The Week That Was
August 21, 2004








2. International Seminar On Climate Change Puts Fears To Rest

Russian Academy of Sciences - Moscow 5-8 July 2004

The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) invited an International Team to provide balance and counter claims by a British Team led by Sir David King (the UK Govt's Chief Scientific Adviser) and Sir John Houghton (former Director General of the UK Met Office). The RAS had already concluded that 'There is no scientific basis for the Kyoto Protocol'.

As reported by invited scientist Piers Corbyn (London), the British Government Team, after failing to prevent the international science team - of which Corbyn was part - from speaking, resorted to spoiling tactics because they were unable to answer questions. They subsequently tried to portray the event as somehow 'taken over' by others/Russians.

KEY POINTS from the International Seminar

1. World Temperatures do not follow CO2 levels and indeed the warmest periods in the last 2,000 years were the Roman period and the Medieval period which were both warmer than present and had lower CO2 levels {various speakers - William Kininmonth Australian Climate Research}.

2. Solar particles decisively affect World temperatures.
There is a much better correlation between world temperatures and particles than with CO2 levels {Piers Corbyn, Weather Action, London}.

3. There is no significant Sea level rise - in particular the Maldives are in no danger of submergence {Prof Nils-Axel Morner, Stockholm University}.

4. There is no climate induced increased danger of tropical diseases, e.g. malaria, since it is not itself a tropical disease - having being prevalent in Russia and Britain at various times. {Paul Reiter, Pasteur Institute Paris}.

5. There is no discernible link between Global warming & Extreme weather. Indeed the British Govt delegation specifically said they did not claim any increase in storms due to man-made CO2. {Madhav L Khandekar, consulting meteorologist, Ontario, Canada}.

3. Narrowing the Value of Climate Sensitivity
SFS/ 8/19/2004
Letter to The Industrial Physicist

Climate sensitivity is defined as the (equilibrium) global-mean temperature increase from a doubling of GH-gas forcing. It was first set in 1979 by "hand-waving" [1] as between 1.5 and 4.5 degC and has since appeared - unchanged -- in every IPCC Assessment Report, from 1990 to 2001. The large range, a factor of three, is an indication of the uncertainty inherent in climate models because of different assumptions, parameterizations, and approximations in trying to simulate complicated atmospheric processes. It is important to narrow this range and to validate model results by comparing with actual observations.

In a UN-IPCC Workshop on Climate Sensitivity held in Paris, 26-29 July 2004, 14 models gave values of from 2.0 to 5.1 degC [1]. But after polling eight current models, Gerald Meehl (NCAR) narrowed the range to 2.6 to 4.0, remarkably close to that derived from an MIT model [2]. But this apparent agreement does not constitute validation against observations - the only real test.

For example, James Murphy et al (Hadley Centre, UK), got a range of 2.4 to 5.4 degC (Nature Aug 2004) -- employing a technique that varied 29 parameters entering into a single model. But an extension of their method has now dropped these values somewhat to agree with the new IPCC values [1].

What does it mean if there is consensus among modelers? The assembled group of IPCC modelers ascribed the narrowing of the range to a "better understanding of atmospheric processes" [1]. At the same time, however, Jeffrey Kiehl (NCAR) admits [1] that the models "disagree sharply about the physical processes." The biggest uncertainty still remains the magnitude of the cloud feedback. For example, while "the NCAR and GFDL models might agree about clouds' net effects…they assume different mixes of cloud properties." The GFDL (NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab) model shows a three-times greater increase in short-wave reflection than NCAR. NCAR increases the amount of low-level clouds while GFDL decreases it. Much of the US gets wetter with NCAR but drier with GFDL.

The MIT model was not directly compared with others. But some notion of its validity can be gained from the projected temperature increases between 1990 and 2100 as a function of latitude - as shown in Fig. 3 [2]. While increases between lat 45 N and lat 45 S are a modest 1 to 2 degC (depending on whether a certain emission curtailment policy is applied), the median increase in the polar regions is projected as between 4 and 6 degC -- or up to 0.5 deg per decade. In other words, we should have seen by now an increase since 1990 of 0.7 degC. But Arctic observations show a slight cooling trend; the Antarctic shows a strong cooling trend.

We conclude, therefore, that climate models continue to be an unrealistic exercise -- of moderate usefulness but, absent validation, entirely unsuited for reliable predictions of future climate change. Alan Robock's (Rutgers) claim [1] "We have gone from hand-waving to real understanding" is ludicrous. The claimed convergence of results on climate sensitivity is nothing more than an illusion. Modelers still are unable to handle cloud feedback and continue to ignore the even more problematic issue of water-vapor feedback [3].

They also resist accepting observational evidence [4,5]. A climate sensitivity of ~3 deg would imply a current temperature trend at the surface of ~0.3 degC per decade and up to double that in the troposphere (acc. to IPCC). But satellite microwave radiometers and balloon-borne radiosondes agree on a near-absence of tropospheric warming. These data suggest a climate sensitivity of perhaps 0.5 degC and certainly not more than 1.0 - only about 20-30% of the model "consensus." In other words, Global Warming should not be considered a significant problem.

1. Richard A. Kerr. Three Degrees of Consensus. Science 305, 932-4, 13 Aug. 2004

2. Forest, C., M. Webster, and J. Reilly. Narrowing Uncertainty in Global Climate Change. The Industrial Physicist, Aug/Sept 2004. pp.20-23

3. Lindzen, R. S. Some Coolness Concerning Global Warming. Bull Am. Meteorol. Soc. 71, 288-299, 1990

4. Douglass, D. H., B. D. Pearson, S.F. Singer (2004). Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: Climate models versus observation. Geophys. Res. Lett. L13208. 10.1029/2004GL020103

5. Douglass D. H. et al. (2004). Disparity of tropospheric and surface temperature trends: New evidence. Geophys. Res. Lett. L13207. 10.1029/2004GL020212


4. Mixed News About Dioxin

Activists Recruit Church to Carry Dioxin Messages: Cooperating with activists from Health Care Without Harm, a delegation from the United Methodist Women (UMW) is urging office supply retailer Staples to promote chlorine-free paper in its stores and educate store employees on the supposed dangers of chlorine and dioxin. The United Methodist General Conference has included an anti-dioxin platform as part of its environmental policy for the past several years, and supports efforts to promote chlorine-free paper. A similar campaign targeting Kinko's several years ago brought about an agreement that all stores stock chlorine-free alternatives at the same prices as standard white paper. The group continues to target paper production as a source of dioxin and promote the use of total chlorine-free bleaching, even though the chlorine dioxide-based processes that now account for 96 percent of bleached pulp production have virtually eliminated dioxin from paper-mill wastewater streams

The Dangers of Backyard Burning: Forbes magazine cautioned readers in its regular Health tip section against burning garbage in open containers. The magazine warned about the dangers of pollutants from backyard burning, such as dioxins, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter, including trace metals. Forbes noted that backyard burning is currently the largest known source of dioxin emissions in the United States, according to EPA.

New Study Finds Lower Background Levels of Dioxins in Animals: Researchers at Exponent, Inc. have found lower than expected background levels of dioxins, furans, and PCBs in recent animal studies involving both rats and pigs. According to Biotech Week, researchers found concentrations of TCDD and other PCDD/Fs that were several-fold less than concentrations found in previous studies. The researchers say the lower levels found in this study may be due to "inadvertent laboratory contamination in previous studies or to declining levels of PCDD/Fs in laboratory feed, which parallel overall declines in emissions, general environmental levels, and human food and tissue levels of PCDD/Fs." The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

5. How Soon Will World Oil Production Peak?
SFS/ 8/19/2004
To Editor, Geotimes

Albert Bartlett (letter, Geotimes July 2004) generously quotes from my Feb 2004 letter, which questions the Hubbert methodology for predicting the date of the peak in oil production. As best as I can tell, Bartlett agrees with my analysis. I therefore only wish to quibble with his "estimated ultimate recovery" (EUR).

He quotes values of between 200 and 300 billion barrels and derives a date of 2019 for the peak year of world production. But the BP Statistical Review gives 1147 bill bbls for PROVEN reserves; the EUR may be several times larger. Using Bartlett's model, this would put the peak in world production well beyond the year 2032, i.e., 2019 + (1147-300) x 5.5 days.

6. Pollution Deaths From Smog?

Katherine Hollinsworth
Financial Post, August 09, 2004

Re: Pollution Deaths: Where Are the Bodies?, Terence Corcoran, Aug. 4.

I worked in health care policy research and analysis for a couple of years and pollution or smog-related deaths was one of my favourite topics to challenge. I asked if the death certificate was signed "death from smog," and of course it wasn't. I asked where the deaths occurred and no one could tell me, but they assumed they happened in hospitals and nursing homes. I asked for a description of the victim and they told me they were primarily fragile seniors in hospitals and nursing homes or asthmatics - they supposed but really couldn't say.
I asked how a day or even a week of smog could kill someone who has been in an air-conditioned hospital for weeks or months. Since they included "hospital admissions," I asked what the "normal" number what be and for what were people admitted on "smog days" - no such information. I asked for a list of victims, with no identification, to do a statistical analysis from a given week of high pollution and was told no one had such a list. How could they have statistics and a report with no data and no lists?
If pollution actually kills people and at the level claimed, we should have people dropping dead in the streets or collapsing upon arrival at the office or at home after being outdoors.
Why don't journalists ask these questions and demand evidence when such claims are made? Why did it take so long for anyone in the media to challenge the accepted wisdom on this issue?
I think one reason is the awe with which medical spokespeople are regarded and the other are reporters who don't know how to read data or to think logically and analytically. However, this should not preclude others in the health sector from reviewing such claims and asking for real evidence.

7. Sound Science Loses Stalwart Supporters - And Personal Friends

Philip H. Abelson, whose early research helped lead to the development of the atomic bomb and the nuclear submarine, and who later influenced scientific thinking during 23 years as the editor of Science magazine, died Aug. 1. He was 91 and lived in Washington.
Abelson was a force in science for more than 60 years, beginning in the 1930s, when he was one of the nation's first nuclear physicists. He was the co-discoverer of the chemical element neptunium and during World War II worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. Later, he was among the first to analyze the bacterium E. coli.

His scientific expertise knew almost no bounds. Trained in chemistry and physics, he also did groundbreaking research in biology, geology, biochemistry and engineering. When he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1959, he could have been admitted in any of seven disciplines. He chose to be recognized as a geologist.

Abelson published nine books on such varied subjects as microbiology, energy, food, electronics, health care and earth science - as well as a collection of his wide-ranging, forcefully written essays that touched on nearly every field in the vast, expanding world of science. An article in The Washington Post in 1980 described him as a "nuclear, geo-, bio-physicist, geo-, paleo-, biochemist, microbiologist and a few other scientific compound specialties."
In 1944, barely past his 30th birthday, Dr. Abelson was put in charge of the Naval Research Laboratory in Philadelphia. By March 1946, he had written a paper detailing how a nuclear reactor could be installed in a submarine, in effect designing the blueprint for the USS Nautilus, which was launched in 1955 as the Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine.
In 1987, Dr. Abelson received the National Medal of Science. He belonged to numerous scientific societies and received dozens of prestigious awards, including the Kalinga Prize from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Distinguished Public Service Award from National Science Foundation. Affiliated with Carnegie Institution since 1939, he was its president from 1971 to 1978. He received seven honorary degrees.
When Dr. Abelson became editor of Science in 1962, it had a circulation of 75,000. By the time he retired at the end of 1984, the circulation was 155,000.

Personal recollections by Fred Singer

I will really miss Phil, my friend for more than 50 years. I first wrote to him when he was at NRL and I was still in college, wanting to work for him. I had read one of his papers.

Phil deserves so much credit - one doesn't know where to start. But we should remember the fantastic job he did as editor of the AGU journal J of Geophys Research in the mid-fifties; he single-handedly brought it back to life.

In the 70s he invited me to write guest editorials for Science and published many of my Letters. In recent years I would visit him in his Science office to seek counsel and support. He always gave both - for which I shall always be grateful.

But I don't see how he could have been opposed to all manned spaceflight programs, as is often claimed. In 1977 he and Fred Durant joined me in incorporating the "Ph-D Committee" -- to send a manned expedition to Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars.

Thomas Gold; died June 22 2004, aged 84. He was Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Cornell University; founder and for 20 years director of Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. . He was a Fellow, Royal Society (London) and Member, National Academy of Sciences (US). He never earned a PhD but was awarded Doctor of Science from Cambridge University and Honorary M.A. from Harvard University.

An obituary in the June 24 Guardian (UK) refers to him as science maverick who challenged establishment thinking - and quite often turned out to be right. It continues:

"Tommy" Gold was the initiator, the pragmatist and the persuader among the trio of young Cambridge scientists who turned cosmology upside down in the 1950s by proposing their controversial and comforting "steady state" hypothesis of the universe. This held centre stage for several years, with Fred Hoyle as its underpinning cosmological philosopher, Hermann Bondi in mathematical support, and Tommy Gold as its extrovert propagandist.
Gold could leap easily from engineering to physiology, from physiology to cosmology and on to almost any other speciality. Closed academic cliques feared him. Throughout his life he would dive into new territory to open up problems unseen by others - in biophysics, astrophysics, space engineering, or geophysics.
Controversy followed him everywhere. Possessing profound scientific intuition and open-minded rigour, he usually ended up challenging the cherished assumptions of others and, to the discomfiture of the scientific establishment, often found them wanting. His stature and influence were international.
The "steady state" trio were regarded as mavericks in the 1950s although, among other things, Bondi later became chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence. As a group they first worked together on Admiralty radar research in 1942. Before this, however, Gold had met and befriended Bondi in the internment camps in Britain and Canada where both had ended up - with many other highly expert and loyal academic refugees from Hitler - as "enemy aliens" during the 1940 panic about fifth columnists.
When internment came, Gold was studying engineering at Trinity College Cambridge, while Bondi was doing mathematics and physics. Both came from Vienna. Released from internment, he took his degree and, at the request of Hoyle and Bondi and with (eventual) official approval, joined them in secret Admiralty research into problems of radar ground clutter. .
Gold emerged from the cold comfort of this extended wartime seminar aware of a host of new problems in astrophysics and cosmology and much better equipped to investigate them. It turned out that the electron dynamics of the magnetron, at the heart of radar, has similarities to the dynamics of stellar accretion. Hence it related to the theory of matter dispersed throughout space, to gravitational accretion and to hypotheses put forward before the war by Hoyle and Raymond Lyttleton. But it was Gold who first suggested that, whatever the turbulence and violence of galaxies or stellar systems, the energy balance of the universe would remain stable if matter were being continuously created and destroyed in equal amounts.
It was many years before this comforting and rather God-like idea succumbed to the Big Bang, although the steady-state theory was still reverberating gently in 1980, when Cornell University held a world level symposium in Gold's honour, the contributions to which were later published as a collective festschrift.
In the introduction to the book, Professor Edwin Salpeter, who was studying electrodynamics at Cambridge in the late 1940s, recalls that at this time Gold had switched from the Cavendish Laboratory to the Medical Research Council's physiology laboratory, where he was working on a resonance hypothesis for human hearing.
In the 1950s, Gold switched back to astronomy, becoming chief assistant at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, where he raised a host of uncomfortable questions about stellar dynamics and produced a complex mathematical model, which became known as the "Gold-Hoyle hot universe".
In 1956, he was offered and took the chair of astronomy at Harvard and never looked back. He made an extraordinary series of contributions across the spectrum of planetary and astronomical sciences, being swept on to various US national committees and becoming a much sought-after NASA consultant. In 1959, he took the directorship of a new centre for radio-physics and space research at Cornell University, a context within which his extrovert originality had great freedom and where he remained for the rest of his life, becoming emeritus in 1981.
One of the most dramatic demonstrations of his genius was the speed and rigour with which, in 1968-69, he showed that the "pulsars", just discovered by the radio astronomers Antony Hewish and Jocelyn Bell, working under Sir Martin Ryle in Cambridge, must contain rotating neutron stars. This revealed huge new vistas of possibility, for if neutron stars exist in a galaxy, then, as Dennis Sciama later wrote, it is only a short step to accepting that black holes also exist. Gold opened the door for Hawking.
He also generated many controversies. In the 60s, on the run-up to the manned space programme and a possible lunar landing, there was much confused debate about the nature of the surface of the moon. Was it hard rock or was there a deep layer of fine dust? If the moon lander and its astronauts had to cope with dust layers that were metres thick, then designers needed to know, and know quickly.
Then, in the late 70s and early 80s, when the world was taking serious stock of its energy resources, Gold pointed out that some old, deep and theoretically exhausted gas boreholes were still producing methane at a low but constant rate. Isotopic dating suggested that a large proportion of this gas was very old.
Gold suggested that we might be seeing primeval methane, trapped during the formation of the planet, but continuously rising from the deep interior of the earth. His calculations suggested that the volume might be prodigious and hence of extreme importance. Further, this rising gas could be routed to - and trapped in - major fault structures, and therefore a factor that could both trigger earthquakes and render them predictable.
These hypotheses, cutting directly across the received wisdoms of narrow fields of science in which Gold had no recognised expertise, infuriated some. Small, deep, experimental boreholes, put down in the 80s by the Swedish government to test Gold's deep gas hypothesis, yielded only a small volume of gas, but it seemed to be ancient methane and it continues to flow. Gold later altered his hypothesis to propose a "deep, hot biosphere" of methane-producing organisms and has been proved resoundingly right.
Cosmology may be full of eternal question marks, he once said, but life is here and now. That was Tommy Gold.

Personal recollections by Fred Singer: We first met in Cambridge in 1950 when he was setting up to study cosmic-ray showers, a topic of my PhD thesis. From then on we had continuous but infrequent contact related to planetary physics. I remember a 2-week conference in Rome when we decided to rent and share an apartment in the suburbs.

His physical intuition was always impressive. In the mid-50s, he correctly identified the "Sudden Commnecent " of magnetic storms with a shockwave from the Sun, while I developed the theory of geomagnetically trapped radiation and magnetic-storm ring currents. Gold coined the term "magnetosphere."

He proposed original ideas on planetary satellites that we still use today, but we parted company on the topic of the lunar dust layer. For a number of years, Gold promoted the idea that a thick layer of dust would cover many portions of the surface of the Moon. His opinion influenced the design of the Surveyor lunar landing probes, but their precautions appeared excessive, as he had overestimated the extent to which electrostatic fields could move dust particles.

In recent years, Tommy turned out to be a firm proponent of the skeptical view of Global Warming - providing strong moral support via e-mail. I last saw him about 20 years ago at a Cornell symposium organized in his honor by Yervant Terzian. I shall miss him greatly.

J. Gordon Edwards was one of the first to caution that the DDT bans that followed Rachel Carson's Silent Spring might be doing the world more harm than good. The 85-year-old entomologist and professor at San Jose State University passed away last week, as reported by Dr. Edwards offered testimony during 1971 EPA hearings on DDT, and ultimately secured a ruling from an EPA administrative judge that the regulated use of DDT did not pose health threats to humans or wildlife. However, his advice was overruled when EPA decided to ban the chemical. Later, Dr. Edwards investigated and uncovered connections between Ruckleshaus and anti-DDT environmental extremist groups and entered into a lengthy legal battle with The New York Times and the Audubon Society over attempts to discredit his statements about DDT. In later years, Dr. Edwards continued to respond to activist attempts to ban many chlorine-containing chemicals, including writing op-eds defending chlorine from Greenpeace attacks that appeared in the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle.

Personal comment: Had Gordon been successful in opposing the ban on DDT, millions around the world would not have died needlessly of malaria and other insect-borne diseases.


8. Words of wisdom

"This seems to be one of the many cases in which the admitted accuracy of mathematical processes is allowed to throw a wholly inadmissible appearance of authority over the results obtained by them. Mathematics may be compared to a mill of exquisite workmanship, which grinds you stuff of any degree of fineness; but nevertheless, what you get out depends on what you put in; and as the grandest mill in the world will not extract wheat flour from peascods, so pages of formulas will not get a definite result out of loose data."
T. H. Huxley (In a public debate with Lord Kelvin in 1869)



Go to the Week That Was Index