The Week That Was (Nov 8, 2008) brought to you by SEPP


Quote of the Week:

      Readers of TWTW are, of course, aware that there’s no evidence to support AGW and that therefore control of CO2 is pointless, ineffective – and also very expensive.  This fact is not generally known or accepted by politicians, with a few exceptions.  While Europe, at least part of it, seems to be turning down the idea of CO2 controls, the US is moving in the opposite direction, even though the US has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol.  George Bush in his eight years in the White House has opposed the kinds of CO2 controls called for by Kyoto – although his administration has been ambivalent about the issue by advocating policies that treated CO2 as if it were a pollutant. 

SEPP Science Editorial #11 (11/8/08)

The Fingerprint Controversy Part-2


Using the observational data and model results of the IPCC and of the government-supported Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), NIPCC has demonstrated a major disagreement between modeled and observed fingerprints of temperature trends.  The NIPCC conclusion, opposed to that of the IPCC, is that the human contribution to warming is not significant. 


Not surprisingly, the NIPCC report [Singer et al 2008] and a research paper by Douglass et al [2007] have come under attack from supporters of the IPCC.  The latest such attack, a just-published paper by Ben Santer and 16 coauthors [hereafter S17] claims that there is something wrong with the observational data -- and also that the uncertainties are so large that there is no longer a discrepancy between models and observations. 


We are of course replying and confident that we will prevail.  However, it is interesting that S17, in the process of attacking NIPCC, necessarily also attack the data used in CCSP Report 1.1 [2006] and in the IPCC report [2007].  These data, which NIPCC used without any change, have been “superseded,” according to S17 – although S17 never state so explicitly.  We wonder therefore whether there will be formal corrections issued for the CCSP and IPCC reports to take account of the new “corrected” data. 


A note: It is perfectly natural that results from data can change based on better analyses.  But unless one audits the raw data and analysis methods used by S17, there is little an outside observer can do.  However, we should caution against any hasty adoption of corrections to data analysis -- and particularly if they have just been published and not yet been properly vetted.  We know from the experience of the infamous hockey-stick that the refereeing process is often quite casual and not designed to discover underlying errors in the analysis.  We also note with regret that one of the key papers cited by S17 has not even been published, it is listed as “in press.”

Douglass DH, Christy JR, Pearson BD, Singer SF. 2007. A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. International Journal of Climatology 27: Doi:10.1002/joc.1651.


IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Avery KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge,

New York.


Santer BD and 16 coauthors 2008. Consistency of modeled and observed temperature trends in the tropical troposphere.  International Journal of Climatology. Royal Meteorological Society. Available at


Singer SF. et al  2008. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Singer SF (ed.). The Heartland Institute: Chicago, IL.


1.  The Greens’ war against coal – damaging yet irrelevant


3.  The backlash to regulation has begun – in California



5.  Nuclear energy’s many benefits


7.  Emissions from planes included for first time in climate change plans





James Gustave (Gus) Speth, who helped found the World Resources Institute and Natural Resource Defense Council, has written a critique of U.S. environmentalism, “Environmental Failure: A Case for a New Green Politics”, in which he says that despite its successes,  the movement is “failing – by any measure, the state of the earth has never been more dire” and what is needed is an effort to challenge the basic assumptions of consumerism and unlimited growth.  Speth, currently dean of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, is former chair of the Council on Environmental Quality under Pres. Carter and former head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  (






Compared to other significant sources of electricity, nuclear power has many environmental benefits. For instance, nuclear plants produce virtually no air pollution.  By contrast:

o   Coal-fired power plants produce 13 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 6 pounds of nitrogen oxide per million watt-hours (MWh) of electricity produced.

o   Oil-fired power plants produce 12 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 4 pounds of nitrogen oxide per MWh.

o   Nuclear power is a CO2-free energy option whereas, for every MWh of electricity produced, coal-fired power plants produce 2,249 pounds of CO2, oil-fired plants produce 1,672 pounds, and gas-fired generators produce 1,135 pounds.

Traditionally, nuclear power critics have focused on two potential threats to human health: 1) the risk that dangerous levels of radiation will escape from a plant due to equipment failure or human error, and 2) the risk posed to human health from nuclear waste.  However:

o   In more than 50 years of experience with nuclear power in the United States, no deaths or negative health effects have been conclusively linked to radiation leaks from nuclear plants or from spent fuel.

o   In addition, the U.S. Navy has operated nuclear-powered vessels for 50 years; despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of navy personnel have served in close quarters with nuclear power plants and radioactive material, there have been no radiation-caused deaths.

Source: Ross Wingo and H. Sterling Burnett, "Nuclear Renaissance: Atoms to Power the Future," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 635, October 21, 2008.



Press release:  NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 23, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by Vice President Al Gore, today announced an agreement that requires a national energy company, Dynegy Inc. (“Dynegy”), to disclose timely and relevant information to investors about climate change risks.

“This agreement follows our landmark settlement with Xcel Energy and helps protect investors by ensuring disclosure of potential financial risks that climate change may pose,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Today we raise the bar in the industry and ensure transparency and disclosure in the marketplace.  Investors have the right to know all the material financial risks faced by coal-fired power plants associated with global warming and I hope and expect that other companies will follow the lead of Dynegy and Xcel.  I commend and applaud Dynegy for working with my office to establish a standard that will improve our environment and our marketplace over the long-term.” 

Vice President Al Gore said, “Today’s settlement is a key step in the effort to solve the climate crisis.  It requires one of our nation’s major energy companies to fully disclose to investors - from Wall Street to Main Street - the financial risks that come with building new coal-fired power plants.  I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his leadership in engineering a new model to combat global warming.”



Emissions from planes are to be included for the first time in ambitious government plans to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent after ministers were forced into the change to head off a back bench rebellion.  The new amendment agrees to take international aviation into account

by Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent, 27 Oct 2008

A.  Comments by the editor of the Forum on Physics and Society

Our editorial comments in the July 2008 issue include the following statement: “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution.” In fact, we have not polled any scientific community (e.g., the climate research community, the physics community, or the general science community) as to the extent of its consensus regarding human-activity-caused global warming, and we apologize for making such a remark for which we do not have supporting data. We now do know that, in addition to the American Physical Society, the following scientific organizations have issued statements and/or reports in support of the IPCC’s main conclusion concerning the role of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in global warming: The National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.