Monday, March 05, 2007
HIGHLIGHTS AND TOPICS
This page was formed because the global warming and general climate debates, which have been periodic on this site since it was formed, are beginning to take up a lot of time and room; and it seemed reasonable to put much of the material together in one place.
In particular there are a couple of long papers that would take up a lot of room in Mail, but which are of interest to those interested in these discussions.
This page began in REPORTS but has been moved to the View folder; when the discussion is essentially ended it will go back to Reports.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Just a comment on the topic of GW and ENSO / El Nino, if you aren't familier with the site www.co2science.org , you should visit and look at this topic under the subject index. The web site is a compilation of research that greatly debunks the GW alarmists as well as providing ample evidence for the beneficial aspects of CO2, which is an aerial fertilizer. Unfortunately the site just this month went to subscription only, although the fee is nominal, ~$8.00 per year, and they update with a new issue each week. The site is run and maintained by scientists who are devoted to science based on real world observations, and models when they can be shown to adequately reproduce the real world data. They reference many reconstructions from proxy data that go back hundreds to thousands of years, which can give perspective to the current situation. You may find at times that they succomb to the advocacy that you rightly denounce among scientists, but I think in their case it is due to what seems to be a sense of being a voice in the wilderness, with the massive weight of the MSM and the UN arrayed against them.
Below is a sample of one of their reviews, to whet your appetite. Hopefully, if you haven't been to their site you will become a frequent visitor.
More Problems for the Mann et al. Temperature Record
Volume 7, Number 50: 15 December 2004
In the introduction to their most interesting and enlightening paper, Rein et al. (2004) note what is beginning to be painfully obvious to most thinking people (and hopefully causing them consternation), i.e., the fact that "discrepancies exist between the Mann curve and alternative time series for the Medieval period." Most notably, as they put it, "the global Mann curve has no temperature optimum, whereas the Esper et al. (2002)reconstruction shows northern hemisphere temperatures almost as high as those of the 20th century" during the Medieval period, when the atmosphere's CO2 concentration was much lower than it is today and was clearly, therefore, not responsible for the higher temperatures of those times, which in turn suggests that the higher CO2 levels of today may not be responsible for the higher temperatures of the Modern Warm Period relative to those of the preceding Little Ice Age.
In introducing their unique approach to helping to resolve this discrepancy, Rein et al. further note that "interannual climate variability along and off coastal Peru is dominated by ENSO," and that "in the hyperarid coastal deserts, heavy winter rainfalls only occur during ? years of maximum El Niño strength (Philander, 1990)." Hence, because periods of global warmth typically produce fewer El Niños than periods that are cooler [see El Niño (Relationship to Global Warming)in our Subject Index], they set about to see what they could learn about the relative merits of the two contrasting temperature histories of the past thousand-plus years (especially with regard to the existence or non-existence of a truly warm Medieval Warm Period) by looking for signs of ENSO activity in the sediments of a sheltered basin situated on the edge of the Peruvian shelf about 80 km west of Lima, Peru.
What Rein et al. discovered was that "lithic concentrations were very low for about 450 years during the Medieval climatic anomaly (MCA) from A.D. 800 to 1250," which would indeed suggest the existence of significantly warmer temperatures during this period. In addition, they found that "all known terrestrial deposits of El Niño mega-floods (Magillian and Goldstein, 2001; Wells, 1990) precede or follow the medieval anomaly in our marine records and none of the El Niño mega-floods known from the continent date within the marine anomaly," which also suggests that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the periods that preceded and followed it.
Other studies provide independent evidence for the same conclusion. Rein et al. note, for example, that "from an Ecuadorian lake record where moderate to strong El Niño floods are recorded (Moy et al., 2002), a minimum of such events is reported during the upper Medieval period." Also, they note that the oldest (A.D. 928-961) of the five "time windows" on central Pacific El Niño activity that is provided by the corals that were investigated by Cobb et al. (2003) exhibits evidence for weaker El Niños than all subsequent time windows extending to 1998. In addition, they report that "extreme long-lasting droughts that peaked coincident with those in the Peru record around A.D. 1160, are reported from several archives in the western USA and Southern Patagonia (Stine, 1994)," and they say that near-contemporaneous dry periods "also occurred in the tropical Andes (Abbot et al., 1997; Binford et al., 1997), Oman (Fleitmann et al., 2003) and eastern Africa (De Putter et al., 1998; Verschuren et al., 2000 Last of all, they state that "hints that these droughts are not only coinciding events but related to El Niño anomalies come from the high-resolution Moon Lake (North Dakota, USA) salinity record (Laird et al., 1996)."
The significance of these observations resides in the fact that much palaeoclimatic research has demonstrated that El Niño activity almost always decreases, and decreases substantially, as the planet warms [see again El Niño (Relationship to Global Warming)in our Subject Index]; and as a result of this fact, Rein et al. are able to confidently state in their concluding sentence that "the occurrence of a Medieval climatic anomaly (A.D. 800-1250) with persistently weak El Niños may therefore assist the interpretation of some of the regional discrepancies in thermal reconstructions of Medieval times." And that assistance, as should be abundantly clear, helps us to realize, as is also evident from a host of proxy temperature records (see Medieval Warm Period in our Subject Index), that temperatures were indeed significantly cooler both before and after the Medieval period of A.D 800-1250, as well as throughout the 20th century; for with respect to the recent past, the data of Cobb et al. (2003) testify to the fact that current El Niño activity has not yet dropped to the level characteristic of the Medieval Warm Period.
In light of these several observations, we are left with no alternative (as no one else should be either) but to conclude that the Northern Hemispheric temperature reconstruction of Esper et al. (2002) is superior to that of Mann et al. (1998, 1999), as it also is superior to the global temperature reconstruction of Mann and Jones (2003), both with respect to its demonstrating the existence of a truly warm Medieval Warm Period and the likelihood that that period of significant warmth was warmer than the Modern Warm Period has been to date, all without any help from elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations (actually, in the face of very reduced Medieval Warm Period CO2 concentrations), which suggests that the variable atmospheric CO2 concentration of the planet has been vastly overrated as an agent of climate change.
Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso
Abbot, M.B., Binford, M.W., Brenner, M. and Kelts, K.R. 1997. A 3500 C14 yr high-resolution record of water-level changes in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru. Quaternary Research 47: 169-180.
Binford, M.A., Kolata, M., Brenner, M., Janusek, L., Seddon, M., Abbott, M. and Curtis, J. 1997. Climate variation and the rise and fall of an Andean civilization. Quaternary Research 47: 235-248.
Cobb, K.M., Charles, C.D., Cheng, H. and Edwards, R.L. 2003. El Niño/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium. Nature 424: 271-276.
De Putter, T., Loutre, M.-F. and Wansard, G. 1998. Decadal periodicities of Nile River historical discharge (A.D. 622-1470) and climatic implications. Geophysical Research Letters 25: 3193-3196.
Esper, J., Cook, E.R. and Schweingruber, F.H. 2002. Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability. Science 295: 2250-2253.
Fleitmann, D., Burns, S.J., Mudelsee, M., Neff, U., Kramers, J., Mangini, A. and Matter, A. 2003. Holocene forcing of the Indian monsoon recorded in a stalagmite from southern Oman. Science 300: 1737-1739.
Laird, K.R., Fritz, S.C., Maasch, K.A. and Cumming, B.F. 1996. Greater drought intensity and frequency before AD 1200 in the northern Great Plains, USA. Nature 384: 552-554.
Magillian, F.J. and Goldstein, P.S. 2001. El Niño floods and culture change: A late Holocene flood history for the Rio Moquegua, southern Peru. Geology 29: 431-434.
Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K. 1998. Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries. Nature 392: 779-787.
Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K. 1999. Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and limitations. Geophysical Research Letters 26: 759-762.
Mann, M.E. and Jones, P.D. 2003. Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophysical Research Letters 30: 10.1029/2003GL017814.
Moy, C.M., Seltzer, G.O., Rodbell, D.T. and Anderson D.M. 2002. Variability of El Niño/Southern Oscillation activity at millennial timescales during the Holocene epoch. Nature 420: 162-165.
Philander, S.G.H. 1990. El Niño, La Niña, and the Southern Oscillation. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.
Thanks to Mr. Theisen for reminding me of www.co2science.org <http://www.co2science.org/> .
The men running this site ( www.co2science.org <http://www.co2science.org/ > ) do valuable work and have credentials and publications up the wazoo (the ones that the DRI guy so admires). Yet they write:
"For the past seven years, therefore, we have provided everything we produce free of charge to everyone, sustaining ourselves with grants and donations from numerous sources. Over the past three years, however, income from these sources has declined dramatically, and additional cuts are on the horizon. We have tried to adjust to these changes by sequentially eliminating one full-time staff position and three part-time positions, by reducing the salaries of two of us by 50% and one of us by 100%, and by one of us selling the house in which he and his family lived to move into a smaller and less expensive home. All of these actions, however, have been insufficient to compensate for our monetary losses, and have failed to stave off the inevitable. Consequently, to continue to simply survive (which one cannot do for very long with a negative income), and to continue publishing CO2 Science, we have no choice but to limit its access to those who contribute an annual donation of $7.95 ..."
The price of coming up with the wrong answers?
So have I.
I'm a design engineer with 20+ years of experience in various engineering fields, primarily having to do with heat transfer and thermodynamics. My first professional employment was with a company designing and manufacturing air conditioners and heat exchangers for cooling electronics enclosures, which often used active refrigeration systems. Back then, the most common refrigerants were R-12 and R-22. These are now know as the infamous "CFC's", which were banned by the Montreal protocols.
That was my first introduction into the world of politics radically affecting engineering decisions...and with no rational basis. The "ozone hole" nonsense, at least as it pertained to human influence, was never more than a baseless conjecture. When a single volcanic eruption can inject more chlorine compounds directly into the upper stratosphere than human-kind has ever released, the banning of the only safe and effective refrigerants know is rather moot.
But have you noticed that nobody's talking about holes in the ozone layer anymore? Is this because last year's hole (see NASA's web site) was the smallest ever recorded, and broke up almost before they could measure it? Given the dire predictions made before the protocol was enforced, it was supposed to have been on the order of fifty (50) years before any effect of the ban could be noticed.
I came across an article in a magazine circulated around at work a while ago. From Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 11, 2002, entitled "Nations Disagree on Reasons For Shrinking Ozone Hole". It's just amazing how this story gets absolutely ZERO coverage in the popular media...I guess proving that the enviro-whackos had their heads up their collective asses doesn't increase readership like scaring the sheep does.
From the article: "U.S. scientists also reported that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is becoming significantly smaller and recently split into two separate holes." Does the fact that we only have 30 years of data indicate to the non-rational that maybe we're just seeing a part of a normal cycle of enlargement and shrinking? I'll guarantee you that if, after seeing the seasonal ozone hole shrink for the last 10 years, if it starts growing again, we'll see the same hoorah about it...even though it's only "grown" back to where it used to be.
Also from the article: "Data from onboard recorders and monitoring devices revealed that after CFC's near-disappearance, chlorine level in the troposphere is peaking before beginning to decrease over the next 4-6 years. However, additional studies identified other difficulties or threats. According to Megie [CNRS French national research agency's president], the lower ozone content is leading to the troposphere's COOLING [emphasis added] by as much as 1 C/decade while water vapor seems to be noticeably increasing." Hey, wait a minute. According to the information presented when the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, we were told that it would take until at least 2050 before the chlorine levels would peak. And now we're worried about global cooling again?
And of course, it's all due to human activity. From the ASHRAE Journal (October 1998) article entitled (curiously, since the body of the text proves completely the opposite) "Montreal Protocol is Working": "Naturally occurring events in the atmosphere affect climate and can affect stratospheric ozone processes. The presence of particulates (such as sulfate aerosols) in the upper atmosphere can provide reaction sites for ozone-loss chemistry to proceed. Stratospheric sulfate aerosols have increased by more than an order of magnitude due to the two most recent volcanic eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Mt. Pinatubo in 1991)."
These HCFC's are what we substituted for R-12 and R-22, refrigerants so safe you could breathe them in any amount up to where it displaced so much of the oxygen in the air that there wasn't enough to keep you conscious:
From ASHRAE Journal, October 1997: "Industry Group Says HCFC's Not Health Risk". Okay, so maybe they're not as safe as we thought: From ASHRAE Journal, December 1997: "Conference Attendees Briefed on Incident at Belgian Plant" "An incident at a Belgian smelting plant, in which nine overhead-crane operators developed reversible liver abnormalities...the workers were exposed to leaking refrigerant [HCFC R-124] for extended periods." "...tests were performed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, at concentrations below which any effect was anticipated. A volunteer exposed to R-134a at 4,000 ppm v/v for several minutes had to be resuscitated after he lost consciousness and his pulse and blood pressure dropped to zero." Let me see, the (incredibly healthy and young) test pilot actually DIED during the test...but what the heck, the ozone is safe. As an aside, R-134a is what's been put in most automotive A/C's since 1987. We all know that car A/C's never leak, and never, ever need recharging. ---------------
The exact same phenomenon is now occurring with anthropogenic global warming. Interview 100 climate scientists, and 99 will clearly state that (in the words of the IPCC's report, but NOT their political summary) that "there is no known correlation between human CO2 emissions and global temperature increases". However, the other one will jump up and down screaming that "The sky is falling, the sky is falling". Which of these two interviews is published/printed/broadcast?
Before I'll listen to anyone even express an opinion on anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming, I've been asking them to take a simple, 3-question quiz for the past five years or so:
1. What gas is responsible for approximately 95% of the "greenhouse effect" on planet Earth?
2. Are the United States a net A) Emitter, or B) Absorber of carbon dioxide?
3. Is the global climate now A) Warmer, or B) Cooler than it was approximately 1,000 to 1,100 years ago?
1. Water vapor is responsible for about 95% of the Earth's greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide is less than 2% of the total effect, with methane taking up most of the balance, and other gasses responsible for the remainder. But all we EVER hear about is CO2.
2. The U.S., with it's vast forests (more now than in pre-Columbian times) and farmlands is a net ABSORBER of CO2...as opposed to Europe and Japan, which are net emitters.
3. Let's see...they were raising crops of oats in Greenland, and the Icelandic/Viking explorers were calling what is now the chilly area of Newfoundland "Vinland" because of the grapes which grew there. It's an era referred to as the "Medieval Climate Optimum" in old climate textbooks, and was followed by the spread of Black Plague (the fleas of the rats taking advantage of the warmer climate to spread to northern Europe). That period was followed by what used to be referred to as the "Little Ice Age", in which England saw snow in areas never before seen, and the River Thames froze quite solidly on a regular basis. That period ended in the early/middle 1700's, and we've been in a warming trend ever since.
When an eco-fanatic that I'm talking to fails the first question, I have to enquire why they feel that they are entitled to demand legislation on a technical topic of which they have absolutely NO idea what they are talking about.
I apologize for the length of this note, but I just wanted to express an opinion to you.
P.S.: While not an SF "FAN", I am and have been for all of my sentient life a "fan" of science fiction, starting with (naturally, and bless the public librarians) Robert A. Heinlein at age 5, and "Rocket Ship Galileo". I've been reading your work, as well as your collaborations with other various authors, since I've been old enough to reach the "adult" shelves in the library. Making the pilgrimage to the "P" section under the authors at the store is still standard practice, to see what you've made available lately.
I'd like to express my most sincere appreciation (naturally, I've expressed it in the most sincere form, that of hard cash, at my local bookstore here in Minneapolis, "Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore" over the years) for your writing, and the countless hours of entertainment and education that it has brought me.
So, THANK YOU.
Ted Bezat Minneapolis, MN
Isn't it odd that Freon became dangerous just before the DuPont patent expired, and the only thing that could replace it was more expensive, more dangerous, and, oh, yes, patented? But surely that was all a coincidence.
I have seen climate models that try to explain the Warm Period from 800 to about 1300 as a local phenomenon. I have not see those results come out of the general climate models. If there is a general climate model that explains the period 800 AD to 1800 AD (from warm to Little Ice Age to warming again) I am not aware of it, and I have certainly looked as well as indicated my willingness to listen.
Good morning Mr. Pournelle,
Mr. Benford's use of "voodoo" to describe the work of dissenters from his point of view raises suspicions about the strength of his arguments. Likely just got annoyed. The press has made it difficult to talk about global warming by simplifying "Civilization contributes to global climate change" to "Civilization causes global climate change" It's my understanding that, at worst, we're accelerating a natural trend. If the goal is to slow a trend, isn't this the same as saying "Let this bitter transition pass from me, to my grandchildren."? If the goal is to end climate change, are we clever and brave enough to pull it off? I'm very much in favor of learning more before action is taken, at my income, reduced carbon living would involve warm clothing in winter, no air conditioning in the summer and a bicycle for transport, as hydrogen plumbing won't be cheap.
My analysis indicates that given reasonable assumptions for the costs of remedies (including the increases in cost of delaying the onset of remedies) and the cost of acquiring more data to reduce uncertainty, we ought to be spending significantly more on reducing uncertainties; the expected value of doing so is very high.
On Benford versus Crichton
--when specialists start worrying, I think it's time to put some money into monitoring things. Hence the recent cutbacks in earth observational studies are probably the wrong thing.
On UK university education--you have probably heard stories about the closure of numerous mid-rank departments due to inadequate government funding. It hasn't been limited to engineering and science. Universities have also been cutting back on medical education, especially expensive specialties like radiology--the overall reduction in medical education over the last few years has been about 30%. The general pattern is that any programs that are expensive and consumed mostly by UK students are being closed since the government habitually underfunds them. Oxford has decided to reduce the number of UK undergraduates by a thousand (from 11,000 to 10,000) over the next five years. It's disheartening to see the winding up in my lifetime of an 800-year tradition of academic learning.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Good sense from Dr. Erwin, as usual. Thanks
Subject: Re: the Benford newspaper article
For the paper by Hoffert et al. (Gregory Benford is the second of the et alii), go to http://www.mcgill.ca/economics/faculty/green/#Articles
Click on the link 'Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability'
Nice discussion of space solar power in this paper.
The geoengineering section of the paper includes a discussion of a 2000 km diameter mirror at Lagrange point 1 to deflect 2% of the solar flux. This section ends with this sentence "Of course, large-scale geophysical interventions are inherently risky and need to be approached with caution." [I should hope so.]
The concluding remarks section of the paper says "... We have identified a portfolio of promising technologies here--some radical departures from our present fossil fuel system. Many concepts will fail, and staying the course will require leadership..."
On page 479 of Crichton's book, his character says, during a conversation, "... They conclude that wind, solar, and even nuclear power will not be sufficient to solve the problem. They say totally new and undiscovered technology is required."
Everyone can read both works and see if Crichton's character got the gist of the paper of the paper by Hoffert et al.
Precisely. I have nothing against energy technology research.
Subject: Neocons & Toyota Prius
The alliance of hawks and environmentalists is new but not entirely surprising. The environmentalists are worried about global warming and air pollution. But Woolsey and Gaffney—both members of the Project for the New American Century, which began advocating military action against Saddam Hussein back in 1998—are going green for geopolitical reasons, not environmental ones. They seek to reduce the flow of American dollars to oil-rich Islamic theocracies, Saudi Arabia in particular.
A consummation devoutly to be wished...
From: Stephen M. St. Onge firstname.lastname@example.org
You asked ( http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view346.html#Tuesday ) for comments on Gregory Benford and Martin Hoffert's newspaper article ( http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20050121/news_lz1e21benford.html ). Here's mine.
Short Version: I'm rereading Lowell Ponte's _The Cooling_ at the moment, and it sounds rather like Benford and Hoffert's article, except that it comes to the conclusion that we're on our way to an ice age. The main difference is that Ponte argues more cogently, seldom attacking the people who disagree with him, or using obvious logical fallacies. The main similarity is that there isn't enough evidence to support the conclusions reached, in either Ponte's book, or Benford and Hoffert's article.
Rather too long version: (Can be found on the Climate Discussion Reports page)
One of the fun things about reading your Chaos Manor site, I wouldn't call it a blog as it has too much going for it, is that I keep getting introduced to articles, like the de Borchgrave column that Roland Dobbins sent. There seems to be a lot of that and it makes good reading.
The Fear of reason column was interesting. They quote , Crichton : " . . . concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century." Then they say: ". . . we outlined plenty of technologies that must be further developed . . .". Well, technologies that must be further developed does not cancel out no known technology. The problem of course is that independent nations will use whatever technologies they choose and the point is moot as politics not technology will be the deciding factor. There is a certain hubris in scientists who state that they can provide the answer to a problem if only the rest of society will only heed their advice. Sorry guys, that is not how this old world works. And while Crichton may be off base to a certain degree, your call for more and better information is the correct answer.
I notice that the weather service called for rain last night, which was about 24 hours late in arriving. Given all the exacting technology for accurately predicting the current conditions, I must question the modeling that predicts the future with such accuracy given the number of variables affecting the climate. I challenge any computer model to be backed up 1000 years to accurately predict known conditions; or set at 1066 and project the ensuing climate conditions.
Subject: The Benford/Hoffert piece
My, you do pick 'em. Looking through Greg's commentary, I must admit I'm uncertain how such a well-written author can have such a hard time groking English. Just to pick at a few of the high points that bothered me:
1. Crichton: No known technology/Benford: "outlined plenty of technologies that must be further developed" - Is it just me, or does Greg just not get the concept that he is saying that these technologies don't yet exist. If they existed, there wouldn't be a need for his Manhattan Project-style effort.
2. Politicization of global warming: Maybe it's just me, but I get the impression that Greg hasn't been paying much attention to just how politicized the whole global warming argument has gotten - and how vicious the attacks are on any scientist who dares disagree with RightThink.
3. Heat islands: Gotta love the rebuttal. Rather than address the issue (of heat island effects being ignored), he attacks the messenger. Yep, that's how to prove the point.
I really hope the rest of Greg's science is better than this. --
Charles Prael Los Trancos Systems http://www.lts.com
The Babbling Brook http://www.livejournal.com/users/chuckles48/
I would say that technologies that need massive development investments may be "known", but they certainly can't be implemented immediately. Perhaps Crichton would have been more accurate to say "readily implementable" instead of "known".
Greg Benford is well known in particle physics, and he and his twin brother were participants in the Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy which I chaired during the Reagan era.
Dear Jerry; Mike Crichton's latest novel bids fair to become to the present administration what The Hunt For red October was to Ronald Reagan's. It pushes all the buttons , but its views on climate change are as overstated and under nuanced as those of Jurassic Park on cloning and chaos theory, Congo on primatology and geophysics, or Prey on nanotechnology . That is to say that real players in the disciplines involved are alternatively laughing in the aisles and uiling their horsewhips.
This time Mike has alienated his informants not just by failing to do as much homework as his scholarly apparatus implis, but borrowing beyond the sum of what he credits. While Dick Lindzen is merely bemused by this, Greg Benford has defected openly . I am not bout to do anything until I read the book, but reports that 'State Of Fear' expands on Mikes Cal Tech and Commonwealth Club speeches, are cause for concer on my part as well. Both of those admirable presentations focus on the late Carl Sagan's efforts to scare the world into disarmament by marketing the software fiction he styled 'Nuclear Winter ' with hard scientific fact- a feat of scientism Milke correctly identifies as based on the ease of persuading the public that manipulating symbols - especially long strings of uncertain variables , somehow constitute 'scientific' proof of whatever the manipulators claim.
Mike's speeches paraphrase my accent of how false perceptions of science drive policy. The 1986 National Interest article confronting what Sagan was up to is widely available on the net because , as you know, it was excerpted by the Wall Stret Journal . Less well known, but even more germane to Mike's present work is my 1990 National Interest follow up to the 'Nuclear Winter ' controversy , dealing with misrepresentations of global warming . Here it is , attached ,in web- friendly format for the first time. I hope Mike's readers find it edifying as well.
By Russell Seitz
The most savage controversies are those as to which there is no good evidence either way. -Bertrand Russell
AT THE TURN of the century, a Swedish Nobel Laureate, Svante Arrhenius, laid the cornerstone of what is popularly called "the greenhouse effect"-that one of the principal gaseous products of fire, carbon dioxide, can absorb radiant warmth and trap it in the earth's atmosphere. In the hothouse environment of the popular media, this observation has blossomed into the most fiercely debated, and perhaps most widely feared, scientific phenomenon of the day.
As Science magazine observed in a March 30, 1990, editorial: "Virtually everyone, children included, is concerned about global climate change and especially about the greenhouse effect. They have learned of increases in carbon dioxide. They have been told repeatedly that temperatures will increase 9'F. Political pressure is mounting to take action regardless of cost, and to take action now."
This much is familiar to any observer within reach of the popular media. But what follows is not : "But how good is the evidence, and how likely is substantial global warming? When might it happen? Applying the customary standards of scientific inquiry, one must conclude that there has been more hype than solid facts ... Modeling of global climate is largely concentrated on examining effects of doubling the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases. As might he expected, the answers they get are functions of the models they employ. The spread is from 1. 5' to 5'C; that is, there is great uncertainty. If one examines the subject, one finds virtually unanimous agreement that the models are deficient....What have been the warming effects, if any, of anthropogenic gases? The typical answer is 0.5'C.
But the answer depends on what time interval is chosen. There was substantial increase in temperature from 1880 to 1940. However, from 1940 until the 1960s, temperatures dropped so much as to lead to predictions of a coming ice age. New, precise satellite data raise further questions about warming. From 1979 to 1988 large temperature variability was recorded, but no obvious temperature trend was noted during the 10-year period.' ...A fashionable estimate of the time when doubling of atmospheric CO, will occur is the middle of the next century. But past predictions of energy usage have been notoriously inaccurate.. What should he the national response to the above uncertainties? ... Whatever we do should he based on well-thought-out long-range goals. It should not result from a half-baked political response. '--R.W. Spencer and J. R. Christy, "Precise Monitoring of Global Temperature Trends from Satellites , "Science 247 (March 30, 1990): 1558
Almost everything about this statement sits oddly with representations of the greenhouse effect in the popular media. Where Science speaks of conflicting studies and ambiguous results, the popularizers of the greenhouse effect deliver dire warnings with the utmost certitude. Where the one counsels a cautious political response, the other urges instant, even draconian intervention. In the name of the greenhouse effect, some environmentalists are demanding a 30 percent rollback in C02 emissions by the year 2000. They seem oblivious to the enormity of what they are demanding: a war on that most elemental of human discoveries-fire itself.
Why this enormous gap between what is known and what is urged? Why do most scientists lack conviction, where many laymen are full of passionate intensity? To answer, we might begin by way of reviewing a most important aspect of the greenhouse effect-the extent of our ignorance.
Why It's Not So Simple
THE ATMOSPHERE is among the earth's most complex dynamic systems: subtle in its chemistry, chaotic in its flow. It interacts with everything from the solar wind to the deep oceans. It is subject to insults great and small, brief and enduring, from men and meteorites, volcanoes and termites, wildfires and algal blooms-a list without end.
The scale of all this dynamism is more daunting still. Despite the burgeoning population of the earth, there's still a million tons of air per capita. That's a lot of inertia to work against, at least down here in the lower tier of the atmosphere, the troposphere (where it gets colder as you go up). But further upstairs, far above Everest, in the tenuous reaches of the stratosphere (where higher is hotter), lies only a thousandth part of that atmosphere's mass. Our individual "share" of the stratosphere weighs about as much as a ten-yard cube of water and is laced with just a bathtub full of ozone. Hence the dichotomy between concern for an ozone layer that, liquefied, would he no thicker than the ink that you're reading, and the authentic scientific confusion about our capacity rapidly to derange a lower ocean of air that's comparatively as massive as a stack of bibles, the Apocrypha included.
The atmospheric sciences presently lie in limbo between the Newtonian rigor of classical physics and the realm of the un decidible. It is an uncomfortable time. The range of sincere expert opinion broadens with the complexity of the subject at issue. And at the interdisciplinary extreme--global climate expertise itself dissolves in that most universal of solvents, the theory of complexity.
Just as mathematicians found Kurt Gödel's rigorous proof of the undecidibility of some formal propositions dismaying, there is presently no joy for atmospheric scientists in having to testify that the answers policy-makers seek are beyond the scope of the available data or the present limits of computational power. Nor is there consolation in the grim realization that their computerized global circulation models have but an ephemeral capacity to predict the future.
They can jump forward to model the climate of the distant future on a "what if" basis, but they can at best conjure up a coarsely realistic picture of global weather that lasts for a few weeks before beginning to disintegrate into gibberish. Even modeling the evolution of a single thunderhead's birth and death is an absolute tour de force of today's computer modeling.
By contrast, in reckoning what the whole ensemble of greenhouse gases is up to, we need to know about their transport and interaction with the atmosphere, sunlight, and each other over a range of time scales from microseconds to millennia. We need to measure reaction rates by the score and to ponder the quantitative meaning of feedbacks both positive and negative.
If there were world enough and time, individual atmospheric scientists might achieve a combination of physical and geometric intuition approaching certain knowledge of how the earth will respond in the long run to human intervention. But in practice such polymathy scarcely exists- scientists are reeling in shock at the information explosion they've touched off. Some causes are linked uncontroversially to eventual effects, but many phenomena, like the ozone hole, still get discovered, not predicted.
We have as well another major problem. While we have indeed driven carbon dioxide above the historical (hundred-thousand-year) range of its recorded natural fluctuation by about 20 percent (70 parts per million), we have a rather feeble understanding of the paramount greenhouse gas: water vapor. Its clouds fill a tenth of the sky. ts atmospheric concentration is so vastly greater than that of C02 as to obscure its effect. And in turn the rest of our significant effluvia-methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), and nitrogen oxides--are dwarfed by the concentration of C02 itself.
It is one thing to understand a "straight-forward" issue like the destruction of stratospheric ozone by chlorine atoms that, being atoms, just don't wear out. They can take decades to wander back to earth; and in the course of its prolonged residence in the stratosphere, each chlorine atom can slay a long succession of ozone molecules.
This is a scientific commonplace--given a pageful of photochemical reactions, and a few reams of hard data from the Antarctic, the conclusion that emerged was an uncontroversial one. High-flying U-2 and balloon-borne Instrumentation has already caught the culprit chlorine in flagrante reacting with some ultracold aerosols to bleach a hole in the polar sky.
So out of a growing scientific consensus, the 1987 Montreal Convention on the Reduction of Chemical Emissions was convened, and from it came an international protocol on reducing the release of chemicals that can loft long-lived chlorine into the sky. Ameliorating the problem of CFCs was relatively easy-the bill will come to only a few tens of billions of dollars, and the uncertainty factor was resolved to the point of sensible political engagement by" only' a decade of research. Had CFC emissions continued unabated into he next century, they might have grown into a global problem. The existing local one will likely last for generations. But the Greenhouse Effect is a much rougher customer.
Tracking the Invisible Man
T0 BEGIN WITH, we're wrestling with not just a dilemma, but the Invisible Man. The temperature records of the last century and a half are by no means geographically uniform and meticulous in their accuracy. Even today's dense grid of meteorological observations is generally biased toward the land and troubled by the self-heating nature of urban areas. Science cannot offer a firm consensus without uncontroversial data, and the half-degree rise of the last century is neither continuous in its course nor a subject of unquestioned belief.
In recent years, three separate and significantly different scientific accounts of the same century-long record of "average" global temperatures, each peer-reviewed and each with its own set of statistical arguments in justification, have been published. They point up, down, and sideways. This is not the dismissal of a century of data, but rather a caution-the warming trend can only he proved by the data, not by a show of hands. The C02 is there, but has the atmosphere begun to notice?
Some say they are 99 percent sure they can perceive it in the data; some say those who say that are completely out of scientific bounds. Others say they see nothing, and many more that they just can't tell-both nature's static-ridden transmission and science's still-crude receivers make the message far from plain. "What bothers a lot of us is, " one modeler remarked, "telling Congress things we are reluctant to say ourselves." 2 Wittgenstein put it better: "Whereof we do not know, thereof we cannot speak."
As a window for laymen to peer through, Global Change and Our Common Future, published in 1989 by National Academy Press, affords a startling contrast. At one end of the spectrum lies the rhetoric of uncertainty that dominates the hard sciences in the study of global change.
It is exemplified by the admission that it will take decades for a clear greenhouse signal to emerge from the noise of climatic variation-witness the dust-bowl drought of the 1930s and the abnormally high Great Lakes water levels of the 1980s-and by the confession that it will take 500 times more computer power to realistically model the course of the quarter-century to come. As one participant in the forum, which produced Global Change, J.D. Mahlman, noted, "Until such decadal-scale fluctuations are understood or are predictable, it will remain difficult to diagnose the specific signals of permanent climate change as they evolve. "
other end of the spectrum lies the rhetoric of
extinction-life-scientists confidently predicting the climate-driven
disappearance of species over the next fifty years. But the objects of
their acute concern are the Norwegian mugwort, the Tibetan dung beetle
(Apbodius hoderen), and other struggling refugees from the last Ice Age.
No one doubts the existence of a dual trend-CO2 is surely rising. And so must its effect on the trapping and transfer of solar warmth between earth and sky. But global surface temperatures have not risen in lock-step with that rise. Given the ubiquity of water vapor, deciding this issue is rather like asking a panel of tasters to savor the difference between two big urns full of cafe au lait. One urn contains five lumps of sugar, the other six-not an easy matter, except to a diabetic.
Neither sugar's sweetness nor its palpable metabolic effect is at issue. But it's not an easy call. So too, scientific perceptions of both where the world is, and the timing of its rendezvous with climatic change, are still in part very much a matter of taste . As is the question of whether scientists from disciplines unrelated to the atmosphere should lend their authority to the promotion of policies that might not prevail on the objective strength-or empirical weakness--of the available evidence. It is a prerogative of the manifesto-writing classes to dragoon as many members as they can of the National Academy of Sciences into signing them (a task too often easier than getting them read).
But the resulting embarras de richesses can he a problem when the signatories outnumber the real experts in the field. The Union of Concerned Scientists got a majority of the membership to sign a declaration calling for a substantial reduction in global C02 emissions by the year 2000. Some members (notably MIT atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen) were appalled and said so, but they failed to make it onto prime-time television.
Vexation and Videotape
THE MOST important arbiters of the environmental policy debate have accordingly become the public television producers whose products bear the Academy's imprimatur when the credits roll. They have tools at their disposal to amplify and mute at will the discordant voices within the Academy. In a fair fight, a satellite or a supercomputer doesn't stand a chance against the editing and special effects studios of New York and Hollywood.
So in terms of political clout, the real centers of power have moved from the locales of computer climate modeling, to the public television stations of Pittsburgh and Boston. We are being shown the planet's future by design, in color and in stereo. Yet the production designers seldom condescend to listen to scientists arguing, calculating, and changing their minds. Intelligibility, not content, is the criterion the producers value most. Their goal is to fossilize a script on videotape, not to question the agenda it may compel, when it is reiterated like a commercial on good gray public television.
I have yet to see a computer climate model whose screen is framed by a proscenium, with a data display set to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and an explanatory voice-over worthy of a network anchor. Yet in watching some of the most bizarre examples of video hype on climate change (e.g., "The Atmosphere in Crisis" episode of The Infinite Voyage), even as my mind is repelled by what is being said, the hair on my head rises together with the rest of the audience's when the clouds part and the music blares. This is semantic aggression run riot-sucking the audience into an hallucinatory Charybdis of swirling images of Gaia profaned.
Mere facts cannot prevail over the raw semiotic power of so excellent a medium, even when its masters may be leading us into a future that may be beyond economic repair-a future in which facts don't count and perceptions of scientific authority can take precedence over mere evidence. I often find myself exhorting atmospheric scientists to concern themselves with this phenomenal mastery, horn of nature television of National Geographic caliber mated with prose worthy of Jonathan Schell. But they just smile ruefully-once was enough-they've seen the genre. In it, computer animated conceptions of Venus's infernal surface vie with stark visions of all-but-airless Mars as alien stand-ins for earthly greenhouse warming and ozone depiction.
Television has little room for doubting scientists. They accordingly know the score. Who, for the sake of skepticism or the honor of the scientific profession, wants to go down in flames like Ceaucescu-locked in the sights of a hostile videocam? The TV crew has got the Maxim gun, and we do not.
riding on a wave of videotape, the usage "global warming" is entering
the vernacular in the present tense as a mock synonym for "climate
change." If only the public read and knew more, and heard and saw less;
if only more scientists (and fewer organizations purporting to represent
them) endeavored to inform the electorate's considerable curiosity-then
we might face better odds in protecting objectivity from the heat of the
In the absence of numbers candidly conveyed, it is all too easy to transmute supposedly quantitative scientific "facts" about the present into a qualitative legal fiction about the future. Popular coverage of the atmospheric sciences tends to neglect the enormous range of concentration (or dilution) of the various gases involved. That concentration ranges from almost 1 percent by volume in the case of water vapor, to hundreds of parts per million carbon dioxide, to 1 part per million methane, to parts per billion-total chlorine. And, finally, down to hundreds of parts per trillion-the individual CFCs.
This eight-order-of-magnitude range lends itself to rhetorical abuse on both sides of the debate. So beware equally of headlines proclaiming a fourfold increase in stratospheric chlorine (it has-from 1 part per billion in 1960 to nearly 4 parts per billion in 1990) or dismissing carbon dioxide with a blasé "Greenhouse a Humbug-C02 up by less than 1/100th of 1 percent!"
This, like "Stratosphere in Crisis--Chlorine Quadruples," may respectively amuse energy lobbyists and substitute refrigerant salesmen, but it profoundly misrepresents the central problem posed by the interaction of climate and technical civilization.
That problem is deep time--deep not on a geological scale, but relative to the time-scale of politics. It has taken humanity ten generations to push C02 up by a bare 70 parts per million. The previous million years of using fire failed to budge it from its ambient range of fluctuation. The fossil record speaks plainly; as deep as we can drill into ancient ice, there is a clear (but how causal?) linkage of C02 and global climate. What wildfires failed to accomplish in the eons before human evolution, the Industrial Revolution has delivered-the acceleration of the history of our interaction with the very air-a bona fide change in the second most important greenhouse gas. And equally disturbing, it has delivered that fearsome engine of change, the chainsaw.
drying effect of not-so-rapid deforestation on the climate of islands
was noted by Columbus half a millennium ago. So there is nothing subtle
or uncertain about regional climate change in Brazil-strip the land of a
rainforest that literally makes rain, and suffer sunstroke in the dust
.I wish C02-induced climate change were as simple. Clearly, a
sharp-toothed carnivore is on the prowl. But we've yet to see a
It's hard to tell- it's only just a foundling pup, and the question of its diet remains to he wrestled with-it might grow into either. But grow it will-slowly, and for a long while undetectably. One of these centuries, we're going to have a real dog in our front yard. But what kind and when? An interdisciplinary consensus on the magnitude of the "greenhouse effect" and its impact on sea levels in the next century won't come cheap-or soon.
Nobody knows if the synergy of all the ill-defined feedbacks will coincide with high-side outcomes of the many inputs that global systems models require. So some will invoke the presumed prudence of assuming the worst. For others, there is Murphy's Second Law: if everything must go wrong, don't bet on it.
Changing the weather on a local scale is categorically a different matter than transforming the climate of the globe. The vast reservoir of CO, locked up in limestone dwarfs the atmosphere's burden by many, many thousandfold. The geological unleashing of a fraction of it in the days of the dinosaurs created an atmosphere far richer in C02 (and some 5 C warmer) than that of today. The tricky question-how much fossil fuel must be burned to do likewise--has a brief answer: all of it.
immensity of the world's reservoirs of coal (like limestone) teaches the
disparity of scale between what humanity can do in a single generation
and what goes on in the course of geological time. We are but builders
of pyramids and hewers of wood, not architects of mountains or
choreographers of continental drift. For all the leverage our technology
affords us, we are a species that fits into a single cubic kilometer,
Turning Up the Heat
THEREIN LIES the political paradox: what we can perceive, we can endeavor to put right. That scar on the Soviet landscape, the vanishing Aral Sea, bears witness to the deranged power of central planning like the mark of Cain. Yet, the diverted rivers that caused it can he swiftly returned to their courses. But the action of the invisible hand of energy economics upon the world is imperceptibly slow. Bear in mind the beaver. Without benefit of godhood, its mindless industry acting over cons has transformed the Canadian landscape into a wilderness of lakes. Likewise ,creating a brave new world with an atmosphere transformed by the total depiction of fossil fuel is a labor of generations yet unborn.
We cannot govern the actions of posterity, but we can teach by our example. We can plant trees and stay the hand of mindless deforestation. We can value the richness of biological diversity and recognize the intellectual poverty of sullen indifference to the majesty of nature. But any pretension to oracular foreknowledge of how, over the next quarter century, the earth will respond to our presence lies in the realm not of science but of intuition. And just as surely, any denial that unrestrained C02 injection can transform the world within five generations lies beyond the pale of both-especially if China's vast coal reserves are exploited at a per capita rate approaching that of the U. S. today.
Politically, I counsel constant vigilance. The salvation of the world affords an enchanting pretext for those predisposed to societal intervention . They have already raised the abolitionist banner, pointing to the prospect of Bangladesh awash and waterskiing down the Mall to the Capitol-a prospect no more likely in my lifetime than nothing happening. My personal expectation-and I reserve the right to change my mind if the evidence does-runs more to centimeter-per-year rises in sea level and a lot more climatic variability than actual temperature rise in that lifetime.
There is a precedent of sorts, at the periphery of human history, of a temperature change fully as large (5 to 6'C) as even the most pessimistic estimates for the century to come. It happened an eon ago, and its onset was so sudden as to raise the contemporary question of climate responding in an abruptly nonlinear way to humanity's growth. Yet mankind muddled through the last Ice Age's death throes and has done rather well since, despite a 100-meter rise in sea levels!
But unlike the regression of the glaciers, a reversal of the course of the Industrial Revolution is not to be meekly borne. An examination of the history of energy policy over the last two decades reveals some unexpected and paradoxical trends in the relationship between environmental awareness and actual emissions of the greenhouse gases.
In the aftermath of the Arab oil shock of the early 1970s, computer models not of climate, but of resource depiction and energy costs, played a major role in determining energy policies. The most egregious projections, immortalized in textbooks by neo-Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich, had the United States running out of natural gas in 1989. Yet they inspired the National Academy of Sciences to commission a massive study with conclusions (promote energy efficiencies and develop coal and oil shale resources) reflecting a belief in continuous energy cost inflation.
turn of the century, a coal-fired electrical station that was 8 percent
efficient was a state-of-the-art wonder. A solid half-century of
progress followed, at a rate of better than a half-percent a year. By
the 1960s, such facilities had achieved new-plant efficiencies of over
40 percent. Back then, coal was literally dirt-cheap. But with the
coming of the 1974 oil shock, it was assumed that as energy costs soared
into the 1980s, market forces would compel heroic efforts to raise the
thermodynamic efficiency of such plants to the limits of high
technology-a process fuel cost savings would amply justify.
So we are entering the 1990s about 1 5 percent worse off in terms of C02 emission per kilowatt-hour than we were a generation ago. This is pretty close to a worst-case scenario whatever one's view on the near-term effect of greenhouse emissions: the largest single term in America's fuel equation-coal-fired electricity-has been running retrograde to progress in materials science and combustion technology for twenty years. Yet both here and in Japan, science has lately begun to deliver the Right Stuff for raising its efficiency-materials able to withstand higher temperatures and stresses for longer times. But they are being applied more to aircraft engines than to power stations.
Together with the realization that energy costs do show a shallow but steady inflationary trend, this suggests that we need not he idle while awaiting newer and more elegant generations of climate models and nuclear technology-or that Holy Grail of applied physics, hot fusion that truly emulates the power of the sun.
So there may indeed be a solution to the profound uncertainty that engenders reluctance when we are offered insurance against C02 bracket creep-at a trillion-dollar premium. Consider a double Scots Verdict: even if the verdict on global warming is not proven, we could still save a bundle of hard cash if a canny enough energy policy can be found.
Rather than mandating reduced consumption of fuel and its Luddite consequences here and in the growing industrial sector of the Third World, let us consider getting more Kilowatt-hours by literally turning up the heat. A policy that promotes raising the minimum thermodynamic efficiency of hotter-running fuel-burning power stations by say 8 percent (to around 44 percent) by the year 2000 might be paid for by the very fuel it saves. Neither we nor our posterity can object to saving ourselves some cash-thrift has as few enemies as prodigality in fuel consumption has friends outside OPEC. And should the presently hung scientific jury reach a Scots Verdict in the interminable trial of Earth v. The Greenhouse Gases, little macro-economic mischief will have been done.
But should nature follow art, and oblige the environmental televangelists with an unambiguously toasty third millennium -- when I have spoken of uncertainty in this essay, I have meant what I said-the retrospective imposition of such a policy regime will he a source of some satisfaction to all, save hardened libertarians. But how will stewardship be redefined in the longer term-the century or so it would take to double C02 at the present pace?
OPTIONS DO exist. Given alternatives to power derived from fossil fuels, the whole fuel cycle can he redefined, with hydrogen replacing carbon. There is another major (and revolutionary) technical fix: we can liquefy air and burn fuels in pure oxygen, and condense the resulting C02 with the frigid liquid nitrogen that is the by-product of that liquefaction. But both hydrogen fuels and systems that recaptureCO2 are (like solar and wind power) dauntingly expensive.
So even today, in the midst of climatic ambiguity, even the most chlorophyllic environmentalists are having stirrings of conscience about their adamant refusal to acknowledge an unambiguous fact of physics.
surely as C02 can absorb the warming infrared, the strong nuclear force
is millions of times stronger than the chemical bonds that are burst in
unleashing heat from coal. Rather than embarking down the soft energy
path that leads back beyond the Industrial Revolution's roots into a
future dark age, the Greens should pause to consider the effect on the
environment of renewing and perfecting our mastery of the atom's pale
The sooner their paranoia about nuclear waste disposal is laid to rest alongside that waste itself-deep in the and badlands, well secured, and as soon as the criminal mischief of Chernobyl is buried under the foundations of a reactor both safe and sanely contained, the sooner will civilization cease to he obliged to make a chemical waste repository of the sky.
So let all summon the courage to be kind to our environment. For if the bulk of the arsenals of Armageddon are indeed fading into historical irrelevancy, what better fate for them than to disappear as smokeless fuel into newer and more tractable nuclear furnaces? Better they light the world for a generation than heat it for a baleful instant.
And better too that cooler heads than those that dominate the hot media prevail in informing the Congress and the electorate. For this much is certain: science needs to see the illumination of today's hot-tempered environmental policy debates. If light is to prevail over heat, many will have to simmer down and reflect they have lately been doing or counseling.
If candor prevails, climate professionals will realize once again that laymen too can recognize cant when they hear it and cartoons when they see them. Scientists would do well to recall that insight's inevitable corollary-the neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist if it is to he respected.
For as the thaw continues in the Eastern bloc, we see emerging from beneath the glacial recent facade of science in the Soviet Union grim evidence of what happened when science was last subordinated to the true believer's agendas for changing the world .Whether the trial of Galileo or the tyranny of Lysenko, at all times and in all polities, science politicized is science betrayed.
Russell Seitz, from 1985 to 1989, was a visiting scholar and associate of Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. His writings have appeared in Science, Nature, and Technology Review as well as the Economist, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and The National Interest
'Professor Alan Robock, University of Maryland, quoted in Science 244 June 2, 1989): 1041-43.]
'To add to the confusion, the CFCs are roughly 1000 times more efficient than carbon dioxide as absorbers of infrared, making them significant greenhouse gases and major agents of stratospheric cooling: some scientists fear the Invisible Man might he hiding in his Doppelganger's shadow! While stratospheric cooling is perhaps the least controversial of the effects at issue, it is conspicuously unpublicized.
'I am indebted for both Columbus's observation about Caribbean deforestation and the opening quote to a speech delivered by Presidential Science Adviser D. Allan Bromley before the National Press Club in April 1990.
(From View, May 25, 2005; by Jerry Pournelle)
There are several issues here, all twisted together. Those whose funding depends on the "consensus" that leads to the Kyoto conventions find it expedient to wrap them all together into one issue -- Do You Care About Preserving The Earth or Are You a Monster -- but that isn't a very useful thing to do.
First issue: is Earth warming? Yes, of course it is; this is supported by all the evidence. Moreover, it has been warming since about 1800, and we all know it: measure growing seasons everywhere (look in old Almanacs if you like for planting dates and harvesting dates), thickness of the ice in North America (we all know that cannon were dragged across frozen rivers in 1776 in places where the ice no longer gets thick enough to walk on, or never forms at all now), retreat of glaciers all across the world and in both hemispheres. Yes. Earth is warming.
Second issue: is this due to human causes? Not very likely. The very trends that show warming since 1800 also show that the warming has been pretty uniform over that time, and modern industrialization didn't put enough CO2 into the atmosphere to matter until well into the 20th Century. Indeed, early coal burning probably put enough particulates into the upper atmosphere to have a cooling effect. Certainly the 1815 eruption of Tambura had a distinctly cooling effect (causing the notorious "year without a summer" which was so gloomy that Mary Shelley wrote the gothic novel Frankenstein because the Shelley's and Byron's weren't having any fun on Lake Geneva due to lousy weather). But despite a glitch in the trend during 1815 the warming has been pretty well linearly constant from around 1800 to 1960, at which point the warming continued but perhaps less rapidly. This is hard to determine because this was when we began better instrumentation, but that itself can cause ambiguities since we can measure temperature effect undoubtedly caused by humans -- cities for example -- which are highly local.
Third Issue: is CO2 increasing? Yes. Is it having an effect on Global Warming? Probably, but it's hard to see because the trend in warming from 1800 is so strong that a small addition from CO2 isn't easily seen (if at all; there's some controversy on whether the effect has been observed, but no one seriously contends that it is large yet). There is serious debate on the future effects of CO2 on global warming, and people with good credentials take all sides of the issue.
Effects of CO2: the best paper I have seen is http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm and I have yet to have one of the environmentalists give me a serious refutation of what that paper says.
Fourth Issue: is Global Warming likely to continue? Surprisingly, we don't know. If there is a serious possibility of serious global warming we ought to be looking into ways of doing something about it. Alas, the climate trends are such that it's as likely we are in for another period of global cooling as warming, and I can remember when climatology predictions at AAAS meetings were about the possibility of new Ice Ages; Stephen Schneider who now mostly talks about Global Warming wrote The Genesis Strategy http://www.wilmonie.com/cgi-bin/wmb455/105317.html about preparations for global cooling not all that long ago. I took the photograph of him and Margaret Mead that was used for promoting the book. It's not a bad book although like much of Stephen's work it tends to get polemical; which is to say he feels strongly about what he concludes.
Fifth Issue: what should we do? Note that this is policy, not science. My recommendation is that we spend as much as we must to obtain an understanding of what's going on and what we face: should we be preparing for Global Warming or a New Ice Age? Or nothing at all? Clearly the different courses of action are mutually exclusive, and except for the "do nothing" alternative are likely to be expensive.
Why Do Nothing? Doing nothing seems wrong, but in fact might be proper: certainly we should Do Nothing until we know what it is we are Doing Something about. As to why "Nothing" may be the right answer, recall that the Vikings settled Greenland, and prior to about 1325 there was a long period of warm climates, long growing seasons, and generally mild weather: Good Weather. It may be that we are warming back up to that point. Those concerned about CO2 are right to point out that if we have a warming trend to an optimum the CO2 warming may take us well past that point to something we don't like. However, there's little evidence that will happen, and there's even less that it will happen suddenly: the Earth is big and the oceans are large, and warming up the whole mess takes lots of time because there are so many thermal sinks. We have no historical evidence of sudden onset warming.
We do have considerable evidence of sudden onset cooling: England went from deciduous trees to snow and ice in under 100 years in the last Ice Age, and the Little Ice Age came on very quickly. If we're warming up, preparations will be needed but there should be time -- and things will get better for quite a while before they get worse, so there will be more money to spend on Doing Something. If however it's ICE that's coming, things get worse before they get awful, there will be less money, and less time. Schneider's Genesis Strategy is a start on what we might do.
And that, it seems to me, is about where we are.
So: since this seems so reasonable (at least to me) why is there such bitter controversy and so many really horrible charges thrown about, with people denounced, and attempts made to get people thrown out of academic positions and professional societies for having contrary views?
Well, there's a LOT of money at stake. The "environmentalists" generally charge anyone who challenges their conclusions and policy recommendations with being in the pay of the evil oil companies -- and also work very very hard to see that every nickel of funding from other sources goes to people with a big stake in the "consensus" position who won't disrupt the gravy train. When we feared an Ice Age there wasn't a lot of money for some reason; but Global Warming caught on, and there's lots and lots of money for studies and academic positions and travel to conferences in Rio and Kyoto, and if that dries up -- who will support the "consensus" people? I admit that's a pretty harsh view, and it probably doesn't apply to more than a small percentage of the "consensus" defenders: but it emphatically does apply to many of the more vociferous, and particularly to those who go about denouncing those who oppose them.
It may be possible to have rational debates on climatology, but my experience has been that if the opening arguments don't convince you to join the "consensus" then either you will be denounced, or communications will simply cease. That happened in the discussions with NASA's Gavin Schmidt [email@example.com] here on this web site, and that was neither the first nor the last time.
But the facts remain: the warming trend was going on well before the CO2 levels began escalating. The Earth has been both warmer and cooler in historical times. Computer models produce predictions, but none of those models can duplicate the past (start with 1900 and run a 100 year projection that "predicts" the realities of the Year 2000; or start with 1950 and predict 2000 with the model; or heck, just give us a good picture of what is going to happen next year, or this summer). Observation scientists tend to be less enthusiastic about the "consensus" and many reject it entirely. And there are counter-trends: We don't know if we are headed for an Ice Age or Global Warming, but for a while at least Warming produces a more benign world with more resources to spend. And the return of the Ice Ages would be very bad.
And many of the environmentalist protagonists use tactics that they would (and do) deplore if used by anyone else.
This graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Instrumental_Temperature_Record.png only goes back to 1850 but I'm having trouble matching it to your analysis, and this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:1000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png goes back 1000 years and it doesn't seem to jibe too well either.
Both are well sourced although it's still hard to judge bias; perhaps you could disclose your sources?
I doubt that you remember me, the last time we talked it was about relative trade volumes between the US and each of the two Chinas.
Best regards, Mark A Haney
To which I replied :
And received the response:
Ahh, thanks, Jerry. Oerlemans' analysis was included in the graph at the second link I sent you, although it's admittedly difficult to see in the midst of nine other squiggly lines.
If I may take the liberty of paraphrasing you as saying: "Almost everything shows a nearly linear warming from 1800 to 1960, with some slowing in the trend after that point", it strikes me that that phrasing would be about as inaccurate as "Nearly everything shows the hockey stick."
If instead one stated: "Most analyses show a roughly linear warming from 1800 to the present", it would be hard to quibble with that.
Take care, Mark
And on reflection I must agree. I will defend my original formulation as being more accurate than what has been said about the "hockey stick", but Haney's more nuanced phrasing is more accurate: in either case the conclusion seems obvious, and the environmentalist movement does not seem to have answered it; and there is no hockey stick in there.
We have comments from Gavin Schmidt as well but I am still studying the references he sent, particularly the observation data; more shortly.
And there is commentary mail.
============================================= (July 25, 2005)
The Monday, July 25, LA Times op ed page features an article by Senator Dianne Feinstein entitled "U.S. an environmental slacker." While writers are not responsible for headlines, this one is a fair summary. (I have searched for this article on line but apparently it isn't up yet; when it is I'll put the URL here.)
She opens: "Polar ice caps are shrinking, glaciers are melting, and coastlines are falling away. the culprit? Global warming caused by burning fossil fuels. Unless we take strong action, these conditions will only get worse.
"For too long, the Bush administration has led people to believe that this isn't happening, and if it was, the remedies would only hurt our economy. The administration's inaction on global warming ignores the findings of scientist throughout the world, and could imperil both our nation and the rest of the globe."
It continues in that vein for some time, and, surprisingly endorses the Kyoto Accords. It does not, surprisingly, endorse nuclear power plants or space power satellites as an alternative to fossil fuel. It does conclude "It is truly shameful that the biggest industrialized nation on Earth is leaving it up to individual, cities, and states to take action on global warming." And of course calls for federal action.
This is shameful on several levels. Either Feinstein is an idiot, or she is mendacious. One also wonders just how large an interest her husband holds in Chinese companies, which would benefit enormously from US adoption of the Kyoto accords (as would a number of other "developing" countries which are pretty well exempt from the disasters Kyoto would impose if adopted). Of course she must know there is no actual chance of the US Senate adopting the Kyoto accords, so she isn't averse to making a bit of political hay out of this bed of tares.
At this point one understands the temptation to agree when people say "How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving." Or hers.
So. Is there global warming? Certainly. We knew that in childhood. The Hudson doesn't freeze solid any longer, and the brackish canals of Holland don't freeze hard enough to skate on every winter. The glaciers are retreating. The Earth is warming and it has been since about 1800, with an acceleration in about 1875, and another acceleration in the early part of the XXth Century.
Do greenhouse gasses contribute to it? They certainly should. Arrhenius calculated the probable effects before World War I, and for all the sophistication of climate models there wasn't a lot of progress for a hundred years after his calculations.
How much do they contribute, and will Kyoto do much to stop things? Unknown, and no.
Don't all scientists say the opposite? No. There is a consensus that the Earth is warming, having been colder from about 1400 to 1800 (and having been warmer than now from about 800 to 1300). There isn't a lot of dissent from that view. There is a consensus that CO2 contributes to warming; there is no consensus on just how much it contributes; and there is none whatever among scientists that Kyoto will do a damned thing except enrich some people, beggar others, slow down the industrialized nations' economies, and employ a lot of "regulatory scientists" -- the kind of bureaucrats who gravitate into regulatory agencies and give themselves titles generally using the word "scientist" but who do no science. (See Edith Efron The Apocalyptics for a good description of what these people do.)
Should we be doing something about this uncontrolled experiment of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere? Are there not some potentially disastrous scenarios? Might we not trigger something irretrievable? Possibly; which is why we should be devoting a lot of effort and resources into (1) recording exactly what is happening including geological and astrophysical changes, and (2) developing real alternatives to fossil fuels. Nuclear power comes to mind. If Feinstein had used her scare tactics to get people on her side of the fence to stop opposing nuclear power, she would still be mendacious but at least she'd be trying to do something useful. Her present stance is just silly.
But then her lips are moving...
Subject: Feinstein - GW
Diane Feinstein and Global warming/Kyoto
She also is a hypocrite.
Remember the 1997 Senate resolution that passed 97-0 telling Gore and the other negotiators not to accept the Kyoto treaty if it failed to include China and India participation.
She was not among the 3 missing votes.
But I had forgotten! Thank you.
The July 8 issue of Science magazine contains an article titled: Ocean Science: Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World's Oceans which is also somewhat reflected by another article in the same issue. This one titled: Ocean Science: Warming the World's Oceans. Both articles cite computer models which cannot find natural solutions to the warming of the oceans, and default (my phrase) to anthropogenic warming. The latter article, by Hegerl and Bindoff states in its closing paragraph:
"The historical ocean data cover a relatively short time span(~50 years) and their spatial coverage is inhomogeneous, particularly in the less accessible Arctic and Southern Oceans. Therefore, it is still a challenge to validate more complex details of ocean physics in climate models than was done in (1). Further work is needed to determine more accurately and in more spatial detail how temperature and surface salinity changes penetrate into the ocean. We also need to better understand the ocean's major modes of climate variability, particularly on time scales of a decade or longer, and to quantify the likelihood of sudden ocean change [such as a collapse of the thermohaline circulation (4)]. Another question is how ocean biogeochemistry and ecosystems, and thus the global carbon cycle, will respond to global warming. Therefore, it is important that we keep probing the world's oceans."
I have not included the referenced sources but the magazine is available for anyone wishing to read these articles. The point is that there is work being done, and more needs to be done, on the oceans. As the bulk of the earth's oceans are in the southern hemisphere, that is one place where a better understanding is needed. As I am not qualified to critique the particulars of these articles, I would suggest that long term ocean circulation patterns are the primary source for the earths weather variations, but I hope that these things are strongly investigated. I also would suspect that the US Navy has temperature data, both surface and subsurface that would be useful for these investigations. After all, the Navy has been exploring and recording data on the oceans for probably half a century. Maybe it needs to be declassified or something.
Charles B. Simkins
I would argue for a lot more work on this, and a lot more record keeping. We have the means now to take measurements and send them to a central office. How much the Navy might have that isn't publicly available I don't know.
On Ocean Data and Global Warming
Subject: Ocean Data
>>After all, the Navy has been exploring and recording data on the oceans for probably half a century. Maybe it needs to be declassified or something.<<
I suggest phoning Vladimir Putin. The Soviets undertook a massive multi-decade survey of the world's ocean temperatures, salinity and other measurable qualities with their ubiquitous hi-tech fishing trawler fleets. I mean the ones outfitted with forests of antennae and other advanced big fish and big bird finders. This data, undoubtedly extending back into the early 1950s, can most likely be purchased for a fraction of the cost of still more non-performance linked 'grants' to the Man-Makes-All-Global-Warming-With-CO2-And-We'll-Save-You-In-Exchange-For-Totalitarian-Power-Over-Your-Life* priesthood.
* p.s. The cloned character of the Global Warming priesthood's credo, absolutely identical to discredited 'Scientific Communism's' sales pitch, is what originally inclined me towards agnostic beliefs about man-made global warming. Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick served as my Charles Darwin, confirming me into a shameless atheist about man-made global warming.
Subject: Navy sea data
When I was driving ships we used to send our weather observations to the World Meterological Office as unclassified data. It included sea surface temperature.
My information is dated, but such things change slowly. I would check with WMO first, and then the Navy.
This link is a press report of Navy/Weather Channel collaboration…
July 28, 2005
[I have asked for comments from some advisors on the following, and it is subject to modification when I cool down a bit. It may be over the top. It may not be.]
I came upon this link today and thought I'd pass it on. http://aip.org/fyi/2005/112.html
The American Institute of Physics is very upset that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) sent letters to certain scientists requesting information regarding the scientists' Global Warming research.
Furthermore, according to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Barton, et al, "have sent an investigative letter to Dr. Mann and his colleagues that raises charges that the scientific community has put to rest, and ask for detailed scientific explanations that your Committee undoubtedly lacks the expertise to review."
What do you and your readers think? Is this a valid exercise of Congressional power? Or political meddling?
Very truly yours,
Lee Keller King Chandler, Arizona
First, before it's possible to discuss this, everyone will have to read the referenced material posted on the AIP site, but also pay attention to what prompted it.
The AIP is grandstanding: here is part of what they said to the Congress:
Note well what is said there. Congress has the responsibility to send the tax collector to extract money from the people; to send it to the SCIENTISTS; but not to look into what has been done with the money. The hell there is no legitimate purpose to an investigation. Mann trumpeted his "hockey stick" ( http://www.john-daly.com/hockey/hockey.htm ) but repeatedly refused to make public his model or his data. If he has since done so and the National Science Foundation has that model and data, I am not aware of it. (I am told he has now done so. I see the claim. I am not sure I have seen the verification: if one takes the data he sent in and the model he gives does one get the result? What assumptions are involved here? I have seen no critique of this model; the last I saw was a refusal. Now on July 15 there is this: http://www.realclimate.org/Mann_response_to_Barton.pdf which says all necessary and proper materials are attached. I haven't gone over the attachments.) I await someone without a horse in this race who will examine the attachments and tell me what they mean. I hope I can be excused for not instantly believing all that Mann said given the history of the hockey stick and the political uses made of it.
Congress takes our money and gives it to these people and they dare say that there is no legitimate purpose to an investigation of how the money was used to finance what became a report intended to alarm the public? Really?
OK: I have stated the case in an extreme form. Yes, I understand that it is usually a good idea to insulate the funding source from the scientific investigation. But when Big Science does not follow the rules of science -- and a secret proprietary model that is used to scare the holy hell out of the public is definitely not part of the rules of science -- then those who put up the money have every right to go ask what is going on.
As to "balanced hearings" the Kyoto advocates have done everything they can to avoid that. Balance to them is nine people who passionately believe in the consensus model, one who has doubts, and five kuckoos who believe in Creation Science and Bishop Usher on Creation in 4004 BC. Balance to some of these people is like the AAAS sessions on The Bell Curve in which they happily denounced a book they had not bothered to read. Or the AAAS sessions on Nuclear Winter. Or the AAAS sessions on Strategic Defense.
Recall that the AIP is the outfit that condemned Strategic Defense on the basis of a "study" in which there were 83 identifiable errors, every single one of them in favor of the AIP thesis that strategic defense is impossible. The AIP has long since ceased to be a scientific organization; it is now a lobby that favors unlimited money being poured out to its clients and members, with no supervision by those forced to pay for it.
Those who have followed the Global Warming debates here have been told that "science" is just trying to be "scientific." Science didn't seem to get into the act when Mann foisted his Hockey Stick on us http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba478/ with a widely publicized report based on his proprietary models. The AIP doesn't seem to be very critical of that; but let the people who have to pay for this junk ask what is going on, and they are up on their high horses.
I had to deal with these political operatives disguised as scientists during the Star Wars and Nuclear Winter discussions. I see they have hardly changed their spots. I fear I have no confidence in the independence of the AIP staff, having seen them in action.
Now: I am told that there have been adjustments in the Hockey Stick, whatever that means, and that the proprietary model has been released, and there are adjustments in temperatures inferred from tree rings and other such climate data. I am not sure what any of that means.
I'm also told that it is mad of me to support Congressional supervision of spending public money on matters that greatly influence public policy. That may be mad, but it is a madness I am not likely to be cured of. If you take public money you must expect public inspectors to look over your shoulder as you spend it.
Public funding of science in matters that influence public policy is a very serious matter; pretending to some kind of scientific indifference is dangerous; and the track record of the AIP on Nuclear Winter and Star Wars is a definite indication of an agenda held so strongly that they don't put science first: they didn't then, so why should we assume they do so now?
And this from a physicist I have some confidence in:
For what it's worth, my comments:
1. I can't speak for science in general, but such Congressional investigative actions regarding federal funding are far from unknown and there is no principle on which the field of federally-funded science should be exempt. That's not to say that if it were my ox being gored, I wouldn't respond in the same way.
2. I concur that, like most major scientific organizations, the AIP has a pronounced liberal lean (apparently on the theory that socialized science is subsidized science) and a tendency to discount research paid for either with private funding or with defense and military funding. So your concluding statement, while semantically loaded, is rigorously accurate. (I'd probably never say it, but it is accurate.)
3. Speaking to the heart of the matter, the core issue appears to be whether Mann has, in fact, released his models for an adequate peer review (including scientists of the opposite ideological bent). All I know about the debate has been on your web site, so I haven't gone looking for the evidence, but that should be a matter for fact rather than public debate. If, as the AIP spokesman states, the relevant data is available for peer review, the there may be no need for a Congressional inquiry -- which is NOT the same as saying that Congress has no right to conduct one. If not - and I'm convinced that the persons pressing the Inquiry belive that it hasn't been published/peer reviewed properly - then there is every reason for an Inquiry into why such a politically charged result has not been peer reviewed adequately.
Bottom line: if the evidence is there, tell us where; if it's not there, produce it. I concur.
So. We will see from here.
The opposite view is given here: http://www.realclimate.org/ where you will recognize some of the names involved. Note well that to get public funding in this matter you need to satisfy peers who also receive such funding (those whose funding come from non-public sources are often excluded from the peer reviewing panels on the grounds of non-independence; the assumption is that public funding makes for independent views, something not entirely clear to me).
And a comment from an old veteran of the science Wars when I said none of this hockey stick wars stuff makes much sense to me, and I can make any trend I want if I start with a sine wave and I get to choose the end and beginning: Yes, you are right, but that is a bipartisan problem as we are faced with choosing between a Vancouver Penny Stock mining economist's taste in rubber graph paper,and the Sliding Scale School of UN climate homiletics.
Which is a clever way of putting it.
I return to my original position. Stop funding models and conclusions and start funding some actual data gathering capabilities...
This from Russell Seitz is highly relevant: apologies for the fuzziness of the images, but as the text will show, there is enough information in them to make the point.
This is not a graph
By Russell Seitz Copyright MMV
Until the Cold War‘s end scientists were the heavy artillery of the peace movement ,trading salvos with Apocalyptic televangelists on the Tonight show . But with the Soviet demise, and the Green Revolution, Helen Caldicott and Paul Ehrlich’s prophesies of nuclear and Malthusian doom decayed , and they faded from prime time. But peace seldom lasts .Now generation Y activists are bombarding the popular imagination with shrapnel made of a strange new alloy , created by tossing climate science and semiotics into America’s cultural melting pot.
Having known Sin at Hiroshima, science soon made the acquaintance of advertising-- the climate debate is above all about the merchandising of ideas. Those with the steely surface glint of hard science look great under the studio lights , and the creation and manipulation of symbols in the service of politics is returning science to Talk TV, .
The UN sponsored the International Geophysical Year back when Esso was planting fake tiger tails in the tanks of cars with tailfins ,and Ambassador Bolton was trick or treating for UNICEF. But sometime after Earth Day 1 UNESCO and the United Nation’s Climate Change Program’s PR team became hardwired to the Green multinationals . They spend billions on advertising. Their knowledge of climate’s future may be shaky, but they know enough about image making to realize that an item of sports equipment can serve as well as a plush animal as a mascot.
Global warming’s current totem is a squirrelly reconstruction of the last 1000 years of global temperatures -- a computer drawn curve with a kink in its 20th century tail that leaves it looking like a hockey stick .To Gore voters, this sporty icon signifies the approaching end of the world, but Bush fans fear it symbolizes the end of science itself. They could both be wrong. what if the stick is just a symbol created to change opinion without the effort of informing it?
The current fracas over the stick’s significance between the BBC world service and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal may mark the opening of the second half of a Hundred Years War. In 1954, a Look cover drew an imagined connection between A-bomb tests and changeable weather. Since then, computer animation has become the Orwellian medium of enforced illusion par excellence - a supercomputer with an airbrush can run rings around Disney’s Fantasia. In 1984 one of these fearsome engines in the service of a PR firm transformed Carl Sagan’s ‘Nuclear winter’ climate model from a ghost in a machine into part of the cold war’s imaginary landscape. Then the Cold War ended , and science television started to get really weird.
The atmosphere is the earth’s most complex dynamic system, and the nuances of its scientific description make the works of many modern French philosophers seem models of clarity. So forget Roland Barthes - when the semiotic going gets really surreal, the tough turn to Rene Magritte.His painted world resembles an Acme Products catalog, full of gravity defying hats, and windows that open inward on infinity.
Since his famous picture of a pipe is entitled Cici n’est pas une Pipe: "This Is Not A Pipe”, he’d instantly grasp the scientific truth about the "hockey stick”: This Is Not A Graph! It’s a collage. Some think such artistry symbolizes a conspiracy to rewrite scientific history. But scientists go to the climate wars with the data they’ve got, and it often comes with the dread words “Some Assembly Required.” When confronting complexity, science uses accounting practices carved in rubber, not stone.
The “hockey stick “ blade is hammered out of a solid block of thermometer readings, but its 800 year long shaft is cobbled together from proxy data from dead tree rings and bits of coral. No wonder critics found chinks in the stick’s statistical armor that made _ Nature_, ‘s editors send the stick’s authors to the penalty box to fix what was broke. This they did, and the evidence for medieval warming back where it belongs, in plain sight. In short, science worked. Yet neither side can claim this slapshot as a goal.
Hype is as perennial a problem in science as the securities business, but hype is not synonymous with hoax. Few doubt the temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution, or construe the absence of ancient evidence as proof of future climate running amok. But many seem to covet their own hypotheses—some want the UN climate program’s signature hockey stick redrawn as a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant.
Perhaps we should humor them. We live on images in a time when Photoshopped Presidential records fool network anchors, and ubergeeks can reconstitute a Warhol Campbell’s Soup can out of microdot portraits of Suerat Such works may not be masterpieces, but they tells us something about the temptation facing post-modern science as well as art.
Where does this leave us relative to Kyoto and all that? In a word, dissed. Computer modelers have been preying on policy analysts since the days of the Club of Rome. It’s still a problem; but Moore’s Law cuts right and left. The growing strengths and diminishing limits of computational power justify the millions that not just UN bureaucrats, but free market commodity analysts pour into improving long-range climate modeling. Feed them garbage, and the best models still behave like colicky elephants. But satisfy their insatiable appetite for hard data, and " man made global warming”, emerges not as a metaphysical entity but a phenomenon real as death, taxes-- and inflation.
America’s fuel consumption is as well defined as it money supply, and just as surely as printing money drives inflation, rising emissions of CO2 raise the rate of energy absorption from the sun. Even when inflation is low, we look to policy to manage, not ignore it. The pace of warming may be glacial, but it never rests, for CO2 remains in circulation for a century .The measured 3 microwatts per meter squared per day of solar gain represents neither a crisis nor a catastrophe, but a respectable problem in search of an honest solution. Heaven help the Fed if it ignored even a puny rate of inflation over such a stretch of time.
It is hard to undo the misrepresentation of science to the public. Few scientists and fewer popularizers succeed in setting complex issues straight- even Michael Crichton admits that Hitchcock’s admonition "It's Just a Movie “ applies equally to State of Fear and The Day After Tomorrow . Environmentalists may hiss when Crichton appears on talk show screens, but his disarming candor lends credit to his techno-thrillers unlikely silent hero- transparency in science policy.
He thinks groups and laboratories that examine global questions ought to expose all their data and methods to scrutiny on the Internet. It’s an intriguing idea, but the political neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist in order to be respected - a cause the UN’s climate secretariat certainly cannot help by abetting environmental surrealism yet again. Some evidently will never forgive or forget its role in the Soviet endorsement of ‘nuclear winter’ in 1984.
‘Nuclear Winter ‘ ultimately perished because of the ability of intelligent laymen to recognize hype when they hear it and cartoons when they saw them. Today, computer literacy threatens practitioners of statistical deception just as the rise of the Blogosphere does those of journalistic deceit. But at the same time , pixilated images have made it hard to distinguish myth from natural history- computer animation is an advertising medium of unprecedented force.
The climate debate amply evidences that animating the Apocalypse is no longer an aberration. It has become accepted as a best practice by true believers on both sides of science’s rapidly eroding center. PBS erstwhile political neutrality only compounds such abuse, as does its custom of putting past polemics into self-reinforcing reruns. When focus groups determine how an arsenal of special effects will redefine the environment on TV, mere facts cannot prevail over digital reality. If computer animations divorced from data supplant science in the political arena, semiotics’ new big stick may transform from blunt instrument into a deadly weapon in the fight for control of popular culture,.
It’s tempting for free-market think tanks to turn to a best selling novel .But when the issue is science rather than policy, those inviting Michael Crichton to speak should avail themselves of his considerable sense of the sardonic- Congo was clearly not intended as an African strategic resources handbook, The Andromeda Strain as a Bioterror response manual, or Prey as a remedy for nanohype , . The scientific literature may not be a page turner, but policy makers are more likely to dream the dreams of reason if they fall asleep reading peer reviewed journals than blockbusters that terrify by design. .
Warming hits 'tipping point'.
Does anyone know about this? The source is the Guardian, and it cites a report in New Scientist. While both these publications are well written, they also have distinct views, and neither is generally considered a primary outlet for scientific discoveries. According to the report this area is thawing for the first time since the end of the Ice Ages 11,000 years ago. While that may all be true, and there has never been a warming period like ours since that time, this seems a bit startling. I guess that before I get too excited I would like to hear from sources other than the Guardian and New Scientist.
Subject: Siberian permafrost link
Here is a link regarding the Siberian permafrost: http://www.physorg.com/news5769.html
Regards, Jim Laheta
Which is a UPI report of what New Scientist said. It isn't even a primary interview with the Russians. It's no more a primary source than anything else. And see below
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
the Siberia warming story piqued my interest, so I decided to dig out the source. The only thing I got (via scholar.google.com) is
Lapshina, E.D., Kirpotin, S.N.: "Natural dynamics of sub-arctic landscapes in the west siberian plain as indicator of global changes of climate". In: Science and Technology, 2003. Proceedings KORUS 2003. The 7th Korea-Russia International Symposium. Volume 4, 2003. pp. 39-45. ISBN: 89-7868-617-6.
Moreover (and the following has all been found on the web):
A Judith Marquand is listed as a member of the School of Geography, Oxford University, but she is not on the staff list of this school. There is someone of that name at the "Oxford Centre for the Environment, Ethics, and Society", which has a defunct homepage (www.mansfield.ox.ac.uk/ocees), and which seems to be based at the Mansfield College, Oxford. No trace of someone with that name on the academic staff list of this college, though.
ISI web of knowledge (portalt.wok.mimas.ac.uk/portal.cgi) lists exactly two publications of "J Marquand" in this area of research, namely
D. Banks, A. M. Adam, V. Bayliss, G. M. Hogg, W. Bleuten, M. Dees, O. V. Karnachuk, K. Le Blansch, J. Marquand: "Environmental Protection in the Tomsk Region of the Russian Federation: A Case Study", Environmental Management, Volume 26, Number 5, November 2000, p. 585.
<same authors>, <same title>, <same journal>, Volume 26, Number 1, July 2000, p. 35-46.
My guess is that the first paper is the abstract for the second one.
According to ISI, none of these papers has been cited by someone else.
In these papers, Marquand's address is given as Holymoor Consultancy, Derbyshire, (probably www.holymoor.co.uk). No sign of someone of that name at this consultancy service, neither in the staff list nor in the publication report.
Searching for Kirpotin looked dangerous, since I do not know what transliteration is used. The only thing I could dig out of ISI was
Kirpotin SN: "Life forms of organisms as patterns of organization and spatial ecological factors", Zhurnal Obshchei Biologii 66 (3): 239-250 May-June 2005,in Russian.
No citations either on ISI.
Thank you. The melting of a region of permafrost that has remained frozen for 11,000 years is an important matter, and one would expect to see it widely reported and investigated, with more references to the scientific literature. Which is not to say it is not real, but until I see something other than a report in New Scientist repeated by the Guardian, I do not think it worth a very great deal of attention. Which is not to say that a less partisan source will not be found; but until it is, I'm not revising my views on global warming.
Thanks again for digging into this for me.
August 14 2005
Well, the data have changed. In this week's _Science_, three papers point out that the discrepancy between the satellite radiometer record of warming and the climate models are due to the satellites drifting as their orbits decay in ways that confound the corrections used for a generation.. The standard interpretation of their data, by the University of Alabama's doyen of satellite thermometry, Professor Roy Spencer, used a model for diurnal drift to assure that the temperatures taken coincided with the local time of day at the ground points to which they were attached for the record, the idea being to catch local temperatures near their peak in the noonday sun.
Alas, the orbits drift day to day in complex ways, and over the years it seems their observations have drifted away from the daily local peaks. Despite ingenious efforts to correct that tendency by massaging the data, they have understated the warming trend by somewhere between 50% and a factor of 2.
Since the infrared optics have not been pointing on schedule, the satellites beloved of the warming skeptics have failed to catch how fast temperatures have been going up.
Spencer concedes the point in a graceful article on TCS at : http://www.techcentralstation.com/081105RS.html , he also has some interesting things to say about how the orbital platforms the thermometry gear rides have been rolling and yawing as well.
The other two Science papers address the discrepancy between ground temperatures and tropospheric balloon sondes, and likewise argue for up-shifting the still nebulous definition of 'average" global temperature.
So though I expect ferocious denial by authors of books with '' Myth Of " in their titles ( and much irrelevant policy hype by the Dark Greens ) , the unchanging case for coolth articulated by the usual suspects over the years must now be weighed against their own insistence that we should rely primarily on satellite radiometers to define the global average .
Here is a pretty strong statement three made last year, followed by an excerpt from the honestly written 11 August 2005 piece by Roy Spencer, whom I quoted in A War Against Fire in 1990 :
Meltdown for Global Warming Science by Patrick J. Michaels, S. Fred Singer and David H. Douglass Cato Institute August 19, 2004
"The surface temperature record shows a warming rate of about 0.17 degrees Celsius (0.31 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 1979. However, there are two other records -- one from satellites, the other from weather balloons -- that tell a different story. Neither annual satellite nor balloon trends differ significantly from zero since the satellite record started in 1979... many investigators have tried to explain the cause of the disparity while others have denied its existence.
So, which record is right, the U.N. surface record showing the larger warming or the other two? ...In two research papers in the July 9 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, two of us (Mr. Douglass and Mr. Singer) compared it for correspondence with the surface record and the lower atmosphere histories. The odd-record-out turns out to be the U.N.'s hot-surface history.
This is a double kill, both on the U.N.'s temperature records and its vaunted climate models... Neither the satellite nor the balloon records can find it... Now we have a quarter-century of concurrent balloon and satellite data, both screaming that the U.N.'s climate models have failed, as well as indicating its surface record is simply too hot.
Some Convergence of Global Warming Estimates By Roy Spencer TCS 11 August 2005 T0 CS In.. new global warming papers in Science, Mears & Wentz (2005) address what they consider to be a large source of uncertainty in our (University of Alabama in Huntsville, "UAH") satellite estimate for global lower tropospheric ("LT") temperature This discrepancy between the UAH satellite LT trends and the surface thermometer trends has caused some consternation
... since the satellites do not have on-board propulsion... what began as early afternoon observations ... drift to later in the day over the several years of each satellite's lifetime. This causes a spurious cooling trend as the Earth observations are made later in the afternoon to the evening. The UAH method for removing this drift depended upon the spacecraft roll attitude...The new research paper presents ... corrections based upon a climate model estimate of the daily (diurnal) cycle of temperature... Their final estimate ... is +0.19 deg. C/decade, very close to the surface thermometer estimated....
Mears & Wentz were additionally able to demonstrate to us, privately, that there is an error that arises from our implementation of the UAH technique. This very convincing demonstration... made it obvious to us that the UAH diurnal correction method had a bias that needed to be corrected.
In a paper accompanying the Mears and Wentz paper, a new analysis of radiosonde (weather balloon) data by Sherwood et al. also obtains larger levels of warming than have been previously reported... At a minimum, the new work shows that weather balloon data... (which have traditionally supported the much smaller satellite trends from UAH) results in trends much closer to the warmer surface thermometer trends. The third paper (Santer et al, 2005) takes a more thorough look at the theoretical expectation that surface warming should be amplified with height in the troposphere. The convergence of these newly reported satellite and radiosonde estimates ... provides better agreement with climate models' explanation of how the climate system behaves"
Better models and more data will be all to the good. Before we do expensive things to fix future problems, it helps to know which problems need fixing.
They can't blame -this- one on the internal combustion engine.
- Roland Dobbins
Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, has an article in the Sunday Times describing a Danish scientist's theory of non-anthropogenic global warming... and cooling... and his fight for funding and publication.
"... "The sun’s brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.
"He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.
"The only trouble with Svensmark’s idea — apart from its being politically incorrect — was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.
"In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year."
-- ben capoeman
So much for the value of consensus.
It seems Jules Verne knew a thing or two, after all.
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Czech President Vaclav Klaus Calls Global Warming a "Myth"
It's nice to see a politician with the huevos to say this. Via Drudge <http://www.drudgereport.com/flash.htm> :
-- Dave Markowitz
I have for some time tried to show that the "consensus" on human activity and Global Warming is enforced: if you can't publish contrary data, then there won't be any contrary data.
Subject: global warming and cooling
This article, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1363818.ece , briefly describes an experiment supporting the hypothesis that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation and thereby global warming or cooling. Here's a quote:
"He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun's magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier."
It's interesting that the scientist, Henrik Svensmark of Copenhagen, who proposed this hypothesis did an experiment in 2005 which supported this idea, but was unable to find a journal to publish his article until late last year when it was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
I have several letters about this. Note what happens: a theory with evidence casting doubt on the "Global warming is due to human activity" hypothesis can't find any journal to publish it, even though the theorist has impeccable credentials. Are we astonished? I certainly am not. This is the kind of thing that set Michael Crichton off. And it's not science, just what a lot of scientists do...
I hear all manner of dire predictions lately about global warming: 25-ft sea level increases, the island of Manhattan flooded, Bangladesh destroyed, "total meltdown of the ice caps", "global catastrophe", killer hurricanes, cats and dogs living together, oh my!!! (Actually, I think that last item came from the movie "Ghost Busters").
Driven by these dire scenarios, and the release of the latest IPPC report, we now are hearing calls from some circles for "radical" changes to our way of life. So it was with interest that I listened to a TV appearance by Michael Oppenheimer, one of the lead IPPC authors, on that cultural bell weather, "The Colbert Report".
It was a little bit of a let down compared to what I've seen from Al Gore, and the National Geographic channel. Mr. Oppenheimer seemed to indicate that we aren't doomed in the short run, but the long run isn't looking so good. He thinks it is therefore imperative that we "Do Something Now" to avoid real pain later on. And what is it that we need to do? If I am to believe Mr. Oppenheimer's reassuring remarks, relatively little: get a car with better gas mileage, buy energy star appliances, change my regular bulbs for energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. WOW! Who knew if was so easy to prevent a global melt down.
Of course, Mr. Oppenheimer's bland prescriptions are hardly going to avert the most dire scenarios described in the IPPC report. But it does reassure me somewhat about concerns I have regarding ill-considered solutions that would serve mainly to wreck the economy for no good purpose.
Perhaps this is the best we can hope for: copious amounts of anguish, hand wringing, industry flogging, and self-flagellation followed by largely symbolic, low cost nostrums that sooth the collective guilt of the prosperous. At the very least, this will buy more time for the scientific consensus to be tested by further data and the dedicated deniers.
I expect to live long enough to see China and India roar ahead economically to become the largest CO2 generators on the planet. Then, when they refuse to cripple their economic juggernauts out of collective concern for the climate, I will await with baited breath the call from the left for "invasion and regime change", to install environmentally responsible governments in those countries......
It would be prudent to develop technology to control CO2 levels; they are high, and running an open ended experiment is never a very good idea. Of course we are not doing that, except for Sir Richard's wonderful prize. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail452.html#global4
Hello Dr. Pournelle:
I am certain that you will get dozens of mails to this link; but just in case you don't:
In part, the article reads:
"Maurice Strong is a founding director of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), a division of the U.N. that has grown into a bureaucratic monstrosity with an annual budget of $136 million. Mr. Strong left his post at UNEP in the 1970s but kept his ecological credentials and helped organize a 1992 environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro, which become the forerunner of the Kyoto Accords. While Strong has spent a lifetime parlaying his UN contacts into business associations, nowhere has he done so more successfully than with his ecological “credentials.”
Recently Strong has been spending most of his time in China, where he’s been linked, among other things, to planned attempts to market Chinese-made automobiles in North America. But his presence there raises some awkward questions for Russell and Rosett: “For one thing, China, while one of the world’s biggest producers of industrial pollution, has been profiting from the trading of carbon emissions credits – thanks to heavily politicized U.N.-backed environmental deals engineered by Strong in the 1990s.”
Could Mr. Strong be benefiting from deals that he helped put together while he was working at the U.N.? We don’t know. What we do know is that Mr. Strong is now on voluntary leave from the U.N. while questions are sorted out concerning a $1 million check that was passed to him by South Korean businessman Tongsun Park, who was convicted last summer in New York Federal Court of conspiring to bribe U.N. officials on behalf of Baghdad."
There is really not much interpretation here. The facts fairly well shout for themselves.