Orders Countermanded, Comrades! Strong El Nino Is Good For You!

Thus spoke Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California on Sep 28. 2009:

A macho El Niño like that of 1997-1998 is off the board, but I’m hoping for a relaxation in the tropical trade winds and a surprise strengthening of El Niño that could result in a shift in winter storm patterns over the United States. If the trade winds decrease, the ocean waters will continue to warm and spread eastward, strengthening the El Niño. That scenario could bring atmospheric patterns that will deliver much-needed rainfall to the southwestern United States this winter. If not, the dice seem to be loaded for below-normal snowpacks and another drier-than-normal winter…Don’t give up on this El Niño. He might make a late break and put his spin on this fall and winter’s weather systems

Wait a moment…so now a non-weak El Niño is good? Is this the first time anybody has said anything positive about El Niño?

No, it isn’t. Still, the ENSO has often been described as some kind of scourge. For example, here’s an article from The Independent on Jan 1, 2007:

A combination of global warming and the El Niño weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain’s leading climate experts has warned.

Professor Jones said the long-term trend of global warming – already blamed for bringing drought to the Horn of Africa and melting the Arctic ice shelf – is set to be exacerbated by the arrival of El Niño, the phenomenon caused by above-average sea temperatures in the Pacific.

The WMO said its latest readings showed that a “moderate” El Niño, with sea temperatures 1.5C above average, was taking place which, in the worst case scenario, could develop into an extreme weather pattern lasting up to 18 months, as in 1997-98. The UN agency noted that the weather pattern was already having “early and intense” effects, including drought in Australia and dramatically warm seas in the Indian Ocean, which could affect the monsoons. It warned the El Niño could also bring extreme rainfall to parts of east Africa which were last year hit by a cycle of drought and floods

And from a brochure published the UK’s Met Office in Nov 2006:

Dry spells are not unusual in the Amazon, but normally occur in El Niño years.

[...] the large number of Indonesian fires and associated increase in carbon emissions during the 1997-1998 El Niño event

And the IPCC (TAR)? Here it is:

El Niño is associated with dry conditions in northeast Brazil, northern Amazonia, the Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano, and the Pacific coast of Central America. The most severe droughts in Mexico in recent decades have occurred during El Niño years, whereas southern Brazil and northwestern Peru have exhibited anomalously wet conditions

More recently, from the IPCC’s AR4, WG2, chapter 1:

After the accelerated shrinkage of the glacier during the 1990s, enhanced by the warm 1997/98 El Niño, Bolivia lost its only ski area

Michael Moore’s Love Story…With Capitalism

Who could have thought…

from Forbes:

The bars were sponsored by liquor companies, the kitchen by Lufthansa. One room had marble walls, another, cashmere. Hundreds of guests plucked hors d’oeuvres from Plexiglas trays, but when I reached for a passing tray of pigs in blankets, the waitress tried to stop me. “These are for Michael,” she said.

That would be Michael Moore, filmmaker, who was enthroned nearby on a crowded sofa nibbling from a skewer, which did seem less in harmony with his everyman sneakers and populist persona than a sausage wrapped in fried bread. The Monday night party in Manhattan, which spread over two luxurious penthouse suites, was sponsored by Esquire and tricked out with the magazine’s advertisers’ products. The guests were there to celebrate Moore’s latest movie [Capitalism, A Love Story], which had just had its New York premier uptown.

Are Warmist-Journalists Helping Spread The Skeptical Word In The UK?

Who could have guessed…journalists are third from bottom in the list of trusted public figures in the UK, a poll has just shown. A great progress indeed (they had the pride of last place until now), apart from the fact that this year they have been beaten by scandal-plagued parliamentarians and Government ministers on their way down.

Now, consider also the vast amounts of AGW belief among British journalism (eg BBC, Guardian, Independent, most tabloids if not all of them, apart from a tiny number of mostly politically-motivated people at The Daily Telegraph).

Is it any wonder then that AGW skepticism is on the increase in the UK?

Perhaps the impact of all the rivers of ink and bytes dedicated by non-skeptical AGW British media should not be underrated…

The Union of Soviet Climate Change Writers

The Union of Soviet Climate Change Writers
– a guest blog by Geoff Chambers

I have an unhealthy obsession with Guardian Environment and their Climate Change web site. As the unofficial voice of the worried middle classes, they have (of course) every right to express the consensus views of their readers on global warming – but twenty times a day?

In the year or so that I have been following their climate change coverage, the Guardian has foresaken all pretence of rational argument. Monbiot’s “Bullshit” campaign; the use of the terms “denier”, and “climate creationist”; and the savage censorship on the so-called “Comment is Free” blogs, all disgrace the reputation of this once respectable newspaper.

This weekend they have reached a new lowpoint with their invitation to “ten of our greatest writers” to treat the subject of Global Warming.

There’s a wonderful moment in “the Office” when a confused Brent is trying to dig himself out of the racist hole he’s dug for himself, and his colleague (the sane one) whispers “He’s going to mention ‘Melting Pot” – and sure enough he does.

UPDATE – Geoff might be referring to this clip

You can get a similar buzz by clicking on Jane Winterton’s prose poem which begins:

I am your inner polar bear

or by reading Andrew Motion’s:

Here are the baffled species taking to high ground,
the already famously lonely polar bear and caribou

The most ardent warmist, the Greenest believer commenting on a Guardian blog would know better than to utter these ineptitudes, simply because a few hours on a climate change blog would make you savvy enough to know that polar bears are passé; everything that needs to be said about polar bears has already been said a million times.

The only people who don’t know that are the country’s greatest writers, apparently.

Not only is there not a single murmur of doubt or dissent from the consensus view of imminent catastrophe; but the sickening regurgitation of the tiredest warmist clichés demonstrates that not one of “our greatest writers” has spent a single hour researching the subject of AGW.

They don’t need to – They Know, and their warning to the doubters is terrible. Here’s Helen Simpson:

Nobody will be able to plead ignorance, either. We can all see what’s happening, on a daily basis, on television

That’s right. Our greatest writers know what’s going on, because they saw it on the telly.

These are proper writers, with talent. But so were the Union of Soviet Writers who extolled Stalin’s five-year plans. No-one is threatening our best writers with the labour camp if they don’t conform. So why do they do it? Are they too stupid, or too lazy, or too cowardly, to confront received opinion?

What’s happening to the intellectual life of our country?

To Study The Sun, Go To The Moon

or “On The Surface Of The Moon, a Four-billion-year Record of Solar Activity Awaits Us”

[UPDATE : More evidence of the "imprint" of solar wind into lunar soil]

In her 2007 article “The Sun and the Earth’s Climate” published in “Living Reviews in solar physics” (Living Rev. Solar Phys. 4, (2007), http://www.livingreviews.org/lrsp-2007-2 cited on Sep 25, 2009), Professor Joanna D. Haigh writes in the Conclusions:

One important issue is to establish the magnitude of any secular trends in total solar irradiance (TSI). This may be achieved by careful analysis and understanding of the satellite instruments [and] continued [with] current and new satellites. For longer periods it requires a more fundamental understanding of how solar magnetic activity relates to TSI. This would not only facilitate more reliable centennial-scale reconstructions of TSI, from e.g. sunspot records, but also advance understanding of how cosmogenic isotope records may be interpreted as historical TSI.

Actually, there is another source of information for the history of solar activity, and it could open possibilities of discovery and understanding of an almost unheard-of scale.

I am talking about the surface of the Moon.

As per my notes about my (yes, peer-reviewed!) 2005 article “W.W.W. MOON? The why, what and when of a permanent manned lunar colony” (Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 58(3-4):131-7):

The [...] lunar soil’s regolith contains also an at-least-billion-year-long record of the solar activity [22] [23] [24] that would help a lot in the understanding of the behaviour and evolution of our star. Just as well, buried regolith deposits are expected to preserve traces of the very young Sun [25].

These are the references for the above

[22] H Y Mc Sween, Jr., Stardust to Planets‘, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, p136

[23] P D Spudis, ‘The Once and Future Moon‘, Smithsonian, 1996, p196

[24] P D Spudis, ‘The Once and Future Moon‘, Smithsonian, 1996, p106

[25] P D Spudis, ‘The Once and Future Moon‘, Smithsonian, 1996, p115

One doesn’t need to be a hardcore skeptic or AGW believer to understand the enormous worth of getting such information, awaiting us at a distance that can be covered in a mere 3 days.

Borlaug, Un Eroe Cancellato

Da “Svipop

BORLAUG, UN EROE CANCELLATO DAGLI ECOLOGISTI
di Maurizio Morabito

24-9-2009 – La morte di Norman Borlaug, il padre della “Rivoluzione Verde”, che ha strappato alla morte per fame 245 milioni di persone, e il cui lavoro permette oggi di sfamare metà dell’umanità, impone una riflessione sulla cultura in cui siamo immersi. Se nel 1970 gli fu assegnato il Premio Nobel per la Pace, oggi prevale il giudizio critico della élite ecologista, secondo cui quella rivoluzione ha dato il via a un’agricoltura “non eco-sostenibile”. Come accusare l’inventore della ruota per aver dato il via a una società basata sui trasporti sempre più veloci e inquinanti. (fare click qui per il resto dell’articolo)

Drought News From Australia (Guess The Date!)

LONG AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT NOW IMPERILS CITIES

Date: (try to guess!)

(Reuters) – A drought that has parched Australia’s rich eastern farmlands for the last few years is now forcing the nation’s cities to take drastic measures to save water.

Melbourne, the second largest city and the leading commercial center, has sharply restricted the use of water after an unusually dry winter that has left its reservoirs only half full.

Official cars will prowl the streets looking for people illegally watering their lawns or washing their cars. Anyone doing so risks a fine of $950.

The water board has warned the city’s 2.8 million residents that tighter limits will be imposed during the normally dry summer months unless the new measures succeed in cutting consumption.

With no seasonal rain due for almost six months, fears are growing that the drought could turn much of eastern Australia into the sort of dust bowl seen in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Dust Blankets Town

The first signs appeared recently when the remote mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales reported its first dust storm in decades.

A cloud of red dust, swept by hot dry winds from the interior deserts, settled over the town, cutting visibility to less than 1,000 yards for several hours.

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, still has adequate water supplies, but a city official said the situation could change if a recent run of above-average temperatures continued and brush fires now smoldering around the suburbs burst out of control.

It is the rural areas, however, that are bearing the brunt of the drought, now in its fourth year in some areas. Prime Minister XXX has described it as the worst in living memory. YYY, president of the National Farmers Federation, said last weekend that the drought had become a disaster for the Australian economy as well as farmers. Government figures show that four out of five farms are affected by the drought.

The federation estimated the value of crops lost in the drought at $2.4 billion. Since economists say that every dollar of farm income generates two dollars in the rest of the economy through related industries, the total loss would be around $7 billion.

(this is the link if you want to know the original publication date…)

Suicidio Assistito – Le Domande Per I Cittadini Britannici (In Italiano)

Di seguito la traduzione dei “fattori di scelta” fra cui possono da oggi scegliere i Cittadini del Regno Unito nella Consultazione sul Suicidio Assistito promossa dal Procuratore Generale.

Andando all’apposito sito web, e’ possibile scaricare un file Word dove al pubblico e’ richiesto di indicare quali fattori siano ritenuti i piu’ importanti nella scelta se portare o no avanti l’azione penale contro chi aiuti un suicidio (ricordiamo che in Gran Bretagna non c’e’ l’obbligatorieta’, dell’azione penale):

(“vittima“: il suicida; “sospetto“: chi ha aiutato il suicida)

FATTORI AGGRAVANTI

(1) La vittima era sotto i 18 anni di età.

(2) La capacità della vittima di prendere una decisione ponderata era stata compromessa da riconosciute malattie mentali o difficoltà di apprendimento.

(3) La vittima non aveva un chiaro, stabilito e informato desiderio di suicidarsi, per esempio, la storia della vittima suggerisce che il suo desiderio di suicidio era temporaneo o soggetto a cambiamenti

(4) La vittima non aveva indicato in modo inequivocabile al sospetto che lui o lei voleva suicidarsi

(5) La vittima non aveva chiesto personalmente di sua iniziativa l’assistenza del sospetto

(6) La vittima non aveva:

> Una malattia terminale, oppure
> Una disabilità fisica grave e incurabile, o
> Una condizione fisica degenerativa grave

da cui non vi era alcuna possibilità di recupero.

(7) Il sospetto non e’ stato completamento motivato da compassione, per esempio, e’ stato motivato dalla prospettiva che egli/ella o una persona con cui e’ strettamente collegato/a avrebbe avuto un qualche vantaggio dalla morte della vittima.

(8) Il sospetto aveva convinto, fatto pressioni o maliziosamente incoraggiato la vittima a commettere il suicidio, o aveva esercitato un’influenza impropria nel processo decisionale della vittima, e non aveva adottato misure ragionevoli per garantire che qualsiasi altra persona che non l’avesse fatto.

(9) La vittima era fisicamente in grado di commettere da sola l’atto compiuto dal sospetto per aiutarla a suicidarsi.

(10) Il sospetto non era il coniuge, il partner o un parente stretto o non aveva un rapporto stretto e personale di amicizia con la vittima.

(11) Il sospetto era sconosciuto alla vittima e l’aveva assistita a commettere suicidio fornendo specifiche informazioni via, per esempio, un sito web o una pubblicazione.

(12) Il sospetto aveva fornito assistenza a più di una vittima senza che queste si conoscessero l’un l’altro.

(13) Il sospettato ha ricevuto una ricompensa dalla vittima o da persone a quella vicine per la sua assistenza.

(14) Il sospetto si era occupato della vittima in un ambiente come una casa di riposo.

(15) Il sospetto era consapevole che la vittima aveva pianificato di suicidarsi in un luogo pubblico in cui era ragionevole pensare che membri del pubblico potessero essere presenti.

(16) Il sospettato era/e’ membro di un’organizzazione o di un gruppo, il cui obiettivo principale è quello di fornire un ambiente / le condizioni (a pagamento o meno) in cui per consentire un altro a commettere suicidio.

==================

FATTORI ATTENUANTI

(1) La vittima aveva un chiaro, stabilito e informato desiderio di suicidarsi

(2) La vittima aveva indicato in modo inequivocabile al sospetto che lui o lei voleva suicidarsi

(3) La vittima aveva chiesto personalmente di sua iniziativa l’assistenza del sospetto

(4) La vittima aveva:

> Una malattia terminale, oppure
> Una disabilità fisica grave e incurabile, o
> Una condizione fisica degenerativa grave

da cui non vi era alcuna possibilità di recupero.

(5) Il sospettato e’ stato interamente motivato da compassione.

(6) Il sospetto era il coniuge, il partner o un parente stretto o un amico intimo della vittima, nel contesto di un rapporto di mutuo sostegno di lunga durata.

(7) Le azioni del sospetto, anche se sufficiente per rientrare nella definizione del reato, sono state solo di assistenza o influenza minore, o l’assistenza che la il sospetto ha fornito erano conseguenza del suo abituale lavoro regolare.

(8) La vittima non era fisicamente in grado di commettere da sola l’atto compiuto dal sospetto per aiutarla a suicidarsi

(9) Il sospetto ha cercato di dissuadere la vittima dall’intraprendere la linea d’azione che ha portato al suo suicidio.

(10) La vittima aveva preso in considerazione e seguito in misura ragionevole trattamento e opzioni di cura riconosciuti.

(11) La vittima aveva in precedenza tentato il suicidio ed era probabile che provasse di nuovo.

(12) Le azioni del sospetto possono essere pensate come aiuto riluttante di fronte di una volontà determinata da parte della vittima di suicidarsi.

(13) Il sospetto ha pienamente assistito la polizia nelle indagini sulle circostanze del suicidio o del tentativo e sulla sua parte nel fornire assistenza.

Coral Atolls and Sea Level Rise

Coral Atolls and Sea Level Rise
– a guest blog by Willis Eschenbach

Much has been written of late regarding the impending demise of the world’s coral atolls due to sea level rise. Recently, here in the Solomon Islands, the sea level rise has been blamed for salt water intrusion into the subsurface “lens” of fresh water under some atolls. Beneath the surface of most atolls, there is a lens shaped body of fresh water which floats on the seawater underneath. The claim is that the rising sea levels are contaminating the fresh-water lens with seawater.

These claims of blame ignore several facts. The first and most important fact, discovered by none other than Charles Darwin, is that coral atolls essentially “float” on the surface of the sea. When the sea rises, the atoll rises with it, and when the sea falls, they fall as well. Atolls exist in a delicate balance between new sand and coral rubble being added from the reef, and sand and rubble being eroded by wind and wave back into the sea.

When the sea falls, more sand tumbles from the high part, and more of the atoll is exposed to wind erosion. The atoll falls along with the sea level. When the sea level rises, wind erosion decreases. The coral grows up along with the sea level rise. The flow of sand and rubble onto the atoll continues, and the atoll rises. Since atolls go up and down with the sea level, the idea that they will be buried by sea level rises is totally unfounded. They have gone through sea level rises much larger and much faster than the current one.

Given that established scientific fact, why is there water incursion into the fresh water lenses? Several factors affect this. First and foremost, the fresh water lens is a limited supply. As island populations increase, more and more water is drawn from the lens. The inevitable end of this is the intrusion of sea water into the lens. This affects both wells and plants, which both draw from the same lens. It also leads to unfounded claims that sea level rise is to blame. It is not. Seawater is coming in because fresh water is going out.

The second reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is a reduction in the amount of sand and rubble coming onto the atoll from the reef. When the balance between sand added and sand lost is disturbed, the atoll shrinks. This has two main causes — coral mining and killing the wrong fish. The use of coral for construction in many atolls is quite common. At times this is done in a way that damages the reef as well as taking the coral. This is the visible part of the loss of reef, the part we can see.

What goes unremarked is the loss of the reef sand, which is essential for the continued existence of the atoll. The cause for the loss of sand is the indiscriminate, wholesale killing of parrotfish and other beaked reef-grazing fish. A single parrotfish, for example, creates about half a tonne of coral sand per year. Parrotfish and other beaked reef fish create the sand by grinding up the reef with their massive jaws, digesting the food, and excreting the ground coral.

In addition to making all that fine white sand that makes up the lovely island beaches, beaked grazing fish also increase overall coral health, growth, and production. This happens in the same way that pruning makes a tree send up lots of new shoots, and in the same way that lions keep a herd of zebras healthy and productive. The constant grazing by the beaked fish keeps the corals in full production mode.

Unfortunately, these fish sleep at night, and are easily wiped out by night divers. Their populations have plummeted in many areas in recent years. Result? Much less sand.

The third reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is the tidal cycle. We are currently in the high part of the 18 year tidal cycle. The maximum high tide in Honiara in 2008 was about 10 cm higher than the maximum tide in 1996, and the highs will now decrease until about 2014. People often mistake an unusually high tide for a rise in sea level, which it is not. There has been no increase in the recorded rate of sea level rise. In fact, the global sea level rise has flattened out in the last couple years.

What can be done to turn the situation around for the atolls? There are a number of essential practical steps that atoll residents can take to preserve and build up your atoll, and protect the fresh water lens:

1. Stop having so many kids. An atoll has a limited supply of water. It cannot support an unlimited population. Enough said.

2. Catch every drop that falls. On the ground, build small dams in any watercourses to encourage the water to soak in to the lens rather than run off to the ocean. Put water tanks under every roof. Dig “recharge wells”, which return filtered surface water to the lens in times of heavy rain. Catch the water off of the runways. In Majuro, they have put gutters on both sides of the airplane runway to catch all of the rainwater falling on the runway. It is collected and pumped into tanks. On other atolls, they let the rainwater just run off of the airstrip back into the ocean …

3. Conserve, conserve, conserve. Use seawater in place of fresh whenever possible. Use as little water as you can.

4. Make the killing of parrotfish and other beaked reef grazing fish tabu. Stop fishing them entirely. Make them protected species. The parrotfish should be the national bird of every atoll nation. I’m serious. If you call it the national bird, tourists will ask why a fish is the national bird, and you can explain to them how the parrotfish is the source of the beautiful beaches they are walking on, so they shouldn’t spear beaked reef fish or eat them. Stop killing the fish that make the very ground under your feet. The parrotfish and the other beaked reef-grazing fish are constantly building up your atoll. Every year they are providing tonnes and tonnes of fine white sand to keep your atoll afloat in turbulent times. You should be honoring and protecting them, not killing them. This is the single most important thing you can do.

5. Be very cautious regarding the use of coral as a building material. An atoll is not solid ground. It is is not a constant “thing” in the way a rock island is a thing. An atoll is an eddy, an ever-changing body constantly replenished by a (hopefully) unending river of coral sand and rubble. It is a process, wherein on one side healthy reef plus beaked coral-grazing fish plus storms provide a continuous stream of coral sand and rubble. This sand and rubble are constantly being added to the atoll, making it larger. At the same time, coral sand and rubble are constantly being eaten away, and blown away, and eroded away from the atoll. The shape of the atoll changes from season to season and from year to year. It builds up on this corner, and the sea washes away that corner.

And of course, if anything upsets that balance of sand added and sand lost, if the supply of coral sand and rubble per year starts dropping (say from reef damage or coral mining or killing parrotfish) or if the total sand and rubble loss goes up (say by heavy rains or strong winds or a change in currents) the atoll will be affected.

So if coral is necessary for building, take it sparingly, in spots. Take dead or dying coral in preference to live coral. Mine the deeps and not the shallows. Use hand tools. Leave enough healthy reef around to reseed the area with new coral. A healthy reef is the factory that annually produces the tonnes and tonnes of building material. You mess with it at your peril.

6. Reduce sand loss from the atoll in as many ways as possible. This can be done with plants to stop wind erosion. Don’t introduce plants for the purpose. Encourage and transplant the plants that already grow locally. Reducing water erosion also occurs with the small dams mentioned above, which will trap sand eroded by rainfall. Don’t overlook human erosion. Every step a person takes on an atoll pushes sand downhill, closer to returning to the sea. Lay leaf mats where this is evident, wherever the path is wearing away. People wear a path, and soon it is lower than the surrounding ground. When it rains, it becomes a small watercourse. Invisibly, the water washes your precious sand into the ocean. Invisibly, the wind blows the ground out from under your feet. Protect your island. Stop it from being washed and blown away.

7. Monitor and build up the health of the reef. You and you alone are responsible for the well-being of the amazing underwater fish-tended coral factory that year after year keeps your atoll from disappearing. Coral reseeding programs done by schools have been very successful. Get the kids involved in watching the reef. Educate the people that they are the guardians of the reef. Talk to the fishermen.

8. Expand the atoll. Modern coastal engineering has shown that it is quite possible to “grow” an atoll. The key is to slow down the water as it passes by. The slower the water, the more sand builds up. Slowing the water is accomplished by building low underwater walls perpendicular to the beach. These run out until the ends are a few metres underwater. Normally this is done with a geotextile fabric tubes which are pumped full of concrete. In the atolls the similar effect can be obtained with “gabbions”, wire cages filled with blocks of dead coral. Wire all of the wire cages securely together in a triangular shape, stake them down with rebar, wait for the sand to fill in. It might be possible to do it with old tires, fastened together, with chunks of coral piled on top of them. It will likely take a few years to fill in. Here’s a before and after picture of the system in use on a beach (not an atoll), taken three years apart. Note the low height and triangular shape of the wall extending out from the beach and continuing underwater (made of 3 concrete-filled geotextile fabric tubes). This triangular shape does not attempt to stop the water currents. It just slows them down and directs them toward the beach to deposit their load of sand. Eventually, the entire area fills in with sand.

Of course to do that, you absolutely have to have a constant source of sand … like for example a healthy reef … with lots of parrotfish. That’s why I said above that the single most important thing is to protect the fish and the reef. If you have beaked fish and a healthy reef, you’ll have plenty of sand and rubble forever. If you don’t, you’re in trouble.

Coral atolls have proven over thousands of years that, if left alone, they can go up and down with any sea level rise. And if we follow some simple conservation practices, they can continue to do so and to support atoll residents. But they cannot survive an unlimited population increase, or unrestricted fishing, or overpumping the water lens, or unrestrained coral mining.

FURTHER REFERENCES:

On sea level rise in Honiara: Pacific Country Report Sea Level & Climate: Their Present State Solomon Islands June 2006

On global sea level rise levelling off: University of Colorado at Boulder’s Sea Level Change

On Darwin’s discovery: Darwin, C., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, 1887

No other work of mine was begun in so deductive a spirit as this; for the whole theory was thought out on the west coast of S. America before I had seen a true coral reef. I had therefore only to verify and extend my views by a careful examination of living reefs. But it should be observed that I had during the two previous years been incessantly attending to the effects on the shores of S. America of the intermittent elevation of the land, together with the denudation and deposition of sediment. This necessarily led me to reflect much on the effects of subsidence, and it was easy to replace in imagination the continued deposition of sediment by the upward growth of coral. To do this was to form my theory of the formation of barrier-reefs and atolls. (Darwin, 1887, p. 98, 99)

On the results of coral mining and changing the reef: Xue, C. (1996) Coastal Erosion And Management Of Amatuku Island, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu, 1996, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)

On the same topic: Xue, C., Malologa, F. (1995) Coastal sedimentation and coastal management of Fongafale, Funafuti, Tuvalu, SOPAC Technical Report 221

On parrotfish creating sand: this link

On the cause of erosion in Tuvalu: Tuvalu Not Experiencing Increased Sea Level Rise, Willis Eschenbach, Energy & Environment, Volume 15, Number 3, 1 July 2004 , pp. 527-543

On expanding island beaches: Holmberg Technologies

On the dangers of overpopulation: Just look around you …

Climate Is Weather When It Is Not Climate, Weather Is Climate When It Is Not Weather. Or Not?

or…”Climate Belief In Disarray”

Front-page article today by Andrew C Revkin on the International Herald Tribune about the problem of “selling” any urgency for warming-stopping CO2 emission cuts to the public in a non-warming planet (now that that concept has been accepted even by the hardest climate integralist).

Parts of what is reported by Revkin is interesting as it appears there is no shortage of scientists providing all sorts of opinions on why the world has not been warming as expected. Trouble is, if the recent 10-year-long set of observations showing “non-warming” cannot be used to falsify AGW, then no 10-year-long set of any observation showing anything can be used to demonstrate AGW either.

Therefore there is no meaning in the just-released climate forecasts by the Met Office talking about “the odds of a 15-year pause” after analysing “how often decades with a neutral trend in global mean temperature occurred in computer modelled climate change simulations” (my emphasis).

In fact, some are fond to say that climate is a 30-year-long average of weather. Well, if that is true, all we should be scientifically able to talk about with any amount of knowledge, is the climate trends for… 1979.

Everything else is (interesting, but just) speculation.

ps Dr Mojib Latif says he “gives about 200 talks to the public, business leaders and officials each year“. There are 365 days, in most years. At what times during the year is then “climate science” studied at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel, Germany? And shall we worry about the absence of private life for AGW scientist-advocates?

pps Shame to Revkin for publishing this absurdist remark by Joe Romm: “We need all the unmuffled warnings we can get“. Why? Because Romm is a known “muffler” himself.

Nobody Does Climate Change Gimmicks As Badly As Gordon Brown

UK Prime Minister (unelected) Gordon Brown, whose ascent to power has sadly coincided with the start of the global financial crisis, has given a little less than three minutes of his time to a blatantly orchestrated gimmick related to Avaaz.org’s “The Global [AGW] Wake Up Call“.

Mr Brown has agreed to appear in a video taking up a phone call from an Avaaz.org’s activist.

[brightcove vid=41269817001&exp=1570028817&w=300&h=225]

Of course it was just perchance that video recording facilities were available exactly where Mr Brown happened to pick up his phone. And of course the visage of the Avaaz.org activist was remarkably well lit, again due to chance.

The video has several low points: first Mr Brown is just too eager to agree on everything, thereby defying the point of the “wake-up call” (it’s like bringing a bucket of sand to the Sahara…).

Secondly, there is a pathetic attempt to claim that “hundreds of people” had shown up in Parliament Square. Despite plenty of video recording equipment, we are only shown a handful of the “hundreds”. There is mention of 300 activists in this eWeek article, but again no pictures or videos of them. Here’s a flickr page full of them (I wonder if there were more than 100 people at most?).

According to Google News, the eWeek article has been published at around 12.30PM London time, remarkably only a few minutes after the Brown phone call took place. And finally, what did Mr Brown promise? Why, to go to Copenhagen himself…the very thing Avaaz.org wanted to persuade him to do.

How strange.

No Science Without Skepticism, Just Intolerance and Despotism

(a slightly different Italian version of the below has been published by Climate Monitor)

Skeptically-challenged AGWers are hardly the best examples of tolerance. Arguably, some among them don’t seem to be bothered with supporting dictatorships. If one talks to others, a barrage of insults will be fired back.

What if the underlying problem is exactly their rejection of the value of skeptical/ unorthodox / anti-dogmatic thinking?

And what if by that very rejection, they are actually revealing nasty undertones that risk placing AGW centuries against Science and against centuries of philosophical advances too, starting from the Enlightenment if not from the times of Ancient Greece?

That is one’s feeling having read an extraordinary page in Italy’s biggest business daily “Il Sole24Ore”, in particular in its separate Sunday section dedicated to cultural and scientific matters. In the Sunday, August 2 2009 edition, page 35 is an almost solid praise of skepticism, described as

  • a more reasonable approach to Knowledge (including “Scientific Knowledge” )
  • a defense shield against dogmatism and intolerance
  • an essential component to help one improve oneself from an ethical point of view.

That’s the skepticism that has reached us through the Enlightenment. Those that refuse skepticism in the realm of science then, and denigrate it, and recklessly rely on an “Unquestionable Authority“, they are ultimately placing themselves outside of Science itself, and outside of nearly four hundred years of philosophy if not more.

What is obvious is that the “skeptical attitude” of ancient and modern philosophers is antithetical to current fashionable AGW, where an incredibly dogmatic rigidity leads to cries of lese-majeste for example when anybody dares to doubt prophecis of upcoming catastrophes, or some of the conclusions of the latest IPCC report, or even the very dangers of anthropogenic climate change.

(All articles appear here in my own translation. Unfortunately they do not seem to be available on the internet)

Let’s start from Remo Bodei’s  “An Enlightenment to turn back on“. UCLA’s History of Philosophy Professor Bodei invites readers to rediscover some oft-forgotten aspects of the Enlightenment, such as being aware of the “limits of Reason“, and of the importance of a skeptical approach to Knowledge.

The Enlightenment has its firmest roots in modern skepticism represented by Bayle along the traditional lines of Pyrrhonism, Montaigne’s relativism, the achievements of Hobbes’s “New Science” and French libertinism. However, the Enlightenment emphasizes the “corrosive”and”destructive” nature of Reason, ready to doubt even of itself.

Bayle is Pierre Bayle, a famous-no-longer XIX-century French philosopher. Bayle considered knowledge as an endless process whose only “true source” is reality rather than formal logic. “General theories” are therefore impossible, and Bayle dedicates large swaths of his 1697 “Dictionnaire historique et critique” to sarcastically compare wisdom and stupidity in order to debunk seemingly unassailable “truths”. Because what is “true” today is almost certain to become “false” sometimes in the future.

As reported by Bodei, Pierre Bayle is also mentioned in the following diary entry by Italian maître-à-penser Giacomo Leopardi (“Zibaldone”, September 1, 1826):

Bayle’s argument that reason is an instrument of destruction rather than construction, applies very well. Indeed, it reminds me of what I have observed in other areas: that from the Renaissance onwards, and especially recently, the advances of the human spirit have consisted, and mostly consist, not in the discovery of positive truths, but of negative ones. In other words, progress has been achieved in knowing the falsehood of concepts in the recent or faraway past considered as solid truth, or in appreciating our ignorance of other concepts that we had presumed to know already [...] And therefore the Ancients, in fields such as metaphysics, morality, and even in politics […] could be considered as more advanced than us, merely because they lived before certain “positive truth” claims and discoveries had been made, claims that we now try to shrug off slowly and with great effort […].

According to Leopardi, “to know” means “to discover which truth has now become false”, that is, “to learn more about our own ignorance”. And so as time progresses, we will know more and more, that is less and lesss, because each new “positive truth” will eventually join this paradoxical increase in the “knowledge of ignorance“.

It is customary at this stage to stop and wonder if all the above be an invitation to let go of Knowledge, since we will never be able to reach any “Truth“. But the answer can only be a resounding “No”. In fact, Bodei mentions “pyrrhonism“, the ideas of ancient Greek philosopher Pyrrho, unwilling to choose between the existence (dogmatism) and the denial of existence (stoicism) of an Absolute Truth.

We can have opinions, but certainty and knowledge are impossible“, Pyrrho said. This would make it absurd to be offended by people having different opinions than ours. If anything, the skeptical invitation is to avoid all dogmatisms, even and perhaps especially those related to scientific discoveries, and to allow us instead the luxury of the possibility to change our mind.

It t all gets explained in Professor of Philosophy of Knowledge Nicla Vassallo’s “Who’s afraid of skepticism?

In ancient times skepticism was a practical, as well as theoretical attitude: doubt preserves us from the “dogmatic certainties” with which we conduct our lives, and provides us with greater happiness: the certainties crash as shipwrecks against rocks, whilst doubt allows us to suspend judgement, hence to lead a life sheltered from anxieties, and to reach a higher level of ethics through greater tolerance to different opinions.

Contemporary skepticism seems instead intent on something almost opposite, a purely theoretical concern against which only life can provide soothing… But is that really true? Even the theoretical application of modern / contemporary skepticism has relevant practical consequences: indeed, in order to be reasonable, we have take as legitimate only the “knowledge” that can pass the “skeptical challenge”. In other words, we can only defend what we say if we have the ability to reject the explanations of our beliefs that are compatible with their falsehoods.

For example, if we are not able to tell a rabbit from a hare, how can we claim to have seen a rabbit?

There is no sense, no legitimacy in claims that do not pass the obstacle represented by the virtuous “skeptical challenge”. So for example we can not take as incontrovertible dogma, or even as scientific knowledge, AGW claims that are compatible with everything and its opposite, able to explain the warming and then the cooling too, and any future heating and/or cooling.

That’s because if we are not able to tell a natural warming from an anthropogenic one, how can we then claim to have seen AGW?

Rigidity, dogmatism, the claim of possessing an absolute truth that no one may dare challenge, they all do not belong to the wise, the philosopher, the sensible person.

Neither can they be legitimate tools for the scientist.

Monbiot Challenged To Debate – By "Chill"'s Peter Taylor

On the heels of the Plimer debacle, deep among the comments to one of Monbiot’s blogs our own Geoff Chambers has “discovered” this new invitation for a debate, by Peter Taylor, author of “Chill, A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory: Does Climate Change Mean the World is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?

PeterTaylor

18 Sep 09, 5:04pm

George – I’m an old and seasoned environmentalist, older than yourself, and so I should not be surprised or disappointed when political zeal over-rides science and the quest for truth – but I am, and most particularly by your continued reference to critics as ‘sceptic’ and ‘deniers’ – suggesting some quasi-religious or psychological failing, and thus enabling you not to actually take seriously any of the scientific arguments they may raise.

In this latest blog, you presume to arbitrate on areas of science you know little about (along with the IPCC who classified knowledge of natural variability – for that you can read ‘cycles’, a bit of a bogey word, as ‘very poorly known’). Yet despite the poor science, you and the IPCC presume to know that the recent warm period was not naturally driven.

I understand that Professor Plimer has not met your request for a debate. I am willing to step in. My arguments are laid out in my recent book

Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory

If you would do me the courtesy of reading the book, and taking advice on its arguments from acknowledged experts in each of the fields I cover – natural cycles, polar ice, cosmic rays, satellite data etc., and on my conclusion that the global warming signal that is currently being ‘masked’ by natural cooling, was also first amplified by the same natural cycles peaking – leaving an 80/20 split natural/GHG – then I would gladly debate with you. It is my only condition.

To encourage you, I quote from W.Jackson Davis, author of the first draft of the Kyoto Protocol (and former colleague of mine on UN committees regarding ocean pollution), who has endorsed my book:

‘Taylor raises issues and questions that must be addressed conclusively before global warming can be genuinely regarded as ”truth”, inconvenient or otherwise. The book is a must-read for everyone on all sides of the climate change issue’

If I am right – and recent science suggests I am – then CO2 from industrial and consumer emissions represents less then 15% of the driving force. If you cut it by half, you affect 7-8% of the driver. This will have virtually no effect on what the climate does on any policy-relevant timescale. Vast sums of money aimed at mitigation will be misdirected.

It would not matter so much if that money was put to good use and was not needed elsewhere – but if I am right about the prospects for cooling (which the Latif paper only touches the surface of, then that money is needed for adaptation. Great suffering is ahead. The renewable energy programme for biofuels heads in entirely the wrong direction, adding to food supply issues.

These are debates and arguments that we could usefully have. I want to change your mind and to change government policy. But for that you need to have an open mind – open enough to read my book. It took three years to write and is based entirely on peer-reviewed science, with full references. As a committed environmentalist I would not have spent that time if I thought there was not much at stake and that the truth needed to direct policy.

“Chill” is reviewed at HarmlessSky. I haven’t read that review as yet.

Greenies Against Greenwash!

A couple of interesting “greenie” articles…if only because one doesn’t have to follow through to each and everyone of their conclusions to agree with their observations: much of what is being touted as solution to (alleged) planetary environmental problems is “a way of making you think” begging the question of “what difference does it make?

From RISMedia: “All This Talk about ‘Green’…It’s Enough to Turn ‘Ye Puce” by George W Mantor (March 17, 2009):

You can bet that in the next few months someone will chastise you for not being “green” enough. [...] Car companies are going “green” and so are refineries, builders, and just about every other industry with any exposure to the public. As a matter of fact, even manufacturers of ammunition are producing “green” bullets. These would be particularly appropriate, I suppose, for shooting environmental activists. So, what is this “green?” Is it new? Where did it come from and, why now?

[...] “Green” isn’t a thing as much as a way of thinking. Or, a way of making you think.

[...] Being Greener. The first phase had already taken place. They switched to “greener” office products: recycled paper, bamboo paper clips, solar powered calculators; a bold switch from chemical adhesives to certified organic muselage ground from the bulbs of renewable wild Hyacinth.

I was musing about some of the consequences, like the move to far costlier refillable pens. They still buy the same number of pens. What they didn’t consider was that the pens weren’t wearing out or running dry, they would “disappear” long before they ever ran out of ink. It would have been greener to simply chain the disposable pens to conveniently located writing surfaces.

As I waited for the light to change, my eyes were drawn to the gutter where the exact composition of the decaying soggy mass was indiscernible, but I did notice that some of it was turning green. And, it sort of begs the question, what difference does it make [...]

From Orion magazine: “Forget Shorter Showers – Why personal change does not equal political change” by Derrick Jensen (July/August 2009)

WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

[...] An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. [...] See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings.

[...] Or let’s talk energy. [...] “even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

[...] Or let’s talk waste. [...] Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States [...] .

Elogio (Plurimo) Dello Scetticismo

Elogio (Plurimo) Dello Scetticismo
di Maurizio Morabito (pubblicato sul blog “Climate Monitor” il 19 Settembre 2009)

Straordinaria pagina, quella numero 35 del Domenicale del Sole24Ore del 2 agosto 2009, quasi interamente dedicata (quattro articoli, due grandissimi riferimenti) all’elogio dello scetticismo, antico e moderno, in quanto approccio più ragionevole alla conoscenza (anche a quella “scientifica”); scudo di difesa contro il dogmatismo e strumento di tolleranza, dunque indispensabile per elevarsi dal punto di vista etico.

Uno scetticismo che è arrivato a noi anche grazie all’Illuminismo. Chi lo rifiuta dunque, chi lo denigra, chi incautamente si affida a una “Autorita’ Indiscutibile” nel reame della Scienza, si pone in ultima analisi al di fuori della Scienza stessa e di quasi quattrocento anni di Filosofia.

Quello scettico è un atteggiamento diametralmente opposto dunque al cambioclimatismo attualmente di moda, dove invece una incredibile rigidità dogmatica porta più d’uno ad inalberarsi per Lesa Maestà per esempio allorquando un interlocutore si permetta di mettere in dubbio la profezia della catastrofe impellente, o alcune conclusioni dell’ultimo rapporto IPCC, se non addirittura la pericolosità del riscaldamento globale di origine antropica.

(il resto dell’articolo e’ disponibile su Climate Monitor)

About Peer-reviewed Dogmas, or 'Meet The Peeritarians'

(this in response to yet another tired thread full of “but the findings of so-and-so have not been peer-reviewed!“)

I think I understand it now…it’s like a new religion…instead of the Pastafarians, we now have the… Peeritarians!

Those people can be recognized by their preferred way to communicate with anybody they disagree with:

Have your thoughts/proposals/findings/obvious-observations-nobody-in-their-right-mind-could-deny been peer-reviewed?

Sadly, there is no way to convince them to ask or say anything else.

If anything has not been peer-reviewed, Peeritarians will deny its very possibility of existence. Worse, if anything has been peer-reviewed it is then taken as their new dogma…because Peeritarians are characterized by being impervious to critical thinking upon reading peer-reviewed material.

Only hope is, the peer-review system will eventually publish something completely contradictory, thereby convincing to good Peeritarian to change his/her mind.

———————

In order to preserve their remaining sanity, everybody is strongly encouraged not to engage Peeritarians in discussions about hurricanes and global warming, or health and global warming, areas where there are peer-reviewed articles demonstrating pretty much everything and its opposite.

When Is A Climate Satellite Not Exactly A Climate Satellite?

I have just been at a beautiful presentantion at the British Interplanetary Society in London, by Jessica Housden of EADS-Astrium about the upcoming ESA “EarthCARE” satellite (beautiful especially to us engineering boffins that is).

Designing a Spacecraft to Observe Climate Change

Understanding of the atmosphere is a continual process, with scientists all over the world endeavouring to determine how our atmosphere works and how it is changing. One such mission, EarthCARE, will be observing several processes which will help scientists. How will this be done and how will the spacecraft work?

Jessica Housden is a systems engineer for the EarthCARE mission, which will observe water content and aerosol distribution in the atmosphere.

Ms Housden said that EarthCARE, designed to look at clouds and aerosols, will be up there for 4 years from around 2013 (don’t bet your house on that though…there’s lots to learn before it can actually fly).

Upon hearing that I suddenly realised something confirmed during the Q&A session later: the climate-change EarthCARE satellite is not exactly a satellite to study the climate.

For a start, 4 years are way too short a time to see what climate is doing, let alone to see it changing.

You see, EarthCARE is a climate-change satellite. Its measurements will be used to (surprise, surprise!) help climate modellers improve their models (as everybody knows, clouds have been particularly badly modelled up to now).

After all, that’s what it “says on the tin” (“Spacecraft to observe Climate Change“, not “Climate“). Nothing to fault EADS-Astrium for…still, I suspect in the upcoming future one will have to be careful about this apparently minute distinctions.

What about the Climate then? Well, EarthCARE would be a good starting point. For example one of its instruments is designed to measure incoming and outgoing fluxes, thereby answering many of the questions we still have about the planetary energy budget.

But you’d need a constellation of EarthCAREs for proper climate research, perhaps 5 or 6, if only to observe a particular spot more than once a month. And you’d need also a steady supply, to have enough of them up there despite the relatively-short 4-year lifetime.

AGW and Health: 2 Journals, 18 Professional Medical Organizations…And Still They Can Be Wrong

More almost-pure nonsense about AGW and health, this time even bigger than last time, from two famous medical journals and 18 professional medical organizations.

Anybody could write them down by using a little catastrophical imagination (poverty, death, plagues, famines, the works). They should be titled “No University degree required”.

I demonstrated that a few months ago. And I was only able to analyze the bits I am familiar with…who knows how many more articles have been left out.

  • There is however another sign that indicates there is something peculiar about all these reports.  They are supposed to be written by doctors for doctors, yet they don’t confine themselves to areas that require a doctor’s expertise. And so they end up in unsupported claims.

For example there are no “encroaching deserts in Africa” (the opposite might be happening…yet again, some say, because of global warming). And the forays into rainfall patterns and climate modelling in the earlier report can at best make one cringe.

Add to that some blatant untruths (there are no “clear facts…identified in relation to climate change;and especially so about health issues).

The result can only be a full rejection of the latest claims. That’s why, whatever the intentions (and professional competence) of those writing them, they are almost-pure nonsense.

Are The BBC Blogs In A State Of Confusion?

I have just started to realise how many blogs there actually are at the BBC, even if most of them are extremely hard to find unless one takes a look at the “BBC News blogs” area somewhere in the rightmost column of some blogs.

For example I knew already of Richard Black’s blog, and there is a link to it in the BBC Science News page, but no trace at all in the “BBC blog network“. Or perhaps I am not looking hard enough.

Today I “discovered” Tom Feilden’s blog…only because Tom has sent a link to it to me. Nothing about it in the “blog network” either. In there, there is instead a link to the Climate Change “Bloom” blog, mysteriously abandoned since 29 July (hopefully the people over there have not been sent to a re-education camp 8-) )

If one goes to what might have been the “home” page for the BBC reporters’ blogs there appears a sad page that has been dead for three years (a terrible thing for a news organization, if you ask me).

And where people would actually look, the left column of every page, no link to any blog at all. Is the Corporation as such singularly uninterested in blogs of all things, one wonders?

SciDev.net's Plea: Get The Science Straight!

Questioning the soundness of climate-related science should not be the realm solely of climate skeptics. That’s what makes the following even more welcome.

Get the science straight on climate change and disease – Climate change’s complex links with insect-borne disease need solid research — not alarmism that distracts from other crucial factors

That’s the start of a courageous, no-holds-barred Sep 9, 2009 editorial by Sian Lewis on SciDev.net (“a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing reliable and authoritative information about science and technology for the developing world“).

In normal times, Lewis’ words would sound obvious in the extreme (and no: SciDev.net is not a hotbed of hard-core AGW skeptics – read also this). But these times of “climate porn” (see also here and here) are not normal times at all.

A few excerpts from Lewis’ article:

  • research agendas must both respond to social needs and offer good science
  • fulfilling the second condition is more tricky
  • There is clearly a link between insect-borne diseases and climate
  • But a whole host of non-climate factors also influence disease transmission…
  • So we mustn’t go overboard, reading too much into the role of climate change at the expense of research into other triggers of these major diseases
  • good science is crucial for good policy
  • The task is urgent — but this must not lead to short-cuts

The editorial is an introduction to

a series of articles [that] explore the evidence for (and against) the notion that climate change will worsen the burden of insect-borne disease, highlights gaps in our knowledge, and provides advice to policymakers

Interestingly, given that

how well models can predict these effects is a particularly thorny issue in the debate“,

then

the solution, according to Jonathan Cox, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is to forget predictive modelling for the moment and focus on research with a better chance of improving disease control“.

“Forget predictive modelling”…if only!!

The Funnier Side Of Monbiot & Schmidt's "Plimer Débâcle"

It is clear that George Monbiot has made himself the loser by not agreeing to publicly debate with Ian Plimer about global warming in London in November. The rule is very simple and universal: a no-show is invariably a loss.

The whole thing looks like an elaborate trap prepared by experienced debater Plimer with the goal of convincing Monbiot to run away from the debate. And it looks like it worked.

Talk about the elephant being afraid of the mouse. Yet again, one is glad not have the likes of Monbiot (and Schmidt) on one’s side! 8-)

But wait…it gets even funnier. What I just wrote might have crossed a few minds already, of people unfortunately too eager to bite the bait, therefore missing the chance to take their own reasoning to its natural conclusions:

  • Take Schmidt’s blog on the topic, where he argues that Plimer’s list of questions “is quite transparently a device to avoid dealing with Monbiot’s questions and is designed to lead to an argument…” and then…marches on onto the device regardless!
  • Greenfyre defines Plimer’s questions as “pure juvenile bafflegab” that should not be “dignif[ied]…with repetition“. Perhaps. Why then repeat that very same concept FOURTEEN times? It certainly looks like dignifying them to me
  • Greenfyre even identifies as “possible answers…to answer them in the spirit in which they were asked…give answers equally convoluted and nonsensical“. If that is so, what is the meaning of going on and on with links to sites where Pilmer’s questions are taken instead at face value?
  • Likewise for Tim Lambert: “I suspect that this is a tactic so he can weasel out of answering Monbiot’s questions” before a link to RealClimate to respond to Pilmer’s questions nevertheless…
  • Chris Colose appears to have a vague idea that there is something going on: “all together this is jumbled up nonsense and shows that Plimer is intentionally trying to mislead others“. Mysterious cue then to “for other of Plimer’s questions, I’ll let commenters tackle those“. Isn’t that a way for Colose to participate in the misleading?
  • Tamino…well, Tamino is obviously too superior a human being to recognize a thing.

=======

Dear Schmidt/Greenfyre/Lambert/Colose: one suggestion if I may dare.

If you are debating with anybody, and they use any logical device of any kind, please oh please DO NOT follow through along the device, for any reason whatsoever.

Otherwise, it’s not going to look pretty…

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/09/14/correspondence-with-ian-plimer/

Monbiot & Schmidt 0 – Plimer 1 (After Spectacular Own Goal)

Alternative titles: “Dear George, In Any Sport, No-Show Means Automatic Loss“, and “Don’t Mention Gish If You Can’t Debate

================

I am not at all surprised that George Monbiot (and by inference, Gavin Schmidt) have lost their public (virtual) debate against Ian Plimer even before having a public (real) debate. That’s because:

  • I have been following Monbiot’s antics for quite some time, and have never been struck by the power of his at-times-downright-silly arguments
  • Likewise concerning Schmidt, a known debate (sore) loser
  • Skeptic vs. Climatechanger debates are few and far between, and not for the lack of willing skeptical debaters (one suspects, it’s because skeptics invariably win, just like against homeopathy practitioners, UFO believers, creationist/ID proponents, chemtrails counter-conspirators, etc etc)
  • Plimer is no debate spring chicken, once described as having a “street-fighting style

Why has Plimer won the debate? Because the end result is that Monbiot has refused to publicly debate with him. And in any sport, failure to show up automatically makes you a loser.

This is too bad as Schmidt’s responses look even more impressive than Plimer’s bunch of heavily-sounding questions (the actual bait). And Plimer’s non-answers to Monbiot could have made the basis for a smooth, trouble-free attack/counterattack to Plimer’s argument.

If Monbiot could sustain a debate, that is. I have my doubts.

The Monbiot/Schmidt couple took the Plimer bait actually a tad too easily. Evidently knowing how to make opponents fall flat on their faces even when apparently much more powerful than him, all Plimer had to do is artificially concoct an “escape route” that would allow Monbiot to declare himself the winner without actually having won anything.

The “escape route” is Plimer’s refusal to answer in print. And Monbiot, shall I say OF COURSE, eagerly took it, unable to understand the consequences.

Isn’t it more heartwarming to be able to tell one’s own troops about how bad the enemy is, rather than getting into a dangerous, live debate with that same enemy?

Especially when one has extremely poor argumentative skills, like Monbiot when he includes the mention of the “Gish Gallop“, “named after [creationist] Duane Gish [...] a special case of fast talking (the technique famously employed by Snake Oil Salesman that confuses people with fast long strings of words long enough to convince them to buy snake oil“.

Yes, but: people like Michael Shermer (and Ian Plimer, by the way) have actually debated with Gish. They haven’t just sat at their desk whining about the Gish Gallop.

————–

Now we will only get Plimer on Thursday 12 November at 2 Savoy Place, London WC1, where he “will give a 30 minute lecture on global warming and then take questions/points from the audience for 60 minute“.

I will believe in that only when I see it happening, by the way…whose kneecaps is Plimer going to try to (figuratively) break? 8-)

Crogiolarsi Nella Illusione Anti-Berlusconiana, Farsi Del Male

L’articolo di Massimiliano Boschi “Meritocrazia ad personam” sul blog de Il Fatto Quotidiano e’ l’ennesimo tentativo di dipingere Silvio Berlusconi come la personificazione del Male, colui cioe’ che ha portato l’Italia ad essere quella che e’ con tutte le sue brutture e tutti i suoi problemi. E come ogni altro suo compare, il risultato e’ stupido, nel senso che non porta alcun vantaggio apparente ne’ a chi lo scrive, ne’ tanto meno all’Italia che si vorrebbe “salvare” dalle grinfie berlusconiane, e che invece si ritrova sempre piu’ lontana dal comprendere se stessa e i propri problemi.

Boschi scrive infatti che

Il migliore non sarà mai riconoscente per una promozione, perché crede di avere solo quello che gli spetta. Se, invece, si promuove un incapace questo sarà sempre al servizio del capo perché sa di dovergli tutto. Questo ha fatto nascere una sorta di clientelismo “ad personam”, una massa di inetti ha occupato posti che toccherebbero a gente più abile e preparata. Si è costruito un voto di scambio per cui gli incapaci fedeli al capo hanno i posti migliori, al posto degli spiriti liberi e degli efficienti. Ed il danno non è, quindi, solo alla democrazia e alla cultura, ma anche all’economia di un paese”

Si tratta dunque di qualcosa che e’ piovuto addosso agli Italiani dopo che Silvio Berlusconi e’ entrato in politica intorno al 1993? E’ la stessa tesi ripetuta a Londra dall’eurodeputato IdV De Magistris, secondo il quale la meritocrazia e’ scomparsa piu’ o meno in quel periodo.

L’idea sembra dunque molto semplice e sono sicuro che trovera’ terreno fertile in molti cuori: la colpa e’ di Berlusconi. Liberiamoci di Berlusconi, dunque, e anche in Italia scorrera’ il latte e il miele (e l’onesta’)?

In realta’ quella mi sembra una straordinaria operazione millantatoria. Chiunque ritenga che prima del 1994 in Italia non ci fosse clientelismo di ogni ordine e grado, non sa quello che sta dicendo, e se lo sa, e’ consapevole di stare raccontando monumentali panzane. E poi mi si chiede perche’ Travaglio e soci non li sopporto…

Non e’ difficile saperne di piu’, anche per coloro che sono nati dagli anni ’70 in poi. Tanto per non annoiarsi, basta darsi alla cinematografia. Due film per tutti: “Le mani sulla citta’” (e’ del 1963, come e’ stato fatto notare a De Magistris); e “Il divo“. E poi quasi tutti i film di Alberto Sordi. E naturalmente “C’eravamo tanto amati“. Etc etc etc.

E chi volesse vedere cosa succede dopo decenni e decenni di clientelismo, si faccia un giro in alcune facolta’ Universitarie (da dove magari certi Professoroni radical-chic ululano contro Silvio, dopo aver partecipato alla spartizione del potere anche loro).

Cosa va invece ora di moda? “Videocracy“, altro tentativo di incolpare Berlusconi di tutto. Qualcuno dica al povero Erik Gandini che spazzatura come il Grande Fratello e l’Isola dei Famosi non e’ stata inventata in Italia…il fenomeno della fama istantanea apparendo in TV non e’ solamente o specialmente italiano, non e’ nato con Berlusconi, etc etc.

Di persone famose nonostante non abbiano alcun talento particolare di alcun tipo, il Regno Unito ne e’ pieno (vengono chiamate di solito come “C-list celebrities”).

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Chi vuole crogiolarsi in tali stupidaggini contro Berlusconi lo faccia pure. Ma si rendera’ conto della loro pericolosita’, in uno Stato insanguinato da una serie interminabile di omicidi politici? E che speranza c’e’ di risolvere un problema se se ne individua la causa sbagliata?

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Nell’attuale situazione, anzi, la presenza di Berlusconi e’ una componente liberatoria. Il politico “bacchettone” di una volta e’ quantomeno improponibile, e le vecchie ipocrisie, con gli accordi fatti sottobanco non hanno piu’ ragion d’essere. Chi vuole tornare all’epoca in cui le decisioni interne alla RAI e non solo, erano ignote ai piu’?

O come al solito, era meglio quando stavamo peggio?

Northeast Passage's "First Known Commercial Shipment"? Almost

Andy Revkin at DotEarth’s “Welcome to Earth’s ‘New’ Ocean: The Arctic” (about the navigation of the “Northeast Passage” by two German ships) has not yet found time to reply to my question as outlined below:

In Tom Nelson’s blog there is a link at Answer.com where several sources (including Wikipedia) repeat information about the Northeast Passage (Northern Sea Route) progressively becoming more and more easy to navigate during the last few centuries, of several expeditions going all the way decades ago, of commercial exploitation from 1877. Would Mr Revkin be so kind as to comment, and perhaps clarify what he and/or Lawson W Brigham exactly meant with “this is, indeed, a first“. – thank you in advance

Revkin’s actual words include “first known commercial shipment” and “Lawson W. Brigham, a longtime source for anything related to Arctic shipping, confirmed that this is, indeed, a first“. Yes but…a first of what? If “commercial exploitation began in 1877” then the latest “first” needs some good qualifier. Here’s what the Company managing those German ships actually claims in their website (sep 9):

We are all very proud and delighted to be the first western shipping company which has successfully transited the legendary Northeast-Passage

Trade magazine Break-bulk appears to confirm:

The two vessels will then be the first non-Russian commercial vessels to make it through the Northeast Passage from Asia to Europe

Was this all too difficult to read and understand? Would the explanation of the “non-Russian” bit have removed too much from the news for it to get any space in the newspaper?

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I am not sure if I will ever get an answer from Revkin.

What I am sure of though is that a little less ambiguity and a little more explanation on his part would have been quite welcome. Otherwise readers might get the impression that either the Northeast Passage is ready for leisure yachts, or that it has been forever closed by giant chunks of ice for millennia…

The Duning-Kruger Fallacy

The Duning-Kruger effect evidently exists. This post is not an attempt to debunk it: rather, it’s a plea for DK not to be abused.

Anybody and everybody can use a variant of the following: “Since you are not an expert in the field, your skepticism about it is derived from you overestimating your own knowledge about it“. Such an argument “provides poor reasoning in support of its conclusion” and therefore can be classified as a (material) fallacy (in particular, as an example of “Affirming the Consequent“).

To understand the above, imagine that any “expert” in homeopathy, in UFOs, in chemtrails will of course be able to repeat the same argument against any skeptic, for the simple reason that few if any skeptic will have devoted their lives to the study of homeopathy, UFOs or chemtrails.

Why, if the DK argument were valid, we would all be forced to believe in all sorts of religions, since it would be impossible to know more about the Bible, the Qu’ran, the Mahabharata more than respective (believer) scholars!

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There could be many reasons not to believe in something. The abuse of the DK effect as a DK argument is just a naive case of “pop psychology“.

New Details About Charles Morabito

A few step forward in my search for details about Charles Morabito, PoW 25084 at the Berga slave camp in Nazi Germany. Charles was very unfortunate, part of what might have been the very last group of American prisoners of war tortured/neglected and ultimately killed by the Nazis. As reported by the PBS, he was one of the few American victims of “Vernichtung durch Arbeit — the Nazi policy of physical destruction through labor“.

As of now, I believe Charles Morabito was killed while trying to escape, sometimes in March 1945.

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(1) I have now found this article in the New York Times: “CAPTIVE U.S. TROOPS BEATEN WITH PICKS; Survivor of German Camp Tells How He Put In Long Hours as Slave Laborer” from June 13, 1945. It contains the results of an interview with 20-year-old Daniel D .Steckler, survivor of Berga. He speaks of slave labor under appalling conditions, and of a total of around 350 dead between Feb 28 and Apr 18, 1945.

The article says the Americans had belonged to the 28th Division, fighting in Luxembourg.

(2) There is a Wikipedia entry for the U.S. 28th Infantry Division, but no mention of Berga in the World War II section. Also, that entry includes the 109th, 110th, 111th, and 112th Infantry Regiments for the 28th Division, whilst other sources indicate the 106th Regiment.

(3) Via the Jewish Virtual Library one can find the following 1994 book: “Forgotten Victims: Abandonment of Americans in Hitler’s Camps” by Mitchell G. Bard (Author). Interestingly, the Amazon UK site brings up next to that book, a work by Flint Whitlock entitled “Given Up for Dead: American GI’s in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga“.

I will try to source both books at my local library.

(4) Whitlock’s book is described with these words, providing more about the background of the whole Berga camp story:

This is the extraordinary and little-known story of American GIs taken prisoners at the Battle of the Bulge and forced into unspeakable slavery in the Nazi concentration camp at Berga. When thousands of American soldiers were captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, most were marched off to prisoner-of-war camps where they were relatively well-treated. A few hundred others, mainly Jewish, were marched off to the Nazi slave-labor camp at Berga-an-der-Elster, where many met an unspeakable fate. This is their story. For over three months, the soldiers worked under brutal, inhuman conditions, building tunnels in a mountainside for the German munitions industry. Many of them died. The others struggled to survive in a living nightmare. Strangely, when the war was over, many of the Americans who had survived Berga were required to sign a ‘security certificate’ which forbade them from ever disclosing the details of their imprisonment at Berga. Until recent years, what had happened to the American soldiers at Berga has been a closely guarded secret.

(5) Via “Look Inside“, it is possible to find references to “Morabido, Charles” for pages 156-159 (it is a misspelling…check out “Morabito” as written on Charles’ tomb’s cross; and his name in the prisoners’ list):

1. on Page 159:
” … escape was tied to Morabido’s “plundering” at the farm, and he explained the predicament to Bokanic. A German noncom “badgered Bokanic about knowing and escaping with Morabido”
2. on Page 158:
” … Bokanic dashed from the storeroom, out the gate, and ran for cover to wait for Morabido. Five minutes passed and then a shot rang out from the direction … ”
3. on Page 157:
“asked Bokanic where Morabido was and he said that Morabido went to milk a cow. Believe it! Soon, we heard the noise of cows mooing, then … ”
4. on Page 156:
” … known of the plan and, once Mark was at work in the tunnel, two GIs, Charles Morabido and another whose last name was Bokanic, approached him and said they … ”
5. from Index:
“xv, 25, 28 Morabido, Charles: 156-159 Moselle River, France: 68 Munk, Honzo: 140,176-177,179-180 Nabburg, Germany : 189 Nachtmandersheid, Luxembourg: 41 … “

(6) Those pages speak of an escape attempt, and Charles is described by fellow prisoner Joe Mark as a “devil-may-care soldier“, together with his friend ??? Bokanic, very much interested in having finally something to eat. For some reason he decided to milk a cow at a nearby farmhouse. At page 158 the book says Charles might have been shot by the farmer.

It was March 1945.

(7) It is very unfortunate that none of the four original documents displayed in the PBS site about Berga contains the entry about Charles Morabito. There is plenty of information in that site though. For now I have extracted the following map:

To Berga

Ike: Debate And Accuracy, Against Dictatorship

Or…Easy is the life of the Climate Change True Believer

This is yet another answer to whomever claims that the “climate change debate” is “over”.

From a recent op-ed by Max Blumenthal on the International Herald Tribune (“Ike’s other warning“, Sep 2, 2009):

[Eisenhower's 1959 letter] offers an [...] important — and relevant — warning: to beware the danger posed by those seeking freedom from the “mental stress and burden” of democracy

“I doubt that citizens [...] could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that [some] believe needed. Such unity is not only logical but indeed indispensable in a successful military organization, but in a democracy debate is the breath of life.”

Eisenhower also recommended a short book — “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer [...] Hoffer “points out that dictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.” The authoritarian follower, Eisenhower suggested, desired nothing more than insulation from the pressures of a free society.

“It is difficult indeed to maintain a reasoned and accurately informed understanding of our defense situation on the part of our citizenry when many prominent officials, possessing no standing or expertness as they themselves claim it, attempt to further their own ideas or interests by resorting to statements more distinguished by stridency than by accuracy.”

Every call to silence climate skeptics comes from a desire to be insulated “from the pressures of a free society“.

Nuove Picconature Contro L’Idea Che Il Problema Della Liberta’ Di Informazione In Italia Sia Berlusconi

Ritorno sull’assurdita’ di un leader del PD che accusa di “fascismo” Silvio Berlusconi, con un paio di notizie giuntemi nel frattempo:

Five Recommendations For American Presidents

From Robert B Reich’s review of “The Heart of Power –  Health and Politics in the Oval Office By David Blumenthal and James A. Morone:

  • a new president must move quickly, before opponents have time to stoke public fears
  • a president must set broad health reform goals and allow legislators to fill in the details, but be ready to knock heads together to forge a consensus
  • “The only way to deal with Congress is continuously, incessantly and without interruption” (L. Johnson)
  • disregard or overrule [the] economic advisers
  • there is an art to losing, too — in a way that can tee up the issue for future presidents

President Of British Science Association Casually Strolls Towards Fascism

I am pretty sure Lord May has absolutely no idea of the most obvious consequence of his religion-without-faith approach towards solving the “climate change” issue. And that consequence is…fascism.

In fact, in the past, over and over again, well-meaning atheists have proposed to use religion for social engineering purposes. Invariably, all those doctrines have converged towards authoritarian nightmares. Worse: the whole catalogue of XX century horrors can be traced back to idealists-atheists thinking hard on how to improve societies by using religion.

For a reference, see Mark Lilla’s review of Michael Burleigh’s “Earthly Powers”, published in the New York Times on April 2, 2006:

[...] the Jacobins (in revolutionary France) [...] were convinced that a strong republic would need some sort of civil religion to establish a spirit of self-sacrifice and belonging, and so they tried to create one, organizing public festivals modeled on pagan cults and remaking the calendar. Burleigh, like so many historians today, sees in these Promethean efforts a premonition of the theatrical mass meetings of the 20th-century Bolsheviks, Fascists and Nazis.

[...] liberal Protestant theologian [...] Friedrich Schleiermacher [had the dream of a ] rationally purified biblical faith [that] would jettison old beliefs in miracles and the Bible’s literal truth, allowing it to become the civil faith of the bourgeois German state. This proved to be a powerful myth that turned many a Protestant minister into a blinkered German nationalist, contributing in no small measure to the catastrophe of World War I.

[Joseph de Maistre's] fundamental insights — that political life rests on a religious foundation, that human relations are shaped by ritual, that individualism is a disease — first found their echo among leftist French utopians like Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and then Auguste Comte. The utopians did not believe in God but they very much believed in religion [...] or a surrogate one, a system of symbols and ceremonies bringing individuals together without reference to a revealing, transcendent God

[...] their daydreams about using religion instrumentally to foster social identification took a nightmarish turn at the end of the century when they fell into the hands of rabid nationalists like the French writer Charles Maurras and the German scholar Paul de Lagarde [...]

Now let’s see what happened to them.

All of that, because otherwise intelligent thinkers had the stupid idea of using religion without taking care of its Faith component.

Please Lord May would you stop inviting us to repeat that mistake.