The Week That Was (Jan 5, 2008)–Brought to you by SEPP


Quotes of the Week:

"Facts do not cease to exist simply because they are ignored." -- A. Huxley

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." -- Albert Einstein


The Road to Energy Independence”: An editorial essay about Climate Change and Energy Policy: Is current global warming (GW) due to natural or human causes?  This crucial question can be settled only by examining the evidence, both pro and con.  We conclude that GW is mostly natural – hence unstoppable – and that policies to limit CO2 emissions are pointless and inimical to rational policies to supply low-cost and secure energy [ITEM #1]


Secular fundamentalists: The Global Warming Cult [ITEM #2]

Br-r-r! Where did global warming go? [ITEM #3]

$cience Mag Jumps on Global Moneywagon  [ITEM #4]

“Don’t Fight, Adapt; We Should Give Up Futile Attempts to Combat Climate Change”

Key Quote from Scientists’ Letter to UN – in The National Post, Dec. 13, 2007: “Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity’s real and pressing problems.”

Complete Letter with all signatories


Dec 14 briefing at the National Press Club is now live on Energy Policy TV.
Part 1 is at:
Part 2 is at:

TGGWS is back at


A highly recommended website: The Science and Public Policy Institute,

(Robert Ferguson, President):  To explore, go to

Home page:



And a reminder: The Oregon Petition is found at


Newt Gingrich out-greens Al Gore?
Newt Gingrich has guzzled Al Gore’s Kool-Aid. Now he wants us and the Republican 2008 presidential candidates to drink it, too -- Steven Milloy.

Mr. Gingrich says you can tell which presidential candidate to support by evaluating his advisors’ positions on the environment. Terrific. So if you see Mr. Gingrich advising a candidate, consider yourself forewarned.

Sarah Palin, Alaska governor, on polar bears:


Polar bears are not ‘endangered.’  Here’s proof:




Editorial by S Fred Singer, 5 January 2007



Is current global warming (GW) due to natural or human causes?  This crucial question can be settled only by examining the evidence, both pro and con.  We conclude that GW is mostly natural – hence unstoppable – and that policies to limit CO2 emissions are pointless and inimical to rational policies to supply low-cost and secure energy. 



 “If the facts change, I change my opinion.  What do you do, sir?”  John Maynard Keynes


Science facts have indeed changed and the debate over the cause of global warming (GW) may soon be over: GW is mostly of natural origin, with only a minor human contribution from greenhouse (GH) gases.  Natural climate changes are unstoppable; hence control of human-caused CO2 emissions is pointless.  Now begins the more difficult campaign to rectify the political consequences arising from GW fears and achieve a more rational policy of lower cost and secure energy.  


Climate Change is Natural: Though a GH Gas, CO2 is not a Pollutant


As Al Gore famously said: “The science is settled.”  Indeed it is, but not quite the way he had imagined it.  The facts emerging over the last few years show no evidence of the expected climate effects of increasing GH gases.  The US government’s official Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Report 1.1 published in April 2006 [Ref. 1] clearly demonstrates that GH models cannot explain the observed patterns of temperature trends: “The fingerprints don’t match.”  This result has now been confirmed and extended in a peer-reviewed publication by Douglass, Christy, Pearson, and Singer [Ref. 2].  In effect, it falsifies the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) which has been the ‘Leitmotif’ of the IPCC.  Further, in spite of claiming to be almost 100 percent certain that humans are the cause of current warming, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, published in 2007, presents no convincing evidence to support such a claim. 


There clearly is no scientific consensus yet about the cause of current warming.  On the one hand, we know that the climate has been warming and cooling on a variety of cycles for as long as observations have been available; since 1980 we seem to be in the warming phase of a roughly 1,500-year cycle that may continue for a couple more centuries, interrupted by shorter, decadal-scale cycles corresponding to solar variability.  On the other hand, the increasing trend of GH gases, especially of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil-fuel burning, should produce some warming of the atmosphere, according to well-known laws of physics.  The question still remains, however: how large is the actual value of such GH warming in the real atmosphere – after various feedbacks, both positive and negative, are included?  GH models calculate climate sensitivities (from CO2 doubling) that range from about one degC up to as much as 11 degC, depending mainly on assumed parameters for the formation and disappearance of clouds.  All these models implicitly use a positive feedback from water vapor (WV), the most important atmospheric GH gas; but there is growing evidence that WV may actually cause a negative feedback and reduce the warming effects of CO2. 


The IPCC cites various kinds of ‘evidence:’

·         A consensus of 2,500 scientists -- which is neither a consensus nor involves many climate experts.  Against this claimed consensus we now have 400 climate experts [3] who disagree with the IPCC conclusion and are willing to so state; many of them are IPCC reviewers and were listed by the IPCC as “consenting scientists.” We also have the Oregon Petition [4], which will soon have 25,000 signers – an impressive number of scientists who doubt AGW and are skeptical of the mitigation remedies that have been proposed.


We all realize that science doesn't work by majority voting -- ultimately it's a question of whether observations support or falsify hypotheses.  But even if it could be proved that CO2 drives climate change, modern life revolves around heating/lighting our homes, economic growth, industry, travel, etc, all of which emit CO2 -- and we can't stop that until we have alternatives that give us business-as-usual without CO2 emissions.  And then there is China.

·         A claimed correlation between a temperature increase and an increase in GHG levels: Of course, correlation does not prove causation.  Moreover, the correlation was reversed during much of the 20th century, from 1940 to1975, when climate cooled while CO2 levels rose.  Further, there has been no significant warming since 2001 in spite of rising CO2 levels.  Finally, data from well-maintained US weather stations show the warmest years of the 20th century in the 1930s when CO2 levels were much lower than today. 

·         The most persuasive argument put forward by leading IPCC scientists is that 20th century mean global temperatures can be reproduced by combining both natural and anthropogenic causes, with the warming of the past 30 years dominated by the increase in GH forcing.  However, closer examination of their argument soon reveals that it involves nothing more than an exercise in ‘curve fitting’ with several suitably chosen parameters.  As noted above, there are wide limits on how to choose climate sensitivity from GH forcing; there is even greater uncertainty about the forcing effects of aerosols, and especially of their indirect effects [as documented by the IPCC].  And finally, the IPCC exercise considers only the tiny changes in solar irradiance and completely ignores the most important solar influence on climate from changes in the solar wind and magnetic fields. 

·         It goes without saying that much-hyped effects, such as melting of glaciers, disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and even some of the extreme predictions of sea level rise, are merely consequences of general warming, but do not reveal anything about the cause of warming, whether natural or anthropogenic.


2007 was a good year for peer-reviewed science that exposed inconvenient truths for the IPCC: e.g., a warm bias in the surface temperature records, troposphere data in contradiction to GH models, satellite data indicating negative climate feedback from water vapor leading to low climate sensitivity, factors other than CO2 involved in Arctic warming, the final demise of the ‘hockeystick’ climate reconstruction, further confirmation of the natural 1500-year climate cycle, another quiet hurricane season, and so on.  In fact, every cornerstone of global-warming alarmism is now undermined by peer-reviewed science.


It is perhaps too much to expect that this change in the scientific paradigm will be readily accepted by the scientific community.  There are too many who have invested considerable effort and reputation in support of AGW.  There’s also the mindset of the editors of leading scientific journals and of the reviewers they choose, to expect a sudden change in the character of these publications.  Finally, there are the granting agencies, both governmental and private, who have invested much of their prestige in support of AGW and whose budgets depend on maintaining the AGW myth.  It goes without saying that practically all of the NGOs will continue to support GW fears since their incomes and perks depend on this.  Of course, the media have a vested interest in stirring up popular fears; after all, calamities attract attention and sell newspapers.  However, journalistic ethics may produce a gradual change, it is hoped. 


Unfortunately, there has now developed a group of industrial/business stakeholders that have a strong financial interest in maintaining GW fears.  They include the promoters of alternative energy sources, wind and solar, the manufacturers of ethanol and other biofuels, and the companies and researchers that have grown fat on government grants and subsidies – well over $5 billion a year in the US alone.  Many industries are willing to go along with emission caps, looking for ‘regulatory certainty,’ and are less concerned about passing the increased cost along to the general public.  Finally, we have the financial institutions and brokers who make money on emission trading and on selling offsets for ‘carbon footprints.’ 


Desperate about losing the science debate, many of these groups have instead  resorted to smears and personal attacks on AGW skeptics and ‘deniers,’ accusing them of being paid by oil companies or by the tobacco(!) lobby.  Climate alarmists don't seem to realize that by claiming that science can be bought with a few oil dollars, they are actually denigrating all scientists.  There is a far bigger pot of government money available to IPCC consensus scientists; non-scientist Al Gore has made tens of millions out of climate alarmism.


A Rational Energy Policy


What can be done at this stage?  Once there is some acceptance of the fact that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, that CO2 levels are essentially irrelevant to climate change – and that a warmer climate may even be beneficial compared to a colder one, there is hope for a rational energy policy.  Unjustified fears complicate energy planning and raise the cost of energy.  Overcoming the irrational fear of GW can solve most energy problems, lower cost, and assure security of supply.  It can reduce oil imports and perhaps eliminate additional imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).


We shall briefly outline the main components of such a policy.  A rational energy policy needs to consider three major topics: electric power generation, transportation, and energy conservation. 


·         Electric power: Without the alarm about CO2 emission, it becomes possible to rely on plentiful domestic coal and nuclear reactors, and phase out the use of natural gas for supplying base-load electricity.  In the US, natural gas supplies of the order of 20 percent, in the UK it is of the order of 40 percent!  This phase-out of natural gas greatly reduces demand and will lower the price for other applications, such as production of fertilizer, plastics, and also transportation.

·         Transportation: The preferred fuel for buses, trucks, and fleet vehicles, should be Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).  It is cheaper, cleaner than gasoline or diesel -- and we have a secure domestic supply, augmented by imports from Canada and Mexico.  No new technology is needed -- except perhaps the development of high-strength light-weight bottles. 


It is clear that the future for private cars lies in electric hybrids, requiring mainly the development of better low-cost batteries.  For true hybrids, the internal combustion engine (or diesel engine) acts only as an alternator and is not required to supply automotive power; this lowers the sticker price considerably.  Commuters can use simple plug-ins, with batteries recharged from the  grid.  The demand for gasoline (and imported oil) will then drop considerably.  No new fuels are needed; only access to domestic oil reserves offshore and on federal lands.  ‘Stranded gas’ (inaccessible by pipeline) can be converted into liquid transportation fuels, with a preference for dimethyl ether [DME]/methanol. 

·         Conservation: A wide variety of techniques are available and have been tested, such as cogeneration in connection with electricity production, LED lighting (with efficiencies of up to 90 percent compared to 15 percent for incandescent light bulbs), and many other schemes that reduce energy use. 


Oil Security and Foreign Policy


Even 30 years after the Arab ‘oil embargo’ it is not generally appreciated that embargos are ineffective since oil is a fungible commodity.  A true interruption in oil supply will simply raise the world price of oil and affect oil consumers everywhere -- including those in oil-exporting countries, unless they are subsidized. 


By symmetry, oil fungibility also means that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) does not confer special protection on US consumers.  Oil released from the SPR will simply lower the price to consumers everywhere for a short period of time.  Of course, if other countries maintain SPRs and release their oil, these releases might all balance out.  But in general, SPRs are not needed and should be privatized.  It is certainly counterproductive to purchase oil for the SPR because of Congressional mandates, when the current world price is around $100 a barrel. 


Middle-East oil security is an illusion.  The presence of military forces cannot protect against sabotage of oil wells, pipelines, terminals, or tankers.  There are too many vulnerable links in the chain of oil supply.  In fact, a foreign military presence may well be counterproductive by stirring up local resentment.  In my view, the best guarantee against supply interruptions is to convey the ownership of oil – and the flow of oil revenues – from governments directly to their citizens, giving them a financial stake in maintaining the flow of oil for export.  An example might be the scheme used in Alaska whereby the state government distributes royalties to its citizens.  A better scheme would be to give citizens ownership of shares in a national oil company and allow these shares to be traded. 




We’ve been on the road to energy independence before – with Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter -- without any notable success.  George Bush’ plan is not much better.  Yet as outlined above, all it takes is to publicize the scientific facts and rid of the public of irrational fear of Global Warming.


Nixon invented Project Independence in 1974, following the Arab oil embargo scare, and gave us the ‘solar power tower’ with hundreds of mirrors focusing solar energy onto a central collector and fanciful schemes for extracting energy from the oceans.  Some of these projects are being re-invented today.  They are even hauling out hare-brained schemes of geo-engineering to ‘fight global warming’ and ‘save the climate.’


Jimmy Carter tried to convert the nation to a costly menu of ‘Synfuels,’ gaseous and liquid fuels based on coal.  He also managed to stop the development of nuclear energy and robbed the nation of a reliable, clean, and secure source of  electricity.


George W. Bush has given us the ‘Hydrogen Economy’ (2006) and ethanol (2007), and promises of even more ethanol.  The 2007 energy bill has the makings of a bipartisan disaster; but it could have been much worse.


These are very strange times.  The science underlying the global warming scare is becoming increasingly clear -- with firm evidence against any appreciable contribution to global warming from anthropogenic emissions.  We have also good evidence that the climate models have greatly overestimated the greenhouse contribution by neglecting negative feedbacks in the atmospheric system.  Finally the evidence is very persuasive that solar activity rules climate change on a decadal time scale.  Yet the IPCC panel keeps assuring us that most warming is anthropogenic (without telling us what “most” means).  National Academies and others are simply regurgitating the faulty conclusions of the IPCC -- while scientific catastrophists complain that the IPCC is too conservative. 


Reputable economists have tried to convince us that a modest warming is beneficial – as has been known right along from historic evidence.  Yet other economists, toeing the political line, keep insisting that a warmer climate will inflict great damage, and persist in carrying out meaningless cost-benefit calculations and devising complex schemes for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions. 


It has become quite obvious that even the puny controls (a 5% reduction) called for by the Kyoto Protocol – ineffective though they may be in affecting CO2 concentrations – are increasingly unattainable.  Yet assorted statesmen, presidents, governors, and other politicians are projecting emission cuts many times those of Kyoto – but always far out into the future – some calling for 80% cuts by 2050! 


All of this cynical grandstanding would be harmless fun and entertainment -- except for the fact that it does have consequences for energy policy.  Increasingly, carbon dioxide is being condemned as a pollutant instead of a free gift to green plants, crops and trees, which use it for growth.  CO2 controls weigh most heavily against coal, a plentiful and secure fuel, available globally, that can be burned with minimal pollution to generate electricity.  All sorts of “renewables” are being pushed, like wind and solar, including some like ethanol and hydrogen that require large amounts of energy for its manufacture and therefore represent little or no net gain. 


The most serious problem is that the combination of environmentalists, academics, and industrialists, who are increasingly supported by government grants and contracts, will gain the upper hand so that a “tipping point” will be reached where the situation can no longer be reversed.  Even if the climate should start to cool, it will still  be blamed on greenhouse gases. 


Once the global warmers who benefit financially prevail, then the real danger comes from ideologues who have adopted global warming as a faith.  They are all ‘coercive utopians,’ of course, those who would de-industrialize the United States and other Western nations and ‘return us to nature’; those who would surrender national and local decision-making to supranational bodies; and the ‘contraction and conversion’ crowd, who argue that every human being is entitled to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide (and will therefore have the same standard of living).  It is difficult to predict whether this trend can be reversed.  But for the sake of saving what we call Western Civilization, let’s hope that it will be.




By Cal Thomas, Tribune Media Services 12/24/2007


You don't have to be religious to qualify as a fundamentalist. You can be Al Gore, the messiah figure for the global warming cult, whose followers truly believe their gospel of imminent extermination in a Noah-like flood, if we don't immediately change our carbon-polluting ways.

One of the traits of a cult is its refusal to consider any evidence that might disprove the faith. And so it is doubtful the global warming cultists will be moved by 400 scientists, many of whom, according to the Washington Times, "are current or former members of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Mr. Gore for publicizing a climate crisis." In a report by Republican staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, these scientists cast doubt on a "scientific consensus" that global warming caused by humans endangers the planet.   Like most cultists, the true believers struck back, not by debating science, but by charging that a small number of the scientists mentioned in the report have taken money from the petroleum industry. A spokeswoman for Al Gore said 25 or 30 of the scientists may have received funding from Exxon Mobile Corp. Exxon Mobile spokesman Gantt H. Walton dismissed the accusation, saying, "the company is concerned about climate-change issues and does not pay scientists to bash global-warming theories."



By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, January 6, 2008


THE STARK headline appeared just over a year ago. "2007 to be 'warmest on record,' " BBC News reported on Jan. 4, 2007. Citing experts in the British government's Meteorological Office, the story announced that "the world is likely to experience the warmest year on record in 2007," surpassing the all-time high reached in 1998.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the planetary hot flash: Much of the planet grew bitterly cold.
In South America, for example, the start of winter last year was one of the coldest ever observed. According to Eugenio Hackbart, chief meteorologist of the MetSul Weather Center in Brazil, "a brutal cold wave brought record low temperatures, widespread frost, snow, and major energy disruption." In Buenos Aires, it snowed for the first time in 89 years, while in Peru the cold was so intense that hundreds of people died and the government declared a state of emergency in 14 of the country's 24 provinces. In August, Chile's agriculture minister lamented "the toughest winter we have seen in the past 50 years," which caused losses of at least $200 million in destroyed crops and livestock.
Latin Americans weren't the only ones shivering.
University of Oklahoma geophysicist David Deming, a specialist in temperature and heat flow, notes in the Washington Times that "unexpected bitter cold swept the entire Southern Hemisphere in 2007." Johannesburg experienced its first significant snowfall in a quarter-century. Australia had its coldest ever June. New Zealand's vineyards lost much of their 2007 harvest when spring temperatures dropped to record lows.
Closer to home, 44.5 inches of snow fell in New Hampshire last month, breaking the previous record of 43 inches, set in 1876. And the Canadian government is forecasting the coldest winter in 15 years.
Now all of these may be short-lived weather anomalies, mere blips in the path of the global climatic warming that Al Gore and a host of alarmists proclaim the deadliest threat we face. But what if the frigid conditions that have caused so much distress in recent months signal an impending era of global cooling?
"Stock up on fur coats and felt boots!" advises Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and senior scientist at Moscow's Shirshov Institute of Oceanography. "The latest data . . . say that earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012."
Sorokhtin dismisses the conventional global warming theory that greenhouse gases, especially human-emitted carbon dioxide, is causing the earth to grow hotter. Like a number of other scientists, he points to solar activity - sunspots and solar flares, which wax and wane over time - as having the greatest effect on climate.
"Carbon dioxide is not to blame for global climate change," Sorokhtin writes in an essay for Novosti. "Solar activity is many times more powerful than the energy produced by the whole of humankind." In a recent paper for the Danish National Space Center, physicists Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen concur: "The sun . .. . appears to be the main forcing agent in global climate change," they write.
Given the number of worldwide cold events, it is no surprise that 2007 didn't turn out to be the warmest ever. In fact, 2007's global temperature was essentially the same as that in 2006 - and 2005, and 2004, and every year back to 2001. The record set in 1998 has not been surpassed. For nearly a decade now, there has been no global warming. Even though atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to accumulate - it's up about 4 percent since 1998 - the global mean temperature has remained flat. That raises some obvious questions about the theory that CO2 is the cause of climate change.
Yet so relentlessly has the alarmist scenario been hyped, and so disdainfully have dissenting views been dismissed, that millions of people assume Gore must be right when he insists: "The debate in the scientific community is over."
But it isn't. Just last month, more than 100 scientists signed a strongly worded open letter [to the  Secretary-General of the  UN] pointing out that climate change is a well-known natural phenomenon, and that adapting to it is far more sensible than attempting to prevent it. Because slashing carbon dioxide emissions means retarding economic development, they warned, "the current US approach of CO2 reduction is likely to increase human suffering from future climate change rather than to decrease it."
Climate science isn't a religion, and those who dispute its leading theory are not heretics. Much remains to be learned about how and why climate changes, and there is neither virtue nor wisdom in an emotional rush to counter global warming - especially if what's coming is a global Big Chill.


By James Lewis, The American Thinker, December 26, 2007

Scientists like money. (It's true --- be still, my heart.) Big Science is a Big Business, supporting nearly half the budgets of our major universities. Science professors are only hired if they can swing enough Federal grant money to pay for their labs, hire a gaggle of graduate assistants, and let the universities skim up to forty percent off the top for overhead. And besides, it's nice to get fat salaries. So the professional scientist union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has ads headed AAA$. They aren't shy about it.

The trouble is that money means politics, and politics means shading the truth. As a result, we get politicized science, which corrupts real science. Any kind of Politically Incorrect science therefore becomes very hard to publish. So the cult of PC has invaded the pristine halls of science.

The past week's Science magazine is a study in the way science can be ruined. The scare cover shouts Reef TROUBLE, to support the idea that our coral reefs are dying. It's like the National Enquirer.

Donald A. Kennedy is the editor of Science, with a dubious reputation from his years as president of Stanford University. Turns out that President Kennedy spent millions of Stanford research funds to rebuild his personal residence; "feathering your own nest" is more than a metaphor at Stanford. The scandal led to his resignation. Fortunately Kennedy did not end up on the bread line. He was able to jump to become editor-in-chief of the flagship journal of the AAAS, Science magazine.

Naturally, Science magazine has weekly updates on the grant wars in Washington, DC.

In the last issue of Science Donald Kennedy has an editorial endorsing the Democrat candidate for president. Not exactly in so many words, but it's unmistakable.

"The United States could ... mitigate carbon dioxide emissions: The root cause of global warming and the reef problem. Experience suggests that for this, we might have to await an election." (1695)

This is like the union boss telling his members how to vote in a general election if they want to get more money.

But global warming is a popular hypothesis, Dr. Kennedy. It's not established. You remember the difference.

No doubt Kennedy is a fire-breathing liberal. But he's also hoping for lots of global warming money from Hillary or Obama. (For a good cause, of course. Perhaps his roof needs repairs).

What new discoveries does Science magazine present to support that scare cover? The answer is: None. This week's Science has one article by Australian reef researchers, but it presents no new data. They make the claims that if the acidity of the oceans increases slightly over the next 50 to 100 years, coral reefs will be in trouble. The source? The highly politicized United Nations IPCC report, which has now been roundly criticized by many of the scientists who were involved with it. So if disaster strikes, disaster will strike. It's a perfect circular argument.

This scientific article is "supported" by a truly sloppy coral reef article by a professional writer --- not a trained scientist --- repeating the panic slogan of the moment, with a few second-hand quotes from scare mongers. This one is really embarrassing. It contradicts itself and makes no sense at all.

The whole sham is based on the notion that carbon in the air has never increased before, slightly changing the acidity of the surface layers of the oceans. So this is a unique world-historic doom caused by evil human beings. But that is absurd. In 1911 a comet crashed in the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia, leading to massive wildfires. Forest fires like that increase carbon in the air and the water. At other times in the last billion years, animal species have exploded in variety and biomass. Animals breathe out carbon dioxide. CO2 grows plants, which emit oxygen, which increases animal life, and so on. It's a stable symbiotic system, not a self-destroying system.

The other farcical assumption is that global temperatures are bound to increase by two degrees Celsius in the next hundred years, and that has never happened before either. That assumption is based on the 22 grossly oversimplified computer models that are constantly revised to take in new evidence to come to the same convenient conclusion. The idea that world temperatures have never increased by a mere two degrees C over a century is bizarre. Every time the world comes out of an ice age, temperatures increase by a lot more than 2 degrees.

Living things adapt to changing conditions. That is why they are still here. Coral reefs are living biosystems that emerged half a billion years ago in the Cambrian explosion of single-celled life. Single celled creatures can adapt with amazing speed --- which is why we get "superbugs" in hospitals, remember? Superbugs are bacteria that have evolved to survive antibiotics, so they are hard to wipe out. Hospitals therefore easily become centers of infection. Find a new antibiotic, pretty soon you get a new superbug.

In fact, we now know about extremophiles, organisms that thrive in extremely harsh environments, like volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean. Life is hardy, not fragile.

You can't have it both ways. Either microorganisms evolve and adapt to slightly changing temperatures, or they can't. If they can adapt rapidly, the coral reefs can adjust to minor changes. Since coral organisms have been around for 500,000,000 years, it's pretty clear that they have been able to adapt quite nicely, thank you.

Experiments on the adaptability of e coli (yes, that one), show that over a decade or two, some 20,000 generations of bugs evolve to deal with a wide variety of conditions. Fruit flies have been bred continuously over fifty years under adaptive pressures, and evolve to cope.

What scientists have actually observed is changes in coral reefs. That's why they are running around like religious maniacs on street corners with signs that The End of the World is At Hand! But change is a constant in biological history. Nothing stays the same.

Nobody has a complete "census" of the coral reefs in the world, so percent changes in the estimated size of coral reefs are a wild guess. (The denominator is missing). Our current guess is that world reefs constitute about six times the area of West Virginia. There's no way we know what's happening in a vast ecosystem like that. But basic biology says that those populations of coral creatures are constantly adapting, adapting, adapting.

As science fiction guru Arthur C. Clarke loves to point out, famous physicists predicted about 1900 that man would never fly. In the 1950s they confidently said that a moon landing was impossible. "Clarke's Law" states that whenever a famous scientist tells you that something is impossible, don't believe him. Chances are he's just wrong.

Humans are the fastest-learning creatures ever known. In the last hundred years we have gone from choo-choo trains to scramjets. Give us another century, and who knows what we will do? Colonize Mars? Solarize energy? Double our life span? Human history gives lots of grounds for hope, and much less for despair.

It's easy to imagine ways to fix coral reefs. For one thing, we could strip mine them if the ocean level drops, so that the top of the reefs will stay immersed in seawater. Or we can take blocks of the dead part of a reef (which is most of it), and spread them on top of the coral layer cake if the water level rises. We do that kind of thing all the time in dredging rivers and harbors. So we can keep adjust coral reefs to the height to sea water if that ever changes.

My real worry is --- will we ever fix politicized science? Because if we allow the search for truth to be so easily twisted by political fads, we may be in really deep doo-doo.

Now there's a scary prediction.

James Lewis blogs at