforcement, especially of the 2004 E.U. POPs regulation, and of the 1996 directive on disposal of PCBs. The article says that by the end of 2008, the Commission will propose a POPs concentration level for waste; wastes with POPs concentrations above the level will be considered hazardous
4. U.S. ENERGY POLICY IN THE WAKE OF GLOBAL WARMING HYSTERIA
Dick Armey, Chairman, FreedomWorks, former House Majority Leader (1995-2003)
After the recess, Congress will be taking up heavy-handed global warming mandates that threaten to cripple U.S. industry and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their jobs, while seriously hampering efforts towards free market energy solutions. Led by the likes of Al Gore and the Hollywood Elite, global warming alarmists have convinced key liberals in Congress such as Sen. Barbara Boxer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that the sky is falling and something must be done. But what’s behind their highly questionable view of global climate change are crazy policy proposals that among other things would: ban the incandescent light bulb, shut down power plants that supply energy for millions of Americans, and drive gas prices and home energy costs through the roof!
We must pressure members of Congress to reject the radical Gore Agenda and to support energy policy that fosters competition and innovation instead of stifling regulation.
5. THE DIRTY SECRET ABOUT CLEAN CARS:
President Bush and the Big Three are pushing cars that run on ethanol. But the policy may be doing more harm than good
by Moira Herbst, Business Week, March 28, 2007
President George W. Bush enjoyed a high-profile photo-op Mar. 26 with the heads of the Big Three automakers and their latest clean-car models. The impressive lineup included a General Motors (GM) model that can run on ethanol, a plug-in Ford (F) powered by hydrogen, and a DaimlerChrysler (DCX) Jeep filled with a biodiesel blend. It was smiles all around as the automakers announced they would make half of America's vehicles ethanol-ready by 2012. "If you want to reduce gasoline usage—like I believe we need to do so for national-security reasons as well as for environmental concerns—the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice," said a beaming Bush.
But there's a dirty secret about clean cars. The policies for flexible-fuel vehicles—those that can run on mixtures of gasoline and more than 10% ethanol—are written in such a way that they result in a number of unintended consequences. One result is that automakers gain some leeway in meeting fuel-economy standards if they produce flexible-fuel cars and trucks. So Detroit's automakers have been pumping out hundreds of thousands of the vehicles, even though most consumers have no access to alternative fuels because they're available at only a fraction of U.S. gas stations.
Here's why that's an issue. Automakers need to meet certain government standards for the fuel economy of their fleets. For flex-fuel cars, fuel economy is calculated based on the assumption that their owners use 50% gasoline and 50% ethanol. But the reality is that just 1% of the nation's flexible-fuel vehicles actually use what's known as E85—85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. The remaining 99% are using good old-fashioned gasoline.
The result is anything but green. The more flex-fuel cars and trucks that are produced, the more gasoline is consumed—dramatically increasing greenhouse gas emissions and deepening the country's dependence on petroleum. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that without the policy in place, the U.S. would have burned 4 billion fewer gallons of gasoline since 1998. "Automakers have an [economic] incentive to sell cars less efficient than the law requires," says Don MacKenzie, a vehicles engineer for the Union's clean vehicles program.
Environmental advocates aren't shy about voicing their outrage. "It's a total scam," says Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program. "The automakers are trying to shield themselves from having to make more efficient vehicles. They're avoiding the path to cutting oil dependence, curbing global warming, saving consumers money, and ultimately saving Detroit from competitors like Toyota."
The culprit is a 1988 law called the Alternative Motor Fuels Act, which has been extended through 2008. It gives automakers extra credit toward meeting fuel-economy standards for making cars that can run on alternative fuels. It's cheap for automakers to make cars fuel-flexible; it only costs them about $50 per vehicle, whereas actually meeting fuel-economy standards (making cars travel more miles per gallon) can be much more expensive. So in recent years auto companies have been pouring out flexible-fuel, gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles without worrying too much about fuel economy.
But, as the Bush Administration itself acknowledged in 2002, the consumers who own flex-fuel cars aren't going for alternative fuels. Ethanol-based fuels like E85 are hard to come by, and are only available in certain regions of the country. Only 1,600 of the nation's 176,000 gas stations pump E85, the most popular and commercially viable alternative fuel, says the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC). So the more flexible-fuel vehicles that hit the road without an ethanol pump in sight, the more pure gasoline Americans continue to guzzle.
Ethanol advocates say fuels like E85 are a right-here-right-now solution to reducing oil dependence. "[T]here's nothing that can be done which can reduce the curve of growth in imported oil and actually turn it down like using E85, taking advantage of what's there today," said GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer G. Richard Wagoner Jr. at the White House event.
They also argue that the mismatch between the size of the flexible-fuel fleet and the availability of ethanol will be solved over time. "You've got to get started somehow," says Phillip Lampert, executive director of the NEVC. Lambert points out that the number of gas stations providing E85 has doubled in the last year, and his group—backed by automakers and ethanol producers—is pushing for bigger tax incentives for fuel retailers.
Still, the conversation that Bush and the Big Three avoided on Mar. 26 was talk of fuel economy. In the short term, it's far cheaper for car companies to keep producing cars that seem environmentally friendly than to re-engineer cars to squeeze out more miles per gallon. Until the U.S. has much broader availability of alternative fuels, old-fashioned gas guzzling will continue to rise into the not-so-green future.
Herbst is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in New York.
Al Gore’s Congressional testimony has brought the Global-Warming controversy into sharp focus. Trent Lott referred to it as “garbage;” others in Congress praised it. As Mr. Gore concedes, he is more salesman than scientist. He provided no answers to such questions as: Why has the global climate not warmed since 1998? Why has the Antarctic been cooling since the 1950s and why was the Arctic warmer in the 1930s than today? Why did 60 % of global warming since 1850 occur before 1940, when 80 % of the human-emitted carbon dioxide occurred after 1940? Why does Gore predict a spectacular 20-foot or more rise in sea level by 2100, when mainstream scientific estimates, by the UN-IPCC panel, give only one foot? Has Gore become a “climate contrarian?”
No one raised such searching questions or asked about proof that the current warming is caused by CO2 from burning of fossil fuels. The “inconvenient truth is that most of the warming likely comes from natural causes, primarily the Sun, and is part of an irregular 1500-year cycle of warming and cooling that’s been ongoing for a million years, as measured in the geological record and published in hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers.
But many in Congress believe that the risks of inaction are too great and that global cuts in emissions will happen only if the United States takes the lead. They seem determined to pass legislation leading to the control of CO2. Whichever method is used, whether rationing by cap-and-trade, or sequestering CO2 from powerplants, or mandating the use of “renewables” like ethanol or electric power from wind turbines, the end result will always be to raise energy costs to the consumer. So if the Congressional leadership is really serious about reducing CO2 emissions, we challenge them to go straight to a fuel tax – and more specifically a tax on gasoline and all motor fuels.
A gas tax would have many advantages. It is transparent and does not require a new bureaucracy. It would reduce driving, oil imports, and traffic congestion. It would also spur consumer demand for more energy–efficient cars and trucks. And it would provide so much tax revenue to the Treasury that other taxes could be lowered or eliminated altogether.
But we also have a recommendation for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other governors, mayors and politicians, who have been spouting off on the dangers of global warming and the need for immediate action. If it’s action you want, Arnold, don’t be a girlie-man and wait for the feds. Just raise the California gas tax. We suggest a “five-by-five” plan: Raise the tax by one dollar a year for five years. It would make your freeways driver-friendly again and do wonders for California smog.
RETURN OF THE 5-YEAR FREEZE?
Finally, George Monbiot, in his Guardian column this week, proposes a 5-year freeze on bio-fuels because of the environmental devastation apparently caused by crops used to produce them: cutting down Indonesian rainforest to plant oil palms, replacing rare scrubland in Brazil with sugar cane, and ripping up the Amazon forest to grow soya. Admittedly, bio-fuels are no panacea, but a campaign to stop their use (at least until fuels from biomass are an economic option) seems a little extreme. For those of you with any knowledge of the early GM crop debate '5-year freeze' will have a familiar ring. In Monbiot's own words: 'GM crops give big companies unprecedented control over the food chain. But most of their effects are indirect, while the devastation caused by biofuel is immediate and already visible.' Are environmental activists now even recycling campaigns? [Courtesy The Scientific Alliance]
6. ENERGY SOURCES OF THE FUTURE
Last week, as the European Union was about to mark its first half-century, the International Herald Tribune published the results of a survey of people's expectations for the next 50 years. Much of this focussed, not unexpectedly, on issues such as the future of the euro (expected to be the standard European currency in 2057), enlargement (significant numbers of respondents expecting Turkey and even Russia to be members by then), and even the very existence of the EU (thought highly likely by a significant majority, even 62% of Brits). However, one topic of particular interest to us in the Scientific Alliance is that of energy. And here, we seem to be entering something of a Looking Glass World.
A majority of respondents in five of the six countries in the survey (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA) thought that wind and solar power would be the primary sources of energy in fifty years. Only in Britain did nuclear come top of the list, with 48%, but even there 38% thought that wind and solar would predominate. Surprisingly, in nuclear-dominated France, 48% voted for wind and solar energy compared with 46% for nuclear.
These figures betray a basic lack of understanding of the realities of power generation. Wind power is a relatively proven technology and currently requires less subsidy than alternatives, hence the moves to erect increasing numbers of wind turbines, to the dismay of many. But also proven is their inherent unreliability. In December, much of the UK had several days of both the coldest and calmest weather of the winter. At a time of peak demand, wind turbines were contributing nothing to the National Grid. Even ardent supporters recognise that backup generating capacity must be available at all times. And, if conventional stations are on standby in any case, there is little justification for expanding the contribution of wind power above a rather modest level.
As for photo-voltaics, current costs are significantly higher, and solar power represents a tiny fraction of generation capacity in most countries. The exception is Japan, where energy costs are in any case very high. Germany has also installed a significant capacity, by dint of offering large financial incentives. In the longer run, as the efficiency of current cell types increases and new technologies are developed (thin-film cells, for example), solar may indeed become a realistic contributor to energy needs.
However, not only will power output be reduced in cloudy conditions, but no power at all can be generated at night. In northern latitudes, where peak electricity demand is in winter, this is doubly inconvenient. Even in summer, solar power could only contribute to 24-hour base-load if high volume, high efficiency battery or other storage capacity was to become an economic reality. Perhaps the daytime output could be used to produce hydrogen, which could then be used to generate power overnight. Nothing is insuperable, but the question this surely raises is 'why not rely on nuclear until something better comes along?'
7. MAKING ELECTRIC VEHICLES PRACTICAL
Research presented this week at the annual MRS meeting promises to double battery capacity, cut costs, extend life--and finally make electric cars attractive to the masses. By Kevin Bullis
Today's battery technology is adequate for electric vehicles with a range of more than 200 miles, but the batteries are still very expensive and require elaborate safety mechanisms. There are also concerns that they won't last long enough to be attractive to most consumers. But current research will double energy-storage capacity while also increasing the lifetime of batteries, improving safety, and cutting costs more than enough to make electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids practical for the mass market. At least these were the predictions of researchers presenting their latest work at the Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting in Boston this week. And although many significant challenges remain, an experimental type of rechargeable battery that's like a fuel cell could increase battery storage that much more.
Stanley Whittingham, inventor of the first commercial lithium-ion battery and professor of chemistry, materials science, and engineering at the State University of New York, at Binghamton, says current research should make electric vehicles practical--with the following caveat: they'll probably be used for trips of less than 100 miles. Those who want 300-to-400-mile ranges typical of gasoline-powered vehicles will need to turn to plug-in hybrids: vehicles much like today's gas-electric hybrids, but with a much larger battery pack that makes it possible to go longer on electric power, thereby saving gas. These batteries could be partly charged by an onboard gas engine, but also by electricity from a wall socket.
Whittingham says that while he expects battery capacity to double, it's not going to get much better than that. The real advances in batteries, he says, won't be in energy capacity, but in safety, longevity, and cost. If electric vehicles are to be widespread, one of the most important goals of battery research must be to replace the cobalt now used in the lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones and laptops. "There's just not enough [cobalt] in the world," says Whittingham, who is working on mixed-metal electrodes, which require little to no cobalt.
One promising new type of battery, which actually has lower storage capacity than today's lithium-ion batteries, could nevertheless prove a boon to plug-in hybrids. Lithium iron phosphate batteries use iron, a very cheap metal, instead of cobalt, and they have an inherently safe chemistry . What's more, they operate at a lower voltage that will extend the life of the electrolyte, and therefore the battery.
Yet-Ming Chiang, a MIT materials scientist, is developing even better versions of these batteries. Typically when designing batteries, engineers have to choose between high-power batteries, such as those needed for power tools and hybrids, which deliver intense bursts of power, and high-energy batteries that pack less of a punch, but can deliver more total energy per charge. According to computer models created by Chiang's lab and presented at the MRS meeting, it may be possible to remove this trade-off by producing nanostructured electrodes made by combining two different types of particles in a specific arrangement in the electrode. This could as much as double energy capacity for high-power applications, without the need to develop new materials, Chiang says.
A researcher at the MRS meeting described another experimental way of creating new electrode structures--a way that could increase energy capacity over existing batteries by four times or more. Peter Bruce, professor of chemistry at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, is reviving interest in a type of battery that is something like a fuel cell. This battery has been widely used in the past, but making it rechargeable has proved difficult. Ordinarily, a battery contains all the materials needed to carry out its current-creating chemical reactions. But in this design, one of the reactants, oxygen, can be harvested from the air. As in a fuel cell, in which hydrogen ions combine with oxygen to form water, lithium ions in this battery combine with oxygen to form lithium peroxide. Using oxygen makes it possible to eliminate many of the materials normally included in a battery, drastically cutting its weight. Based on his experiments, Bruce says that such batteries could store as much as 600 to 700 milliamp hours per gram (more than four times that of batteries today) while maintaining the ability to be charged and discharged for many cycles.
So far, Bruce has conducted his experiments using pure oxygen. A working battery would need to be equipped with a membrane, which could be a material similar to Gore-Tex that would seal out both water and carbon dioxide, he says. It might also need a valve to shut off the supply of oxygen to keep reactions from occurring when no current is needed.
Perhaps a bigger problem is the fact that the batteries lose about half of their energy to heat as they are discharged, Whittingham says. This creates a big heat-management issue, and it cuts into the energy-saving motivation for driving hybrids or electric vehicles. "If [Bruce] can be successful, it would be great," he says. But even without such dramatic gains in energy capacity, current research could make batteries much more practical. "I expect the auto companies will be happy with two times [higher capacity] if it will last 10 years," Whittingham says.
Copyright Technology Review 2006.
8. CALIFORNIA DREAMING
Assembly Bill 32, the "California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006," makes California the first state in the nation to broadly limit CO2 emissions. AB 32 establishes an overall cap on the production of CO2 and a mandatory new reporting system to track emission levels across the state. This law will force California to ramp CO2 production back to 1990 levels by the year 2020, says Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks.
Even if one agrees that global warming is occurring and that human activities are the cause, California's unilateral motion to ramp CO2 production back to 1990 levels by the year 2020 are counterproductive and might actually result in greater net carbon-dioxide production, says Kibbe.
** First, the restrictions will lead to higher energy prices within the state, says Kibbe:
o California's population was 29.7 million people in 1990 and is expected to grow to 42.2 million by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
o These new residents will create a staggering 41 percent gap between projected emissions and the limits set by AB 32.
o Less allowable carbon means less energy, and less available energy, coupled with higher expected demand means higher energy prices.
** Higher energy prices mean a booming market in "carbon offsets" for wealthy movie stars and their patrons and extremely unaffordable energy for the rest of working, commuting California.
o New burdens on California's economy will do almost nothing to reduce the planet's total production of CO2.
o That's because commodity markets, like those for fossil fuels, are global; carbon abstinence in California will drive the market price down for other consumers, whether they live in Nevada, Canada or China.
o Higher costs instate and new demand elsewhere will help push manufacturing out of California to other states and to competing nations, which might actually result in greater net carbon-dioxide production.
Source: Matt Kibbe, WSJ, March 27, 2007. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117496492288850038.html
9. WARMING ADVOCATES: TRADING TRUTH FOR POWER.
First warming alarmist Al Gore admits that he thinks it entirely valid to over-represent (exaggerate) the dangers of global warming. Now another top bishop in the Church of Anthropogenic Warming, Mike Hulme from the University of East Anglia, says that we need to use a new kind of science to understand the issue. He calls it post-normal science. And it allows them to trade (normal) truth for influence.
Hulme’s problem with regular science is that: Self-evidently dangerous change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking.... So, we won’t get the exact scare-mongering out of the normal scientific process; so we need a new process in order to get the correct inspiration for public policy.
Under this post-normal science, scientists -- and politicians -- must trade (normal) truth for influence. That’s what Al Gore said when he admitted to exaggerating the dangers of warming. He said it appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentation of how dangerous it is in order to open up his film audience to his ideas. One of the granddads of warming hysteria, Stephen Schneider, suggested this tactic years ago, in 1989, when he said, we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. He calls this distortion of the facts a right balance between being effective and being honest. All three are saying it’s appropriate to distort facts in order to gain political influence, i.e. power.
All three of these prominent advocates of anthropogenic warming are saying that one must either distort science, exaggerate facts, or give up the normal scientific process in order to further the political agenda they have. Hulme says science is provisional knowledge that can be modified through its interaction with society. He says scientific knowledge is open to change as it rubs up against society.
What? Science is supposed to founded on facts of reality not on social perceptions, ideas or political opinions. We don’t take public opinion polls to determine facts. Opinions don’t change facts. Pasteur was right even if public opinion was against him. Franklin’s lightening rod worked even if the clergy preached against it.
Hulme admits that the AGW theory is filled with uncertainties but says that circumstances require action before we know the facts - but then apparently facts are something of a social construct. He says his post-normal science has to be practiced where the stakes are high, uncertainties large, and decisions urgent. Under this kind of science he says an important issue is who has the ear of policy that is, who sets the political agenda.
What sort of agenda? He describes this as do we have confidence in technology; do we believe in collective action over private enterprise; do we believe we carry obligations to people invisible to us in geography and time? And the problem with normal science, says Hulme, is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, that broadly-based policy will then follow. He finds that defective because it ignores values, perspectives and political preferences. This means we have to take science off centre stage. Get that! We have to move away from the science and concentrate on political preferences.
I have long argued that what was going on with these alarmists was an intentional substitution of political preferences for science. This confession, by a leading alarmist, confirms that. For Hulme, Climate change is too important to be left to scientists -- least of all the normal ones. Instead it has go to politicians who share a specific set of values such as preferring collective action over private enterprise.
10. REALITY KICKS IN
Scientific Alliance newsletter - 23rd March 2007
Last week, the government published its draft Climate Change Bill - the first attempt to make carbon emissions reduction targets statutory - to a euphoric reception. As we said then, now comes the hard part. This week, there was an opportunity for Gordon Brown to use his last (barring last-minute surprises) Budget speech to keep the momentum going and demonstrate the Labour party's commitment to environmental issues. Not surprisingly, few commentators expressed much enthusiasm for the green(ish) measures proposed. Feet are being placed firmly on the ground again.
There are a few nods towards reducing emissions. Fuel duty will rise by an additional 2 pence per litre, on top of increases already planned. This will reinforce the UK's dubious honour of having the highest fuel prices in Europe, with little obvious effect on our use of the roads. Simple economic analysis is evidently not valid in this case, but it does give an opportunity for increased tax revenues in the name of environmentalism. Equally, steep rises in road tax for cars with high CO2 emissions will in themselves do little to discourage ownership. The popularity of 4x4s (although we should remember that not all of these have high fuel consumption, and not all vehicles with high emissions fall into this category) will, like all fashions, decline. In this case, it is likely to be driven more by a combination of perceived social acceptability and the cachet of driving hybrid or other efficient cars. It certainly seems that green is the new black.
As further evidence of the governments approach, see the following quote from the Times on 22nd:
The Chancellor announced a review of the vehicle and fuel technologies needed to 'decarbonise road transport' over the next 25 years. The review will be led by Professor Julia King, vice-chancellor of AstonUniversity, who will work with Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the recent government report on climate change.
Mr Brown unveiled a tax incentive for company car drivers to switch to vehicles that run on 85 per cent bioethanol made from plants. He also proposed to end an employee car ownership scheme loophole that lets drivers avoid higher company car tax on gas guzzlers.
On one hand, they take a broad picture (although perhaps not broad enough; a re-run of the Stern review is likely just to point to how to encourage uptake of bio-fuels rather than look more radically at how people might travel), but on the other they provide an incentive which looks good on paper but is unlikely ever to affect more than a tiny proportion of drivers and will have effectively zero effect on total emissions. In similar vein, subsidies to homeowners wanting to install micro-generation facilities will rise from a tiny 12m annually at present to an equally inadequate 18m over a three year period. Hardly radical thinking.
Despite the fine words, there is as yet little evidence of them being matched by significant new policies, probably because the government genuinely does not know what it can do which would make any real difference without affecting its re-election chances. Hopefully, we will see some open and rational debate on the options when the draft Climate Change Bill is eventually put before the House.
Flights of fancy?
And to illustrate the disconnectedness of policy in a wider, international context, the new 'open skies' agreement for trans-Atlantic flights, due to come into force next year, raises some important issues. By opening up competition, there is projected to be an economic benefit of 8bn because fares will be lower. This has been welcomed by the EU. On the other hand, it is also expected to increase passenger numbers by 26 million over the next five years. Since air travel has become the bete noire of environmentalists in recent months because of its supposed contribution to climate change, and as politicians are actively discussing ways in which its growth might be curbed, this seems to be yet another case of unresolved conflict between economic growth and environmentalism.
But the truth, as we know, is rarely pure and never simple. Lower fares would mean fuller, more efficient flights. More profitable airlines would invest in newer, less thirsty aircraft. The net effect could be a reduction in carbon emissions per passenger.
11. REVIEW OF "THE CHILLING STARS - A NEW THEORY OF CLIMATE CHANGE" (by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder, Icon Books Ltd, Feb 2007, ISBN10:1-84046-815-7, Price £9.99)
In recent years industry and the public alike have, rightly, become less tolerant of pollution and much progress has been made to 'clean up our act'. However there is a new cause for concern; climate change is now recognised to have a major impact on the world's people and economies. Publication of the authoritative and comprehensive 'Stern Review' in 2006 put the UK at the forefront of attempts to assess the economic cost of climate change, the costs of tackling global warming and the policies required to address the problem. With widespread acceptance in the media and Government of CO2 as the de-facto cause of climate change and global warming, it would seem to the layman that there is no longer any scientific debate or doubt about this assertion.
Svensmark and Calder's book is one of the very few recent publications to present an alternative view. Given the strong emotions associated with global warming, Svensmark and Calder's work may be seen by many to be unfashionable at best, or irresponsible at worst. However, an open-minded reader is likely to be intrigued by the theories and analysis presented and may well begin to question the mainstream CO2 = global warming link.
Henrik Svensmark is one of a number of largely Danish researchers who have been investigating the subject now known as 'cosmoclimatology' for over a decade, so far with very little funding and recognition for their work. In the mid 1990s they identified a strong link between the rate of cosmic rays received into the Earth's atmosphere and the rate of cloud production. Furthermore, they corroborated the strength of cosmic rays with accepted proxies for temperature. They also used satellite data to develop an understanding of the repulsive effect of the Sun's magnetic field on the cosmic rays. From this work they deduced that a more magnetically active Sun (as indicated by high levels of sunspot activity) tends to deflect cosmic rays away from the Earth. This results in less cloud formation and hence more sunlight reaching the Earth, since cloud tops reflect light out of the atmosphere and into space.
In 'The Chilling Stars', the authors cite archaeological evidence, which suggests that the Earth's climate has often undergone rapid transitions, both cooling and warming. For example, summer 2003 saw the retreating perennial ice of the Schnidejoch in the Swiss Alps yield a 4700 year old archer's quiver. Subsequent finds demonstrated that the Schnidejoch had been unfrozen and open to human passage many times since the last Ice Age and that there were four periods during the past 5000 years that were warmer than the present day.
Over a period of hundreds of millions of years, Earth has experienced many climate change episodes, oscillating between icy and hot -- and Svensmark and Calder have unearthed evidence to link these to the changing levels of cosmic rays and their role in cloud formation. Indeed the authors argue that as the Earth, Solar System and Galaxy have travelled through space, the background of cosmic rays has played a major role in shaping the Earth's environment since primordial times.
When compared to these timescales and magnitudes, mankind's potential for impact surely appears small. Despite this, there is clear and unquestioned evidence that the Earth is presently undergoing a period of warming. However, cosmoclimatology tells us that the human influence on the cause of such warming is much less than supposed in contemporary climate models (with the consequence that many of the worst excesses of rapid warming predicted should not come to pass). If this is indeed the case, then it would surely be prudent to direct humanity's efforts towards adapting to a warmer world rather than trying to mitigate the unmitigatable. As Svensmark and Calder say, "...among the thousands of human generations, ours may be the first that was ever frightened by a warming."
At risk of flying in the face of the received wisdom, the theory presented in this very readable book appears plausible and may withstand Occam's Razor equally as well as, if not better than, the mainstream CO2 explanation. Read it and draw your own conclusions, but be prepared for a possible change in your perception of global warming.
From Beijing to Bratislava, more of us are living longer, healthier and more comfortable lives than at any time in history; fewer of us are suffering from poverty, hunger or illiteracy, says economist Indur Goklany in his book, "The Improving State of the World," published by the Cato Institute. We should be especially proud of the fact that humanity has never been better fed, says Goklany:
o The daily food intake in poor countries has increased by 38 percent since the 1960s to 2,666 calories per person per day, on average.
o The population of those countries has soared by 83 percent during that time.
o Together with a 75 percent decline in global food prices in real terms in the second half of the 20th century -- caused by improved agricultural productivity and freer trade -- fewer people than ever before are going hungry.
There is still a long way to go; but never before in human history have so many people been liberated from extreme poverty so quickly, says Goklany:
o The number of people subsisting on $1 a day has declined from 16 percent of the world population in the late 1970s to 6 percent today, while those living on $2 a day dropped from 39 percent to 18 percent.
o In 1820, 84 percent of the world's population lived in absolute poverty; today this is down to about a fifth.
Even life expectancy in poorer countries has improved quickly, notes Goklany:
o In China it has surged from 41 years in the 1950s to 71 years today; in India it is up from 39 years to 63 years, almost doubling the average lifespan of 2 billion people.
o In 1900 average life expectancy around the world was a mere 31 years; today it is 67 years and rising.
Source: Allister Heath, "The world is richer and healthier," Spectator, December 2, 2006; based upon: Indur Goklany, "The Improving State of the World," Cato Institute, November 2006. [Courtesy NCPA]