|The Week That Was
December 27, 2003
1. New on the Web: THE END OF THE LOMBORG AFFAIR, as the Danish Ministry of Research repudiates the findings of the "Danish Committees for Scientific Dishonesty." Read several comments and analyses from around the world, giving a black eye to Scientific American and other worthies.
2. NASA NEEDS A NEW VISION: Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight
3. Celebrating the imminent arrival of new spacecraft on Mars:
4. CANADIAN GEOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT AGAINST KYOTO
5. THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT IS NOT IMPARTIAL ABOUT KYOTO
6. IDIOT'S GUIDE TO GLOBAL WARMING: FOREWORD TO THE BOOK
7. TAX BREAKS IN THE PROPOSED ENERGY LEGISLATION: BAD POLICY
8. REPORT FROM COP-9 IN MILAN
9. THE DEAD PROTOCOL SKETCH
10. SUPPORT SEPP
2. Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight
Space.com, 18 December 2003
NASA needs a vision that includes a specific destination. That much a panel of space advocates who gathered in Washington today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight could agree on. There is less consensus about what that destination should be.
NASA needs to determine where it wants to send humans next and commit
to that goal, the advocates agreed, though there was a difference of opinion
on what the next target should be. According to the participants in the
"Symposium on the Future Human Space Flight" sponsored Dec.
18 by Aviation Week and Space Technology, the two most likely destinations
for a future manned space mission are Mars and a return to the Moon. One
panelist even suggested the creation of a base on the Martian moon Deimos.
Spudis is a proponent of returning humans to the Moon and setting up a permanent outpost that will be used to study the universe and to learn more about surviving in space as humans look to move beyond the Moon. "The Moon has value," he said. "It is close and accessible."
While the cost of any major space undertaking seems daunting, a return to the Moon could be accomplished with existing expendable rockets and the space shuttle or shuttle-derived systems, Spudis said. We don't have the money to do a manned mission to Mars," he said. "I don't think that is in the cards, but the agency is looking for a challenge."
Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, disagreed and argued that Mars is the next logical goal for human spaceflight. "It has been staring us in the face since 1973," he said. "... It is a critical test to determine whether men can become planetary travelers."
Mars can be reached within the next 10 years, Zubrin said, but the United States will need to develop a heavy booster with capability similar to the Saturn-5 rockets that carried Apollo astronauts to the Moon, or a derivative of the space shuttle booster rockets that will be capable of carrying 40-ton to 50-ton payloads.
Fred Singer, a former director of the U.S. Satellite Weather Service, agreed that reaching Mars within the next 10 to 15 years should be the goal but that a base should be set up on its moon Deimos rather than on the surface of the planet. From that, astronauts would control robotic probes that would travel to the red planet and collect and return samples to Deimos for analysis, he said.
The Martian moon base could be accomplished for about $30 billion, money that could be found within the existing NASA budget once major space-station expenditures begin to tail off, Singer said. "The whole project builds on the [space station] experience," he said. "We can show that we have not thrown away $100 billion."
The effort will prepare humans for more ambitious missions in the future, Singer said. "We need an overarching goal," he said. "We need something with unique science content, not a publicity stunt."
Gary Martin, NASA's space architect, said the agency is redefining its approach to space exploration and is developing a method that mixes human and robotic missions to move science research forward. "We're looking for building blocks to lay out a long-term vision," he said.
NASA's new strategy would use Mars, for example, as the first step to future missions rather than as a destination in itself, Martin said. Robotic explorers will be trailblazers that can lay the groundwork for deeper space exploration.
"We have changed NASA," Martin said. "We put it on a new course with a stepping stone strategy for increasing exploration, both human and robotic."
Jim Garvin, NASA's lead scientist for Mars Exploration Science, said current robotic missions are doing science not even thought of during the Apollo era, but ultimately humans will need to be inserted in the process. "If the answer is to understand the cosmos, we need to be in the cosmos ourselves," he said.
SEPP Comment: To find out how to get to Mars via its moons, pls turn
3. Recent Ice Ages On Mars
Nature 426, 797 - 802 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02114
1 Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode
Island 02912, USA
Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.W.H. (James_Head@brown.edu).
A key pacemaker of ice ages on the Earth is climatic forcing due to variations in planetary orbital parameters. Recent Mars exploration has revealed dusty, water-ice-rich mantling deposits that are layered, metres thick and latitude dependent, occurring in both hemispheres from mid-latitudes to the poles. Here we show evidence that these deposits formed during a geologically recent ice age that occurred from about 2.1 to 0.4 Myr ago. The deposits were emplaced symmetrically down to latitudes of 30°-equivalent to Saudi Arabia and the southern United States on the Earth-in response to the changing stability of water ice and dust during variations in obliquity (the angle between Mars' pole of rotation and the ecliptic plane) reaching 30-35°. Mars is at present in an 'interglacial' period, and the ice-rich deposits are undergoing reworking, degradation and retreat in response to the current instability of near-surface ice. Unlike the Earth, martian ice ages are characterized by warmer polar climates and enhanced equatorward transport of atmospheric water and dust to produce widespread smooth deposits down to mid-latitudes.
Mars May Be Emerging From An Ice Age
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions
The "pacemakers" of ice ages on Mars appear to be much more
"Of all the solar system planets, Mars has the climate most
Discoveries on Mars, since 1999, of relatively recent water-
Head and co-authors from Brown (Drs. John Mustard and Ralph
Marchant, a glacial geologist, who spent 17 field seasons in
Mustard said, "The extreme climate changes on Mars are
According to the researchers, during a Martian ice age, polar
"This exciting new research really shows the mettle of NASA's
Global Surveyor has been orbiting Mars since 1997, Odyssey
4. Canadian Geologists Speak Out Against Kyoto
4A. Political agendas overtake climate science
I congratulate Mr. Foster on his commentary, as he is absolutely correct that science seems to have gone off the rails regarding the climate debate. And political agendas seem to have largely taken over.
I have taught a university course on global change for more than a decade. In this course, I advise my students to keep firmly on the track of science, to keep an open mind and not to be swayed by the weather vane politics of the day. For three-quarters of the last half billion years, Earth has been in a greenhouse mode, and for very long intervals of tens of millions of years, a "super-greenhouse" with CO2 levels up to 24 times those of today. For the last 12,000 years, Earth has moved to a temporary warm interglacial episode, with the Milankovic switch set to turn toward the next ice age in much less than a few millennia. At that time, Toronto should be under a kilometre of ice or more.
Earth's climate has never been stable: instability is the rule, not exception. The major problems faced by humans are ones of endless population growth (overcrowding into megacities), urbanization-cum-industrialization, fouling of the environment, religious or territorial wars, and health epidemics (the last two a probable consequence of the previous).
Dr. Paul Copper, Professor of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences,
Laurentian University, Sudbury.
Re: "Russia or not, forget Kyoto," Charles Frank, Opinion,
5. Kyoto impartiality?
6. The Idiot's Guide To Global Warming: Foreword to the book
After reading this book, an idiot no longer, you should be able to ask some searching questions: After all, IDIOT stands for Intelligent Doubter of Inaccuracies/Inanities Offered by Television (and other media).
So your first question might be: Is the climate really warming? And you learn that weather satellites measuring atmospheric temperatures day in day out from pole to pole report only a minute rise that extrapolates to about half a degree Centigrade by 2100. OK, but is this rise caused by human activities, like the burning of coal, oil, and gas? Hard to tell; climate varies naturally both up and down; so it could even be partly non-human. Next: So it's warming, but is it significant? That's a matter of judgment; but half a degree is barely detectable and not likely to have an impact.
The important question is: Let's assume that it would warm more strongly in the future, would such a warming be good or bad? (It is quite unlikely that the present climate is in any way optimal.) Meteorologists tell us that a warmer climate will on the whole produce more rain (and fresh water) but not more severe storms or hurricanes. The warming would be concentrated in high-latitude regions north and south and would mainly raise temperatures at night in winter. So Arctic winters might reach minus 38 instead of the present minus 40 degrees. There will be few complaints - even if polar bears and penguins could talk.
Economists tell us that a moderate warming would be better for the economy and lead to a higher GNP and higher living standards. That is especially true, biologists tell us, if we also achieve a higher level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Contrary to all you might have heard, CO2 is not a pollutant but an essential component of the earth's atmosphere. With the help of sunshine and trace nutrients, plants turn CO2 into food and fiber. More CO2 --- better growth of crops and forests.
Geologists tell us that levels of CO2 have been ten to twenty times the present level - and life in various forms did quite nicely. But CO2 has been declining more or less steadily in the past 200 million years, reaching dangerously low levels during ice ages. Some worry that in the next ice age, soon to arrive, it may fall below the level to sustain plant growth.
Now suppose that everything we know is wrong and that the precautionary principle should be applied. What can we do and what should we do? Actually, there is practically nothing we can do to change the course of climate - short of gigantic and risky planetary engineering, like putting megatonnes of dust into the stratosphere and similar fanciful schemes. Certainly, the much-touted Kyoto Protocol, which would force us to use less energy by boosting its price, is completely ineffective; it has been rejected by the United States and ignored by China and other giant energy consumers.
Adaptation is the only sensible answer to climate change, whether natural or human-caused. But successful adaptation to either heat or cold takes money. So we should save and not waste: Conservation of resources and especially of energy is the right policy. But don't under-conserve (waste) and don't over-conserve (by investing in uneconomic energy schemes). Only complete idiots would do that.
7. Tax Breaks in the Proposed Energy Legislation
Doug Durante hasn't met a tax break yet he didn't like (WT Commentary 12/15/03). But tax breaks for a favored few impose higher taxes on the rest of us. They are particularly objectionable when granted for energy fuels like ethanol from corn or bio-diesel from soybeans, which require more energy to make than they deliver. It does nothing for energy security, and it also raises the cost of fuels and of food.
Tax breaks and subsidies, once set up, are hard to get rid of. They seem
to live on forever. Just look at the Synfuels Credit enacted nearly a
quarter century ago during a so-called energy crisis. It's a boondoggle,
shamelessly exploited by some energy companies and even a hotel chain.
According to a recent WSJ story, the synfuel "producer" buys
coal for $25 a ton, crushes and sprays it with some chemical binder, sells
it for around $15, and then collects a federal tax credit worth $26 a
ton. Not bad. The IRS is still trying to stamp it out but is meeting political
opposition. The new tax breaks in the current energy bill are likely to
burden our children and grandchildren.
8. Report From Cop-9 In Milan
18 December 2003
December brought a build-up of high pressure to the Milan region. Between 1 and 12 December, over 4000 delegates have been at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ninth conference of the Convention of Parties (COP 9). The cloud hanging over the conference was the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 172 countries in 1997 to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
During the conference, an imaginative range of problems has been blamed on global warming. BBC News ran a feature about how it has hit Italian winemakers (1). 'Lack of snow last winter, almost no rain in spring or summer and searing temperatures for prolonged periods have had a major impact on the grape harvest. There has been a 20 per cent reduction in output', reported the focus on a Barolo vineyard.
Following the release of a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on 2 December, fears grew about melting glaciers and less snowfall in low-lying Alpine ski resorts (2). 'Many resorts, particularly in the traditional, lower altitude resorts of Europe, will be either unable to operate as a result of lack of snow or will face additional costs, including artificial snowmaking, that may render them uneconomic', the report stated.
At the COP 9 conference, Damiano Di Simine, president of the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), outlined the specific impact of warming on the Alps. 'The Alps are in an area of the world in which climate change is more accentuated', he said. 'The general rise in the level of temperature is about 0.6-0.7 degrees, in the Alps the order of change is plus 1.5, with measurable affects on the retreat of glaciers.'
In a presentation on 11 December, the World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed that 150,000 deaths a year are linked to climate change. The WHO estimated that this could double by 2030, although there was significant uncertainty about future warming trends. 'We don't know what all the effects of climate change are likely to be', said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a WHO scientist. This did not prevent the scientist from making doomsday forecasts about the future impact of climate change with 'winners and losers.' Campbell-Lendrum predicted that underdeveloped countries would see the highest toll from warming.
A representative of the Inuit people of Canada and Alaska, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, declared that they are already the victims of global warming. She announced at COP 9 that a human rights case is being launched against the US government. Watt-Cloutier claimed the oceans are too warm due to climate change, causing roads, airports and harbours to collapse. In addition, there has been erosion of house foundations near the seashore, and people have moved to safer areas. The Inuit have the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to help them put pressure on George W Bush's administration (3).
No doubt the Inuit have experienced problems related to climate change. But in focusing their energies on trying to blame and shame the US government, political posturing may be replacing the rational debate that could help construct the protection that the Inuit need.
Blaming the USA was a strong theme of the conference. The current US administration is widely held responsible for the uncertainty surrounding the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which will only be approved when 55 signatories have ratified it. These countries must include industrialised countries that produced 55 per cent of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990. President Bush pulled out of the Kyoto agreement in 2001, as has Australia. Then in October 2003, Russia, whose ratification would allow the Protocol to be implemented, started to waver in its decision.
During COP 9, there were contradictory statements from the Russian government about whether it will ratify the Protocol, which caused heated debates in Milan. Activists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) held a demonstration in the main hallway of the COP 9 conference calling for urgent Russian ratification. Russia's deputy economy minister, Mukhamed Tsikhanov, has indicated that ratification could be put to the Duma (lower house of parliament) next year.
Why are these governments reluctant to support the Kyoto Protocol? This question was addressed at another conference held in Milan, 'From Greenhouse Effect to Climate Control', on 29 November (4). Supporters of the Protocol want to limit various human activities because they believe that this will reduce future warming, which is why countries that ratify the Kyoto Protocol would be required to curtail activities that generate GHGs, especially energy production, transport and agriculture.
Several economists described how this could have a negative impact on economic growth. Margo Thorning of the International Council for Capital Formation (Belgium) presented economic models showing that gross domestic product could be severely affected if the Kyoto Protocol is implemented. Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (USA) questioned the environmental benefits of reducing GHGs. The Protocol 'is an all pain, no gain diet', according to Smith.
While there is a consensus that we have experienced limited global temperature rises over the past 150 years, there are disagreements about the reasons for warming. S Fred Singer of the University of Virginia correctly pointed out on 29 November that the solar cycle has been ignored as a cause of warming by those promoting the Kyoto Protocol. However, opponents of the Protocol sometimes highlight such natural factors as determining the impact of climate change, in an attempt to reject the notion that human-created GHGs are to blame.
During my own presentation to the conference on 29 November, I emphasized that the key factor regarding the impact of climate change on society is development. As an example of a social response, I examined the mobile barriers being built to protect Venice from flooding and rising sea levels. Construction work on the barriers began in early 2003 and the estimated completion date is 2011. Regardless of whether climate change is due to GHGs or natural factors, such initiatives by societies will govern how we experience it.
Yet environmentalists at COP 9 used the example of Venice sinking to put pressure on the US undersecretary of state for global affairs, Paula Dobriansky, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. 'Venice's destiny is linked to that of the planet', Paolo Cacciari, a Venice municipal councillor, told a news conference after a letter signed by 73 coastal cities worldwide was submitted to the US delegation. 'If Kyoto is not ratified, we will be submerged', he added.
These assertions imply the only problem for coastal cities like Venice is rising sea levels due to climate change. But the best long-term measurements available suggest that rising sea levels have been less important than subsidence, or lowering of the land level. Between 1897 and 1983, the relative sea level (RSL) in Venice rose 23cm, according to measurements by the Italian National Research Council. Twelve centimetres of the 23cm RSL rise was due to subsidence, and 11cm was caused by rising sea levels.
Venice is now flooded roughly 43 times a year, compared with seven at the start of the twentieth century. Climate change could mean the RSL would rise more in the near future, although it could also mean that it falls. We are simply unable to predict long-term trends accurately. However, these campaigners linking Venice sinking to the Kyoto Protocol have ignored the measures to protect the city. The mobile barriers plus various internal defence construction works will not prevent all flooding indefinitely. But they provide the best solution for the foreseeable future. The campaigners' climate alarmism is a barrier to solving problems like Venice sinking, as I have explored in contributions to two new publications (5).
The USA has been cast as the villain of global warming as it pumps out
GHGs and rejects the Kyoto Protocol. But most European Union countries
are failing to meet their commitments under the pact. According to a EU
report that coincided with COP 9, existing measures in the 15-country
bloc would result in only a 0.5 per cent reduction in GHG emissions in
2010 from 1990 levels. The EU pledged to reduce these emissions by eight
per cent under the Kyoto Protocol between 2008 and 2012. Britain and Sweden
are the only two EU nations on track to meet their targets.
This means that the underlying assumption of the Kyoto Protocol, that we should restrict development to reduce warming, has not been tackled. Indeed, EU countries closed COP 9 by stating that they would implement the Protocol even if it is not ratified. 'The Kyoto Protocol is the only game in town', said the German environment minister, Juergin Trittin, on the last day of the conference. And while the US baulks at taking action at a federal level, individual states, such as California, have already imposed their own regime of limits on transport emissions.
'The Kyoto Protocol was never expected to solve the problem of climate change in the first commitment period, the five years between 2008-2012', stated the Climate Change Secretariat of the UNFCCC. 'It is just the first step. Negotiations as to what should be done next will have to start soon.' So it was the opponents of the Kyoto Protocol who copped out in Milan, because the demand to restrict development in the name of climate change goes unchallenged.
Dominic Standish is writing a PhD on Venice and environmental risks. He also writes for many media organisations, including the leading Italian news wires agency, Ansa. He has contributed to the new book Adapt or Die. The Science, Politics and Economics of Climate Change, edited by Kendra Okonski, Profile Books, published in December 2003 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
spiked-issue: Global warming
(1) Global warming hits winemakers, Kate Poland, BBC News Online, 5 December 2003
(2) 'Climate change could affect Italian ski resorts', Dominic Standish, Ansa, 4 December 2003
(3) Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit, Paul Brown, Guardian, 11 December 2003
(4) Kyoto and our adaptive capacity, Dominic Standish, Tech Central Station, 4 December 2003
(5) See Adapt or Die. The science, politics and economics of climate change edited by Kendra Okonski, Profile Books, December 2003; and Dall'effetto serra alla pianificazione economica (From the Greenhouse Effect to Economic Planning) edited by Kendra Okonski and Carlo Stagnaro, Rubbettino/Leonardo Facco, December 2003
9. The Dead Protocol Sketch:
Look, matey, I know a dead protocol when I see one, and I'm looking at
Russia says it will not ratify in its present form the Kyoto
It's not pinin'! It's passed on! This protocol is no more! It has ceased
courtesy of Iain Murray
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SEASON'S GREETINGS to all from