Perspective Amiss At @AmSciMag

Summary of the latest email edition of “Science In The News Weekly“, “a digest of science news stories appearing in the mainstream media. It is delivered every Monday afternoon (or Tuesday afternoon in the case of a Monday holiday) as part of Sigma Xi’s public understanding of science program area, in conjunction with American Scientist magazine

Science-y news

Another science-y news

Yet another science-y news

World to end(*)

More science-y news

More more science-y news

In particular the (*) bit is of the form:

Scientists say that if carbon dioxide emissions don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying–and eventually unravel completely.

Evidently reason takes a momentary leave of absence at American Scientist like in many other places, whenever carbon dioxide is mentioned.

BTW the link is to the study that used naturally-occurring CO2 seeps to try to figure out what might happen in 2100, an impressive collection of “might’s” if you ask me.

Humans Are Not Vermin

Letter sent to the IHT-

Dear Editors

So you’ve finally realized there’s a set of simple innovations that could save the lives of millions right now, help the environment and perhaps even slow down global warming (see John Tierney’s “A renegade climate idea that could work“, IHT, Jan 18, 2012).

The fact that those actions have been neglected thus far because of lack of “glamour” and an obsession with cutting carbon dioxide emissions tells everything one needs to know about the inhumanity sadly intrinsic to many environmental activist organizations.

Humans are not vermin. Children dying as we speak because of black carbon filling their lungs in windowless huts are not trade-offs to sacrifice in a fight to convince the world to use fewer SUVs.

Prof Roger Pielke Jr’s “iron law of climate policy” says CO2 emission cuts policies always lose against economic growth pushes. Such a rule ought to be expanded : because we’re humans, and we should remember our humanity. Therefore policies that save human lives have to take precedence over attempts at defining global environment-related treaties. Always.

If The Skeptic Society Were Not Fast Asleep On AGW (Anecdotes Do Not Make A Science)

This is what the Skeptic Society would write regarding the constant barrage of reports, blog posts, news items, peer-reviewed articles about the current and future (lack of) catastrophes related to man-made CO2 emissions – they would write it, that is, if the Skeptic Society were not fast asleep on the topic, most of the time – but not always – seeing itself as Defender of the Orthodoxy of Established Science rather than, shock! horror!, a society of skeptics:

Anecdotes Do Not Make a Science:
The ThisShouldBeWhatSkepticsAreAbout Reply
by non-Michael Shermer, non-Arthur Benjamin & non-James Randi

We realize that hour-long “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) demonstrations” do not a scientific experiment make, but there is no question that you warmists present them as if it were a scientifically known fact that “we are experiencing or going to experience Catastrophic AGW” to some degree. In your blog posts and articles, in fact, you state that these “physical phenomenon” is “something that is happening to us all,” thus stating your support of the “fact” of the existence of catastrophical man-made global warming. But scientifically speaking, the “facts” of the matter are that there is no positive evidence whatsoever for the existence of any of the increase in exceptional weather you discuss, when records are compiled in controlled scientific conditions.

Even the pro-AGWers who do serious responsible research on the matter are now admitting that their entire research program, after over fifteen decades of data collection, has produced nothing statistically significant. The few “blips” in the data that appear, quickly disappear when conditions were instead expected to replicate. This is one of the beautiful components of the scientific method—its self-correcting nature. For those who are corrected, however, it may not seem so attractive.

(Of course, Mr. Warmist, if your arguments for the validity of CAGW claims are based upon religious, rather than logical, scientific reasoning, many of these arguments may not apply to your statements. In that case we are arguing about a preferred belief system rather than a provable—or disprovable—claim).

Our position is not meant to be scornful or condescending. We only want to make the point that under controlled measurements over many decades, there has never been a proper and statistically significant finding of catastrophic increase in exceptional weather events. What CAGW people have are anecdotes about hurricanes or Arctic sea ice, and anecdotes do not make a science. Anecdotes are stories related by participants: “I saw a tornado and thought ‘this is what CAGW is about’.” Or: “I spotted some maybe-dead polar bears and made a guess about how many more have died because of CAGW.” And so on.

The simple fact is that thousands and thousands of CAGW stories, as impressive as they may seem, do not make a science. Ten anecdotes are no better than one anecdote, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten. Actually, a hundred anecdotes are worse than ten, if you do not also have statistically significant data showing a worrisome change in weather patterns and events somewhere in the world. It is a fact, Mr. Warmist, that NO results shown so far have been adequately obvious and clear-cut. In the case of old data—and the reputation of CAGW rests almost entirely on old, dubious paleoclimate data—those requirements often cannot be applied, obviously. But if your CAGWers are able to NOW produce data, we can show you how standard statistics can be applied. We await, with interest, your response to this suggestion.

Anecdotes are only useful to illustrate a phenomenon that already has been proven scientifically, in this case, statistically. If you do not have this, and as far as we can tell you do not, then all those anecdotes indicate is that there is something else going on that has absolutely nothing to do with CO2 emissions. To repeat the six-word phrase that should be memorized by every CAGWer and skeptic (it is difficult for all of us to understand), and repeated every night before bed:

ANECDOTES DO NOT MAKE A SCIENCE.

(freely inspired to the Skeptics Society reply to the Association for Research and Enlightenment, an ESP advocacy group)

(Failure at the New York Times and ClimateWorks) Why So Many People Are So Unperturbed

It says a lot about contemporary “green” journalism when a report that links the Permian extinction to “methane burps” using a Baltimore Sun article of Dec 2004 is described as “the best job I [Justin Gillis of the NYT] have seen of explaining, in layman’s terms, why scientists keep pressing the issue“.

Perhaps we simply shouldn’t have anymore laymen writing about environmental stuff.

Anyway, here’s my comments to “The Costs of Delay” by Hal Harvey and Sonia Aggarwal for the ClimateWorks Foundation:

—-

How many times can the same concepts be regurgitated before people recognize they don’t lead anywhere?

The report says “A delay—of even a decade— in reducing CO2 emissions will lock in large-scale, irreversible change“. Ironically, this same sentence has been heard first more than TWO decades ago.

It then goes on to “Carbon “sinks” are disappearing” but “the proportion of total emissions soaked up by the oceans between 2000 and 2007 _MAY_ have declined by as much as 10 percent.” I am afraid such weaselry with words is very 2008.

the more CO2 [the seas] absorb, the more acidic they become“: a physical impossibility due to all that salt. Seawater could become less alkaline, but to call that “more acidic” is again a trite, old way of playing with words.

The pages on “impacts” only deal with future stuff that “may“, “is likely“, etc etc happen. That means it “may not”. “Estimates” are so 2008 too.

It gets even more ridiculous when the Permian extinction is linked to a “methane burpby way of a Baltimore Sun article of 2004. Is that a joke? And the authors proceed to mention two studies that depict adaptation in worse terms than even the Stern Review, thereby forgetting all the research that points in the other direction.

In conclusion the Climate Works report shows exactly why so many people are so unperturbed. The case for mitigation against climate change should be made in a less amateurish, less partisan, and decidedly more scientific way. IF that’s possible, that is.

Will CO2 Cause Bieber Fever In Fish Worldwide?

No, I am not talking about this Fish. Or that Phish. I am talking about fish of the swimming variety, recently in the news as under multiple lines of attack by (you guessed it right) increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Poor little ocean inhabitants will run out of breath, or go deaf. Or maybe not, as both papers compensate with novelty what they lack in robustness.

In the meanwhile, though, there are some indications that, at least for now, great white sharks are into AC/DC. That could be useful news (if under threat of attack, just convince a fellow diver to burst into a watery version of “Back in Black” and you’ll be fine. You, that is, not the fellow diver).

Why stop there, though? We can combine all these pieces of evidence to come up with a realistic scenario (as realistic as anything ever written by the likes of David Suzuki or Paul R. Ehrlich, that is): with human-caused CO2 emissions apparently unstoppable, fish the world over will experience irregular heartbeats, and hearing difficulties causing a decline in musical taste.

That is, they will all suffer “Bieber Fever“.

Please help prevent such a tragedy, by reducing your CO2 emissions.

Live Blogging From RGS Geoengineering Debate In London

I am at the Royal Geographical Society debate on geoengineering, with Paul Johnston from Greenpeace and Prof. David Keith, one of the world’s authorities on geoengineering as a way to counteract climate change.

So far Johnston has expressed a heavy does of skepticism on any technology for intervening in the climate. Keith is not making a strong case against the list of issues working against geoengineering, such as the possibility that will be used independently or even as some sort of weapon.

Update: Keith is now moving towards asking to know even if nobody will do any intervention immediately. Johnston replies that money is limited and geoengineering may take it away from “real solutions”

Update 2: Tom Clarke, chair, comes to the rescue asking if there is any alternative given the lack of prospect for any emission reduction. Johnstone says that geoengineering may bring instability when things will be going very badly.

Update 3: Time for questions. First is about the problem of definition of geoengineering. Keith says there are two kinds, solar radiation management and CO2 removal, they are different things.

Update 4: Question on CO2 extraction. Keith is working about it. Scrubbing from the air or from the power plant? First option means you can build it where it is cheaper to build.

Update 5: What is the solution if Greenpeace is so against geoengineering? Johnston wants a much more thorough understanding of the way the atmosphere will react before going the geoengineering route.

Update 6: Keith says if we were really serious on cutting emissions we would be cutting it more aggressively. It is a moral choice, if we cannot cut geoengineering the way forward. Keith affirms he has big concerns too and talks about them,

Update 7: Scientists says he’s terrified about methane in the Arctic: is Greenpeace willing to live with that risk? Other question: geoengineering looks often like a local intervention like seeding clouds: we should expect to be struggling with the difficulty of understanding it all. Johnston talks about huge uncertainties, “at the moment is a gamble”. Keith on intractability: it’s a hard problem. Some of the schemes may be harder. Must start with little interventions and then proceed with the understanding.

Update 8: Keith mentions how after 9/11 we have learned about the effects of airplanes as we had them all grounded over the USA. Yes it is hard, but we cannot do much on the emissions side. We need to do some research on geoengineering.

Clarke asks Johnston if Greenpeace would agree on “free” and “cheap” experiments in geoengineering. Answer is that they need assurance that it will not prevent “the full deployment of an alternative energy [generation] system”

Update 9: Johnston doesn’t want to see commercial interests involved as in the ocean fertilization debacle. Keith agrees.

Final two questions: since we cannot predict what can happen, can we use the 200+ volcanic eruptions to understand better? Also large-scale or small-scale projects, such as improving cooking stoves at community level?

Keith talks about the possibility of biofuels (?) especially in the tropics. Johnston says they had been interested about it for years, and that they want to more about it before investing in large-scale interventions. Doesn’t want to see it as a way to deal with biological waste.

Update 9: Final final two questions. Won’t the politicians think short term and choose geoengineering to avoid having to deal with cutting emissions? Don’t we need research just to start an informed debate about geoengineering, instead of having to deal over and over with uncertainties that never go away? Isn’t much of the technology already available right now? Can we use geoengineering as the “nasty medicine” to scare the politicians into doing something about emissions?

Johnston doesn’t think it would work as a “stick”. He says we need a good reason and guidelines for carrying out geoengineering research and “throwing money” at it. Talks about avoiding unjustified optimism.

Update 10: Johnston suggests to go for research without immediate commercial exploitability. It’s now Keith’s turn: nobody is doing anything serious about emissions, even in high-rhetoric Europe. He says that not enough people have been convinced. He doesn’t “know why”, doesn’t “get it”. “We just haven’t made the sale” to the politicians so they are not serious about global warming.

Keith continues saying GM food are a not-so-serious problem for the experts but the public is very worried about it. For climate change, it’s the other way around.

Johnston thinks it’s difficult to people to conceive the scale of global warming, so they become despondent. Politicians have contributed to the perception that climate change is unavoidable, by doing nothing. People are already starting to adapt.

End of the debate – some more details and considerations will be posted later

Science Magazine: Evidence Of AGW Prejudice

Many thanks to the BBC for (unwittingly?) underlying a case of pro-AGW bias on the AAAS ‘ flagship magazine Science , "the world’s leading outlet for scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research ".

(Leading? Yes, but where, one should ask. Leading towards a pre-conceived, data-independent and therefore antiscientific understanding of the world. But here are the details…)

In a sentence, the Editors of Science appear fixated with AGW to the point of forgetting the non-AGW articles that somehow manage to surface in their magazine.

The case consists of 2 "reports " ("brief communications"?) and 1 "perspectives " ("invited commentary"?) from the 8 May 2009 issue ; a little-known climate-change BBC blog with a (positive, free-minded) approach; and a sheepish attitude by the BBC "Science & Environment" staff in reporting news with no trace of any critical approach to the subject.

This is the complete list with links (details at the bottom of the blog):

(a) REPORT #1: The Role of Aerosols in the Evolution of Tropical North Atlantic Ocean Temperature Anomalies (blaming desert dust and not global warming for most of the recent warming of the tropical North Atlantic)

(b) REPORT #2: Basin-Scale Coherence in Phenology of Shrimps and Phytoplankton in the North Atlantic Ocean (suggesting, in the BBC words, that a world without shrimp cocktails is in the making due to global warming, i.e. human-induced climate change)

(c) PERSPECTIVES: Ecology – Some Like It Cold

(d) BBC NEWS SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT: Shrimp tuned to ocean temperature

(e) BBC CLIMATE CHANGE – THE BLOG OF BLOOM: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust: theory that Atlantic Ocean is warming due to climate change laid to rest

And here the most likely chronology:

  1. Science magazine publishes (a) and (b) in the same issue. Note that they are both "reports" and therefore have been given absolutely equal importance
  2. The Editors of Science overlook (a) (the report blaming desert dust and not global warming for most of the recent warming of the tropical North Atlantic)
  3. The same Editors invite and publish (c) therefore concentrating everybody’s attention on (b) (the report suggesting a world without shrimp cocktails is in the making due to global warming, i.e. human-induced climate change)
  4. Likely via an embargoed press release, word about (b) and (c) comes to the BBC, universally (in)famous because of the "importance the organisation places on climate change as part of the news agenda "
  5. Victoria Gill is tasked to write (d). It is not known if Ms. Gill has read any part of the related Science issue, as in her article there is no mention whatsoever of (a)
  6. Far away from the BBC News room, the BBC Climate Change – The Blog of Bloom is free of mind enough to notice the relevance of (a) in the climate discourse. Hence they publish a blog (e) about it

IMNSHO, the worst part of the above saga is when the authors of the invited commentary (c) do not mention the non-AGW report (a) at all.

Now, we can of course pretend that it all happened by chance. Or we can choose the simplest explanation, using Ockham’s razor: the bias towards propping up the AGW theory is just very, very strong at Science magazine. There is simply too much very good evidence in that direction.

Time will tell how much such a bias will literally poison all attempts at a scientific approach to climate change/global warming…unless of course the AAAS has intended all along to change their magazine’s title to Anti Science

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

DETAILS

(a) REPORT #1
The Role of Aerosols in the Evolution of Tropical North Atlantic Ocean Temperature Anomalies

Amato T. Evan, Daniel J. Vimont, Andrew K. Heidinger, James P. Kossin, and Ralf Bennartz
Science 8 May 2009: 778-781.
Published online 26 March 2009 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1167404] (in Science Express Reports)

[...] Our results suggest that the mixed layer’s response to regional variability in aerosols accounts for 69% of the recent upward trend, and 67% of the detrended and 5-year low pass–filtered variance, in northern tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures.

(b) REPORT #2
Basin-Scale Coherence in Phenology of Shrimps and Phytoplankton in the North Atlantic Ocean

P. Koeller, C. Fuentes-Yaco, T. Platt, S. Sathyendranath, A. Richards, P. Ouellet, D. Orr, U. Skúladóttir, K. Wieland, L. Savard, and M. Aschan
Science 8 May 2009: 791-793.

[...] We conclude that different populations of P. borealis [shrimp] have adapted to local temperatures and bloom timing, matching egg hatching to food availability under average conditions. This strategy is vulnerable to interannual oceanographic variability and long-term climatic changes.

(c) PERSPECTIVES
Ecology – Some Like It Cold

Charles H. Greene, Bruce C. Monger, and Louise P. McGarry (8 May 2009)
Science 324 (5928), 733. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1173951]

The northern shrimp, Pandalus borealis, makes up 70% of the 500,000 tons of cold-water shrimp harvested annually from the world’s oceans. Commonly captured in shelf waters deeper than 100 meters, it supports major fisheries throughout the North Atlantic. On page 791 of this issue, Koeller et al. (1) report that the reproductive cycles of most northern shrimp stocks are finely tuned to match the timing of egg hatching with that of the local spring phytoplankton bloom (see the figure). This remarkable degree of local adaptation on a basin scale is achieved by females regulating the initiation date of their temperature-dependent egg incubation period so that eggs hatch on average within a week of the expected spring bloom. Thus, in typical years, eggs hatch at the time of maximum food availability. The potential downside of this reproductive strategy is its sensitivity to climate-associated changes in the ocean environment.

(d) BBC NEWS SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
Shrimp tuned to ocean temperature

By Victoria Gill – Science reporter, BBC News

Stocks of northern shrimp, the essential ingredient in the ubiquitous prawn cocktail, could be badly affected if ocean temperatures rise. Researchers report, in the journal Science, that shrimp eggs hatch within days of each spring phytoplankton bloom – the main food source for the larvae.

(e) BBC CLIMATE CHANGE – THE BLOG OF BLOOM
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust: theory that Atlantic Ocean is warming due to climate change laid to rest

The North Atlantic is hotting up fast but it’s not because of climate change, say scientists in the most recent edition of the journal Science. No, it’s because there’s less dust around to keep the water cool. [...]

What's In It For Roger Harrabin?

Roger Harrabin writing on the BBC News website about Carbon Capture technology.

Only thing, he’s definitely NOT writing as a BBC journalist. This sentence in particular is more than your usual BBC reporting:

I believe that [Carbon Capture] will prove feasible, if costly

The above looks like some kind of informed opinion. But usually a BBC journalist like any other journalist would quote the people whose opinion is being reported.

Not in this case. We are hearing what Harrabin himself thinks of a subject.

On what basis are we supposed to put trust on his thoughts? Is Roger Harrabin a recognised expert in the field of carbon capture? Or any other field for that matters?

Perhaps he is. But then we should be told.

Pass The Handkerchief

According to Italian CO2 emission calculator “Ecodieta” (in Italian) I emit around 40kg of CO2 per day. That’s double my ideal quota, apparently, even if my larger than average body frame is not considered!

Funny thing is, around half of my sinful attitude comes from having the temerity of…heating my own house!

Will I qualify for an award were icicles to lend beauty to my living room? If only, to pay all those recurring bronchopneumonia treatments…

ps the other half involves using the oven. Perhaps I should switch to heating up the frozen pizzas with the icicles.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change

(yes, it has already been used: here, here, here, here, here)

Will human civilization survive the giant climate shifts that will be caused by our SUVs (or by any other cardinal sin brought about by the comforts of modern life)? And what about humanity?

Who knows?

But one thing I am now more sure of. The biosphere will do just fine. Plenty of animals and plants and bacteria and archeas and viruses will prosper if the world will get warmer, if it will get cooler, or if it will continue as before (whatever the meaning of “continue as before” is).

And it’s all written loud and clear in scientific, peer-reviewed literature. For example:

Jeffrey P. Severinghaus and Edward J. Brook, “Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice“, Science, 29 October 1999: Vol. 286. no. 5441, pp. 930 – 934 DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.930 (Abstract)

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic ~15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from low latitudes [...] the Greenland Summit warmed 9 ± 3°C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago [...]

Jørgen Peder Steffensen et al., “High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years“, originally published in Science Express on 19 June 2008, Science 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 680 – 684 DOI: 10.1126/science.1157707 (Abstract, free Full Text)

The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period, interrupted by the Younger Dryas cooling event, were investigated at high temporal resolution from the North Greenland Ice Core Project ice core [...] A northern shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone could be the trigger of these abrupt shifts of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes of 2 to 4 kelvin in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next.

Let’s also keep in mind that 8 ice ages and 8 warm ages have happened during the last 800,000 years.

What can we conclude?

  1. Abrupt climatic changes happen quite often
  2. There is a sizable amount of evidence of climate changes more abrupt than anything experienced in recorded human history. In other words, present-day temperature changes are neither special nor unprecedented
  3. All existing species have gone through several rounds of those abrupt climatic changes. ADDENDUM: And since there is no evidence for periodic widespread extinction episodes linked in any way to the changes in climate, we can rest assured that the overwhelming majority of species adapt to cooler and warmer environments
  4. With or without humanity, another climate change is bound to happen. And another. And another. (etc etc)

Hence, there is very little sense in all the cries about global warming being the destroyer of life on Earth, or of any species in particular.

Note that Humanity itself has survived everything that has been thrown at it. If anybody is seriously worried, rather than overcomplicated and resultless negotiations on carbon emissions, they should dedicate all their efforts to mantaining civilization (=adaptation).

And if we take the LIA into account: who can seriously think that present-day humanity has feebler defences than 1650′s?

EU's 20-20-20: Travesty or Scam?

A few interesting facts about the European Union “Climate Pact”, aka “20-20-20“:

(1) EU’s current CO2 emissions are 14% of the world’s

(2) 20-20-20 will reduce that by 20%. Even if everybody else’s emissions don’t grow in the next 12 years, the overall reduction will be 14×0.2=2.8%. Therefore, instead of emitting 100, in the best circumstances the world will emit 97.2

(3) Given the logarithmic nature of the greenhouse effect, log(97.2)/log(100)=99.38

(4) The EU is therefore planning to spend 0.66% of its PIL for 12 years (total: 7.92% of a single year’s PIL) to ameliorate the world’s temperature by 100%-99.38%=6.2 tenths of a percent.

(5) Think about the efficiency: a grand total of 8 hundredths of a percent of cooling for each % of PIL.

Still wondering why not everybody is enthusiastic about “20-20-20″?

EU Climate Policy Will Solve The Immigration Issue

The European Union looks determined to press ahead with the 20-20-20 climate-change-fighting plan, despite an official estimate of around €60bn of costs (in EU jargon, that translated to around €100-120bn of additional burden on the Union’s economies).

And everybody agrees the environmental impact will be negligible, given the power-plant construction boom in places like China.

So what is the point of such madness, in the midst of a financial crisis? Well, there is another thing the 20-20-20 plan may achieve. And that is to stop further immigration towards the EU.

With the European economies in ruins, after all, who would want to come to Europe…

Yet More Evidence Of Global Cooling Consensus In 1961

As pointed out by Nigel Calder in a comment to my “Global Cooling Consensus Not A Myth” blog, UNESCO hosted in October 1961 a Symposium on Climate Change.

The Proceedings of that Symposium indicate the existence at the time of a general (mild) consensus about world temperatures getting cooler, thereby confirming what reported by Walter Sullivan in The New York Times at the end of January that very same year. And thereby also further undermining the results of the Peterson, Connolley and Fleck paper “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus” in the Bulletin of the American Metereological Society.

(Yes: I do know that Peterson et al claim to be referring to the 1970s. However, they did include, or claim to have included, the analysis of all scientific research from 1965 onwards, a mere four years before the Symposium here discussed took place)

======

First of all, many thanks to renowned science popularizer and formed editor of New Scientist Nigel Calder for writing this comment:

In October 1961, following the US meeting you describe, the World Meteorological Organization and UNESCO organized an international Symposium on Changes of Climate, in Rome. The discussions were led by H.H. Lamb of the UK Met Office, who went on to found the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The dominant theme of the meeting was the threat posed by the all-too-evident global cooling to world food supplies. The proceedings were published by UNESCO (Arid Zone Research Series XX, 1963).

I know all this because I was at that symposium. An advantage of old age in this subject is to know just how often the global warmers try to rewrite history, in the Orwellian way.

From Mr Calder’s information, I have managed to find the whole Proceedings of the Symposium on Changes of Climate with Special Reference to Arid Zones online:

CHANGES OF CLIMATE Proceedings of the Rome Symposium organized by Unesco und the World Meteorological Organization – ARID ZONE RESEARCH – XX
Published in 1963 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

The 473-page PDF is here, for a total of around 45MB.

Admittedly, it is easy to miss something in a document so big, but I am fairly confident the following are the most relevant findings for the present discussion (note that “some 115 scientists from 36 countries took part in the symposium“):

(page numbers in the following refer to the PDF’s, not the original)

(1) At page 182, an intervention by E. Kraus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass., U.S.A., commenting a presentation by J. Murray Mitchell Jr. United States Weather Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the evidence presented by Dr. Murray Mitchell, Dr. Rodewald and some of the other speakers is the way in which it falls into a pattern. Not only air temperature, but also subtropical rainfall, the tendency of hurricanes to move along certain tracks or seasurface temperatures, show a reversal of the preceding [warming] climatic trend during the last one or two decades. The true physical signiñcance of Dr. Murray Mitchell’s result lies perhaps in the combined evidence, based on so many different variables.

(2) On the same page, another comment by C. C. Wallén of the Swedish Hydrological and Meteorological Office

I wish also to state how much I agree with Dr. Kraus that this downwards trend in temperature should be considered significant from a physical point of view although it may not be so from a statistical point of view. It certainly renders itself extremely well to studies of the relationship between changes in climate elements on one side and fluctuations in the general circulation

(3) From the presentation mentioned above, at page 162, “On the World-Wide Pattern of Secular Temperature Change” by J. Murray Mitchell Jr.

it has been extremely difficult by this means to avoid the conclusion that the warming trends [up to the 1940s] for the world as a whole, and for the Northern Hemisphere in particular, are truly planetary in scope. On the other hand, it cannot yet be demonstrated in this way beyond a reasonable doubt that the net cooling since the 1940s has likewise been planetary in scope. That this cooling is of such nature, however, seems reasonable and this should be verifiable if the cooling in the data areas were to continue for another decade or two in the future.

(4) C. C. Wallén must have been a scientist of repute, as he was asked to take care of the concluding lecture for the Symposium, “Aims and Methods in Studies of Climatic Fluctuations” (page 449), that included this:

All authors have been able to show, by using records dating back to the end of the eighteenth century that the warming up of large parts of the world from the middle of the nineteenth century until recently has been statistically significant. However, as pointed out especially by J. M. Mitchell and also shown for sea temperatures by M. Rodewald this increase in temperature has recently declined. The decreasing trend is significant if we consider the last 20-50 years or even further back but may lose most of its significance by applying several of the statistical methods commonly used to show fluctuations during a longer period.

There we have it then: several speakers presenting work on “a reversal of the preceding [warming] climatic trend” about which everybody atteding the Symposium appeared to be “physically” sure but “statistically” less certain. Still, they thought it reasonable for that aspect to be considered valid too.

Is that enough for a “global cooling consensus”? I think it is.

My (Mauled) Letter Published on the IHT

From today’s ( Oct 8 ) printed International Herald Tribune:

I understand Thomas Homer-Dixon and David Keith (“The ultimate sun-block,” Views, Oct. 7) when they state that it is better to study global-warming-related geo-engineering now rather than waiting. But what I do not understand is the interest in “flooding the atmosphere with manmade particles.”

Throwing colossal amounts of particles more or less at random into the sky, with no chance of retrieval, is surely a recipe for environmental upheaval.

Maurizio Morabito Orpington, England

Of course the above is a brutally shortened version of my full letter, as published in blog “Only Controllable Geo-engineering, Please!” where I did make the point that it is vital for all human anti-warming interventions to be fully controllable.

And before anybody refers to the ongoing atmospheric experiment called “the emission of additional CO2 from fossil fuels” let me clearly re-state the following: if we really need to combat the effect of the “CO2 emissions experiment” it makes no sense to experiment with a different set of emissions.

Global Cooling Consensus Not A Myth

Timely but alas flawed contribution by Thomas Peterson of NOAA, William Connolley of the British Antarctic survey and science reporter John Fleck, reporting on the “Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society” about the apparent lack of peer-reviewed papers predicting global cooling, between 1965 and 1979 (it’s reported here in Nature’s Climate Feedback blog).

Unfortunately, it really does look like Messrs Peterson, Connolley and Fleck simply have not looked well enough… or have conveniently restricted their search just enough to miss a 1961 article describing a Global Cooling consensus among scientists at a meeting supported also by…the American Metereological Association.

The article, written by Walter Sullivan for The New York Times (cited by Peterson et al. for his 1975 climate-related articles), refers to a 5-day Conference co-chaired by Rhodes W. Fairbridge of Columbia University and Charles G. Knudsen of the United States Weather Bureau, in the January of 1961.

Perhaps the AMA’s own archives could clarify what climatologists exactly talked about at the time.

Notably, the 1961 Conference is described as as varied and multidisciplinary as any today. And yes, scientists at the time were aware of the “greenhouse effect” of carbon dioxide.

UPDATE OCT 10: Nigel Calder’s comment was particularly interesting, so I managed to find online the Proceedings of the 1961 UNESCO Symposium he was referring to. The contents do appear to indicate a global cooling consensus, as suggested, that was important enough to be mentioned in the concluding Lecture.

'Taxing' Farts and Burps

Hey, it’s the BBC, I am just quoting

‘Taxing’ farts and burps
Committed to the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand promised to cut its emissions to 1990 levels. The country’s biggest source is methane from cattle, and as Stephen Evans discovers, the issue is raising a stink among local farmers.

I am seriously worried about the amount of fun people in the XXIII century are going to make, about us and our asinine (or shall I say, bovine) XXI century implementation of “targets”.

Is There Any Industry Making Use of the Greenhouse Effect?

Yes, it is a genuine question. And no, I do not want to hear about Al Gore / other politicians / greenies / lobbyists.

Is there any type of industry making use of the greenhouse effect? I understand that CO2 is added to actual greenhouses, but not because it is a GHG. Would be interesting to find out if such a world-changing phenomenon is or has been of practical use.

If Whitened Cities Will Cool The World…

…doesn’t that mean that greyed-out cities have warmed the very same world?

I was going to post something along those lines tonight but I just noticed JPL kind of beat me to it (via Watts Up With That?).

In fact: let’s assume Hashem Akbari is right, and “higher albedo surfaces (roofs and pavements) directly cool the globe” and we better get the UN “to install cool roof/pavement in 100 largest cities“.

But in the past 100 years or so we did cover vast areas of the planet with rather grey tarmac/asphalt, in the form for example of road networks and airports.

Those have obviously lowered the overall albedo, directly WARMING the globe. Isn’t that one additional little dent against the “It’s all fault of humanity’s CO2″ obsession, or what?

ps just wait until somebody states that old people are more friendly to the environment, because a white hairdo has a very high albedo

Greenpeace Trial: Why the UK Government Wanted to Lose

From Nature’s Climate Feedback: “Shock climate change verdict acquits Hansen’s heroes

Criminal damage in the name of climate change is not a criminal offence, according to a shock ruling from a British court…Eco-warriors’ UK paper of choice The Independent says the verdict “will have shocked ministers and energy companies”. In the Guardian, veteran environment correspondent Jon Videl says it will “embarrass the government and lead to more direct action protests against energy companies”.

From Greenpeace’s website (via Anthony Watt’s blog):

The Nasa scientist who first drew attention to global warming 20 years ago appeared in a British court yesterday as a key witness in support of climate change activists charged with damaging a power station…Yesterday, Prof Hansen…said Britain had a responsibility to take a lead on limiting climate change because it was responsible – owing to its long industrial past – for much of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Phasing out coal-burning power stations was crucial in tackling global warming, he told the court. “Somebody needs to stand up and take a leadership role,” Prof Hansen said. [...]

The so-called “Kingsnorth case” was a trial-by-jury. Given the verdict, it means that Hansen and the defence team in general have convinced the jury that it is a bad idea to build coal-based power stations: bad enough for a certain class of criminal damages to be considered necessary.

And why so bad? Because burning coal is linked to global warming and unimaginable future disasters.

The verdict also means that the prosecution was unable to convince the jury otherwise. But wait! What could have the prosecution done?

Could they have dared to demonstrate that burning coal is not linked to global warming?

Had that happened, the entire “Anthropogenic Global Warming is real” construct of successive UK Governments would have collapsed. No more Kyoto, no more dreams of “carbon taxes” and “carbon allowances”. Instead now, since the “phasing out” of “coal-burning power stations” has been shown as “crucial” in a court of law, either lights will starting going off in the Sceptred Isle _or_ nuclear power will be given a very high priority.

And so in hindsight one can rest assured that under no circumstance could the UK Government afford to win the “Kingsnorth case”. And as a matter of fact, it lost it. After all, this is a crucial year for the future of Britain’s power supply. Look at another note from the Greenpeace’s article:

Before travelling to Kent, Prof Hansen met the David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, who is thought to be unhappy about the plan for Kingsnorth, which is being promoted by John Hutton, the Business Secretary. Mr Brown will have the final say later this year.

Greenpeace 1 – Coal power 0? More like Miliband 1 – Hutton 0…

ps It was a silly trial anyway…couldn’t they leave the giant “Gordon” written on the chimneys? And what energy company sees £15,000 as more than a grain of dust?

From Chicken and Egg, to CO2 and Fuel

Which one came first…the push to consume less fuel, or the worry that CO2 could be near dangerous, climate-tipping levels?

Who knows? For certain, some statements by EU officials do make one wonder…

We do see reports of a significant change in the types of cars people are buying, but I’ve been mostly surprised at the lack of a reaction,” [towards meeting emissions control targets] said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency, an arm of the European Union in Copenhagen. “One had hoped that these prices would deter driving, but people have coped better than we hoped they would.”

Climate Models Are Correct (And Useless)

Climate models are correct indeed. Because, as Bill Clinton would love to say, it depends on what the definition of “correct” is.

In the real world, climate models cannot be falsified by a single observation (modelists say it’s “only weather”), or by a set of short-term observations (they call it “just a specific trajectory”).

In theory, one could wait a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check if the world has actually got warmer, but in practice models don’t include volcanoes, clouds, solar activity, etc: therefore, even if observations diverge from the models, all the modelists will do is find a “culprit” that can justify the discrepancy.

For the 1940-1970 cooling climate, they say “it was the aerosols”. Never mind that it could be a made-up story.

RealClimate’s own Gavin has said in the recent past, there is no interest in verifying if models are correct or not. Instead, the “right question” appears to be: “are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?”

It should go without saying that in such a situations, models have no predictive capability beyond chance and they are for all intents and purposes useless.

Imagine modelling a human being as a heart pump with tubes coming in and out, and then when the patient dies of tuberculosis, having the superciliousness to state “the model is correct” instead of understanding that humans have a pulmonary system too (and a lot of other systems).

Lynas' "Six Degrees" of (Computed) Half Blindness

I have decided to read debate-challenged Mark Lynas‘ “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” on the basis of the surprisingly moderate review by Eric Steig on RealClimate.

Just as revealed by Steig, I must confess I tend to stay away from popular-science books that appear to overstate their argument. And Lynas’ book’s English cover does sport a giant wave crashing on top of a half-submerged Big Ben, with lightning out of a dark cloud and a citation from the Sunday Times defining the book as “terrifying” (on the back, the Financial Times describing it as “apocalyptic”).

Obviously, HarperCollins (the Publisher) thought it important for sales to make Lynas look like an incorregible alarmist with a penchant for “climate pornography”. Apparently, the author has lamented being “misconstrued” but I suspect the author doesn’t control much of what appears on the cover of a book, and how the contents are popular-pulverized in the Press.

In any case, the choice of quoting from Dante’s Inferno was all Lynas’.

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What do I make of it? I cannot say the book is “alarmist”, in the sense of trying to pump up the evidence for impending catastrophes. Lynas has obviously tried to stick to “available science”: but that’s exactly the main shortcoming of the book, that looks like a victim of the neurological condition called “neglect” (eg see “Hemispatial Neglect”.

“Neglect” happens when a patient simply cannot be made aware of something that is in front of them. For example in the case of “visual neglect”,  the patient may be able to describe in detail a whole image apart from some area or object in it, that simply do not register at a conscious level at all.

Analogously, current “available science” in Climatology, for whatever reason, consistently and invariably depicts what could go wrong in a warmer planet, “neglecting” what could go right.

Does anybody seriously believe that the current climatic conditions are some kind of “optimum”, so that even a 1C variation upwards can mainly bring bad news?

In the book, one would rather expect a rather even situation at the beginning, for a one- or two-degree change, getting worse as the chapters go by. You can see the actual figures in my blog “Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims“.

It’s 4 bad news, and 2 catastrophes, for every bit of good news.

Now, if Lynas, or any scientist, truly believes that a warmer planet will mean bad news will outnumber good news by 4 to 1 (or including catastrophes, by 7 to 1), a very, very good discussion of the reasons behind that would not only be welcome, but strictly needed.

Otherwise, as with so many other things in terms of climate, it will just be yet another extraordinary claim with no extraordinary evidence backing it.

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By the way…the preponderance of bad and catastrophic news makes it for a boring reading after a few pages of totally-predictable barrage. Lynas slips time and again (with no apparent awareness) in what management consultants would call a “reverse sh*t sandwich” situation: instead of hiding the bad between two goods (the classic “sh*t sandwich” of many performance feedback sections), it’s the good bits that have to survive in-between bad news.

For example, at page 37 we are told about coral bleaching, then the hope is thrown that the coral might survive after all, but the sandwich is completed with an expert stating it will be too hot for the coral to survive.

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Lynas’ solution to the problem is discussed at length but appears to pivot on the concept of “making policy by invoking survival of the species”. Having been unable to see much good in warming, Lynas shows a similar degree of intellectual neglect in trying to sweep aside every other problem there is in the world. Well, perhaps…but again, if stopping global warming by 1 or 6 degrees is more important than fighting malaria or hunger, we should be told exactly why.

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A final gem demonstrating my whole point, from page 278:

“people were better off and healthier in Britain under food rationing during the Second World War”

Where does that incredible statement comes from???

Either Lynas is training as a stand-up comedian, or he can truly be half-blind to the things of the world indeed.

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.

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.

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…

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).

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