The Week That Was
Jan. 8, 2005












2. Global Warming? by Reid A. Bryson Ph.D., D.Sc., D.Engr.1

The Built-in Nonsense Detector:
Hardly a day goes by without a news article in the paper containing a reference to someone's opinion about "Global Warming". A quick search of the Internet uncovers literally hundreds of items about "Global Warming". Issues of atmospheric science journals will normally have at least one article on climatic change, usually meaning "Global Warming" or some aspect thereof. Whole generations of graduate students have been trained to believe that we know the main answers about climate change and only have to work out the details.
Why then do I bother you by introducing this section with such a ludicrous title?
I do it because, as one who has spent many decades studying the subject professionally, I find that there are enormous gaps in the understanding of those making the most strident claims about climatic change. In order to read the news rationally, the educated reader needs a few keys to quickly sort the patently absurd from the possibly correct. I propose to supply some of those keys to give the reader at least a rudimentary nonsense detector.

Some Common Fallacies
1. The atmospheric warming of the last century is unprecedented and unique. Wrong. There are literally thousands of papers in the scientific literature with data that shows that the climate has been changing one way or the other for at least a million years.
2. It is a fact that the warming of the past century was anthropogenic in origin, i.e. man-made and due to carbon dioxide emission. Wrong. That is a theory for which there is no credible proof. There are a number of causes of climatic change, and until all causes other than carbon dioxide increase are ruled out, we cannot attribute the change to carbon dioxide alone.
3. The most important gas with a "greenhouse" effect is carbon dioxide. Wrong. Water vapor is at least 100 times as effective as carbon dioxide, so small variations in water vapor are more important than large changes in carbon dioxide.
4. One cannot argue with the computer models that predict the effect of a doubling of carbon dioxide or other "greenhouse gasses". Wrong. To show this we must show that the computer models can at least duplicate the present-day climate. This they cannot do with what could be called accuracy by any stretch of the imagination. There are studies that show that the average error in modeling present precipitation is on the order of 100%, and the error in modeling present temperature is about the same size as the predicted change due to a doubling of carbon dioxide. For many areas the precipitation error is 300-400 percent.
5. I am arguing that the carbon dioxide measurements are poorly done. Wrong. The measurements are well done, but the interpretation of them is often less than acceptably scientific.
6. It is the consensus of scientists in general that carbon dioxide induced warming of the climate is a fact. Probably wrong. I know of no vote having been taken, and know that if such a vote were taken of those who are most vocal about the matter, it would include a significant fraction of people who do not know enough about climate to have a significant opinion. Taking a vote is a risky way to discover scientific truth.

So What Can We Say about Global Warming?
We can say that the Earth has most probably warmed in the past century. We cannot say what part of that warming was due to mankind's addition of "greenhouse gases" until we consider the other possible factors, such as aerosols. The aerosol content of the atmosphere was measured during the past century, but to my knowledge this data was never used.
We can say that the question of anthropogenic modification of the climate is an important question -- too important to ignore. However, it has now become a media free-for-all and a political issue more than a scientific problem. What a change from 1968 when I gave a paper at a national scientific meeting and was laughed at for suggesting that people could possibly change the climate! 2

1 Emeritus Professor of Meteorology, of Geography and of Environmental Studies. Senior Scientist, Center for Climatic Research, The Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies (Founding Director), the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

2. Bryson, R. A. and W. M. Wendland, 1968: "Climatic Effects of Atmospheric Pollution," in Proceedings of AAAS Annual Meeting, Global Effects of Environmental Pollution (Singer, ed.), pp. 130-138, Dallas, Texas, December 26-31, 1968. Also as "Climatic Effects of Atmospheric Pollution," S. Fred Singer (ed.), 1970; The Changing Global Environment, pp. 139-147, 1975.

3. The Future of Calamity: Tsunamis and Poverty
NY Times, Jan 2, 2005

IN seven hours last week, great ocean waves scoured shores from Thailand to Somalia, exacting a terrible price in wealth and human lives. But unimaginable as it may seem, future catastrophes may be far grimmer. Many more such disasters - from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to floods, mudslides and droughts - are likely to devastate countries already hard hit by poverty and political turmoil.

The world has already seen a sharp increase in such "natural" disasters - from about 100 per year in the early 1960's to as many as 500 per year by the early 2000's, said Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University. But it is not that earthquakes and tsunamis and other such calamities have become stronger or more frequent. What has changed is where people live and how they live there, say many experts who study the physics of such events or the human responses to their aftermath.

As new technology allows, or as poverty demands, rich and poor alike have pushed into soggy floodplains or drought-ridden deserts, built on impossibly steep slopes, and created vast, fragile cities along fault lines that tremble with alarming frequency.

In that sense, catastrophes are as much the result of human choices as they are of geology or hydrology. Dr. Kerry Sieh, a veteran seismologist at the California Institute of Technology, has spent years studying some of the world's wealthiest and poorest earthquake-prone territory - not only the sickle-shaped scar of faults off Sumatra's west coast that caused last week's tsunami, but also California's San Andreas fault, which could, with a sudden twitch, submerge the inhabitants of some of the most valuable land on Earth. The difference between the rich and poor countries, Dr. Sieh said, was that the rich ones had improved their building techniques and their political systems to deal with inevitable disasters.

In the Pacific Northwest, where offshore faults could generate a tsunami as large as last week's ocean-spanning waves, officials have created "inundation maps" to know more precisely what would happen in a flood and prepare accordingly. And in response to the threat of earthquakes, buildings on the West Coast now are designed to sway over shifting foundations, and new highway overpasses are no longer stacked like the jaws of a huge horizontal vise.

Istanbul, Tehran, New Delhi and other increasingly dense and shabbily constructed cities, on the other hand, are rubble in waiting. When an earthquake leveled the ancient Iranian city of Bam in 2003, for instance, more than 26,000 people were essentially crushed by their own homes. Several earthquake experts refer to the "seismic gap" as a way of describing this difference between the ability of rich cities and poor ones to withstand earthquake damage.

Nonetheless, elected officials and disaster agencies, both public and private, remain focused on responding to catastrophes instead of trying to make societies more resilient in the first place, said Dr. Brian E. Tucker, a geophysicist and the head of GeoHazards International, a private research group trying to reduce poor countries' vulnerability to earthquakes. For instance, while the United Nations in 1989 declared the 1990's the "International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction," and created a secretariat to run it, it set no concrete goals or timetable for accomplishing them, Dr. Tucker said.

He described a recent study by Tearfund, a Christian relief agency, which found that less than 10 percent of the money spent on disaster relief by government agencies and institutions like the World Bank goes to preventive measures. According to the study, Mozambique, anticipating major flooding in 2002, asked for $2.7 million to make basic emergency preparations. It received only half that amount from international donor organizations. After the flood, those same organizations ended up committing $550 million in emergency assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction financing.

Dr. Sieh said he was not confident that wealthy countries would ever recognize the value of prevention.. "I really am wondering if, from an evolutionary biological perspective, we're really equipped to deal with things that only recur once every several lifetimes or longer," Dr. Sieh said.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, was more optimistic, if only slightly so. He noted how Bangladesh had seen its mortality rates from flooding drop sharply since the 1970's, mainly by adopting simple means of getting people to higher ground, some as basic as installing high platforms for people to climb above the floodwaters .But he also noted another class of cataclysms that which receive no blanket news coverage: malaria, AIDS, crop failures - even global warming." We're at a period in Earth's history where we're living on an edge where things can go terribly wrong if we're not attentive," Dr. Sachs said. "But we also have magnificent knowledge and technologies that could make the outcomes far better than they are now. The tsunami assault, he said, could be a call to action."

SEPP Comment: The moral seems to be: Richer is not only better but safer. So - to follow Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus on this one - let's not waste resources on hyped catastrophes that exist only in computer models.

4. The Tsunami Vultures
Letter by D.Zivkovic to Canberra Times

It didn't take long for the vultures to start circling. I'm referring to the despicable attempts by some environmentalists to get political mileage out of the Asian Tsunami.

Johann Hari's article "Weather of mass destruction" (CT 3/1/05) even tried to link the Tsunami to Global Warming! Hari claimed that 95% of "environmental scientists" (all those not "on the payroll of oil companies") believe that extreme weather events "are becoming more and more frequent" and "sea levels are rising and are forecast to rise by another 88cm by 2100 [threatening 100 million people globally]".

But where is the evidence? Global Warming's "bible", the IPCC's Third Assessment Report asked: "Is There Evidence for Changes in Extreme Weather or Climate Events?" and decided that the "data is not available". (1)

The number of extreme hurricanes making landfall in the USA has actually fallen since 1960, and 19 out of the 30 most intense storms since 1900 occurred prior to 1960.(2)

There is some doubt (due to the influence of El Nino) as to whether the sea level at Tuvalu, which Hari said is "threatened with drowning", is actually rising or falling. Even the radical environmental organisation Greenpeace had to admit that the present "data set is of little value" and "more accurate estimates of sea level change at Funafuti [Tuvalu] will have to wait until a longer span of data has been collected". (3)

I could go on about other false or grossly exaggerated claims about ice thickness, temperature at the poles, etc, but space does not permit.

I am disgusted by this insensitive and totally inappropriate environmentalist scare mongering, and appalled by the declining standards of science and journalism.

(1) IPCC "The Scientific Basis", Section 2.7.3
(2) NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Hurricane Research Division

5. Update on Arctic Climate

You may be interested to see the current reports from the Alaska Climate Research Centre, (indeed you may regularly visit <> )

Here's an extract from their current update:

"It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates cyclical behavior. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2003, however since 1977 no additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. In 1976, a stepwise shift appears in the temperature data, which corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase."

Slightly different perspective to the Arctic Council, who also took into account "the perceptions of indigenous peoples", i e do you think it is warmer now than when you were a child?

There is also a very objective and scientific analysis of climate variation in Alaska by John Papineau, Ph.D NWS Anchorage, Alaska, it can be found here:


6. Wind Turbines Decimate Bats

Researchers have found that the blades of wind powered electric power generating plants are killing hundreds, if not thousands of bats. On Backbone Mountain in West Virginia, it's estimated the project's 44 turbines killed between 1400 and 4000 bats in 2004. At both the West Virginia site and another in Pennsylvania, a large number of bat carcasses have been found.

The wind turbines at these sites are 340 feet above ground and built in a cleared mountaintop area. This has led researchers to speculate that the bats are attracted to the cleared area where they can more easily find insects. But they do not know whether the bats' sonar doesn't detect the spinning turbine blades or if the spinning blades attract the bats.

In any case, there is debate about whether future wind projects should proceed. Wind energy provides less than one percent of the country's electricity but Congress reinstated a federal tax break for alternative energy sources so companies are anxious to build more wind turbines while the tax break is in effect. Environmental groups differ on whether companies should delay building the proposed 700 new turbines in the East until ways are found to deter bats from hitting the blades or whether bats are expendable in achieving more clean energy production.
Read more in the Washington Post at

Source:: Gretchen Randall
Winningreen LLC

7. CO2 Is Not a Pollutant
Letter in the December 29 Financial Times by Physicist Gerald Marsh

Sir, While it is becoming increasingly fashionable to maintain that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, it was rather shocking to see the Financial Times buy into what can at best be charitably characterised as a form of "political correctness" ("The price of carbon emissions," December 27).

Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere and helps to maintain the earth at a temperature suitable for life - the principal greenhouse gas is water vapour. Carbon dioxide is essential to the growth of all plants. Without it plants could not grow and all animal life would die. In no way is this gas a pollutant. To call it one is misleading.

Calling carbon dioxide a pollutant is a political statement, not a scientific one. Behind the politics is the claim that the small observed global warming trend is due to the burning of fossil fuels rather than being of natural origin.

Despite popular perception, the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not show that human activities were responsible for global warming. Its conclusions were based on computer models of the earth's climate. However, the problem is so complex that the art of constructing such models is still in its infancy. The uncertainties are so great that the claim by the IPCC that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" is "likely" to be unfounded. We do not yet understand the earth's climate well enough to be able to assess the long-term effect of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning fossil fuels.

The earth has been warming erratically for 10,000 years. That has been good, up to now, because it is what made the non-equatorial latitudes habitable. We can expect that warming trend to continue, no matter what we do about carbon dioxide.

8. Caution On Using Climate Computer Models
Letter to Physics Today by physicist Thomas Sheahen

The January 2005 article Computational Science Demands a New Paradigm by D.E. Post and L.G. Votta makes some good points about the pitfalls of believing computed physics. They state that the peer-review system is an ineffective filter, and they propose several criteria for verification and validation of large computational models, upon which public-policy decisions might be made. Among other examples, they mention climate-change calculations.

Post and Votta explain the way progress is made over time. Their figure 5 shows several famous bridges, including as their third example the infamous Galloping Gertie that collapsed into the Tacoma Narrows Strait in 1940 (the film of which is still often used in physics classes to dramatize the importance of resonance). In that case, previous designs were pushed too far, with just one little thing forgotten. Post and Votta assert that computational science is currently in the midst of the third, rather precarious stage of this paradigm.

In the realm of international public policy, the Kyoto treaty to curtail CO2 emissions was created as a consequence of a global circulation model (GCM) circa 1994, now a full decade behind the state-of-the-art in computational physics. It left out the importance of clouds, because they were just too difficult to model. That GCM was never even successful in predicting the past .-- a clear violation of the first of the validation criteria given by Post and Votta. And yet, as the creation of a trading market for carbon emissions testifies, there is considerable economic impact associated with those computational results.

The Kyoto treaty is the Galloping Gertie of the environmental science field. Unless computational scientists learn from its shortcomings, it will discredit any future attempts to make predictions about climate change.

Thomas P. Sheahen

9. Chernobyl Liquidators Show Reduced Cancer Incidence

A paper on Chernobyl "liquidators" by the most authoritative authors in Russia. . With good "internal control" (emergency workers with zero radiation dose), the deficit of solid cancers among the liquidators was 12% (SIR = 0.88), so no "healthy worker effect" could explain the findings.
This full paper can be retrieved from:

Journal of Radiation Research Vol. 45 (2004) , No. 1 41-44

Radiation and Epidemiological Analysis for Solid Cancer Incidence among Nuclear Workers Who Participated in Recovery Operations Following the Accident at the Chernobyl NPP

Victor IVANOV1), Leonid ILYIN2), Anton GORSKI1), Alexander TUKOV2) and Roman NAUMENKO1)
1) Medical Radiological Research Center of Russian Academy of Medical Sciences
2) State Research Center of Russia-Institute of Biophysics

This paper discusses the results of the analysis of the relationship between dose and solid cancer incidence among nuclear workers (males) who worked as liquidators after the Chernobyl accident. Information on this cohort of individuals is available at the regional center of Russian National Medical and Dosimetric Registry operating at the RF State Research Centre-Institute of Biophysics. Medical and dosimetric information on 8,654 persons 18-60 years of age with documented external radiation doses is used for the analysis. These data were gathered in the period from 1996 to 2001 and cover a total of 45,166.5 follow-up person-years. In the cohort under study, 179 solid cancers occurred during this period. The average age of liquidators at the time of exposure was 35.8 years, and the average dose as a result of the Chernobyl exposure was about 0.05 Sv. For an analysis of the dose-effect relationship (induction of radiation-induced malignant neoplasms) the statistical software EPICURE was used. The results of the analysis show that the cancer incidence in this cohort does not exceed cancer incidence in relevant age groups of the Russian population. The mean value of SIR for all cancer diseases was 0.88 (0.76, 1.02, 95% CI) for the whole period of follow-up. Risks for the induction of radiation-related cancer diseases were not statistically meaningful. Excess relative risk per 1 Sv was 0.95 (-1.52, 4.49, 95% CI).

10. Danger Ahead In California - As PUC Meddles With Electric Generation

California PUC Requires Utilities to Account for Global Warming Gas Costs
Rule to Shift Toward Cleaner and More Efficient Electricity Sources Marks State's First Attempt to Address Electric Sector's Carbon Emissions

BERKELEY, Dec. 16 The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today continued the trend of California and other states demonstrating leadership on addressing global warming by requiring the state's electric utilities to account for the future cost of reducing carbon emissions in choosing energy sources. In voting to approve the ten-year resource plans of the state's three largest utilities, the Commission effectively requires utilities to invest in conservation, improving energy efficiency, and developing renewable energy sources before relying on dirtier fossil sources of energy.

Knee-Jerk Applause from Union of Concerned Scientists

The CPUC's landmark action today will help protect the environment from the serious consequences of continued global warming, while protecting consumers from paying higher costs for reducing carbon emissions in the future," said John Galloway, UCS Senior Energy Analyst in Berkeley, California. "It is cheaper to prevent carbon emissions today than it will be to clean up carbon emissions tomorrow."

11. Comments from TWTW Readers

Advice to letter writers to newspapers: Mention Crichton's "State of Fear," now #3 on NYT bestsellers list

If you want authoritative information about Nuclear Energy, or are worried about running out of uranium, read USGS Bulletin 2179-A, released in 2003, at

And finally:

"I have read "State of Fear" with great enjoyment. In my opinion, Crichton presented a fine fiction book with valid climate science, while Al Gore attempted to present a science book full of fiction."



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