The Week That Was
January 24, 2004

1. New on the web: EXTINCTION RISK FROM CLIMATE CHANGE? Robert Ferguson analyzes the fantastic claims of a Nature paper that achieved great notoriety.






2. PIRINC (Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, Inc.) reports on the problems of gasoline additive MTBE.

In late November 2003, by a narrow margin, opponents of the Energy Policy Act of 2003 succeeded in delaying further consideration of the bill until early this year and in reducing chances of eventual passage, at least in its present form. Of the over 800 pages of provisions of the bill, opponents highlighted a very brief segment, namely, Section 1502, entitled "Fuels Safe Harbor." This section provides liability protection against defective product claims for MTBE producers. Although not highlighted in the Senate debates, the provision extends the same liability safeguard to renewable fuels producers as well. The protection would apply against all claims filed on or after September 5th 2003. The provision explicitly does not protect against other potential liabilities, including liability for drinking water contamination, the most prominent current environmental concerns regarding MTBE.

Issues involving MTBE are far broader than simply whether or not defective product liability protection should be afforded to MTBE or renewable fuels. They involve the whole question of oxygenate mandates, the role of alternatives to MTBE, especially ethanol, and the risks to gasoline supply/demand balances, regional as well as national, of actions to ban MTBE. This report discusses these MTBE and related issues as they have been evolving and in particular, the extent to which the Energy Policy Act of 2003 attempts to address them. As for the defective product liability issue it should be kept in mind that at the time oxygenate requirements were introduced, all major parties understood that, in most cases, expanded use of MTBE was the only practical way to meet the mandates.

For a more detailed discussion of oxygenate issues, see the PIRINC report, MTBE, Ethanol - Sorting Through the Oxygenate Issues, released December 2001 and also available at the PIRINC website,

3. Dr. Dietrich E. KOELLE Letter Criticizes Stephen Schneider


Prof. Stephen H. Schneider
Center for Environmental Science and Policy
Stanford University

Dear Prof. Schneider,
I read your book review in NATURE (15.1.04) and found your side remarks on [IPCC] sceptics most interesting. It is news to me that scepticism can be "ideological"; in fact it is more a proof of intelligence and common sense. Ideological are people who are obsessed by a specific idea and ignore the facts that do not support their beliefs ( ... the facts must be wrong!)

"Pointing to uncertainties" has nothing to do with polemics. Polemics come from people who do not have scientific arguments (facts, data) but must resort instead to ad hominem attacks on people with different views.

I have been observing the climatology scene formore than 20 years (independent from any related industry) and I am impressed of the poor style which has been introduced by key IPCC representatives against "sceptics" of the anthropogenic warming theory. "Mainstream science" or "majority decisions" are no means for defining the real truth in science.

There are many open issues: One is Mann's Hockeystick chart which is in contrast to all other historic temperature reconstructions that show clearly the MWP and LIA temperature extremes. Those have been proven in meantime by numerous proxy data also in South America, China and Australia.

The other example are the global temperature ground data and the difference with the satellite measurements. The latter are in agreement with the sounding balloon data and have been audited, not so the ground data which have a more or less large upward trend by urbanization effects and environmental changes over time.

I would have expected you to exhibit a more objective style in the climate debate instead of supporting ideology and discrimination of your colleagues who
have different views.




4. Truth by Assertion: Letter submitted to WSJ by Prof. David Douglass

Antonio Regalado reported (WSJ Dec 17) on a recent Statement, Human Impacts on Climate Change, issued by the Council of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). While his report, Panel Shifts Stance on Global Warming, is accurate, the Statement does not necessarily represent the views of the 41,000 members of the AGU. The AGU Council consists of 28 people, most without any expertise in climate science, who speak only for themselves. The Statement was prepared without fanfare by a small panel and approved during a large meeting of the AGU in San Francisco. It was announced the following week at a Washington press conference, with no prior opportunity for the other 40, 972 members of AGU to see and comment on it.

The essence of the Statement can be characterized by the sentence: "... carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will cause global surface climate to be [substantially] warmer." The rest of the Statement asserts that this is true -- but this is only a Hypothesis that must be tested against observations. The Statement goes on to say that the climate system is difficult to predict, yet computer models predict quite a list of catastrophes. These predictions are offered as evidence to support the Hypothesis. However, this is not evidence. These are only a manifestation of and an extension of the Hypothesis. A consensus of the 41,000 AGU membership implied or even honestly obtained is also not evidence.

What is the evidence that the Hypothesis is correct? The Statement only offers this: "... no single threshold level of greenhouse gases [exists]... at which the beginning of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system can be defined. Some impacts have already occurred..." What are these impacts? They offer neither examples of impacts nor any other evidence to support the Hypothesis.

Have the models been successful in predicting anything? They, of course, predict substantial global warming. This is not surprising given the expressed belief of some of the model builders in the global warming Hypothesis and the many parameters in the model that need to be introduced. However, the models also predict unambiguously that the atmosphere is warming faster than the surface of the earth; but all the available observational data unambiguously shows the opposite!

Truth in science is always determined from observational facts. One finds the truth by making a hypothesis and comparing observations with the hypothesis. It is absolutely essential that one should be neutral and not fall in love with the hypothesis. If the facts are contrary to any predictions, then the hypothesis is wrong no matter how appealing. "Truth by Assertion" is not science.


David Douglass, AGU member
Dept of Physics
University of Rochester
Rochester NY 14627


5. Al Gore writes letter of complaint to Agony Aunt (Parody)

By Judith Weizner,, January 20, 2004

On Jan 15, 2004, Al Gore spoke at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, attacking George Bush on the
issue of Global Warming. Some excerpts:

"Yet in spite of the clear evidence available all around us, there are many who still do not believe that Global Warming is a problem at all. And it's no wonder: because they are the targets of a massive and well-organized campaign of disinformation lavishly funded by polluters who are determined to prevent any action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, out of a fear that their profits might be affected if they had to stop dumping so much pollution into the atmosphere.

And wealthy right-wing ideologues have joined with the most cynical and irresponsible companies in the oil, coal and mining industries to contribute large sums of money to finance pseudo-scientific front groups that specialize in sowing confusion in the public's mind about global warming. They issue one misleading "report" after another, pretending that there is significant disagreement in the legitimate scientific community in areas where there is actually a broad-based consensus."

Dear Aunt Sophie,

I am a public figure who is also an influential scientist. Lately, however, people have not been taking me seriously. This is bad for my image, not to mention my ego, which is still pretty fragile after I won an election but wasn't allowed to take office. I sure hope you can help me out.
I gave a speech the other day about global warming. Everyone knows that the climate is getting warmer. It's the most obvious thing in the world. All you have to do is look out the window. You can't miss it.

The problem is that I gave the speech in New York on the coldest day of the year. My people kept telling me it was 8 degrees outside and maybe I should talk about something else, but it wasn't cold in the theater. It's never that cold on the West Side, anyway. Columbia University is on the West Side and I taught there for a while, so I ought to know.

Anyway, they told me some people were laughing about the situation. In my speech I explained that the cold temperatures are really caused by global warming, and the audience seemed to agree - at least they didn't demonstrate. But later I found out that other people, who hadn't even been there, thought the whole thing was funny. Funny! Well, if cold weather isn't caused by global warming, then what does cause it? It must be caused by something.

People just don't seem to be able to grasp my theory. I call it retrograde causality. For example, many people don't understand that wealth causes poverty. That's a fact. When you have rich people you also have poor people. You can't dispute that. If you didn't have rich people you wouldn't have poor people either because everyone would be somewhere in the middle, but since you have rich you also have poor. QED. I guess people just don't have enough education to understand it. I've always felt we must spend more on education.

I don't know if you knew this, but I once ran for president. I didn't lose, but they didn't let me be president, either. Now there's this other person who really wants to be president. She (it's a woman) has pretty much elbowed me out of the way. But I'm entitled to it before she is. I didn't lose. It's my turn. They're having these caucuses right now and I'm trying to get some face time so I can be nominated by acclamation and here comes this darn ice wave to make me look ridiculous.

What can I do to get people to take me seriously? I want my presidency!

Amazin' Al


Dear Amazin',

So you've noticed it's never cold on the West Side - that's because of the tremendous amount of hot air generated at Columbia University.

Westsiders will pay lip service to the idea of cold - they'll say things like "Cold enough for you?", but you can tell they don't really mean it. For them it never snows, although there are occasional accumulations of a cold, white substance in which their helmeted, padded children are allowed to go sledding. People who live on the West Side take a blood oath to resist global warming when they apply for their coop mortgages. When the thermometer reads 2 degrees you'll see them out on the street, carefully separating their glass from their plastic from their metal because they know that re-cycling is the only way to appease Moloch.

So of course, no one in the audience so much as tittered in your direction. The problem is that your speech escaped the confines of the Beacon Theater and yes, people laughed.
What makes you think people can't understand your theory of retrograde causality? It's as clear as can be: Taxation causes prosperity. When you take money away from rich people and give it to the poor, the poor buy designer jeans, which stimulates the economy because the jeans manufacturer has to hire more poor people to work for him so he can pay more taxes so he can sell more jeans so he can hire more poor people. Of course, the poor people benefiting from this economic stimulation all live twelve time zones away, but, hey, it makes perfect sense.

Wealth causes poverty, taxation causes prosperity, sweet causes sour, health causes disease, black causes white, sanity causes insanity. I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't take you seriously.
Which leads me to a further thought - winning causes losing. Maybe you should learn to live with that.
Good luck and God bless.

Your Aunt Sophie

Aunt Sophie advises on reader's problems but cannot answer each individual letter


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