Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rewriting history, enshrining fallacy

Given that 2000 years of non-tree-ring proxy data show nothing extraordinary about the warming of the past two centuries, this proposal by British scientists seems to be a bit over the top:

A HEATED scientific row is brewing as British geoscientists lead a push to establish a new chapter in the history of Earth - one based on human activity.

Led by geologist Jan Zalasiewicz, of the University of Leicester, the rabble-rousers argue that changes wrought since the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago are so profound they are now visible in the physical and living fabric of the planet.

As a result, they have called for the creation of a new Epoch in the official geological time scale, one they have named the Anthropocene.

Along with Eons, Eras, Periods and Ages, Epochs are classifications of Earth history based on characteristic changes in the layers, or strata, of rocks.

Writing in the latest issue of GSA Today, a publication of the Geological Society of America, Dr Zalasiewicz and 20 like-minded experts claim there is "sufficient evidence" of human-induced changes to plants, animals, oceans and lands to warrant recognition of the Anthropocene by the official geological time lords, the International Commission on Stratigraphy. Their proposal came at the same time as the American Geophysical Union at the weekend released its updated position on climate change.

Yes, clean energy is good, but at what cost? And who pays?

President Bush demonstrated in his State of the Union address that congressional Democrats are not the only ones capable of throwing lots of good money at a bad idea. As Reuters reports in a pre-speech article:
THE US will commit $US2 billion ($2.27 billion) over the next three years for a new international fund to promote clean energy technologies and fight climate change, President George W. Bush will tell Congress today in his annual State of the Union speech.

"Along with contributions from other countries, this fund will increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies in developing nations like India and China, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive," the White House said in a fact sheet on Mr Bush's speech.
Is it wrong to "promote clean energy technologies" in developing nations? Of course not. The problem is that misguided climate alarmism produces the urgency that makes it politically acceptable to commit American taxpayer money to such endeavors.

I don't wish to dive too deeply into the American presidential race in this post, but I've got to say that the remaining candidates leave much to be desired on this issue.

Study: Tree ring data has significant shortcomings as climate proxy

Abstract from Loehle, C. 2007. A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies. Energy & Environment 18(7-8): 1049-1058; and Loehle, C., and J.H. McCulloch. 2008: Correction to: A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies. Energy & Environment 19(1): 93-100 (emphasis added):
Historical data provide a baseline for judging how anomalous recent temperature changes are and for assessing the degree to which organisms are likely to be adversely affected by current or future warming. Climate histories are commonly reconstructed from a variety of sources, including ice cores, tree rings, and sediment. Tree-ring data, being the most abundant for recent centuries, tend to dominate reconstructions. There are reasons to believe that tree ring data may not properly capture long-term climate changes. In this study, eighteen 2000-year-long series were obtained that were not based on tree ring data. Data in each series were smoothed with a 30-year running mean. All data were then converted to anomalies by subtracting the mean of each series from that series. The overall mean series was then computed by simple averaging. The mean time series shows quite coherent structure. The mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3°C warmer than 20th century values at these eighteen sites.
The study can be downloaded here.

The first graph below (found here), adapted from the Loehle paper, deviates significantly from the tree-ring-based "hockey stick" graph (second below, found here) of Mann, et al., and thus is likely to be declared heterodox and anathema by the CoGW.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shocker: Congress throws taxpayer money into black hole, gets nothing in return

I guess I missed this when it first happened, but in November the Democrat-led House of Representatives voted to set aside nearly $90,000 to offset carbon emissions associated with our esteemed legislators' activities.

[Insert your own joke here regarding Congress and emissions]

Today the WaPo (via MSNBC) reports that our congressfolks have been taught a lesson about the nature of the carbon offset industry:

The House of Representatives has presumably learned that money cannot buy love or happiness. Now, it turns out it's not a sure solution to climate guilt, either.

In November, the Democratic-led House spent about $89,000 on so-called carbon offsets. This purchase was supposed to cancel out greenhouse-gas emissions from House buildings -- including half of the U.S. Capitol -- by triggering an equal reduction in emissions elsewhere.

Some of the money went to farmers in North Dakota, for tilling practices that keep carbon buried in the soil. But some farmers were already doing this, for other reasons, before the House paid a cent.

Other funds went to Iowa, where a power plant had been temporarily rejiggered to burn more cleanly. But that test project had ended more than a year before the money arrived.

The House's purchase provides a view into the confusing world of carbon offsets, a newly popular commodity with few rules. Analysts say some offsets really do cause new reductions in pollution. But others seem to change very little.

To environmentalists, the House's experience is a powerful lesson about a market where pure intentions can produce murky results.

"It didn't change much behavior that wasn't going to happen anyway," said Joseph Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who writes a blog calling for more aggressive action on climate change. "It just, I think, demonstrated why offsets are controversial and possibly pointless. . . . This is a waste of taxpayer money."

The House bought its offsets through the Chicago Climate Exchange, a five-year-old commodities market where greenhouse-gas credits are traded like pork bellies.

Yes, they've been taught a lesson, but to paraphrase our current president, Is our congressfolks learning? Not likely, if they justify their behavior using the logic offered by the Chicago Climate Exchange:

This month, officials at the exchange vigorously defended the sale, saying the House's money had done a great deal of good by funneling money to those who were helping to combat climate change.

"It basically rewards people for having done things that had environmental good in the past and incentivizes people to do things that have environmental good in the future," said Richard Sandor, the exchange's chairman and chief executive.

Read Sandor's comment carefully. Carbon offsets, ostensibly meant by their purchasers to offset current emissions, do not necessarily go to people or organizations currently engaged in offsetting activities. Rather, offset money can be used to reward people that had "done things that had environmental good in the past". Even better, the money can be used to "incentivize" these good folks to do environmental good in the future. No obligation, it appears.

It's much worse than anybody thought!

People with internet access back in the 1990s are probably quite familiar with the multitude of computer virus hoaxes that circulated back then (you do know that they were hoaxes, don't you?). I was greatly amused when someone wrote a way-over-the-top parody of such hoaxes, warning us of the evils of the "Good Times" virus.

Free Republic member Grizzled Bear has updated the parody to warn a new generation that Global Warming will ruin your life. And your hard drive. And your credit rating. And..... here it is (a couple of typos corrected, but -- apologies -- certain indelicate references kept in for the sake of completeness):


Global warming will erase your hard drive. Not the data, but your actual hard drive! Not only that, but it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer. It will recalibrate your refrigerator's coolness setting so all your ice cream goes melty. It will demagnetize the strips on all your credit cards, screw up the tracking on your television and use subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD's you try to play.

It will give your ex-girlfriend your new phone number. It will mix Kool-aid into your fishtank. It will drink all your beer and leave its socks out on the coffee table when there's company coming over. It will put a dead kitten in the back pocket of your good suit pants and hide your car keys when you are late for work.

Global warming will make you fall in love with a penguin. It will give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will pour sugar in your gas tank and shave off both your eyebrows while dating your girlfriend behind your back and billing the dinner and hotel room to your Discover card.

It will seduce your grandmother. It does not matter if she is dead, such is the power of Global warming, it reaches out beyond the grave to sully those things we hold most dear.

It moves your car randomly around parking lots so you can't find it. It will kick your dog. It will leave libidinous messages on your boss's voice mail in your voice! It is insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve.

Global warming will give you Dutch Elm disease. It will leave the toilet seat up. It will make a batch of methamphetamines in your bathtub and then leave bacon cooking on the stove while it goes out to chase gradeschoolers with your new snowblower.

Listen to me. Global warming does not exist.

It cannot do anything to you. But I can. I am sending this message to everyone in the world. Tell your friends, tell your family. If anyone else bothers me with fearmongering concerning Global warming, I will turn hating them into a religion. I will do things to them that would make a horsehead in your bed look like Easter Sunday brunch.
I have one point of disagreement with the author. I do believe in the existence of global warming (although it seems to have plateaued in the past decade), but I remain unconvinced of its alleged anthropogenic nature. I agreed with just about everything else he said, though. AGW hasn't done anything to my hard drive yet, but it did fry my computer's motherboard last summer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What a bizarre way to promote a news network

Fox News reports on a promotional advertisement being run on Dubai's Al Arabiya network:
In the ad, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Al Arabiya tries to attract viewers by suggesting that they can learn the effect of local actions on global issues, and vice versa, if they watch Al-Arabiya's news.
They illustrate this by showing a chain of events connecting a man eating chicken in a restaurant, a Brazilian chicken farm, soybeans used to feed the chicken, global warming resulting from energy expended in the production of the soybeans and the raising of the chicken, rising sea levels forcing the poor in tropical islands into refugee camps, embittered refugees becoming radical terrorists, a terrorist blowing himself up on a busy city street, war resulting from the terror attack, global trade disrupted by the war, no soybeans for the chicken farms, no chicken for the restaurants.

Fade to motto: Al Arabiya: To know more.

Hard to know where to start with this one. You're welcome to give it a go.

Mixed news from Greenland

From the London Times via Fox News, January 17:
Greenland Ice Sheet Rapidly Melting, Scientists Find

Greenland's ice sheet shrank more rapidly last summer than at any other time in the past 50 years, measurements have shown.

Researchers said the extent of the melt was evidence that the ice sheet was in "inexorable decline" because of global warming.

The researchers found a shift in meteorological patterns over the past 15 years, with a direct correlation being found between Greenland's weather and the generally warmer weather across both the northern and southern hemispheres.

From Icecap.us, January 17:
Ice Returns as Greenland Temps Plummet

On Disko Bay in western Greenland, where a number of prominent world leaders have visited in recent years to get a first-hand impression of climate change, temperatures have dropped so drastically that the water has frozen over for the first time in a decade. “The ice is up to 50cm thick,” said Henrik Matthiesen, an employee at Denmark’s Meteorological Institute who has also sailed the Greenlandic coastline for the Royal Arctic Line. ‘We’ve had loads of northerly winds since Christmas which has made the area miserably cold.’ Matthiesen suggested the cold weather marked a return to the frigid temperatures common a decade ago.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Surrendering our freedom for the common good

I opined yesterday that those who are driving the AGW agenda see no need to sit in the seats of power themselves, as long as they can persuade those who are in power to implement their agenda.

In times past I have remarked that the AGW agenda's implementation coincides quite nicely with long-held goals of both the world socialist movement and various leftist environmental organizations.

Duane Lester at All American Blogger has written a thought-provoking essay summarizing some of the fronts in which this agenda's implementation has met with considerable success (mostly through molding of public opinion, which is the politically necessary prerequisite to getting the legislation passed):

Population control -- Every new child is guaranteed to make the carbon dioxide levels worse over the course of his or her life, so it's better not to bring any children into the world at all. Toni Vernelli symbolizes to me the practical realization of this point of view (so does the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, but that group predates the AGW scare). Some in the west openly express admiration of China's coercive one-child policy. If the public can be alarmed sufficiently about AGW, opposition to mandatory sterilization according to rules set by [someone other than you] may crumble.

The Terror of Cow Farts -- This is Duane's indelicate way of referring to the human consumption of livestock. The animal-rights wing of the environmental left has long championed the elimination of beef and other meats from our diet, but no amount of cajoling has been able to
shake our love for cooked animal flesh. But wait! Cow flatulence is a significant source of atmospheric methane! How dare you contribute to the death of our planet by ordering that T-bone!

How You Get Around -- Duane notes how regulations are making both automobile and air travel more expensive. Many environmentalists have long wished for the day when gasoline-powered vehicles are nothing but a bad memory. Increasingly-stringent emissions standards for automobiles will likely end up increasing their cost to the point that many will be completely priced out of the market -- thus bringing the dream a little closer. Many also cheer the skyrocketing oil prices for the same reason.

In Your Home -- California floated the idea of mandating government-controlled thermostats in all new homes. They jumped the gun a little, because negative public reaction to the proposal forced a retreat. Better to back off a while so the public can be softened up a little more. Nationwide, it's a matter of time before incandescent light bulbs are legislated out of existence, either directly or by mandating efficiency standards that incandescents can't meet.

What's Left -- Duane relates how Britain is considering a government-issued "carbon credit card" which citizens must use when engaging in a wide variety of activities: buying gasoline, buying groceries, traveling, paying utility bills, etc. People who consume beyond some government-imposed limit would have to pay. To me, such a program would be the foundation stone of eventual totalitarian control of the lives of Britain's citizens.

America is thus far still politically hostile to such far-reaching measures as are being proposed in Britain...but for how long?

AGW alarmism will suck more money out of the economy in 2008

Amid growing fears of an economic slowdown, Yahoo! HotJobs reports that there's still plenty of money to be made trying to influence the natural variability of the earth's climate:
Environmental sector. There is a huge and growing industry geared to combat global warming. "Not only will professionals with skills in sustainability issues be in demand through the end of the decade, we are likely to shortages of professionals with 'green' skills," said Rona Fried, president of sustainablebusiness.com, a networking service for sustainable businesses.

Dating outside the faith

Mallard Fillmore, January 18:

I suppose I should repeat my disclaimer at least one more time: I don't consider the adherents to the AGW point of view to be ideologically monolithic. Not all of them favor a suppression of the debate so that people can decide for themselves.... but far too many of them do.

UPDATE: Tom Nelson came across an article in The Daily Tar Heel describing an event at the University of North Carolina that might help prevent the parents' heartbreak of seeing their child marry outside the AGW faith:
Freshman Sarah Mazza walked into the Campus Y building Wednesday night with a bit of hesitation.

Mazza was about to go on almost 20 dates in one evening.

"It is going to be awkward," she said, as she waited for the "It's Getting Hot In Here" speed-dating event, hosted by Focus the Nation UNC, to start.

But Mazza braved the possible awkwardness in hopes of meeting people who have similar interests in global warming and the environment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Answering a critic

On Monday I received an e-mail from a gentleman in California (I'll call him "Mr. S") with some comments about this blog and its author. I'd like to remark on his remarks.
As a preliminary, I believe that there is is a preponderance of evidence that the earth's temperature is increasing, less convincing evidence that humans are causing much of it, and even if we are, little that we can do anything to change it.
For the most part, I agree with what Mr. S wrote in his opening paragraph. However, I would note that evidence is mounting that the recent temperature increase has plateaued over the last nine years, with no clear indication that it's ready to resume its upward trend.
My problem with the the anti-global warming crowd, you included, is that I just don't get why those who accept it (a group which, I admit, includes alarmists, bandwagon joiners who don't care about logic, and some just plain loonies) would want to "destroy the world's economy".
Mr. S is referring to the subtitle of this blog: News and commentary on recent advances in the quest by the environmental left to destroy the world's economy through the politicization of global warming (climate change) and the suppression of those who dissent from the "consensus". I'd like to note a couple of things about this subtitle.

First, I don't apply this description to everyone who believes mankind is substantially to blame for recent temperature increases. The key words here are "environmental left". In various posts I have expressed the opinion that the policy prescriptions of those driving the AGW agenda coincide quite nicely with the long-held goals of various leftist environmental organizations. They appear to have the most to gain from public acceptance of so much of the misinformation out there masquerading as science. Other websites have done a much better job than I have exposing this misinformation and giving the lie to the assertion of scientific consensus.

I believe that the vast majority of "those who accept it" do so not because they've carefully considered the scientific evidence, but simply because they've been told over and over that it is so, and because for the most part the media have denied them access to dissenting opinions. Granted, the Internet is out there, and anybody who wishes to do so can bypass the media blockade this way, but Joe Citizen isn't going to do that until he suspects that he's not getting the whole story.

Second, the subtitle suggests the environmental left is engaged in a quest "to destroy the world's economy". This both is and is not hyperbole. On the one hand, I suspect that few environmental leftists wake up on a typical morning thinking, "What can I do today to destroy the world's economy?" On the other hand, when presented with evidence that many of the policy prescriptions will do significant economic harm in exchange for minuscule environmental benefits, a lot of these environmentalists will shrug and say, "Whatever it takes."

In other words, the policy agenda being pushed by many environmental organizations seems indistinguishable from the strategy of an organization whose intent was to destroy the world's economy. IMO, of course.
You have a quote from Mencken that indicates they have a desire to rule the world, but I doubt most of those in the "they" group believe that they will ever rule the world - including Al Gore.
I suppose that none of them - including Al Gore - actually wants to be King of the World. They don't need to, as long as they can persuade the majority of the world's governments to enact their agenda and criminalize opposition to it. Same result. All for your good and for the good of the planet, so why would anyone object?
By the way, it is interesting that you choose a Mencken quote. Here's another:

"The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails."

He might not have liked do-gooders, but he wasn't big on religious believers, either.
Ouch! True, Mencken was an equal-opportunity cynic, but this is quite tangential to the topic at hand. I hope you're not saying that I should agree with everything Mencken said in order to quote (well, sort of quote) one thing he said.

Thanks, Mr. S, for expressing your objections in a civil manner. While I doubt that I've brought you around to my point of view, I hope I've been able to do a better job of expressing my point of view.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Carbon Dioxide is a Pollutant.

I don't know how long it's been going around, but I recently started noticing a new term being used to describe carbon dioxide emissions. Here's an example from a Baltimore Sun blog entry from today (emphasis added):
This may come as a surprise to some. An overwhelming number of Republicans in the recent South Carolina primary wanted action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, according to a report by the radio program Living on Earth.
Scientifically speaking, it's nonsense to describe carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As the news media and various public figures keep using the term so casually, though, many people with little science background will come to make the association without realizing it. Of course, pollution is bad -- we must do all we can to minimize it. And presto, public support for the AGW agenda.

UPDATE: More thoughts on the notion of CO2 as a pollutant: With any other pollutant, you could take an air sample and distinguish pollutant particles from the remainder of the air sample. How do you do that with carbon dioxide? Further, if CO2 is a pollutant, the earth's atmosphere has been polluted since before man first rubbed two sticks together.

UPDATE 2: I left a comment on the Baltimore Sun blog objecting to the use of the "greenhouse gas pollution" term. I was reminded in an e-mail reply that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that carbon dioxide is in fact a pollutant. The courts have spoken. If I had any sense, I would just shut up now. Being a "denier", though, I'll probably just come back and say (with raised eyebrow): If all you have to go on is a court ruling, I daresay the science behind such a claim is a bit shaky.

UPDATE 3: Reader Tigger23505 pointed me to this wonderful quote from Justice Scalia's dissent in Massachusetts v. EPA, the aforementioned USSC case. Responding to the logical gymnastics employed by the majority to allow the designation of carbon dioxide as an air pollutant, Scalia remarked:
It follows that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an 'air pollutant'. This reading of the statute defies common sense.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Everything's connected, even when it isn't

Here's the scenario that is laid out in a January 6th article:
  • China's largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, appears to be drying up.
  • The lake, which is fed by the Yangtze River, has an enormous seasonal variability in its surface area, with a minimum occurring every winter.
  • This winter's minimum is about 10% of last winter's minimum.

Okay, this is pretty straightforward and statistical, but (apart from the devastating human impact) not that interesting. So what title did Forbes columnist Chris O'Brien choose to draw the reader's interest? Global Warming Hits China.

Is there anything in the essay that might support this notion? We learn that the cause of Poyang's predicament is threefold:
  • The Yangtze River basin is suffering a crippling drought. Worst ever? No, its worst in the last 50 years. In other words, this is a drought which, while severe, is neither unprecedented nor rare.
  • Upriver hydroelectric projects (including the infamous Three Gorges Dam) have significantly affected the Yangtze's flow downriver.
  • The government has embarked on a monumental effort to divert some of the Yangtze's water to the Yellow River.
In light of the above facts, Jiang Tong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an expert on Poyang Lake, summarized:
Both the stream flows into the river and the Yangtze River water to replenish the lake will be insufficient in dry seasons in the future, because of climate change and the exploitation of water resources.
As I remarked above, there doesn't seem to be any particular scientific reason to tie China's drought to "climate change" (a term of art that is increasingly used in place of "global warming", although Mr. O'Brien apparently hasn't yet received the memo), but there are plenty of political reasons to do so.

Given his position, Jiang Tong can be forgiven for minimizing the significance of the government's "exploitation of water resources", but Forbes has no such excuse.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An easy prediction for 2008: More AGW hysteria

Well, this was a nice New Year gift from the New York Times. Science writer John Tierney turned his guns on Al Gore and co. in his January 1 column. While he doesn't actually dispute the notion that global warming is occurring, he does challenge the selective reporting of weather and climate events that make it look like AGW is already having catastrophic effects on our planet.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).

Tierney attributes this cherrypicking of data to a species of animal called the availability entrepreneur: "the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels."

One person who has made a handsome living from cherrypicking the data is, of course, Al Gore. Tierney ends his essay with this parting shot:
“In the last few months,” Mr. Gore said [in his Nobel prize acceptance speech], “it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter.” But he was being too modest. Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier.