The Week That Was
Jan. 1, 2005





2. "Realclimate" Bloggers Trash The Crichton Book

Freelance science journalist Dr. David Appell, who makes his career by blogging against GW skeptics, now has competition from <>

This new blog was started by Gavin Schmidt (NASA-GISS) to provide a "rapid response" to skeptics; his 9-person group includes such "worthies" as Michael Mann and Ray Bradley - of Hockeystick fame. (Nuff said.) Schmidt's attack on "State of Fear" is part of their maiden effort.

Acc to Science (24 Dec 2004, p. 2167), they are hosted by the PR firm Environmental Media Services , with undisclosed funding. "They hope to counter industry-supported sites such as <> ..." Science reports. "Visitors can chime in, but comments are screened before they are posted."

SEPP comments: EMS is the notorious Fenton PR group, with a long history of ideological support for any environmental cause - no matter how farfetched.. is not industry-supported , as far as we know; it provides the most reliable information on current scientific publications.
.....We'd love to see the comments to Realscience that are screened out by its censors.

why do they need a rapid response team? They already have the ability to respond rapidly [and unreviewed] in Science and Nature and many other outlets.

Answer (by David Douglass):
The scientific truth must be stamped out early because it is highly infectious.

3. The Real Oil Problem
Ltr to Regulation Magazine
SFS 12/9/04

Disdainful of oil economists in general and of MIT professor M. A. Adelman (Spring 2004 issue) in particular, Calvin Perrine (Fall 2004, p.3-5) discusses the perennial problems of "running out of oil" and the reality of the "oil weapon." I disagree with him on both issues.

The "real oil problem" has to do with the fact that oil discoveries took place in the wrong sequence. In the best of all worlds, the lowest cost, Middle-East oil should have been exploited first before high-cost sources were tackled elsewhere. But of course, the existence of sources only becomes known through exploration - and this has not been done in any systematic way. As a result, high-cost domestic US oil had to be protected in two ways: 1) through a quota-based import-control program , and 2) through production restrictions on domestic wells by quotas set by state agencies, the major one being the Texas Railroad Commission. This system worked, more or less, until about 1970 and kept the US price at around $2 a barrel.

Once US wells ran out of spare capacity, however, Middle East nations began to take over the concessions held by multinational oil companies and were able to raise prices and appropriate the profits ("rents"). The world price rose rapidly from about $3 to 12; inept meddling in negotiations by the State Department, plus the so-called Arab oil embargo merely speeded up the inevitable price rise.

All of this history has a bearing on the validity of M. King Hubbert's methodology, evidently embraced by Perrine and others; around 1956, he predicted the 1970 peak in US production. I consider his "prediction" to be a fluke -- and therefore doubt the predictions of an imminent peak in world production put forth by Kenneth Deffeyes , Colin Campbell, etc. and here by Calvin Perrine. (I do note that Perrine expects the peak to occur before 2014, about six years beyond the date given by Deffeyes in his book "Hubbert's Peak")

Looking at Hubbert's 1970 peak, it is easy to see that if not for the restrictions imposed by the Texas RR Commission, domestic oil production would have peaked much earlier. And after 1970, when the Oil Import Quota system ceased to be effective, domestic prices for "old oil" were frozen (by price regulation) while "new oil" had to be developed over time and later was subject to a disincentive "windfall profits tax." In other words, the location of the peak was controlled by regulatory factors and by oil prices, not by geology.

It is worthwhile to examine now the rather simple scheme adopted by Hubbert's disciples. It consists of three steps: 1) Estimate "Total Recoverable Oil" (TCO). 2) Curve-fit this TCO quantity to the area under a Gaussian. 3) Assume symmetry -- so that when one-half of the TCO has been lifted, you will have reached the production peak.

What's wrong : 1) TCO is a moving target -- even if based on best current geologic information. Its value depends on future exploration and production technology and on future price (which depends on many factors, including the availability of substitutes). 2) There is no reason why the production curve over time should be a Gaussian; all one can say for sure is that starting with zero production in the 19th century and eventual zero (or near-zero) production in future, there must be at least one peak somewhere. 3) There is no a priore reason to expect the production curve to be symmetric. On the contrary, with the existence of "backstops" like the Canadian tar sands and the Orinoco deposits, one would expect a long production tail well out into the future.

For what it is worth, the Energy Information Administration, in its Dec. 2004 report predicts world consumption of oil to rise smoothly from its present 80 million barrels per day to about 120 mbd in 2025 -- and peaking beyond.
When discussing the "oil weapon" one must distinguish between two cases:

1) A selective embargo (that leaves total world production and price unaffected) is completely ineffective except perhaps for propaganda purposes. I cite here the "embargo" declared by Arab producers against the US in 1973 - or the converse and equally ineffective embargo declared by President Jimmy Carter against Iranian imports during the 1979 hostage crisis.\

2) A real supply reduction, whether by war, sabotage, or by an economically irrational decision to shut-in production, will simply raise the world price to all consumers, with the available oil going to the highest bidder. The major hardships will not be inflicted on developed nations (as Perrine suggests) but on poor nations that use mostly oil for electric generation, heating, and transportation. The United States is blessed with huge coal resources and derives in addition about 20 percent of electric power from nuclear energy. It is nations like China that stand to lose if oil prices rise.
The writer authored a monograph on "Price of World Oil" and co-authored "Free Market Energy." He served as a policy consultant to the Secretary of the Treasury following the "oil crisis."

4. Guest Editorial from CONGRESS ACTION (Dec. 12, 2004)

by Kim Weissman <>

THE UNITED LEAGUE OF NATIONS: Perhaps it's a case of collective amnesia. Perhaps the United Nations headquarters isn't really in Manhattan after all, but on another planet which hasn't had contact with Earth for the last half-century. Or maybe the "Excellencies" (as the dictators and kleptocrats who haunt the corridors of the United Nations are called) are simply oblivious to reality because they are honored with seats on human rights commissions rather than being condemned for their own human rights abuses, as many of them justly deserve.

In any event, a "High-level Panel" was tasked by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan with producing a report addressing the "Threats, Challenges and Change" necessary for "A More Secure World". Falling back on the U.N.'s insufferably self-righteous belief in its own divine mission, the report joins failed socialist nostrums to pretensions of a mythical competence which the United Nations has proven, over and over again, it does not posses. What the report does not address are charges of institutional corruption - like the oil-for-palaces-and-weapons program.

Because of the rousing "success" of its past peacekeeping missions (800,000 massacred in Rwanda in 1994 under the U.N.'s very noses; 7,000 massacred in the U.N. "safe haven" of Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995; allegations of rape and pedophilia by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo; allegations of peacekeepers linked to sex crimes in East Timor and prostitution in Cambodia and Kosovo; and doing next to nothing to stop the ongoing genocide in Sudan; to mention just a few of the U.N.'s sterling achievements), the report renews the U.N.'s demand to be given a standing army by member states. "Deploying military capacities - for peacekeeping as well as peace enforcement - has proved to be a valuable tool in ending wars and helping to secure States in their aftermath. But the total global supply of available peacekeepers is running dangerously low." (Note the phraseology - as though the U.N. has to re-stock its champagne "supply" which "is running dangerously low" ahead of the its next diplomatic soirée.)

The report continues, "Just to do an adequate job of keeping the peace in existing conflicts would require almost doubling the number of peacekeepers around the world. The developed States have particular responsibilities to do more to transform their armies into units suitable for deployment to peace operations. And if we are to meet the challenges ahead, more States will have to place contingents on stand-by for UN purposes [emphasis added], and keep air transport and other strategic lift capacities available to assist peace operations."

Many of the state constitutions of the United States, when created, contained admonitions such as, "Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept up", and "As standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up", and "standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up in time of peace". In Federalist 41, James Madison warned about America becoming "but a copy of that of the continent of Europe. It will present liberty everywhere crushed between standing armies and perpetual taxes"; and in his first inaugural address Madison pledged "to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger". That "armed and trained militia" being, of course, "every man…able to bear arms" (Thomas Jefferson), "their own arms" (Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton), and "the great object is that every man be armed" (Patrick Henry). The potentates at the U.N. who want their own private little army have addressed that troublesome business of privately owned firearms as well - recall the global disarmament plan advanced by the U.N. called the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, the goal of which was to ban all private ownership of firearms. In that regard, the U.N. and our own autocratic gun grabbers are on the wrong side of history as well, as encouraging signs from currently-disarmed Great Britain demonstrate. More about that later.

In A More Secure World: Our shared responsibility, the U.N.'s "High-level Panel" makes no secret of the U.N.'s desire to become rulers of the world; like American leftists, pining for the 'good old days' of socialist collectivism: "…we will have to work collectively to find new ways of regulating the management of natural resources, competition for which often fuels conflict." Perhaps Kofi and the gang didn't notice the disastrous consequences when the old Soviet Union tried collective management of resources. Or perhaps, again like American leftists, the United Nations still thinks that communism is a great idea, but that it failed everywhere its been tried simply because the wrong people were in charge. While the world marches toward greater individual liberty, Kofi and the gang are still spouting socialist rhetoric: advocating collective decisions to promote "sustainable development", collective development of renewable energy sources; and continuing to push the Kyoto Protocol on global warming even while admitting the uselessness of that agreement: "the Protocol by itself is not sufficient to solve the challenge of limiting greenhouse gas emissions."

The report acknowledges the U.N.'s dismal failure to act - or even speak - decisively against terrorism, admitting that "The United Nations ability to develop a comprehensive strategy [against terrorism] has been constrained by the inability of Member States to agree on an anti-terrorism convention including a definition of terrorism." The new report "provides a clear definition of terrorism…and calls on the General Assembly of the UN to overcome its divisions and finally conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism." The definition proposed by the report is: "any action, in addition to actions already specified by the existing conventions on aspects of terrorism, the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 1566 (2004), that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act". Of course the U.N. will never adopt this definition, because if they did they would have to admit that Palestinian suicide bombers, who deliberately target Israeli civilians, are terrorists. That would amount to agreeing with both Israel and the United States on an issue - and that would never do. The referenced Security Council resolution 1566 comes close, stating that "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act… are under no circumstances justifiable", but 1566 does not brand such acts as "terrorism".

Discussing "collective security", the report acknowledges that "States have an inherent right to self-defence, enshrined in Article 51. Long-established customary international law makes it clear that States can take military action as long as the threatened attack is imminent, no other means would deflect it, and the action is proportionate." (That is not what Article 51 says.) The crux of the matter concerns threats that are real but not imminent, and the report asks, "Can a State, without going to the Security Council, claim in these circumstances the right to act, in anticipatory self-defence, not just pre-emptively (against an imminent or proximate threat) but preventively (against a non-imminent or non-proximate one)?" The report sets out five criteria before the U.N. may authorize the use of military force:

1. Seriousness of threat ("is the threatened harm to State or human security of a kind, and sufficiently clear and serious, to justify prima facie the use of military force");
2. Proper purpose ("the primary purpose…whatever other purposes or motives may be involved");
3. Last resort ("has every non-military option for meeting the threat in question been explored");
4. Proportional means ("are the scale, duration and intensity of the proposed military action the minimum necessary to meet the threat in question");
5. Balance of consequences ("consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction").

Putting this verbiage into concrete terms relative to a recent war that the United Nations did authorize - countering Saddam's invasion of Kuwait - demonstrates the problematic nature of these criteria. Item 1: at the time, some argued that the threat wasn't that serious because Kuwait was really a rebel province of Iraq anyway; Item 2: just as with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the usual suspects railed that the real purpose of the Gulf War was to grab Kuwaiti and Iraqi oil; Item 3: many, even in our own Congress, argued for continued sanctions before resorting to war; Item 4: proportionality is contrary to the whole idea of using overwhelming force to defeat an enemy, and guarantees much higher casualties and prolonged warfare; and, Item 5: dire predictions of millions of refugees accompany every military conflict.

All of these items stand out in even starker relief when applied to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. There will always be people who predict the worst disasters and impute the most venal motives to any military conflict (particularly when the United States is involved); and the ultimate question, as always, is: Who decides when a nation is threatened? For this country, the answer is not the U.N., whose inaction in the face of massacres and genocides has proven it to be just a dangerously useless debating society. The decision lies - must always lie - with our own elected representatives.

In the 106th, the 107th, and the 108th congresses, Congressman Ron Paul introduced his American Sovereignty Restoration Act, to end U.S. membership in the U.N., but H.R.1146 has been languishing in the House International Relations Committee, virtually forgotten. It is time to bring that legislation forward, get the U.S. out of the U.N., let the U.N. fade into the sunset, and perhaps create a new international body that recognizes the difference between free, democratic nations and totalitarian dictatorships. And unlike the present United Nations, prefers the former to the latter.

VICTIMIZED BRITS FED UP: There are encouraging signs from Great Britain in the area of self-defense. There is no need to recap the explosion in violent crime following the disarming of law-abiding citizens of the U.K., (discussed before in this commentary; and which our mainstream media has, naturally, refused to report). A baffled BBC reported, "While Britain has some of the toughest firearms laws in the world, the recent spate of gun murders in London has highlighted a disturbing growth in armed crime… Although all privately-owned handguns in Britain are now officially illegal, the tightened rules seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld." With the British government prosecuting homeowners for defending their families against criminal predators, the London Telegraph found that 71% of voters believe that householders should have the "unqualified right to use force, including deadly force if necessary" against burglars, so long as the force is not "grossly disproportionate" (replacing the far more limited and murkier "reasonable" standard). British conservatives are pushing legislation similar to a 1988 Oklahoma law (the "Make My Day Law"), which has cut burglaries almost in half (don't expect to read that in our media, either). Discussing his bill to strengthen the right of homeowners to protect their families against intruders without being prosecuted, a Tory leader noted that "The fear of imprisonment or physical harm should lie with the intruder, not the homeowner. The law must be on the side of the victim, not the burglar." Criminal-coddling gun-banners in the U.S. and the U.N. - take note.


United Nations report: A More Secure World: Our shared responsibility; Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change:
Full report:

United Nations Charter (see: Article 51 on national self-defense):

Legislative text:\

BBC article on escalating crime:


5. The Tsunami Of Dec 26, 2004: A Simple Explanation And Some Political Comments

Our SEPP associate Dr. Thomas P. Sheahen writes a weekly science column for newspapers in Western Maryland. This week he answers some questions about

How does a tsunami happen ? And is there any way to predict them ?

A tsunami (also known as a tidal wave) is a secondary effect of an earthquake that happens underwater. Naturally, the more powerful the earthquake, the more powerful will be the associated tsunami. The disaster of December 26 began with an extremely powerful earthquake.

The magnitude of earthquakes is measured on the Richter Scale, where the numbers increase by powers of ten. An earthquake of magnitude 6 is ten times as powerful as a magnitude 5 earthquake. Magnitude 9 is 1000 times as powerful as magnitude 6. And so on.

When the tectonic plates around the earth move relative to one another, that's an earthquake. The epicenter is the point where the actual connection of the tectonic plates breaks. Slight motions (magnitude 2 earthquakes) happen all the time, and nobody notices. At magnitude 4 you definitely notice it, at magnitude 5 flimsy buildings fall down, and at magnitude 6 highway bridges might fall down. As the numbers go up, the likelihood of such an event gets smaller. There hasn't been a magnitude 9 earthquake for several decades.

On land, almost nobody falls into the crack opened up by an earthquake. People get killed by buildings falling on their heads. A really major earthquake (magnitude 7 or 8 ) that happens right under a city might kill 5000 people this way. We've all gotten used to hearing reports of such disasters about once per decade.

When the epicenter is under the floor of the ocean, something additional can take place. If the plates slide sideways relative to one another, no big deal. But if one plate slides underneath the other (known as subduction) then suddenly there is a step several feet high that wasn't there before. Instantaneously, the water in the ocean directly above also wants to have that step in it, but that can't happen with water, so instead the water starts to move to fill in the void. That moving water is what constitutes the tsunami. The motion is a pulse, a form of wave that is different from the usual up & down waves on the ocean.

The pulse of water is at most only as high as the step in the ocean floor, maybe 6 feet for a huge earthquake. But the pulse is also extremely wide: 100 kilometers (60 miles) is common. That wave starts to move outward from the epicenter. It's classified as a "shallow water wave" even when the ocean is two miles deep. Unlike ordinary waves (even big waves, as in hurricanes) this wave moves very swiftly, typically about 500 miles per hour. Moreover, it tends to stay together and doesn't lose much energy as it travels. There are physics reasons for all this, of course, but the details aren't crucially important here.

If you're out in a boat somewhere on the ocean as the tsunami passes by, your boat lifts up with the ocean surface. At 500 mph, even a 60-mile wide pulse passes beneath you in under 10 minutes, and so you barely notice. If you're underwater scuba-diving, it's definitely surprising because of the sideways drag, but that's over with quickly too. As long as there's nothing in the way, the pulse of water just gently spreads out over a very wide ocean.

All the trouble happens when the pulse of water collides with some land in its way. The ocean floor, which had been thousands of feet down out at sea, rises up gradually. The word "shoreline" means the place where the ocean depth is zero.

We are all familiar with ocean waves "breaking" on the shore. The forward speed of a moving wave drops to zero, and all that water bunches up as it approaches the shore, so the wave becomes a lot higher. The tip of the wave falls over itself and crashes below. At the beach, it's fun to splash in such waves, and surfers enjoy the really big breakers where they can find them. Such waves roll in about ten or 15 seconds apart; if you're standing in shallow water, it passes over you in about one or two seconds. A surfer who takes a wipe-out is underwater for 5 or 10 seconds. That rapid repeat-rate makes all the difference between fun and danger.

When a tsunami shows up at the shoreline, that same bunching up of water takes place as the forward speed drops. Although the pulse might be just a few feet high out at sea, the enormous width of the pulse means that a gigantic amount of water is going to keep moving toward shore. When it reaches the shoreline, the height of the pulse might be 15 or 20 feet, but the volume of water is huge -- it just keeps on coming. If the water pours in for ten or 15 minutes, it can easily flood all the low-lying land near the shore. It knocks down buildings and drowns unsuspecting people.

Many people would have avoided danger if they had been warned of the approaching tsunami. A seismic device that detected the earthquake and automatically set off an alarm would be needed. For most of the people living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the warning time would have been too short; also, the damage from a magnitude 9 earthquake is extremely severe anyway. But a warning system might have saved people on a beach several hundred miles away, in Sri Lanka or Thailand.

The question arises: at what level of intensity should a warning be issued? A magnitude 4 earthquake will produce a very tiny tsunami of no danger. How about magnitude 6? Nearly all earthquakes have subsequent aftershocks, and this one was no exception. The announcement of a magnitude 6 aftershock three days later sent people into unnecessary panic, but the associated tsunami was not troublesome. Again, the stronger the earthquake, the stronger the tsunami.

When will the next one come? The science of predicting earthquakes is very uncertain. The December 24 issue of Science magazine contained an article about earthquake warning systems. Talking about Japan, it said that a magnitude 7 or 8 offshore earthquake has a 40% chance of occurring in the next 10 years. That's about as accurate as predictions get.

Magnitude 9 earthquakes are very rare (a few per century), and may happen either on land or under the ocean. The tsunami that resulted from the earthquake of December 26 was the most devastating tsunami in recorded history.

Prosperity Is The Best Defense Against A Tsunami.

The world's thoughts are with the victims of the tsunamis that swept across South Asia Sunday, killing at least 23,000 and leaving millions homeless. In the coming weeks and months, the priority must be to render the survivors every possible assistance. The response so far has been admirably swift.
One might think that a disaster of this scale would transcend normal national or political considerations. But in the world of environmental zealotry, even an event such as this is seen as an opportunity to press the agenda. Thus, the source of the South Asian tsunami is being located in global warming.
In an interview with the Independent newspaper in Britain, Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree." Speaking to the same newspaper, Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper pressed the argument home: "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions."
It is perhaps appropriate that the strongest, recent refutation to such feverish assertions may be found in Michael Crichton's new thriller--also about environmental extremists, a tsunami and the myths of global warming.

Referring to an article in The Independent (UK)

From: Max Beran []
Sent: 01 January 2005 11:40
To: ''
Subject: Tsunami disaster

Dear Mr Hari

It was perhaps inevitable, given the parlous state of environmental journalism, that someone would try to make a connection between the Tsunami disaster and global warming. But it was more than disappointing to find you, normally an eponymously Independent columnist, repeating junk science about Tuvalu and about extreme events caused by global warming.

No need to believe me (a retired Environmental Scientist who worked on climate issues in the Natural Environment Research Council). Just go to this website. Page 12 shows the Australian agency data and page 13 the much longer record from the University of Hawaii tide gauge.

Look at the graphs and then email me to say if you can see any detectable sea level rise. It's a disgrace that an entire society should be so far frightened out of its wits as to think of closing itself down and decamping. And you should be ashamed for being part of the myth-making that is responsible for their extreme reaction.

As to extreme events of a climatic variety, are you really unaware of the numerous studies that have failed to find trends in flood frequency, hurricane numbers, extreme winds, intense rainfall, up or down. This should hardly surprise, especially if you are one of the many with exaggerated trust in computer models, as these make no such predictions. Trends are imputed by many climate scientists but not on the basis of the models, and are usually in the conclusions surrounded by weasel words such as "potential" or "cannot discount" or "consistent with."

As to Alaskan temperatures, did you check out the source or are you just parroting Lynas? Having done for the Tuvaluans, attention is now being turned to the Inuits, using the same ammunition of self-serving statistics.

Max Beran PhD
SEPP Comment: In the Crichton book, he tells how the Tuvalu lawsuit is dropped when the evidence shows no rise in sea level.

See past TWTWs for absence of recorded Arctic warming. But even those data are suspect and likely contaminated. See, e.g., the measurements of Urban Heat Island effect at Barrow, Alaska by K M Hinkel et al, Intl J Clim 23, 1889, 2003. The UHI effect averages 2.2 C in winter and can reach up to 6 C.



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