Category Archives: Global Warming

Review, Peer Review and the APS Debacle

With their over-the-top reaction to the publication on one of their newsletter of Monckton’s ideas on climate sensitivity, the APS leaders have shown themselves not stupid…

…because a “stupid” is somebody that damages others without a gain for himself: whilst the APS has only damaged itself.

Look at the “peer-reviewed” issue. Monckton is likely to be behind a wildly-exaggerated press release by the SPPI

Mathematical proof that there is no “climate crisis” appears today in a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 46,000-strong American Physical Society, SPPI reports.

Should have been child’s play to issue a counter-release explaining that there cannot be any mathematical proof in a scientific field (outside of mathematics, that is); that “Physics and Society” is a newsletter, and not a “learned journal”; and that Monckton’s invited article was only part of the beginning of a debate.

Look what’s happened instead: Monckton is now perfectly in the right to state that he’s been unfairly, and uncourteously treated. He’s been invited to write an article that has been published, that then caused APS to undergo all sorts of fits, including a series of unwarranted put-downs plastered all over the place in apparent panic.

In fact: at this very moment both Monckton’s article and the IPCC-consensus piece by Hafemeister and Schwarz sport on top the following statement in black ink (my emphasis) (this is similar to what appeared in red ink on Monckton’s article alone):

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

Something similar has materialized at the beginning of the FPS July 2008 issue’s web page:

The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee 

But that is not the way the FPS is presented:

Physics and Society is the quarterly of the Forum on Physics and Society, a division of the American Physical Society. It presents letters, commentary, book reviews and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.

Now..what is the difference between peer-reviewed and reviewed?

Is there such a thing in scientific circles as an article reviewed but not by peers?

Has anybody ever heard of an inferior-reviewed article? Or of a superior-reviewed article? Who knows?

Looks like at the APS they have been cavalier with the issue of reviewing, until now. But if they need to sort out their own house, it should be for the future, and not for the past (unless they want to go against the principle of cause and effect).

And so Monckton on one thing is certainly right: for all intents and purposes, maybe the wrong way, maybe without thinking at the consequence, but Monckton’s article has been peer-reviewed indeed.

Why the NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn’t Mention Greenhouse Gases

Discussions with people holding a different view are obviously quite likely to help bring one’s reasoning forward (as long as there is no name-calling or other infantilism).

For an example of what can happen, look no further than this exchange with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. The topic is, what is the relevance of the fact that the NASA Planetary Atmospheres website (PDS-A) doesn’t mention greenhouse gases.

To which my answer has been:

if the experts in the field don’t take it into consideration, I surely want to know why!!

Ed has replied with an interesting suggestion:

The site doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive resource for all studies of all atmospheres everywhere. It’s a site to get a line into work NASA has actually done.

But if that’s true, it means that in all these years, NASA has seldom if ever looked at ways to investigate the same greenhouse effect that keeps Earth’s average temperature above freezing, and Venus with a surface temperature higher than an oven. And furthermore, there is a dearth of data in this most practical of planetary atmospheric fields!!

========

Let’s try to figure out if Ed’s interpretation is right. In its About page, the PDS-A site says “As an additional service, the Atmospheres Node provides information on relevant planetary atmospheres topics for educational purposes”.

There are links for Educators, including to the NASA Planetary Data System College Student Investigators (CSI) webpage that states

The objective of this activity is to involve undergraduate students in research and development projects related to the holdings of NASA.s Planetary Data System (PDS). Through the PDS College Student Investigators activity, the PDS strives to prepare the next generation of PDS science investigators.

A recent proposal is about investigating the role of dust in the thermodynamics of the Martian atmosphere. Neither there nor elsewhere there is any mention of greenhouse gases, a topic that evidently and mysteriously does not interest “next generation of PDS science investigators”.

Going back to PDS-A, there are educational links also to “Broker Forums“. One of them is the web site for the “Sun-Earth Connection” at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, curiously linking to another website “Space Weather” containing a few unorthodox remarks on the Sun and Earth’s climate.

Another link for the Broker Forums goes to NASA’s Solary System Educational website where (finally!) there is some serious content about the greenhouse effect (GH).

And what does that refer to? Step forward ESA’s Venus Express, that lists among its scientific objectives the investigation of

what is the role of the radiative balance and greenhouse effect in the past present and future evolution of the planet?

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

Chapeau to Ed Darrel, then…for all intents and purposes, NASA has dedicated no mission to the study of the greenhouse effect. That’s why there is no mention of it in the PDS-A site, the Planetary Data System for Atmosphere: simply, there is no data to report. Because nobody ever looked for those.

Is the current state of Climatology on this planet and everywhere else sad or what? If Goddard’s Director and climate worrier James Hansen is unable to gather funds for a terrestrial or planetary mission on the greenhouse effect; or worse, if even he is not interested enough to put one together: then how solid will the science of the climate ever be?

ps Still, the PDS-A Encyclopedia could have had a page on the GH effect. Its equations albeit simplified, still are possible

Surprising Remarks in NASA-Endorsed Website

Cosmic rays stream down into Earth’s atmosphere from the sun and elsewhere beyond the solar system. Recent studies show that these particles penetrate into the troposphere and alter the way that droplets condense to form clouds, rain and snow with important weather and climate consequences. Changes in the sun’s ultraviolet light affects the ozone layer and the energy input into the upper atmosphere. As the upper atmosphere is heated, it expands into space causing increased friction for satellites.

The ISS must be ‘re-boosted’ every three months to prevent it from burning up in the atmosphere. The Skylab station on July 11, 1979 reentered prematurely because of a solar storm event.

The above from the Solar Storms “Space Weather” website, listing NASA more than once in its endorsements page.

The below is instead from their Climate page:

Scientists have examined the climate record for other signs of the connection between space weather and climate-weather changes with many surprising results listed below.

The Trends page, alas, loses out on many of those “surprises”…

How the BBC Used the Wrong Picture to Talk About Media Accuracy

This is too funny to pass. Message just sent to the BBC:

Hi – you are using the wrong picture to accompany one article about the Ofcom ruling on the “Global Warming Swindle” documentary.

The page “Opinion: A reluctant whistle-blower” is using the IPCC TAR (2001) “Hockey Stick” graph

IPCC TAR (2001) Hockey Stick
IPCC TAR (2001) Hockey Stick

The above can be seen in a 2004 BBC News article “Climate legacy of ‘hockey stick’“.

Obviously, you should have used the more recent IPCC (2007) temperature graph, as per your own website

IPCC AR4 (2007) Temperature Graph
IPCC AR4 (2007) Temperature Graph

That graph is published in the BBC News website’s “Climate Change: The evidence“.

Please have it fixed asap. After all, the article with the wrong picture is about…accuracy in the media!!

regards – maurizio

A Glass Half Full: UK Ofcom's Global Swindle Ruling

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? About the UK media regulator Ofcom’s ruling on the broadcasting by Channel 4 of the documentary “Great Global Warming Swindle”, the BBC writes in the new home page, under “Latest”:

LATEST: A Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules on impartiality and fairness, the regulator says.

The link goes to an article by Richard Black, titled “Climate documentary ‘broke rules’” summarised as “A controversial Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says.” Still, it “did not mislead audiences”.

It depends on what rules, one imagines. Much better then, to try to understand what the Ofcom actually says, is to go to their website: “Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin issue number 114” dated July 21, 2008, where one can learn:

  • Channel 4 breached Rule 7.1: “Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes”, specifically regarding Sir David King and Professor Carl Wunsch
  • In part 5 (final) of the documentary, Channel 4 breached Rule 5.11 about “due impartiality” and Rule 5.12 about including an “appropriately wide range of significant views“; those rules apply because the topic can be included among the “matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy
  • Parts 1 to 4 (final) of the documentary were exempt from Rules 5.11 and 5.12
  • Channel 4 did not breach Rule 2.2 of the Broadcasting Code, about materially misleading the public

Looks like all they would have had to do to pass with full marks, was to provide an opportunity of comment for King and Wunsch, and to mention the full gamut of climate-change-related political opinions…

Enough for now, apart from a link to the 86-page bulletin, 17 of which dedicated to Channel 4 and the Swindle documentary.

ADDENDUM

Quotes from the Ofcom bulletin…there are several interesting points. And lots of meaty stuff hidden behind the statement about “not materially misleading the public”:

[…] Ofcom received 265 complaints about the programme from members of the public. Ofcom also received a substantial complaint 176 pages long from a group of complainants, some of whom were scientists (“the Group Complaint”).

[…] Ofcom is not a fact-finding tribunal and its obligation in this case was to reach a fair and reasonable decision on whether The Great Global Warming Swindle breached the requirements of the Code. Given the ambit of Ofcom’s obligation as regards adjudicating on the complaints, however it was in Ofcom’s opinion impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples of factual inaccuracy set out in the complaints

[…] Ofcom therefore chose four particular aspects of the programme to examine as part of its overall assessment of whether the programme materially misled the audience. These were:

the use of graphs;
the alleged “distortion” of the science of climate modelling;
presentation of the argument that the theory of man-made global warming is promoted as a means to limit economic growth;
and, not giving an accurate and fair presentation of the expertise and credibility of various contributors.

These particular areas were selected because they featured in a large number of the complaints, and in Ofcom’s opinion were reasonably illustrative of the key issues and different types of alleged factual
inaccuracy in the programme

[…] (regarding due impartiality) Channel 4 said the programme must be considered within the context of the ubiquitous media coverage of the global warming issue and so, in addressing the question of due impartiality, Channel 4 presented an extensive list of programmes over recent years across all the main channels, including Channel 4, which accepted the view that the principal cause of global warming is man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. […] Programmes referred to included, on Channel 4: Channel 4 Year of the Environment, 2007; A World Without Water; and The Year the Earth Went Wild. On ITV, Climate Change – Make A Difference and on Discovery Channel Global Warming: What You Need to Know

[…] Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, continue to explore controversial subject matter. While such programmes can polarise opinion, they are essential to our understanding of the world around us and are amongst the most important content that broadcasters produce. It is inevitable such programmes will have a high profile and may lead to a large number of complaints.

[…] In dealing with an issue such as the theory of anthropogenic global warming, which is the subject of scientific controversy, those involved in the debate will – by definition – disagree over the factual accuracy of each others’ claims. Therefore, it is to some extent inevitable that in a polemical programme such as The Great Global Warming both sides of the argument will violently disagree about the ‘facts’.

[…] The anthropogenic global warming theory is extremely well represented in the
mainstream media. […] it is reasonable for the programme makers to assume that the likely audience would have a basic understanding of the mainstream man-made global warming theory […] the programme was clearly trailed and its authorship was clearly identified […] At no point did the programme state that the theories it contained were the mainstream or majority view

[…] Ofcom is of the view that the audience of this programme was not materially misled in a manner that would have led to actual or potential harm. […] Regardless of whether viewers were in fact persuaded by the arguments contained in the programme, Ofcom does not believe that they could have been materially misled as to the existence and substance of these alternative theories and
opinions, or misled as to the weight which is given to these opinions in the scientific community

[…] Ofcom considered it highly unlikely that the programme could have caused actual harm. As to potential harm some complainants had considered that the programme’s questioning of the theory of man-made global warming would create doubt and confusion in viewers’ minds about the need to take action against global warming. Ofcom considers that, although the programme may have caused
viewers to challenge the consensus view that human activity is the main cause of global warming, there is no evidence that the programme in itself did, or would, cause appreciable potential harm to members of the public

[…] (regarding the graphs) Ofcom did not consider the inaccuracy to be of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence in breach of Rule 2.2

[…] (regarding the reliability of climate models) Ofcom noted that, although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate […] Overall however Ofcom’s view was that the passages complained of were not materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence.

[…] (regarding the suggestion that some environmentalists are trying to reverse economic growth) In line with the right to freedom of expression, Ofcom considers that the broadcaster has the right to transmit such views and the audience would understand the context in which such comments were made. The content was therefore not misleading

[…] (regarding the contributors to the programme) The decisions by the programme makers not to include all the qualifications of contributors, and not to include more background on them (some of which is strongly disputed), were editorial decisions which overall did not in Ofcom’s view result in the audience being materially misled.

[…] Although this programme was intentionally designed as a polemic, [some of the] comments were so sweeping and intemperate that they risked to some degree undermining the fact that overall the programme very aggressively challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on man’s contribution to global warming, without concluding that the mainstream scientific theory was completely without merit

[…] Ofcom considers there is a difference between presenting an opinion which attacks an established, mainstream and well understood view, such as in this programme, and criticising a view which is much more widely disputed and contentious […] In the context of this particular programme, given the number of scientific theories and politico-economic arguments dealt with in The Great Global Warming Swindle, it was not materially misleading overall to have omitted certain opposing views or represented them only in commentary

[…] while unfairness to participants has been found (failures to give an adequate opportunity to respond and the unfair presentation of views), Ofcom does not consider that, overall, these failures led to material being transmitted which was so misleading that harm would have been caused to viewers.

[…] for most of its 90 minute duration the requirements of due impartiality did not apply to The Great Global Warming Swindle. This is because for the first four of its five parts the programme did not deal with a matter of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy. However, in Part Five of the programme Ofcom noted that the discussion moved away from the scientific debate about the causes of global warming, to consider the policies alleged to result from the mainstream scientific theory being adopted by UN and Western governments and their consequences

[…] Ofcom also had regard to the fact that, both domestically and on a worldwide level, the political debate had largely moved on from questioning the causes of climate change to attempting to find solutions to deal with it. Therefore, in the political arena at least, there was a very broad consensus of opinion which accepted the scientific theory of man-made global warming. In this respect it could be said that the discussion about the causes of global warming was to a very great extent settled by the date of broadcast (8 March 2007).

[…] by simple virtue of the fact that one small group of people may disagree with a strongly prevailing
consensus on an issue does not automatically make that issue a matter of controversy as defined in legislation and the Code and therefore a matter requiring due impartiality to be preserved

[…] (in part five) These issues are matters of major political controversy and are major matters relating to current public policy as defined by the Code. During this section no alternative views on this issue were presented […] Part Five of the programme therefore breached Rules 5.11 and 5.12.

[…] (regarding Sir David King) The (Fairness) Committee found that the views attributed to him and the manner in which they were expressed, amounted to a significant allegation about his scientific views and credibility. The Committee found that Sir David had not been offered an opportunity to respond to the contributor’s criticism. In the circumstances the Committee concluded that the broadcast of the comments, without an offer being made to Sir David to respond, resulted in unfairness to him in the programme as broadcast

[…] The Committee acknowledged that while there is a broad consensus amongst scientists, governments and the public that global warming is directly related to anthropogenic causes, this is still a topic of debate. There continues to be discussion about the different methods of measuring change in the climate, the best way these changes should be analysed, and what predictions, if any, can be made from the data. Indeed such discussion and debate are essential for the formulation of robust,
scientifically sound theories, projections and conclusions. Global warming is clearly a legitimate and important subject for programme makers and it is not Ofcom’s role to adjudicate on whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon or on the validity of particular scientific views

[…] (regarding the IPCC) The Committee found that the programme broadcast a number of comments by contributors that amounted to serious allegations about the IPCC […] The Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with a proper opportunity to respond to these allegations. Therefore, the broadcast of the allegations had been unfair.

[…] Channel 4 maintained that the IPCC had been offered an appropriate opportunity to respond. Channel 4 said the right to reply letter had been sent to the IPCC press officer nine days before the programme was broadcast, excluding the weekend which fell in between. Channel 4 said nine days was an appropriate and acceptable time period in which right of reply requests are sent and responses are expected to be received. Channel 4 said that no response was received whatsoever, not even to request more time for the IPCC’s response.

[…] the Committee considered that it was unreasonable for the programme makers to have expected the IPCC to understand that its response was required in a matter of days, and that it was not reasonable to expect the IPCC to be able to provide a response within the one day of being advised of the deadline. The Committee therefore found that the opportunity to respond had not been offered in a timely way.

[…] In the Committee’s opinion, it was not unreasonable to describe the consequences of the changes predicted in the FAR (1990) report as being disastrous, especially for those most likely to be directly affected […] The Committee did not uphold this part of the IPCC’s complaint

[…] the Committee considered that the programme maker’s had provided sufficient information for the
IPCC to understand the nature of Professor Reiter’s criticisms in relation to malaria […] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded a timely opportunity to respond to the allegation that the statements by the IPCC in relation to the spread of malaria were alarmist, untrue and based on poor scientific literature.

[…] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegation regarding the statements by the IPCC in relation to the IPCC’s handling of Professor Reiter’s resignation or the compilation of its author’s lists

[…] the Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the re-broadcast of Professor Seitz’s reported criticisms

[…] the Committee considered that Professor Wunsch was not provided with adequate information to enable him to give informed consent for his participation. The Committee found this caused unfairness to Professor Wunsch in the programme as broadcast in that his contribution had been used in a programme

[…] In the Committee’s view Professor Wunsch made clear in his full unedited interview that he largely accepted this consensus and the seriousness of the threat of global warming (albeit with caveats about proof) and therefore found that the presentation of Professor Wunsch’s views, within the wider context of the programme, resulted in unfairness to him.

[…] the Committee therefore found that the programme maker’s editing of Professor Wunsch’s comments about the presence of CO2 in the ocean did not result in unfairness in the programme as broadcast. Accordingly the Committee did not uphold this part of Professor Wunsch’s complaint

Is Monckton the Wrong Target?

It didn’t take long for critiques to Monckton’s article at the FPS to appear. But I am inclined to believe that they are pretty much irrelevant.

what is the point of shooting against Monckton when the real offending statement for AGWers, the one that elicited all the “blogosphere brouhaha”, was written by FPS editor Jeffrey Marque?

There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution

Without the above, there would have been no NewsBusters article, no DailyTech comment, etc etc…

Monckton is one, a “considerable presence” is MANY

Why Rational Skepticism is Proper Response to AGW Claims

Many thanks to Ed Darrel at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for pointing once again to the extraordinarily compelling case put together by Patrick Frank in “A Climate of Belief“, an article for the Skeptic society’s online magazine, Vol.14, no.1, May 2008, that:

the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable

I had mentioned it at the time but had not had the time or memory to read it again. For those in need of a quick, heavily emphasized (by me) quote:

The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?

Here a longer extract, from the final remarks (my emphasis):

It’s not that we, “lack … full scientific certainty,” it’s that we lack any scientific certainty. We literally don’t know whether doubling atmospheric CO2 will have any discernible effect on climate at all.

If our knowledge of future climates is zero then for all we know either suppressing CO2 emissions or increasing them may make climate better, or worse, or just have a neutral effect. The alternatives are incommensurate but in our state of ignorance either choice equally has two chances in three of causing the least harm. Complete ignorance makes the Precautionary Principle completely useless. There are good reasons to reduce burning fossil fuels, but climate warming isn’t one of them.

Some may decide to believe anyway. “We can’t prove it,” they might say, “but the correlation of CO2 with temperature is there (they’re both rising, after all), and so the causality is there, too, even if we can’t prove it yet.” But correlation is not causation, and cause can’t be assigned by an insistent ignorance. The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?

So, then, what about melting ice-sheets, rising sea levels, the extinction of polar bears, and more extreme weather events? What if unusually intense hurricane seasons really do cause widespread disaster? It is critical to keep a firm grip on reason and rationality, most especially when social invitations to frenzy are so pervasive. General Circulation Models are so terribly unreliable that there is no objectively falsifiable reason to suppose any of the current warming trend is due to human-produced CO2, or that this CO2 will detectably warm the climate at all. Therefore, even if extreme events do develop because of a warming climate, there is no scientifically valid reason to attribute the cause to human-produced CO2. In the chaos of Earth’s climate, there may be no discernible cause for warming. Many excellent scientists have explained all this in powerful works written to defuse the CO2 panic, but the choir sings seductively and few righteous believers seem willing to entertain disproofs

Against-AGW-Consensus Article on the FPS Before Monckton's

I can’t help but laugh at the incredible somersaults being performed by the Council of the American Physical Society (APS) to reaffirm thieir unshakeable belief in AGW, after allowing the publication in their “Forum on Physics & Society” (FPS) of an article by Christopher Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered“.

Note: there is one thing I agree with the APS. Monckton’s paper has not undergone any scientific peer review. You see, he’s a Lord (a Viscount, no less) whilst on the “Council of the APS”‘s side there is obviously no trace of nobility. They have been “discorteous” indeed.

Time will tell about the position (and nobility) of Jeffrey Marque, the Editor of the FPS that has seen his July 2008 comments severely rebuked by the Executive Committee of the FPS. Who’s going to choose what will be published in the October 2008 issue, is anybody’s guess.

Interestingly, the FPS and the APS did not make too much of a fuss in the past, when publishing “heretical” climate-related opinions. For an example, see Gerald E. Marsh’s “Climate Stability and Policy” in April 2008.

Mr Marsh is not exactly your average AGW proponent: he argues that current CO2 levels are too low and contributing to climate instability, suggests that even 750ppmv could still be not enough to stop an upcoming, catastrophic Ice Age. and recommends that the IPCC switch its focus towards “determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide concentrations that will stabilize the climate, and extend the current interglacial period indefinitely”.

For some reason, the above did not cause any digestive pain at the FPS, either with its Editor, with its Executive Committee, or with the Council of the APS itself.

Is Monckton’s paper simply too hot to handle? Plenty of nutrients for conspiracy theorists there, no doubt.

NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn't Mention Greenhouse Gases

Looks like there is at least one NASA website dedicated to planetary atmospheres, that cares not a zilch about the greenhouse effect.

The Planetary Atmospheres Node (Atmospheres Node, or Atmos) of the Planetary Data System (PDS) is responsible for the acquisition, preservation, and distribution of all non-imaging atmospheric data from all planetary missions (excluding Earth observations). The primary goal of the node is to make available to the research community the highest quality data possible. To this end, data are reviewed and re-formatted where necessary in order to meet the documentation and quality standards established by the PDS

The Education/Outreach section at least, says nothing at all about the greenhouse effect, whilst going into the details of lots of other things, such as how to compute the adiabatic lapse rate (dry).

CO2 and “greenhouse” are vaguely mentioned in few of the Abstracts but for some reason haven’t made it to the Education pages.

ADDENDUM: I am discussing the above with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

ADDENDUM (2): It seems that we have an answer. That site doesn’t mention the GH effect because no interplanetary probe has bothered yet to study it. Things may be a-changing with ESA’s Venus Express.

Greenhouse Gases: The Laboratory Fallacy

It is often said that the greenhouse effect by anthropogenic CO2 emissions is an established fact, as laboratory studies have been showing the interaction between CO2 and infrared radiation since before the times of Arrhenius.

That’s not necessarily true.

I am not saying that all those experiments have been wrong or that there is an international cover-up on the lack of greenhouse properties by carbon dioxide. That’s obviously not true, or else there’s something very wrong with quantum physics…

What I am referring to is the logical fallacy of stepping from the laboratory to the real world.

For an example of established chemical reactions that fail to live up to expectations outside of the laboratory, just look at the history of “Antioxidants“, an entire class of molecules supposed to slow down aging and prevent diseases.

Only, they don’t. Or if they do, it’s hard to tell. Perhaps some of them might even shorten one’s life.

This has not prevented the birth and sustainance of a whole industry of dietary supplements, just as the complexity of the real atmosphere mean nothing to those trying to take advantage of the carbon taxes or markets.

The underlying tragedy is that there may be something important about antioxidants/micronutrients, under specific conditions, but the true knowledge about it has been buried for decades by too quick claims disseminated for public health concerns: yet another analogy with CO2-based greenhouse warming…

G8 and Climate Change: the "Sad" Truth

There’s nothing like a G8 meeting to showcase what next “broken promise” might be

G8 vows to halve greenhouse gases
World leaders have agreed to set a global target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 in an effort to tackle global warming…

Africa’s broken promises
Both the leaders of the industrialised world – the G8 – and the presidents of Africa are failing to keep the promises they made at Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005…

If I were a climate change campaigner I’d be particularly angry at the result. Richard Black at the BBC sounds particularly pessimistic

So far, then, this G8 summit has confused the issue rather than clarifying it.

The lasting impression is that unless there is something big happening that can be linked to global warming, Governments will simply and slowly drift away from it.

On Satellite Observations and Climate Change

An open letter to the Planetary “Sponsored Global Warming” Society

Dear Directors of the Planetary Society, dear Editors of the society magazine “The Planetary Report”

Your decision to dedicate a whole issue of the Planetary Report magazine to Planet Earth is commendable.

Too often one forgets that for the study of the universe there is a celestial body available to study 24/7, without the need for expensive trips to outer space. And that “body” is our own planet, the “cradle of humanity”.

All “missions to planet Earth” in the forms of orbital satellites and probes are worthwhile almost de facto, as new data can help us better understand our “motherworld”, and together with the accompanying experience may allow us to build the satellites and probes needed to explore the rest of the Solar System, and beyond.

But the July/August issue of the Planetary Report is not a celebration of past “missions to planet Earth” nor a comprehensive description of all the challenges lying ahead, and of all the questions still unanswered about our planet.

It’s just a collection of articles about global warming.

Is that what I and surely many other members await two long months for, every time? (and yes, I do follow Emily Lakdawalla’s blog).

Let’s assume “global warming” is indeed a big planetary issue, if not an emergency. Is it not talked about already in countless newspaper articles, movies, Nobel Prize wins, parliamentary sessions the world over, and now even a major topic of discussion at the G-8 “major industrialized nations” meeting?

And what purpose could it ever serve for a space-advocacy group to throw in its lot, especially since the issue has become so heavily politicized? Then one reads behind the magazine’s cover, and the “partial sponsorship” by Northrop Grumman Corporation starts explaining things.

After all, They are definitely not the first ones to jump on the “global warming bandwagon”, as demonstrated by a recent article on the International Herald Tribune. In the Planetary Report, they are the Company using the picture of a polar bear to advertise on the back cover that their “satellites above are safeguarding life below”.

Too bad though, Northrop Grumman Corporation wouldn’t survive a week by sticking to the environmental satellites market, and has to build some other pieces of hardware far less safeguarding for the lives experiencing a close encounter with their weapons.

But the problem is not with Northrop Grumman. The issue is what is the Planetary Society doing by jumping head first in the “global warming” debate, and also how it is doing it: because oversimplifications and mistakes abound. And that is definitely a no-no for something like the Planetary Society, that bases all its work of course on Science and on precision.

Here a quick list of observations:

(1) Contrary to what the Editor Charlene M. Anderson writes in the opening column, the Earth’s climate is not being recorded as undergoing a “steady warming”. There has been no warming in the past 10 years. Previous decades have seen warming and cooling episodes. If we are undergoing a warming, it’s definitely “not steady”

(2) In “Earth is, after all, a planet”, Charles F Kennel talks about “moving from knowledge to action”, because “human actions change our planet in ways that are not beneficial”. Note that certitude in those words. Does Mr Kennel realize that those words could be used to demonstrate there is no real need for more satellites to observe our planet? On the other hand: if the “global perspective” can “be found only in space” and therefore more satellites are needed indeed, what is the certitude on global warming based upon?

(3) Editor Charlene M. Anderson is then back in action with a “Venus and Mars, Earth’ s sister worlds” box making improbable connections between Venus’s clouds of sulphuric acid and acid rains on Earth (the two phenomena have little in common apart from elementary chemistry) and between Mars’s tenuous atmosphere and the Antarctic “ozone hole” (UV levels for the former are way higher than for the latter).

(4) In the same piece, we are told that Mars and Venus have shown us how “fragile, precious and unique” Earth is: I am not sure how anybody familiar with the evidence of periodical “asteroidal bombardments” on the surface of the vast majority of solar system bodies could define Earth as “fragile”, given that it has deleted almost all traces of four billion years of impact.

(5) Finally some fresh air in Michael D King’s “The Earth’s changing environment as seen from space” that actually is a list of all that can be done with satellites to monitor our planet. King’s piece is a good reminder of what it means to stick to the facts, instead of trying to “knit” one’s preferred interpretation around them. On the same tone, Editor Charlene M. Anderson’s box “Here, there and not quite everywhere” about analogies (rather than forecasts of doom) between what is seen on Earth and what happens on other planets and on natural satellites.

(6) Things turn to the worse with 6 pages given to Richard J Sommerville to explain the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We are told that it is “90% certain” that us humans have caused “Earth’s atmosphere to warm up in recent decades” by emitting “greenhouse gases” in all our activities: too bad there is no space to explain where is this 90% figure coming from, for example why not 85.6% or 92.4%. We are just told it means “very likely” (why not stick to those words then).

(7) Furthermore, in the section “Recognizing climate change” Sommerville does nothing of the sort, and instead further dwells in the IPCC statements, before listing a rather selective group of observations (he forgets to mention the expansion of Antarctic ice, for example). And then after stating that “the IPCC does not specifically forecast what the climate will do”, Sommerville nevertheless writes that “sea level will rise perhaps by 18 to 59 centimeters”, with uncertainties due to scientists being unable to “assess the potential for further sea level rise”. Perish the thought of being unable to assess the potential for lower-than-expected sea level rise…

(8 ) In section “Absolute certain truth” we are told that the IPCC is “simply an honest and competent assessment of published peer-review science”. Hopefully so. But then on what basis did the IPCC get the Nobel Peace Prize? Not to mention the fact, reported by Sommerville, that the IPCC Working Group reports are approved line-by-line by governmental representatives.

The IPCC must have performed the miracle of uniting “honest”, “competent” and “government” under the same roof for the first time in history.

(9) The pictures accompanying Sommerville’s articles seem chosen for old-style PR purposes. There is a refinery emitting gases (those are not greenhouse gases); impressive satellite pictures before and after cyclone Nargis (that had nothing to do with climate change); and another satellite picture of the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica seemingly breaking up into icebergs (there is little indication that the southernmost continent is warming at all, apart from its Peninsula).

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Ironically, there are other ways to advocate for more “missions to planet Earth”, rather than parroting the most trite global warming slogans.

For example, there is no mention in the Planetary Report issue of the first chapter of the IPCC’s Working Group Two report, where it is clearly shown that the overwhelming majority of data confirming the climate is changing come from Europe alone.

We are talking 96% of evidence coming from 7% of the planet’s land area.

A major Earth observation plan is definitely in order: for the most basics of reasons, in order to observe and understand what is truly happening. If the first step instead is to declare our knowledge more or less settled, a couple of satellites will suffice.

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(10) As Berrien Moore III writes in the final article “As riders on the Earth together”, “to act wisely we require information and understanding”. Whoever is worried about global warming, they better concentrate on getting more environmental satellites up there, instead of declaring as a matter of principle that “we simply must take some of the pressure off Earth” as Mr Moore unfortunately states at the end of his article.

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Tellingly, we Members of the Society are not provided anything else from this issue of the Planetary Report. No Society news, no items on sale, no information about upcoming events, nothing about existing projects. Perhaps those folks at Northrop Grumman didn’t want to pay for the additional couple of pages. Or perhaps if climate change is afoot, all other activities of the Society will not be of interest any longer.

regards

maurizio morabito – london (uk)

Tony Blair Sees The Light (Partially at Least)

Not your usual climate mumbo-jumbo by Tony Blair in today’s International Herald Tribune: “Breaking the deadlock“.

Apparently Mr Blair amongs all his other committments, also is the leader of the “Breaking the Climate Deadlock” initiative. This is good news in the sense that somebody somewhere finally must have recognised that at the current rate of negotiation, all talk about climate change and emission reduction truly is just hot air.

Mr Blair shows more insightfulness in other statements: no politician can count on long-term visions alone; whatever is proposed about climate change must be realistic; people should be able to “enjoy the material and social benefits of growth and consumption” even if CO2 emissions are getting cut; the Kyoto protocol cannot simply be repeated; every further agreement must be flexible and open to renegotiation should circumstances change.

There isn’t even any mention of biblical catastrophes. All in all, not the usual miserabilist rant, with a hint of optimism even. I am sure that’ll make Mr Blair very, very unpopular in AGW circles.

That said, there’s still important points to disagree with:

(a) Mr Blair fears the Copenhagen December 2009 agreement will see “each country giving as little as they believe possible”. Well, that’s what happens with international agreements

(b) The goal is still to set emission targets for 2050. That’s simply way too far in the future: most political leaders of 2050 have barely learnt to read, in 2008.

Is there any chance for a break in the “climate deadlock” I think so: provided there is enough flexibility, to the point of being ready even for the case of the climate not changing after all. Otherwise, we’ll go from one Kyoto to another Son of Kyoto, literally with much ado about nothing (or less).

Honesty on Nature's Climate Feedback

I want to thank Olive Heffernan for being so honest: her blog at Nature’s Climate Feedback, that will surely make Lord Lawson proud despite a tad too many personal attacks, is definitely neither cool nor rational. Exactly “what it says on the tin”…

As for Rosenzweig et al.: could anybody please confirm or deny if the “30,000 phenomena” are the same 30,000 phenomena mentioned in AR4-WG2, chapter 1?

Earth, then Mars…Venus Next in Line for "Giant Impact" Explanation

Big news today about Mars’ peculiar north-south terrain divide having been caused by the impact of a Moon-size object shortly after the planet formed. Since there is also strong evidence for Earth having undergone a similar impact, with a Mars-size planetoid, thereby forming our Moon, it would be odd to imagine that no such catastrophe ever occurred to Venus.

After all there’s lots still to explain about “Earth’s Twin”: a very slow retrograde rotation, an incredibly massive atmosphere and a relatively young (<500 million years) surface. To me, the whole setting cries out loud for an “impact” explanation, rather than the classic “it’s warm because of the CO2!” theory that says nothing about all the other peculiarities (and it’s not exactly necessary…).

Hansen's "Desperation 350" – And Still They Travel

Full-page ad on the IHT on June 23 by the Taellberg Forum:

<350

Remember this number for the rest of your life

It is left to the reader’s imagination to hear music like in an old Bela Lugosi movie…

Anyway: such an effort is apparently linked to the 20th anniversary of Hansen’s warning to the US Congress about global warming.

We are told, CO2 concentration at the time was 350 ppm, and now it’s 385. We are also told that “Science says” the worst effects happen above the level of 450ppm.

Looks like it’s not too much of a worry then? Don’t even think about it.

For unfathomable reasons (=otherwise a lot of people would become inconsequential), the ad says that we have to go back to levels lower than 350ppm anyway (and yes, there is no scientific basis at all for choosing the value “350”) “peacefully and deliberately, with all possible speed” (rather ominous words if you ask me…): because “<350 is essential to maintain human and planetary well-being

(planetary???)

Why then “350”? Perhaps as a celebratory level for Hansen’s true guidance. But with planetary temperatures refusing to go up, I do expect lots more of this stuff in the near future

I have a small question though: if they believe in what the ad says then…why are they still travelling so much? For example, to the Taellberg Forum, june 26-29 in Sweden.

Spare a Thought for IATA

They emit very very little CO2 compared to everything else, they have set up a “4-pillar strategy to address climate change”, they have been hardly hit by gigantic fuel prices.

They have also been plagued for decades and decades by poor managerial and cost-control skills, resulting in a multitude of bankruptcies and often disappearance of once-thriving companies.

Still, that’s not enough for the miserabilists at the EU trying to force emission trading schemes on anything that moves. And so today, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, decided to pay for a full-page ad on the International Herald Tribune, detailing their perfectly mainstream ideas about climate change.

Much has been said about coercing evil Big Oil and Big Energy companies into emission trading schemes. Let’s see if airlines will be treated any better: one fears not, as the underlying goal is not so much actual emissions, rather the removal of whatever can provide fun

Why Are Weather Forecasters Skeptical of AGW?

An interesting topic via the Global Warming blog on Accuweather, where Brett Anderson points to an article by Bill Dawson of The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Note in a couple of Dawson’s interviewees, a slight-but-steady series of slurs against weathercasters that don’t buy into the AGW faith:

Broadcast meteorologists are so busy disseminating information about near-term weather conditions[…] that they simply don’t have much time to keep up with scientific developments related to longer-term climate conditions

many “naysayers” […] are coming from a perspective of the policy first

they’re against it because they think it will hurt the economy

[the “naysayers”] are putting their own personal views – sometimes even fundamentalist religious beliefs – first

[they] have no academic training or degrees in meteorology

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Luckily, Messrs Anderson and Dawson don’t engage in such awful rhetoric, with the former publicly declaring

“from what I personally see, there are also a number of current and retired TV meteorologists with a good deal of atmospheric science eduaction/professional background that are also skeptical about man-made global warming”

Myself, I have a weather forecasting background…who knows, that might explain my skepticism about AGW…in any case, I find it natural to respect people whose forecasts are challenged by thousands of viewers against the hard evidence of each day’s weather.

Is Global Warming Invisible?

Is “global warming” invisible, or at least very, very difficult to depict, one wonders. How else to justify image-rich weekly The Economist’s decision juxtapose to an article about “climate change talks”, a picture of a smog-choked Chinese city? A place where the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is surely the least of their pollution concerns…

Evidently they had absolutely no way to show in pictures what “climate change” and “global warming” actually look like

This goes on par with Scientific American’s inability to find 10 “pictures of a warming world “ (slides 1 and 2 are just one single “evidence”; slides 4, 5, 7 and 10 are no evidence of anything; and slide 9 may be misleading…)

Parallels between Lysenkoism and AGW

Timely broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time” series, about NOTE UPDATED LINK Lysenko and “lysenkoism”, the propaganda-based “science” that Stalin’s agricultural adviser managed to sell as “truth” from 1928 to 1962 at least.

In 1928, as America heads towards the Wall Street Crash, Joseph Stalin reveals his master plan – nature is to be conquered by science, Russia to be made brutally, glitteringly modern and the world transformed by communist endeavour.

Into the heart of this vision stepped Trofim Lysenko, a self-taught geneticist who promised to turn Russian wasteland into a grain-laden Garden of Eden.

Today, Lysenko is a byword for fraud but in Stalin’s Russia his ideas became law. They reveal a world of science distorted by ideology, where ideas were literally a matter of life and death. To disagree with Lysenko risked the gulag and yet he damaged, perhaps irreparably, the Soviet Union’s capacity to fight and win the Cold War.

The MP3 of the programme can be NOTE UPDATED LINK downloaded here.

What makes it relevant to the climate debate is the list of parallels that can be made between Lysenko’s “Soviet biology and genetics” and contemporaneous thoughts of Anthropogenic Global Warming:

(a) Results, and success are declared before an experiment has completed (at position 12m10s, in the mp3 file above). In AGW, just look at the innumerable papers that take AGW as established truth, even as the debate on “attribution” is still very much open among mainstream scientists.

(b) Proponents always declare “victory”, no matter what happens, and are always ready to shift the ground (mp3 position: 14m15s). That’s quite common in AGW circles: nowadays, if the planet warms up or cools down, it’s anyway compatible with AGW theory.

(c) Science is presented as a series of “solutions”, not simply as “knowledge” (mp3 position: 19m45s). AGWers cannot disentangle research from advocacy: for example, the IPCC is politically active, to the point of qualifying for a Nobel Peace Prize.

(d) According to the scientists, central planning is better than free capitalism (mp3 position: 35m45s). From Al Gore to London School of Economics’ Professor Lord Giddens, there is only one thought: free markets are not good enough, and a big State intervention is needed to save the planet from climate doom.

Ironically,  the BBC guests laughed only up to a point to the witty remark made by one of them: that Lysenko’s personality and attitude would have made him a “guaranteed success in British science today” (mp3: 24m15s).

Even more ironic is the fact that Lysenko himself did come up with a geoengineering way to change the climate of Siberia (by planting trees in clusters, so that the weakest ones would sacrifice themselves to let the most resistant plants survive).

And in case you wonder: no, it didn’t work…

 

Ride a Bike, Save the Planet (get killed in the process)

Fancy “Cyclehero” video on YouTube shows people riding towards sunset in a bid to save the planet from Climate Change.

The metaphor may be more apt than originally intended. As (push-)bike riding kills you 3.54 times more than walking, by switching to pedals you’ll be soon riding into the sunset for good…

…towards an untimely death, that is!

China and the BBC Warming Bias

Shameless self-promotion of my “China and the BBC Warming Bias” blog over at the “Omniclimate – The Unbearable Nakedness of CLIMATE CHANGE” site, in which I compare the BBC attitude towards reporting heatwaves vs snowstorms.

Very shortly:

July 2002: Chinese heatwave is caused by “the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures

One year ago: Warm, dry weather in north China “linked to climate change“ (page is chock-full of climate change links)

Today: “China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades” (not one climate change link in sight)

They didn’t even care to mention that severe snowstorms have affected the very areas that were experiencing “climate-change-related” drought last year…

For more thoughts on the AGW bias at the BBC:

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/bbc-the-editors-no-line/

http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/why-is-the-bbc-biased-against-climate-change-sceptics/

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/letter-to-the-bbc-climate-news-bias-china-vs-argentina/

Practical Consequences of Climate Worries

(comment to the IHT’s “Welcome to the new nuclear era”)

Let me understand…so far, the only practical consequences of all the climate change brouhaha have been:

(1) The transfer of billions of euros from European taxpayers to Big Oil/Big Energy firms, under the emission trading scheme

(2) The ballooning of agriculture subsidies to farmers to push them into cultivating corn (despite everybody well knowing the environmental impact from corn fuel will be worse)

(3) A substantial increase in food prices especially for very poor people in many parts of the world

(4) The return of a nuclear industry that will prosper on State guarantees and produce large amounts of radioactive garbage nobody has found as yet a good way to dispose of

???

If that’s what a cleaner, greener world looks like, I’d rather have it brown and dirty, thank you!

Is your SUV Destroying the Universe?

Is your SUV destroying the Universe?

Supernovae data from the 1950’s to 2007 show trends very worrying for the fate of the whole cosmos.

The Magnitude (brightness) of observed explosions, after hovering for several decades around the 20 mark, has recently dropped to 15 (i.e. towards brighter supernovae).

Furthermore, the number of observed supernovae has been increasing at an exponential rate, again after many decades below 50 per year, to 95 in 1996 and a little less than 600 in 2007.

The fact that this is happening exactly as anthropogenic greenhouse-gases emissions are on the increase, cannot be just a coincidence. If this will not convince Governments about the importance of stopping CO2 emissions, nothing will!

There Is More Than One Pope

Listening to the Pope has become like looking at a piece of art. Everybody stares at the same thing, but few will agree on what they are actually seeing…

Who will ever believe that the news articles reported below are meant to be about the same person giving the same speech? 

(1) From Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”
The Pope on the environment, nuclear bombs and the Family in defence of peace and the poorest Countries” (Dec 11)

The Pope asks the international community to assume its responsibilities and to not postpone its decisions in matter of environmental protection of the atmosphere. That must be done, he reminds, “with precaution”, a collective engagement and “without ideological accelerations towards hastened conclusions”. It must be done – he adds – within a “dialogue” and not with “unilateral decisions”.

(2) From UK newspaper “Daily Mail”
The Pope condemns the climate change prophets” (Dec 11)

[The Pope said] “it is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. […]
“Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken.”

(3) From Reuters South Africa
Pope urges prudence in environmental decisions” (Dec 11)

(4) From AFP
Environmental policies must respect needs of the poor: pope” (Dec 12)

(5) From UK newspaper “The Guardian
(nothing at all. Must be busy trying to figure out their own spin)

(6) From UK newspaper “The Independent
(nothing at all. Must be busy trying to figure out their own spin) 

(7) From “Pink News” (yes you guessed it…)
Pope’s message – gay weddings threaten peace” (Dec 11)

Preventative Nobel Peace Prize a Sign of the Times

After a (disastrous) preventative war in Iraq in 2003, we are going to see a (potentially disastrous) preventative Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC on December 10 at a ceremony in Oslo.

Why can’t we deal with real-and-present problems, and have to make up fantasies of new ones, I wonder?

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What will people make of our climate change circus in 50 years’ time is anybody’s guess.

Surely though, they will still question what Al Gore and the IPCC had actually done, by the middle of 2007, to deserve a prize. No Kyoto-II agreement has been reached yet, no CO2 emission cutting program has been implemented by any Government yet, and no “smoking gun” for greenhouse-gas-induced climatic change has been found yet.

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Things are actually a-moving, and the still-ongoing Bali conference may come out with a document asking developing countries to develop rather less. Who would have thought that “global warming” rhymes with “neocolonialism”?

And yet, there is some hope. The bandwagon has become so huge, it will be next-to-impossible to steer. Expect ridiculous targets nobody will ever try to reach, set for times unbelievably far in the future.

Until one day, the Sun will cool us down, and so will die the mad dream of anthropogenic climate change.