Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The Warming Thing
Sun spots show us what Earth will be like if we reelect Republicans.
LONELY PLANET. I started writing this entry months ago but never finished it because new alarmist stories are being propagated at a torrid pace (pun intended), and it's difficult to keep up with all the flavors of spin. Today I've decided to post what I have at the moment for two reasons. First, Bill "The Bully" Clinton has commandeered the Gore Global Warming Bandwagon (GWB!?) for his own purposes, which makes the whole issue even more blatantly political than it already was. And second, Senator James Inhofe has just made a comprehensive speech about the state of the science that everyone really should read. I'll direct you to his remarks following the introduction I wrote when I started this post back in April. Here's the original draft.
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It's clear that a lot of supposedly smart people want us to go into panic mode. In March, Time Magazine offered us a cover story that could have have been ripped right out of the script for The Day After Tomorrow:
Be very afraid of Time Magazine.
Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever... More And More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought... Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities... By Any Measure, Earth Is At ... The Tipping Point...
Pretty breathless, eh? And that was just Time's idea of a headline. Here's the lede:
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us. It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry--a Category 4 storm with wind bursts that reached 125 m.p.h.--exploded through northeastern Australia....
If your heart isn't strong enough to withstand Time's concept of journalistic prose, you can get a slightly less frantic version of their piece at CNN, which summarizes the main argument thus:
Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.
From heat waves to storms to floods to fires to massive glacial melts, the global climate seems to be crashing around us.
The problem -- as scientists suspected but few others appreciated -- is that global climate systems are booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops, thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse. That's just what's happening now.
It's at the north and south poles -- where ice cover is crumbling to slush -- that the crisis is being felt the most acutely.
Late last year, for example, researchers analyzed data from Canadian and European satellites and found that the Greenland ice sheet is not only melting, but doing so faster and faster, with 53 cubic miles draining away into the sea last year alone, compared to 23 cubic miles in 1996...
As fast as global warming is changing the oceans and ice caps, it's having an even more immediate effect on land. Droughts are increasingly common as higher temperatures also bake moisture out of soil faster, causing dry regions that live at the margins to tip into full-blown crisis.
Wildfires in such sensitive regions as Indonesia, the western U.S. and even inland Alaska have been occurring with increased frequency as timberlands grow more parched. Those forests that don't succumb to fire can simply die from thirst.
With habitats crashing, the animals that call them home are succumbing too. In Alaska, salmon populations are faltering as melting permafrost pours mud into rivers, burying the gravel the fish need for spawning. Small animals such as bushy tailed rats, chipmunks and pinion mice are being chased upslope by rising temperatures, until they at last have no place to run.
And with sea ice vanishing, polar bears are starting to turn up drowned. "There will be no polar ice by 2060," says Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "Somewhere along that path, the polar bear drops out."
So much environmental collapse has at last awakened much of the world, particularly the 141 nations that have ratified the Kyoto treaty to reduce emissions. The Bush administration, however, has shown no willingness to address the warming crisis in a serious way and Congress has not been much more encouraging.
Sheesh. Thank goodness we can blame it all on George Bush. It's easier to accept the enormity of the catastrophe that way for some reason, as Al Gore has shown us so perceptively:
The former veep — President Bush's 2000 election opponent — keeps insisting that he has no intention of running again for the White House.
But that hasn't stopped him from writing a gasket-blowing polemic arguing that by refusing to face up to the threat of global warming, Bush is just like the disgraced British prime minister who appeased the Nazis before World War II.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish," Gore writes, quoting the Bible to bash Bush.
Warning that Bush and the Republican Congress have displayed "a blinding lack of awareness" about "the worst catastrophe in the history of human civilization" — global warming — Gore also blames the incumbent for ignoring the threat of 9/11.
Cute. Lumping Global Warming in with 9/11 almost invisibly asserts that both cataclysms are accepted milestones of history. They're old news that George Bush needs to be punished for. Notwithstanding the fact that 9/11 was not nearly as much the fault of George Bush as the administration Gore served as Vice President, one might be forgiven for believing -- in the context of today's mainstream media -- that Global Warming is a deadly reality that someone (or ones) need to be blamed for.
As if all that weren't bad enough, mass media god Tom Brokaw has now confirmed the validity of Time's panic attack with a two hour documentary on the Discovery Channel. Bloomberg summarized it thus:
Tom Brokaw's special on global warming claims to have ``no agenda,'' though some viewers will quickly suspect he's out to make us sweat.
If mankind doesn't change its polluting ways, New Yorkers will soon be snorkeling to work. That's the basic message of ``Global Warming: What You Need to Know,'' which airs on July 16 at 9 p.m. New York time... [and repeatedly since..Ed. Note 9/26/06.]
Despite all the purple prose and red-hot imagery. however, there are still two points at issue with regard to Global Warming. First is the question of whether it even exists. Regardless of the current hysteria, there are scientists who remain unconvinced. Front Page Magazine interviewed a dissenter less than year ago:
For a little balance, we called up Fred Singer, aka "the godfather of global warming denial." An expert on global climate change and a pioneer in the development of rocket and satellite technology, he holds a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton and happens to be the guy who devised the basic instrument for measuring stratospheric ozone. Now president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project research group (sepp.org), his dozen books include "Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate"...
Q: Here’s a line from a recent Mother Jones article: "There is overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are causing global average temperatures to rise." Is that true?
A: It’s completely unsupported by any observation, but it’s supported by computer climate models. In other words, the computer models would indicate this. The observations do not.
Q: What’s the best argument or proof that global warming is not happening?
A: The best proof are data taken of atmospheric temperature by two completely different methods. One is from instruments carried in satellites that look down on the atmosphere. The other is from instruments carried in balloons that ascend through the atmosphere and take readings as they go up. These measurements show that the atmospheric warming, such as it is, is extremely slight -- a great deal less than any of the models predicts, and in conflict also with observations of the surface.
It's crucial to note that the arrogance of scientists on all kinds of subjects stems from their adherence to observation and measurement as infinitely superior to personal experience and speculation. No amount of technical jargon can conceal the fact that computer models constitute speculation. They are not reality, however good a guess about reality they might reflect. And they always embody assumptions that might not be right. In the case of Global Warming, the biggest and most undocumented assumption is that the temperature of the earth is essentially stable and not continuously variable for reasons that have nothing to do with human behavior. Conservative columnist George Will discussed this problem in an essay last April:
Recently, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer flew with ABC's George Stephanopoulos over Glacier National Park's receding glaciers....
While worrying about Montana's receding glaciers, Schweitzer, who is 50, should also worry about the fact that when he was 20 he was told to be worried, very worried, about global cooling. Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." Science Digest (February 1973) reported that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age." The Christian Science Monitor ("Warning: Earth's Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect," Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers "have begun to advance," "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter" and "the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool." Newsweek agreed ("The Cooling World," April 28, 1975) that meteorologists "are almost unanimous" that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said "may mark the return to another ice age." The Times (May 21, 1975) also said "a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable" now that it is "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950."
In fact, the Earth is always experiencing either warming or cooling.
But George Will also noted this fact:
Eighty-five percent of Americans say warming is probably happening, and 62 percent say it threatens them personally.
Such statistics are, obviously, a function of propaganda. Americans tend to believe that science is a dispassionate profession and that scientists are mostly trying to tell them the truth as they see it. But truth in science is not about publicity or even consensus. Way back in January 2004, we quoted Michael Crichton on the subject of consensus science:
Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
The fact is, the facts are debatable in this case, which is precisely the circumstance that usually brings hysteria and amateur fanatics into the picture. Here's a sampling of some of the recent press on Global Warming, including both pro's and con's. (Feel free to skip through them quickly. They're all over the map and I include them because I amassed them in the first place, and if you're inclined to dig, you can follow the links and find much to pursue further. The emphases in text are all mine.)
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From the U.K: In a grim warning on climate change, the British government's chief scientist said the world must immediately put into place measures to address global warming, even if they take decades to produce results.
Sir David King said that, even by the most optimistic forecasts, carbon dioxide levels are set to rise to double what they were at the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.
That will lead to a three-degree centigrade rise in temperature, King said, adding that if nothing is done to manage such change, few eco-systems on Earth will be able to adapt.
Even worse, said King in an interview on BBC radio, up to 400 million people around the world would find themselves at risk of hunger, because 20 million to 400 million tonnes of cereal production will be lost.
Junkscience. The notion that our atmosphere acts like a greenhouse – that is, so-called atmospheric “greenhouse gases,” like water vapor and CO2, “trap” incoming solar radiation to warm the atmosphere – is wrong. Not only doesn’t the atmosphere work that way, greenhouses don’t either.
Greenhouses work by physically blocking heat transfer (by convection) from inside to outside – the same effect that heats the inside of your car when it’s parked in the sun on a hot day. Opening the doors and windows allows air currents to flow and the heat to dissipate. But neither the atmosphere nor “greenhouse gases” block convection, so there is no literal atmospheric “greenhouse effect.”
Overselling Climate Change. Simon Cox reports on how scientists are becoming worried by the quality of research used to back up the most extreme climate predictions.
Every week we are assailed by scare stories about the climate. Malaria in Africa, hurricanes in Florida, even the death of frogs in Latin America - all are being linked to global warming. But does the science behind these claims really stand up, or are the risks of climate change being oversold to win the battle for influence?
A Campaign Gore Can't Lose. Boring Al Gore has made a movie. It is on the most boring of all subjects -- global warming. It is more than 80 minutes long and the first two or three go by slow enough so that you can notice that Gore has gained weight and that his speech still seems oddly out of sync. But a moment later, I promise, you will be captivated, and then riveted, and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a hand basket.
You will see the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the ice caps looked like once and what they look like now and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn naught. It will be under water.
A Review of Inconvenient Truth. Rather than focus on real threats, the left must turn to rabid environmentalism as a point of difference. They cannot betray their own egos and agree with the rest of us about the nature of present-day evil- they need to carve out that one last spot on the wrongway world of the leftwing ideology to plant their feet and say, "You are a bad person for ignoring humanity's horrors committed against Mother Earth." The left clings to the ideology like a urine-stained teddy bear because it's all they've got. (Well, except for movies about electric cars. I would like an electric car. But I can't help but think that the extension cords would get tangled up at intersections)
You can quote me: "An Inconvenient Truth: it's laugh out loud funny!"
Bloomberg Review of Tom Brokaw Documentary. Brokaw relies largely on a handful of experts in the two-hour show, particularly NASA's James Hansen and Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer. Both support Brokaw's view of global warming and consider the scientific debate closed.
Brokaw scoffs at the notion that there are ``any remaining doubts humans are behind temperature rises,'' while Hansen says ``99.5 percent of scientists say we know what's going on.''
You'll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program, which would have benefited from contrarian views, perhaps from MIT's Richard S. Lindzen or William Gray, the world's foremost expert on hurricanes and a critic of global- warming orthodoxy. Both are serious scientists, yet neither appears to be in Brokaw's Rolodex.
The Global Warming Hoax. On June 13, USA Today declared, "The Debate's Over: Globe Is Warming." That's another headline you can ignore.
The world has been warming ever since the last Ice Age, but it is not rapidly warming in ways that threaten our existence, nor warming in a way that requires the industrialized nations to drastically cut back on their use of energy to avoid the many scenarios of catastrophe the Greens have been peddling since the 1980s.
Global warming is a classic scare campaign initiated by the Greens after a previous effort in the 1970s to influence public policy by declaring a coming Ice Age failed to generate any response. What we are seeing now is yet another worldwide coordinated campaign by the Greens to rescue the global warming theory from the junk heap to which it should be consigned.
Warming ended in 1998. For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).
Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In response to these facts, a global warming devotee will chuckle and say "how silly to judge climate change over such a short period". Yet in the next breath, the same person will assure you that the 28-year-long period of warming which occurred between 1970 and 1998 constitutes a dangerous (and man-made) warming. Tosh.
Climate of Fear. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.
But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.
California sues. California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.
It comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
Warming not human-caused. Global warming is happening, but humans are not the cause, one of the nation’s top experts on hurricanes said Monday morning.
Bill Gray, who has studied tropical meteorology for more than 40 years, spoke at the Larimer County Republican Club Breakfast about global warming and whether humans are to blame. About 50 people were at the talk.
Gray, who is a professor at Colorado State University, said human-induced global warming is a fear perpetuated by the media and scientists who are trying to get federal grants.
“I think we’re coming out of the little ice age, and warming is due to changes to ocean circulation patterns due to salinity variations,” Gray said. “I’m sure that’s it.”
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Skeptics and true believers on both sides have to admit, at a minimum, that there is politics on both sides of the Global Warming issue. The same people should also be prepared to admit that there are opposing scientific views, scientifically based, which means that the advocates who claim there's no room for debate of the facts are not being purely scientific, no matter how arrogantly they declare that they are.
That's the context for Senator James Inhofe's speech on the science of Global Warming, which is both coherent and comprehensive, whether you agree with his position or not. Here is the full text. I urge everyone to read all of it, especially since I am only going to quote one brief excerpt:
My skeptical views on man-made catastrophic global warming have only strengthened as new science comes in. There have been recent findings in peer-reviewed literature over the last few years showing that the Antarctic is getting colder and the ice is growing and a new study in Geophysical Research Letters found that the sun was responsible for 50% of 20th century warming. Recently, many scientists, including a leading member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, predicted long-term global cooling may be on the horizon due to a projected decrease in the sun’s output.
The sun? Doesn't that seem like a remote and glacial influence? Not necessarily. There are two kinds of argument to be made for the sun as a cause of temperature and climate change on earth. There's a rational argument:
The sun provides all the energy that drives our climate, but it is not the constant star it might seem.
Careful studies over the last 20 years show that its overall brightness and energy output increases slightly as sunspot activity rises to the peak of its 11-year cycle.
And individual cycles can be more or less active.
The sun is currently at its most active for 300 years.
That, say scientists in Philadelphia, could be a more significant cause of global warming than the emissions of greenhouse gases that are most often blamed.
The researchers point out that much of the half-a-degree rise in global temperature over the last 120 years occurred before 1940 - earlier than the biggest rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
Ancient trees reveal most warm spells are caused by the sun. Using ancient tree rings, they show that 17 out of 19 warm spells in the last 10,000 years coincided with peaks in solar activity.
They have also studied other sun-like stars and found that they spend significant periods without sunspots at all, so perhaps cool spells should be feared more than global warming.
The sun has weather too. This is one of those solar flare
things. The covered up circle in the middle is the sun
itself. So flares are not little. Neither are the sun spots
shown in the animated graphic at the top of the entry.
You see, the other argument is visual, intuitive, and massive. If you think capitalist nations and industrial robber barons are abig deal, get a load of this mathematically correct comparison of the earth to the sun.
Does it seem to you that the sun might have just a little bit -- or a whole lot -- to do with temperature variations on earth?
No, of course not. It's all the Hummers in your suburb. How do I know? 'Cause Al Gore tells me so.
UPDATE 09/29/06. Senator Inhofe's speech has now, predictably, been mugged by MSM twits like CNN, and he has responded here, in a statement that is as well worth reading as the speech that precipitated the furor.