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Topic: Environmental issues (Read 106676 times)
Solar winds at low
Reply #150 on:
December 30, 2008, 08:33:28 AM »
Solar Wind Loses Power, Hits 50-year Low
Sept. 23, 2008: In a briefing today at NASA headquarters, solar physicists announced that the solar wind is losing power.
"The average pressure of the solar wind has dropped more than 20% since the mid-1990s," says Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "This is the weakest it's been since we began monitoring solar wind almost 50 years ago."
McComas is principal investigator for the SWOOPS solar wind sensor onboard the Ulysses spacecraft, which measured the decrease. Ulysses, launched in 1990, circles the sun in a unique orbit that carries it over both the sun's poles and equator, giving Ulysses a global view of solar wind activity:
Solar Wind Loses Power, Hits 50-year Low
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Sept. 23, 2008: In a briefing today at NASA headquarters, solar physicists announced that the solar wind is losing power.
"The average pressure of the solar wind has dropped more than 20% since the mid-1990s," says Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "This is the weakest it's been since we began monitoring solar wind almost 50 years ago."
McComas is principal investigator for the SWOOPS solar wind sensor onboard the Ulysses spacecraft, which measured the decrease. Ulysses, launched in 1990, circles the sun in a unique orbit that carries it over both the sun's poles and equator, giving Ulysses a global view of solar wind activity:
Above: Global measurements of solar wind pressure by Ulysses. Green curves trace the solar wind in 1992-1998, while blue curves denote lower pressure winds in 2004-2008. [Larger image]
Curiously, the speed of the million mph solar wind hasn't decreased much—only 3%. The change in pressure comes mainly from reductions in temperature and density. The solar wind is 13% cooler and 20% less dense.
"What we're seeing is a long term trend, a steady decrease in pressure that began sometime in the mid-1990s," explains Arik Posner, NASA's Ulysses Program Scientist in Washington DC.
How unusual is this event?
"It's hard to say. We've only been monitoring solar wind since the early years of the Space Age—from the early 60s to the present," says Posner. "Over that period of time, it's unique. How the event stands out over centuries or millennia, however, is anybody's guess. We don't have data going back that far."
Flagging solar wind has repercussions across the entire solar system—beginning with the heliosphere.
The heliosphere is a bubble of magnetism springing from the sun and inflated to colossal proportions by the solar wind. Every planet from Mercury to Pluto and beyond is inside it. The heliosphere is our solar system's first line of defense against galactic cosmic rays. High-energy particles from black holes and supernovas try to enter the solar system, but most are deflected by the heliosphere's magnetic fields.
Right: The heliosphere. Click to view a larger image showing the rest of the bubble.
"The solar wind isn't inflating the heliosphere as much as it used to," says McComas. "That means less shielding against cosmic rays."
In addition to weakened solar wind, "Ulysses also finds that the sun's underlying magnetic field has weakened by more than 30% since the mid-1990s," says Posner. "This reduces natural shielding even more."
Unpublished Ulysses cosmic ray data show that, indeed, high energy (GeV) electrons, a minor but telltale component of cosmic rays around Earth, have jumped in number by about 20%.
from the WT forum:
An increase in Cosmic Ray Flux (CRF) means more low cloud formation due to ionizing radiation producing ions which cause water vapor to condense on them. This causes a net cooling. There have been several controlled studies on this with the major test coming up next year in the EU. If this test works out and confirms the theory on CRF, then C02 induced climate feedback will get tossed in the trash.
There is a very high correlation between temperature changes on the Earth and CRF rates. In very short timescales, CRF is controlled by the sun with higher CRF occurring during low sunspot counts. On longer timescales, CRF is controlled by the Solar System's location within the Milky Way galaxy - with times within the spiral arms being high CRF (cold periods) and times between the arms as low CRF ( warm periods). In between these two timescales is the Milankovitch Cycle.
You can google "cosmic rays cloud formation" for more information. Here is an infamous article that really set the stage for this publicly.
You can watch the hourly and monthly CRF averages here.
Sunspot counts and climate. Plus, a prediction.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #151 on:
December 30, 2008, 08:40:16 AM »
Somebody fuel up Al Gore's spaceship.....
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #152 on:
December 30, 2008, 01:42:08 PM »
I will be selling solar wind credits now, so no worries.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #153 on:
December 30, 2008, 01:46:18 PM »
If Al Gore starts talking, will the solar wind gain power?
Reply #154 on:
January 28, 2009, 07:12:07 PM »
Perverse cascading incentives on parade. Can't we at some point just admit the emperor is naked and design sensible policies?
Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'
Recycling could be adding to global warming rather than reducing it, a key government adviser on waste management has said.
By Louise Gray and Gordon Rayner
Last Updated: 7:50PM GMT 28 Jan 2009
Peter Jones suggested that much of the country's waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity Photo: PA
Peter Jones suggested that an "urgent" review of Labour's policy on recycling was needed to make sure the collection, transportation and processing of recyclable material was not causing a net increase in greenhouse gases.
Mr Jones, a former director of the waste firm Biffa and now an adviser to environment ministers and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, also dismissed kerbside recycling collections in many areas as "stupid" because they mixed together different materials, rendering them useless for recycling.
He suggested that much of the country's waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity.
"It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away," he said.
"We've got to urgently get a grip on how this material is flowing through the system; whether we're actually adding to or reducing the overall impact in terms of global warming potential in this process."
Mr Jones's outspoken comments come amid increasing controversy over household recycling.
Last month, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that councils in England and Wales were dumping more than 200,000 tons of recyclable waste every year – up to 10 per cent of all the glass, paper, plastic and other materials separated out by householders. Thousands of tons of recyclables are shipped to China because of insufficient capacity and demand in Britain.
In some parts of the country, residents have to sort their waste into as many as seven containers, including food waste bins, which has helped councils to justify the scrapping of weekly bin collections.
Some town halls have admitted using anti-terrorism legislation to snoop on householders who fail to recycle properly, but councils have so far refused to test the Government's bin taxes, under which people would be fined for throwing out too much rubbish.
But a collapse in the market value of recyclable waste as a result of the global recession means many waste disposal firms are having to stockpile paper, metals and plastics in vast warehouses because they are unable to sell it on.
Mr Jones's comments will add to the suspicion of many householders that the Government's recycling strategy is in chaos.
He said: "In overall terms we are reducing our carbon footprint by diverting material from landfill, but we are in danger of losing those reductions through the wrong policy decisions."
Mr Jones suggested generating electricity by burning waste instead. Alternatively, organic rubbish could be pulverised and stored in vats so that it releases methane, which could be captured and used to generate electricity.
Oh Dear, the Rainforest is Regrowing
Reply #155 on:
February 02, 2009, 08:20:48 PM »
Note that this piece states that rainforest are a major carbon sink, and that rainforest are regrowing at a rate that is not accurately measured. Sounds to me like a major loose end within the "settled science."
January 30, 2009
New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
CHILIBRE, Panama — The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle — palms, lizards and ants.
Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.
Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.
These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.
“There is far more forest here than there was 30 years ago,” said Ms. Ortega de Wing, 64, who remembers fields of mango trees and banana plants.
The new forests, the scientists argue, could blunt the effects of rain forest destruction by absorbing carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, one crucial role that rain forests play. They could also, to a lesser extent, provide habitat for endangered species.
The idea has stirred outrage among environmentalists who believe that vigorous efforts to protect native rain forest should remain a top priority. But the notion has gained currency in mainstream organizations like the Smithsonian Institution and the United Nations, which in 2005 concluded that new forests were “increasing dramatically” and “undervalued” for their environmental benefits. The United Nations is undertaking the first global catalog of the new forests, which vary greatly in their stage of growth.
“Biologists were ignoring these huge population trends and acting as if only original forest has conservation value, and that’s just wrong,” said Joe Wright, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute here, who set off a firestorm two years ago by suggesting that the new forests could substantially compensate for rain forest destruction.
“Is this a real rain forest?” Dr. Wright asked, walking the land of a former American cacao plantation that was abandoned about 50 years ago, and pointing to fig trees and vast webs of community spiders and howler monkeys.
“A botanist can look at the trees here and know this is regrowth,” he said. “But the temperature and humidity are right. Look at the number of birds! It works. This is a suitable habitat.”
Dr. Wright and others say the overzealous protection of rain forests not only prevents poor local people from profiting from the rain forests on their land but also robs financing and attention from other approaches to fighting global warming, like eliminating coal plants.
But other scientists, including some of Dr. Wright’s closest colleagues, disagree, saying that forceful protection of rain forests is especially important in the face of threats from industrialized farming and logging.
The issue has also set off a debate over the true definition of a rain forest. How do old forests compare with new ones in their environmental value? Is every rain forest sacred?
“Yes, there are forests growing back, but not all forests are equal,” said Bill Laurance, another senior scientist at the Smithsonian, who has worked extensively in the Amazon.
He scoffed as he viewed Ms. Ortega de Wing’s overgrown land: “This is a caricature of a rain forest!” he said. “There’s no canopy, there’s too much light, there are only a few species. There is a lot of change all around here whittling away at the forest, from highways to development.”
While new forests may absorb carbon emissions, he says, they are unlikely to save most endangered rain-forest species, which have no way to reach them.
Everyone, including Dr. Wright, agrees that large-scale rain-forest destruction in the Amazon or Indonesia should be limited or managed. Rain forests are the world’s great carbon sinks, absorbing the emissions that humans send into the atmosphere, and providing havens for biodiversity.
At issue is how to tally the costs and benefits of forests, at a time when increasing attention is being paid to global climate management and carbon accounting.
Just last month, at climate talks held by the United Nations in Poznan, Poland, the world’s environment ministers agreed to a new program through which developing countries will be rewarded for preventing deforestation. But little is known about the new forests — some of them have never even been mapped — and they were not factored into the equation at the meetings.
Dr. Wright and other scientists say they should be. About 38 million acres of original rain forest are being cut down every year, but in 2005, according to the most recent “State of the World’s Forests Report” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there were an estimated 2.1 billion acres of potential replacement forest growing in the tropics — an area almost as large as the United States. The new forest included secondary forest on former farmland and so-called degraded forest, land that has been partly logged or destroyed by natural disasters like fires and then left to nature. In Panama by the 1990s, the last decade for which data is available, the rain forest is being destroyed at a rate of 1.3 percent each year. The area of secondary forest is increasing by more than 4 percent yearly, Dr. Wright estimates.
With the heat and rainfall in tropical Panama, new growth is remarkably fast. Within 15 years, abandoned land can contain trees more than 100 feet high. Within 20, a thick rain-forest canopy forms again. Here in the lush, misty hills, it is easy to see rain-forest destruction as part of a centuries-old cycle of human civilization and wilderness, in which each in turn is cleared and replaced by the other. The Mayans first cleared lands here that are now dense forest. The area around Gamboa, cleared when the Panama Canal was built, now looks to the untrained eye like the wildest of jungles.
But Dr. Laurance says that is a dangerous lens through which to view the modern world, where the forces that are destroying rain forest operate on a scale previously unknown.
Now the rain forest is being felled by “industrial forestry, agriculture, the oil and gas industry — and it’s globalized, where every stick of timber is being cut in Congo is sent to China and one bulldozer does a lot more damage than 1,000 farmers with machetes,” he said.
Globally, one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions come from the destruction of rain forests, scientists say. It is unknown how much of that is being canceled out by forest that is in the process of regrowth. It is a crucial but scientifically controversial question, the answer to which may depend on where and when the forests are growing.
Although the United Nations’ report noted the enormous increase of secondary forests, it is unclear how to describe or define them. The 2.1 billion acres of secondary forests includes a mishmash of land that has the potential to grow into a vibrant faux rain forest and land that may never become more than a biologically shallow tangle of trees and weeds.
“Our knowledge of these forests is still rather limited,” said Wulf Killmann, director of forestry products and industry at the United Nations agriculture organization. The agency is in the early phases of a global assessment of the scope of secondary forest, which will be ready in 2011.
The Smithsonian, hoping to answer such questions, is just starting to study a large plot of newly abandoned farmland in central Panama to learn about the regeneration of forests there.
Regenerated forests in the tropics appear to be especially good at absorbing emissions of carbon, but that ability is based on location and rate of growth. A field abandoned in New York in 1900 will have trees shorter than those growing on a field here that was abandoned just 20 years ago.
For many biologists, a far bigger concern is whether new forests can support the riot of plant and animal species associated with rain forests. Part of the problem is that abandoned farmland is often distant from native rain forest. How does it help Amazonian species threatened by rain-forest destruction in Brazil if secondary forests grow on the outskirts of Panama City?
Dr. Wright — an internationally respected scientist — said he knew he was stirring up controversy when he suggested to a conference of tropical biologists that rain forests might not be so bad off. Having lived in Panama for 25 years, he is convinced that scientific assessments of the rain forests’ future were not taking into account the effects of population and migration trends that are obvious on the ground.
In Latin America and Asia, birthrates have dropped drastically; most people have two or three children. New jobs tied to global industry, as well as improved transportation, are luring a rural population to fast-growing cities. Better farming techniques and access to seed and fertilizer mean that marginal lands are no longer farmed because it takes fewer farmers to feed a growing population.
Gumercinto Vásquez, a stooped casual laborer who was weeding a field in Chilibre in the blistering sun, said it had become hard for him to find work because so many farms had been abandoned.
“Very few people around here are farming these days,” he said.
Dr. Wright, looking at a new forest, sees possibility. He says new research suggests that 40 to 90 percent of rain-forest species can survive in new forest.
Dr. Laurance focuses on what will be missing, ticking off species like jaguars, tapirs and a variety of birds and invertebrates.
While he concedes that a regrown forest may absorb some carbon, he insists, “This is not the rich ecosystem of a rain forest.”
Still, the fate of secondary forests lies not just in biology. A global recession could erase jobs in cities, driving residents back to the land.
“Those are questions for economists and politicians, not us,” Dr. Wright said.
Hard to Sell Hopelessness
Reply #156 on:
February 20, 2009, 10:43:12 AM »
This piece inspires some mixed feelings. As someone who has contributed blood, sweat, and bone fragments to some hard core environmental efforts it galls me to deal with people who clearly have a superficial understanding of science and environmental issues, who nonetheless nag self righteously about inane actions purported to prevent disaster presented in the starkest of terms. It's nice to see the folly of that tact finally acknowledged.
Flip side is that the solution suggested, embracing virtue, is something many on the postmodern, identity politic, deconstructionalist left collectively roll their eyes about. Suspect the ones who most need to hear this message are the ones least inclined to listen.
Live sustainably just because it's the right thing to do
Do you "hope" that everyone will see the light and start living more sustainably to save the environment? If so, you may be doing more harm than good.
So say an environmental scientist and an environmental ethicist in a provocative essay in the March 2009 issue of the international journal, The Ecologist. John Vucetich, assistant professor of animal ecology at Michigan Technological University, and Michael Nelson, associate professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University, challenge the widespread belief that hope can motivate people to solve overwhelming social and environmental problems.
"Is hope a placebo, a distraction, merely sowing the seeds of disillusionment?" they ask, in an opinion piece titled "Abandon Hope." The authors, co-founders and directors of the Conservation Ethics Group, an of environmental ethics consultancy, examine the proper role of hope in environmentalism. They suggest that hope's alternative is not hopelessness or despair, but rather the inherent virtue of "doing the right thing."
For decades, say Vucetich and Nelson, we have been hammered by the ceaseless thunder of messages predicting imminent environmental cataclysm: global climate change, air and water pollution, destruction of wildlife habitat, holes in the ozone. The response of environmentalists—from Al Gore to Jane Goodall—to this persistent message of hopelessness has focused on the need to remain hopeful.
But hope may actually be counter-productive, Vucetich and Nelson suggest. "I have little reason to live sustainably if the only reason to do so is to hope for a sustainable future, because every other message I receive suggests that disaster is guaranteed," they explain.
People are hearing radically contradictory messages:
Scientists present evidence that profound environmental disaster is imminent.
It is urgent to live up to an extremely high standard of sustainable living.
The reason to live sustainably is that doing so gives hope for averting disaster.
Yet disaster is inevitable.
"Given a predisposition to mistrust authorities, such contradictions justifiably elicit mistrust," say Vucetich and Nelson.
If hope for averting environmental disaster is not the right reason to live sustainably, what is? The scholars say we must provide people with reasons to live sustainably that are rational and effective, based on virtues rather than consequences. That means equating sustainable living not with hope for a better future, but with basic virtues such as sharing and caring, virtues that we recognize as good in themselves and fundamentally the right way to live in the present, they explain.
One advantage to such an approach is that it can motivate even people who do not believe that we are on the brink of environmental disaster, Vucetich and Nelson point out. It also clarifies the connection between environmental and social problems, a connection many people fail to grasp.
"Instead of hope, we need to provide young people with reasons to live sustainably that are rational and effective," they say. "We need to lift up examples of sustainable living motivated by virtue more than by a dubious belief that such actions will avert environmental disaster."
Global Cooling Occurring
Reply #157 on:
February 27, 2009, 01:42:26 PM »
Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling
Michael Asher (Blog) - February 26, 2008 12:55 PM
World Temperatures according to the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction. Note the steep drop over the last year.
Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming
Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out most of the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.
Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.
Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70.
Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.
Update 2/27: The graph for HadCRUT (above), as well as the linked graphs for RSS and UAH are generated month-to-month; the temperature declines span a full 12 months of data. The linked GISS graph was graphed for the months of January only, due to a limitation in the plotting program. Anthony Watts, who kindly provided the graphics, otherwise has no connection with the column. The views and comments are those of the author only.
China Mudslide Releases 2 Percent of Total Greenhouse Gas
Reply #158 on:
March 02, 2009, 03:36:00 PM »
Natural causes of "greenhouse gas" emissions dwarf manmade, but that often escapes the notice of the environmental apocalypse mongers.
Wenchuan earthquake mudslides emit greenhouse gas
Mudslides that followed the 12 May 2008 Wenchuan, China earthquake, ranked by the US Geological Survey as the 11th deadliest earthquake ever recorded, may cause a carbon-dioxide release in upcoming decades equivalent to two percent of current annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, a new study shows.
Mudslides wipe away plants and topsoil, depleting terrain of nutrients for plant regrowth and burying swaths of vegetation. Buried vegetable matter decomposes and releases carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere.
The expected carbon dioxide release from the mudslides following the Wenchuan earthquake is similar to that caused by Hurricane Katrina's plant damage, report Diandong Ren, of the University of Texas at Austin, and his colleagues, who used a computer model to predict the ecosystem impacts of the mudslides.
What's more, the vegetation destruction will lead to a loss of nitrogen from the quake-devastated region's ecosystem twice as large as the loss of that nutrient from California ecosystems because of the October 2007 wildfires there, Ren says. And, as the biomass buried by the China quake rots, 14 percent of the nitrogen will be spewed into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a pollutant typically released from agricultural operations, automobiles, and other sources.
The team will publish its findings on 4 March 2009 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Although landscapes devastated by the Chinese earthquake may re-green soon, the recovery will be cosmetic, says Ren. "From above, the area will look green in a few years, because grass grows back quickly, but the soil nutrients recover very slowly, and other kinds of plants won't grow," he says.
The magnitude-7.9 Wenchuan quake was followed by many aftershocks in the Sichuan Basin, an area that, because of its geological features – deep valleys enclosed by high mountains with steep slopes – is already prone to landslides. May is also the rainy season in Sichuan, and the combination of aftershocks and major precipitation events in the days following the earthquake caused severe mudslides. The avalanches killed thousands, destroyed roads and blocked rivers and access to relief, and shredded water and power stations, among other facilities. To predict ecosystem impacts of the mudslides, Ren and his collaborators applied a comprehensive computer model of landslides that incorporates several physical parameters, such as soil mechanics, root mechanical reinforcement (the root's grip of the dirt, which mitigates erosion), and precipitation.
Ren's model also shows that the primary mudslides following the earthquake removed large areas of nutrient-rich topsoil, leaving behind deep scars in the land that will take decades to recover, preventing the re-growth of vegetation.
The researchers write in their paper that, although being able to predict the location and timing of a mudslide is essential to mitigate its impacts, current mudslide models are not accurate enough.
"Previous approaches, which are mainly based on statistical approaches and empirical measures, have no predictive ability of where mudslides are going to happen," Ren says. His model, he claims, could be applied to forecast under what circumstances a landslide would occur at a specific location. He points out this would be particularly useful for places such as Southern California, where global warming predictions call for an increase in the frequency of these events.
Re: Environmental issues - Human caused warming .00003 degrees C per decade?
Reply #159 on:
March 02, 2009, 04:22:22 PM »
Guinness, Thanks for your attention to this topic.
"Natural causes of "greenhouse gas" emissions dwarf manmade, but that often escapes the notice of the environmental apocalypse mongers."
Toward the end of page one of this thread (Feb. 07) I posted some crude math that I entitled 'global warming math', (no replies). The alarmists it seems will always tell us that man's role in warming is large, significant, even fatal, but they never tell us just how much, so I did my own math. I'm interested in your view and others. How much warming was caused my man?
"...here I give it my first shot. I recognize that all components of my math are inexact (wrong) and controversial, but they are based on the best estimates I have found, and I already disclosed my bias above. Please re-do the math with the data you trust better and post your answer to the question - at what rate is mankind warming the planet?
Estimate of total warming over the last 50 years: 0.5 degrees Celsius (Doesn't count recent cooling back to starting point)
Proportion of atmosphere CO2 attributable to humans: 3% (0.03)
Proportion of greenhouse effect attributable to CO2: less than 2% (0.02)
Negative feedback factor estimate: 50% (0.5)
Conversion factor of 50 year warming to per decade warming: 1/5 (0.2)
Total warming attributable to humans: 0.5 x 0.03 x 0.02 x 0.5 x 0.2 =0.00003 degrees C per decade.
This is not in contradiction to the wording of scientists that it is very likely, with 90% certainty, that human activity is contributing to global warming."
The reason I'm not alarmed is not just because the number is infinitessimally small, but also because the system has automatic corrective forces and because I believe the period of time that man will depend heavily on fossil fuels is a blip in time in terms of the history and life of the planet. I expect we burn gasoline for maybe 50-70 more years maximum out of more than 4.5 billion years.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #160 on:
March 02, 2009, 10:06:49 PM »
Looks like a good back of the envelope calculation to me, though I confess there are elements in your post I'm not willing to cede. First, perhaps not on your end, but implicit in global warming discussions is the belief that warming is bad, though I've seen several compelling arguments linking halcyon epochs with warmer temps. If I had to chose between glaciers covering half the land mass and Al Gores melting ice caps I know which way I'd go.
Second, and I understand you know this, we are looking at a single variable in an incredibly complex system. Question of science that are far better understood and far less complex regularly produce surprises. As such I'm loathe to accept the CO2=catastrophe premise that all of the global warming debate is predicated on. We aren't even to the point where we know what we don't know, much less to the point where focus on a single variable makes much sense.
Finally, as you point out, current temps are less than a blip on the planets climate continuum. There have been warmer times, there have been cooler times, and the current couple decades inspiring all the gnashing of teeth are well within the extremes. Getting ever so worked up about a single phrase in an encyclopedia makes no more sense than the current consternation.
NYT Gets it Right . . . 120 Years Ago
Reply #161 on:
March 05, 2009, 12:16:52 PM »
New York Times piece on climate:
Freeman Dyson, I
Reply #162 on:
March 31, 2009, 02:28:41 PM »
March 29, 2009
The Civil Heretic
By NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF
FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson has quietly resided in Prince ton, N.J., on the wooded former farmland that is home to his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study, this country’s most rarefied community of scholars. Lately, however, since coming “out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned,” as Dyson sometimes puts it, there has been noise all around him. Chat rooms, Web threads, editors’ letter boxes and Dyson’s own e-mail queue resonate with a thermal current of invective in which Dyson has discovered himself variously described as “a pompous twit,” “a blowhard,” “a cesspool of misinformation,” “an old coot riding into the sunset” and, perhaps inevitably, “a mad scientist.” Dyson had proposed that whatever inflammations the climate was experiencing might be a good thing because carbon dioxide helps plants of all kinds grow. Then he added the caveat that if CO2 levels soared too high, they could be soothed by the mass cultivation of specially bred “carbon-eating trees,” whereupon the University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner looked through the thick grove of honorary degrees Dyson has been awarded — there are 21 from universities like Georgetown, Princeton and Oxford — and suggested that “perhaps trees can also be designed so that they can give directions to lost hikers.” Dyson’s son, George, a technology historian, says his father’s views have cooled friendships, while many others have concluded that time has cost Dyson something else. There is the suspicion that, at age 85, a great scientist of the 20th century is no longer just far out, he is far gone — out of his beautiful mind.
But in the considered opinion of the neurologist Oliver Sacks, Dyson’s friend and fellow English expatriate, this is far from the case. “His mind is still so open and flexible,” Sacks says. Which makes Dyson something far more formidable than just the latest peevish right-wing climate-change denier. Dyson is a scientist whose intelligence is revered by other scientists — William Press, former deputy director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a professor of computer science at the University of Texas, calls him “infinitely smart.” Dyson — a mathematics prodigy who came to this country at 23 and right away contributed seminal work to physics by unifying quantum and electrodynamic theory — not only did path-breaking science of his own; he also witnessed the development of modern physics, thinking alongside most of the luminous figures of the age, including Einstein, Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Witten, the “high priest of string theory” whose office at the institute is just across the hall from Dyson’s. Yet instead of hewing to that fundamental field, Dyson chose to pursue broader and more unusual pursuits than most physicists — and has lived a more original life.
Among Dyson’s gifts is interpretive clarity, a penetrating ability to grasp the method and significance of what many kinds of scientists do. His thoughts about how science works appear in a series of lucid, elegant books for nonspecialists that have made him a trusted arbiter of ideas ranging far beyond physics. Dyson has written more than a dozen books, including “Origins of Life” (1999), which synthesizes recent discoveries by biologists and geologists into an evaluation of the double-origin hypothesis, the possibility that life began twice; “Disturbing the Universe” (1979) tries among other things to reconcile science and humanity. “Weapons and Hope” (1984) is his meditation on the meaning and danger of nuclear weapons that won a National Book Critics Circle Award. Dyson’s books display such masterly control of complex matters that smart young people read him and want to be scientists; older citizens finish his books and feel smart.
Yet even while probing and sifting, Dyson is always whimsically gazing into the beyond. As a boy he sketched plans for English rocket ships that could explore the stars, and then, in midlife, he helped design an American spacecraft to be powered by exploding atomic bombs — a secret Air Force project known as Orion. Dyson remains an armchair astronaut who speculates with glee about the coming of cheap space travel, when families can leave an overcrowded earth to homestead on asteroids and comets, swooping around the universe via solar sail craft. Dyson is convinced that our current “age of computers” will soon give way to “the age of domesticated biotechnology.” Bio-tech, he writes in his book, “Infinite in All Directions” (1988), “offers us the chance to imitate nature’s speed and flexibility,” and he imagines the furniture and art that people will “grow” for themselves, the pet dinosaurs they will “grow” for their children, along with an idiosyncratic menagerie of genetically engineered cousins of the carbon-eating tree: termites to consume derelict automobiles, a potato capable of flourishing on the dry red surfaces of Mars, a collision-avoiding car.
These ideas attract derision similar to Dyson’s essays on climate change, but he is an undeterred octogenarian futurist. “I don’t think of myself predicting things,” he says. “I’m expressing possibilities. Things that could happen. To a large extent it’s a question of how badly people want them to. The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it but to raise people’s hopes.” Formed in a heretical and broad-thinking tradition of British public intellectuals, Dyson left behind a brooding England still stricken by two bloody world wars to become an optimistic American immigrant with tremendous faith in the creative imagination’s ability to invent technologies that would overcome any predicament. And according to the physicist and former Caltech president Marvin Goldberger, Dyson is himself the living embodiment of that kind of ingenuity. “You point Freeman at a problem and he’ll solve it,” Goldberger says. “He’s extraordinarily powerful.” Dyson seems to see the world as an interdisciplinary set of problems out there for him to evaluate. Climate change is the big scientific issue of our time, so naturally he finds it irresistible. But to Dyson this is really only one more charged conundrum attracting his interest just as nuclear weapons and rural poverty have. That is to say, he is a great problem-solver who is not convinced that climate change is a great problem.
Dyson is well aware that “most consider me wrong about global warming.” That educated Americans tend to agree with the conclusion about global warming reached earlier this month at the International Scientific Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen (“inaction is inexcusable”) only increases Dyson’s resistance. Dyson may be an Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources, but he brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus. The Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg admires Dyson’s physics — he says he thinks the Nobel committee fleeced him by not awarding his work on quantum electrodynamics with the prize — but Weinberg parts ways with his sensibility: “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”
Dyson says he doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by climate change, but his dissension from the orthodoxy of global warming is significant because of his stature and his devotion to the integrity of science. Dyson has said he believes that the truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won’t come to pass. In “Infinite in All Directions,” he writes that nature’s laws “make the universe as interesting as possible.” This also happens to be a fine description of Dyson’s own relationship to science. In the words of Avishai Margalit, a philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study, “He’s a consistent reminder of another possibility.” When Dyson joins the public conversation about climate change by expressing concern about the “enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories,” these reservations come from a place of experience. Whatever else he is, Dyson is the good scientist; he asks the hard questions. He could also be a lonely prophet. Or, as he acknowledges, he could be dead wrong.
IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with Salon.com that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”
A particularly distressed member of that public was Dyson’s own wife, Imme, who, after seeing the film in a local theater with Dyson when it was released in 2006, looked at her husband out on the sidewalk and, with visions of drowning polar bears still in her eyes, reproached him: “Everything you told me is wrong!” she cried.
“The polar bears will be fine,” he assured her.
Not long ago Dyson sat in his institute office, a chamber so neat it reminds Dyson’s friend, the writer John McPhee, of a Japanese living room. On shelves beside Dyson were books about stellar evolution, viruses, thermodynamics and terrorism. “The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models,” Dyson was saying. “They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.” Dyson speaks in calm, clear tones that carry simultaneous evidence of his English childhood, the move to the United States after completing his university studies at Cambridge and more than 50 years of marriage to the German-born Imme, but his opinions can be barbed, especially when a conversation turns to climate change. Climate models, he says, take into account atmospheric motion and water levels but have no feeling for the chemistry and biology of sky, soil and trees. “The biologists have essentially been pushed aside,” he continues. “Al Gore’s just an opportunist. The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.”
Dyson agrees with the prevailing view that there are rapidly rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by human activity. To the planet, he suggests, the rising carbon may well be a MacGuffin, a striking yet ultimately benign occurrence in what Dyson says is still “a relatively cool period in the earth’s history.” The warming, he says, is not global but local, “making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter.” Far from expecting any drastic harmful consequences from these increased temperatures, he says the carbon may well be salubrious — a sign that “the climate is actually improving rather than getting worse,” because carbon acts as an ideal fertilizer promoting forest growth and crop yields. “Most of the evolution of life occurred on a planet substantially warmer than it is now,” he contends, “and substantially richer in carbon dioxide.” Dyson calls ocean acidification, which many scientists say is destroying the saltwater food chain, a genuine but probably exaggerated problem. Sea levels, he says, are rising steadily, but why this is and what dangers it might portend “cannot be predicted until we know much more about its causes.”
For Hansen, the dark agent of the looming environmental apocalypse is carbon dioxide contained in coal smoke. Coal, he has written, “is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.” Hansen has referred to railroad cars transporting coal as “death trains.” Dyson, on the other hand, told me in conversations and e-mail messages that “Jim Hansen’s crusade against coal overstates the harm carbon dioxide can do.” Dyson well remembers the lethal black London coal fog of his youth when, after a day of visiting the city, he would return to his hometown of Winchester with his white shirt collar turned black. Coal, Dyson says, contains “real pollutants” like soot, sulphur and nitrogen oxides, “really nasty stuff that makes people sick and looks ugly.” These are “rightly considered a moral evil,” he says, but they “can be reduced to low levels by scrubbers at an affordable cost.” He says Hansen “exploits” the toxic elements of burning coal as a way of condemning the carbon dioxide it releases, “which cannot be reduced at an affordable cost, but does not do any substantial harm.”
Science is not a matter of opinion; it is a question of data. Climate change is an issue for which Dyson is asking for more evidence, and leading climate scientists are replying by saying if we wait for sufficient proof to satisfy you, it may be too late. That is the position of a more moderate expert on climate change, William Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, who says, “I don’t think it’s time to panic,” but contends that, because of global warming, “more sea-level rise is inevitable and will displace millions; melting high-altitude glaciers will threaten the food supplies for perhaps a billion or more; and ocean acidification could undermine the food supply of another billion or so.” Dyson strongly disagrees with each of these points, and there follows, as you move back and forth between the two positions, claims and counterclaims, a dense thicket of mitigating scientific indicators that all have the timbre of truth and the ring of potential plausibility. One of Dyson’s more significant surmises is that a warming climate could be forestalling a new ice age. Is he wrong? No one can say for sure. Beyond the specific points of factual dispute, Dyson has said that it all boils down to “a deeper disagreement about values” between those who think “nature knows best” and that “any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil,” and “humanists,” like himself, who contend that protecting the existing biosphere is not as important as fighting more repugnant evils like war, poverty and unemployment.
Embedded in all of Dyson’s strong opinions about public policy is a dual spirit of social activism and uneasiness about class dating all the way back to Winchester, where he was raised in the 1920s and ’30s by his father, George Dyson, the son of a Yorkshire blacksmith. George was the music instructor at Winchester College, an old and prestigious secondary school, and a composer. Dyson’s mother, Mildred Atkey, came from a more prosperous Wimbledon family that had its own tennis court. Together they raised Dyson and his sister, Alice, in what Dyson calls a “watered-down Church of England Christianity” that regarded religion as a guide to living rather than any system of belief. The emphasis on tolerance, charity and community — and the free time afforded by the luxury of four servants — led Mildred to organize a club for teenage girls and a birth-control clinic. These institutions meshed uneasily with her patrician Victorian sensibilities. The girls were never, Dyson says, “considered equals,” and Mildred told him with amusement about the young mother who walked in carrying a red-headed infant. “What a beautiful baby,” Mildred reported saying. “Does he take after his father?”
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you, Mum,” came the reply. “He kept his hat on.”
Freeman Dyson, II
Reply #163 on:
March 31, 2009, 02:29:17 PM »
Winchester is a medieval town in which, Dyson writes, he felt that everyone was looking backward, mourning all the young men lost to one world war while silently anticipating his own generation’s impending demise. He renounced the nostalgia, the servants, the hard-line social castes. But what he liked about growing up in England was the landscape. The country’s successful alteration of wilderness and swamp had created a completely new green ecology, allowing plants, animals and humans to thrive in “a community of species.” Dyson has always been strongly opposed to the idea that there is any such thing as an optimal ecosystem — “life is always changing” — and he abhors the notion that men and women are something apart from nature, that “we must apologize for being human.” Humans, he says, have a duty to restructure nature for their survival.
All this may explain why the same man could write “we live on a shrinking and vulnerable planet which our lack of foresight is rapidly turning into a slum” and yet gently chide the sort of Americans who march against coal in Washington. Dyson has great affection for coal and for one big reason: It is so inexpensive that most of the world can afford it. “There’s a lot of truth to the statement Greens are people who never had to worry about their grocery bills,” he says. (“Many of these people are my friends,” he will also tell you.) To Dyson, “the move of the populations of China and India from poverty to middle-class prosperity should be the great historic achievement of the century. Without coal it cannot happen.” That said, Dyson sees coal as the interim kindling of progress. In “roughly 50 years,” he predicts, solar energy will become cheap and abundant, and “there are many good reasons for preferring it to coal.”
THE WORDS COLLEAGUES COMMONLY use to describe Dyson include “unassuming” and “modest,” and he seems the very embodiment of Newton’s belief that a man should strive for simplicity and avoid confusion in life. Dyson has been in residence at the institute since 1953, a time when Albert Einstein shared his habit of walking to work there, which Dyson still does seven days a week, to write on a computer and solve any problems that come across his desk with paper and pencil. (In his prime, legend held that he never used the eraser.) He and Imme have spent 51 happy years together in the same house, a white clapboard just over the garden fence from the stucco affair once inhabited by their former neighbors, the Oppenheimers. On some Sundays the Dysons pile into a car still decorated with an Obama bumper sticker and drive to running races, at which Dyson can be found at the finish line loudly cheering for the 72-year-old Imme, a master’s marathon champion. On many other weekends, they visit some of their 16 grandchildren. During the holiday season the Dysons routinely attend five parties a week, cocktail-soiree sprints at which guests tend to find him open-minded and shy: when friends’ wives give him a hug, he blushes. One of Dyson’s daughters, the Internet vizier Esther Dyson, says her father raised her without a television so she would read more, and has always been “just as interested in talking to” the latest graduate student to make the pilgrimage to Princeton “as he is the famous person at the next table.” Oliver Sacks says that Dyson has “a genius for friendship.”
But the truth is that Dyson is an elusive particle. To Edward Witten it is clear that Dyson has little use for string theory, the cutting-edge “theory of everything” that links quantum mechanics and relativity in an effort to describe no less than the nature of all things. Even so, Witten admits that there is a fever-dream quality to his conversations with Dyson: “I don’t always know what he disagrees with entirely. His attitudes are complicated. There are many layers.” Other people can be similarly intrigued and baffled. When I began spending time with Dyson and asked who his close friends are, the only name he mentioned was John McPhee’s, which surprised McPhee since he said he doesn’t often speak with Dyson even though McPhee teaches nearby at Princeton University. All six of Dyson’s children describe him as a loving, intensely devoted father and yet also suggest that this is a parent with, in the words of his son, George, core parts of him that have always seemed “remote.” William Press said he finds Dyson to be both a “deep” and “magnificently laudable person” and also mysterious and inscrutable, a man with contrarian opinions that Press suspects may be motivated by “a darker side he’s determined the world isn’t going to see.” When I asked Sacks what he thought about all this, he said that “a favorite word of Freeman’s about doing science and being creative is the word ‘subversive.’ He feels it’s rather important not only to be not orthodox, but to be subversive, and he’s done that all his life.”
Dyson says it’s only principle that leads him to question global warming: “According to the global-warming people, I say what I say because I’m paid by the oil industry. Of course I’m not, but that’s part of their rhetoric. If you doubt it, you’re a bad person, a tool of the oil or coal industry.” Global warming, he added, “has become a party line.”
What may trouble Dyson most about climate change are the experts. Experts are, he thinks, too often crippled by the conventional wisdom they create, leading to the belief that “they know it all.” The men he most admires tend to be what he calls “amateurs,” inventive spirits of uncredentialed brilliance like Bernhard Schmidt, an eccentric one-armed alcoholic telescope-lens designer; Milton Humason, a janitor at Mount Wilson Observatory in California whose native scientific aptitude was such that he was promoted to staff astronomer; and especially Darwin, who, Dyson says, “was really an amateur and beat the professionals at their own game.” It’s a point of pride with Dyson that in 1951 he became a member of the physics faculty at Cornell and then, two years later, moved on to the Institute for Advanced Study, where he became an influential man, a pragmatist providing solutions to the military and Congress, and also the 2000 winner of the $1 million Templeton Prize for broadening the understanding of science and religion, an award previously given to Mother Teresa and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — all without ever earning a Ph.D. Dyson may, in fact, be the ultimate outsider-insider, “the world’s most civil heretic,” as the classical composer Paul Moravec, the artistic consultant at the institute, says of him.
Climate-change specialists often speak of global warming as a matter of moral conscience. Dyson says he thinks they sound presumptuous. As he warned that day four years ago at Boston University, the history of science is filled with those “who make confident predictions about the future and end up believing their predictions,” and he cites examples of things people anticipated to the point of terrified certainty that never actually occurred, ranging from hellfire, to Hitler’s atomic bomb, to the Y2K millennium bug. “It’s always possible Hansen could turn out to be right,” he says of the climate scientist. “If what he says were obviously wrong, he wouldn’t have achieved what he has. But Hansen has turned his science into ideology. He’s a very persuasive fellow and has the air of knowing everything. He has all the credentials. I have none. I don’t have a Ph.D. He’s published hundreds of papers on climate. I haven’t. By the public standard he’s qualified to talk and I’m not. But I do because I think I’m right. I think I have a broad view of the subject, which Hansen does not. I think it’s true my career doesn’t depend on it, whereas his does. I never claim to be an expert on climate. I think it’s more a matter of judgement than knowledge.”
Reached by telephone, Hansen sounds annoyed as he says, “There are bigger fish to fry than Freeman Dyson,” who “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” In an e-mail message, he adds that his own concern about global warming is not based only on models, and that while he respects the “open-mindedness” of Dyson, “if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework — which he obviously has not done on global warming.”
When Dyson hears about this, he looks, if possible, like a person taking the longer view. He is a short, sinewy man with strawlike filaments of excitable gray hair that make him resemble an upside-down broom. Every day he dresses with the same frowzy Oxbridge formality in L. L. Bean khaki trousers (his daughter Mia is a minister in Maine), a tweed sport coat, a necktie (most often one made for him, he says, by another daughter, Emily, many years ago “in the age of primary colors”) and wool sweater-vests. On cold days he wears a second vest, one right over the other, and the effect is like a window with two sets of curtains. His smile is the real window, a delighted beam that appears to float free from his face, strangely dynamic with its electric ears and quantum nose, and his laugh is so hearty it shakes him. The smile and laughter have the effect of softening Dyson’s formality, transforming him into a sage and friendly elf, and also reminding those he talks with that he has spent a lifetime immersed in efforts to find what he considers humane solutions to dire problems, whose controversial gloss never seems to agitate him. His eyes are murky gray, and whatever he’s thinking beyond what he says, the eyes never betray.
A FORMATIVE MOMENT in Dyson’s life that pushed him in an apostatical direction happened in 1932, when, at age 8, he was sent off to boarding school at Twyford. By then he was a prodigy “already obsessed” with mathematics. (His older sister Alice, a retired social worker still living in Winchester, remembers how her brother “used to lie on the nursery floor working out how many atoms there were in the sun. He was perhaps 4.”) At Twyford — like George Orwell, who was flogged, starved and humiliated by masters and bigger boys at St. Cyprian’s — Dyson says he felt brutalized by a whip-wielding headmaster who offered no science classes, favoring Latin, and by a clique of athletes who liked to rub sandpaper on the faces of the smaller children. “In those days it was unthinkable that parents would come to see what was going on,” Dyson says. “My parents lived only three miles away. They never came to visit. It wasn’t done.” Dyson took comfort in climbing tall trees, reading “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which gave him a first sense of America as a more “exciting place where all sorts of weird things could happen,” and Jules Verne’s comic science-fiction descriptions of more “crazy Americans” bound for the moon. His primary consolation, however, was the science society he founded with a few friends. Dyson would later reflect that from then on he saw science as “a territory of freedom and friendship in the midst of tyranny and hatred.”
Four years later he entered Winchester College, well known for academic rigor, and he thrived. On his own in the school library, he read mathematical works in French and German and, at age 13, taught himself calculus from an Encyclopedia Britannica entry. “I remember thinking, Is that it?” he says. “People had been telling me how hard it was.” Another day in the library he discovered “Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” by the biologist J. B. S. Haldane, who said that “the thing that has not been is the thing that shall be; that no beliefs, no values, no institutions are safe,” an appealing outlook to Dyson, who had found his muse. “Haldane was even more of a heretic than I am,” he says. “He really loved to make people angry.” It wasn’t all science. On trips into London he spent entire days in bookstores where William Blake “got hold of me. What I really liked was he was a really rebellious spirit who always said the opposite of what everybody else believed.”
That defiant sensibility hardened further when the second war with Germany began. Dyson says he can “remember so vividly lying in bed at age 15, absolutely enjoying hearing the bombs go off with a wonderful crunching noise. I said, ‘That’s the sound of the British Empire crumbling.’ I had a sense that the British Empire was evil. The fact that I might get hit didn’t register at all. I think that’s a natural state of mind for a 15-year-old. I somehow got over it.” At Cambridge, Dyson attended all the advanced mathematics lectures and climbed roofs at night during blackouts. By the end of the school year in 1943, which Dyson celebrated by pushing his wheelchairbound classmate, Oscar Hahn, the 55 miles home to London in one 17-hour day, Dyson was fully formed as a person of strong, frequently rebellious beliefs, someone who would always go his own way.
During World War II, Dyson worked for the Royal Air Force at Bomber Command, calculating the most effective ways to deploy pilots, some of whom he knew would die. Dyson says he was “sickened” and “depressed” that many more planes were going down than needed to because military leadership relied on misguided institutional mythologies rather than statistical studies. Even more upsetting, Dyson writes in “Weapons and Hope,” he became an expert on “how to murder most economically another hundred thousand people.” This work, Dyson told the writer Kenneth Brower, created an “emptiness of the soul.”
Then came two blinding flashes of light. Dyson’s reaction to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was complicated. Like many physicists, Dyson has always loved explosions, and, of course, uncovering the secrets of nature is the first motivation of science. When he was interviewed for the 1980 documentary “The Day After Trinity,” Dyson addressed the seduction: “I felt it myself, the glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands. To release the energy that fuels the stars. To let it do your bidding. And to perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky, it is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is in some ways responsible for all our troubles, I would say, this what you might call ‘technical arrogance’ that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.”
Eventually, Dyson would be sure nuclear weapons were the worst evil. But in 1945, drawn to these irreducible components of life, Dyson left mathematics and took up physics. Still, he did not want to be another dusty Englishman toiling alone in a dim Cambridge laboratory. Since childhood, some part of him had always known that the “Americans held the future in their hands and that the smart thing for me to do would be to join them.” That the United States was now the country of Einstein and Oppenheimer was reason enough to go, but Dyson’s sister Alice says that “he escaped to America so he could make his own life,” removed from the shadow of his now famous musical father. “I know how he felt,” says Oliver Sacks, who came to New York not long after medical school. “I was the fifth Dr. Sacks in my family. I felt it was time to get out and find a place of my own.”
In 1947, Dyson enrolled as a doctoral candidate at Cornell, studying with Hans Bethe, who had the reputation of being the greatest problem-solver in physics. Alice Dyson says that once in Ithaca, her brother “became so much more human,” and Dyson does not disagree. “I really felt it was quite amazing how accepted I was,” he says. “In 1963, I’d only been a U.S. citizen for about five years, and I was testifying to the Senate, representing the Federation of American Scientists in favor of the nuclear-test-ban treaty.”
After sizing him up over a few meals, Bethe gave Dyson a problem and told him to come back in six months. “You just sit down and do it,” Dyson told me. “It’s probably the hardest work you’ll do in your life. Without having done that, you’ve never understood what science is all about.” This smaller problem was part of a much larger one inherited from Einstein, among others, involving the need for a theory to describe the behavior of atoms and electrons emitting and absorbing light. Put another way, it was the question of how to move physics forward, creating agreement among the disparate laws of atomic structure, radiation, solid-state physics, plasma physics, maser and laser technology, optical and microwave spectroscopy, electronics and chemistry. Many were working on achieving this broad rapport, including Julian Schwinger at Harvard University; a Japanese physicist named Shinichiro Tomonaga, whose calculations arrived in America from war-depleted Kyoto on cheap brown paper; and Feynman, also at Cornell, a man so brilliant he did complex calculations in his head. Initially, Bethe asked Dyson to make some difficult measurements involving electrons. But soon enough Dyson went further.
The breakthrough came on summer trips Dyson made in 1948, traveling around America by Greyhound bus and also, for four days, in a car with Feynman. Feynman was driving to Albuquerque, and Dyson joined him just for the pleasure of riding alongside “a unique person who had such an amazing combination of gifts.” The irrepressible Feynman and the “quiet and dignified English fellow,” as Feynman described Dyson, picked up gypsy hitchhikers; took shelter from an Oklahoma flood in the only available hotel they could find, a brothel, where Feynman pretended to sleep and heard Dyson relieve himself in their room sink rather than risk the common bathroom in the hall; spoke of Feynman’s realization that he had enjoyed military work on the Manhattan Project too much and therefore could do it no more; and talked about Feynman’s ideas in a way that made Dyson forever understand what the nature of true genius is. Dyson wanted to unify one big theory; Feynman was out to unify all of physics. Inspired by this and by a mesmerizing sermon on nonviolence that Dyson happened to hear a traveling divinity student deliver in Berkeley, Dyson sat aboard his final Greyhound of the summer, heading East. He had no pencil or paper. He was thinking very hard. On a bumpy stretch of highway, long after dark, somewhere out in the middle of Nebraska, Dyson says, “Suddenly the physics problem became clear.” What Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga were doing was stylistically different, but it was all “fundamentally the same.”
Dyson is always effacing when discussing his work — he has variously called himself a tinkerer, a clean-up man and a bridge builder who merely supplied the cantilevers linking other men’s ideas. Bethe thought more highly of him. “He is the best I have ever had or observed,” Bethe wrote in a letter to Oppenheimer, who invited Dyson to the institute for an initial fellowship. There, with Einstein indifferent to him and the chain-smoking Oppenheimer openly doubting Dyson’s physics, Dyson wrote his renowned paper “The Radiation Theories of Tomonaga, Schwinger and Feynman.” Oppenheimer sent Dyson a note: “Nolo contendere — R.O.” If you could do that in a year, who needed a Ph.D.? The institute was perfect for him. He could work all morning and, as he wrote to his parents, in the afternoons go for walks in the woods to see “strange new birds, insects and plants.” It was, Dyson says, the happiest sustained moment in his life. It was also the last great discovery he would make in physics.
Freeman Dyson, III
Reply #164 on:
March 31, 2009, 02:29:36 PM »
Other physicists quietly express disappointment that Dyson didn’t do more to advance the field, that he wasted his promise. “He did some things in physics after the heroic work in 1949, but not as much as I would have expected for someone so off-the-scale smart,” one physicist says. From others there are behind-the-study-door speculations that perhaps Dyson lacked the necessary “killer instinct”; or that he was discouraged by Enrico Fermi, who told him that his further work on quantum electrodynamics was unpromising; or “that he never felt he could approach Feynman’s brilliance.” Dyson shakes his head. “I’ve always enjoyed what I was doing quite independently of whether it was important or not,” he says. “I think it’s almost true without exception if you want to win a Nobel Prize, you should have a long attention span, get ahold of some deep and important problem and stay with it for 10 years. That wasn’t my style.”
DYSON HAD ALWAYS wanted “a big family.” In 1950, after knowing the brilliant mathematician Verena Huber for three weeks, Dyson proposed. They married, Esther and George were born, but the union didn’t last. “She was more interested in mathematics than in raising kids,” he says. By 1958, Dyson had married Imme — he has the brains, she has the legs, the Dysons like to joke — and they settled “in this snobbish little town,” as he calls Princeton. They had four more daughters. All six Dysons describe eventful child hoods with people like Feynman coming by for meals. Their father, meanwhile, was always preaching the virtues of boredom: “Being bored is the only time you are creative” was his thinking. George recalls groups of physicists closing doors and saying, “No children.” Through the keyhole George would hear words that gave him thermonuclear nightmares. All of them remember Dyson coming home, arms filled with bouquets of new appliances to make Imme’s life easier: an automatic ironing machine; a snowblower; one of the first microwave ovens in Princeton.
Beginning in the late ’50s, Dyson spent months in California, on the La Jolla campus of General Atomics, a peacetime Los Alamos, where scientists were seeking progressive uses for nuclear energy. After a challenge from Edward Teller to build a completely safe reactor, Dyson and Ted Taylor patented the Triga, a small isotope machine that is still used for medical diagnostics in hospitals. Then came the Orion rocket, designed so successions of atomic bombs would explode against the spaceship’s massive pusher plate, propelling astronauts toward the moon and beyond. “For me, Orion meant opening up the whole solar system to life,” he says. “It could have changed history.” Dyson says he “thought of Orion as the solution to a problem. With one trip we’d have got rid of 2,000 bombs.” But instead, he lent his support to the nuclear-test-ban treaty with the U.S.S.R., which killed Orion. “This was much more serious than Orion ever would be,” he said later. Dyson’s powers of concentration were so formidable in those years that George remembers sitting with his father and “he’d just disappear.”
One idea pulsing through his mind was a thought experiment that he published in the journal Science in 1959 that described massive energy-collecting shells that could encircle a star and capture solar energy. This was Dyson’s initial response to his insight that earthbound reserves of fossil fuels were limited. The structures are known as Dyson Spheres to science-fiction authors like Larry Niven and by the writers of an episode of “Star Trek” — the only engineers so far to succeed in building one.
This was an early indication of Dyson’s growing interest in what one day would be called climate studies. In 1976, Dyson began making regular trips to the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where the director, Alvin Weinberg, was in the business of investigating alternative sources of power. Charles David Keeling’s pioneering measurements at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, showed rapidly increasing carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere; and in Tennessee, Dyson joined a group of meteorologists and biologists trying to understand the effects of carbon on the Earth and air. He was now becoming a climate expert. Eventually Dyson published a paper titled “Can We Control the Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere?” His answer was yes, and he added that any emergency could be temporarily thwarted with a “carbon bank” of “fast-growing trees.” He calculated how many trees it would take to remove all carbon from the atmosphere. The number, he says, was a trillion, which was “in principle quite feasible.” Dyson says the paper is “what I’d like people to judge me by. I still think everything it says is true.”
Eventually he would embrace another idea: the notorious carbon-eating trees, which would be genetically engineered to absorb more carbon than normal trees. Of them, he admits: “I suppose it sounds like science fiction. Genetic engineering is politically unpopular in the moment.”
In the 1970s, Dyson participated in other climate studies conducted by Jason, a small government-financed group of the country’s finest scientists, whose members gather each summer near San Diego to work on (often) classified (usually) scientific dilemmas of (frequently) military interest to the government. Dyson has, as he admits, a restless nature, and by the time many scientists were thinking about climate, Dyson was on to other problems. Often on his mind were proposals submitted by the government to Jason. “Mainly we kill stupid projects,” he says.
Some scientists refuse military work on the grounds that involvement in killing is sin. Dyson was opposed to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, but not to generals. He had seen in England how a military more enlightened by quantitative analysis could have better protected its men and saved the lives of civilians. “I always felt the worse the situation was, the more important it was to keep talking to the military,” he says. Over the years he says he pushed the rejection of the idea of dropping atomic bombs on North Vietnam and solved problems in adaptive optics for telescopes. Lately he has been “trying to help the intelligence people be aware of what the bad guys may be doing with biology.” Dyson thinks of himself as “fighting for peace,” and Joel Lebowitz, a Rutgers physicist who has known Dyson for 50 years, says Dyson lives up to that: “He works for Jason and he’s out there demonstrating against the Iraq war.”
At Jason, taking problems to Dyson is something of a parlor trick. A group of scientists will be sitting around the cafeteria, and one will idly wonder if there is an integer where, if you take its last digit and move it to the front, turning, say, 112 to 211, it’s possible to exactly double the value. Dyson will immediately say, “Oh, that’s not difficult,” allow two short beats to pass and then add, “but of course the smallest such number is 18 digits long.” When this happened one day at lunch, William Press remembers, “the table fell silent; nobody had the slightest idea how Freeman could have known such a fact or, even more terrifying, could have derived it in his head in about two seconds.” The meal then ended with men who tend to be described with words like “brilliant,” “Nobel” and “MacArthur” quietly retreating to their offices to work out what Dyson just knew.
These days, most of what consumes Dyson is his writing. In a recent article, he addressed the issue of reductionist thinking obliquely, as a question of perspective. Birds, he wrote, “fly high in the air and survey broad vistas.” Frogs like him “live in the mud below and see only the flowers that grow nearby.” Whether the topic is government work, string theory or climate change, Dyson seems opposed to science making enormous gestures. The physicist Douglas Eardley, who works with Dyson at Jason, says: “He’s always against the big monolithic projects, the Battlestar Galacticas. He prefers spunky little Mars rovers.” Dyson has been hostile to the Star Wars missile-defense system, the Space Station, the Hubble telescope and the superconducting super collider, which he says he opposed because “it’s just out of proportion.” Steven Weinberg, the Nobel physics laureate who often disagrees with Dyson on these matters, says: “Some things simply have to be done in a large way. They’re very expensive. That’s big science. Get over it.”
Around the Institute for Advanced Study, that intellectual Arcadia where the blackboards have signs on them that say Do Not Erase, Dyson is quietly admired for candidly expressing his doubts about string theory’s aspiration to represent all forces and matter in one coherent system. “I think Freeman wishes the string theorists well,” Avishai Margalit, the philosopher, says. “I don’t think he wishes them luck. He’s interested in diversity, and that’s his worldview. To me he is a towering figure although he is tiny — almost a saintly model of how to get old. The main thing he retains is playfulness. Einstein had it. Playfulness and curiosity. He also stands for this unique trait, which is wisdom. Brightness here is common. He is wise. He integrated, not in a theory, but in his life, all his dreams of things.”
IMME DYSON REPORTS that her husband “recently stopped climbing trees.” Dyson himself says he’s resigned to never finishing “Anna Karenina.” Otherwise he still lives his days at mortality-ignoring cadence, aided by NoDoz, a habit he first acquired during his R.A.F. days. He travels widely, giving talks at churches and colleges, reminding people how dangerous nuclear weapons are. (“I think people got used to them and think if you leave them alone, they won’t do you any harm,” he says. “I always am scared. I think everybody ought to be.”) He has visited both the Galápagos Islands and the campus of Google and attended “Doctor Atomic,” the John Adams opera about Oppenheimer, which disappointed him. More fulfilling was the board meeting of a foundation promoting solar energy in China. Another winter day found him answering questions from physics majors at a Christian college in Oklahoma. (“Scientists should understand the human anguish of religious people,” he says.)
Lately Dyson has been lamenting that he and Imme “don’t see so much of each other. We’re always rushing around.” But one evening last month they sat down in a living room filled with Imme’s running trophies and photographs of their children to watch “An Inconvenient Truth” again. There was a print of Einstein above the television. And then there was Al Gore below him, telling of the late Roger Revelle, a Harvard scientist who first alerted the undergraduate Gore to how severe the climate’s problems would become. Gore warned of the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, the vanishing glaciers of Peru and “off the charts” carbon levels in the air. “The so-called skeptics” say this “seems perfectly O.K.,” Gore said, and Imme looked at her husband. She is even slighter than he is, a pretty wood sprite in running shoes. “How far do you allow the oceans to rise before you say, This is no good?” she asked Dyson.
“When I see clear evidence of harm,” he said.
“Then it’s too late,” she replied. “Shouldn’t we not add to what nature’s doing?”
“The costs of what Gore tells us to do would be extremely large,” Dyson said. “By restricting CO2 you make life more expensive and hurt the poor. I’m concerned about the Chinese.”
“They’re the biggest polluters,” Imme replied.
“They’re also changing their standard of living the most, going from poor to middle class. To me that’s very precious.”
The film continued with Gore predicting violent hurricanes, typhoons and tornados. “How in God’s name could that happen here?” Gore said, talking about Hurricane Katrina. “Nature’s been going crazy.”
“That is of course just nonsense,” Dyson said calmly. “With Katrina, all the damage was due to the fact that nobody had taken the trouble to build adequate dikes. To point to Katrina and make any clear connection to global warming is very misleading.”
Now came Arctic scenes, with Gore telling of disappearing ice, drunken trees and drowning polar bears. “Most of the time in history the Arctic has been free of ice,” Dyson said. “A year ago when we went to Greenland where warming is the strongest, the people loved it.”
“They were so proud,” Imme agreed. “They could grow their own cabbage.”
The film ended. “I think Gore does a brilliant job,” Dyson said. “For most people I’d think this would be quite effective. But I knew Roger Revelle. He was definitely a skeptic. He’s not alive to defend himself.”
“All my friends say how smart and farsighted Al Gore is,” she said.
“He certainly is a good preacher,” Dyson replied. “Forty years ago it was fashionable to worry about the coming ice age. Better to attack the real problems like the extinction of species and overfishing. There are so many practical measures we could take.”
“I’m still perfectly happy if you buy me a Prius!” Imme said.
“It’s toys for the rich,” her husband smiled, and then they were arguing about windmills.
Nicholas Dawidoff, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author of four books, most recently “The Crowd Sounds Happy.”
Re: Environmental issues, CO2 graphic, out of control?
Reply #165 on:
April 28, 2009, 10:11:22 PM »
Some science regarding CO2 and global warming:
Some Global Warming Q&A To Consider in Light of the EPA Ruling
April 19th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
IS GLOBAL WARMING HAPPENING NOW?
There is no way to know if warming is ‘happening now’. Because natural climate fluctuations on a year-to-year basis are so large, we will only recognize warming (or cooling) several years down the road when it appears in the rearview mirror. The most important statistic to me is that global average temperatures stopped rising in 2001, as shown in the following chart of global tropospheric temperatures that John Christy and I derive from satellite measurements.
As you can see, we might have even entered a new cooling trend. The claim that the warming trend over the last 50 to 100 years is continuing right now, or that it is even ‘accelerating’ is pure speculation, based upon the assumption that what has happened in recent decades will continue into the future.
ISN’T IT WARMER NOW THAN IT HAS BEEN IN THOUSANDS OF YEARS?
Well, look at the following recently published proxy reconstruction of global temperatures over the last 2000 years. This graph is based upon 18 previously published temperature proxies, and so provides the most robust estimate available to date. It can be seen that significant warming and cooling periods of 50 to 100 years in duration seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. There were probably even warmer years during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) than we have seen in recent years. Even the warmth of the ‘record’ warm El Nino year in 1998 (see temperature chart above) might well have been surpassed several times during major El Nino events that occurred during the MWP. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how warm individual years were a thousand years ago…the graph below is made up of thirty-year averages. I added the dotted line toward the end showing the modern thermometer record.
ISN’T DISAPPEARING SEA ICE IN THE ARCTIC PROOF OF MANMADE GLOBAL WARMING?
Warming, yes. Manmade, no. As can be seen in the following chart, it was just as warm in the Arctic (or nearly as warm) in the 1930s, with loss of sea ice and changing wildlife patterns reported in newspapers. The water levels in the Great Lakes reached record lows during this time, too…just as has happened again in recent years.
ISN’T ARCTIC SEA CONTINUING TO MELT FASTER AND FASTER?
No. As can be seen in the graph below (updated here through April 21, 2009), 2007 was the year when summer ice melt resulted in a 30-year record low in sea ice coverage. In 2008, the ice recovered somewhat. And from looking at 2009, we might well see further recovery this summer. Based upon the PDO index (above) it could be we have entered a new cooling phase of the PDO, which might explain this sea ice recovery, as well as our recent return to colder, snowier winters in the Northern Hemisphere.
AREN’T THE POLAR BEARS DYING FROM DISAPPEARING SEA ICE?
Generally speaking, no. While 2 sub-populations of polar bears appear to be threatened by the recent reduction in Arctic sea ice, the other dozen or more sub-populations are either stable or growing. Polar bears survived previous periods of Arctic warmth, and they will survive this one, too.
WHAT ABOUT THE COLLAPSING ICE SHELVES IN ANTARCTICA?
Just as Greenland glaciers will continue to flow downhill and break off into the sea as snow keeps falling on Greenland, the Antarctic ice sheet also slowly flows toward the sea. But in Antarctica, this forms ice ‘shelves’ that can extend out over the ocean a considerable distance. These ice shelves ring the entire continent, and eventually they must break off and float away. It could be that ice shelf collapse events become more common when warmer ocean waters affect a portion of the continent, as has been the case in recent years. Maybe a period of more rapid ice shelf collapse also occurred during the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago…we just don’t know.
On a whole, Antarctica has not warmed. And because it is so cold there, even a few degrees of warming will not cause the ice sheet to melt anyway. In fact, as can be seen in the following graph, sea ice around Antarctica has increased over the same 30-year period of time that Arctic sea ice has decreased.
ISN’T CARBON DIOXIDE A DANGEROUS GAS?
Well if you breathe pure CO2, you will die — from a lack of oxygen, not because CO2 is poisonous. But if you breathe pure oxygen for very long, that will also kill you. Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth; photosynthesis by plants on land and by plankton in the ocean depend upon it. And without those forms of life, all the animals (and we humans) would die as well. For something as essential as CO2, it verges on the bizarre for people like Al Gore to liken carbon dioxide to sewage.
BUT WE CAN’T KEEP PUMPING CO2 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE FOREVER, CAN WE?
No…and we won’t. But the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere is pretty trivial: As of 2009, there are only 38 or 39 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of atmosphere, and it will take mankind’s CO2 emissions another five years to raise that total by 1 molecule, to 40 out of every 100,000 molecules. The following graph shows how much the CO2 content of the atmosphere has risen in the last 50 years at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The graph has a vertical scale that only extends to 1% of the atmosphere, and as can be seen, the increase in CO2 is barely visible. This graph is not a trick…it looks different from what you are used to seeing because CO2 is usually plotted with a greatly magnified vertical scale to make the CO2 rise look more dramatic. Yes, we might double the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere by late in this century…but 2 times a very small number is still a very small number.
ISN’T CO2 THE ATMOSPHERE’S MAIN GREENHOUSE GAS?
No. Water vapor accounts for about 85% or 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, clouds account for another 5% or 10%. CO2 represents only about 3%, methane even less. You will see quite a bit of variability in the above percentages because they can only be calculated based upon theory, and involve a variety of assumptions. I have greatest confidence in the 3% number for the CO2 portion, which we have verified with our own calculations: The direct effect of doubling of CO2 would only be a 1 deg. C warming of the surface (this is not disputed, see below), and when you compare that to the 33 deg. C of surface warming due to all greenhouse components of the atmosphere, you get 3%.
BUT DON’T THE COMPUTER CLIMATE MODELS PREDICT SERIOUS GLOBAL WARMING…EVEN FROM THE LITTLE BIT OF EXTRA CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE?
Yes, but most of the warming produced by climate models is NOT directly from the CO2, but from assumed changes in clouds and water vapor in response to the small CO2-induced warming tendency. And this is the models’ Achilles heel. While all of those models now change clouds with warming in ways that amplify that warming, some by a catastrophic amount, there is increasing evidence that clouds in the real climate system behave in just the opposite way (peer reviewed papers of ours here and here). This could result in a doubling of atmospheric CO2 causing less than 1 deg. F of warming by the end of this century.
BUT WE’VE ALREADY SEEN 1 DEGREE OF WARMING…SO, WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED IT?
My latest research (as yet unpublished) suggests most of the warming we’ve experienced in the last 100 years is due to natural changes in cloud cover…possibly caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation mentioned above. Something climate modelers apparently don’t appreciate is that it would only take about a 1% change in global cloud cover to cause ‘global warming’. Curiously, climate modelers do not believe this happens. Exactly why they don’t, I haven’t been able to figure out. Probably because we’ve not had accurate enough long-term observations of global cloud cover to document any such changes. But just because such changes are too small for us to measure doesn’t mean they do not exist. Most of us who were trained as meteorologists find 1% changes in global cloud cover to be entirely plausible, probably the result of natural, chaotic changes in weather patterns coupled to small chaotic changes in ocean circulation.
HASN’T THE “FINGERPRINT” OF MANMADE WARMING ALREADY BEEN FOUND?
No. Climate modelers claim they can only explain global warming by including greenhouse gas increases in their models. But that claim is based upon 2 critical assumptions: (1) the climate system is very sensitive to increasing CO2, a consequence of their climate models not handling clouds properly, and (2) as mentioned above, a lack of accurate observations over a long enough period of time to document potential natural, and stronger, warming mechanisms…such as a slight decrease in global cloud cover letting more sunlight in.
Another “fingerprint” claim is that global warming has been stronger over land than ocean, as would be expected with more greenhouse gases. But warming of the oceans and land in response to fewer clouds would be indistinguishable from warming caused by more carbon dioxide. A decrease in oceanic cloudiness would warm the oceans, which would then send more humid airmasses over land. And since water vapor is our main greenhouse gas, the land will warm in response. The land warming would be then be stronger than the ocean warming because the heat capacity of land is less than that of the ocean. So, don’t be fooled when you hear claims that the “fingerprint” of manmade warming has been found…it hasn’t. In fact, there is no known human “fingerprint”.
HAVEN’T SEVERE WEATHER EVENTS LIKE HURRICANES BECOME MORE COMMON IN RECENT YEARS?
No, only storm damage has increased. This is because people keep building along coastlines and in other areas prone to severe weather. And the more stuff we build, the more targets there are for hurricanes and tornadoes to destroy. Some of the records you have heard about for strongest hurricane, etc., are mostly because our technological ability to measure these storms has improved so much in recent years. There is no way to know if some recent storms (e.g. Katrina when it was in the central Gulf of Mexico) were stronger than major hurricanes that occurred in the early 20th Century, before we had weather radar, high resolution satellite data, and instrumented planes to fly into them.
WHAT ABOUT OCEAN ACIDIFICATION FROM MORE CO2?
The chemistry of the ocean is still poorly understood from the standpoint of how it varies over time, and how it is controlled. There is a common view among oceanographers that extra atmospheric CO2 has caused the average pH of the ocean to be reduced from 8.18 to 8.10 since the start of the Industrial Revolution. But pH varies widely across the global oceans, and that estimated decrease is more of a ‘theoretically-calculated expectation’ than it is an actual observation. A minority view I have heard is that the buffering capacity of the ocean will prevent ocean acidification. In fact, recent evidence suggests that (just like plants on land) plankton in the ocean will grow faster and be more abundant with more CO2 in the atmosphere.
Last Edit: April 28, 2009, 10:21:45 PM by DougMacG
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #166 on:
April 29, 2009, 04:11:07 PM »
Nice piece, Doug!
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #167 on:
May 06, 2009, 05:23:15 PM »
WASHINGTON -- New federal greenhouse gas emission regulation could expose a raft of smaller emitters to litigation, a nominee for a key post in the Environmental Protection Agency told lawmakers Thursday.
The potential for smaller emitters to be regulated under the Clean Air Act is one reason why business groups warn that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases could create a cascade of legal and regulatory challenges across a much broader array of sectors. The Obama administration has said that isn't their intent.
Regina McCarthy, nominated to be EPA's Director of Air and Radiation, told lawmakers that even while the government has flexibility in setting the threshold of emitting facilities to be regulated, she acknowledges the risk of lawsuits to challenge those levels for smaller emitters. Ms. McCarthy's office is responsible for drafting federal emission rules.
Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) has put a hold on Ms. McCarthy's nomination in part because of her responses on the greenhouse gas issue.
Under the Obama administration, the EPA is moving forward to declare greenhouse gas emissions a danger to public health and welfare, which will trigger new rules once finalized. The EPA says that only around 13,000 of the largest emitters, such as refiners, smelters and cement plants would likely be regulated.
Many legal experts say that based on clear Clean Air Act statutes, however, regulations could be applied to any facility that emits more than 100-250 tons a year, including hospitals, schools and farms. Taken in aggregate, farm animals are major greenhouse gas sources because of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from flatulence, belching and manure. Buildings often emit greenhouse gases from internal heating or cooling units.
"It is a myth … EPA will regulate cows, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Huts, your lawnmower and baby bottles," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said earlier this year, dismissing concerns raised by groups such as the Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers.
But in responses to a senator's questioning, Ms. McCarthy acknowledged that legal suits could be brought against small emitters.
Asked how she would protect smaller sources against suits, Ms. McCarthy said she would talk with the litigants: "I will request that I be informed if any such notice is filed with regards to a small source, and I will follow-up with the potential litigants."
Bill Kovacs, the head of environment and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, "There's no way she can talk to the litigants and control them." By the Chamber's estimate, there are 1.5 million facilities -- such as large office buildings that have their own boilers -- that produce over the 250-ton limit.
Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, says her group is prepared to sue for regulation of smaller emitters if the EPA stops at simply large emitters.
Watt's Up Web Site & Report
Reply #168 on:
May 12, 2009, 12:33:50 PM »
This is wicked cool stuff. A volunteer cadre of about 650 people went out an surveyed about 75 percent of the weather stations used by AGW prognosticators, among others. The result? Almost 9 out of 10 stations failed to live up to the National Weather Services siting requirements, with many of the stations sited on heat islands or close to hear sources. Think about that for a second: tens of thousands of scientists and administrators have queued up to the AGW trough where they spend billions of dollars with which they produce questionable science. And then here are a group of volunteers with no budget who, in one fell swoop, have chopped a major data set out from under the AGW zealots.
Good science speaks for itself. Bad science hires publicists.
“Is The U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?” By Anthony Watts
Filed under: Climate Change Metrics — Roger Pielke Sr. @ 7:00 am
Anthony Watts, author of the weblog Watts Up With That, has completed an outstanding, clearly written report that documents a major problem with the use of the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN)to assess multi-decadal surface temperature trends. The report is
Watts, A. 2009: Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? 28 pages, March 2009 The Heartland Institute.
The Executive Summary reads
“Global warming is one of the most serious issues of our times. Some experts claim the rise in temperature during the past century was “unprecedented” and proof that immediate action to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions must begin. Other experts say the warming was very modest and the case for action has yet to be made.
The reliability of data used to document temperature trends is of great importance in this debate. We can’t know for sure if global warming is a problem if we can’t trust the data.
The official record of temperatures in the continental United States comes from a network of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Until now, no one had ever conducted a comprehensive review of the quality of the measurement environment of those stations.
During the past few years I recruited a team of more than 650 volunteers to visually inspect and photographically document more than 860 of these temperature stations. We were shocked by what we found.
We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.
In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.
In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited.
It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher.
The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.
The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7º C (about 1.2º F) during the twentieth century. Consequently, this record should not be cited as evidence of any trend in temperature that may have occurred across the U.S. during the past century. Since the U.S. record is thought to be “the best in the world,” it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable.
This report presents actual photos of more than 100 temperature stations in the U.S., many of them demonstrating vividly the siting issues we found to be rampant in the network. Photographs of all 865 stations that have been surveyed so far can be found at
, where station photos can be browsed by state or searched for by name.”
This is a report that is very much worth reading! Hardcopies are available for purchase from
The Heartland Institute 19 South LaSalle Street #903 Chicago Illinois 60603
You can go straight to Watt's website here:
Some Cold Perspective
Reply #169 on:
May 13, 2009, 12:34:15 PM »
May 13, 2009
The Coming Ice Age
By David Deming
Those who ignore the geologic perspective do so at great risk. In fall of 1985, geologists warned that a Columbian volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, was getting ready to erupt. But the volcano had been dormant for 150 years. So government officials and inhabitants of nearby towns did not take the warnings seriously. On the evening of November 13, Nevado del Ruiz erupted, triggering catastrophic mudslides. In the town of Armero, 23,000 people were buried alive in a matter of seconds.
For ninety percent of the last million years, the normal state of the Earth's climate has been an ice age. Ice ages last about 100,000 years, and are punctuated by short periods of warm climate, or interglacials. The last ice age started about 114,000 years ago. It began instantaneously. For a hundred-thousand years, temperatures fell and sheets of ice a mile thick grew to envelop much of North America, Europe and Asia. The ice age ended nearly as abruptly as it began. Between about 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, the temperature in Greenland rose more than 50 °F.
We don't know what causes ice ages to begin or end. In 1875, a janitor turned geologist, James Croll, proposed that small variations in Earth's orbit around the Sun were responsible for climate change. This idea enjoyed its greatest heyday during the 1970s, when ocean sediment cores appeared to confirm the theory. But in 1992, Ike Winograd and his colleagues at the US Geological Survey falsified the theory by demonstrating that its predictions were inconsistent with new, high-quality data.
The climate of the ice ages is documented in the ice layers of Greenland and Antarctica. We have cored these layers, extracted them, and studied them in the laboratory. Not only were ice ages colder than today, but the climates were considerably more variable. Compared to the norm of the last million years, our climate is remarkably warm, stable and benign. During the last ice age in Greenland abrupt climatic swings of 30 °F were common. Since the ice age ended, variations of 3 °F are uncommon.
For thousands of years, people have learned from experience that cold temperatures are detrimental for human welfare and warm temperatures are beneficial. From about 1300 to 1800 AD, the climate cooled slightly during a period known as the Little Ice Age. In Greenland, the temperature fell by about 4 °F. Although trivial, compared to an ice age cooling of 50 °F, this was nevertheless sufficient to wipe out the Viking colony there.
In northern Europe, the Little Ice Age kicked off with the Great Famine of 1315. Crops failed due to cold temperatures and incessant rain. Desperate and starving, parents ate their children, and people dug up corpses from graves for food. In jails, inmates instantly set upon new prisoners and ate them alive.
The Great Famine was followed by the Black Death, the greatest disaster ever to hit the human race. One-third of the human race died; terror and anarchy prevailed. Human civilization as we know it is only possible in a warm interglacial climate. Short of a catastrophic asteroid impact, the greatest threat to the human race is the onset of another ice age.
The oscillation between ice ages and interglacial periods is the dominant feature of Earth's climate for the last million years. But the computer models that predict significant global warming from carbon dioxide cannot reproduce these temperature changes. This failure to reproduce the most significant aspect of terrestrial climate reveals an incomplete understanding of the climate system, if not a nearly complete ignorance.
Global warming predictions by meteorologists are based on speculative, untested, and poorly constrained computer models. But our knowledge of ice ages is based on a wide variety of reliable data, including cores from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. In this case, it would be perspicacious to listen to the geologists, not the meteorologists. By reducing our production of carbon dioxide, we risk hastening the advent of the next ice age. Even more foolhardy and dangerous is the Obama administration's announcement that they may try to cool the planet through geoengineering. Such a move in the middle of a cooling trend could provoke the irreversible onset of an ice age. It is not hyperbole to state that such a climatic change would mean the end of human civilization as we know it.
Earth's climate is controlled by the Sun. In comparison, every other factor is trivial. The coldest part of the Little Ice Age during the latter half of the seventeenth century was marked by the nearly complete absence of sunspots. And the Sun now appears to be entering a new period of quiescence. August of 2008 was the first month since the year 1913 that no sunspots were observed. As I write, the sun remains quiet. We are in a cooling trend. The areal extent of global sea ice is above the twenty-year mean.
We have heard much of the dangers of global warming due to carbon dioxide. But the potential danger of any potential anthropogenic warming is trivial compared to the risk of entering a new ice age. Public policy decisions should be based on a realistic appraisal that takes both climate scenarios into consideration.
David Deming is a geophysicist and associate professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
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Reply #170 on:
May 13, 2009, 07:13:57 PM »
FYI, Another forgotten plague
Reply #171 on:
May 13, 2009, 07:49:47 PM »
"the Little Ice Age kicked off with the Great Famine of 1315. Crops failed due to cold temperatures and incessant rain. Desperate and starving, parents ate their children, and people dug up corpses from graves for food. In jails, inmates instantly set upon new prisoners and ate them alive.
The Great Famine was followed by the Black Death, the greatest disaster ever to hit the human race"
While no one will ever now for sure of course, an earlier plague could have been evern worse. Know as the plague of Justinian, a Byzantine emperor who were it not for this plague that killed him and perhaps 100 million others might have actually revived the Roman empire between 500 and 600 AD (This was on I think "Lost Worlds" an interesting cable science show):
****Plague of Justinian
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The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire, including its capital Constantinople, in the years 541–542 AD. The most commonly accepted cause of the pandemic is bubonic plague, which later became infamous for either causing or contributing to the Black Death of the 14th century. Its social and cultural impact is comparable to that of the Black Death. In the views of 6th century Western historians, it was nearly worldwide in scope, striking central and south Asia, North Africa and Arabia, and Europe as far north as Denmark and as far west as Ireland. The plague would return with each generation throughout the Mediterranean basin until about 750. The plague would also have a major impact on the future course of European history. Modern historians named it after the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I, who was in power at the time and himself contracted the disease.
The outbreak may have originated in Ethiopia or Egypt and moved northward until it reached metropolitan Constantinople. The city imported massive amounts of grain to feed its citizens—mostly from Egypt—and grain ships may have been the original source of contagion, with the massive public granaries nurturing the rat and flea population.
The Byzantine historian Procopius records that, at its peak, the plague was killing 10,000 people in Constantinople every day, although the accuracy of this figure is in question and the true number will probably never be known for sure; what is known is that there was no room to bury the dead, and bodies were being left stacked in the open. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I ensured that new legislation was swiftly enacted so as to deal more efficiently with the glut of inheritance suits being brought as a result of the plague deaths (Moorhead, J., 1994).
Justinian had expended huge amounts of money for wars against the Vandals in the Carthage region and the Ostrogoth Kingdom of Italy. He had also dedicated significant funds to the construction of great churches like the Hagia Sophia. Amidst these great expenditures, the plague's effects on tax revenue were disastrous. As the plague spread to port cities around the Mediterranean, it gave the struggling Goths new opportunities in their conflict with Constantinople. The plague weakened the Byzantine Empire at the critical point at which Justinian's armies had nearly wholly retaken Italy and could have credibly reformed the Western Roman Empire. It also may have contributed to the success of the Arabs a few generations later in the Byzantine-Arab Wars.
The long term effects on European and Christian history were enormous. Justinian's gambit was ultimately unsuccessful. The overextended troops could not hold on. When the plague subsided, they were able to retake Italy but not to move further north. They held it for the remainder of Justinian's life, but the empire quickly lost it after he died. Italy was decimated by war and fragmented for centuries as the Lombard tribes invaded the north.
Ancient historians did not hold to modern standards of fact-checking or numerical accuracy. The actual number of deaths will always be uncertain. Modern scholars believe that the plague killed up to 5,000 people per day in Constantinople at the peak of the pandemic. It ultimately killed perhaps 40% of the city's inhabitants. The initial plague went on to destroy up to a quarter of the human population of the eastern Mediterranean. New, frequent waves of the plague continued to strike throughout the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries AD, often more localized and less virulent. It is estimated that the Plague of Justinian killed as many as 100 million people across the world. Some historians such as Josiah C. Russell (1958) have suggested a total European population loss of 50 to 60% between 541 and 700.
After 750, major epidemic diseases would not appear again in Europe until the Black Death of the 14th century.****
Cold Weather Impacts Crops
Reply #172 on:
June 15, 2009, 10:10:08 AM »
Be interesting to see if the MSM ever gets to this:
Crops under stress as temperatures fall
Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker.
By Christopher Booker
Published: 6:04PM BST 13 Jun 2009
Comments 19 | Comment on this article
For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.
There was midsummer snow not just in Norway and the Cairngorms, but even in Saudi Arabia. At least in the southern hemisphere it is winter, but snowfalls in New Zealand and Australia have been abnormal. There have been frosts in Brazil, elsewhere in South America they have had prolonged droughts, while in China they have had to cope with abnormal rain and freak hailstorms, which in one province killed 20 people.
In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya – used in animal feed and in many processed foods – are expected to fall to a 32-year low.
In China, the world's largest wheat grower, they have been battling against the atrocious weather to bring in the harvest. (In one province they even fired chemical shells into the clouds to turn freezing hailstones into rain.) In north-west China drought has devastated crops with a plague of pests and blight. In countries such as Argentina and Brazil droughts have caused such havoc that a veteran US grain expert said last week: "In 43 years I've never seen anything like the decline we're looking at in South America."
In Europe, the weather has been a factor in well-below average predicted crop yields in eastern Europe and Ukraine. In Britain this year's oilseed rape crop is likely to be 30 per cent below its 2008 level. And although it may be too early to predict a repeat of last year's food shortage, which provoked riots from west Africa to Egypt and Yemen, it seems possible that world food stocks may next year again be under severe strain, threatening to repeat the steep rises which, in 2008, saw prices double what they had been two years before.
There are obviously various reasons for this concern as to whether the world can continue to feed itself, but one of them is undoubtedly the downturn in world temperatures, which has brought more cold and snow since 2007 than we have known for decades.
Three factors are vital to crops: the light and warmth of the sun, adequate rainfall and the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. As we are constantly reminded, we still have plenty of that nasty, polluting CO2, which the politicians are so keen to get rid of. But there is not much they can do about the sunshine or the rainfall.
It is now more than 200 years since the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century. One of our biggest worries is that our politicians are so fixated on the idea that CO2 is causing global warming that most of them haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, with all the implications that has for whether we get enough to eat.
It is appropriate that another contributory factor to the world's food shortage should be the millions of acres of farmland now being switched from food crops to biofuels, to stop the world warming, Last year even the experts of the European Commission admitted that, to meet the EU's biofuel targets, we will eventually need almost all the food-growing land in Europe. But that didn't persuade them to change their policy. They would rather we starved than did that. And the EU, we must always remember, is now our government – the one most of us didn't vote for last week.
More on sunspots
Reply #173 on:
June 18, 2009, 04:25:49 AM »
The article starts talking about low wheat production due to the weather, then discusses the role of sunspots on the earths temperature. The sunspot issue was first flagged here quite some time ago, but now begins to getting wider notice.
Legless Frogs, Breathless Predictions
Reply #174 on:
June 29, 2009, 07:45:19 AM »
At one time this matter was used to promote the notion that man-made pollution was the cause of this phenomena, with all sorts of dire predictions flowing therefrom . Alas, the cause is much more mundane:
Legless frogs mystery solved
Editor, Earth News
Scientists think they have resolved one of the most controversial environmental issues of the past decade: the curious case of the missing frogs' legs.
Around the world, frogs are found with missing or misshaped limbs, a striking deformity that many researchers believe is caused by chemical pollution.
However, tests on frogs and toads have revealed a more natural, benign cause.
The deformed frogs are actually victims of the predatory habits of dragonfly nymphs, which eat the legs of tadpoles.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, researchers started getting reports of numerous wild frogs or toads being found with extra legs or arms, or with limbs that were partly formed or missing completely.
The cause of these deformities soon became a hotly contested issue.
Some researchers believed they might be caused naturally, by predators or parasites.
Others thought that was highly unlikely, fearing that chemical pollution, or UV-B radiation caused by the thinning of the ozone layer, was triggering the deformations.
Once they grab the tadpole, they use their front legs to turn it around, searching for the tender bits, in this case the hind limb buds, which they then snip off with their mandibles
Biologist Stanley Sessions describes the dining habits of dragonfly nymphs
"Deformed frogs became one of the most contentious environmental issues of all time, with the parasite researchers on one side, and the 'chemical company' as I call them, on the other," says Stanley Sessions, an amphibian specialist and professor of biology at Hartwick College, in Oneonta, New York.
"There was a veritable media firestorm, with millions of dollars of grant money at stake."
After a long period of research, Sessions and other researchers established that many amphibians with extra limbs were actually infected by small parasitic flatworms called Riberoria trematodes.
These creatures burrow into the hindquarters of tadpoles where they physically rearrange the limb bud cells and thereby interfere with limb development.
"But that was not end of the story," says Sessions.
"Frogs with extra limbs may have been the most dramatic-looking deformities, but they are by far the least common deformities found," he explains.
"The most commonly found deformities are frogs or toads found with missing or truncated limbs, and although parasites occasionally cause limblessness in a frog, these deformities are almost never associated with the trematode species known to cause extra limbs."
The mystery of what causes frogs to have missing or deformed limbs remained unsolved until Sessions teamed up with colleague Brandon Ballengee of the University of Plymouth, UK. They report their findings in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution.
For a decade, Ballengee and Sessions have collaborated on a series of art and science projects that image amphibians' bodies to show the detail within, the most recent of which is funded by the Arts Catalyst organisation, based in London.
As part of this work, Ballengee and Richard Sunter, the official Recorder of Reptiles and Amphibians in Yorkshire, spent time during the summers of 2006 to 2008 surveying the occurrence of deformities in wild amphibians at three ponds in the county.
In all, they found that between 1.2% and 9.8% of tadpoles or metamorphosed toads at each location had hind limb deformities. Three had missing eyes.
"We were very surprised when we found so many metamorphic toads with abnormal limbs, as it was thought to be a North American phenomenon," says Ballengee.
While surveying, Ballengee also discovered a range of natural predators he suspected could be to blame, including stickleback fish, newts, diving beetles, water scorpions and predatory dragonfly nymphs.
So Ballengee and Sessions decide to test how each predator preyed upon the tadpoles, by placing them together in fish tanks in the lab.
None did, except three species of dragonfly nymph.
Crucially though, the nymphs rarely ate the tadpoles whole. More often than not, they would grab the tadpole and chew at a hind limb, often removing it altogether.
"Once they grab the tadpole, they use their front legs to turn it around, searching for the tender bits, in this case the hind limb buds, which they then snip off with their mandibles," says Sessions.
Remarkably, many tadpoles survive this ordeal.
"Often the tadpole is released and is able to swim away to live for another day," says Sessions. "If it survives it metamorphoses into a toad with missing or deformed hind limbs, depending on the developmental stage of the tadpole."
If tadpoles are attacked when they are very young, they can often regenerate their leg completely, but this ability diminishes as they grow older.
The researchers confirmed this by surgically removing the hind limbs of some tadpoles and watching them grow. These tadpoles developed in an identical way to those whose limbs had been removed by dragonflies, confirming that losing a limb at a certain stage of a tadpole's development can lead to missing or deformed limbs in adulthood.
Adult amphibians with one one hind limb appear able to live for quite a long time, Sessions says, explaining why so many deformed frogs and toads are discovered.
Why do the dragonflies like to eat the hind legs only?
As toad tadpoles mature, they develop poison glands in their skin much earlier than those in their hind legs, which could make the hind legs a far more palatable meal.
The front legs of tadpoles also develop within the gill chamber, where they are protected.
Sessions is careful to say that he doesn't completely rule out chemicals as the cause of some missing limbs. But 'selective predation' by dragonfly nymphs is now by far the leading explanation, he says.
"Are parasites sufficient to cause extra limbs?," he asks. "Yes. Is selective predation by dragonfly nymphs sufficient to cause loss or reduction of limbs. Yes. Are chemical pollutants necessary to understand either of these phenomena? No."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #175 on:
June 29, 2009, 09:03:21 AM »
Good contribution! I have been reading about this with concern for some time now. The question remains though concerning genital deformations in fish, etc.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #176 on:
June 29, 2009, 11:53:41 AM »
. . . and declining bee populations, invasive species advance, white nose syndrome re bats, and so on. Hopefully the moral of the story here is that correctly conducted research--which takes time--trumps the du jour breathless hysteria put fourth by some 24 hour news cycle whore.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #177 on:
July 03, 2009, 05:01:56 PM »
A look at the earths destruction. A film titled: "HOME"
Last Edit: July 07, 2009, 09:26:19 PM by Tom Stillman
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time. dalai lama
Environmental issues: Treason to be unalarmed ??
Reply #178 on:
July 04, 2009, 07:49:34 PM »
We know the earth will warm 9 degrees this century because of the 1/2 of 1 degree of warming last century. ?
We know there will be continuous acceleration of future warming because of the uninterrupted warming in the past. Oops, it was erratic, inconsistent and unexplainable in the past.
We know all alarmism is true because all scientists say so. Except for these 700+
..epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=10fe77b0-802a-23ad-4df1-fc38ed4f85e3 or these 31,000:
Without further adieu, in the absence of two-sided heated debate here I give Paul Krugman calling for the stoning to death of all moderate skeptics who may happen to think differently than him:
Op-Ed Columnist New York Times
Betraying the Planet
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: June 28, 2009
So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.
But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.
The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.
Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.
In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?
Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.
But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.
Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.
Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.
Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?
Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.
Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.
Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.
Clouding out the Sun?
Reply #179 on:
July 17, 2009, 04:45:30 PM »
Strange clouds are signs of change!
July 16, 11:42 AM · Rich Apuzzo - Cincinnati Weather Examiner
Meteorologist Rich Apuzzo
If the earth’s climate were compared to a 1000-piece puzzle of the human face, we would have only the eyes and part of the nose completed, with hundreds of unconnected pieces scattered across the table and many others missing altogether…lost somewhere else in the house. The fact is that we don’t have all the pieces of the climate puzzle. We’re discovering new ones every year and even realizing that the ones we thought we placed correctly are not fitting as well as we hoped. This puzzle won’t be finished anytime soon, but the more we stare at the pieces, the more into focus the puzzle becomes.
Yesterday I received a notification from SpaceWeather.com about a show of Noctilucent Clouds (NLCs) from around the northern hemisphere. While reading this, take a moment to read the link provided about Noctilucent Clouds, especially noting the locations at which they’re usually found (50-70 degrees north and south) and the reason they form in the summer (coldest time of year in the Mesosphere). Also, open a separate tab or browser window and look at these recent photos of NLC in the USA and around the world. Now let’s look at this puzzle piece a little further.
Okay, what do we know about NLCs?
They form 45 to 60 miles up in the atmosphere in an area known as the Mesosphere. Nothing man does (aside from the occasional space shuttle or failing satellites) can put moisture or pollution into that part of our world, though it is speculated that extremely powerful volcanoes can push natural pollutants that high over time and we know that natural space debris (meteors, etc.) regularly pounds the outer atmosphere.
We also know that NLCs have been sighted for over 120 years, and prior to that they may have existed, but may have been confused with clouds in the lower atmosphere. If you’re looking at the photos I talked about, you can see that NLCs look like regular clouds, except that they tend to be a bright blue and are visible well after sunset.
Our best understanding is that they form as the Mesosphere cools during the summer months of June-August in the northern hemisphere. The sun’s heating of the earth doesn’t reach the Mesosphere until autumn and winter, so this is the coldest time of year up there.
From the Wikipedia article I linked to, we also know that the observance of NLCs has been “increasing in frequency, brightness and extent”, and let me add that over the past few years we have seen a dramatic increase in NLCs (at the same time the planet has been cooling).
We also know that clouds absorb or reflect solar radiation (sometimes both, but at different wavelengths), but either way, it’s less solar radiation reaching the earth. Just think about a cloudy day vs. a sunny day here in the lower atmosphere. All other things being equal, a cloudy day will be cooler than a sunny day. Clouds also act to trap heat in the lower atmosphere, but with time, the amount of heat trapped is overcome by the diminished incoming radiation and cooling will occur.
Well now, what do we have happening in the Mesosphere, right on the edge of space? We have increasingly cloudy skies! Even though you don’t see them during the day, the NLCs are there, and now we know they are being observed as far south as 41 degrees latitude…approximately a line from New York to Pittsburgh to Indianapolis to Kansas City to Denver to Salt Lake City to about Redding in northern California. A similar line, though slightly further north, lies across Europe and Asia.
The clouds are thin, but the coverage is thousands of square miles across and even a small percentage of reduced sunshine over such a broad area and over time will be measurable here on earth. But wait, there’s more. Remember that the sun is in a minimum and astrophysicists aren’t even sure if the new solar cycle has started. Just look at the left side of that SpaceWeather.com web page and you’ll see an image of the sun (which is “blank”) showing sunspots, or lack thereof. We are in a deep solar minimum, which in plain English means that we’re getting a lot less energy from the sun than during the active periods of the past 30-50 years (at which time we recorded some warming…hmm).
If the sun is weaker, the upper atmosphere is colder (more NLCs) and there are more clouds blocking some of the incoming solar radiation…AND we are seeing a cooling trend in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean (even the new El Nino is weak and may well dissipate this fall or winter), there is reason for concern, but not from warming.
Since NLCs are a fairly new observation (compared to the time mankind has been on earth), we don’t know if these clouds are a sign of increased cooling leading to the next ice age…but we do know this. There will be another ice age, and we do know that the planet should be heading in that direction soon (on a relative geologic time scale). I am not good at complex mathematics, but I can do simple addition, and when you add all the elements working against warming, and the satellite and ocean temperature observations confirming global cooling, the bottom line has to be continued cooling, and at an increased rate in coming decades…
I started this article with the puzzle analogy, and I would be remiss if I did not remain consistent with the analogy. There is still much that we don’t understand about our weather and climate, and some pieces have yet to be discovered, but much like a good detective, sometimes you don’t need all the evidence to solve the crime as long as the pieces you already have make a solid case. The solid case here is that whatever warming we may have witnessed in the past 100 years (and even that is up for debate because of bad sensors and poor guidelines for instrument shelters and data recording), the trend has shifted, and all the CO2 in the world…and there’s plenty of it…is not having nearly the effect that some will have you believe, and new studies show that it may be a non-factor. In fact, we also know that many warming cycles came before increases in CO2, not after, and that CO2 levels have been magnitudes greater in the past than they are today.
Let’s stop trying to force the CO2 piece into the puzzle. It doesn’t go where we’re trying to put it. Step back, and take a longer look, and with time, the picture will become clearer, and maybe, someday, the puzzle will be complete.
Skyeye Weather LLC
Reply #180 on:
July 21, 2009, 07:53:22 AM »
ANOTHER VIEW These photographs show an ultraviolet view of the Sun on the same days: July 19, 2000, left, and March 18, 2009, right. Most solar physicists do not think anything odd is going on with the Sun.
Ever since Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, a German astronomer, first noted in 1843 that sunspots burgeon and wane over a roughly 11-year cycle, scientists have carefully watched the Sun’s activity. In the latest lull, the Sun should have reached its calmest, least pockmarked state last fall.
Indeed, last year marked the blankest year of the Sun in the last half-century — 266 days with not a single sunspot visible from Earth. Then, in the first four months of 2009, the Sun became even more blank, the pace of sunspots slowing more.
“It’s been as dead as a doornail,” David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said a couple of months ago.
The Sun perked up in June and July, with a sizeable clump of 20 sunspots earlier this month.
Now it is blank again, consistent with expectations that this solar cycle will be smaller and calmer, and the maximum of activity, expected to arrive in May 2013 will not be all that maximum.
For operators of satellites and power grids, that is good news. The same roiling magnetic fields that generate sunspot blotches also accelerate a devastating rain of particles that can overload and wreck electronic equipment in orbit or on Earth.
A panel of 12 scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the May 2013 peak will average 90 sunspots during that month. That would make it the weakest solar maximum since 1928, which peaked at 78 sunspots. During an average solar maximum, the Sun is covered with an average of 120 sunspots.
But the panel’s consensus “was not a unanimous decision,” said Douglas A. Biesecker, chairman of the panel. One member still believed the cycle would roar to life while others thought the maximum would peter out at only 70.
Among some global warming skeptics, there is speculation that the Sun may be on the verge of falling into an extended slumber similar to the so-called Maunder Minimum, several sunspot-scarce decades during the 17th and 18th centuries that coincided with an extended chilly period.
Most solar physicists do not think anything that odd is going on with the Sun. With the recent burst of sunspots, “I don’t see we’re going into that,” Dr. Hathaway said last week.
Still, something like the Dalton Minimum — two solar cycles in the early 1800s that peaked at about an average of 50 sunspots — lies in the realm of the possible, Dr. Hathaway said. (The minimums are named after scientists who helped identify them: Edward W. Maunder and John Dalton.)
With better telescopes on the ground and a fleet of Sun-watching spacecraft, solar scientists know a lot more about the Sun than ever before. But they do not understand everything. Solar dynamo models, which seek to capture the dynamics of the magnetic field, cannot yet explain many basic questions, not even why the solar cycles average 11 years in length.
Predicting the solar cycle is, in many ways, much like predicting the stock market. A full understanding of the forces driving solar dynamics is far out of reach, so scientists look to key indicators that correlate with future events and create models based on those.
For example, in 2006, Dr. Hathaway looked at the magnetic fields in the polar regions of the Sun, and they were strong. During past cycles, strong polar fields at minimum grew into strong fields all over the Sun at maximum and a bounty of sunspots. Because the previous cycle had been longer than average, Dr. Hathaway thought the next one would be shorter and thus solar minimum was imminent. He predicted the new solar cycle would be a ferocious one.
Instead, the new cycle did not arrive as quickly as Dr. Hathaway anticipated, and the polar field weakened. His revised prediction is for a smaller-than-average maximum. Last November, it looked like the new cycle was finally getting started, with the new cycle sunspots in the middle latitudes outnumbering the old sunspots of the dying cycle that are closer to the equator.
After a minimum, solar activity usually takes off quickly, but instead the Sun returned to slumber. “There was a long lull of several months of virtually no activity, which had me worried,” Dr. Hathaway said.
Page 2 of 2)
The idea that solar cycles are related to climate is hard to fit with the actual change in energy output from the sun. From solar maximum to solar minimum, the Sun’s energy output drops a minuscule 0.1 percent.
But the overlap of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold weather, suggests that the solar cycle could have more subtle influences on climate.
One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.
The Sun, the Danish scientists say, influences how many cosmic rays impinge on the atmosphere and thus the number of clouds. When the Sun is frenetic, the solar wind of charged particles it spews out increases. That expands the cocoon of magnetic fields around the solar system, deflecting some of the cosmic rays.
But, according to the hypothesis, when the sunspots and solar winds die down, the magnetic cocoon contracts, more cosmic rays reach Earth, more clouds form, less sunlight reaches the ground, and temperatures cool.
“I think it’s an important effect,” Dr. Svensmark said, although he agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has certainly contributed to recent warming.
Dr. Svensmark and his colleagues found a correlation between the rate of incoming cosmic rays and the coverage of low-level clouds between 1984 and 2002. They have also found that cosmic ray levels, reflected in concentrations of various isotopes, correlate well with climate extending back thousands of years.
But other scientists found no such pattern with higher clouds, and some other observations seem inconsistent with the hypothesis.
Terry Sloan, a cosmic ray expert at the University of Lancaster in England, said if the idea were true, one would expect the cloud-generation effect to be greatest in the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field tends to funnel cosmic rays.
“You’d expect clouds to be modulated in the same way,” Dr. Sloan said. “We can’t find any such behavior.”
Still, “I would think there could well be some effect,” he said, but he thought the effect was probably small. Dr. Sloan’s findings indicate that the cosmic rays could at most account for 20 percent of the warming of recent years.
Even without cosmic rays, however, a 0.1 percent change in the Sun’s energy output is enough to set off El Niño- and La Niña-like events that can influence weather around the world, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
Climate modeling showed that over the largely cloud-free areas of the Pacific Ocean, the extra heating over several years warms the water, increasing evaporation. That intensifies the tropical storms and trade winds in the eastern Pacific, and the result is cooler-than-normal waters, as in a La Niña event, the scientists reported this month in the Journal of Climate.
In a year or two, the cool water pattern evolves into a pool of El Niño-like warm water, the scientists said.
New instruments should provide more information for scientists to work with. A 1.7-meter telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California is up and running, and one of its first photographs shows “a string of pearls,” each about 50 miles across.
“At that scale, they can only be the fundamental fibril structure of the Sun’s magnetic field,” said Philip R. Goode, director of the solar observatory. Other telescopes may have caught hints of these tiny structures, he said, but “never so many in a row and not so clearly resolved.”
Sun-watching spacecraft cannot match the acuity of ground-based telescopes, but they can see wavelengths that are blocked by the atmosphere — and there are never any clouds in the way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s newest sun-watching spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is scheduled for launching this fall, will carry an instrument that will essentially be able to take sonograms that deduce the convection flows generating the magnetic fields.
That could help explain why strong magnetic fields sometimes coalesce into sunspots and why sometimes the strong fields remain disorganized without forming spots. The mechanics of how solar storms erupt out of a sunspot are also not fully understood.
A quiet cycle is no guarantee no cataclysmic solar storms will occur. The largest storm ever observed occurred in 1859, during a solar cycle similar to what is predicted.
Back then, it scrambled telegraph wires. Today, it could knock out an expanse of the power grid from Maine south to Georgia and west to Illinois. Ten percent of the orbiting satellites would be disabled. A study by the National Academy of Sciences calculated the damage would exceed a trillion dollars.
But no one can quite explain the current behavior or reliably predict the future.
“We still don’t quite understand this beast,” Dr. Hathaway said. “The theories we had for how the sunspot cycle works have major problems.”
A Ruinous, Dangerous, Expensive Fiction
Reply #181 on:
July 26, 2009, 07:01:49 PM »
Meet The Man Who Has Exposed The Great Climate Change Con Trick
JAMES DELINGPOLEWEDNESDAY, 8TH JULY 2009
James Delingpole talks to Professor Ian Plimer, the Australian geologist, whose new book shows that ‘anthropogenic global warming’ is a dangerous, ruinously expensive fiction, a ‘first-world luxury’ with no basis in scientific fact. Shame on the publishers who rejected the book
Imagine how wonderful the world would be if man-made global warming were just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. No more ugly wind farms to darken our sunlit uplands. No more whopping electricity bills, artificially inflated by EU-imposed carbon taxes. No longer any need to treat each warm, sunny day as though it were some terrible harbinger of ecological doom. And definitely no need for the $7.4 trillion cap and trade (carbon-trading) bill — the largest tax in American history — which President Obama and his cohorts are so assiduously trying to impose on the US economy.
Imagine no more, for your fairy godmother is here. His name is Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at Adelaide University, and he has recently published the landmark book Heaven And Earth, which is going to change forever the way we think about climate change.
‘The hypothesis that human activity can create global warming is extraordinary because it is contrary to validated knowledge from solar physics, astronomy, history, archaeology and geology,’ says Plimer, and while his thesis is not new, you’re unlikely to have heard it expressed with quite such vigour, certitude or wide-ranging scientific authority. Where fellow sceptics like Bjorn Lomborg or Lord Lawson of Blaby are prepared cautiously to endorse the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) more modest predictions, Plimer will cede no ground whatsoever. Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory, he argues, is the biggest, most dangerous and ruinously expensive con trick in history.
To find out why, let’s meet the good professor. He’s a tanned, rugged, white-haired sixtysomething — courteous and jolly but combative when he needs to be — glowing with the health of a man who spends half his life on field expeditions to Iran, Turkey and his beloved Outback. And he’s sitting in my garden drinking tea on exactly the kind of day the likes of the Guardian’s George Monbiot would probably like to ban. A lovely warm sunny one.
So go on then, Prof. What makes you sure that you’re right and all those scientists out there saying the opposite are wrong? ‘I’m a geologist. We geologists have always recognised that climate changes over time. Where we differ from a lot of people pushing AGW is in our understanding of scale. They’re only interested in the last 150 years. Our time frame is 4,567 million years. So what they’re doing is the equivalent of trying to extrapolate the plot of Casablanca from one tiny bit of the love scene. And you can’t. It doesn’t work.’
What Heaven And Earth sets out to do is restore a sense of scientific perspective to a debate which has been hijacked by ‘politicians, environmental activists and opportunists’. It points out, for example, that polar ice has been present on earth for less than 20 per cent of geological time; that extinctions of life are normal; that climate changes are cyclical and random; that the CO2 in the atmosphere — to which human activity contributes the tiniest fraction — is only 0.001 per cent of the total CO2 held in the oceans, surface rocks, air, soils and life; that CO2 is not a pollutant but a plant food; that the earth’s warmer periods — such as when the Romans grew grapes and citrus trees as far north as Hadrian’s Wall — were times of wealth and plenty.
All this is scientific fact — which is more than you can say for any of the computer models turning out doomsday scenarios about inexorably rising temperatures, sinking islands and collapsing ice shelves. Plimer doesn’t trust them because they seem to have little if any basis in observed reality.
‘I’m a natural scientist. I’m out there every day, buried up to my neck in sh**, collecting raw data. And that’s why I’m so sceptical of these models, which have nothing to do with science or empiricism but are about torturing the data till it finally confesses. None of them predicted this current period we’re in of global cooling. There is no problem with global warming. It stopped in 1998. The last two years of global cooling have erased nearly 30 years of temperature increase.’
Plimer’s uncompromising position has not made him popular. ‘They say I rape cows, eat babies, that I know nothing about anything. My favourite letter was the one that said: “Dear sir, drop dead”. I’ve also had a demo in Sydney outside one of my book launches, and I’ve had mothers coming up to me with two-year-old children in their arms saying: “Don’t you have any kind of morality? This child’s future is being destroyed.’’’ Plimer’s response to the last one is typically robust. ‘If you’re so concerned, why did you breed?’
This no-nonsense approach may owe something to the young Ian’s straitened Sydney upbringing. His father was crippled with MS, leaving his mother to raise three children on a schoolteacher’s wage. ‘We couldn’t afford a TV — not that TV even arrived in Australia till 1956. We’d use the same brown paper bag over and over again for our school lunches, always turn off the lights, not because of some moral imperative but out of sheer bloody necessity.’
One of the things that so irks him about modern environmentalism is that it is driven by people who are ‘too wealthy’. ‘When I try explaining “global warming” to people in Iran or Turkey they have no idea what I’m talking about. Their life is about getting through to the next day, finding their next meal. Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury. It’s the new religion for urban populations which have lost their faith in Christianity. The IPCC report is their Bible. Al Gore and Lord Stern are their prophets.’
Heaven And Earth is the offspring of a pop science book Plimer published in 2001 called A Short History of Planet Earth. It was based on ten years’ worth of broadcasts for ABC radio aimed mainly at people in rural areas. Though the book was a bestseller and won a Eureka prize, ABC refused to publish the follow-up; so did all the other major publishers he approached: ‘There’s a lot of fear out there. No one wants to go against the popular paradigm.’
Then someone put him in touch with a tiny publishing outfit in the middle of the bush — ‘husband, wife, three kids, so poor they didn’t even have curtains’ — and they said yes. Plimer couldn’t bring himself to accept an advance they clearly couldn’t afford. But then something remarkable happened. In just two days, the book sold out its 5,000 print run. Five further editions followed in swift succession. It has now sold 26,500 copies in Australia alone — with similarly exciting prospects in Britain and the US. There’s even an edition coming out in ultra-green Germany.
But surely Aussies of all people, with their bushfires and prolonged droughts, ought to be the last to buy into his message? ‘Ah, but the average punter is not a fool. I get sometimes as many as 1,000 letters and emails a day from people who feel helpless and disenfranchised and just bloody sick of all the nonsense they hear about global warming from metropolitan liberals who don’t even know where meat or milk comes from.’
Besides which, Australia’s economy is peculiarly vulnerable to the effects of climate change alarmism. ‘Though we have 40 per cent of the world’s uranium, we don’t have nuclear energy. We’re reliant mainly on bucketloads of cheap coal. Eighty per cent of our electricity is coal-generated and clustered around our coalfields are our aluminium producers. The very last thing the Australian economy needs is the cap and trade legislation being proposed by Kevin Rudd. If it gets passed, the country will go broke.’
Not for one second does Plimer believe it will get passed. As with its US equivalent the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, Kevin Rudd’s Emission Trading Scheme legislation narrowly squeaked its way through the House of Representatives. But again as in America, the real challenge lies with the upper house, the Senate. Thanks in good measure to the influence of Plimer and his book — ‘I have politicians ringing me all the time’ — the Senate looks likely to reject the bill. If it does so twice, then the Australian government will collapse, a ‘double dissolution’ will be forced and a general election called. ‘Australia is at a very interesting point in the climate change debate,’ says Plimer.
The potential repercussions outside Oz, of course, are even greater. Until this year, environmental legislation has enjoyed a pretty easy ride through the parliaments of the Anglosphere and the Eurosphere, with greener-than-thou politicians (from Dave ‘Windmill’ Cameron to Dave ‘climate change deniers are the flat-earthers of the 21st century’ Miliband) queuing up to impose ever more stringent carbon emissions targets and taxes on their hapless electorates.
In the days when most people felt rich enough to absorb these extra costs and guilty enough to think they probably deserved them, the politicians could get away with it. But the global economic meltdown has changed all that. As countless opinion surveys have shown, the poorer people feel, the lower down their list of priorities ecological righteousness sinks. ‘It’s one of the few good things to come out of this recession,’ says Plimer. ‘People are starting to ask themselves: “Can we really afford this green legislation?”’
Reading Plimer’s Heaven And Earth is at once an enlightening and terrifying experience. Enlightening because, after 500 pages of heavily annotated prose (the fruit of five years’ research), you are left in no doubt that man’s contribution to the thing they now call ‘climate change’ was, is and probably always will be negligible. Terrifying, because you cannot but be appalled by how much money has been wasted, how much unnecessary regulation drafted because of a ‘problem’ that doesn’t actually exist. (South Park, as so often, was probably the first to point this out in a memorable episode where Al Gore turns up to warn the school kids about a terrible beast, looking a bit like the Gruffalo, known as ManBearPig.)
Has it come in time to save the day, though? If there’s any justice, Heaven And Earth will do for the cause of climate change realism what Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change alarmism. But as Plimer well knows, there is now a powerful and very extensive body of vested interests up against him: governments like President Obama’s, which intend to use ‘global warming’ as an excuse for greater taxation, regulation and protectionism; energy companies and investors who stand to make a fortune from scams like carbon trading; charitable bodies like Greenpeace which depend for their funding on public anxiety; environmental correspondents who need constantly to talk up the threat to justify their jobs.
Does he really believe his message will ever get through? Plimer smiles. ‘If you’d asked any scientist or doctor 30 years ago where stomach ulcers come from, they would all have given the same answer: obviously it comes from the acid brought on by too much stress. All of them apart from two scientists who were pilloried for their crazy, whacko theory that it was caused by a bacteria. In 2005 they won the Nobel prize. The “consensus” was wrong.’
Ian Plimer’s Heaven And Earth: Global Warming — the Missing Science is published by Quartet (£25).
Solar Fluctuations Drive Earth's Climate
Reply #182 on:
August 28, 2009, 10:18:22 AM »
Small Fluctuations In Solar Activity, Large Influence On Climate
Recently published research shows how newly discovered interactions between the Sun and the Earth affect our climate. (Credit: UCAR)
ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2009) — Subtle connections between the 11-year solar cycle, the stratosphere, and the tropical Pacific Ocean work in sync to generate periodic weather patterns that affect much of the globe, according to research appearing this week in the journal Science. The study can help scientists get an edge on eventually predicting the intensity of certain climate phenomena, such as the Indian monsoon and tropical Pacific rainfall, years in advance.
An international team of scientists led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) used more than a century of weather observations and three powerful computer models to tackle one of the more difficult questions in meteorology: if the total energy that reaches Earth from the Sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the approximately 11-year solar cycle, how can such a small variation drive major changes in weather patterns on Earth?
The answer, according to the new study, has to do with the Sun's impact on two seemingly unrelated regions. Chemicals in the stratosphere and sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean respond during solar maximum in a way that amplifies the Sun's influence on some aspects of air movement. This can intensify winds and rainfall, change sea surface temperatures and cloud cover over certain tropical and subtropical regions, and ultimately influence global weather.
"The Sun, the stratosphere, and the oceans are connected in ways that can influence events such as winter rainfall in North America," says NCAR scientist Gerald Meehl, the lead author. "Understanding the role of the solar cycle can provide added insight as scientists work toward predicting regional weather patterns for the next couple of decades."
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, and by the Department of Energy. It builds on several recent papers by Meehl and colleagues exploring the link between the peaks in the solar cycle and events on Earth that resemble some aspects of La Nina events, but are distinct from them. The larger amplitude La Nina and El Nino patterns are associated with changes in surface pressure that together are known as the Southern Oscillation.
The connection between peaks in solar energy and cooler water in the equatorial Pacific was first discovered by Harry Van Loon of NCAR and Colorado Research Associates, who is a co-author of the new paper.
Top down and bottom up
The new contribution by Meehl and his colleagues establishes how two mechanisms that physically connect changes in solar output to fluctuations in the Earth's climate can work together to amplify the response in the tropical Pacific.
The team first confirmed a theory that the slight increase in solar energy during the peak production of sunspots is absorbed by stratospheric ozone. The energy warms the air in the stratosphere over the tropics, where sunlight is most intense, while also stimulating the production of additional ozone there that absorbs even more solar energy. Since the stratosphere warms unevenly, with the most pronounced warming occurring at lower latitudes, stratospheric winds are altered and, through a chain of interconnected processes, end up strengthening tropical precipitation.
At the same time, the increased sunlight at solar maximum causes a slight warming of ocean surface waters across the subtropical Pacific, where Sun-blocking clouds are normally scarce. That small amount of extra heat leads to more evaporation, producing additional water vapor. In turn, the moisture is carried by trade winds to the normally rainy areas of the western tropical Pacific, fueling heavier rains and reinforcing the effects of the stratospheric mechanism.
The top-down influence of the stratosphere and the bottom-up influence of the ocean work together to intensify this loop and strengthen the trade winds. As more sunshine hits drier areas, these changes reinforce each other, leading to less clouds in the subtropics, allowing even more sunlight to reach the surface, and producing a positive feedback loop that further magnifies the climate response.
These stratospheric and ocean responses during solar maximum keep the equatorial eastern Pacific even cooler and drier than usual, producing conditions similar to a La Nina event. However, the cooling of about 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit is focused farther east than in a typical La Nina, is only about half as strong, and is associated with different wind patterns in the stratosphere.
Earth's response to the solar cycle continues for a year or two following peak sunspot activity. The La Nina-like pattern triggered by the solar maximum tends to evolve into a pattern similar to El Nino as slow-moving currents replace the cool water over the eastern tropical Pacific with warmer water. The ocean response is only about half as strong as with El Nino and the lagged warmth is not as consistent as the La Nina-like pattern that occurs during peaks in the solar cycle.
Enhancing ocean cooling
Solar maximum could potentially enhance a true La Nina event or dampen a true El Nino event. The La Nina of 1988-89 occurred near the peak of solar maximum. That La Nina became unusually strong and was associated with significant changes in weather patterns, such as an unusually mild and dry winter in the southwestern United States.
The Indian monsoon, Pacific sea surface temperatures and precipitation, and other regional climate patterns are largely driven by rising and sinking air in Earth's tropics and subtropics. Therefore the new study could help scientists use solar-cycle predictions to estimate how that circulation, and the regional climate patterns related to it, might vary over the next decade or two.
Three views, one answer
To tease out the elusive mechanisms that connect the Sun and Earth, the study team needed three computer models that provided overlapping views of the climate system.
One model, which analyzed the interactions between sea surface temperatures and lower atmosphere, produced a small cooling in the equatorial Pacific during solar maximum years. The second model, which simulated the stratospheric ozone response mechanism, produced some increases in tropical precipitation but on a much smaller scale than the observed patterns.
The third model contained ocean-atmosphere interactions as well as ozone. It showed, for the first time, that the two combined to produce a response in the tropical Pacific during peak solar years that was close to actual observations.
"With the help of increased computing power and improved models, as well as observational discoveries, we are uncovering more of how the mechanisms combine to connect solar variability to our weather and climate," Meehl says.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.
Gerald Meehl, Julie Arblaster, Katja Matthes, Fabrizio Sassi, and Harry van Loon. Amplifying the Pacific Climate System Response to a Small 11-Year Solar Cycle Forcing. Science, 2009; 325 (5944): 1114 DOI: 10.1126/science.1172872
Adapted from materials provided by National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
Reply #183 on:
September 10, 2009, 04:16:40 PM »
A Primer on Global Warming: Dispelling Myths
Environment & Climate News > October 2009
Environment > Climate: Realists
Environment > Climate: Science
Email a Friend
Written By: Jay Lehr
Published In: Environment & Climate News > October 2009
Publication date: 10/01/2009
Publisher: The Heartland Institute
[Each month, Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr, Ph.D. presents evidence that mankind has no significant impact on the Earth’s climate.—Ed.]
The National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA) has determined Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, and the largest moon of Neptune warmed at the same time the Earth recently warmed.
Two hundred million years ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth, the average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 1800 ppm, five times higher than today.
All four major global temperature-tracking outlets (Hadley UK, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, University of Alabama-Huntsville, and Remote Sensing Systems Santa Rosa) have released updated information showing in 2007 global cooling ranged from 0.65 degrees C to 0.75 degrees C, a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. This occurred in a single year.
NASA satellites measuring global temperatures found 2008 to be the coldest year since 2000 and the 14th coldest of the past 30 years.
Surface Stations Inaccurate
U.S. climate monitoring stations on the planet’s surface show less cooling, but most of the 1,221 temperature stations are located near human sources of heat (exhaust fans, air conditioning units, hot rooftops, asphalt parking lots, and so forth). The land-based temperature record is unreliable.
Although we hear much about one or another melting glacier, a recent study of 246 glaciers around the world between 1946 and 1995 indicated an overall balance between those that are losing ice, gaining ice, and remaining in equilibrium.
On May 1, 2007 National Geographic magazine reported the snows on Mt. Kilimanjaro were shrinking as a result of lower precipitation, not a warming trend.
The overall polar bear population has increased from about 5,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today, and the only two subpopulations in decline are in areas where it has been getting colder over the past 50 years. Polar bears have survived long periods of time when the Arctic was much warmer than today. Yet alarmists say the bears cannot survive this present warming without help from government regulators.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #184 on:
October 17, 2009, 06:10:45 AM »
check the rest out on youtube
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #185 on:
October 18, 2009, 01:19:51 AM »
I just watched all 8 parts..Thanks Boyo that was great info!!!!!
Not Supported by the Data
Reply #186 on:
October 18, 2009, 12:49:35 PM »
CO2 driven global warming is not supported by the data
By Girma J Orssengo
CO2 -- many seek to regulate it, legislate it, tax it, capture it, sequester it, cap it, trade it or otherwise control it. And they who do would have us risk nothing less than worldwide economic destruction based on the theory that not doing so will inevitably lead to catastrophic global warming. But one need only study the past two centuries of climate history to conclude that CO2 simply does not drive global warming.
Let us start from the data. The plot of the mean global temperature anomaly in deg C for the data from the Hadley Centre from year 1850 to 2008 is shown below.
Figure 1. Mean global temperature anomaly in deg C for data from the Hadley Centre.
The above graph shows a linear warming trend line given by the following equation.
Linear Warming Component of Anomaly in deg C = 0.44(Year-1850)/100 - 0.52
Superimposed on this linear warming component of mean global temperature anomaly (linear anomaly), there is an oscillating component of the mean global temperature anomaly (oscillating anomaly) that moves up and down about the linear anomaly line given by the equation:
Oscillating Anomaly = Anomaly - Linear Anomaly.
Now, the question that must be answered is that after significant increase in human emission of CO2, do the temperature anomaly data show a shift in mean global temperatures in the last century?
In order to answer this question, let us address the following three questions:
How does the linear warming in the last century of 0.44 deg C/100 years, shown above, compare with the linear warming two centuries ago?
Is the oscillating anomaly in the last century, after widespread use of fossil fuels, unusual?
What is the current trend in the mean global temperature anomaly?
1. How does the linear warming in the last century of 0.44 deg C/100 years, shown above, compare with the linear warming of two centuries ago?
As there were no direct temperature measurements before 1850, tree-ring temperature data may be used to plot the linear warming from 1810 to 1910 as shown below.
Figure 2. Mean global temperature anomaly before 1910 from tree-ring data.
The above plot shows a linear warming trend line given by the following equation.
Linear Anomaly in deg C = 0.47(Year-1810)/100 - 0.63
This linear warming of 0.47 deg C/100 years, two centuries ago, is of similar magnitude to that of the last century's value of 0.44 deg C/100 years. There was no significant change in the linear anomaly in the previous two centuries. As a result, the linear warming of the last century was not caused by human emission of CO2.
2. Is the oscillating anomaly in the last century, after widespread use of fossil fuels, unusual?
As the linear warming in the last century was not caused by CO2 emission, we now look at the oscillating anomaly to identify for any shift in temperature as a result of increased CO2 emission.
To study the oscillating anomaly separately, we remove the linear warming trend from the anomaly plot using an online software at WoodForTrees.org by using a value of DETREND=0.706, which rotates the warming trend line shown in Figure 1 clockwise to a horizontal line. The anomaly plot with its linear warming removed (oscillating anomaly) is shown below.
Figure 3. Oscillating anomaly in deg C for Hadley Centre data.
The above plot clearly shows the following shifts in mean global temperatures:
Global cooling by 0.71 deg C from 1878 to 1911, for 33 years.
Global warming by 0.53 deg C from 1911 to 1944, for 33 years.
Global cooling by 0.48 deg C from 1944 to 1976, for 32 years.
Global warming by 0.67 deg C from 1976 to 1998, for 22 years.
In addition to the data above that show cooling and warming phases of mean global temperature anomalies, there exist supporting documents that describe the climate of those periods in the media:
For the global cooling from 1878 to 1911, the headline in The New York Times on 24-Feb-1895 was PROSPECTS OF ANOTHER GLACIAL PERIOD.
For the global warming from 1911 to 1944, the headline in The New York Times on 15-May-1932 was Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of Seas and Flood the Continents
For the global cooling from 1944 to 1976, the headline in Newsweek on 28-April-1975 was The Cooling World.
The above cooling and warming phases of mean global temperature anomalies are also supported in the literature by Nathan Mantua, PhD:
Several independent studies find evidence for just two full PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillating] cycles in the past century: "cool" PDO regimes prevailed from 1890-1924 and again from 1947-1976, while "warm" PDO regimes dominated from 1925-1946 and from 1977 through (at least) the mid-1990's (Mantua et al. 1997, Minobe 1997).
Figure 3 shows an oscillating anomaly of 0.39 deg C for 1998, which is of similar magnitude to the value of 0.38 deg C for 1878. As a result, the temperature maximum for 1998, after widespread use of fossil fuels, is not unusual.
To study whether there is any shift in mean global temperatures, Normal Probability Plot can be drawn for the oscillating anomaly. In the normal probability plot, if most of the oscillating temperature data points approximately lie on a straight line, they are then normally distributed.
For the oscillating anomaly data since 1850, the normal probability plot is shown below.
Figure 4. Normal probability plot for the oscillating (residual) anomaly.
Figure 4 shows most of the oscillating anomaly data points lie on a straight line with a high correlation coefficient of 0.9923. Out of the 159 data points, only two temperatures, for 1911 and 1909, are outliers, and this indicates shift in temperatures. However, as this shift occurred long before widespread use of fossil fuels, and a second similar global cooling occurred in the 1970s after the cooling in 1911, the cause of this shift is unlikely to be related to CO2 emissions.
As the oscillating anomaly is normally distributed, we can calculate an upper and lower temperature limit for the oscillating anomalies. The reciprocal of the slope of the line in the normal probability plot is equal to the standard deviation, s. Therefore, from Figure 4, s = 1/6.6 = 0.15 deg C. For the oscillating anomalies, 99.73% of the data lie between +/- 3 s = +/- 0.45 deg C. These upper and lower limit values envelop all the anomaly temperatures from 1850 to 2008 as shown in Figure 3.
From Figure 4, based on the 159 years data, global temperatures changed from a valley of -0.32 deg C to a peak of 0.4 deg C, a change of 0.72 deg C. As a result, mean global temperature increase from valley to peak (global warming), or decrease from peak to valley (global cooling), by 0.72 deg C is natural variation of mean global temperatures. Added to these oscillating temperatures, there is a linear global warming of 0.44 deg C/100 years.
From Figure 4, all the temperatures on the right hand side of the plot, which are related to global warming, all lie close to the straight line. As a result, there is no shift in global warming temperatures. No CO2 fingerprint. None.
3. What is the trend in the mean global temperature anomaly at the moment?
In the plot for the oscillating anomaly below, look at the right end of the red anomaly curve for last year, 2008.
Figure 5. Oscillating anomaly in deg C for Hadley Centre data.
Look also at the right end of the green horizontal line for anomaly of 0 deg C. In the coming years, will the red anomaly curve move downwards towards the horizontal line and cross it, or will it do a 180-degree somersault and move away from the horizontal line to its previous maximum value, and then move to values greater than the previous maximum?
As the oscillating anomalies are normally distributed, the probability for the temperature to return to the maximum value of 1998 is less than 1%. The more probable case is to rely on historical patterns and the current trend. From Figure 5, for anomaly pattern after 1998, we use the anomaly pattern after 1878, with global cooling for 33 years. If this pattern is repeated, we will have about 22 more years of global cooling until about 2031, to anomaly temperature values similar to those in the 1970s, wiping out most of the increase in temperature during the last three decades of the last century.
From Figure 5, for 1998, near the end of the last century, the oscillating anomaly happened to be at its maximum; as a result, the increase in mean global temperature anomaly for the last century is the sum of 0.44 deg C from the linear warming and 0.39 deg C from the maximum oscillating anomaly, giving a value of 0.83 deg C. This increase in mean global temperature in the last century has caused natural global climate change.
It was unfortunate that the maximum of the oscillating anomaly occurred in 1998 near the end of the last century. This was just a coincidence. At the end of the last century, if the oscillating anomaly had been at its minimum, as in 1911 with an oscillating anomaly of -0.33 deg C, there would not have been any significant change in mean global temperature (0.44 - 0.33 = +0.11 deg C) in the last century. As a result, depending on whether we have the maximum or minimum oscillating component coincide with the end of a century, we may have a global warming of 0.83 deg C or hardly any warming in a century.
Science is about the data. Science is not about consensus or authority.
The linear global warming of the last century was similar to that of two centuries ago. The oscillating warming by 0.67 deg C from 1976 to 1998 is as natural as the oscillating cooling by similar amount from 1878 to 1911. From Figure 4, there is no shift in mean global temperature anomaly in the last century as a result of CO2 emission. None.
CO2 driven global warming is not supported by the data.
Girma Orssengo, MASc, Ph.D.
Global Cooling Came Quick
Reply #187 on:
November 13, 2009, 09:24:23 PM »
Mini ice age took hold of Europe in months
11 November 2009 by Kate Ravilious
Magazine issue 2734. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
For similar stories, visit the Climate Change Topic Guide
JUST months - that's how long it took for Europe to be engulfed by an ice age. The scenario, which comes straight out of Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, was revealed by the most precise record of the climate from palaeohistory ever generated.
Around 12,800 years ago the northern hemisphere was hit by the Younger Dryas mini ice age, or "Big Freeze". It was triggered by the slowdown of the Gulf Stream, led to the decline of the Clovis culture in North America, and lasted around 1300 years.
Until now, it was thought that the mini ice age took a decade or so to take hold, on the evidence provided by Greenland ice cores. Not so, say William Patterson of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and his colleagues.
The group studied a mud core from an ancient lake, Lough Monreagh, in western Ireland. Using a scalpel they sliced off layers 0.5 to 1 millimetre thick, each representing up to three months of time. No other measurements from the period have approached this level of detail.
Carbon isotopes in each slice revealed how productive the lake was and oxygen isotopes gave a picture of temperature and rainfall. They show that at the start of the Big Freeze, temperatures plummeted and lake productivity stopped within months, or a year at most. "It would be like taking Ireland today and moving it up to Svalbard" in the Arctic, says Patterson, who presented the findings at the BOREAS conference in Rovaniemi, Finland, on 31 October.
"This is significantly shorter than what has been suggested before, but it is plausible," says Derek Vance of the University of Bristol, UK. Hans Renssen, a climate researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, says recent findings from Greenland ice cores indicate the Younger Dryas event may have happened in one to three years. Patterson's results confirm this was a very sudden change, he says.
The mud slices from the end of the Big Freeze show that it took around two centuries for the lake and climate to recover.
Patterson says that sudden climate switches like the Big Freeze are far from unusual in the geological record. The Younger Dryas was brought about when a glacial lake covering most of north-west Canada burst its banks and poured into the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The huge flood diluted the salinity-driven North Atlantic Ocean mega-currents, including the Gulf Stream, and stalled it. Two studies published in 2006 show that the same thing happened again 8200 years ago, when the Northern hemisphere went through another cold spell.
Some climate scientists have suggested that the Greenland ice sheet could have the same effect if it suddenly melts through climate change, but the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded this was unlikely to happen this century.
Patterson's team have now set their sights on even more precise records of historical climate. They have built a robot able to shave 0.05 micrometre slivers along the growth lines of fossilised clam shells, giving a resolution of less than a day. "We can get you mid-July temperatures from 400 million years ago," he says.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #188 on:
November 16, 2009, 07:49:08 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on March 14, 2007, 05:48:15 AM
"No idea why earth science is political"? Ha!
My personal breakdown of the issue is this:
This is the fundalmental point: Free market theory requires that the price paid in a transaction reflect all its costs. Pollution is a violation of this requirement. The question becomes what to do about it.
The Dem/socialist model tends towards commands. "Thou shalt not do XYZ" or, to be more precise, "Thou shall do less of XYZ". The Rep/corporatist model simply tends to resist this. "Thou hast lousy science and you are a weenie." This model never really answers what to do about it.
Following a discussion I read years ago in a position paper by, of all people, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) the Dem model tends towards prohibiting further sources of contaminant X or setting a given level thereof. The net result of this is, as is usually the case with Dem solutions, the opposite of what is intended-- which of course leads to redoubled efforts
The effect is that older dirtier technologies tend to prohibit the entrance of newer, cleaner technologies (less units of Contaminant X per unit of production, mile travelled, etc).
The Dem model often involves setting a standard. Naturally this is a perceived as a matter of values for which only a fascist corporatist would resist. This usually entails choosing a bunch of "their" experts to determine the permitted level -- sometimes with reference to what is technologically feasible and sometimes not. Naturally the Reps seek to have "their" experts chosen. Special interests enter into the political fray and political corruption ensues.
My thinking is to bring market economics to bear. For example, rather than declaring an area in non-compliance for X (e.g. a form of air pollution) and prohibiting new sources of X, the idea should be to tax X because it is an external diseconomy-- a cost not born by buyer or seller, but rather by third parties. Thus he who pollutes less per unit of production (per widget, miles per gallon, etc) will have a cost advantage over he who pollutes more and producers now have it in their own interest to focus on how evolve technologically instead of buying Congressmen and experts for the bureaucratic regulatory/legal wars-- and the Dems have less ways to expand government and make themselves important and powerful.
The more the tax bites, the more this is so. Thus as we increase the tax, the market itself informs us as to the cost-benefit ratio.
What do you think?
I kind of like that proposal, "I'll save that 1$" has a nice ring to it. It is a tax that encourages the right thing and allows thing to go to zero revenue once the problem is solved, meaning that whatever EPA office is assigned to monitor this gets scaled back as the problem solves itself. Then the occasional inspection can be financed thru Permitting.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #189 on:
November 16, 2009, 08:07:42 AM »
I think you are on to something, but I would modify it a bit. I am a Constitutionalists. The power to tax anything under the sun is not given to the government in our constitution, therefore instead of taxing x give a tax break on taxes the government can legally levy if you don't produce x pollutant. It is a subtle but important difference. On a state level things change and this sort of taxing pollutant x could be legal.
More carrot less stick!!!!!!!!
Taxes and Perverse Incentives
Reply #190 on:
November 16, 2009, 08:14:43 AM »
But tax what? CO2? Though it's the current boogieman, my feeling is the panic is quite overblown and in fact serves as a cover to glom on to huge chunks of the economy by some as others seek to carbon neutral us back to a utopian hunter/gathering existence that was never a reality in the first place. And where do benefits and costs get evaluated? DDT has been vilified to the point it's not much in use, though recent investigations show much of the hyperbole to be grossly overstated. Since it's ban, millions of kids have died of malaria, a disease that targeted applications of DDT could greatly mitigate, but the UN refuses to advocate DDT's use due to all the hyperventilation associated with it. Is their reticence worth the lives of millions?
That's the problem with taxes: their imposition will always have a substantial political element and that element often leads perverse directions. I prefer market based decision making processes or, failing that, a process based on the empiric and that weights benefits and costs rather than defaulting to minimal/zero level outcomes or greatly impacting human needs in favor of not impacting at all an isolated sub-species, and so on.
Re: Environmental issues
Reply #191 on:
November 16, 2009, 08:52:04 AM »
Fascinatin post on the rapidity with which an ice age can hit!
Your post this morning raises good and difficult questions about the idea I propose. As I reread it I see that I failed to mention that all revenues raised thereunder need to be offset by tax reductions elsewhere (income, cap gains, death, etc)--otherwise it becomes , , , drum roll , , , cap and trade
BBC: Rising Sea Levels
Reply #192 on:
November 25, 2009, 09:47:32 AM »
Rising sea levels: A tale of two cities
By Michael Hirst in Rotterdam and Kate McGeown in Maputo
When people talk about the impact of rising sea levels, they often think of small island states that risk being submerged if global warming continues unchecked. But it's not only those on low-lying islands who are in danger. Millions of people live by the sea - and are dependent on it for their livelihoods - and many of the world's largest cities are on the coast. By 2050 the number of people living in delta cities is set to increase by as much as 70%, experts suggest, vastly increasing the number of those at risk.
To shed light the impact of rising sea levels, we are taking a close look at two very different cities, Rotterdam and Maputo , and their varying responses to the problem.
Glaciers: If the world's mountain glaciers and icecaps melt, sea levels will rise by an estimated 0.5m
Thermal expansion: The expansion of warming oceans was the main factor contributing to sea level rise, in the 20th Century, and currently accounts for more than half of the observed rise in sea levels
Ice sheets: These vast reserves contain billions of tonnes of frozen water - if the largest of them (the East Antarctic Ice Sheet) melts, the global sea level will rise by an estimated 64m
Much of Rotterdam - Europe's busiest port city - lies several metres below sea level, and this vulnerable position has led it to develop some of the best flood protection in the world.
As the capital of Mozambique - one of the world's poorest countries, and one that is already feeling the effects of climate change - Maputo is struggling to provide cost-effective measures to mitigate the effects of the rising waters.
Authorities in both cities know urgent action is needed to protect their populations, and both are trying to rise to the challenge.
Weaker Gulf Stream
A rise in temperatures around the world due to carbon emissions since the industrial revolution means many icecaps and glaciers are steadily melting.
Rising temperatures have also caused ocean waters to expand - the main cause of sea level rise in the 20th Century.
The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected a likely sea level rise of 28-43cm this century, but it acknowledged that this was probably an underestimate, as not enough was known about how ice behaves.
"The fact that sea levels are rising is a major reason for concern and it's a combination of the global average rise together with the natural variability leading to larger regional rises," said Dr John Church, from Australia's government-funded science and research body, the CSIRO.
The weakening of the Gulf Stream coupled with the gravitational effects of being closer to the North Pole mean waters in the northern hemisphere are experiencing the biggest rise.
Rotterdam is promoting the use of green roofs to collect rain water
Off the Netherlands, for example, sea levels rose by some 20cm in the last 100 years. But the country's national Delta Commission predicts they will increase by up to 1.3m by 2100 and by as much as 4m by 2200.
"There is a problem and we have to find an answer," said Rotterdam's Vice-Mayor Lucas Bolsius.
"We need to invest. If we don't put money into this issue we'll have a problem surviving."
The Dutch drew this conclusion from a massive storm surge in 1953, which caused widespread flooding and killed nearly 2,000 people.
They set about defending populated areas with a massive network of dykes and dams, and experts now estimate the country is protected from all but a one-in-10,000-year event.
The story is very different in Mozambique.
Already buffeted by regular floods and cyclones, the problem of rising sea levels is one the authorities in Maputo could do without.
But Mozambique has been identified as one of the countries likely to be affected most by climate change, and the issue will not go away.
Much of what Mozambique would like to do is deemed too expensive
While scientists cannot give an exact figure of how much the sea has already risen in Mozambique, the effects are already obvious.
"I went to the beach a lot as a child, and I've noticed things are changing," said 34-year-old Jose, who lives in Maputo.
"The water is eating the land - little by little it's eating the land."
Mozambique has compiled an action plan, and has been offered help from the World Bank, UN agencies and a plethora of other aid agencies.
But so far little has been done, and much of what the country would like to do is beyond its budget.
"I think people are still at the stage of 'Oh my God - what are we going to do?'" as environmentalist Antonia Reina puts it.
Mozambique will be going to the Copenhagen summit as part of a united African delegation, to ask for help from richer countries - like the Netherlands.
Africa argues that climate change - including rising sea levels - is a global problem, and demands a global response.
While most would agree with that sentiment, the reality is that every country has its own battles to face - and in this series of articles we examine how our two cities are coping, both at an individual and a municipal level, as the waters rise.
Environmental issues - re: Sea Levels
Reply #193 on:
November 25, 2009, 11:34:16 PM »
The oceans go up and down more each day than they do in a century.
Rotterdam is a 1000+ year old city, the dam was built in the 1260s, the sea level issues I assume pre-date CO2 escalations.
The piece can't resist blaming it all on 'climate change' and that humans caused it:
"A rise in temperatures around the world due to carbon emissions since the industrial revolution means many icecaps and glaciers are steadily melting."
But if icecaps melting is what causes sea levels to rise, how do we explain Arctic and Indian oceans levels falling:
"Europe's Space Agency's ERS-2 satellite has determined that over the last 10 years, sea level in the Arctic Ocean has been falling at an average rate of about 2 mm/year." -
"Indian Ocean - sea levels falling
In 2003, Nils-Axel Mörner and his colleagues (see below) pub-
lished a well-documented paper showing that sea levels in the
Maldives have fallen substantially – fallen! – in the last 30 years.
I find it curious that we haven't heard about this.
"The Maldives in the central Indian Ocean consist of some 1,200
individual islands grouped in about 20 larger atolls," says Mörner.
In-as-much as the islands rise only three to seven feet above sea
level, they have been condemned by the IPCC to flooding in the
Mörner disagrees with this scenario. "In our study of the coastal
dynamics and the geomorphology of the shores," writes Mörner,
"we were unable to detect any traces of a recent sea level rise.
On the contrary, we found quite clear morphological indications
of a recent fall in sea level."
Mörner’s group found that sea levels stood about 60 cm higher
around A.D. 1150 than today, and more recently, about 30 cm
higher than today."
Besides drought and flood, warming and cooling, not surprisingly, the United Nations also says that climate change also causes prostitution:
"The effects of climate change have driven women in communities in coastal areas in poor countries like the Philippines into dangerous work, and sometimes even the flesh trade, a United Nations official said."
The Sky Isn't Falling and
the Sea Isn't Rising
By S. Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project in Fairfax, Va.
Back to the original piece: "Rotterdam is promoting the use of green roofs to collect rain water" - No mention of how many green roofs in Rotterdam it will take to bring the ocean down to its intended, optimum level.
If the earth did not have humans,IMHO the areas we call Rotterdam and New Orleans would still have water issues.
Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 11:46:35 PM by DougMacG
Trash into homes
Reply #194 on:
November 26, 2009, 04:27:16 PM »
Reply #195 on:
December 04, 2009, 09:38:56 AM »
Sustainability: An Assault on Economics
Mises Daily: Friday, December 04, 2009 by Tyler A. Watts
Ah, the greens. They're not just treehuggers anymore. They've been browbeating us to recycle, eat soy, save energy, drive less, ride the bus, and a thousand other ways to "act local" for many years now. Now they've even got a hip new huckster on the big screen: "No Impact Man," your conductor on a first-class guilt trip to ecoland. Despite the massive popularity of their cause, I don't think they're satisfied. They want to control us. If we don't watch out, these people hell-bent on saving the planet are going to end up micromanaging our daily lives.
The idea of sustainability itself sounds pretty benign — it merely implies that people ought to be forward thinking, prudent, and thrifty in their use of economic resources. And I'm OK with this basic idea — on the surface, it sounds like simple wisdom, in league with similarly bland and benevolent values like responsibility and generosity.
But deep down, there's something unsettling about the basic premise of sustainability. Sustainability advocates — let's call them "sustainists" — are damning in their fervor, poise, and rhetoric. Their ideology is pregnant with an accusation that the way things currently are is somehow unsustainable. There's an alarmism here which essentially claims, "there's a crisis, it's your fault for being ignorant, irrational, and greedy. You must do as we say to fix it, or we'll all die."
This alarmist crusade, which underlies the sustainability movement, should rankle people with an economic understanding of the world. A basic tenet of economics is that markets are self-correcting and orderly; prices indicate resource constraints and guide people in economizing on their use. Prices change as underlying supply and demand conditions change, inducing appropriate adjustments in consumption and production patterns. Prices channel the profit motive — a natural aspect of the human condition — into productive and innovative activities. In short, prices work.
Sustainists are either ignorant or in denial of this basic lesson. Either way, we economists have our work cut out for us.
The Sustainists' Lament
The gist of the problem, as the sustainists see it, is that people are using resources irresponsibly — either using them up too fast, using too much of them, or using them in a way that will have negative long-term ramifications. In brief, sustainists disapprove of other peoples' actions, and are taking steps to correct their wayward brethren.
Because these wasteful others, through either ignorance, laziness, or stubbornness, will not wake up and adopt sustainable practices on their own, sustainists see the need for a self-conscious effort — organized campaigns, eco–guilt trips, and yes, even laws — to correct this misuse of resources. We need to change our patterns of action; we need a motivating force beyond mere "economic self-interest" (i.e., the profit motive). Sustainability, then, has become a full-fledged crusade to "save the planet," and if you're not part of the solution, you're surely part of the problem.
Let's interpret this through the lens of economics. Sustainability arguments fall under one of two broad categories: (1) The nonrenewable resources argument that the supplies of certain important resources are shrinking; by the time people realize this it will be "too late" — resource shortages will strain the capitalist economies to the breaking point. (2) The climate-change argument that there are large, though delayed, negative externalities to current patterns of resource use.
Whatever their type, sustainability arguments invoke market failure. Indeed, the very practices cited as unsustainable arise on the free market. Therefore some outside corrective, whether aggressive moral suasion or economic regulation, is needed to prevent the impending catastrophe of unsustainable resource use.
Are Prices Not Sufficient?
I don't want to dwell on the particulars of the sustainability movement. There are dozens of manifestations, from green building to organic farming to mandatory recycling to decarbonization — indeed, the sustainability bandwagon (which of course is painted green and powered by renewable energy) seems infinitely expandable to include every industry and interest group under the sun. Instead, I want to draw out the essential implications of the sustainability movement.
The sustainability movement is an assault on economics. It claims at its core that prices don't operate through time to direct consumption and production decisions in a sustainable way. A lesson in basic economics should suffice to defend against the sustainists' attack.
Prices arise in the market economy as a concomitant of mutually beneficial exchange. People want things that improve their lives — we call this value. Some valuable things are more scarce than others; take the classic case of water and diamonds. In absolute terms, water is more valuable than diamonds: you don't need diamonds to live.
Yet water is, pound for pound, far cheaper. Why? Although it's valuable, it is also relatively abundant; in many parts of the world, it literally does fall from the sky. The price of any good reflects this combination of value and scarcity. We're willing to pay more for valuable things as they become relatively scarce (e.g., oil); and we needn't pay as much for valuable things as they become more abundant (e.g., grain).
Likewise, as scarce things lose their value, people are no longer willing to pay for them (e.g., typewriters), and people must pay more for scarce things that suddenly become sought after (e.g., vintage Michael Jackson records). The awesome thing about prices is that they seamlessly convey this combination of facts about an item's value (demand) and it's scarcity (supply). Prices, of course, are subject to change — prices of certain goods fluctuate every day. But this is a good thing; discernable trends in prices over time indicate relative changes in the "market fundamentals" of supply and demand.
In this sense, prices reliably guide individuals, both consumers and producers, toward a rational use of resources. Savvy consumers listen to the prices; a rising price trend tells them to cut back on that particular item, and a falling price tells them to go ahead and use a little more of it. The same basic logic applies on the production side.
Entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are like bloodhounds sniffing out these price trends in search of profit opportunities — chances to create value through exchange. If the price of a good trends strongly upwards over time (indicating it has become scarcer and/or more valuable), they rush to find cheaper substitutes. The cheaper the substitutes, the higher the profits to be had, especially if you're the first to market. If prices trend downwards over time (indicating that the resource is becoming more abundant relative to its usefulness), entrepreneurs devote their efforts elsewhere.
The general outcome of these economic processes is captured by the statement "prices coordinate." In other words, the price system acts as an "invisible hand," guiding people — both consumers and producers — in their economic actions. The real beauty of this free-market price system is that it brings about its own kind of sustainability. This is not so much sustainability in the use of particular resources — for particular goods fall in and out of favor according to supply and demand factors — but sustainability of high economic growth and high standards of living in the economically developed, capitalist economies.
Take, as an example, the transition in the market for interior illumination: tallow candles were replaced by whale-oil lamps, which were replaced by kerosene lamps, which were replaced by incandescent bulbs powered by electricity. There was no social or political pressure needed to accomplish this evolution; there was no "peak whale oil" movement, no kerosene conservationists, no sustainability crusade of yore. All it took was a functional price system, combined with the ever-present entrepreneurial drive for profits under a competitive, free-market order.
Likewise, in our time as sustainists and other worrywarts fret about resource depletion, the price system remains functional, quietly yet assuredly guiding individuals to economize on resources, search out profitable substitutes, and anticipate future trends. All this happens without preaching, without crusades, and without activism.
Is the Sustainability Crusade Sustainable?
How long will sustainists be able to beat their drum, simultaneously trumpeting their greener-than-thou self-image and attempting, with varying degrees of coercion, to make the rest of us act "sustainable" too? With the global warming scare losing credibility by the day, the likelihood of sustainists being able to claim even a moral victory is fading.Barring the earth melting down from a little bit of smoke, I'm not too worried about sustainists having much of a long-run impact.
Hardcore sustainists are asking for a radically disruptive change from the natural order of the free-market economy. They're asking us to forego wealth and embrace privation in the name of their cause. Although citizens of the Western democracies have seemingly become easy marks for anything green, we will only go so far toward saving the planet, especially when it becomes apparent that sustainability requires a march toward poverty and a deeply regimented and regulated society (and that the planet's not really in peril, after all).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, people in developing countries will be increasingly turned off by the sustainists' demands for sacrifice. Having just arrived at the high living standards that long-term capitalist development yields, my sense is that they will turn a cold shoulder to the idea of ratcheting down their development.
The current resurgence of the classical-liberal tradition in economics will also reduce the appeal of sustainability. The idea of imposed or centrally planned sustainability will crumble under the realization that the spontaneous order wrought by the invisible hand of the free-market price system is amazingly sustainable in and of itself. Add to the mix the hardships of the current recession, and it won't be long before enough people, even sustainist crusaders come crawling back, box of chocolates in hand, to the free-market economy.
National Snow and Ice Data Center
Reply #196 on:
December 08, 2009, 09:00:07 PM »
Nice site with interesting graphs. Have some AGW kool-aid drinker text on their page, but the rest looks like hard science:
Their November recap:
December 7, 2009
Low ice extent in Barents Sea and Hudson Bay
In November, the average rate of Arctic sea ice growth slightly exceeded the 1979 to 2000 average growth rate for the month. However, at the end of the month, some regions, in particular the Barents Sea and Hudson Bay, still had much less ice cover than normal.
Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for November 2009 was 10.26 million square kilometers (3.96 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. About the data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Overview of conditions
Arctic sea ice extent averaged over November 2009 was 10.26 million square kilometers (3.96 million square miles). This was 1.05 million square kilometers (405,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average for November, but 420,000 square kilometers (160,000 square miles) above the record low for the month, which occurred in November 2006. In general, the ice edge is now at or slightly beyond its average location, with two notable exceptions: Hudson Bay and the Barents Sea.
Figure 2. The graph above shows daily sea ice extent as of December 6, 2009. The solid light blue line indicates 2009; dark blue shows 2006, dashed green indicates 2007; and solid gray indicates average extent from 1979 to 2000. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Conditions in context
By November, much of the Arctic is in complete or near complete darkness. Air temperatures fall dramatically and sea ice grows rapidly. During November 2009, extent grew at an average 82,000 square kilometers per day (32,000 square miles per day). The rate of increase in sea ice extent was slower during the first half of November, and faster during the latter half.
Figure 3. Monthly November ice extent for 1979 to 2009 shows a decline of 4.5% per decade.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
November 2009 compared to past years
November 2009 had the third-lowest average extent for the month since the beginning of satellite records. The linear rate of decline for the month is now 4.5 percent per decade.
Figure 4. The map of sea level pressure (in millibars) for November 2009, shows low pressure in the North Atlantic and high pressure over Russia, which led to winds that brought warmth to the Barents Sea and pushed the ice northward.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division
Slow ice growth: a tale of two regions
Both Hudson Bay and the Barents Sea have experienced a slow freeze-up this fall. However, the slow sea ice growth in the two regions probably resulted from different processes, highlighting the complex interactions between the sea ice, atmosphere and ocean. In the Barents Sea, ice growth was slowed by winds that pushed the ice northwards into the central Arctic, while warmer-than-usual temperatures contributed to the slow ice growth in Hudson Bay.
The Barents Sea is the deepest of the Arctic coastal seas. It is open on its southern and northern boundaries, allowing winds and currents to move sea ice in and out of the region. In November, southerly winds built up between an area of high pressure over Siberia and low pressure in the northern Atlantic Ocean, in accordance with Buys Ballot's Law. The winds transported warm air and water from the south, and pushed the ice edge northwards out of the Barents Sea.
Figure 5. The map of air temperature anomalies for November 2009, at the 925 millibar level (roughly 1,000 meters [3,000 feet] above the surface), shows warmer than usual temperatures over the Barents Sea and Hudson Bay. Areas in blue correspond to negative (cool) anomalies. Areas in orange and red correspond to strong positive (warm) anomalies.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division
In contrast to the Barents Sea, Hudson Bay is a relatively shallow body of water, largely enclosed by land. Ocean waters and sea ice do not flow easily in or out of the bay. The lack of ice in southern Hudson Bay this November is probably related to warmer than normal air temperatures in the region, particularly during the first half of the month.
Air temperatures over Barents Sea were also high during November. While the southerly winds contributed to the warmth, ice-free conditions in the Barents likely also added to the atmospheric heat. Without an insulating cover of sea ice, the ocean releases heat directly to the air.
Sixth Grade Science
Reply #197 on:
December 09, 2009, 03:44:43 PM »
See, AGW zealots, good science isn't so hard:
Hockey sticks everywhere
Reply #198 on:
December 10, 2009, 09:51:36 AM »
Hockey stick? No, hockey sticks!
myhrovolds-to save the world?or our economy?
Reply #199 on:
December 22, 2009, 02:41:16 PM »
What a nightmare for the libs!
For those who don't read drudgereport. Acually Myhrvold was discussing this on Fareed Zakaria this past weekend. Fareed asked him, so why is pumping sulfur into the atmosphere "good for us"? Here is the theory. Libs will trample all over themselves trying to shoot this down but it could (if it worked) completely negate any urgency to do cap and trade or any other unilateral disarming byt the "Bamas" (my new name for the radical libs, left, progressives or whatever name they change it to of the day).
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