|The Week That Was
Feb. 12, 2005
1. New on the Web: We lead off with three reviews of Biotech - its promise and the scares that have been raised against this wonderful achievement of science - the gene-splicing revolution, The Frankenstein Myth, by Dr. Henry Miller and Gregory Conko, joins the pioneering publications of Prof Bruce Ames and of Dr Elizabeth Whelan,
We then continue with the never-ending saga of Global Warming. Prof David Deming gives short shrift to the absurd claim by UCal San Diego science historian Naomi Oreskes that she has found unanimous consensus about Global Warming (Item #2). We will return to this issue in future weeks.
Trouble is brewing for German wind projects. (Item #3). Costs to consumers are rising by nearly fourfold. The Greens in the German govt are suppressing the report. Meanwhile, German banks are reluctant to finance risky offshore wind projects. Quite a mess for environment minister Trittin - who persists in leading his country to financial disaster.
But the little state of Connecticut is not far behind Germany. Its GH gas reduction program, scheduled to go into effect this year, is really something to behold (see Item #4). It should provide a salutary lesson for the rest of the nation.
Roy Spencer previews a new attack on the Hockeystick - which by now is broken into little pieces. We will have more to say once the paper by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick appears in print. [Steve has launched a new blog at http://www.climateaudit.org/]
Comments about the intolerance of the Global Warming fanatics in an essay in The Times (London), published at the conclusion of the Exeter meetings (see Item #6). And a report on the same issue in Canada (Item #7) as Kyoto goes into effect on Feb 16.
Finally, news about an explosion of the polar bear population in the
Canadian Arctic (Item #8) and icing over in the Antarctic (Item #9.
In 1975, Newsweek magazine warned us that climate scientists were unanimous in their view that imminent global cooling would produce catastrophic famines. Thirty years later, the prophets of doom are still with us, but now the culprit is global warming. Every natural disaster that occurs, including the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia, is immediately linked with climate change, no matter how tenuous or absurd the connection.
According to University of California professor Naomi Oreskes, the scientific consensus on global warming is unanimous. Last December, Oreskes published an essay in the prestigious journal Science wherein she claimed that not one of 928 research papers containing the key words "climate change" published between 1993 and 2003 contradicted what she called the consensus position on global warming.
Oreskes' claim to have found 100 percent orthodoxy in the scientific literature seemed unbelievable. The parallel that immediately sprang to mind was the October 2002, election in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein received 100 percent of the vote.
Personally, I had cause to scratch my head. In 1995, I had published a paper in Science where I noted that North America had undergone a modest warming over the last 100 to 150 years. But I also concluded that there was no way to determine if the warming was due to human activity or natural climatic variation. Subsequently I received a telephone call from a National Public Radio reporter. He was interested in doing a story on my article--but only if I would tell him that the warming was due to human causes. He explained, "that's what everyone is interested in". When I refused to compromise my scientific integrity, he hung up on me. It was my first intimation that the media intentionally filter the information the public receives.
Upon closer examination, it appears as if professor Oreskes has answered a question no one is asking. Her definition of the "consensus position" on global warming essentially amounts to affirming the validity of the greenhouse effect itself, a physical phenomenon that can be demonstrated in the laboratory. By a disingenuous process of semantic transformation, this conclusion becomes an excuse for reforming our entire civilization.
The interesting and significant questions are left unanswered. What will be the magnitude of any future warming? If it occurs, will global warming be detrimental or beneficial? If the effects of global warming are detrimental, will the cost of mitigation be greater than any possible benefits? These are the questions that have to be addressed before any rational policy decisions can be made.
The most troubling aspect of the Oreskes Flap is the idea that scientific truth depends on consensus. In the seventeenth century, an irascible Italian mathematician noted, "the conclusions of Natural Science are true and necessary, and the judgment of men has nothing to do with them." When he was in a less temperate mood--his normal state--Galileo put it less tactfully when he stated, "the crowd of fools who know nothing is infinite".
The history of science repeatedly illustrates that human consensus has no relationship with truth. In 1915, a German meteorologist published a book where he claimed that continents drift over the face of the Earth. Continental drift was rejected by American geologists with near unanimity, and Alfred Wegener froze to death in Greenland in 1930. By 1955, his theory of continental drift had been relegated to the same category as Bigfoot, flying saucers, and astrology.
But as new evidence emerged, Wegener was vindicated. By 1970, the reality of continental drift was recognized by earth scientists. Professor Oreskes' endorsement of truth by consensus is something that could never be made by any person who has studied the history of science. Or could it? The most astonishing aspect of this entire affair is that professor Oreskes herself is a historian of science who has written a book about the rejection of continental drift.
Global warming predictions depend largely on computer models. But according to professor Oreskes, such models can never be validated or verified. In a 1994 paper published in Science, she wrote "verification and validation of numerical models of natural systems is impossible." In a 26 December op-ed published in the Washington Post, Oreskes said that "we need to stop repeating nonsense about the uncertainty of global warming." But the man who invented the scientific method, Francis Bacon, said "if we begin in certainty, we will end in doubts."
It is perplexing that the lessons of history seem to be lost on an historian.
But perhaps there is another lesson that can be learned. As Berkeley law
professor Phillip Johnson has observed, "whenever science is enlisted
in a political cause, the result is always that the scientists themselves
A report claiming that a boost to wind generation in Germany will cause a massive blowout in energy costs has been sent back to its authors to be "re-edited", The Daily Telegraph reports.
The 490-page study was commissioned by the German Parliament to look at the likely effects of doubling the country's energy output from wind farms by 2015. Germany now has 15,000 wind generators, the most in Europe, and the expansion will push the share of wind energy in total generation well beyond 12 per cent.
German magazine Der Spiegel published leaked details of the unpublished report, which says overall energy costs for consumers will climb from EUR1.4 billion to EUR5.4 billion, a rise of 3.8 times, if the country doubles its wind generation output by 2015. German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, a Green party member, is reported as saying he did not want the findings to be misinterpreted.
In the meantime, the German newspaper Die Welt reports (Feb 4) that German
banks are increasingly unwilling to finance offshore wind farms because
of unknown and presumably large technical risks. The German govt is considering
federal guarantees. So the citizens will have to pay twice -as consumers
and as taxpayers.
Mighty Connecticut is going to save the world, according to Gina McCarthy, newly appointed Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. Early in January, she announced to four committees of the General Assembly 55 recommended actions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (ultimately by 75%) which are supposedly causing global warming.
The recommendations were submitted by the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change in its draft of the State's 2005 Climate Change Action Plan. The Steering Committee consists of the Commissioners of DEP, Transportation, and Administrative Services, and representatives of the Department of Public Utilities Control, the Clean Energy Fund, and the Office of Policy and Management.
In short, the Steering Committee proposes to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States Government declined to do, for excellent reasons. Kyoto requires the U.S. and other developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide, to below its 1990 levels. The U.S. maintains that conforming to Kyoto would do absolutely nothing beneficial for global climate, at enormous economic cost.
After all the caterwauling about global warming, the evidence shows that almost no warming has occurred. According to computer models, the average surface temperature of the earth should have increased about 1º C in the last 100 years as the result of increased greenhouse gasses. But the actual rise of temperature has been half that.
Moreover, the evidence indicates that that small rise in temperature was not caused by human activity. It occurred before 1940, before most human-produced greenhouse gases entered the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases produced after 1940 appear to have had little effect on temperature.
If the temperature-rise before 1940 was not caused by greenhouse gases, it must have been caused by a natural phenomenon, that is, variations in the sun's brightness. Such changes, which we see as changes in sunspots, correlate closely with variations of the earth's temperature. . If greenhouse gases have any effect on the temperature, it is slight relative to the natural variations.
Even if greenhouse gases do cause global warming, little Connecticut's most frantic efforts to cut emissions cannot possibly affect climate. Even if all 50 states were to adopt Kyoto, their decreased emissions would have no measurable effect on climate.
The Kyoto Protocol exempts China, India, and other developing countries. China and India with an aggregate population seven times the population of the U.S., are building coal-fueled power plants (leading emitters of carbon dioxide) at a furious pace. Their new power plants during the next ten years will emit five times the emissions Kyoto aims to reduce. Many other countries including Japan, Indonesia, and Germany are also adding coal-burning power plants.
The 55 recommendations in the Climate Change Action Plan begin with reductions of vehicle emissions of which the most important is the California Low-Emissions Vehicle Law, passed by the Connecticut legislature (SB119) last year. It adopts California's low-emission program of hybrid, fuel-cell, and electric vehicles, and all subsequent California laws associated with it. Why any state would bind itself to follow the lead of California, the National Nut Depository, is a mystery.
The Plan calls for a reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by the year 2010, and an additional 10% below that level by 2020, and over the long-run by 75 percent.
The Plan's 55 recommendations to be put into effect in 2005 include "Transit, smart growth, and vehicle-miles-traveled reduction package"; "Green campus initiative"; Increase recycling "to 40 percent"; Remodeling or redesigning buildings to conserve energy; Promote renewable energy (like windmills); Reduce non-farm fertilizer use; Upgrade building energy codes, &ca &ca &ca.
The Plan does not estimate or even mention cost. We can be certain that the cost in spending, income, jobs, and businesses' leaving the state will be staggering.
The Plan, McCarthy promises, "will help us achieve significant long-term reductions in greenhouse gases." What good would that do? None at all. In fact it will do harm. Carbon dioxide is a food for plant-life. It increases growth of plants.
The spectacle of Connecticut's sticking its finger into a leaky Kyoto
dike to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is hard to credit, even by those
familiar with the foolishness of environmental extremists and government
A science article that has been accepted by Geophysical Research Letters casts serious doubt on the oft-cited claim that global temperatures are warmer now than they have been anytime in the last 1,000 years.
Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick examined the methodology that led Mann et al. (1998) to publish in the popular science journal Nature the famous "hockey stick" shaped temperature curve, which was a centerpiece of the Third Assessment Report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. The hockey stick curve showed a gradual cooling since around 1400 A.D. (the hockey stick handle) then a sharp warming since about 1900 (the blade of the stick). This was taken as proof that the major climatic event of the last 1,000 years was the influence of humans in the 20th century.
As you might imagine, it's a little difficult to construct a temperature history for a period of record that, for the most part, had no reliable thermometer measurements. Since good thermometer measurements extend back to only around the mid-1800's, "proxy" measurements, primarily tree ring data, have been used to extend the temperature record back additional centuries.
McIntyre & McKitrick found that the Mann et al. methodology included a data pre-processing step, one that was not reported in the original study that essentially guaranteed that a hockey stick curve would result from their analysis. They demonstrated this by applying the same methodology to many synthetic temperature records that were constructed with random noise. In almost every case, a hockey stick curve resulted. The claim of unprecedented warmth and the hockey stick shape appear to hinge on the treatment of one species of tree, the bristlecone pine, from North America in the 1400's. Further statistical tests showed that this critical signal in the early 15th century lacked statistical significance. This suggests that the results of Mann et al. were simply a statistical fluke, which greatly exaggerated a characteristic of the bristlecone pines, which may or may not be related to global temperatures.
The new article, like so much published science, simply points out errors in previously published science, which is the way science should work. So why should there be so much fuss this time? Because the original Mann et al. article has had huge repercussions. The hockey stick, along with the "warmest in 1,000 years" argument, has become a central theme of debates over the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, in governments around the world. The question begging to be answered is: Why did the IPCC so quickly and uncritically accept the Mann et al hockey stick analysis when it first appeared? I cannot help but conclude that it's because they wanted to believe it.
The IPCC leadership can always fall back on the claim that they were only using published research, which is true. The criterion for scientific results to be included in governmental reports has usually been publication in the scientific literature, or in some cases the work only needs to be accepted for publication. But it now appears this is not sufficient. Unusual claims in science should be met with unusual skepticism, and this did not happen with the Mann et al. study. An increasing number of researchers have anecdotal evidence that the science tabloids, Nature and Science, select reviewers of some manuscripts based upon whether they want those papers to be accepted or rejected. In other words, it seems like the conclusions of a paper are sometimes more important that the scientific basis for those conclusions. Since those periodicals have profit and popularity motives that normal scientific journals do not, maybe the time has come to downgrade the scientific weight of publications in those journals, at least for some purposes.
It took two non-climate people -- the global warming debate's equivalent of internet bloggers -- to do what should have been done by an independent paleoclimate research group. Both are Canadians: McIntyre is a consultant for mineral exploration, and McKitrick is a professor of economics. They received no outside funding for their work, so they can not be accused of being bought off. It surely won't help the IPCC's reputation that this latest development follows on the heels of the recent resignation of the IPCC's leading hurricane expert over editorial bias in the IPCC leadership.
It will be interesting to see if the IPCC, and its member countries, continue to rally around the hockey stick, or discard it. At the very least, the IPCC process, now starting working toward its next report, will likely be a little more careful about what conclusions it draws from published research. A multi-governmental panel like the IPCC is necessary, I believe, to provide guidance on the state of global warming science. The trouble is that it is run by humans, all of whom have their own biases. I don't have a solution for that problem. After watching the Terminator movies, I don't think I would want to put machines in charge of it, either.
The good news is that the scientific method works. Independent testing of scientific results, especially controversial ones, adds confidence to the science and lends credibility in the minds of the public and policymakers. As it stands now, however, today's article by McIntyre and McKitrick will only further damage the reputation of the IPCC leadership and call into question its objectivity.
(Additional information about the McIntyre and McKitrick work, including
referenced publications, can be found at http://www.climate2003.com )
NEVER MIND the posters of Michael Howard as a flying pig, or the advertisements that expose our children to the stunted genitals of that Crazy Frog from the mobile ring tone. The most shocking advert today is the one about the apocalyptic dangers of climate change from the government-funded Carbon Trust. Unlike the other two ads it has not provoked public controversy, but to my mind its message is as crude as a Tory pig or an amphibian flasher.
The Carbon Trust advert on television begins with an actor playing Robert Oppenheimer, "father of the A-bomb". The portentous voiceover tells us: "One man has been where we all are today. When he saw what he had done, he said, 'I am become the destroyer of worlds' (cue shot of atomic explosion). Now we all have to face up to what we've done. Our climate is changing..."
To make us feel guilty about "what we have done", we are shown cities, electricity pylons, personal computers and cars, followed by violent storms, huge waves and flooded towns. The message is that we are destroying the world through climate change, which has been brought about by modern industry and technology. So we must change the way we live and work in order to repent of our sins - or as they put it now, "reduce our emissions". Others predicting doom via man-made global warming are becoming similarly heated; one international body suggests we might be just ten years from catastrophe.
What we ignorant laymen are rarely told is that there remain serious uncertainties about the extent and causes of climate change - as even some scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will quietly concede. Yet woe betide any expert who tries to raise such questions in public.
When it comes to climate change, "sceptic" is a dirty word. Scientists who dissent from the strict orthodoxy on man-made global warming have been shouted down, labelled dupes of the US oil industry, even branded "climate change deniers" - a label with obvious historical connotations. Instead of taking up the sceptics' case, the accepted response of our illiberal age is to yell: "You can't say that!"
But is not scepticism crucial to scientific inquiry? Timothy Ball, a leading climatologist, says that those trying to test the theory of anthropogenic climate change - "a normal course of action in any real scientific endeavour" - are now being "chastised for not being in agreement with some sort of scientific consensus, as if a worldwide poll of climate experts had been taken, and as if such a consensus would represent scientific fact. Nothing could be farther from the truth; science advances by questioning, probing and re-examining existing beliefs."
We need to separate the science from the politics. Let the experts thrash out the evidence. But let them do so free from the pressures of a political climate in which human intervention is always seen as the problem rather than the solution, precaution is always privileged over risk, and the worst possible outcome is always assumed to be the best bet.
Perhaps those commanding us to "face up to what we have done"
to the world might first face up to the dangers of reducing complex scientific
issues to a simplistic political message, and presenting moralistic sermons
as scientific laws. Whatever the true impact on the environment of burning
fossil fuels, there seems a real risk of damaging the atmosphere of scientific
inquiry by burning sceptics at the stake.
Drive-by shootings have moved from the slums of our cities to the realms of academia. Any scientist who dares challenge the Kyoto Protocol faces a vicious assault, a turf war launched by the pro-Kyoto gang.
These pro-Kyoto attacks are not merely unprofessional - often of little scientific merit, they are intended to intimidate and silence real academic debate on the Kyoto Protocol, a global treaty to limit the production of greenhouse gases like CO2 that allegedly cause catastrophic global warming.
Witness the attack on Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist". While Lomborg did not challenge the flawed science of Kyoto, he said that Kyoto was a huge misallocation of funds that should be dedicated to more important uses - such as cleaning up contaminated drinking water that kills millions of children every year in the developing world.
In January 2003, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) declared that Lomborg's book fell within the concept of "objective scientific dishonesty". The DCSD made the ruling public at a press conference and published it on the internet, without giving Lomborg the opportunity to respond prior to publication.
In December 2003, The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation repudiated the DCSD's findings. The Ministry characterized the treatment of the Lomborg case as "dissatisfactory", "deserving criticism" and "emotional", a scathing rebuttal of the DCSD.
But such bullying is not unique, as other researchers who challenged the scientific basis of Kyoto have learned.
Of particular sensitivity to the pro-Kyoto gang is the "hockey stick" temperature curve of 1000 to 2000 AD, as proposed by Michael Mann of University of Virginia and co-authors in Nature.
Mann's hockey stick indicates that temperatures fell only slightly from 1000 to 1900 AD, after which temperatures increased sharply as a result of manmade increases in atmospheric CO2. Mann concluded: "Our results suggest that the latter 20th century is anomalous in the context of at least the past millennium. The 1990s was the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, at moderately high levels of confidence."
Mann's conclusion is the cornerstone of the scientific case supporting Kyoto. However, Mann is incorrect.
Mann eliminated from the climate record both the Medieval Warm Period, a period from about 900 to 1500 AD when global temperatures were generally warmer than today, and also the Little Ice Age from about 1500 to 1800 AD, when temperatures were colder. Mann's conclusion contradicted hundreds of previous studies on this subject, but was adopted without question by Kyoto advocates.
In 2003, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and co-authors wrote a review of over 250 research papers that concluded that the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age were true climatic anomalies with world-wide imprints - contradicting Mann's hockey stick and undermining the basis of Kyoto. Soon et al were then attacked in EOS, the journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Also in 2003, University of Ottawa geology professor Jan Veizer and Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv concluded that temperatures over the past 500 million years correlate with changes in cosmic ray intensity as Earth moves in and out of the spiral arms of the Milky Way. The geologic record showed no correlation between atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperatures, even though prehistoric CO2 levels were often many times today's levels. Veizer and Shaviv also received "special attention" from EOS.
In both cases, the attacks were unprofessional - first, these critiques should have been launched in the journals that published the original papers, not in EOS. Also, the victims of these attacks were not given advanced notice, nor were they were given the opportunity to respond in the same issue. In both cases the victims had to wait months for their rebuttals to be published, while the specious attacks were circulated by the pro-Kyoto camp.
Scientists opposed to Kyoto have now been vindicated. As a result of a Material Complaint filed by Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph and Steven McIntyre, Nature issued a Corrigendum in July 2004, a correction of Mann's hockey stick. It acknowledged extensive errors in the description of the Mann data set, and conceded that key steps in the computations were left out and conflicted with the descriptions in the original paper.
Hans von Storch et al further criticized Mann's work in the September 30, 2004 issue of Science Express. Von Storch commented in a Der Spiegel interview: "We were able to show in a publication in Science that this [hockey stick] graph contains assumptions that are not permissible. Methodologically it is wrong: Rubbish." Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Utah have expressed similar concerns.
The truth is there never has been any solid scientific evidence in favor of Kyoto. From the beginning, Kyoto has been politically driven, replete with flawed science and scary scenarios for which there is no evidence.
Kyoto advocates should finally admit that their pet project is foolish
and anti-environmental - Kyoto is a massive waste of scarce global resources
that should be used to alleviate real problems, not squandered on fictitious
THE world's polar bear population is on the increase despite global warming, which scientists had believed was pushing the animal towards extinction.
According to new research, the numbers of the giant predator have grown by between 15 and 25 per cent over the last decade. Some authorities on Arctic wildlife even claim that hunting, and not global warming, has been the real cause of the decrease in polar bear numbers in areas where the species is in decline.
A leading Canadian authority on polar bears, Mitch Taylor, said: "We're seeing an increase in bears that's really unprecedented, and in places where we're seeing a decrease in the population it's from hunting, not from climate change."
Mr Taylor estimates that during the past decade, the Canadian polar bear
population has increased by 25 per cent -- from 12,000 to 15,000.
According to US govt reports, icebreakers, which normally only have to break 10 nautical miles to get into McMurdo station, this year had to go 80 miles!!!