Monthly Archives: November 2007

Why Historic Proxy Studies Matter

Over the last several years, there has been quite a bit of debate in climate
circles over historical temperature reconstructions from various "proxies" like
ice cores and tree ring widths.  The debate really heated up a few years back
when Michael Mann introduced, and the climate catastrophists at the UN IPCC
adopted, the hockey stick chart.  Until that time, both scientists and
historians agreed that there was good evidence for a period in the Middle Ages
with temperatures as warm or warmer than today (thus the name "Greenland" and
not "Glacierland") and a period known as the Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th
centuries that was quite frosty.  Mann attempted to refute this view, using data
mainly from bristlecone pine tree rings, that the temperature history over the
last 1000 years was in fact quite stable, at least until man started producing
CO2.  (I was not writing on climate at the time, but I always wondered if any
editor availed himself of the "Mann blames Man" headline.)

But why do these temperature reconstructions matter?  Aren’t we more
concerned with the temperature in 2050 than in 1050?  Yes and no.  To really do
any kind of job at predicting future temperatures, we need more than egghead
computer models tweaked in some scientist’s office.  What we really need are
good empirical studies about the sensitivity of temperature to different
variables.

We can see the importance of historical proxies in the recent study by
Scafetta and West (pdf) which looked at historical correlations between solar
activity and temperatures.  The authors performed their analysis multiple times,
both using "flat" historical reconstructions like Mann’s and other
reconstructions (e.g. Moberg)
which show more historical variability.  The authors concluded (emphasis
added):

Climate is relatively insensitive to solar changes if a
temperature reconstruction showing little preindustrial variability is adopted.
In this scenario most of the global warming since 1900 has to be interpreted as
anthropogenically induced. On the other hand, if a secular temperature
showing large preindustrial variability is adopted, such as MOBERG05, the
climate is found to be very sensitive to solar changes and a significant
fraction of the global warming that occurred during last century should be solar
induced.
If ACRIM satellite composite is adopted the Sun might have
further contributed to the recent global warming.

Some thoughts:

  • So, which results should we rely on?  The ones using Mann’s data
    or the ones using Moberg’s?  Well, even the catastrophists at the IPCC have
    abandoned Mann in favor of Moberg, so one should assume the conclusions in bold
    are very much in play.
  • Either way, don’t panic!  Even if all the 0.6C warming in the last century was due to CO2, simple math says that we should not expect more than about 1 degree more warming over the next century  (calculation here).  If the sun caused half of that 0.6C, then you can cut future warming forecasts in half.
  • Mann’s work is full of errors, both statistical and otherwise.  Beginning with McIntyre and McKittrick, and proceeding to many major scientists, his work has been discredited, though he does keep trying to save the thin branch (probably from a bristlecone pine!) he has crawled out on, but he refuses to fix even basic scribal errors pointed out in his first study.  I discuss more of the problems with Mann and other similar proxy studies, including the divergence problem, here.
  • Both CO2 Science and Climate Audit have more on historical proxy studies and their problems than you can ever digest.
  • Though it doesn’t make the front pages, there are still good common sense peer-reviewed studies that show the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age that we could expect from narrative historical records.  One such is Loehle, Via Climate Audit  (temperature anomaly over last 2000 years or so, via proxies):

Loehle9

  • Steven Milloy, via Tom Nelson, has much more on the sun as the primary driver of climate.
  • You can view the section of my global warming film on historical proxies below.  The proxy part starts around 3:00 minutes in (or -5:30 from the end if it is shown that way)

     

Don’t Panic!

Albert Einstein’s dream is now a reality.  We have a new unified field theory:  Global Warming causes everything bad.   Via Tom Nelson and American Thinker, comes this list by Dr. John Brignell of links to articles in the media attributing various bad things to Global Warming.  Currently, his list has over 600 items!  Some excerpts:

Agricultural land increase, Africa devastated,  African aid threatened, Africa hit hardest, air pressure changes, Alaska reshaped, allergies increase, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream endamphibians breeding earlier (or not)ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, Antarctic grass flourishes, anxiety, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic lakes disappear, asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty

itchier poison ivy, jellyfish explosion, Kew Gardens taxed, kitten boom, krill decline, lake and stream productivity decline, lake shrinking and growing, landslides, landslides of ice at 140 mph, lawsuits increase, lawsuit successful, lawyers’ income increased (surprise surprise!), lightning related insurance claims, little response in the atmosphere, lush growth in rain forests, Lyme diseaseMalaria, malnutrition,  mammoth dung melt, Maple syrup shortage

wheat yields crushed in Australia, white Christmas dream ends, wildfires, wind shift, wind reduced, wine – harm to Australian industry, wine industry damage (California), wine industry disaster (US), wine – more English, wine -German boon, wine – no more French winters in Britain colder, wolves eat more moose, wolves eat less, workers laid off, World bankruptcy, World in crisis, World in flames, Yellow fever.

All I can say is:

Dont_panic_earth_300w

Cross-posted at Coyote Blog

Urban vs. Rural Warming

CO2 Science links to this study.  Climate catastrophists bend over backwards to try to argue that there are no such thing as urban heat islands.  But of course, whenever anyone gathers actual data rather than trying to use goofy computer model approaches, the answer is always the same:

To assess the validity of this assumption, LaDochy et al. "use temperature trends in California climate records over the last 50 years [1950-2000] to measure the extent of warming in the various sub-regions of the state." Then, "by looking at human-induced changes to the landscape, [they] attempt to evaluate the importance of these changes with regard to temperature trends, and determine their significance in comparison to those caused by changes in atmospheric composition," such as atmospheric CO2 concentration….

The three researchers found that "most regions showed a stronger increase in minimum temperatures than with mean and maximum temperatures," and that "areas of intensive urbanization showed the largest positive trends, while rural, non-agricultural regions showed the least warming." In fact, they report that the Northeast Interior Basins of the state actually experienced cooling. Large urban sites, on the other hand, exhibited rates of warming "over twice those for the state, for the mean maximum temperatures, and over five times the state’s mean rate for the minimum temperature."

I would have thought the following conclusion would have been a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but I guess it still needs to be said over and over:

LaDochy et al. write that "if we assume that global warming affects all regions of the state, then the small increases seen in rural stations can be an estimate of this general warming pattern over land," which implies that "larger increases," such as those found in areas of intensive urbanization, "must then be due to local or regional surface changes."

More on Feedback

(cross-posted from Coyote Blog)

Kevin Drum links to a blog called Three-Toed Sloth in a post about why our climate future may be even worse than the absurdly cataclysmic forecasts we are getting today in the media.  Three-Toed Sloth advertises itself as "Slow Takes from the Canopy of the Reality-Based Community."  His post is an absolutely fabulous example how one can write an article where most every line is literally true, but the conclusion can still be dead wrong because one tiny assumption at the beginning of the analysis was incorrect  (In this case, "incorrect" may be generous, since the author seems well-versed in the analysis of chaotic systems.  A better word might be "purposely fudged to make a political point.")

He begins with this:

The climate system contains a lot of feedback loops.  This means that the ultimate response to any perturbation or forcing (say, pumping 20 million years of accumulated fossil fuels into the air) depends not just on the initial reaction, but also how much of that gets fed back into the system, which leads to more change, and so on.  Suppose, just for the sake of things being tractable, that the feedback is linear, and the fraction fed back is f.  Then the total impact of a perturbation I is

J + Jf + Jf2 + Jf3 + …

The infinite series of tail-biting feedback terms is in fact a geometric series, and so can be summed up if f is less than 1:

J/(1-f)

So far, so good.  The math here is entirely correct.  He goes on to make this point, arguing that if we are uncertain about  f, in other words, if there is a distribution of possible f‘s, then the range of the total system gain 1/(1-f) is likely higher than our intuition might first tell us:

If we knew the value of the feedback f, we could predict the response to perturbations just by multiplying them by 1/(1-f) — call this G for "gain".  What happens, Roe and Baker ask, if we do not know the feedback exactly?  Suppose, for example, that our measurements are corrupted by noise — or even, with something like the climate, that f is itself stochastically fluctuating.  The distribution of values for f might be symmetric and reasonably well-peaked around a typical value, but what about the distribution for G?  Well, it’s nothing of the kind.  Increasing f just a little increases G by a lot, so starting with a symmetric, not-too-spread distribution of f gives us a skewed distribution for G with a heavy right tail.

Again all true, with one small unstated proviso I will come back to.  He concludes:

In short: the fact that we will probably never be able to precisely predict the response of the climate system to large forcings is so far from being a reason for complacency it’s not even funny.

Actually, I can think of two unstated facts that undermine this analysis.  The first is that most catastrophic climate forecasts you see utilize gains in the 3x-5x range, or sometimes higher (but seldom lower).  This implies they are using an f of between .67 and .80.  These are already very high numbers for any natural process.  If catastrophist climate scientists are already assuming numbers at the high end of the range, then the point about uncertainties skewing the gain disproportionately higher are moot.  In fact, we might tend to actually draw the reverse conclusion, that the saw cuts both ways.  His analysis also implies that small overstatements of f when the forecasts are already skewed to the high side will lead to very large overstatements of Gain.

But here is the real elephant in the room:  For the vast, vast majority of natural processes, f is less than zero.  The author has blithely accepted the currently unproven assumption that the net feedback in the climate system is positive.  He never even hints at the possibility that that f might be a negative feedback rather than positive, despite the fact that almost all natural processes are dominated by negative rather than positive feedback.  Assuming without evidence that a random natural process one encounters is dominated by negative feedback is roughly equivalent to assuming the random person you just met on the street is a billionaire.  It is not totally out of the question, but it is very, very unlikely.

When one plugs an f in the equation above that is negative, say -0.3, then the gain actually becomes less than one, in this case about 0.77.  In a negative feedback regime, the system response is actually less than the initial perturbation because forces exist in the system to damp the initial input.

The author is trying to argue that uncertainty about the degree of feedback in the climate system and therefore the sensitivity of the system to CO2 changes does not change the likelihood of the coming "catastrophe."  Except that he fails to mention that we are so uncertain about the feedback that we don’t even know its sign.  Feedback, or f, could be positive or negative as far as we know.  Values could range anywhere from -1 to 1.  We don’t have good evidence as to where the exact number lies, except to observe from the relative stability of past temperatures over a long time frame that the number probably is not in the high positive end of this range.  Data from climate response over the last 120 years seems to point to a number close to zero or slightly negative, in which case the author’s entire post is irrelevant.   In fact, it turns out that the climate scientists who make the news are all clustered around the least likely guesses for f, ie values greater than 0.6.

Incredibly, while refusing to even mention the Occam’s Razor solution that f is negative, the author seriously entertains the notion that f might be one or greater.  For such values, the gain shoots to infinity and the system goes wildly unstable  (nuclear fission, for example, is an f>1 process).  In an f>1 world, lightly tapping the accelerator in our car would send us quickly racing up to the speed of light.  This is an ABSURD assumption for a system like climate that is long-term stable over tens of millions of years.  A positive feedback f>=1 would have sent us to a Venus-like heat or Mars-like frigidity eons ago.

A summary of why recent historical empirical data implies low or negative feedback is here.  You can learn more on these topics in my climate video and my climate book.  To save you the search, the section of my movie explaining feedbacks, with a nifty live demonstration from my kitchen, is in the first three and a half minutes of the clip below:

Ending the Human Race to Prevent Global Warming

The other day, in this post on an article to help make families more green by our local paper, I observed that the paper seemed to be stopping short of the real CO2 remedies, and should have had this advice for the two families who collectively had nine kids between them:

In the next generation, no one is going to be having five and four kids.  Certainly those green Europeans would never do something as damaging as having four or five kids.  If you had aborted a few of the little darlings, just think how much CO2 you would have avoided?

Now of course I was being tongue-in-cheek, in that I would never give anyone such advice.  My point was in part to demonstrate that cutesie little pieces of advice like getting the kids to recycle more helped to reinforce the false impression that CO2 rollbacks to 1990 levels would be relatively easy.  But several readers wrote me that I was posting a straw man — that no one in the green movement was seriously talking about limiting children.  WRONG!  My father-in-law, as much as I loved the man, was a long-time greenie who believed having more than two children was close to immoral, and felt that population growth was the number one environmental problem in the world. 

And check out this new green hero:

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers – and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible "mistake" of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – "relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.

Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to "protect the planet". ….

"Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.

"Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

Beware Media Exaggeration

The media wants you scared:

Spiegel talks about scientific teams, especially experts from GSF, that have analyzed several events that led to increased levels of radiation,

  1. Hiroshima in 1945
  2. Radioactive rivers and explosions in the Soviet Union preparing their nuclear bomb after 1949
  3. Chernobyl 1986

In all cases, it is found that the actual effects of "radiation illness", including birth defects and delayed deaths, were several orders of magnitude below the description available in the media. For example, almost all people who died as a consequence of the Little Boy did so either instantly or within a few hours, because of burned skin. Casualties who died after a long time because of radiation illnesses were very rare.

Similar conclusions hold for the contaminated river and the 1957 Chelyabinsk explosion of a tank with 80 tons of nuclear waste produced by the Soviet Union as well as for the Chernobyl tragedy. There doesn’t seem to be any reliable source that would really prove an elevated frequency of birth effects and similar complications. Among 6,293 men who worked in the chemical plant preparing the radioactive material for the Soviet bomb (without masks!), only 100 died of lung cancer related to radiation. Greenpeace’s proclamations that 50% of adults in those regions are infertile seem to be pure silliness.

Which is not to say that radiation is anything to screw around with, or that it is not dangerous, just that its dangers have been exaggerated by orders of magnitude.  Just like some other natural phenomena I can think of. 

I posted similar findings about Chernobyl over a year ago:

Over the next four years, a massive cleanup operation involving 240,000 workers ensued, and there were fears that many of these workers, called "liquidators," would suffer in subsequent years. But most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas "received relatively low whole radiation doses, comparable to natural background levels," a report summary noted. "No evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of congenital malformations."

In fact, the report said, apart from radiation-induced deaths, the "largest public health problem created by the accident" was its effect on the mental health of residents who were traumatized by their rapid relocation and the fear, still lingering, that they would almost certainly contract terminal cancer. The report said that lifestyle diseases, such as alcoholism, among affected residents posed a much greater threat than radiation exposure….

Officials said that the continued intense medical monitoring of tens of thousands of people in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus is no longer a smart use of limited resources and is, in fact, contributing to mental health problems among many residents nearly 20 years later. In Belarus and Ukraine, 5 percent to 7 percent of government spending is consumed by benefits and programs for Chernobyl victims. And in the three countries, as many as 7 million people are receiving Chernobyl-related social benefits.

Wow – exaggerated projections of catastrophe result in ill-considered government spending.  Who would have thought this could happen?

The Benefits of CO2

In the latest UN climate "warning,"  the UN argues that the costs of CO2 abatement are not all that high because we have to offset these costs with ancillary benefits of these actions.   Many, many folks have demonstrated that these numbers are way understated, but let’s accept this premise for a moment.  If this approach is correct, then should we not also offset the expected harms from global warming with expected benefits, like a longer growing season, and this:

Carbon dioxide is not the dreaded greenhouse gas that the global warmers crack it up to be. It is in fact the most important airborne fertiliser in the world and without it there would be no green plants at all. In fact, a doubling of the levels of this gas in the atmosphere would bring about a marked rise in plant production — good news for everyone, especially those malnourished millions who can’t afford chemical fertilisers. Perhaps the time is ripe to really start worrying (again) about the fact that for the last 200 million years the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has been falling. Indeed it dropped to dangerously low levels during recent ice ages. The Plant Kingdom responded to this potentially catastrophic (no carbon no food) situation by producing the so-called C4 plants that can survive low CO2 by using sunlight more efficiently.

Back to the 1800s

For those who do not accept my interpretation that the IPCC wants America to solve global warming by reverting our economy to look just like India’s, check out this article from Reuters (ht: Reference Frame)

French towns worried about fuel prices, pollution and striking transport workers need look no further than the horse.

Horses are a possible alternative for vehicles such as school buses and refuse trucks, say groups eager to pick up on global concerns about eco-friendly transport.

"It’s all about sustainable development and bringing some humanity back to today’s monotonous, machine-driven jobs," Stephane de Veyrac, from the French National Stud Organisation, said at this week’s annual conference of French mayors.

De Veyrac’s group says it is the first in France to offer consulting on a wide range of horse-powered vehicles that could also haul bottles and aid street sweeping.

"It is a serious alternative — horses are already in use in over 70 towns as replacements for gasoline- and diesel-powered service vehicles," said de Veyrac, pointing to the ‘Hippoville’ prototype parked in the exhibition hall….

Studies about cost and overall carbon footprint are still underway but supporters say the animals beat cars and trucks on a number of criteria, especially for transport work requiring frequent stops over short distances, like emptying trash bins.

Here is a related thought from the Anti-Planner (empahsis added):

Many planning advocates take it for granted that sprawl and auto driving are inherently unsustainable. McShane shows just how this attitude can go when he describes Halle Neustadt, which some Swedish urban planners once described as “the most sustainable city in the world.”

McShane here refers to some field work done by the Antiplanner. To make a long story short, what made Halle Neustadt “sustainable” was poverty, and as soon its residents gained some wealth, many of them moved out and most of the rest bought automobiles, turning the cities many greenspaces into parking lots.

And, oh by the way, the urban planning ideas don’t even work:

Owen then turns to climate change, which he describes as the last gasp of smart growth. Smart growth, he notes, “has always been a policy in search of a justification, a solution in search of a problem.” Now, in climate change, smart-growth advocates hope they have found such a problem.

One difficulty, McShane notes, is that there is no guarantee that smart growth is really more greenhouse-friendly than ordinary sprawl. Depending on load factors, Diesel trains can emit more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than autos, and concrete-and-steel high-rise condos can emit more CO2 than wood homes.

Another Example of UN Alarmism

Via the Washinton Post (emphasis added):

The United Nations‘ top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement.

AIDS remains a devastating public health crisis in the most heavily affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.

The latest estimates, due to be released publicly Tuesday, put the number of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year’s estimate, documents show. The worldwide total of people infected with HIV — estimated a year ago at nearly 40 million and rising — now will be reported as 33 million.

Having millions fewer people with a lethal contagious disease is good news. Some researchers, however, contend that persistent overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV. Critics have also said that U.N. officials overstated the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial support for combating AIDS.

"There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda," said Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."

Does this sound like any other issue the UN is working on?  Maybe this one?

Altered for Readability

For a while now, I have known that the design I created for this site was not really working.  My intention was to draw from the color palette of the Earth in space, but what I got was a blog that was very hard to read.  I have dragged my feet for a while, casting about for a better design, when I received a class action lawsuit from Jon Edwards suing me for destroying the eyesight of my readers.  So I have modified the blog to be much more readable, at least as an interim step to a new design.

More on IPCC Reports

It has been said many times, but it is always worth pointing out again at the time of this new IPCC report just how flawed the IPCC process is and how little the IPCC summaries have to do with, you know, science.

The IPCC involves numerous experts in the preparation of its reports. However, chapter authors are frequently asked to summarize current controversies and disputes in which they themselves are professionally involved, which invites bias. Related to this is the problem that chapter authors may tend to favor their own published work by presenting it in a prominent or flattering light. Nonetheless the resulting reports tend to be reasonably comprehensive and informative. Some research that contradicts the hypothesis of greenhouse gas-induced warming is under-represented, and some controversies are treated in a one-sided way, but the reports still merit close attention.

A more compelling problem is that the Summary for Policymakers, attached to the IPCC Report, is produced, not by the scientific writers and reviewers, but by a process of negotiation among unnamed bureaucratic delegates from sponsoring governments. Their selection of material need not and may not reflect the priorities and intentions of the scientific community itself. Consequently it is useful to have independent experts read the underlying report and produce a summary of the most pertinent elements of the report.

Finally, while the IPCC enlists many expert reviewers, no indication is given as to whether they disagreed with some or all of the material they reviewed. In previous IPCC reports many expert reviewers have lodged serious objections only to find that, while their objections are ignored, they are acknowledged in the final document, giving the impression that they endorsed the views expressed therein.

Thought for the Day

Imagine for a moment that the industrial revolution occured 70 years earlier, and we were having this argument about global warming in the 1930’s rather than the 2000’s.  How would the media have reported the great midwestern US droughts we refer to today as the dust bowl?  Almost certainly, these events would have been blamed on man and CO2 combustion.  Everyone from Al Gore to James Hansen would say that these droughts were most certainly caused by man-made global warming.

We know today that these were entirely natural cyclical events, not caused at all by man (except perhaps to the extent that poor framing practices exacerbated some of the problems).  We know that such an assumption about man’s guilt would have been dead wrong.  So how is it today we can be so sure that unusual events we see today are somehow man-made?  Particularly when these events are much less dire than extremes we have already seen through natural variations over the last century.  For example, despite all the news about global warming and reporting on every single heat wave, we actually are seeing fewer all-time temperature highs today than we have in the past.

Declaring the Science Complete Before It Was Even Started

Many of us who hear the frequent phrase "the science is settled" understand that no such thing is true.  We barely understand much, if anything, about climate.  We have been studying it seriously, with modern tools like sattelites and historical proxies, for perhaps 30 years.  From a historical perspective, no system as complex as science was cracked by man in as little as 30 years, but it is not unusual that people try to declare that the debate is over (The phlogiston theory of combustion is settled science!)

However, I found this article by Richard Lindzen in 1992 particularly fascinating.  I don’t think any serious climate scientist today would say that we really understood much about climate in 1989.  But that didn’t stop folks from calling it settled:

By early 1989, however, the popular media in Europe and the United States were declaring that "all scientists” agreed that warming was real and catastrophic in its potential.

In the meantime, the global warming circus was in full swing. Meetings were going on nonstop. One of the more striking of those meetings was hosted in the summer of 1989 by Robert Redford at his ranch in Sundance, Utah. Redford proclaimed that it was time to stop research and begin acting. I suppose that that was a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make, but it is also indicative of the overall attitude toward science. Barbara Streisand personally undertook to support the research of Michael Oppenheimer at the Environmental Defense Fund, although he is primarily an advocate and not a climatologist. Meryl Streep made an appeal on public television to stop warming. A bill was even prepared to guarantee Americans a stable climate.

Hat tip to Tom Nelson who is doing as good a job as any skeptic site of providing links to interesting articles every day.  I hope he can keep up his early blistering pace.

Cooler but Poorer Gets You This

This is what we will continue to get by sharply reducing world economic growth, particularly growth in developping nations, to reduce CO2 by a few increments:

Military ships and helicopters were trying on Saturday to reach thousands of survivors of a super cyclone that killed more than 1,600 people and pummeled impoverished Bangladesh with mighty winds and waves.

Cyclone Sidr smashed into the country’s southern coastline late on Thursday night with 250 kph (155 mph) winds that whipped up a five meter tidal surge. It was the strongest cyclone since a 1991 storm that killed some 143,000 people in Bangladesh.

143,000 dead from a hurricane?  This is not global warming, this is poverty.  The death toll from the worst storm in the US in recent history was well under a hundred.  Because even our poor are rich compared to the rest of the world.

The Hidden Message

The cost to abate CO2 production as much as climate catastrophists wish will be staggering.  One of the ways the catastrophists and their supporters in the media work to cover up this fact is to publish numerous cute articles about families recycling and such.  The hidden message is that this is all that it would take from us to make an impact on CO2.

This Sunday article in the Arizona Republic is a great example (last Sunday, the Republic had an article just mentioning, without letting us make our arguments, that skeptics like me exist in Phoenix.  However, even this violates the orthodoxy so the Republic has had pro-catastrophist and green front page articles every day since as pennance.).  In today’s article, the Republic looks at a number of families and gives advice on how they could be greener.  Here is an example from the analysis of the Weinberger family:

WHAT THEY’RE DOING RIGHT: The family makes an effort to recycle. Brian Weinberger estimated that 20 to 40 percent of their recyclables make it into the recycling bin each week. They also avoid toxic pesticides and herbicides for their lawn and home. "We can never eradicate enough of these types of items," said Greg Peterson of the Urban Farm in Phoenix.

WHERE THEY CAN IMPROVE: With a little extra effort, the Weinbergers could boost their recycling rate to more than 80 percent, significantly reducing their weekly garbage. The family also buys a large amount of processed and packaged food, which consumes resources and creates more trash. When making purchasing decisions, Peterson suggests that the family only consider items packaged in recyclable materials, such as paper or glass.

First, they are dead wrong in their analysis of process an packaged foods.  Also, recycling saves us almost no energy, but doesn’t it make us feel good.   Here is another example for the Erickson family:

WHAT THEY’RE DOING RIGHT: "This family gives me great hope," Peterson said. "Their actions (are) making a significant difference." Jasper, 10, and Eliot, 7, bring their water bottles and utensils from their packed lunch back home from school each day for reuse. The family recycles nearly all the recyclable items they use. The kids use a blank side of Todd’s old office papers for drawing. Both parents bring their own bags to stores, buy secondhand furniture to avoid excess waste and try to buy organic meats and produce.

WHAT THEY COULD IMPROVE: Peterson suggests investing in a home solar system to reduce their reliance on conventional power supplies. He also recommends they take advantage of the free home-energy audit offered by their utility, Arizona Public Service. SRP offers a similar service.

Does the author sound like a priest talking about his congregation or what?  "This family gives me great hope"?  Barf.  Well, I hope the Ericksons are really, really wealthy, because his recomendation to put in home solar is really expensive.  Even with a 50% government subsidy and the best solar site in the world here in Phoenix, the numbers don’t even come close to working.

OK, Ericksons and Weinbergers, here is what you are really going to have to do.  The catastrophists want you to cut your CO2 impact by 50-60%.  Here, for example, is a climate bill proposed in Britain:

The Bill does not say how carbon dioxide emissions will be cut. However, it commits the Government to a 60 per cent reduction by 2050. One method could be personal carbon-allowances, where everyone is given a fixed amount of carbon to use each year.

Each time they travel in a plane, buy petrol, go shopping or eat out would be recorded on a plastic card. The more frugal could sell spare carbon to those who want to indulge themselves. But if you were to run out of your carbon allowance, you could be barred from flying or driving.

So here is the new plan for the Ericksons and Weinbergers, who have five and four kids respectively:

  • Everything you buy requires fossil fuels to produce, so you may only have half as much.  That means food for you and your kids too. 
  • In the next generation, no one is going to be having five and four kids.  Certainly those green Europeans would never do something as damaging as having four or five kids.  If you had aborted a few of the little darlings, just think how much CO2 you would have avoided?
  • The article says all your kids play sports.  OK, pick half of your kids, and tell them they don’t get to play sports any more.  Gotta cut that driving in half.  The good news is the other half of the kids can still play.
  • Those vacations you took last summer, to escape the heat in Arizona, well cut them in half as well.  That little play area in the mall makes a nice alternative to seeing Yellowstone, and all those tourists are just environmentally damaging Yellowstone anyway.

Actually, there may be an economic way to avoid all these cutbacks — The backyard nuclear reactor is carbon free!

New UN Climate Statement

Under mounting pressure from climate catastrophists to ignore uncertainties in the science and to produce definitive statements that can be used as calls for government interventionism, the UN will apparently release a new "warning" this week:

Global warming is destroying species, raising sea levels and threatening millions of poor people, the United Nations’ top scientific panel will say in a report today that U.N. officials hope will help mobilize the world to take tougher actions on climate change.

The report argues that only firm action, including putting a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, will avoid more catastrophic events.

Those actions will take a small part of the world’s economic growth and will be substantially less than the costs of doing nothing, the report says.

For the first time, the UN is trying to argue explicitly that the cost of CO2 abatement is lower than the cost of doing nothing.  They are arguing that a cooler but poorer world is superior to a warmer and richer world.  I am glad they are finally arguing this point.  Because while we can argue about the truth of how much the world has warmed and how much is due to man, the UN is DEAD WRONG on this point.  The cost of aggressive CO2 abatement is far, far higher than the cost of doing nothing.

The report presumably will be released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who demonstrated his stunning ignorance of climate science, geology, and geography on a recent climate-junket to Antarctica.  Let’s take it line by line.

Is man destroying or threatening species?  Absolutely.  Is this threat from CO2 and warming? No, and I have read every inch of the UN IPCC report and you can find no evidence for this proposition.  But saying this rallies the environmental base (the hard core environmentalists don’t really care about poor people, at least when their interests conflict with animals).  Most of the evidence is that species thrive in warmer weather, and polar bears have survived several inter-glaciation periods where the north pole melted entirely in the summer.

Are sea levels rising?  Yes.  In fact, they have been rising for at least 150 years, and in fact have been rising steadily and at roughly the same rate since the last ice age.  We have seen absolutely no acceleration of the underlying sea level rise trend.  Further, the UN’s IPCC does have a forecast for sea level rise over the next century.  Even using temperature forecasts I consider exaggerated, the UN does not forecast more than about a foot of sea level rise over the coming century, only a bit more than what the sea level has risen over the last 150 years.  This is a great example of the disconnect between the UN political climate reports and the science underlying them.  The guys writing the summary know that their report says only a few inches of sea level rise, so they just say it is rising, and then let the crazies like Al Gore throw around numbers like 20 feet.

Here is an interesting thought:  If I say the sea levels will rise 0" over the next 100 years, the UN will call me out and say I am wrong.  However, when Al Gore said sea levels will rise 20 feet in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, no one at the UN or the IPCC called him out, despite the fact that my forecast was only 12 inches different from theirs and his was 19 feet different.

And of course, there are the poor.  The number one biggest losers in any effort to abate CO2 emissions will be the poor.  In wealthy countries like the US, the poor will be the hardest hit by $10 or even $20 gas prices that would be necessary to rolling CO2 production back to 1990 levels.  In the third world, nearly a billion people just starting to emerge from poverty will have no chance of doing so if their economies are hamstrung with CO2 limits.  The poor will be devastated by aggressive CO2 limits.

Weighed against this economic disaster would be, what?  How would rising world temperatures hurt the poor?  Well, its not at all clear.  A foot of sea-level rise is very unlikely to hurt many poor people, though it might inconvenience a few rich owners of beach-front luxury homes.  Here is a clarifying question I often ask people — would you rather fifteen Atlantic hurricanes each year, or sixteen hurricanes each year and Carribbean economies that are twice as rich and therefore have twice the resources to handle hurricanes.  This is the colder and poorer vs. warmer and richer choice.

It is often claimed that global warming will cause droughts, but in fact warmer world temperatures will vaporize more water in the atmosphere and should net increase rain, not drought.  And many of the farmers in the northern hemisphere would enjoy longer growing seasons and thereby more food production.

Glaciers and ice caps are melting at a rapid rate; animals and plants are shifting their range to accommodate warmer air and water; and planting seasons are changing, the report said.

Yes ice is melting in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is 15% of the world’s ice.  85% of the world’s ice is in Antarctica, which is increasing.  Seriously.  I know you don’t believe this if you trust the media, but the ice that is melting in Greenland is tiny compared to the ice that is increasing at the South Pole.  In fact, the IPCC gets most of its prjected sea rise from thermal expansion of warmer oceans, not from ice melting.  And don’t you love the "planting seasons are changing."  That sounds like its scary, or something, until you recognize the truth is that planting seasons are changing, becoming longer and more beneficial to food production!

On many occasions, I have discussed the bad science that goes into these apocalyptic forecasts.  But that science is of top quality compared to the economics that must have gone into the statement that:

The most stringent efforts to stabilize greenhouse gases would cost the world’s economies 0.12 percent of their average annual growth to 2050, the report estimates.

This is absolute, unmitigated crap.  Though I have not seen specifics in this report, the UN’s position has generally been that emissions should be rolled back to 1990 levels (the target embodied in the Kyoto treaty).  Such a target implies reductions of more than 20% from where we are today and well over 50% from where we will be in 2050.  These are enormous cuts that cannot be achieved with current technology without massive reductions in economic growth.  The world economy is inextricably tied to the burning of fossil fuels.  And, unlike ancillary emissions like SO2, CO2 emissions cannot be limited without actually reducing carbon combustion since it is fundamental to the combustion chemistry.  Even supporters of legislation such as the Bingaman-Specter bill admit that as much as a trillion dollars will need to be spent to reduce global temperatures about 0.13C.  And that is a trillion for the first tenth of a degree — the law of diminishing returns means that each additional tenth will cost more.

Lets look at history as our guide.  Most of the European countries and Japan signed onto the Kyoto Treaty to reduce emissions to 1990 levels.  They have taken many expensive steps to do so, implemented many more controls than in the US, and have gas prices as much as double those in the US.  During the period since 1990, most of these countries, unlike the US and China and India, have been in a deep and extended economic recession, which tends to suppress the growth of fossil fuel consumption.  Also, the CO2 numbers for countries like Russia and Germany benefit greatly from the fall of the old Communist Block, as their 1990 base year CO2 numbers include many horribly inefficient and polluting Soviet industries that have since been shut down.  And, given all this, they STILL are going to miss their numbers.  These countries have experienced reductions in economic growth orders of magnitude greater than this 0.12 percent quoted by the UN, and that still is not enough to reduce CO2 to target levels.  Only outright contraction of the world’s economy is going to suffice [note:  A strong commitment to replacing coal plants with nuclear might be a partial solution, but it will never happen because the people calling for CO2 controls are the same ones who shut down our nuclear programs.  Also, technological change is always possible.  It would be awesome if someone found a way to roll out sheets of efficient solar cells like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia, but that has not happened yet.]

The UN has gotten to such low cost estimates for their government controls because they have convinced themselves, much like the promoters of building football stadiums for billionaire team owners, that they will get a huge return from the government CO2 controls:

"There is high agreement and much evidence that mitigation actions can result in near-term co-benefits, for example improved health due to reduced air pollution, that may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs," said the report, which summarizes research over five years of more than 2,000 of the world’s top climate-change scientists…

The U.N. panel embraced the arguments of British economist Nicholas Stern, who concluded last year that the cost of taking tough measures to curb pollution will be repaid in the long run.

Nicholas Stern?  Haven’t we heard that name before.  Why, yes we have.  He is the man that said that all of the world’s climate problems would go away if we forced all the western economies to look just like India.

Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very clear message: “We need to cut down the total amount of carbon emissions by half by 2050.” At current levels, the per capita global emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25 tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global average.

The European Union’s emission levels stand at 10-15 tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India, at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. “India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions,” says Mr Stern.

Which, by the way, is exactly my point.  I very much hope Mr. Stern continues to make this clear in public.  One of the ways catastrophists support their cause of massive government interventionism is to try to portray the answer as little cutsie actions, like your 5-year-old helping with the recycling.  This is not what is require to meet these targets.  What is required is ratchet down the US economy until we are all about as wealthy as the average Indian.  I guess that would at least take care of the outsourcing "problem."

One of the ways that the UN gets away with this is that no one has the time to read the detailed scientific report, and so reporters rely on the summaries like these.  Unfortunately, the same people who write the scientific sections are not the people who write the summaries.  Careful language about uncertainties, which are still huge, in the science are replaced by summaries written by politicians that say:

The near-final draft, approved Friday by representatives of more than 140 governments meeting in Valencia, Spain, said global warming is "unequivocal" and said man’s actions are heading toward "abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts."…

"This will be viewed by all as a definitive report. It is the blueprint for the Bali talks," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who will be at the Indonesian U.N. meeting beginning Dec. 3 as part of a U.S. senatorial delegation.

Another technique used by the UN that we see in play here is their willingness to cherry-pick one author that follows the UN narrative to refute a whole body of science that is contrary to the narrative.  Thus, the UN latched onto Michael Mann’s hockey stick to overturn a consensus that there was a Medieval warm period, and now they have latched onto Nicholas Stern to overturn the opinion of, approximately, every other economist in the world who think CO2 mitigation will be really expensive.

As always, you are encourage to view my movie What is Normal:  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory or check out my book (free online) called A Skeptical Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Reality Checking the Forecasts

At the core of my climate video is a reality check on catastrophic warming forecasts, which demonstrates, as summarized in this post, that warming over the next century can’t be much more than a degree if one takes history as a guide.  The Reference Frame has a nice summary:

Well, we will probably surpass 560 ppm of CO2. Even if you believe that the greenhouse effect is responsible for all long-term warming, we have already realized something like 1/2 (40-75%, depending on the details of your calculation) of the greenhouse effect attributed to the CO2 doubling from 280 ppm to 560 ppm. It has led to 0.6°C of warming. It is not a hard calculation that the other half is thus expected to lead to an additional 0.6°C of warming between today and 2100.

Other derivations based on data that I consider rationally justified lead to numbers between 0.3°C and 1.4°C for the warming between 2000 and 2100. Clearly, one needs to know some science here. Laymen who are just interested in this debate but don’t study the numbers by technical methods are likely to offer nothing else than random guesses and prejudices, regardless of their "ideological" affiliation in the climate debate.