|The Week That Was
Jan. 8, 2005
2. PROF REID BRYSON, DEAN OF US CLIMATOLOGISTS, DISCOURSES ON GLOBAL WARMING. His skepticism is based on sound experience
3. THE FUTURE OF CALAMITY: TSUNAMIS AND POVERTY
4. THE TSUNAMI VULTURES
5. UPDATE ON ARCTIC CLIMATE
6. WIND TURBINES DECIMATE BATS
7. CO2 IS NOT A POLLUTANT
8. CAUTION ON USING CLIMATE COMPUTER MODELS
9. CHERNOBYL LIQUIDATORS SHOW REDUCED CANCER INCIDENCE
10. DANGER AHEAD IN CALIFORNIA - AS PUC MEDDLES WITH ELECTRIC GENERATION
11. COMMENTS FROM TWTW READERS
The Built-in Nonsense Detector:
Some Common Fallacies
So What Can We Say about Global Warming?
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.
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
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.
You may be interested to see the current reports from the Alaska Climate
Research Centre, (indeed you may regularly visit <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/>
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.
Source:: Gretchen Randall
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.
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
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.
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
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).
California PUC Requires Utilities to Account for Global Warming
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."
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,
"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."