|The Week That Was
May 28, 2005
New on the Web: We commend the brilliant exposition by David Henderson, former Head of the Department of Economics and Statistics at the OECD. He shows that the doctrine of Salvationism, an obsession with imminent disaster, has captured many Governments and International bodies. It is likely to bring about the disasters it claims it wants to prevent.
The IPCC, whose predictions of future climate disaster are based on phony economics, is immune to rational economic discussion. David Henderson, and his colleague, Ian Castles of the Australian National University, have been unable to establish a rational dialogue with the IPCC.
The same problem exists in the field of climate science, where the pillars holding up the IPCC conclusion of human-caused global warming have been eroded by contrary evidence.
[In this connection, last week we reported -- with some skepticism
- on three papers in Science, claiming a brightening of solar radiation
reaching the surface. Our colleague Ehrhard Raschke writes: "There
are several error sources in those data
. Then also the statistics
in Wild's paper is quite weak.
Pinker's analysis suffers from the
fact, that you never measure the downward solar radiation at ground from
Wielicki's trend in the planetary albedo may be just a sampling
problem, since he has only a single satellite."]
Meanwhile, the Royal Society is trying to impose some kind of self-censorship on the British media, urging them not to report skepticism about Global Warming (Item #4). The Telegraph has a humorous take on this -- but this can get out of hand as major science journals seem to be following this disturbing trend. Fortunately, the Canadian press is as vigorous as ever (Item #5).
Finally, a humorous account of the Oxford Union debate on Global Warming - and why we lost. (Item #6).
And a spoof, triggered by a report about G8 and GW in The Times (Item
1. Climate Models and Consensus Science
It is fairly easy to calculate the likely rise of global average temperature dT for the purely theoretical situation where atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is doubled but nothing else about the atmosphere is allowed to change. The answer is about 1.2 degrees Celsius, and it would take a couple of hundred years to complete the change. The problem is that, in the real world, all sorts of other atmospheric and oceanic processes that depend on surface temperature are happening. Many of them amplify or reduce the original change of 1.2 degrees caused directly by the CO2. They are called feedback processes, and in principle their effects need to be added up to give an overall value for the total 'feedback factor' in the bottom line of the equation for dT. Thus the calculated temperature change may be greater or less than 1.2 degrees -- this depending entirely on the value of F and on whether it is positive or negative.
All the vastly complicated numerical climate models floating around these days are machines which (in effect, if not explicitly) calculate their own particular values of feedback factor F by simulating as many as possible of the detailed processes going on in the earth-atmosphere system. The value of F for each model, and consequently the forecast by each model of the rise in global average temperature, depends largely on the particular set of 'tunable parameters' that have been chosen to make the model's simulation of present climate look reasonable.
The basic point to remember is that we are not even sure in most cases whether the real values of the individual feedback factors making up the total F are positive or negative -- let alone knowing their values to a couple of decimal places. As a consequence, the actual change of global temperature for a doubling of CO2 might lie anywhere, depending on whatever is calculated as the total feedback factor F.
Considering all the fairly respectable models of the last twenty years or so, their answers cover the extensive range along the solid line from about F = -0.3 to F = 0.95. If we look only at the particular models selected by the UN IPCC (the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) in its last report in 2001, the answers lie within the more restricted of F between (roughly) 0.4 and 0.8, and to a corresponding rise of temperature between (roughly) 2 and 5 degrees.
The apparent convergence of the predictions of the IPCC models into a narrower range of possible temperature rise has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt. It is not necessarily an indication we are getting better at forecasting the future.
Because the modern models are so incredibly complex, it is very rare that a group of researchers develops a new climate model from scratch. They take some or all of the code from an existing model of another group, and slightly modify those bits of it that are relevant to their particular interest and expertise. The overall process ensures that there can be a gradual, and largely unconscious, move to a situation where all the supposedly independent models have common physics and common values for their tunable parameters. They will quite naturally -- but not necessarily for a good physical reason -- begin to tell the same story. The danger is that the narrowing range of answers from the various models will be interpreted by scientists as an indication that the accuracy of their forecasts is improving.
Indeed the climate models are now so complex that no scientist outside the closed engineering shop of the numerical modelling community can ever really hope to assess whether or not the physical representations within them are acceptable. The normal and necessary process of scientific criticism cannot take place. All that can happen is for sceptics to take pot-shots at the modellers purely on the basis of intuition, and for the modellers to defend themselves by saying that no-one outside the modelling game has the knowledge to make sensible comment.
It is not the way to run the scientific railroad.
The very least that needs to be done if the IPCC is to maintain its credibility is to insist that all models used in IPCC assessments must calculate and publish the implicit individual feedback factors built into their calculations of the total feedback F. Then (at last?) the climate scientists of the outside world will have some understandable physics on which their intuition can work, and perhaps also a guide to the design of real-world experiment and observation so as to improve the modeller's arbitrary selection of tunable parameters.
In other words we have to get away from simply running models and comparing their final output in some sort of search for a consensus on the results. Consensus is not science. Consensus tends to the politically correct. Consensus is not the sort of thing on which sensible people put their money.
There is an important aside to all this. Whatever is the total feedback
factor in the real world, the temperature change is always going to be
positive. In this restricted sense the bald statement that "the science
of greenhouse warming is proven" is indeed acceptable. Increasing
CO2 will certainly lead to higher temperatures than would have occurred
otherwise. What is not acceptable is the corollary rather naughtily implied
by those who loudly proclaim the statement in public -- namely, that the
rise in temperature will be so large as to be disastrous, or even so large
as to be noticeable.
Emeritus Professor Garth Paltridge is retired Director of the Institute
of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, and former
Chief Research Scientist of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research.
This article is based on a paper given at a Tech Central Station-sponsored
conference, "Managing Climate Change -- Practicalities and Realities
in a post-Kyoto Future" held last month in Canberra.
When Tony Blair was reelected British Prime Minister last Thursday, he was entitled to a celebratory glass of champagne. Despite all the sound and fury over the Iraq war, the British people returned him to office with a majority with which any Prime Minister would be happy. He has successfully ridden out the foreign policy problem that threatened to unseat him. Yet another problem awaits as Mr. Blair ascends center stage in the world's eyes when he hosts the G8 meeting and assumes the Presidency of the EU.
Mr. Blair has said that his G8 chairmanship will concentrate on climate change and Africa, but it is the EU that will give him a headache on this score. While the United States has wisely opted out of the restrictions of the Kyoto protocol, the EU has made a song-and-dance about its willingness to fight global warming now. It is even taking the lead in suggesting what should be done to achieve more in the next Kyoto period, post-2012. Yet, as so often with the EU, the public utterances mask a troubling reality.
In fact, the EU is almost certain to miss its collective targets for the first Kyoto period. While the EU as a whole is committed to an eight percent reduction in emissions (on 1990 levels), the EU itself admits that policies currently in place (other policies are unlikely to be adopted) will lead to a reduction of only 1 percent in 2010. The implications of this are huge.
The EU's collective target is there because they put in place a burden-sharing agreement, hoping to take advantage of the inbuilt advantages of the UK, France and Germany in reducing emissions on 1990 levels -- the politically-driven phase-out of coal, heavy use of nuclear energy and the closing of East German smokestack industries, respectively. By taking account of these advantages, other EU countries would not have to be as severe in their emissions policies as they would be under the original Kyoto agreement.
However, those other countries have for the most part massively increased their emissions from 1990 levels, wiping out the big nations' reductions. If the EU does not meet its collective target, as seems almost certain, then under Article 4 of the Kyoto Protocol itself, each individual country becomes responsible for a reduction of eight percent. At least 12 of the 15 EU countries concerned are on target to breach this target, nine of them spectacularly (having emissions increases of between 20 and 77 percent).
The Kyoto Protocol also spells out what happens to countries that breach their commitments. There is a 130 percent penalty in the second Kyoto period for each ton by which the targets are breached. That means that the second-period targets will be considerably larger than the first period's, targets which the EU countries are already finding impossible to meet.
The EU has set great store by its Emissions Trading Scheme, which it thinks will help meet the targets. Unfortunately, again under the terms of the Protocol, such schemes become inapplicable if the first-period targets are breached. The EU violators will be forced to make real, deep cuts in emissions rather than relying on buying hot-air credits from elsewhere.
It is hard to see how the EU countries can possibly meet any second-period targets. This reality is starting to permeate the veil of rhetoric in some countries. In Spain, for instance, the newspaper La Gazeta de los Negocios reported on May 5, "Given the circumstances, the Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona, had no alternative and recognized yesterday that the conditions where Spain stands in order to fulfill the mandates derived from Kyoto 'could not be worse'. However she promised that the Spanish government will continue working with the aim of reducing the cost of that bill." This is a clear indication that at least one government has realized that Kyoto brings a severe economic cost with it, contrary to the protestations of the European Commission and Kyoto boosters around the world.
The reality, then, is that Kyoto is doomed and it is its greatest champion, the European Union, which is destined to reveal this to the world. Tony Blair cannot be ignorant of this. When the G8 comes to meet, do not be surprised if the leaders discuss other ways of combating global warming rather than the targets-and-commitments approach of Kyoto. Technology, energy efficiency and scientific research will probably all be mentioned, along with further tentative steps down the road to nuclear power (if the Greens allow that particular method).
In short, look for Europe, confronted by reality, to see the wisdom of
the American approach to combating a threat. Tony Blair can be excused
if his blurred vision makes him think that he's been down this road before.
Brussels, Belgium, May. 13 (UPI) -- The European Parliament has called for trade sanctions against the United States and other countries emitting high levels of carbon dioxide.
The Parliament voted Thursday in a non-binding resolution to try to stop the United States from "profiting from its license to pollute." They seek to compensate for any competitive advantage enjoyed by countries that do not control carbon emissions.
The United States, Australia and other countries that have not yet ratified the Kyoto protocol are also urged to do so "as soon as possible."
"After the end of the first Kyoto commitment period, the world will need more drastic emissions cuts and more countries to take part in the emissions reduction challenge," said Finland's Satu Hassi, a member of Parliament for the Green party and environment committee vice president.
But "it will be very difficult to engage countries such as China
and India to take measures to curb emissions," as long as the United
States -- the highest CO2 emitting state in the world -- rejects the Kyoto
protocol, she added.
I've had a letter from Sir David Wallace, CBE, FRS. In his capacity as treasurer and vice-president of the Royal Society, he writes: "We are appealing to all parts of the UK media to be vigilant against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence about climate change and its potential effects on people and their environments around the world. I hope that we can count on your support."
Gosh! The V-P of the Royal Society! How could anyone not support such an eminent body, especially as Sir David warns: "There are some individuals on the fringes, sometimes with financial support from the oil industry, who have been attempting to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change."
I say! A conspiracy as well. Definitely time to rally round, chaps, and repel fringe individuals. To help us do so, there's a "guide to facts and fictions about climate change written in a non-technical style" that even non-members of the Royal Society can grasp.
There's no doubt that this is a difficult subject that arouses strong emotions and which, if the more pessimistic projections turn out to be anywhere near the truth, will cause mankind some serious problems in the coming decades. Yet I fear I am going to be a great disappointment to Sir David. However vigilant we may be against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence, he cannot count on my support, and it's not merely because of my instinctive leaning towards individuals on the fringe.
In his helpful, non-technical guide, he refers to a survey of 928 papers (count 'em) on climate change published between 1993 and 2003, which found that three quarters of them accepted the view that man's activities (anthropogenic, in the jargon) have had a major impact on the climate. Amazingly, not a single one rejected it. Never mind that this is probably a greater consensus than can be found for the theory of evolution, the lack of a single dissenting voice smacks of the sort of result Nicolae Ceausescu used to get in his Romanian elections.
So just what was this survey? It is by one Naomi Oreskes, and was published in Science last December, and it has surprised those whom Sir David might describe as fringe individuals. Among them are eminent researchers who have discovered periods in history when the Earth was hotter, even with lower levels of carbon dioxide than in today's atmosphere, and other scientists who believe that solar activity is the biggest cause of recent climate change.
These people are not nutcases, nor are they in thrall to the oil companies (even if they were, does anyone seriously believe that Big Oil wants to destroy the planet?). They are just as capable of doing serious science as those who take it as an article of faith that global warming is all our fault. Six such individuals have just published a paper* arguing that cosmic ray intensity and variations in solar activity have been driving recent climate change. They even provide a testable hypothesis, predicting some modest cooling over the next couple of years, as cosmic ray activity increases cloud cover. Since the conventional - sorry, consensus - wisdom says we are on a rising temperature curve to disaster, a couple of cool years would deal a serious blow to the anthropogenists.
There is much more in Sir David's briefing paper that other experts could challenge. One of the more terrifying aspects of global warming is the threat of rising sea levels as the polar ice melts, and the oceans expand through rising temperatures, threatening the millions of people who live in places only a few feet above sea level. Dramatic pictures of receding ice shelves in Antarctica seem to back this up, but a report in February to the Earth Observation summit in Brussels found that the ice masses there seem to be growing. Sea level does not appear to be rising; satellites can't detect any change, and low-lying islands such as Tuvalu are refusing to disappear beneath the waves.
As I said, this is a difficult subject, and it would be foolish to assume that everything will turn out fine, whatever we do. But that hardly justifies Draconian measures that will make us poorer, unless the scientific evidence is overwhelming. This was what the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to do, and its findings form the basis for the Kyoto treaty. Yet a closer examination of the scientific case shows that what are now considered by the doomsayers to be firm forecasts of temperature rises are actually "scenarios" of what might happen on different assumptions.
There is a huge margin for error here, certainly enough to justify America's refusal to sign up to the treaty. It's fashionable to claim that George W. Bush has rejected Kyoto because he's too stupid to see the problem (and, of course, he's in thrall to Big Oil), but he can just as plausibly argue that the treaty is based on bad science. Climate change is an important, perhaps vital, debate, but it remains just that.
Warning of disaster has become a global industry, and the livelihoods
of thousands of scientists depend on our being sufficiently spooked to
keep funding the research. The worry is that many of these researchers
have stopped being scientists and become campaigners instead. I do hope
that the vice-president of the Royal Society is not one of them.
We are informed over and over, we wretched masses, that world scientists are solidly in support of the global warming theory: The earth is warming unusually quickly and by a disturbing amount, and we -- humans -- are responsible.
The consensus among climatologists is near unanimous. Oh sure, it is acknowledged, there might be a handful of sceptics out there, but they are mostly cranks, tiny in number and -- often -- shills for the oil or coal industry.
All decent and credible scientists accept the theory.
So just what percentage of climatologists "strongly agree" with the notion that global warming is caused by manmade greenhouse emissions? 75%? 85%? 95%?
That's not a typo. I didn't mean 94.0%.
Only 9.4% of 530 leading climatologists -- fewer than one in 10 -- recently surveyed by Prof. Dennis Bray, of the German coastal research station in Geesthacht, "strongly agreed" with the statement that "climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes."
Intriguingly, 9.7% strongly disagreed. Marginally more scientists strongly oppose the current warming theory than strongly support it.
On a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being "strongly agree" and 7 "strongly disagree," the average score among Dr. Bray's subjects was 3.62 -- smack dab in the middle. While this is up from 4.17 in 1996, the last time Bray took the pulse, it is hardly an overwhelming endorsement. At best, it's neutral.
And it's a long way from a consensus backing the most extreme global warming scenarios, as environmentalists and UN officials would have us believe.
Interestingly -- but hardly surprisingly -- Dr. Bray has had trouble getting his findings published. Science magazine turned him down -- even a letter-to-the-editor from him.
That's doubly galling because back in December Science didn't hesitate for a second to print a discreditable paper by Dr. Naomi Oreskes of U.C. San Diego in which she claimed that in her analysis of 928 abstracts from peer-reviewed climate research papers, "Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position ... This analysis shows that scientists publishing in peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences and the public statements of their professional societies ... Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is not correct."
Actually, were Dr. Oreskes assertion of unanimity true, it might only prove how totally co-opted the peer journals have become by enviro group-think and how willing they are to censor dissenting views in an effort to preserve and polish the notice of worldwide scientific consensus.
Dr. Oreskes, by the way, is a history prof, not a climate prof. And she lists her specialty as "gender and science."
Science, the mag (or rag) didn't want to hear from Dr. Bray, though. Its editorial mind is made up. Don't confuse it with facts.
Benny Peiser, a science prof at John Moores University in Liverpool, was also refused a chance to rebut historian Oreskes in Science. He studied the same set of peer-reviewed papers she did and found only one-third supported the "consensus" view on climate change, and only one per cent did so explicitly.
Hmm. Quite a consensus.
Climate disputes bifurcate scientists. Some record long-term but gradual global warming since the last Ice Age peaked some 18,000 years ago. Periods of warming and cooling, are observed as fluctuations about the long-term trend. For example the 20th century experienced a cooling trend between 1940 and 1975, with some debate on degree of upward trend at the end of the century. Some regard forecast warming with alarm, heralding catastrophic consequences in the 21 century. Others think this recent warming may reverse any day and is no cause for alarm -- especially as the trend is modest and containable and nothing can be done about it.
Passionate debate separates those who think warming is exacerbated by greenhouse gases and those who think this remains to be proved, that the GHG effect is very small in relation to recent sunspot activity. The Kyoto treaty rations use of carbon, at some considerable cost in terms of economic growth in Member Countries. Others, including some 20,000 scientists who signed the Oregon Petition seven years ago, think we know little about the carbon cycle and carbon is not yet proved the culprit in current modest warming.
So the Oxford Union met to debate the motion that "Alarmism has replaced Science in the global warming debate" The pro alarm team striker was a fit and glam natural blonde student in a environment-green sexy-salsa dress, Zoe Sprigings -a future Prime Minister no doubt. The team included the more soberly kitted Baroness Young, in impeccable shades of grey, deploying that self satisfied certain knowledge which Scots politicians dispense so casually. The two ladies were assisted by Norman Baker, a well fed MP and a bright eyed professor of physics, Myles Allen, plus Michael Grubb associate director of the Carbon Trust, financed by Government to reduce carbon emissions.
The anti alarmists case, opened by student Charles Cooke, were mainly American, led by Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, faintly bruised after his jetlagged encounter with George Monbiot who bet him 5000 pounds on BBC Today that morning that the next decade would be warmer than the last -- a safe bet in view of the warming trend since the last ice age. Patrick Michaels, University of Virginia, and Benny Peiser, of John Moores University viewed excessive alarum as negative influence on science contributing to its politicization.
It has to be said that Americans, relaxed, burdened by fact, albeit stylised, and rather monotone in style, are no match for the Brits in debate. The latter, arm-waving notes in declamatory front-bench fashion and deeply caring about the future of mankind, stick to the reliable technique of discrediting the Opposition as subsidised by evil oil capitalists. Brits don't let facts get in the way of rumour -- sometimes perpetrated by scientists mostly financed by Government.
In fact it was all over almost before it began; after the natural blonde in the green salsa dress. She spoke with passion perambulating about the dais waving her notes rythmically in a tentative cha cha cha, guaranteed to convince that Alarm was an overdue wake up call set to seductive Siren music. Her supporters repeated similar lines with somewhat less memorable results. A social psychologist said Alarm was not a new phenomenon and well known to his profession. I was not sure whose side he was on.
In spite of my long-term interest in Climate Wars and my support for the Anti Alarmists, I can't remember what they said. I guess they thought GW is not man made -- like the celebrated David Bellamy, about to be replaced as President of environmental organizations, Plantlife International and the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, because he refuses to believe any global warming is caused by man.[Sunday Times 15 May 05]
The anti alarmists were irreparably damaged by the accusation that financed by oil companies "they would say that, wouldn't t they" in the enduring words of the once seductive Miss Davies
The Union is decrepit, distinguished by its Gladstone Tower. The bar smells authentic and of vintage age, like an old cattery. The debating chamber is of classic proportions, making interruption from the rear and above audible if not intelligible. The speakers' acceptance or rejection of interruption seemed quite random. Most were there for the performance and the voting was irrelevant. Most left with mind unchanged except those persuaded by the passion and politics of the Green Dress who deserved to win any debate.
Dinner before was competent and English. Salmon patties with sweet fusion sauce, chicken breast, bland and tender, possibly pressure cooked, and accompanied by what the English call trimmings in recognition of their irrelevance. No salt, of course. The pudding was lashings of grilled bread and butter pudding and ice cream to satisfy the ladies in floral dresses. Like Cambridge, dispensation of Chilean white wine was somewhat niggardly. No doubt what is not poured can be taken home by the staff.
The drinks party after was as generous and hospitable as any I have witnessed and more than most in Cambridge. No surprise the Union is bankrupt. I wonder if drinks were financed by the Oil Companies?
Mumbling that I was a senior Member from Cambridge, I attracted instant sympathy from College Porters, and was allowed to roam the Colleges free and alone, like a prisoner on exercise. Except for Balliol where my provenance cut no ice. I was ordered to return with the Plebs in the afternoon and pay at the Door. The colleges are not as architecturally varied as Cambridge and usually dominated by a single court. The River is hard to find. Gown seems more integrated with Town than in Cambridge. Oxford is more urbane and less self conscious than the Other Place as befits its emphasis on Humanities compared with the more arid Sciences
Rooms at Lincoln College, paired with Downing, were authentic, mercifully en suite, I was relieved to discover, and the Porters hospitable. Worth a detour as Michelin Green Guide would say
ITEM: At the forthcoming G-8 meetings in Gleneagles, Scotland "Africa and climate will dominate talks," acc to The Times (May 20, 2005):
"On climate change, Mr Blair has set three targets for Britain's presidency: to secure an agreement on the basic science; provide the foundation for further action; and to speed up measures needed to meet the threat of climate change. Other key topics will include counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and the Middle East." [emphasis added]
PARODY: An eye-witness account from G8:
TONY BLAIR: In spite of the demands of the recent elections, I found time to re-analyze the weather satellite data that so far have refused to show any significant warming trend in the past quarter-century. But I found that by correcting for the stratospheric cooling I could extract a definite and large warming trend for the lower troposphere - as expected from theoretical models. I wonder why no one else has ever thought of doing this? Clearly, warming is a greater threat than terrorism, as my science adviser Sir David King has assured us. In addition, he tells me that unless we do something very quickly, the Antarctic continent will be the only habitable place on Earth by 2100. Don't you agree, Herr Bundeskanzler?
GERHARD SCHROEDER: Mein lieber Tony, I have been rather busy with elections that could throw me out of office, but Global Warming will be our No. 1 priority -- as my environment minister Trittin keeps reminding me. In fact, I got a similar answer to yours, but I used an elaborate statistical correction to allow for satellite orbital drifts over time. I am surprised that no one has ever done this before I thought of it. Clearly, warming is a greater threat than weapons of mass destruction, as UN arms inspector Hans Blix has assured us. Do you have any doubts, Herr Chirac?
JACQUES CHIRAC: Mais non, mes cher amis. This climate business is so important, I took time from campaigning for the European Constitution to make a careful study of the satellite microwave instrument. Thanks to my traditional French insights into instrumental precision I soon discovered an error in the calibration. Once corrected, a large warming trend emerged, with 1998 as the warmest year in the past100 years. So I would say that we agree we have now settled the science. N'est pas, mon cher Georges?
GEORGE BUSH. So you guys are telling me the climate has been cooling for the past 7 years, since hitting a peak in 1998. Why am I not surprised?