Category Archives: Climate Change

Blair and Gore Cannot Be Wrong on Climate Change

UK PM Tony Blair, former US VP Al Gore and so many other politicians: why have they been so eager to jump on the Climate-Change-is-Humanity’s-Fault bandwagon?

A cynical explanation is in order: because they can’t lose by joining in.

They risk losing a lot instead, by staying out.

In fact, if (a) they can appear to be doing something about Human-induced Climate Change (CC):

  • a1. If CC doesn’t happen, they will claim victoryor
  • a2. If CC does happen, they will blame us all for not trying hard enough, and introduce ever harsher policies in order to… appear to be doing something about CC

On the other hand, the opposite position, of (b) publicly expressing doubts that Climate Change is caused by humans if it is happening at all, will mean:

  • b1. If CC doesn’t happen, they will claim victory, but
  • b2. If CC does happen, they will be blamed by us all for not trying hard enough

Worse, as climate is bound to naturally change if we just observe it for long enough a time, the “If CC doesn’t happen” options are simply immaterial.

It is self-evident then that (a) provides unlimited reward and no risk, while (b) vice-versa carries little reward and career-breaking risks.

Only naive or honest politicians, provided they exist, will refrain from shouting that Humanity is bound to destroy the planet by overheating it with carbon dioxide.

If anybody believes that the above is going to inspire good policies, I’ve got a bridge to sell them

(blog inspired by messages on the Climate Sceptics mailing list)

Prozac for the Climate People

or “The Unholy Alliance of Climatologists and Newsmedia

An additional positive-feedback mechanism in the realm of Catastrophic Climate Change may have gone un-noticed so far.

Look for example at the WMO Statement on the Status of the global Climate in 2006: “persistent extreme heat”, “heat waves”, “record temperatures”, “long-term drought”, “moderate-to-exceptional drought”, “severe drought conditions”, “heavy precipitation and flooding”, “heavy rainfall”, “historic flooding”, “deadly typhoons”, “ozone depletion”, “sea-ice decline”.

One is left shocked-and-awed by such a display of gloom. Even words such as “mild” and desert-area rainfall sounds ominous in the context of the WMO statement.

But wait: where is the list of places where conditions were OK or even good throughout the year, and so went un-reported?

Where is the mention for example of the end of long-term drought in most of the Sahel area, south of the Sahara desert?

In truth, that WMO statement does not report on the “Status of the global Climate”.

It reports on the “Status of everything that was unusual with the global Climate”: very useful indeed, but not to understand the overall picture.

It’s newspapers and magazines that need that kind of stuff. They know they don’t sell on good news. They live off a steady stream of bad news to get as many readers as possible.

And who can be better at providing that than present-day Climatologists?

Yet another unhealthy incentive for people to get noticed by predicting disasters.

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ADDENDUM

A couple of articles on LiveScience point to similar problems in the reporting of Medical studies

A Third of Medical Studies are Wrong

[…] Ioannidis said scientists and editors should avoid “giving selective attention only to the most promising or exciting results” and should make the public more aware of the limitations of science.[…] “We all need to start thinking more critically.”

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Media Omit Basic Facts in Medical Reports

[…] Journalists sometimes go to these conferences looking for the interesting nuggets and a chance to report on potential breakthroughs before the competition. But the media often omit basic facts in stories they report from professional medical conferences, a new study concludes. […] “Readers should approach the news with a healthy skepticism,” Schwartz suggested.

Interpreting the Climate Change Predictions – Free Guide

Your Free Guide on How to Interpret Climate Change Predictions

(written with the unaware “help” of Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner, Catherine Pearce)

“This report will show with unquestionable certainty that we are to blame for the last 50 years of warming”

Translation: “All the stuff we have been whinging about so far was not based on evidence strong enough. Sorry we didn’t tell you that before. Anyway, we are trying our luck again”.

“The recorded changes in our climate, which had been predicted to start many years from now are already upon us”

Translation: “Who needs them models anyway? Whatever they predict for the future, we’ll be able to find it right here and now, no matter the blatant contradiction”.

” – and with some bleak predictions to come.”

Translation: “Train yourself by scaring little children if you want to work for us”.

“We can no longer afford to ignore growing and compelling warnings from the world’s leading experts.”

Translation: “Years and years of work have so far come to nothing as they have been completely ignored by the real world. Once again, we are trying our luck , blissfully unaware of the possibility that there is something inherently wrong with our data, our interpretation of the data, and/or our whole way of trying to bring this forward by corralling scientists, cajoling people and burying dissent”.

Climate Change Calamities’ (paper) Climax

Jim Hansen is a renowned scientist and top NASA manager, apparently animated by reasonable objectives such as avoiding waste of resources and taking care of the natural world.

Why would he then have to resort to images of doom and gloom as in The Threat to the Planet” (The New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006)?

The article is a remorseless barrage of wanton destruction. We learn that animals are abandoning their roaming areas, migrating without a choice towards natural barriers ready to “spell doom” on their species. “For all foreseeable human generations”, the world “will be a far more desolate place”.

We should ready ourselves to ice sheets beginning to “collapse”, seas rising half a yard per decade, and “repeated [urban] retreats from transitory shorelines” translating into a “calamity for hundreds of cities […] far larger than New Orleans”.

If we don’t mend our ways, there will be a “sea level rise of eighty feet”, “global chaos” and (who would have guessed?) “fewer resources”.

As much as 60 percent, and no fewer than 20 percent of “today’s species” are going to go the way of the Dodo.

Remarkably, all available space is devoted to global warming calamities. Even if it were to happen as catastrophically as portrayed, surely we (and Dr Hansen) should be able to predict something good coming out of Climate Change, somewhere, for example, concerning areas such as northern Canada, northern Siberia and some of the present deserts?.

The disasters described by Dr Hansen are indeed so encompassing and overwhelming to fall squarely in what has been labelled “Climate Porn” by left-wing UK think-tank the IPPR (see my my article Saying No to ‘Climate Porn’?”, TCS Daily, Aug 16 2006).

The climax (pun intended) is reached when Dr Hansen writes that “if CO2 emissions are not limited […] all bets are off”.

Is the article’s very title seriously suggesting that Earth itself is under threat?

Not even the darkest forecasts can be used to make current climate change equivalent to, say, a 10-km size asteroid slamming against our planet: but I may be wrong.

I know Jim Hansen is one of many writing so dramatically about climate change. Without moving very far, similar questions could be posed to another article on The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery’s “Endgame” (August 11, 2005).

In that case, alongside the usual “changes in sea levels, weather patterns, and the fate of many species” we are told that “continuing to burn coal […] is a threat to existence itself”.

Cue Paul and Anne Ehrlich writing about “ecological suicide in our time” (“One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future”, Island Press/Shearwater 2004).

For his part, Dr Hansen’s efforts to find ways to prevent the gloomy future so spectacularly depicted must be commended.

Anyway, he definitely loses this reader when the text verges toward close-minded paranoia.

Dr Hansen complains that in the media, “fringe ‘contrarians’ supported by the fossil fuel industry” are given “equal time” to express their skepticism (since when has Science progressed on consensus rather than real-world data?).

He then laments that fellow scientists are presenting climate change too “clinically” (before and after making plenty of citations from other catastrophists).

Finally, he states that somehow only climate change catastrophists such as Al Gore will be able to give the public “the information needed to distinguish our long-term well-being from short-term special interests” (of energy companies, above all).

One would hope for a more convincing set of arguments from a distinguished scientist, especially if Dr Hansen truly believes that the end of the world as we know it is near but we can still make a difference.

His forays into titillating catastrophism can only increase one’s skepticism, sounding as they do like the claims of some millenarian cult (a point recognised by the IPPR in the report mentioned above).

Faced with such a long list of absurdities, one is practically forced to put into question the very basis of Dr Hansen’s concerns.

Let’s ask ourselves then, are we really witnessing any significant change to the climate, caused by human activities?

Personally, I will be persuaded when and if “change” will be more meaningful and incontrovertible than melting glaciers, strong hurricanes, hot summers, cold winters (and one may add, wet water).

How about finding instead the one weather pattern changed anywhere in the world due to global warming?

Literally anything would do: recurring hurricane seasons in the South Atlantic; an alteration of prevailing regional winds in the Mediterranean; a different monsoon path; or any other stable weather pattern settling into a new status.

There is no report of any so far.

Remaining unconvinced of the upcoming perils of climate change and global warming, am I a “fringe contrarian”? Perhaps (but then I have no relationship whatsoever with the fossil fuel industry and energy companies apart than as paying customer).

But is it really too much to ask to leave catastrophism to the propagandists, and to keep a scientific debate focused on the real world?

Global Warming: Science, Politics and Deimocracy

Contemporary apocalyptic fashionable undertones in the area of Climate Change are pointing us away from Democracy, the power of The People, and towards Deimocracy, the power of Fear.

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(1) Disaster Talking

We are showered with news of doom: AIDS and SARS epidemics, Terrorisms and Wars on Terror, Overpopulation, Immigrants in hordes, Global Warming: calamities ultimately “explained” as of our own making

It will be news, a day without news of species candidate for extinction, the planet destined to burn up, and our lifestyles destroyed by al-Qaeda or a virus, because we are not enough green, and/or not energy savers, and/or virtuous

That’s the zeitgeist, the Spirit of (Our) Time for Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, forecasting floods, droughts, hurricanes, cold and heath-waves, hunger and misery (locusts included) to governments and individuals, whose culpable inertia is apparently enriching Big Bad Oil Corporations while sullying the Earth

It is a “language of disaster” that belongs also to:

  • Jim Hansen, the NASA climatologist reporting only the scariest predictions
  • Tim Flannery, the Australian of the Year 2007, a scientist who believes that coal-burning will bring humanity to an end
  • Jared Diamond, the former-skeptic now converted to Paul Ehrlich’s unflinching pessimism to accuse the enslaved, decimated inhabitants of Easter Island of consumerism and ecocide; and to many more

Is it really necessary to force people to “duck” under ever more monstrous Terrors to protect the environment from technological growth, ourselves from terrorism, our species from overpopulation?

Since when has Fear become the only instrument of persuasion?

Is this because a “stupid electorate” is easily manipulated by the titillation of tragedy and disaster, or perhaps even by the millenarian attitude that permeated as expected the end of the last Millennium (Nostradamus prophecies, Y2K, etc.)?

But then, Democracy itself would be alien or absurd

Or is this because reaction can be elicited by hitting us hard before problems do?

That means considering our species to be “Homo Insanus”, not “Homo Sapiens”, “wise man”. Given the choice, it sounds definitely better to entrust us then to the “Politics of the Day After”, chasing the front pages of newspapers (standard practice for more than one politician…)

(2) Deimocracy

Actually, the suspicion is that this “Empowerment of Fear Itself” otherwise called Deimocracy (from the Greek: deimos “terror, dread”) is a way to propel new forms of social engineering by inoculating us with the idea that in such dire straits, our only hope to survive cataclysmic planetary changes is to accept exceptional, anti-freedom measures

Al Gore’s solution is for “leaders” to corral unwilling voters, whatever their opinion, into accepting coercive measures.

Sir Nicholas Stern in the meanwhile came up with yet another gloomy report, telling in no uncertain terms to spend some 20 billions today not to have to spend 200 billions or more in 100 or 150 years’ time (never mind the dubiously low discount rate and the continuous need to “explain” and “clarify” that he wasn’t talking about our lifetimes)

In a society where “science” and now “economics” foretell our future, we are told to follow their recommendations… or else!

The UK’s Royal Society recently reprimanded evil Exxon, guilty of financing “anti-environmentalist lobbies” belittling the risks of Climate Change (actually: some associations publicly saying that Climate Change will not happen, or will not be catastrophic)

The fallacy of judging anybody not following the Global Warming line as “anti-environmentalist” shows the Royal Society as less eager of defending Science against manipulation, than of taking Climate Change as an article of faith

(3) Global Warming as a new Religion

Millenarian Global Warming is indeed assuming the character of a cult, as repeatedly pointed out by Michael Crichton.

British newspaper The Guardian’s editorialist George Monbiot writes that (on Climate Change), “He (Monbiot) Is Watching Us”. Margo Kingston remarks on the Australian Daily Briefing that those Global Warming “deniers” are guilty of a Crime against Humanity. Others have suggested a Nuremberg-style trial.

If we do not stop to produce carbon dioxide within ten years, the world will be gone, some say. Others tell sinners that without repentance, they will not be among the 144 thousand saved in the Apocalypse. Spot the difference.

And in a Market of the Indulgences Al Gore pays to plant trees to compensate for the jet-setting he undertakes to instruct us… to fly less! (Is it time for SUV owners to grow trees on the bonnet?)

(4) Skepticism: the Root of Science

Mystical visions of doom are obviously not on par level with forecasts by obviously bright intellects such Hansen’s and Flannery’s. And yet, one can be just as seriously skeptical of their conclusions, in the ways of Carl Sagan: extraordinary claims of catastrophes must be backed by extraordinary evidence

Science is indeed a collection of “theories”, models of reality as objective and as complete as possible. The task of the scientist is to (boringly) expand on such models or to (Nobel-prize-winningly) refute them and put forward new, more precise models.

Truly there is no such a thing as “democratic science”, weighing the number of papers going in different directions. It is instead like a boiling ocean where competing models fight to reach the surface through the grinding by mechanisms such as “peer review” by experts (usually without authors’ names to avoid “subjective” interference, e.g. of “bad blood”)

Nonetheless, the infrastructure of Science feeds on reputation. No editor of scientific publication, no manager of research fund will want to look gullible: it is then obviously more difficult to publish anything against the “current consensus”, and easier to receive funds to repeat established experiments

With Science pushed and pulled in incompatible directions, the scientific debate cannot be closed: otherwise, it is not scientific. And its infinite detail will never be fully shown in scientific publications or accompanying press releases

(5) From Science to Politics

In politics the situation is radically different. Politics can not simply abandon one model for another, to “try out” something else. Social effects are not negligible, and it will be difficult to carry along the electorate at every turn: impressions, however subjective they may be, do count.

Translating Science into Politics therefore creates four problems: Technicism; Manipulation; Inaction and Causal Monomania

Technicism is the misinterpretation of scientific research as the “end word” on a topic: like eugenics, fashionable and admired cause of several million human deaths

In Manipulation, politicians pick and choose the most convenient scientific results: as in the 1920 US’s immigration policies discriminating against Southern Europeans for scientific, unassailable reasons (alleged inferior IQs)

Inaction is when Governments do nothing against clear forecasts by scientists and engineers. Just as predicted by many experts, New Orleans’ badly-financed and badly-constructed levees, built to withstand the direct hit of a category-3 hurricane, failed even if category-3 Katrina actually missed the city

Finally, in Causal Monomania an issue is fogged by explaining everything with a single reason: Global Warming, of course, where catastrophist propaganda couples with alarmist Deimocracy to deny political space to all opponents: whilst in the scientific arena, almost every work is bound to “rediscover” the same thing: how bad we are, and how bad Climate Change is going to be

In Al Gore’s movie, glaciers retreat, floods devastate, the natural world dies: all of that, because of Global Warming.

There is no “smoking gun” available, no hurricane called “Climate Change”: yet, this fact is not important because, in the subculture of Global Warming, every atmospheric phenomenon is obviously caused by our misbehavior

Read this recent quote from “Cultural responses to aridity in the Middle Holocene and increased social complexity” (Nick Brooks, Quaternary International 151 (2006) 29-49):

In today’s globalizing world, traditional livelihoods are under pressure from economic liberalization, monetization of local economies and development programmes based largely on western models.

Words of truth perhaps but… they can relate to social complexity and aridity in the Middle Holocene only for people that consider contemporary Climate Change induced by human activity as an all-encompassing Monster, the root of every trouble, to be stopped also by means of disseminating irrelevant, yet negative and unrelenting mentions of it

Compare that effort to the lukewarm attitude towards preventing the one disaster that will occur with absolute certainty: our planet being hit by a small asteroid or comet

(6) Climate Change and Propaganda

Climate Change monomania details upcoming destructions to restrict individuals’ freedoms. Moreover, it is a propaganda device for politicians to hide their shortcomings

If every problem derives from Climate Change, and all effective solutions are global, what can we ever pretend from a single Nation?

Take Australia, experiencing its n-th consecutive year of “drought” (presented of course as a sign of Climate Change): and yet, during Sydney’s rainy September ‘06, local newspapers debated the absence of adequate facilities to collect rainwater. Never mind the subsidies received by farmers despite the obvious unsuitability of their farms.

And never mind the fact that Dorothea Mackellar could remember Australia as the “sunburnt country […] of droughts and flooding rains“…in 1904!

What is the real issue: “Climate Change” or “Incompetence”? Shall we really revolutionize our lifestyles and spend billions to stop emitting CO2, in order to save the Australian Government (or any other) from their own ineptitude?

(7) The End of Environmentalism?

A bigger danger exists. What if the foretold disasters fail to happen? Politicians will not be able to justify themselves by “passing the buck” to the scientists.

If the political debate could be encapsulated by the scientific discourse, we would just accept a Technocracy (again, renouncing Democracy): an untenable solution as the idea that professionals, experts, scientists do make mistakes is part of popular mythology

Large communication problems exist between Science and the non-scientific public. Actually, by putting themselves in-between scientists and the general population, catastrophists are risking to prevent the public from properly perceiving the real threats and risks

When too many a prediction will fail, people will wrongly but understandably start to think that rhinos are not in extinction danger; that there are many Siberian tigers around; and that pollution running amok is no problem.

Fear-mongering Environmentalism may indeed be sanctioning the End of Environmentalism (a point recently made by no less a commentator than Nicholas D Kristof of the New York Times)

(8) Defending the Environment – Take Two

A serious environmentalist debate must rise above simplistic policies and propaganda. Many are the priorities to handle, and difficult to manage: there is no solution in monomaniac pseudo-scientific Deimocratic shortcuts

Meaningful environment conservation is something less sexy and un-titillating, pivoted around analyses and counter-analyses of our ideals, objectives and priorities, in a system where scientific research is analyzed within its context, before being applied in the political field.

It is based on defining objectives as solution to problems, not just as desperate resorts against the End of the World

Are houses cleaned because it is the right thing to do, or just since otherwise people could be at risk of SARS or the Black Plague?

Are Human Rights to be protected for their intrinsic value, or only if and when the alternative is Genocide?

Shouldn’t oil be better employed to build plastics than burned for heating and transportation with accompanying toxic fumes?

Of course: and not just to avoid droughts, fires and a one-way trip to the Gehenna

(9) Rejecting Deimocracy

Gore, Hansen and the others may even be right on the subject of Global Warming: however, their methods of propaganda and political action must be rejected in principle.

The real risk is to accept the worst of all possible worlds, where Science is contaminated by ideology and Politics stifles debate, with little freedom and scarce if any analysis of priorities.

Will one day somebody coin the slogan “Breath less, Emanate less carbon dioxide”?

Let’s be free instead: Long Live Democracy!

And let’s firmly distance ourselves from the “Politics of Fright”. Down with Deimocracy!

Back To Basics On Global Warming

What is the actual evidence for Global Warming? With all the noise coming out this week in the media, it is interesting to go back to the basics, i.e. to the actual measurements 

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The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) has published temperature times series from 1850 to 2006

These are average global temperature “anomalies” (i.e. amounts above or below the 1961-90 average). Of particular interest the HadCRUT3v series, as it is presented as the most accurate. Uncertainties are in the order of +-0.05C (4 times as much in the XIX century)

If you plot those values, it makes for an impressive graph, with the hockey stick shape and all that. However, a better look at the most recent figures reveals:

1995: 0.27
1996: 0.138
1997: 0.347
1998: 0.526
1999: 0.302
2000: 0.277
2001: 0.406
2002: 0.455
2003: 0.465
2004: 0.444
2005: 0.475
2006: 0.422

  1. Even if it is true that 2006 has been among the warmest years, the maximum happened in 1998. Its temperature hasn’t been even remotely reached since
  2. Since 2001, values have not varied more than the accuracy of the data. In other words, there hasn’t been much of a change
  3. If one stops claiming that temperatures have changed when the figures vary less than the accuracy, the resulting graph is much smoother, with a possible asymptote at 0.3C or 0.4C

All in all there is little or no indication that we are experiencing unprecedentedly increasing temperatures. I am aware that 2007 has been forecast as “the warmest ever”, and it will be interesting to find out if the temperature stability of the past six years will be broken either upwards or downwards

And of course the most one can reasonably say is that “it’s too early to tell“. If only Mainstream Climatology would accept such a simple wisdom!!

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What about the 2,500 scientists working for the UN at the IPCC? Well, it is not my fault if they have decided to sell their science to politics. If hundreds of bureaucrats can have a saying on the interpretation of Climate Change data, so can anybody else

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What about other evidence of Climate Change such as melting glaciers? The basic tenet of the IPCC is that so-called Greenhouse Gases generated by human activity are responsible for increases in temperatures, and these in turn are changing the climate. So it does all depend indeed on temperatures first.

Somebody, someday will realize that Climate is made of more than just Temperature

The Sad State of Climate Science

(my final comment in the online debate “Climate Change Challenge” instigated by the UK NERC “Natural Environment Research Council”)

Proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) have to rely also on models as evidence, depend in part on “attribution-by-exclusion”, show little tolerance of scepticism and let political representatives mingle in their field of work

Not really signs that AGW is a “strong” scientific theory

And now for the details:

1- Scepticism

Colin Prentice (CP) in #355: “There isn’t any contradiction. Of course, ‘sceptics’ can say what they like”

Leaving aside attacks to individuals and institutions, NERC imply scepticism of AGW is not valid and anti-scientific, as per text (A) “…there are STILL sceptics who dispute the data… If you don’t BELIEVE the science…” (my emphasis)

But CP writes in #351 “Without sceptisism, there would be no science! I would defend your right to be sceptical!”

If that is true, considering also that “the best evidence comes from a combination of models and observations” (CP, #265), shouldn’t we _expect_ plenty of valid scepticism of AGW?

Therefore, (A) should change to “…there are OF COURSE sceptics who dispute the data…”

2- Attribution-by-exclusion

CP in #355: “The GHG explanation for climate change is not attributed ‘by exclusion'”

Steve Schulin #362 answers that

But my point is that a scientific discipline should abhor attribution-by-exclusion as a matter of principle: unless anybody here wants to support Intelligent Design as “science”

3- Science and Government

AGW is unique as it mysteriously has to go through an “Inter_GOVERNMENTAL_ Panel”

In the words of Associated Press (Jan 23), the upcoming IPCC report is written and reviewed by 1,200 scientists and then “edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries”

Note that the IPCC report is not just a policy document: it collates and presents the science of AGW

If I were a climate scientist I’d find the whole setup upsetting and humiliating. I wonder what “bureaucrats” had to say about evolution or
particle physics

What makes people lose their cool?

Nothing makes people lose their composure as much as Global Warming

It is now the turn of Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, a very funny, knowledgeable, interesting blogger that in fact has posted an entry about the importance of critical thinking, and of being able to concentrate oneself on the things that matter, instead of the latest scare stories

 …only to follow it up with TWO entries about “global warming”, “it’s too late”, “Exxon Mobil is evil”

Let’s apply Phil’s critical thinking here. No one in the US has died of climate change, and yet we hear about it all the time. Sure, it’s a threat, but not nearly a big one as regular climate

Climate Change’s Toothless Circus

Thousands of delegates have been flown to giant air-conditioned conference and hotel rooms in Nairobi, plus journalists, TV crews, etc etc, all eating lots of food and drinking plenty of water (and more…), neither likely to have been mass-produced locally

And the most likely outcome is…the usual wishy-washy Climate Change rubbish

Is there anything to worry about the Climate Change circus? I am starting to think, there is not

Catastrophilia at the NYRB

The juxtaposition in the Nov 16 issue of the New York Review of Books, of Bill McKibben’s “How Close to Catastrophe?” with Garry Wills’ “A Country Ruled by Faith” is deeply telling of the fashionable status of catastrophism in a varied set of social and cultural strata, from evangelical right-wingers to climate-concerned scientists

Wills laments the influence on the White House of “premillennial lack of concern for the earth’s fate as Jesus’ coming nears” and the related support of the Iraq War as “a focal point of end-time events” (in the words of evangelical writer Tim LaHaye)

For his part, McKibben may not expecting “Jesus’ coming” any time soon, but, ironically, he is really onto big thoughts about “end-time events“: perhaps of a climatic rather than theological variety; “scientific” rather than faith-based

Still, the language used by McKibben is remarkably similar to any Millennial cult’s

We are repeatedly lead towards believing in James Lovelock’s dire predictions for Earth to become a red desert. Ice is melting faster, and if we don’t do something by 2015, we will find ourselves crossing “a threshold” and creating “a different planet

Lest the reader misses any of the points, McKibben writes with conviction that “a wave large enough to break civilization is forming

Is that the same person that ends the article by suggesting that what “we need most badly is the technology of community—the knowledge about how to cooperate to get things done“?

One only wishes McKibben would practice as he preaches, and stop using the language of fear, to substitute it with a deeper appreciation and respect, also for the community of his readers

ps There is one factual error. McKibben writes about a “homeostasis” that somehow has managed to keep the planet’s “temperature, at a relatively stable level“. What stable temperatures? Global temperatures have been swinging widely for billions of years, and just a few thousand years ago ice sheets were covering plenty of the Northern Emisphere

The Economist…and the economists

(Letter sent to The Economist)

Dear Editors

One wonders how much to read in what you don’t appear to be daring to explicitly write, in your commentary about Sir Nicholas Stern’s review of the economics of climate change (“It may be hot in Washington too“, Nov 2nd 2006)

Let’s see: Sir Nicholas, the “head of Britain’s government economic service” and with a past in very senior positions at the World Bank, delivers a series of economical figures…perfectly in line with what is politically needed by the commissioner of his latest effort, Gordon Brown

Contrarily to the Financial Times, only very obliquely you suggest that all that economics may as well have no value (apart of course from Mr Brown’s effort to get “America involved in the global effort to mitigate climate change“)

All in all, Sir Nicholas’s report may end up being remembered as a travesty of economics

Do you really hold expert economists in such a low esteem, not to feel any outrage at seeing their profession so heavily manipulated for political ends? And if that is true, what is the point of your Buttonwood and other economics columns?

One may even ask, what is the point of your magazine? Why not close it down, perhaps, to open it anew as “The Politician”?

Climate Hysteria – a letter published on the IHT

The following letter of mine has been published top on the International Herald Tribune on October 16, 2006

Title: Climate Hysteria

[Dear Editors] 

Your editorial criticizes Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma for dismissing media “hysteria” about global warming (“Hysterical climate doubters,” Oct. 13)

But panic and frenzied reporting about global warming is indeed the norm, with a barrage of stories on disappearing species, uncontrollable pests, rising seas, floods, droughts, heat waves, fires, violent storms, scarce food and forecasts of millions of human deaths

“Global warming hysteria” is unfortunately what appears on the pages of countless newspapers and publications. The real debate is whether that hysteria is justified and if it serves any purpose apart from scaring people

Maurizio Morabito England

The original was bit longer and a tad less harsh 😎

Dear Editors

You criticize Sen James Inhofe of Oklahoma for “dismissing media ‘hysteria’ ” about global warming (“Hysterical climate doubters”, IHT, Editorial, Oct 13)

But panic, frenzied reporting about global warming is indeed the norm, with a barrage of stories on disappearing species, uncontrollable pests, rising seas, floods, droughts, heat waves, fires, violent storms, scarce food/jobs/resources, and forecasts of millions of human deaths

On your very pages, Nicholas D Kristof lamented the catastrophist stance of mainstream environmentalim (“I Have a Nightmare“, IHT, March 12, 2005). And a left-leaning UK think-tank has explicitly compared it to adults-only horror movies ( “Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?“, IPPR, July 2006)

“Global Warming Hysteria” is unfortunately what appears on the pages of countless newspapers and publications

What is really a matter of debate, is if that “hysteria” is justified, and if it serves any purpose apart from scaring people

Some people answer yes on both counts

An Indirect Way For The Sun To Influence Earth’s Climate

The old idea that cosmic rays influence climate on Earth by increasing cloud cover is finally being proven

Exploding Stars Influence Climate Of Earth” (from Spacedaily)

[…] The data revealed that electrons released by cosmic rays act as catalysts, which significantly accelerate the formation of stable, ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules which are building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei. A vast numbers of such microscopic droplets appeared, floating in the air in the reaction chamber […]

It is known that low-altitude clouds have an overall cooling effect on the Earth’s surface. Hence, variations in cloud cover caused by cosmic rays can change the surface temperature. The existence of such a cosmic connection to Earth’s climate might thus help to explain past and present variations in Earth’s climate. […]

What makes this all the more powerful, is that it could expand the role of the Sun in the shaping of Earth’s climate, as it can be used to link Solar magnetic activity (i.e. the number of sunspots) to the heating and cooling of our planet

Interestingly, during the 20th Century, the Sun’s magnetic field which shields Earth from cosmic rays more than doubled, thereby reducing the average influx of cosmic rays.

The resulting reduction in cloudiness, especially of low-altitude clouds, may be a significant factor in the global warming Earth has undergone during the last century. However, until now, there has been no experimental evidence of how the causal mechanism linking cosmic rays and cloud formation may work […]

Likewise, when the solar magnetic field was weak during the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), winters were definitely harsher

Asteroids and Global Warming

No, I am not going to suggest that Global Warming will cause huge meteors to fall from the sky (but I am sure somebody somewhere is just blogging about that…)

Here instead a letter I have just sent to The Economist on risk mitigation, global warming and asteroids:

Dear Editors

In “Dismal Calculations” (inside The Survey on Climate Change, Sep 7th 2006) you write that “Global warming poses a serious risk, and the costs of mitigation are not so large as to be politically unthinkable. Mitigation is better done gradually than swiftly, because the faster it is done, the more it will cost” but then conclude that “the economics of the subject are too uncertain for policymakers to lean heavily upon them

Well, there is at least one topic where there is a serious risk, a risk that is far more certain and whose economical consequences are well accepted in a consensus far larger than global warming’s. That topic is the destruction that will be caused by an asteroid 20 meters or larger hitting our planet 

One would expect people making the case for mitigating global warming because of its potentially serious consequences, to be even more active and more concerned about setting up a planetary defence system to protect us all from the killer space rocks that we know for sure are going to hurtle our way

Why talk only about mitigating global warming then? Is it because it gives its proponents a chance to enact their own dreams of social engineering?

Climate Change Propaganda? No thank you

Today’s TCS Daily (Europe) sported my article on the sinister side of Climate Change propaganda, a commentary on the recently-published report ““Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?”

global-warming pessimists […] are now being encouraged to make-believe their own reality, building for all of us an almost certainly gloomy future. Armed with propaganda rather than rational persuasion, they are advocating an orthodoxy reminiscent of some past Communist States. […]

[The authors of the report] go as far as to implicitly recognize that possibly climate change catastrophism is “another apocalyptic construction […] perhaps a figment of our cultural imaginations”. […]

Is the terrain being prepared for zealot eco-revolutionaries soon to remove most freedoms and a wide range of technological achievements, imposing us a future “eco-friendly” life of pain, illness, manual labour and struggle, with the belief that human ingenuity is an evil that will destroy the planet instead than improve our lives? […]

I am still waiting for a single weather pattern to change due to Global Warming. Feel free to point that out when (and if) it happens

Shermer wins against Sachs in the July 2006 Scientific American magazine

Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 15:44:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Maurizio Morabito”
Subject: Shermer vs. Sachs on the July 2006 magazine: Shermer wins
To: editors@sciam.com
CC: “Michael Shermer”
Dear Editors

Still puzzled by your choice of providing Jeffrey D. Sachs with a full page of your magazine _not_ to talk about science, I could only appreciate the (unintentional?) irony of seeing the Sustainable Developments column juxtaposed with Michael Shermer’s (definitely science-related) Skeptic musings.

And especially so in the July 2006 magazine: on the left side, Mr Shermer discussing how skepticism should be applied to politics, because “partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want“.

On the right side, Mr Sachs…twirling “the cognitive kaleidoscope” until he got the conclusions he wanted.

For example, Mr Sachs mentions the Darfur crisis saying “the deadly carnage…has roots in ecological crisis directly arising from climate change“.

That is not given out by Mr Sachs as a possibility or a hypothesis: rather, it is clearly described as a “fact”

Would you mind asking Mr Sachs where he took that “fact” from?

I know that the relationship Darfur-“war on scarce resources” has been mentioned recently by some clergy members in the media. But it would be big news indeed to hear that _that_ has been “demonstrated”, let alone accepted as a “fact”

Mr Sachs goes on to more politicized statements, such as “A drought-induced famine is much more likely to trigger conflict in a place that is already impoverished“. Could you please ask Mr Sachs to provide a list of all conflicts triggered by drought-induced famines, say, during the last 100 years?

Please do follow Mr Shermer’s suggestion: and do control for “confirmation bias” on all your contributors, _including_ those writing about something else than science
 

Ethics and Coal

Is this sad or cool? I just had my seventh published letter on the pages of the International Herald Tribune (June 28, 2006)

“Coal’s False Promise”

Jeff Goodell indulges in circular reasoning when he writes that the biggest problem with coal is “what it does to our minds. It preserves the illusion that we don’t have to change our lives” (“Coal’s false promise to America,” Views, June 24).

If coal is abundant and available, as Goodell reports, surely there are fewer reasons to worry about the end of cheap oil? And if coal causes environmental problems because of antiquated extraction and burning practices, isn’t the problem one of improving those technologies and processes, rather than abandoning coal altogether? 

One is left with the impression that the campaign against coal is just another moralizing enterprise, taking advantage of purported shortages to corral us into living a “more ethical” life.

Maurizio Morabito Orpington, England

I will blog about the other six letters published so far (and all the ones never printed), but for now a list is available by searching for “maurizio morabito” at this link

Climate change in the Solar System: Earth, Mars…and now Jupiter!

(first published on May 5, 2006)

After doomed Earth, populated by evil sinners driving devilish gas guzzlers, and Mars, where "deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near the south pole have shrunk for three summers in a row", here comes more evidence for Climate Change

This time's Jupiter!

Possible explanations:

1. Ghoulish oil companies have been making a larger mess of the Solar System then previously thought

2. There's lots of SUVs around, and I mean LOTS

3. Hot air from major scientific and political institutions talking about upcoming disasters, has been contaminating ever larger portions of the interplanetary space

4. There is a climate change clique with mental health problems, and they see evidence of global warming everywhere, including pictures of Jupiter and crop circles

5. All those NASA probes to the planets were launched mainly to carry millions of tons of CO2 and give Martians and Jupiters a good heath haze

or

6. Current warming trends on planet Earth are related not much if at all to human activity

Feel free to pick the one you find more likely

New Evidence about Climate Change

(first published on Sep 21, 2005)

scientist also say that deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near the […] south pole have shrunk for three summers in a row. They say this is evidence to suggest climate change is in progress

I say, let's reduce the amount of cheap flights now, before more gullies are formed!

Fools and Global Warming

Open Letter to Richard Littlemore of DeSmogBlog 

Dear Richard

As much as I appreciate your blog for its reporting of the Environmental Wars conference, that I quite sadly was unable to attend, I find the "Jesters" entry more than a bit shameful, with all its unwarranted ad-hominems

If you really believe in an upcoming Climate Crisis, it makes no sense to cloud the debate with your unfunny attempts at humor.

They'll just elicit just as (un-)funny remarks on other blogs and website, about the "close-minded fools" of the "global warming lobby", and so on and so forth

iow, they won't take you or anybody or the planet's climate anywhere

They could actually be used by some to "demonstrate" that the "global warming lobby" has no arguments

Trusting you won't give up your day job for stand-up comedy, I'll keep looking in your site for more substantial opinions by you

Climate Change & The Skeptics Society – first impressions

The Skeptics Society has just held its Environmental Wars conference, to "debate about whether human activity is actually changing the climate of the planet"

Best links to get information about the conference appear so far to be:

Flipping Point, an article on Pasadena Weekly

The Skeptics Conference section of the DeSmogBlog

Jonathan H Adler's "The Environmental Wars" Conference on his The Commons blog

————–

As a long-time Climate Change skeptic, I can only be glad to see that no less a skeptic than Michael Shermer had been unwilling to jump on the CC bandwagon, until a few weeks ago. So there is no need to provide evidence that I am not paid by evil Oil companies to air my views: especially when I doubt the more catastrophical claims

In any case: having literally read it all, my impression is that the debate remains as polarized as ever, with each side seeing what they want.

At the end of the day, it may go down to a communications issue.

Some people simply refuse to be cajoled into intellectual submission by scare stories and depictions of upcoming disasters.

Some other people think those disasters are coming but are failing to identify how to communicate it without resorting to “the end of the world is nigh…repent!”.

And so, after realizing their message is not being heard as expected, the latter group try to coherce the former a little stronger, with several insults thrown in the process

So here's my plea to all Climate-Change-is-awful-let's-act-now People: Please change your ways at communicating. This is no way to conduct an intelligent debate. And it is no way to obtain results

If you guys and gals really believe to be right, find a way to get things done.

And stop asserting that "the debate is over". It doesn't work, either.