|The Week That Was
April 9, 2005
MY APOLOGIES: Some readers were upset by the April-1 spoof about George
Bush and Kyoto in our last TWTW
(of April 2). [Science magazine (in its April 1 issue) ran a similar
spoof on its editorial page -- no connection there.] Our story was contributed
by a reader who did not want his name mentioned. I removed some objectionable
items and added a paragraph on the Hockeystick. In spite of various hints
to the contrary, some thought the story was "too realistic."
New on the Web: My critique of the Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment, yet another report produced at a cost of $20
million. announcing impending doom, written by the usual cast of international
scientists, organized by perpetual doom impresario Bob Watson. As an antidote,
you should read John
Stossel's review of "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton.
This general theme is continued, as applied to genetically modified (GM) crops, in The March of Unreason, the recent book by Lord Dick Taverne (Item #2). The fear of synthetic chemicals like DDT, PCB, CFC (and many others) has led to their ban. Yet thousands of such compounds are produced naturally -and often in quantities that exceed any human contributions. (Item #3). Did you know that rapeseed plants emit about 15% of all human-contributed methyl bromide?
Meanwhile, the EU's new constitution wants to enshrine the Precautionary
Principle - which would cover chemicals, radiation, and any other real
or imagined hazards. (Item #4)
A verdict of $112M ($219M with interest) against Exxon for contaminating
a site with radium from drilling pipe cleaning is not
"Unfortunately, this is another case of actual "judicial
travesty" in accepting as fact the false data and bases for the radiation
health effects that are used to justify costly radiation protection policies
Perhaps this can be used to get industries to undertake serious research and documentation of the relevant data in the face of such continuing travesties. It seems corporations just expect that the relevant expertise can be hired by their lawyers when needed. But the substantial work has not been done, especially in key cases, like the Argonne radium-dial painters studies, which were terminated by DOE/NIOSH to avoid documenting unwanted facts.
Of course, now the legal "facts," as established in this
case, will make it
Advocates of suppressing carbon-dioxide emissions in the name of combating global warming have long argued that their goals could be accomplished cheaply and easily by industry, without imposing significantly higher costs on American consumers. Duke Energy has now admitted that the costs will be significant. (Item #6) However, Duke Energy itself plans to avoid these costs by moving rapidly to nuclear energy.
Readers have asked how we estimate future global warming as only about 0.5 C by 2100. It's based on extrapolating actual measurements, rather than using unverified computer models and even more uncertain emission scenarios. Essentially, we use the atmosphere itself as an analog computer. (See Item #7)
More pie-in-the-sky, as Sir David King pushes for availability of nuclear fusion, but wisely didn't say when. (Item #8) It's been 50 years away for the past 50 years, and may remain so for many more years. It does not produce CO2, that's true, but it does produce radioactivity through plentiful neutron emission. So what's wrong with existing fission reactors? We know they work.
What irony! The "ozone-friendly" replacements for CFCs are all GH gases. How to resolve ozone protection vs. climate protection? We can hardly wait for the report after 180 national delegations deliberate on this weighty issue at a meeting in Ethiopia. (Item #9) Ah, thank heaven for the UN; while millions are being murdered in Africa, UN agencies address things that really matter.
An Australian press report gives a skeptical view of the Hockeystick and of Global Warming. (Item #10) For a very readable review and its relation to the IPCC generally see http://www.climatechangeissues.com/files/PDF/conf05mckitrick.pdf
And finally, just google on "Harvard Professor Manure" to
find all the funny jokes about Martin Weitzman, Department of Economics
, the Ernest E. Monrad Professor at Harvard. An aficionado of horse manure,
he is currently attempting to clarify the "essence" of the global-warming
problem under uncertainty. How appropriate!
1. "Dis" the Threat Industry
The CIA for decades overstated the size of the Soviet economy and thus its threat to the USA. Worldwatchers have yearly forecast a food crisis from the exhaustion of soil or oil since the early 1970s. The Wall Street Journal editorial pages daily scare entrepreneurs with multiplying regulations stifling markets. What should we make of currently touted threats such as germ warfare, global warming, and a graying population?
I answer "Dis the Threat Industry," using youth's short form of "Disrespect." The Threat Industry has always done good business. Recall the 40-year career of Old Testament prophet Jeremiah beginning 629 BCE. The scale is new, as is the highly developed symbiosis with experts, including natural and social scientists.
For scale, consider the endeavor to find and predict "Global Change," especially human-induced climate change. Each year the world spends $2 billion on it. At $100,000 per person-year, 20,000 people are searching full-time. Searching for something that in any case fluctuates, such battalions cannot fail.
Indeed, they dare not. Funders look the fools if they expend for nothing. The sustainability of the endeavor, that is, the jobs of the managers and the searchers, depends on finding something. And the career of a searcher flourishes with a positive result. Journals publish few papers saying "I searched for years, spent much, and found nothing." Critics of strong assertions of discoveries of global change are marginalized as "contrarians." In general, smiling in the face of threats and nay-saying make for a lonely, impoverished career.
Diminishing a problem unemploys not only experts and their publicists. Threats beget threat-removal industries. Fears about asbestos created the asbestos-removal industry, which in turn needed to feed fear of asbestos. Environmental protection agencies feared to reverse themselves, even as evidence for the removal programs itself got removed. So the game continues.
Indeed, threats find curiously cooperative ways to grow. The CIA overstatements boosted the USA military, whose growth in turn justified the Soviet military's growth, which then further nourished the budgets of its USA counterpart. The Cold War shows how hard it is to break a threat cycle. Threats can make symbiotic enemies.
Of course, the USA and USSR truly did endanger one another. And I am not saying 'disbelieve global warming or ignore anthrax.' I do say 'understand the biases inherent in assessments and forecasts.' Germ warfare will sustain large military budgets.
We are accustomed to filtering the words of experts receiving rich fees from private companies. We need to become more sensitive to the bias of large chunks of academia funded to document threats by government and to the growing, vocal number living from other non-profit sources and means. Television evangelists weekly prophesy an upcoming Last Judgment and wrest checks. So do environmentalists. Our governments and tax-laws have created a flourishing business in threat legitimation. Today, Jeremiah would lead a large institute.
So, follow the money and the public and peer approbation. Calibrate threats accordingly. The collapse of the USSR showed the Western Threat Industry overstated by about a factor of three. Dividing by three could prove a rule of thumb.
Fortunately, many threats have simply crumbled against time. The Threat Industry itself will not. Society appears subject to a Law of Conservation of Concern. Editors fill the front page of the newspaper everyday. Moreover, threateners contend they must inflate their claims to compete.
And a few threats prove worse than assessed. Both supporters of slavery and abolitionists in the pre-Civil War USA underestimated its malignant, enduring legacy. We need to learn better to separate slavery from steam engines, whose dangers also made headlines in the 1840s and 1850s. And we need to separate the real, manageable problems of exploding engines from the apocrypha of witches and weak magnetic fields.
Today, I do fear that a graying population will wreck social security.
But I treasure the contrarians who contest that view. Science, like democracy,
can thrive only with a loyal, tough opposition. Dis the Threat Industry.
During the 1970s, pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the
Earth played an important role in rousing public opinion from complacency
about environmental degradation. But as the environmental movement has
grown in influence, it has become more fundamentalist. The trashing of
GM crops during field trials showed that the campaign against them had
become a crusade and that Greenpeace has become impervious to evidence.
When the huge international success of GM cotton cultivated by 6 million
small farmers is denied and the potential benefits of crops like golden
rice are ridiculed, it is clear that dogma prevails over reason.
Prof. Gordon Gribble (Dept of Chemistry, Dartmouth College) has produced
a comprehensive survey (Oct. 2004) on Natural Organohalogens [see www.eurochlor.org]
, that include biogenically and abiogenically produced compounds resembling
DDT, PCB and CFC. A very readable account is pubished in the Americn Scientist
July 2004 [see www.americanscientist.org/IssueTOC/issue/621 ]
All references to the precautionary principle as a basis for environment policy should be removed from the EU's draft constitution, Franco-Belgian free-market think-tank the Molinari Institute argues in a new report.
Molinari says applying the precautionary principle in EU policy areas such as biotechnology and climate change will have disastrous effects for the developing world. Guidance on using the principle at EU level was agreed over four years ago (ED 13/12/00 http://www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=8951).
The institute rests its case on the example of the insecticide DDT, an effective anti-malarial agent, which was banned in most of the developed world and placed on a United Nations blacklist because of fears it was damaging wildlife.
Developing countries blighted by the disease can still use DDT but are strongly discouraged from doing so because they could be disqualified from UN aid programmes, author Gabriel Calzada told Environment Daily. As a result the incidence of malaria has risen, he claims.
According to the draft constitution's article III-233-1, EU environment policy "shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay."
The constitution was signed by European heads of government last October; the probability of a change to the wording is now extremely low. But to enter into force, the constitution must be approved by each of the EU's 25 member states and lively campaigns for and against are being waged by its proponents and detractors.
Spain was the first member state to decide its position, voting in favour
in a referendum earlier this year. France votes on 29 May; last year it
incorporated the precautionary principle in its own national constitution
(ED 26/06/03 http://www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=1471).
A Louisiana appeals court this week reduced a $1 billion verdict against
Exxon Mobil Corp. to $112.3 million, while upholding a jury's finding
the company was responsible for radioactive contamination of land near
The appellate court upheld the compensatory damages, while calling the
punitive award excessive. The company will appeal, said Charles Matthews,
Exxon Mobil general counsel.
The Chief Executive Officer of Duke Energy Corp. this week called for a federal tax on carbon-dioxide emissions as a strategy to counter global warming. This proposal is more honest than the cap-and-trade scheme proposed in the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act.
Duke CEO Paul Anderson has finally shown the true colors of the energy-rationing
advocates, said Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis.
Rather than trying to hide the costs of carbon suppression behind an allegedly
market-based trading mechanism, he has come out with the more candid option
of a massive increase in the tax burden on American consumers.
1. The weather satellite data (MSU-UAH) show a warming trend of ~0.08 C/decade for the lower troposphere. But this value included contributions from GH gases CFC and CH4 that are not increasing currently.
2. Using the model result of about 20% larger tropospheric trend, I conservatively estimate corrected surface warming to be 0.06 C/dec
3. Now, if CO2 were to increase exponentially --again very conservative - radiative forcing would increase only linearly (because the CO2 bands are saturated) and the trend would remain at 0.06C /dec.
4. Therefore, I estimate an increase of 0.6C by 2100
THE government's chief scientific adviser yesterday urged more investment in the holy grail of nuclear fusion to help tackle global warming. Sir David King, who last night gave the opening speech at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, said he believed fusion power would become a reality.
The phenomenon, which could provide almost limitless energy, has been
researched by scientists worldwide for decades and Sir David urged more
work to be done so it could be achieved sooner.
Most of Britain's power stations are due to shut down in the next 15
years and the government has said it will make an announcement on whether
any more will be built after the election, expected next month.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), /United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 6 to 8 April 2005 to finalize a special report on "Safeguarding the ozone layer and the global climate system: issues related to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)."
This special report describes both scientific and technical information regarding alternatives to ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) that may affect the global climate system. It addresses scientific linkages between stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change, and how the phase-out of ODSs is affecting climate change. The HFCs have no ozone-depleting potential but are greenhouse gases. They are used as replacements for ODSs in applications such as refrigeration and air-conditioning, foams, aerosol and solvents and fire protection.
The report will be accepted in Addis Ababa by delegates from over 100
countries, who will also approve a Summary for Policymakers, to be posted
at www.ipcc.ch on 11 April 2005.
The famous graph used by the UN-IPCC claims average temperatures were
stable for 900 years and then began to increase dramatically around 1900.
The graph, of enormous importance in building global warming as a big
public issue, was produced by several scientists including Michael Mann,
a climate scientist at the University of Virginia.