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Topic: Our Environment (Read 14975 times)
October 03, 2005, 08:17:27 AM »
The following depressing piece kicks off this thread:
Originally published in the April/May 2004 issue of Boston Review.
End of the Wild
The extinction crisis is over. We lost.
Stephen M. Meyer
For the past several billion years evolution on Earth has been driven by small-scale incremental forces such as sexual selection, punctuated by cosmic-scale disruptions?plate tectonics, planetary geochemistry, global climate shifts, and even extraterrestrial asteroids. Sometime in the last century that changed. Today the guiding hand of evolution is unmistakably human, with earth-shattering consequences.
The fossil record and statistical studies suggest that the average rate of extinction over the past hundred million years has hovered at several species per year. Today the extinction rate surpasses 3,000 species per year and is accelerating rapidly?it may soon reach the tens of thousands annually. In contrast, new species are evolving at a rate of less than one per year.
Over the next 100 years or so as many as half of the Earth's species, representing a quarter of the planet's genetic stock, will either completely or functionally disappear. The land and the oceans will continue to teem with life, but it will be a peculiarly homogenized assemblage of organisms naturally and unnaturally selected for their compatibility with one fundamental force: us. Nothing?not national or international laws, global bioreserves, local sustainability schemes, nor even "wildlands" fantasies?can change the current course. The path for biological evolution is now set for the next million years. And in this sense "the extinction crisis"?the race to save the composition, structure, and organization of biodiversity as it exists today?is over, and we have lost.
This is not the wide-eyed prophecy of radical Earth First! activists or the doom-and-gloom tale of corporate environmentalists trying to boost fundraising. It is the story that is emerging from the growing mountain of scientific papers that have been published in prestigious scientific journals such as Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences over the past decade.
The Real Impact
Through our extraordinary capacity to modify the world around us, we human beings are creating a three-tiered hierarchy of life built around human selection. The great irony here is that this anthropogenic transformation of the biosphere springs as much from our deliberate efforts to protect and manage the life around us as it does from our wanton disregard for the natural environment.
At one extreme we are making the planet especially hospitable for the weedy species: plants, animals and other organisms that thrive in continually disturbed, human-dominated environments. (I borrow this term from David Quammen's seminal A Planet of Weeds.) Many of these organisms are adaptive generalists?species that flourish in a variety of ecological settings, easily switch among food types, and breed prolificly. And some have their needs met more completely and efficiently by humans than by Mother Nature. In the United States, for example, there are five times as many raccoons (Procyon lotor) per square mile in suburban settings than in corresponding natural populations in "the wild."
From dandelions to coyotes, weedy species will enjoy expanding populations, spatial distribution, ecological dominance, and opportunities for further speciation into the far future. Many of these species have become so comfortable living with us that they have been labeled pests, requiring stringent control measures: the common (Norway) rat (Rattus norvegicus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) come immediately to mind.
Living on the margins in ever-decreasing numbers and limited spatial distribution are relic species. Relic species cannot thrive in human-dominated environments?which now nearly cover the planet. Facing the continual threat of extinction, relic species will linger in either ecologically marginalized populations (e.g., prairie dogs and elephants) or carefully managed boutique populations (e.g., pandas). Most, including the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), and virtually all of Hawaii's endemic plants, will require for survival our permanent, direct, and heavy-handed management, including captive breeding and continuous restocking.
Other relics, such as rare alpine plants, may survive in isolated patches through benign neglect. Over time they will experience progressive genetic erosion and declining numbers, and will rapidly lose their ecological value. In essence, they will be environmental ornaments.
But a large fraction of the non-weedy species will not be fortunate enough to have special programs to extend their survival or will be incapable of responding to such efforts. These are the ghost species?organisms that cannot or will not be allowed to survive on a planet with billions of people. Although they may continue to exist for decades, their extinction is certain, apart from a few specimens in zoos or a laboratory-archived DNA sample.
Some, such as the East Asian giant soft-shell turtle (extirpated except for one left in the wild) and the dusky seaside sparrow (extinct), are incapable of adapting their highly specialized needs rapidly enough to keep up with human-induced pressures. Others we intentionally try to eradicate. Although they are now protected, wolves and black-tailed prairie dogs in North America were once hunted for extermination as part of federal and state animal-control programs (and unofficially, they still are). In Africa, the lion population has plunged from over 200,000 in 1980 to under 20,000 today due to preemptive eradication by livestock herders.
Still other prospective ghosts we simply consume beyond their capacity to successfully reproduce?for food, for commercial products, or as pets. Recent reports suggest that we have consumed 90 percent of the stocks of large predatory fish, such as tuna and swordfish, in the world's oceans. And while 10,000 tigers live as private pets in the United States, fewer than 7,000 live in the wild throughout the world!
A great many of the plants and animals we perceive as healthy and plentiful today are in fact relics and ghosts. This seeming contradiction is explained by the fact that species loss is not a simple linear process. Many decades can pass between the start of a decline and the collapse of a population structure, especially where moderate-to-long-lived life forms are involved.
Conservation biologists use the term "extinction debt" to describe this gap between appearance and reality. In the past century we have accumulated a vast extinction debt that will be paid, with interest, in the century ahead. The number of plants and animals we "discover" to be threatened will expand out of control as the extinction debt comes due.
Thus, over the next hundred years, upwards of half of the earth's species are destined to become relics or ghosts, while weedy species will constitute an ever-growing proportion of the plants and animals around us. By virtue of their compatibility with us, weedy species can follow us around the planet, homogenizing (in both plausible interpretations of the word) the biosphere by filling in the spaces vacated by relics and ghosts. More and more we will encounter on every continent remarkably similar, if not the very same, species of plants, insects, mammals, birds, and other organisms.
How Did We Get Here?
Although we have been aware of species losses for decades, only recently has it become apparent that the biotic world as we have known it is collapsing. The causes, varied and complex, fall into three broad disturbance categories: landscape transformation, geochemical modification (pollution), and biotic consumption and manipulation. Each reflects some aspect of human-induced manipulation of the environment, as these examples from the news show:
New housing developments in Scotland will destroy critical habitat for Britain's threatened red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), which has disappeared from most of its former range.
Logging and agricultural development have reduced the distribution of Chile's famed national tree?the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)?to three small areas of the country, where it is vulnerable to fire and illegal logging.
A new dam in Belize will flood vital habitat for rare species of jaguars, macaws, and crocodiles in a valley linking to wildlife preserves.
Biologically active quantities of common over-the-counter and prescription drugs (e.g., Prozac) are ubiquitous in European and North American urban and suburban waste waters, where discharge to streams and rivers wreaks havoc on aquatic animal endocrine systems.
Polar bears endure body concentrations of PCB and other industrial toxins hundreds of times higher than those of animals living where the pollutants are emitted, thousands of miles away.
Eighty percent of Caribbean corals have died off in the past two decades from diseases fuelled by nutrient pollution from municipal waste-water treatment plants and agricultural runoff flooding into coastal waters.
Demand for "bush meat" in Africa (which sells for 30 percent of the price of farmed meat) is now outstripping supply, seriously depleting wildlife populations in general and great apes in particular. Meanwhile the international trade in bush meat and animal parts is growing exponentially, fetching prices many times those in domestic markets.
During the past two years half of the world's remaining Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) were wiped out by trophy hunters, leaving fewer than 300 animals in the wild?ensuring the extirpation of the species.
Collecting freshwater and marine fish for the aquarium trade reduces wild populations of targeted species by 75 percent in commercial collection areas.
Cheatgrass, introduced into North America around 1900, has displaced native vegetation across broad areas of rangeland in western North America, devastating the local ecology. A prolific annual of low nutritive value, cheatgrass dries up early in the season, fueling extensive range fires that wipe out native plants and leave little food or shelter for wildlife.
Native aquatic food webs in South America are being destroyed by the introduction of the North American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)?a voracious predator.
When these factors?development, agriculture, resource consumption, pollution, alien species, etc.?are considered separately, the problem seems quite manageable. Sprawl can be fixed with smart growth. The demand for agricultural land and high-intensity farming can be dampened through dietary changes. Natural resource over-consumption in logging, hunting, fishing, and the exotic pet trade can be reduced through education, regulation, and policing. And the proliferation of alien species can be stopped through better laws and inspections. But this is a gross simplification: the appearance of tractability is created only by taking the causes one at a time.
Consider the plight of a simple, undemanding, and modestly adaptable creature: the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense). These amphibians live most of the year underground in upland fields and woodlands. Each winter they migrate thousands of feet to their natal breeding pools to find mates and lay eggs. After several weeks of carousing they return to their underground burrows in the surrounding uplands.
The key to the breeding success of these salamanders is the ephemeral nature of the pools. The pools exist as dry depressions for six months of the year. Then, as heavy spring rains flood the region, these shallow basins fill with water, creating vernal pools. Tiger salamanders have come to rely on these temporary pools because, since they are dry part of the year, they cannot support naturally occurring fish populations. Thus, the salamanders' eggs are relatively safe from predation. As the eggs hatch, the larvae find themselves immersed in a bath of food: the water is bursting with millions of planktonic organisms. The salamander larvae grow rapidly?and they need to, because with the rains gone the pools dry up quickly, and unless the juvenile salamanders mature and move out into the surrounding terrain they will die. And so it has been for millions of years.
But not anymore. Today the California tiger salamander is disappearing. First, the upland habitat where it lives is prime real estate for residential, commercial, and agricultural development. Between 50 and 75 percent of its native habitat has already been lost, and more than 100 development projects are pending in the remaining areas. Woodlands are cut down and fields plowed up to make room for houses, lawns, schools, shopping centers, and roadways. Many vernal pools themselves are simply filled.
Where pools are spared bulldozing they are pressed into service as roadside storm basins to collect runoff from lawns, roads, and driveways?water saturated with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. The nitrogen and phosphorus in the runoff stimulates massive algal blooms that drives oxygen levels in the pools down to deadly levels, suffocating a large proportion of the animals. High concentrations of herbicides and pesticides in the runoff kill many juveniles and, in lower doses, alter metabolic chemistry in ways that bizarrely change sexual development, immune function, and even limb development.
Even setting aside local sources of contamination, the water in the pools is increasingly laden with a cocktail of toxic compounds (e.g., the herbicide atrazine) that are not used locally. Blowing in from industrial and agricultural sites many hundreds of miles away, these endocrine-disrupting compounds significantly reduce breeding success and foster grotesque developmental abnormalities.
Then there is the army of alien species?bullfrogs, crayfish, and other predators?that have been introduced intentionally into the landscape. These voracious hunters consume huge numbers of salamander larvae and juveniles, further decimating the tiger salamanders. In some instances, non-native salamanders (former pets) have been released into local pools, reducing breeding success and posing the risk of hybridization. And fish are frequently added to the temporary pools to devour mosquitoes during the wet season. While this makes life more comfortable for nearby human inhabitants, it exhausts the young salamanders' food supply.
But the assault does not end there. The regularity of spring rains is being replaced by recurrent three- and four-year droughts. Several generations of tiger salamanders therefore never emerge to replace the animals lost to natural and unnatural causes. In the past, tiger salamanders persisted despite climate variations by virtue of wandering individuals who trundled aimlessly through networks of wetlands until they chanced upon new vernal pools and restarted the population. But that is no longer possible because the matrix of connecting wetlands has been eliminated, and habitat fragmentation makes the chance encounter with a car tire many orders of magnitude greater than an encounter with either a suitable mate or a suitable habitat.
Finally, where residual populations of tiger salamanders have survived despite the odds in still isolated locations, they have become a target of the pet trade. Children are paid 25 cents per salamander to collect these highly prized animals, which are then sold for $15 a piece in U.S. pet shops and for more than $200 overseas. In fact the global trade in "exotics" such as tiger salamanders is growing explosively, especially for reptiles and amphibians. Probably one in a thousand salamanders survives the commerce and perhaps one in a thousand of these survives a few years in captivity.
This story is neither fictional nor unique. It is, in fact, the rule. One could tell similar stories of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the Lesothan succulent Aloe polyphylla, and most other species in decline. Relic species generally face an overwhelming web of threats that are impossible to disentangle.
Further complicating the picture are two meta-disturbances: global climate change and economic globalization. Climate change will make many areas inhospitable to their present inhabitants. Entire biotic communities will be evicted: coastal wetlands will be permanently submerged, many cloud forests will dry out, some dry savannas will become lush while others become deserts. Studies suggest that the types of climate shifts we can expect over the next century are well within the experiential history of most species that have survived the last two million years. In the past, most could have moved to new regions. But today only weedy species have the capacity to migrate and reestablish thriving populations in new habitats, which invariably are human-disturbed areas. For the rest, there is either no place to go because acceptable habitat has been reduced to a few isolated patches surrounded by a sea of human development. There is no way for non-weedy species to get to potentially more suitable locations (if they exist) hundreds of miles away because of interposed cities, roadways, subdivisions, shopping centers, and airports.
Economic globalization exacerbates the species-loss problem in several ways. Globalization increases the demand for natural resources in remote and undeveloped regions. In locations previously occupied by subsistence villages, labor towns spring up to support foreign timber and mining operations. As foreign capital flows into undeveloped regions it inflates the price paid for local goods, thereby increasing incentives for over-exploitation to feed the lucrative export market. Timber from the Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests bought and paid for by Japanese firms brings a much higher return than the same lumber sold in local markets. Over 80 percent of these rainforests have now been logged, with the consequence that the orangutan population is now less than ten percent of what it was decades ago.
Perhaps most importantly, the booming trade of the globalized economy accelerates the pace of alien species being transported around the globe. Breaking down economic barriers effectively breaks down geographic, ecological, and biotic barriers as vast numbers of plants and animals are shipped worldwide to support the pet and horticultural trades. Although presently only about five percent of these aliens take hold and flourish in their new environs, five percent of an exploding number is itself a large number. (As a reference point, 25 percent of the vascular plants in the United States today are alien species.)
Unintended introductions of alien plants, animals, and other organisms are even more threatening since authorities make no attempt to screen out truly harmful organisms. Alien pests, parasites, and predators take an increasingly high toll on native ecosystems. As ships and planes shuttle between continents carrying unprecedented volumes of cargo, they cart with them a growing roster of stow-away organisms. The Asian long-horn beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), for example, invaded the United States in 1996 encased in wood crates from China or Korea. Spreading through New York and Chicago, they decimated local trees, especially maples. Since then, adult beetles have been intercepted at 17 U.S. ports.
Thus, climate change and economic globalization are powerful agents of human selection that amplify and make irreversible the traditional and localized human disturbances that undermine biodiversity.
Why There Is Nothing We Can Do
As our awareness of the extinction crisis has grown, we have taken some ameliorative actions. In the United States we have imposed rules upon ourselves to try to halt the loss. The U.S. Endangered Species Act prohibits the taking, harm, or harassment of some 1,300 plants and animals designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some critical habitats of these species are also protected. In addition, 44 of the 50 states have some form of state-level endangered species act of their own, through which they try to protect locally threatened species.
Since the early 1990s the European Union has had its Habitat Directive, which makes it illegal to kill or harm about 700 protected species or to disrupt 168 specially designated habitats. Approaching the problem from a different angle is the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which, as the name implies, is an attempt by the international community-presently over 150 countries-to limit the global trade in threatened species. About 30,000 plants and animals are on the CITES list. Thousands of species are added annually.
Meanwhile, nations, acting individually and through international conventions, have attempted to set aside biologically valuable landscapes and ocean areas as wildlife refuges and bioreserves. More than ten percent of the earth now has some form of protected status. The Parsa Reserve in Nepal covers about 500 square kilometers and offers sanctuary to a range of creatures, including 300 species of birds. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, encompassing over 400,000 square kilometers of ocean, protects about 70 percent of the coral reef ecosystems in the United States. Over 7,000 marine species are associated with this area, of which 25 percent are found nowhere else on the planet.
Recognizing that governments have limited political and fiscal resources, nongovernmental organizations have moved to impede the flow of species loss through land protection, public education, litigation, and policy advocacy. The Nature Conservancy claims to have helped to preserve over 117 million acres of wildlife habitat over the past 50-plus years. In the United States the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and others use the courts to force recalcitrant government agencies to implement and enforce existing conservation laws and regulations.
A casual reading of the news would suggest these efforts are paying off:
By 1939 the number of whooping cranes (Grus americana) in the United States had declined to 18. Thanks to captive breeding, today there are over 300 whooping cranes, with 180 living in the wild. In an astounding effort, humans piloting ultralight aircraft taught a novice flock how to migrate from Florida to Wisconsin.
The population of Puerto Rican crested toads (Peltophryne lemur) has tripled to 300 over the past 25 years thanks to captive breeding in U.S. zoos and restocking in the wild.
A recent survey of tigers in India's Sunderbans Forest suggests that the preserve's population is stable and may even reflect an increase in cubs.
The last remaining patch of Kneeland prairie penny-cress (Thlaspi californicum), found in only one California county, will be saved with a ten-year, $300,000 conservation effort.
Perhaps if we dedicated a few billion dollars more, increased cooperative efforts among governments, expanded the system of bioreserves walling off biodiversity hot spots, cultivated sustainable economics among local communities, and reduced human consumption habits we could save the earth's biota.
Unfortunately, such efforts are far too little and far, far too late. In fact these and similar apparent success stories reflect a much more insidious process that is reshaping the living earth. Our most common tools for preserving biodiversity?prohibitory laws and regulations, bioreserves, and sustainable-development programs?are themselves powerful engines of human selection, tweaking (for our pleasure) but not fundamentally altering the outcome: massive species loss.
Prohibitory regulation. Virtually by definition all regulatory efforts at species protection and recovery are focused on relics and (unknowingly) ghosts, which have no chance of true recovery. Occasionally there are extraordinary exceptions, such as the American alligator, which having been almost extirpated is once again abundant. But our very few alleged successes are nothing more than manifestations of the growing dominance of human selection in evolution.
The very notion that we could regulate ourselves out of the extinction crisis?that government could force the wild to remain wild?is based on a fundamentally false premise: that the causes of species extinction are finite and reducible and that the number of true threatened species is reasonably limited. When the U.S. Endangered Species Act was recrafted in the early 1970s, wildlife experts naively believed that at most a few hundred species would require protection. Although the current U.S. list of domestic "endangered species" tops 1,300, the list would contain almost 5,000 entries if politics did not prevent it. (Species may be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list only after a biological review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Practically all such reviews these days are initiated by petitions from environmental groups. The Bush administration has halted these reviews, claiming it has run out of money.)
More to the point, the great irony is that the U.S. Endangered Species Act is the very institutionalization of human-driven evolution. We decide which species get on the list for protection and which are kept off. We decide which habitats of listed species will be labeled critical. We decide the recovery goals: how many of a given plant or animal should be allowed to persist, in how many "populations," and where they should (and should not) be distributed across the landscape. The official recovery goal for wild bison is for a total population in the low thousands, not their original numbers in the tens of millions. The wolf recovery plan envisions several dozen packs confined to carefully delineated refuges in a few key states, not free-roaming wolf packs in every state that would reflect their true former range. And the government still shoots both species if they wander off designated lands. Recovery goals for plants (for which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spends less than five percent of what it spends on animals) are limited to restoring populations in the locations where they are presently growing as relics and ghosts, not to restoring their former range.
Similarly, International Whaling Commission rules, CITES, and other international conventions convert human values into biotic structure; they are not regimes designed for ecological restoration. How many minke whales are sufficient to allow hunting? How many zoo requests for gorillas should be honored? Fundamentally, the determination of which species make it onto these protection lists and the timing of those listings is more about what appeals to us in an aesthetic and charismatic way and economics than about pivotal ecological roles and biology. Pandas get lots of attention and support; the many thousands of disappearing aquatic invertebrates do not.
Although legal prohibitions and strict enforcement can preserve some relic species at the margins and temporarily forestall the extinction of ghost species, they cannot prevent or even slow the end of the wild. Regulation, then, does little more than transform nature into a product of the human imagination.
Refuges and preserves. Biologists and ecologists have long recognized the limitations of species-specific preservation and have lobbied instead for the creation of protected areas that would shield ecosystems and all the plants and animals within. The idea behind refuges, bioreserves, and the like is to somehow wall off the wild from the harmful disturbances of humanity. Set aside 20,000 acres, limit human activity, and allow nature to proceed unhindered in its special space. And for a while this appears to work. But this too is largely an illusion. The refuges and bioreserves we set aside are no more than our paltry conception of an ecosystem, and the species within their boundaries are in most instances part of the extinction debt and all the while in decline.
As they exist today, bioreserves are the proverbial barrel in which fish are more easily shot: three quarters of the deaths of large carnivores in bioreserves are causedby people. The failures of this approach are only now becoming obvious.
Direct and indirect human encroachment into bioreserves is relentless and, with ever expanding populations in the developing world, unavoidable. Mexico's Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, North America's last remaining rain forest, extends across 820,000 acres and is home to half of Mexico's bird species. Having already lost a quarter of its tree cover in the last 30 years to illegal logging by local residents (which Mexican authorities have ignored) the park has become a magnet for those looking for land to clear and till. In Africa and Asia, bioreserves have become the preferred hunting grounds for poachers and bush-meat traders: that is, after all, where the animals are!
Bioreserves will always be too small and too isolated from each other to accomplish their stated goal of preserving the wild as it is today. Embedded in a matrix of human habitation?cities, towns, farms, mining and logging operations?they cannot be insulated from broader human disturbances in the region, even if their own boundaries remain inviolate.
Consider one of the world's favorite eco-tourist destinations: the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. This ecologically significant area covers more than 30,000 acres and hosts more than 2,500 plant species, 100 mammalian species, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian and amphibian species, and thousands of insects. The problem is that the cloud forest appears to be drying out. Deforestation is the apparent cause, but not from logging in the preserve. Rather, the clearing of lowland areas outside the preserve for agriculture is causing changes in the local patterns of fog and mist formation, thereby altering cloud formation up in the preserve. Thus, despite strong protections within its boundaries, the cloud forest may soon lack its defining feature: clouds. And the multitude of species that depend on that moisture will go the way of the extinct golden toad.
This weakness in the call for specific ecosystem preservation becomes all the more apparent in the context of climate change. The creation of a network of isolated, independent bioreserves assumes that the global environment?in particular the global climate?is relatively static. For the past 11,000 years this would have been a fair assumption. But this has changed. Climate models project far cooler and wetter weather during the critical winter months in what are now the most important Monarch-butterfly wintering grounds in Mexico, the Monarch Butterfly Bioreserve, which will become unlivable to the insects over the next few decades. Similar problems confront many of Europe's protected birds.
Lastly, by concentrating species within a limited geographic area, bioreserves increase the vulnerability of relic species to catastrophic, unrecoverable losses from natural disasters, epizootic diseases, war, and so on. During the summer of 2003, for example, fires in Brazil's two refuges that are home to the Brazilian Merganser duck (Mergus octosetaceus) wiped out 70 percent of one of the 53,000-square-kilometer parks while decimating large parts of the other and may lead to the creature's extinction. Only 250 existed before the fire.
Ultimately the transformation of wilderness into a patchwork of static bioreserves is just another tool of human selection?the antithesis of the wild.
Sustainable communities. Much has been said and written about sustainable communities as a social approach to easing the extinction crisis. Sustainability has been something of a crusade for the UN, various international agencies, and many nongovernmental environmental organizations. The argument goes that if local communities could learn to live within the carrying capacity of their environs, the pressures on terrestrial and marine ecosystems would be eased. And of course this is true.
But in the context of the extinction crisis, sustainable development is an anthropocentric resource-use policy, not an ecological model. Consumptive demand measured against resource supply, not ecosystem function, determines the limit of sustainability. What is the maximum amount of mahogany, or tuna, or leopard pelts that can be harvested and still allow projected human demand for the product to be met for the foreseeable future? The demands of the ecosystem are not truly part of the equation.
In addition, for sustainable development to have an impact on conservation it must be tied directly to local demand, where the costs of overexploitation are borne by those who benefit from it. This makes sustainable economic programs a moving target because communities grow. As medical services and standards of living improve, the size of a community, its economic aspirations, and its demands for resources grow. What was sustainable for a Kenyan village in 2000 will not be sustainable in 2020. The collapse of Africa's wildlife populations in the face of the bush-meat trade is just one example.
Moreover, if there was ever a hope for this strategy, even at a limited level, economic globalization destroyed it. Consider what might be regarded as an exemplar of sustainable development: Brazil-nut harvesting in the Amazon. Originally the idea was to protect the rain forest by creating a local economy based on the collection and sale of Brazil nuts. Initially this was quite successful. But today, local residents in the Brazilian Amazon harvest over 45,000 tons of nuts from the forest floor each year, yielding some $43 million in global trade. Unfortunately, nut gatherers harvest so many nuts that few if any seedlings are taking root. As aging Brazil-nut trees die off, they will not be replaced. Global demand for this environmentally friendly and sustainable crop drives the harvest and has made it unsustainable in the long term.
Similarly, the depletion of global fish stocks shows the basic flaw in the sustainability strategy. Local fishermen fishing for the local market are not depleting the stocks. The problem is the rise of global markets to satisfy the demands of people remote from the fishing grounds. Gross disparities in wealth between those who supply (low-wage labor) and those who demand (high-wage developed societies) ensure that sustainability will be a function of maximum bearable price, not ecological balance.
The notion of sustainable communities, then, is not about the wild. It is about long-term economic efficiency and the wise use of natural resources.
Wildlands. The wildlands concept is fantastic in both senses of the word. This idea, advocated by those in the deep-ecology movement, has two main components. First, national populations would be resettled into tightly drawn sustainable enclaves. In the United States, for example, huge, formerly ecologically significant areas such as Florida and the Rocky Mountains would be depopulated and restored to a natural state. About 50 percent of the United States would be converted into an expansive set of connected wildlands, surrounded by extensive buffers. Human access to this half of the country would be prohibited. Similar wildlands could be created on every continent.
Second, extensive social engineering would be necessary to alter land use and consumption patterns. The goal would be to reduce the ecological footprint of humanity so that much of the planet could be free from human exploitation.
In theory this strategy could reduce the slide of ghosts and relics into oblivion if it could be implemented immediately and universally. It would be a form of global ecological zoning that would significantly lessen the influence of human selection in the excluded regions. Wildlands would enable species and populations to adapt to climate change. As an ecologically centered strategy it is most likely the only approach that could truly reduce the scale and scope of the biotic collapse that is already underway.
Yet the notion that upwards of seven billion people could live hobbit-like with nature is hard to accept. With the right social framework we might have been able to do it modestly in 1304, but not in 2004 and certainly not in 2104. Global society is moving rapidly and inexorably in the opposite direction.
To be fair, advocates of wildlands acknowledge that, owing to enormous social, political, and economic hurdles, their vision would be at minimum a 100-year undertaking. The problem, of course, is that the end of the wild will already be complete.
Genetic engineering. Each year some of my students suggest that genetic engineering can end the cascade of species loss. Why can't we store DNA and, once the technology matures, bring all the species back and release them into the wild?
This kind of Jurassic Park thinking ignores the fact that all of the factors that contributed to species loss will remain in place and probably become even more powerful. If 95 percent of desert-tortoise habitat has been developed and its primary diet of herbs, grasses, and desert flowers is no longer available in 2004, exactly where will our reengineered tortoises live in 2030? At best they could exist as genetic relics in a zoo.
The miracles of genetic engineering cannot alter the fact that the wild will cease to exist even if we can individually manufacture each of its constituent parts.
A Reason to Do Nothing?
We cannot prevent the end of the wild. Absent an immediate 95-percent reduction in the human population (a truly horrendous thought), we cannot change our current course. This leads us to the question, If we are unalterably moving to a world in which half the currently existing species will be relics or ghosts, why should we continue to do anything to preserve biodiversity? Why not rescind national and international laws protecting endangered species, eliminate bioreserves, and let the unfettered market determine how and where we consume natural resources? By bowing to the serendipitous elements of human selection in setting the course of biotic development and evolution we could happily bulldoze, pave, or grass over every square inch of the planet in the pursuit of human progress. But it is not that simple.
This why-bother strategy would greatly magnify the scale, scope, and destructive consequences of the end of the wild. First, it would effectively bifurcate the earth's biota into two groups: weedy species and ghost species, the latter subsuming virtually all relics. And in this respect the number of lost organisms would surely shoot well past the 50-percent threshold noted earlier, while the time scale would contract to decades rather than a century-plus.
Indeed, even weedy species could face serious threats in this environment. The American crow and the blue jay, for example, have already seen their numbers decimated in many areas of the United States as a consequence of the invasion of the alien West Nile Virus, which first struck in 1999.
Second, this human-selected biosphere will not necessarily be a human-friendly one. Without direct management many species that we view as key natural resources, such as timber trees and marine fish stocks, would be consumed out of existence. The invisible hand of the market is all too invisible when it comes to the exploitation of natural commodities. The multiple collapses of once bountiful Atlantic and Pacific fisheries?which are now regulated, albeit poorly-represent just a taste of what would happen without any controls in place. (The North Atlantic, for example, has less than 20 percent of the fish it held in 1900.) The destructive effects would rebound through the economies of many nations.
Certain types of ecosystems and biotic communities, such as tropical rain forests and wetlands, might completely disappear. Thirty-five percent of the world's mangrove swamps?essential breeding habitat for many marine fish species?have already been lost, and the rate of destruction is accelerating annually. Surviving ecosystems would be impoverished and would fail to provide the range of services (e.g., water purification, flood and storm damage control) that we depend on.
Third, this approach would almost certainly increase the predominance of pests, parasites, and disease-causing organisms among the weedy species. Already today white-tailed deer populations in the United States (and Britain) have been allowed to grow virtually unchecked. There are now over 350,000 deer-auto collisions a year in the United States (50,000 in the U.K.), resulting in over 10,000 serious injuries to motorists, 150 human deaths annually, and billions of dollars in property damage. (By comparison there have been fewer than 50 confirmed human killings by mountain lions in the United States in the past 100 years.) In Britain there are about 50,000 auto-deer collisions, 2,400 human injuries, and 20 deaths. White-tailed deer, moreover, are an essential vector for the highly debilitating Lyme disease, which is spreading rapidly in the eastern United States. Indeed, many human pathogens and diseases are likely to flourish in this environment, finding it easy to skip around the world from country to country as was the recent case of the SARS virus.
Fourth, the global spread of invasive species would explode if left unchecked. Ecological concerns such as biotic homogenization aside, the economic toll would be disastrous. The economic harm caused by the 50,000 non-native invasive plants, animals, and other organisms already in the United States is approaching $140 billion per year. Florida's government alone spends $45 million annually battling invasive species, which cause some $180 million in agricultural damage.
The why-bother approach, moreover, would kill off a large proportion of the relic species in the wild that have particular psychological importance (existence value) to humanity: elephants, gorillas, whales, owls, and hawks, and other charismatic animals. From a humanist standpoint the quality of life on earth would plummet.
In the end, the notion that we could let nature take its course in a world so dominated by humanity is as dangerous as it is self-contradictory. Like it or not, nature now works for us. If humanity is to survive and prosper on such a planet then we have no choice but to at least try to manage the fine details of the end of the wild.
Since we cannot possibly restore relic and ghost species to their former status, nor do we have the knowledge to pick evolutionary winners and losers, we should focus on two core concerns: (1) safeguarding future evolutionary processes and pathways and (2) preserving ecosystem processes and functions.
We should begin with a massive and sustained two-decade global effort, reminiscent of the International Geophysical Year, to map systematically and dynamically the earth's biota. Only about 20 percent of the earth's species have been formally described. We need to know what is here, how it lives, what it does, and what is happening to it in order to prepare for what will be lost. More significantly we need to understand the intricacies of genetic and functional relationships among species?especially for relics and ghosts?to understand how evolutionary and ecological processes will be altered.
This means recording not just what species exist, how they look, what they do, and how they are linked together, but also what is happening to them as populations, as communities of populations, and at the landscape level. Undoubtedly this will be expensive, but spending $100 billion over the next decade to understand fully the dimensions of the accelerating biotic extinction on Earth will have infinitely greater significance for humanity than scratching at the surface of Mars for signs of remotely hypothetical billion-year-old bacterial extinctions.
Meanwhile we must move away from the haphazard strategy of protecting relic and ghost species in isolation. Specifically, we can begin to think about trans-regional schemes for building meta-reserves. These would be non-contiguous assemblages of terrestrial and aquatic sanctuaries and proto-sanctuaries, significantly larger than current bioreserves. Sites would be selected to protect broad ecosystem functions and processes in a dynamic environment rather than species-specific habitat needs or singly-defining (highly peculiar) ecological characteristics. In other words, these meta-reserves would involve the designation of multiple and disparate terrestrial and aquatic refuges, many of which could have future, but not current, special biodiversity value. Each meta-reserve would be modeled around an one or more existing core biodiversity hot spots and a constellation of satellite sites, with the expectation that climate change and other human disturbances are likely to shift the ecological processes and habitat values of current biodiversity hot spots among these sites. The satellite sites of these meta reserves would periodically receive (by our doing) biotic community transplants as experimental "migrations" as abiotic characteristics such as rainfall change. The goal?admittedly a gamble?would be to avoid mistakes like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reservation.
For these meta-reserves to operate properly, three conditions will have to be met. First, plant and animal populations within these meta-reserves will have to be actively and heavily managed at all levels ? exactly the opposite of how we think about present-day bioreserves. Ecosystems cannot be conserved by benign neglect. We must determine population levels within the meta-reserves as well as when and where plants and animals should migrate among meta-reserve sites. We must determine when it is time to introduce new genes into a species, as we are presently doing with the Florida panther. Restricted-range and sessile species would require our explicit intervention to disperse them to potential new habitat areas.
Second, meta-reserves would need highly porous wildlife boundaries within a broad network of corridors and connections (e.g., forest tracts and wetlands) allowing wildlife to move freely and stochastically to new areas. Movement, migration, and colonization are the goals of meta-reserves, not imprisonment. These corridors would be buffered by wide swaths of landscape where ecologically compatible agriculture and heavily regulated resource use were allowed.
Third, given the above, substantial human and financial resources would have to be devoted to continuous management and rigorous enforcement, or else these efforts will be futile. Annual global spending on ecosystem protection (including acquisition) is just over $3 billion (the price of two B-2 bombers). In order to nudge the end of the wild toward a more human-friendly outcome, we need to spend ten times that much to compensate for the unintended impact of human selection.
In this context the issue of alien plant and animal species becomes problematic. On the one hand the intentional and unintentional movement of species among the continents can be a dangerous and harmful manifestation of human selection. Controlling the flow of exotic parasites, pests, and predators will increase the cost of global commerce and disrupt short-term profits. But it will save far more in the costs associated with trying to eradicate destructive alien pests such as the zebra muscle or the Formosan termite.
On the other hand, in confronting the end of the wild, the notion of meta-reserves implies that the intentional transplanting of alien species might be desirable from an evolutionary perspective. If climate change and development are going to render some regions unsuitable for certain species, should we transplant them out-of-region to where they might thrive? For example, the Puerto Rican coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui), a tree frog, is under increasing pressure from development and pollution at home. But in Hawaii (where they were illegally transported) they are thriving. Habitat substitution in the face of dynamic environmental change is not the same as biotic homogenization. Should we oppose it or employ it?
Finally, prohibitive policies such as the U.S. Endangered Species Act and CITES need to be kept in place and strengthened. Although they are at best stop-gap measures, they buy time for us to examine the ecological roles of relic and ghost species and assess the impact of their loss. Perhaps more significant is their moral imperative. Like the Ten Commandments, they remind us who we could be. They make us examine our own behavior and obligations as the planet's stewards while giving pause to the brazen and needless destruction of species in our own backyards.
The end of the wild does not mean a barren world. There will be plenty of life. It will just be different: much less diverse, much less exotic, far more predictable, and?given the dominance of weedy species?probably far more annoying. We have lost the wild. Perhaps in 5 to 10 million years it will return. <
Stephen M. Meyer is a professor of political science at MIT and the director of the MIT Project on Environmental Politics and Policy.
Andrew Balmford, Rhys E. Green, and Martin Jenkins, ?Measuring the Changing State of Nature,? Trends in Research in Evolutionary Ecology 18 (2003): 326?330.
Stephen L. Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan, The Forgotten Pollinators (Washington, D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 1996).
Gretchen Daily, ed., Nature?s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997).
Goncalo Ferraz et al., ?Rates of Species Loss from Amazonian Forest Fragments,? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (2003): 14069?14073.
John H. Lawton and Robert M. May, eds., Extinction Rates (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Julie L. Lockwood and Michael L. McKinney, eds., Biotic Homogenization (New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001).
Norman Myers and Andrew H. Knoll, ?The Biotic Crisis and the Future of Evolution,? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98 (2001): 5389?5392. [This issue of PNAS includes a number of provocative papers from a colloquium on this topic.]
John F. Oates, Myth and Reality in the Rain Forest: How Conservation Strategies are Failing in West Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
David Quammen, ?Planet of Weeds: Tallying the Losses of Earth?s Animals and Plants,? Harper?s, October 1998.
Michael L. Rosenzweig, ?The Four Questions: What Does the Introduction of Exotic Species Do to Diversity?,? Evolutionary Ecology Research 3 (2001): 361?367. (PDF)
John Terborgh, Requiem for Nature (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1999).
J.A. Thomas et al., ?Comparative Losses of British Butterflies, Birds, and Plants and the Global Extinction Crisis,? Science 303 (2004): 1879?1881.
Peter M. Vitousek, Harold A. Mooney, Jane Lubchenco, and Jerry M. Melillo, ?Human Domination of Earth?s Ecosystems,? Science 277 (1997): 494?499.
Gian-Reto Walther et al., ?Ecological Responses to Recent Climate Change,? Nature 416 (2002): 389-395.
E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999).
David S. Woodruff, ?Declines of Biomes and Biotas and the Future of Evolution,? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98 (2001): 5471?5476.
We're All Gonna Die (Unless Moral Authority Regained)
Reply #1 on:
April 09, 2006, 11:37:01 AM »
Saturday, April 8, 2006 9:36 p.m. EDT
Al Gore: The End is Near
Former vice president Al Gore is predicting the end of all human life on the Planet Earth if Washington doesn't do something to stop Americans from causing global warming.
"If we allow this to happen, we will destroy the habitability of the planet," Gore told a group of environmentally minded corporate executives in California on Thursday.
"We can't do that, and I am confident we won't do that," he added, according to Oakland's Bay Area Argus.
But the former VP warned: "We have been blind to the fact that the human species is now having a crushing impact on the ecological system of the planet."
Gore said global warming "is really not a political issue, [but] it's disguised as a political issue. It's a moral issue, it's an ethical issue."
The former number two Clinton official pointed to last year's devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita, saying: "This is the first foretaste of a cup that will be offered to us again and again and again until we regain our moral authority."
Reply #2 on:
April 09, 2006, 03:56:35 PM »
I posted on Warrior talk. Read State of Fear. Clears up the thought process. I am not denying evidence, but consider the big picture.
Weather Two Weeks from Wednesday
Reply #3 on:
April 09, 2006, 05:27:17 PM »
Guess I didn't make it clear that my tounge is planted deep in my cheek. The data set is far too small, and evidence of drastic long-term macro weather changes when humanity could not have been a factor too plentiful, to draw any useful conclusions IMO. That doesn't prevent folks who have a political stake in telling everyone how they should live from thrumming their chest with this stuff, though. When one of these clowns can tell me what the weather will be two weeks from Wednesday I'll start listening to them about longer term weather cycles.
Good News. Shhhhh
Reply #4 on:
April 15, 2006, 05:54:22 PM »
Issues & Insights
Environment: With Earth Day (April 22) still a week off, there's still time for alarmists to scare the pants off the public with stories of impending doom. But the truth is, the planet keeps getting cleaner.
Noxious emissions from carbon monoxide to sulfur dioxide are down, water quality continues to improve and toxic chemicals ? while still out there ? aren't doing the damage that their critics claim they are.
But don't look for this sort of information in the mainstream media. With few exceptions, they follow the line of environmentalists who are both emotionally and financially invested in a campaign against capitalism and modern living.
And this is their week, their time to sit back and listen as a sympathetic press reminds us how much greedy corporations, monster SUVs, greedy oil companies and even common household cleaners are wrecking our fragile environment.
But don't be fooled; be informed.
A valuable source of information is the latest "Index of Leading Environmental Indicator," which Stephen Hayward has been compiling since the early 1990s. Among the findings in the 2006 edition:
Emissions of carbon monoxide fell by 14.8% in just the four years ended in 2004. Nitrogen oxides were down 15.7%, sulfur dioxide down 6.7% and volatile organic compounds down 11.2%. Only particulate matter, such as smoke, dust and other floating particles, which plunged 80% from 1970 to 2004, increased from 2000 to 2004, and then by only 8.7%. There was also a large decline ? a 98.6% drop ? in lead emissions between 2000 and 2004.
One reason for the gains is that vehicles are burning cleaner than ever ? and that includes the class of cars that has been demonized by environmental groups. "The frequently heard claim that large SUVs 'pollute more,' " writes Hayward, "is a myth."
Cancer rates continue their decline after peaking in the early '90s. This is significant because cancer incidents are often blamed on toxic chemicals.
Levels of chemicals found in the human body are also falling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Releases of toxic chemicals plunged 42% from 1998 to 2003, according to the EPA, even though more chemicals are being counted and more sources are being required to report.
The earth will never be spotless, but neither is it a stinking, smoldering, overflowing trash bin, as the green lobby would have us believe. Earth Day should be marked by celebrations of our progress, not the ominous tones of doom that usually dominate the coverage.
It's Getting Cooler. Alert Al Gore
Reply #5 on:
June 30, 2006, 10:32:57 PM »
by Dennis Avery
The official thermometers at the U.S. National Climate Data Center show a slight global cooling trend over the last seven years, from 1998 to 2005.
Actually, global warming is likely to continue?but the interruption of the recent strong warming trend sharply undercuts the argument that our global warming is an urgent, man-made emergency. The seven-year decline makes our warming look much more like the moderate, erratic warming to be expected when the planet naturally shifts from a Little Ice Age (1300?1850 AD) to a centuries-long warm phase like the Medieval Warming (950?1300 AD) or the Roman Warming (200 BC? 600 AD).
The stutter in the temperature rise should rein in some of the more apoplectic cries of panic over man-made greenhouse emissions. The strong 28-year upward trend of 1970?1998 has apparently ended.
Fred Singer, a well-known skeptic on man-made warming, points out that the latest cooling trend is dictated primarily by a very warm El Nino year in 1998. ?When you start your graph with 1998,? he says, ?you will necessarily get a cooling trend.?
Bob Carter, a paleoclimatologist from Australia, notes that the earth also had strong global warming between 1918 and 1940. Then there was a long cooling period from 1940 to 1965. He points out that the current warming started 50 years before cars and industries began spewing consequential amounts of CO2. Then the planet cooled for 35 years just after the CO2 levels really began to surge. In fact, says Carter, there doesn?t seem to be much correlation between temperatures and man-made CO2.
For context, Carter offers a quick review of earth?s last 6 million years. The planet began that period with 3 million years in which the climate was several degrees warmer than today. Then came 3 million years in which the planet was basically cooling, accompanied by an increase in the magnitude and regularity of the earth?s 1500-year Dansgaard-Oeschger climate cycles.
Speaking of the 1500-year climate cycles, grab an Internet peek at the earth?s official temperatures since 1850. They describe a long, gentle S-curve, with the below-mean temperatures of the Little Ice Age gradually giving way to the above-the-mean temperatures we should expect during a Modern Warming.
Carter points out that since the early 1990s, the First World?s media have featured ?an increasing stream of alarmist letters and articles on hypothetical, human-caused climate change. Each such alarmist article is larded with words such as ?if?, ?might,? ?could,? ?probably,? ?perhaps,? ?expected,? ?projected? or ?modeled??and many . . . are akin to nonsense.?
Carter also warns that global cooling?not likely for some centuries yet?is likely to be far harsher for humans than the Modern Warming. He says, ?our modern societies have developed during the last 10,000 years of benignly warm, interglacial climate. But for more than 90 percent of the last 2 million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today. The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming.?
Since the earth is always warming or cooling, let?s applaud the Modern Warming, and hope that the next ice age is a long time coming.
Dennis Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and the Director for Global Food Issues (
). He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. Readers may write him at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.
Reply #6 on:
July 02, 2006, 01:34:52 AM »
Bolton v Gore
Jun 22nd 2006 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition
A question of priorities: hunger and disease or climate change?
TWO years ago, a Danish environmentalist called Bjorn Lomborg had an idea. We all want to make the world a better place but, given finite resources, we should look for the most cost-effective ways of doing so. He persuaded a bunch of economists, including three Nobel laureates, to draw up a list of priorities. They found that efforts to fight malnutrition and disease would save many lives at modest expense, whereas fighting global warming would cost a colossal amount and yield distant and uncertain rewards.
That conclusion upset a lot of environmentalists. This week, another man who upsets a lot of people embraced it. John Bolton, America's ambassador to the United Nations, said that Mr Lomborg's ?Copenhagen Consensus? (see articles) provided a useful way for the world body to get its priorities straight. Too often at the UN, said Mr Bolton, ?everything is a priority?. The secretary-general is charged with carrying out 9,000 mandates, he said, and when you have 9,000 priorities you have none.
So, over the weekend, Mr Bolton sat down with UN diplomats from seven other countries, including China and India but no Europeans, to rank 40 ways of tackling ten global crises. The problems addressed were climate change, communicable diseases, war, education, financial instability, governance, malnutrition, migration, clean water and trade barriers.
Given a notional $50 billion, how would the ambassadors spend it to make the world a better place? Their conclusions were strikingly similar to the Copenhagen Consensus. After hearing presentations from experts on each problem, they drew up a list of priorities. The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came last.
The ambassadors thought it wiser to spend money on things they knew would work. Promoting breast-feeding, for example, costs very little and is proven to save lives. It also helps infants grow up stronger and more intelligent, which means they will earn more as adults. Vitamin A supplements cost as little as $1, save lives and stop people from going blind. And so on.
For climate change, the trouble is that though few dispute that it is occurring, no one knows how severe it will be or what damage it will cause. And the proposed solutions are staggeringly expensive. Mr Lomborg reckons that the benefits of implementing the Kyoto protocol would probably outweigh the costs, but not until 2100. This calculation will not please Al Gore. Nipped at the post by George Bush in 2000, Mr Gore calls global warming an ?onrushing catastrophe? and argues vigorously that curbing it is the most urgent moral challenge facing mankind.
Mr Lomborg demurs. ?We need to realise that there are many inconvenient truths,? he says. But whether he and Mr Bolton can persuade the UN of this remains to be seen. Mark Malloch Brown, the UN's deputy secretary-general, said on June 6th that: ?there is currently a perception among many otherwise quite moderate countries that anything the US supports must have a secret agenda...and therefore, put crudely, should be opposed without any real discussion of whether [it makes] sense or not.?
Hot for Politicizing Science
Reply #7 on:
July 02, 2006, 11:32:59 AM »
Dangerous Warming Unlikely, MIT Climatologist Says
Global warming debate is more politics than science, according to climate expert
Written By: Dr. Richard Lindzen
Published In: Environment News
Publication Date: November 1, 2004
Publisher: The Heartland Institute
Editor's note: Global warming is unlikely to be a dangerous future problem, with or without the implementation of such programs as the Kyoto Protocol, according to Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lindzen, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and one of the world's leading climatologists, told a September 9 audience at the Houston Forum that alarmist media claims to the contrary are fueled more by politics than by science.
The following excerpts from his presentation are presented with Dr. Lindzen's permission.
My personal experience over the last 16 years leads me to the conclusion that when it comes to politicized science, real communication is almost impossible. First, it leads to a meaningless polarization associated with meaningless questions, such as "Do you believe in global warming? Are you a believer or a skeptic?"
Given the many facets of the issue, if you are a believer, what exactly is it that you believe? Depending on whether you are a believer or not, you are likely to hear only what you expect to hear.
Recent Temp Changes Small
The global mean temperature is never constant, and it has no choice but to increase or decrease--both of which it does on all known time scales. That this quantity has increased about 0.6?C (or about 1?F) over the past century is likely. A relevant question is whether this is anything to be concerned about.
It doesn't even matter whether recent global mean temperatures are "record breakers" or even whether current temperatures are "unprecedented." All that matters is that the change over the past century has been small.
The fact that such claims are misleading or even false simply provides a temptation to discuss them and implicitly to attach importance to them. Remember, we are talking about tenths of a degree, and all of you know intuitively that that isn't very much.
It does pay to speak about the levels of atmospheric CO2. They are increasing. To be sure, over long periods, climate can cause CO2 changes, but the increases observed over the past century are likely due to man's activities. When and if the levels double, they will increase the radiative forcing of the planet by about 4 Wm-2, or about 2 percent. This will prove relevant.
The scientific question of relevance is what do we expect such an increase to do? The answer, most assuredly, is not to be arrived at by a poll of scientists--especially of scientists who do not work on this question. The issue of consensus is, in this respect, extremely malign, especially when the consensus is merely claimed though not established. However, the whole idea of consensus is problematic.
With respect to science, the assumption behind consensus is that science is a source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists. Of course, science is not primarily a source of authority. Rather, it is a particularly effective approach to inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science; consensus is foreign. When in 1988 Newsweek announced that all scientists agreed about global warming, this should have been a red flag of warning. Among other things, global warming is such a multifaceted issue that agreement on all or many aspects would be unreasonable.
With respect to science, consensus is often simply a sop to scientific illiteracy. After all, if what you are told is alleged to be supported by all scientists, then why do you have to bother to understand it? You can simply go back to treating it as a matter of religious belief, and you never have to defend this belief except to claim that you are supported by all scientists except for a handful of corrupted heretics.
Doubling of CO2 Little Cause for Concern
Let us begin by considering the fundamental question of whether the observed increases in CO2 are likely to be a source of alarm. We will see how the matter of consensus has been employed to mislead and misinform the public. It matters little that the claimed consensus is not based on any known polling of scientists.
Our concerns over global warming are based on models rather than data, and if these models are correct, then man has accounted for over 4 times the observed warming over the past century (even allowing for ocean delay) with some unknown process or processes having cancelled the difference. We assume, moreover, that these unknown processes will cease, in making predictions about future warming.
This statement illustrates that the observations do not support the likelihood of dangerous warming, but our ignorance may be sufficient to allow the possibility. In point of fact, our ignorance is probably not that great.
Computer Models Altered
How do we reconcile this with the claim that present models do a good job of simulating the past century? It's simple: The "accurate" model reconstructions require "forcings" of data and speculative guesses about such factors as the influence of anthropogenic aerosol emissions. In an inverse manner, trial-and-error assumptions and data are forced into the computer until the inaccurate model projections are reconciled with the observed climate. However, such inverse forcings are highly unscientific and unlikely to reach similar results regarding anything other than the particular range of data and temperature history the computer is attempting to reconstruct.
This would have been an embarrassment even to the Ptolemaic epicyclists, yet an almost identical analysis has just been presented to our government through such unscientific reconstructionist model forcings.
Science Contradicts Media "Consensus"
Consensus (as represented by all contemporary textbooks on atmospheric dynamics) exists, but does not support alarm. Consensus is therefore claimed for exactly the opposite of what science agrees on. Here is the correct statement: In a warmer world, extratropical storminess will be reduced, as will variance in temperature.
Given the speciousness of the bases for alarm regarding claims of increased storminess, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is real consensus on the following item, though the consensus is barely mentioned: Kyoto, itself, will have no discernable impact on global warming regardless of what one believes about climate change.
Claims to the contrary generally assume that Kyoto is only the beginning of an ever-more restrictive regime. However, this is hardly ever explained to the public.
So, where does all this leave us?
(1) The data currently represented as "consensus," even if correct, do not imply alarm. However, where the consensus view is too benign, the opposite of the real consensus is claimed to be the consensus. In much current research, "alarm" is the aim rather than the result.
(2) The scientific community is committed to the maintenance of the notion that alarm may be warranted. Alarm is felt to be essential to the maintenance of funding. The argument is no longer over whether the models are correct (they are not), but rather whether their results are at all possible. One can rarely prove something to be impossible.
(3) No regulatory solution to the "problem" of preventing increases in CO2 is available, but the ubiquity of CO2 emissions--which are associated with industry and life itself--remains a tempting target for those with a regulatory instinct who have always been attracted to the energy sector.
(4) Resistance to such temptations will require more courage and understanding than are currently found in major industrial or governmental players who largely accept what is presented as the consensus view. The main victims of any proactive policies are likely to be consumers, and they have little concentrated influence. As usual, they have long been co-opted by organizations like Consumers Union that now actively support Kyoto.
Feel Good Failure and Unwelcome Success
Reply #8 on:
July 25, 2006, 01:55:07 PM »
By The Editors
It?s a rather striking irony that, as our air grows cleaner, environmentalists? complaints grow louder. Since 2001, they?ve been screaming that President Bush is ?rolling back the Clean Air Act,? and that the resulting increase in air pollution will kill people by the thousands. Instead, every category of air pollution has fallen during the Bush years, with 2003, 2004, and 2005 showing the lowest levels of harmful ozone and particulates in the air since the monitoring of air pollution began in the 1960s. What exactly is going on?
A little background in is order. In the late 1990s, the Clinton administration sued dozens of electric utilities under a new and aggressive interpretation of the Clean Air Act?s arcane New Source Review (NSR) regulations. NSR was the epitome of the complicated, costly, and counterproductive regulatory regime. It required existing sources of pollution, such as power plants, to meet stringent new regulations if they made any substantial operating changes. This had the consequence of freezing old technology in place: Many plants avoided small upgrades that would have lowered their emissions and increased their electricity output, for fear that doing so would drag them into the NSR morass. Even the Progressive Policy Institute saw that NSR was a mess, calling in 2000 for it to be scrapped entirely and replaced with a market-oriented ?cap and trade? system, in which firms able to reduce their emissions to lower-than-required levels could sell their ?leftover? emissions allotments to other companies. Cap-and-trade systems have the virtue of concentrating emissions reductions among the firms able to undertake them most efficiently. And because firms can sell any emissions "credits" they don't use, they have a strong market incentive to pollute less. A similar emissions-trading program has worked successfully to reduce acid rain in the northeast since 1990.
When the incoming Bush administration proposed to simplify NSR and adopt cap-and-trade, the environmental lobby went nuts, successfully blocking the administration?s ?Clear Skies? legislation in Congress. So the White House decided to implement its new approach administratively through the EPA?s ?Clean Air Interstate Rule,? which applied a cap-and-trade program to the midwestern and northeastern states where most of the nation?s coal-fired pollution originates.
That program has been in effect long enough for us to see the results, and they should fill any environmentalist with joy. A new report from the National Academy of Science concludes that the Bush system will likely prove just as effective in lowering air pollution as the regulation- and lawsuit-happy Clinton approach ? and it will do so at a much lower cost. That should of course put an end to claims that the Bush administration is filling our air with deadly pollutants.
But don?t hold your breath. The environmental movement has proved time and again that it can?t take yes for an answer. Reducing air pollution has been the single greatest environmental-policy success of our time. Emissions are falling fast, and are going to keep falling. Despite more cars on the road and more drivers per capita, automobile emissions are falling 8 percent a year, and EPA models predict a further 80-percent reduction in car and truck emissions over the next 20 years. Power-plant emissions are going to follow a similar trajectory ? and they?ll fall even faster if greens relax their reflexive opposition to nuclear power.
Yet the environmental lobby continues to act as though catastrophe were about to befall us, and has been especially shrill in condemning Bush?s record. Their intellectual bankruptcy is perhaps most strikingly illustrated by the fact that their current favorite idea for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is nothing other than . . . cap and trade. But when Bush applies the same policy to air pollutants, he is a despoiler of Mother Earth. It?s hard not to conclude that their real problem with the president is that he is a Republican.
National Review Online -
Reply #9 on:
July 28, 2006, 04:03:42 PM »
Utilities paying global warming skeptic
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science WriterThu Jul 27, 2:39 PM ET
Coal-burning utilities are passing the hat for one of the few remaining scientists skeptical of the global warming harm caused by industries that burn fossil fuels.
Pat Michaels ? Virginia's state climatologist, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute ? told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists' global warming research. So last week, a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign to help him out, raising at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.
The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fund-raising drive, said Stanley Lewandowski, IREA's general manager. He said one company planned to give $50,000 and a third plans to give Michaels money next year.
"We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists," Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to launch a counterattack on "alarmist" scientists and specifically Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth."
Michaels and Lewandowski are open about the money and see no problem with it. Some top scientists and environmental advocates call it a clear conflict of interest. Others view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues.
"These people are just spitting into the wind," said John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The fact is that the drumbeat of science and people's perspectives are in line that the climate is changing."
Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group, said: "This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda."
Donald Kennedy, an environmental scientist who is former president of Stanford University and current editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Science, said skeptics such as Michaels are lobbyists more than researchers.
"I don't think it's unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical," he said. He said donations to skeptics amounts to "trying to get a political message across."
Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including "Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media." However, he also writes research articles published in scientific journals.
In 1998, Michaels blasted NASA scientist James Hansen, accusing the godfather of global warming science of being way off on his key 1988 prediction of warming over the next 10 years. But Hansen and other scientists said Michaels misrepresented the facts by cherry-picking the worst (and least likely) of three possible outcomes Hansen presented to Congress. The temperature rise that Hansen said was most likely to happen back then was actually slightly lower than what has occurred.
Michaels has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the past two years, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search. He and Lewandowski told The Associated Press that their side of global warming isn't getting out and that the donations resulted from a speech Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall. Michaels said the money will help pay his staff.
Holdren, a Harvard environmental science and technology professor, said skeptics such as Michaels "have had attention all out of proportion to the merits of their arguments."
"Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question," said Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It is a very spirited discussion that requires technical response and expertise."
Other scientific fields, such as medicine, are more careful about potential conflicts of interests than the energy, environmental and chemical fields, where it doesn't raise much of an eyebrow, said Penn State University bioethicist Arthur Caplan.
Earlier this month, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties related to their research. Yet days later, the journal's editor said she had been misled because the authors of a new study had not revealed industry money they got that posed a conflict.
Three top climate scientists said they don't accept money from private groups. The same goes for the Web site realclimate.org, which has long criticized Michaels. "We don't get any money; we do this in our free time," said Realclimate.org contributor Stefan Rahmstorf, an ocean physics scientist at Potsdam University in Germany.
Lewandowski, who said he believes global warming is real just not as big a problem as scientists claim, acknowledged this is a special interest issue. He said the bigger concern is his 130,000 customers, who want to keep rates low, so coal-dependent utilities need to prevent any taxes or programs that penalize fossil fuel use. He said his effort is more aimed at stopping carbon dioxide emission taxes and limits from Congress, something he believes won't happen during the Bush administration.
Reply #10 on:
July 28, 2006, 07:33:45 PM »
In the rush to express warlike instincts many have ignored the negative effects on the environment of global war.
Global Warming Perspective
Reply #11 on:
August 10, 2006, 01:29:42 PM »
A little long term perspective can be found here:
Re: Global Warming Perspective
Reply #12 on:
August 10, 2006, 01:53:42 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
A little long term perspective can be found here:
What are your thoughts on the hole in the ozone layer? Is that part of the earth's natural cycle too? Or do CFCs have something to do with it?
Sky is Falling Data Sets
Reply #13 on:
August 10, 2006, 02:40:53 PM »
There is too small a data set on the ozone hole and layer to have an informed opinion, not that it stops anyone. These cycles occur over tens of thousands of years, while the panic mongers cater to the next news cycle. Produce a table showing the size of the ozone hole over a geologically significant period and I might hazard an opinon.
Is that your only quibble with the link? Care to hazard an opinion of your own and then support it?
Reply #14 on:
August 10, 2006, 03:30:43 PM »
FWIW, IMHO Man's cleverness enables him to create things with more consequences than may be immediately apparent. Although the risk adverse and those always in search of something for govt to do often make reckless accusations which if believed may result in govt actions with perverse consequences, my doggy nose tells me that there are ways in which Man begins to seriously foul his nest.
Re: Sky is Falling Data Sets
Reply #15 on:
August 10, 2006, 03:45:22 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
There is too small a data set on the ozone hole and layer to have an informed opinion, not that it stops anyone. These cycles occur over tens of thousands of years, while the panic mongers cater to the next news cycle. Produce a table showing the size of the ozone hole over a geologically significant period and I might hazard an opinon.
Did you demand this level of proof when the administration claimed that Saddam had WMDs?
Is that your only quibble with the link?
Let's check some of the references, shall we?
In 2003, Baliunas and Soon published a paper which reviewed a number of previous scientific papers and came to the conclusion that the climate hasn't changed in the last 2000 years. However, 13 of the authors of the papers Baliunas and Soon cited refuted her interpretation of their work, and several editors of "Climate Research", the journal which published the paper, resigned in protest at a flawed peer review process which allowed the publication. The observations used by Baliunas and Soon in respect of MWP and LIA are often not temperature proxies but indications of wet or dry; Mann et al. argue that their failure to ensure that the proxies reflect temperature renders the assessment suspect. More recently, Osborn and Briffa repeated the Baliunas and Soon study but restricted themselves to records that were validated as temperature proxies, and came to a different result.
Baliunas' extra-academic positions at several think tanks funded by energy industry organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute are often cited by her opponents as a source of bias on her part. Baliunas is a member of at least nine organizations which receive financial support from the petroleum industry.
Intermountain Rural Electric Association is heavily invested in power plants that burn coal, one of the chief sources of greenhouse gasses that scientists agree is quickly pushing earth's average temperature to dangerous levels.
Scientists and consumer advocates say the co-op is trying to confuse its clients about the virtually total scientific consensus on the causes of global warming.
ABC News has obtained a copy of a nine-page document that IREA general manager Stanley Lewandowski Jr. addressed to the more than 900 fellow members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
The document is a wide-ranging condemnation of carbon taxes and mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions that Lewandowski writes would threaten to "erode most, if not all, the benefits of coal-fired generation."
The letter also says that in February of this year, IREA contributed $100,000 to Patrick Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.
Ross Gelbspan, journalist and author, wrote a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine which was very critical of Lindzen and other global warming skeptics. In the article, Gelbspan reports Lindzen charged "oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; [and] his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels and a speech he wrote, entitled 'Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,' was underwritten by OPEC."
Care to hazard an opinion of your own and then support it?
My opinion is that it's a bunch of crap, written by shills funded by the energy industry. Why should we give any weight to their clearly biased research when they go against the conclusions of the vast majority of climate scientists? Why would you?
Reply #16 on:
August 10, 2006, 06:09:38 PM »
Did you demand this level of proof when the administration claimed that Saddam had WMDs?
Uhm, there have been WMDs found, though that?ll likely set off another round of quibbles, and there was a huge data set assembled by the WMD inspectors before they were booted out of Iraq. Other than those two points your question is spot on.
As for the Wikipedia cut and paste extravaganza, weren?t we talking about the lack of a coherent long-term data set for an ozone hole? Nothing you?ve cribbed speaks to that, my guess is because the data doesn?t exist. Instead it appears I?m ?sposed to sort through sundry agenda driven hit pieces. If it happened at a car dealership that?d be called a ?bait and switch.? Sorry, not buying today.
Can?t help but note this is a common tactic, however: find out who paid for lunch and then dismiss all associated scholarship. If the folks writing the hit pieces were associated with the Sierra Club, should we dismiss the hit piece too? As any good conspiracy theorist knows, if you stare intently at something long enough you can always find some nefarious association.
My opinion is that it's a bunch of crap, written by shills funded by the energy industry. Why should we give any weight to their clearly biased research when they go against the conclusions of the vast majority of climate scientists? Why would you?
As opposed to the shills who want an excuse to tell everyone how to live and so make various unproven dire pronouncements that must be battled by massive government intervention? Plenty of shills on all sides the equation, that?s why I prefer to focus on long-term climate trends that have been documented via glacier core samples among other concrete methods, rather then yet another dire prediction by those who?ve proven professionally prone to hysteria and hyperventilation.
Re: Professional Hyperventilation
Reply #17 on:
August 10, 2006, 08:34:25 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
Did you demand this level of proof when the administration claimed that Saddam had WMDs?
Uhm, there have been WMDs found, though that?ll likely set off another round of quibbles,
I'm sure it would. If it was so cut and dried, don't you think Bush and the Republicans would be making a big stink about it on a daily basis?
As opposed to the shills who want an excuse to tell everyone how to live and so make various unproven dire pronouncements that must be battled by massive government intervention?
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. You think all these (not very well paid) academics from various departments all over the world have just been distorting/exaggerating all the global warming evidence because they "want an excuse to tell everyone how to live?" Meanwhile, these massively funded industry groups are just trying to get the truth out? Are you kidding me? Talk about a conspiracy theory!
I don't believe you actually care about the science at all. Are you afraid the government is going to come for your SUV or snowmobile or something? Is that what this is about? Any restrictions on your personal right to pollute are unacceptable and therefore any scienctific evidence that might indicate that such restrictions are necessary simply must wrong?
I'm sorry if I'm misreading you, but that's the impression I'm getting here. I actually do agree with you on a lot of issues, but sometimes I think your libertarian streak gets out of hand. You mention some "massive government intervention." What is it that you see happening?
Of Kyoto and Kumbaya
Reply #18 on:
August 11, 2006, 10:31:45 AM »
I'm sure it would. If it was so cut and dried, don't you think Bush and the Republicans would be making a big stink about it on a daily basis?
Nope. Think they are so tired of the left?s mewling on the subject that they?re simply looking to move forward in the war against Isalmo Fascism. Couple of germane links for those who care to look:
Okay, now we're getting somewhere.
You think all these (not very well paid) academics from various departments all over the world have just been distorting/exaggerating all the global warming evidence because they "want an excuse to tell everyone how to live?"
No I think true believers and evangelists like you take data that would be considered paltry in any other smaller scale scientific endeavor, conflate it with your political ends, and then march around banging drums and shouting down anyone with a contrary view. I think the academics you mention are subject to the same pressures and folly their forbearers who wrestled with heresies like the heliocentric universe or a non-flat earth were. I think some jump on the bandwagon, others stand mute, while a very few have the stones to stand up to the inquisition and contend with the McCarthyesque fallout that ensues.
I don't believe you actually care about the science at all.
You know dude, I?ve about died and been significantly injured on several occasions while involved in scientific pursuits. How ?bout you confine yourself to pontificating about thing with which you?re acquainted? I expect many will be able to deal with the resultant blank page.
Are you afraid the government is going to come for your SUV or snowmobile or something? Is that what this is about? Any restrictions on your personal right to pollute are unacceptable and therefore any scienctific (sic) evidence that might indicate that such restrictions are necessary simply must wrong?
And here we veer into the ad hominem; I refuse to accept bad science and so must enjoy squishing baby bunnies with diesel trucks. Were I cowed by these sorts of attacks I?d post a picture of my Honda Element, but that would merely invite you to cast about further for some aspect of my life that identifies as a member of the dark side. How ?bout if we just stipulate that I am a member of the dark side so you can concentrate on cogent arguments in the future?
I'm sorry if I'm misreading you, but that's the impression I'm getting here. I actually do agree with you on a lot of issues, but sometimes I think your libertarian streak gets out of hand.
This conciliatory note certainly warms my heart. I shall consider bridling my libertarian impulses in the future and then we can sing Kumbaya.
You mention some "massive government intervention." What is it that you see happenning (sic)?
Google ?Al Gore? and ?Kyoto,? then get back to me.
Reply #19 on:
August 11, 2006, 01:03:33 PM »
Maybe you think these snide little remarks of yours ("fat chance", "I expect many will be able to deal with the resultant blank page", "This conciliatory note certainly warms my heart") are oh-so witty and amusing, but they really just make it difficult to have a meaningful discussion with you.
You've been on this forum for a while, so I have to assume you're not just trolling. Consider this a humble request for you to lighten up on the sarcasm a bit and engage in a mutually respectful discussion.
Re: Of Kyoto and Kumbaya
Reply #20 on:
August 11, 2006, 01:38:35 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
You mention some "massive government intervention." What is it that you see happening?
Google ?Al Gore? and ?Kyoto,? then get back to me.
Okay, I'm back. Now I want to hear what specific "massive government intervention" you, buzwardo, are personally concerned about.
Re: Of Kyoto and Kumbaya
Reply #21 on:
August 11, 2006, 02:12:33 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
You think all these (not very well paid) academics from various departments all over the world have just been distorting/exaggerating all the global warming evidence because they "want an excuse to tell everyone how to live?"
No I think true believers and evangelists like you
Evangelists like me? What have I ever "evangelized" about? I never claimed to be any sort of environmental crusader.
take data that would be considered paltry in any other smaller scale scientific endeavor, conflate it with your political ends, and then march around banging drums and shouting down anyone with a contrary view. I think the academics you mention are subject to the same pressures and folly their forbearers who wrestled with heresies like the heliocentric universe or a non-flat earth were. I think some jump on the bandwagon, others stand mute, while a very few have the stones to stand up to the inquisition and contend with the McCarthyesque fallout that ensues.
That's technically possible, but I think a more likely explanation is that the countless peer-reviewed papers written on the subject are correct, while the tiny minority of global warming skeptics (all heavily funded by the energy industries) are being paid to have the right views, no different than expert witnesses. Your argument would be easier to support if it were the global warming supporting researchers that were getting paid the big bucks, but since it's the other way around, you're reduced to coming up with this ludicrous "they just want to tell everyone what to do" scenario.
Re: Our Environment
Reply #22 on:
August 11, 2006, 06:46:58 PM »
"Consider this a humble request for you to lighten up on the sarcasm a bit and engage in a mutually respectful discussion."
This strikes me as a good time for all concerned to metaphorically shake hands and start fresh with a mutual resolve to stick to the facts, logic, and good manners.
Re: Our Environment
Reply #23 on:
August 12, 2006, 12:43:46 AM »
First time posting here, I just wanted to say I am a skeptic of the whole global warming thing, we see alot of people talking about how the climate has gotten warmer over the last 1-2000 year's, and we do not have any real accurate data except for the last couple hundred year's.
Through out history we have anecdotal evidence of heat wave's and cold spell's, i know in about the 11th or 12th century it was warm enough in England that the French were mad because the english were growing grape's and making wine and exporting it and it was cutting into the French wine export profit's, it is not that warm in England today, and what about the mini ice age in Europe I think about the 9th century, IIRC in the 1950's in Washingotn DC they had something like 20 straight day's of temp's over 100 degree's.
Just some observation's of a non scientist.
Usque Ad Finem
Reply #24 on:
September 16, 2006, 11:43:32 PM »
September 15, 2006
by Patrick J. Michaels
Patrick Michaels is senior fellow and author of Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.
For nearly a century, Californians have fashioned themselves the innovators the United States and the world follow. Not so on global warming. The California Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger have just passed and signed global warming legislation that looks an awful lot like a watered-down version of the failed Kyoto Protocol. That's soooo 1990s.
Kyoto was supposed to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, the main human-generated global warming gas, to 7% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Nationally, carbon dioxide emissions have risen about 18% since then. California legislation cuts state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a much larger effective cut than Kyoto because of expected population growth in the next fifteen years.
Why on earth did they do this, and what will it accomplish?
California's global warming legislation is all politics. Arnold is up for re-election, and California is (and has always been) politically green. Hint: "Sierra Club" stands for Sierra Nevada Mountain Club. While everyone back east pretty much yawns over its antics, people in California pay attention to it much the same way Euros worship Greenpeace (another organization simply ignored here).
Greens are in record high dudgeon over global warming. Al Gore's movie has them pumped. The California public is alarmed, and scientists don't see any incentive to quell the hysteria -- after all, it's quite a living. So it's totally logical that there has been a political response.
Specifically, the current clamor revolves around a scientific absurdity: that unless we drastically cut our emissions of carbon dioxide in the next nine years, there will be an irreversible climate catastrophe caused by the rapid shedding of Greenland and Antarctic ice. (While climate populists still say "ten years," they've been making this claim for a year now. Time marches on.)
It's science fiction. The slight loss of Greenland ice in the last few years is hardly unprecedented. Its cause is thought to be a reversal of a fifty-year cooling trend that ended in the late 1990s over the southern (melting) part of the landmass. For several decades in the early 20th century -- before humans could be considered a factor in climate change -- Greenland was much warmer than it has averaged in the last decade. Look for yourself. The UN's climate history is at this site.
In the early 20th century, Greenland had to have been shedding ice at a much higher rate than it is today (or, God forbid, today's loss isn't being driven by warmer temperatures!), and indeed this is documented. Check out "The Present Climate Fluctuation," published in 1948 by Hans Ahlmann, in Geographic Journal, a peer-reviewed periodical of the Royal Geographical Society.
Antarctica? Suffice it to say that every recent climate model for the 21st century predicts that it will gain, not lose, ice.
Another big driver of the current hysteria is the notion that hurricanes are getting worse because of global warming. Again, there's little that's unprecedented. Today's frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms, the worst kind, is mathematically indistinguishable in the Atlantic and Western Pacific (the world's most active hurricane regions) from what it was a half-century ago...right around the time Ahlmann published his paper.
The idea is simple. Warmer water yields more energy for stronger storms. But that notion is simplistic, as other factors that correlate with warmer water serve to mitigate storms.
Further, the oceans just haven't been cooperating recently. An upcoming paper by John Lyman in Geophysical Research Letters has the scientific cheerleaders for Gore's apocalypse worried. It shows, inexplicably, that in the last two years the world's oceans lost 20% of the heat they had gained in the last half century.
It's easy to say that California's global warming bill rests on nonsensical overkill. But if people insist that all of these horrible things are being caused by global warming, what will California's leadership do about it?
The answer, in the rosiest of policy scenarios, is easy: absolutely nothing. Further, if global warming is bad on the whole (a debatable hypothesis), California's law could easily make things worse.
Let's be really rosy, and say that California does lead the nation, and Congress passes a similar law. Further, let's say that California leads the world, and every nation that has to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol -- quotas that virtually no one has met -- indeed adopts and meets the California mandates. According to scientists from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, the amount of global warming the law would prevent by 2060 is .05 degrees Celsius. That's right, one-twentieth of a degree.
That's a reasonable estimate, because Kyoto is predicted to prevent .07 degrees of warming along this timeframe, and California's law doesn't reduce emissions quite as much as Kyoto. But in any case, there's no network of global thermometers or satellites that will ever be able to detect such a change, because global surface temperature fluctuates about .15 degrees Celsius from year to year.
Will California itself meet its own legally imposed emissions limits? Doubtful, unless there will be some chicanery whereby carbon dioxide is fobbed off on, say, power plants in neighboring states. California would have to reduce its emissions substantially while, thanks to immigration, its population rises rapidly. The entry-level car for entry-level Californians will not be a $30,000 hybrid. While the chi-chi may buy them, they will sell their existing cars to the newcomers. Thanks to California's climate, those beaters will live long lives in the Golden State.
If people think that current hurricanes are being juiced by global warming, if they think that the calving of Greenland is unprecedented (despite decades of warmer temperatures in the early 20th century), then they will expect some return for their grief. But hurricanes will continue, and more people will be exposed to them. The earth's temperature trajectory won't be altered a measurable iota. Despite their efforts to lower emissions, people will see absolutely no current weather change that could possibly be ascribed to this policy.
Basing policies on hysterical exaggerations is a sure recipe for failure, particularly when the policies will do nothing but sour people on carbon dioxide emission restrictions. So much for Californian leadership. Sounds much more like politics as usual: full of sound and fury, accomplishing nothing. How retro.
Global Cooling Looms?
Reply #25 on:
September 18, 2006, 12:26:39 AM »
Interesting subtext here about casting global warming skeptics as corporate shills and something akin to holocaust deniers.
Global cooling effect
Terence Corcoran, National Post
Published: Saturday, September 16, 2006
News that the Conservatives might be taking a more cautious approach to Kyoto and climate change could not come at a more appropriate time. The science behind the idea of man-made global warming, always theoretical and often speculative, appears set to receive another blow. A report in New Scientist magazine yesterday chronicles the work of a crew of scientists who forecast a new wave of global cooling brought on by a decline in activity in the sun.
The New Scientist report, along with other scientific assessments warning of global cooling, also come as a blow to the campaign -- led by David Suzuki and one of the directors of his foundation -- to portray all who raise doubts about climate change theory -- so-called skeptics -- as pawns of corporate PR thugs manipulating opinion. If the Suzuki claim is true, then the tentacles of Exxon-Mobil reach deeper into science than anyone has so far imagined.
Dramatic global temperature fluctuations, as New Scientist reports, are the norm. A Little Ice Age struck Europe in the 17th century. New Yorkers once walked from Manhattan to Staten Island across a frozen harbour. About 200 years earlier, New Scientist reminds us, a sharp downturn in temperatures turned fertile Greenland into Arctic wasteland.
These and other temperature swings corresponded with changing solar activity. "It's a boom-bust system, and I expect a crash soon," says Nigel Weiss, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge. Scientists cannot say precisely how big the coming cooling will be, but it could at minimum be enough to offset the current theoretical impact of man-made global warming. Sam Solanki, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, says declining solar activity could drop global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius. "It might not sound like much," says New Scientist writer Stuart Clark, "but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol."
The New Scientist says this gives the Earth some breathing room in the face of climate change over the next 50 years, but it warns against complacency. "If the Earth does cool during the next sunspot crash and we do nothing [about man-made global warming], when the sun's magnetic activity returns, global warming will return with a vengeance," says Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University in California.
Well, that's one man's view based on his take on the science. But other scientists have differing views. Last month, the Russian Academy of Sciences' astronomical observatory reported that global cooling could develop in 50 years. Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of the agency's space research branch, is reported to have said a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2066. "The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said.
A few excerpts from the New Scientist report appear below, and the full text is available through the magazine's Web site for a nominal fee. Readers can judge for themselves to what degree the magazine's report highlights the need for much greater scientific certainty over the causes of climate change.
Debate over the role of the sun in forcing temperature change is nothing new. Professor Ian Clark of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa, wrote on this theme on this page in 2004. The climate models used by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change do not take adequate account of solar activity, Mr. Clark said. "Past and recent climate warming can be explained by changes in solar activity," he said.
Another scientist tracking the sun, one among many, was Theodor Landscheidt, the late and renowned German solar expert and forecaster. "Analysis of the sun's varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC's speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8 degrees Centigrade within the next 100 years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected."
Worth noting here is Timothy Ball, the former University of Manitoba climatologist and frequent contributor to the idea that official government science is ignoring the role of the sun and that global cooling may be looming, not warming. Mr. Ball, for his thoughts, has become the victim of a slanderous campaign by David Suzuki and his associate, Vancouver public relations guru James Hoggan. They charge Mr. Ball with being a climate change "denier" -- as if it were akin to denying the Holocaust. They also portray him, and all "skeptics" who raise doubts about official climate science, as being in the pockets of corporations.
Mr. Hoggan and Mr. Suzuki appear to be the leading backers of a major disinformation campaign run out of the Vancouver offices of James Hoggan & Associates. Mr. Hoggan sits on the Suzuki Foundation board, and among other things somehow funds two full-time researchers to operate a blog that is focused solely on discrediting scientists who do no uphold the official UN view on climate change.
It's all a corporate scam, they claim. "There are people," says Mr. Hoggan, a veteran self-promoting pro in the PR business, "mainly people who are getting paid by oil and coal interests, and [some] who are just basically ideologues, who are trying to confuse the public about climate change." Says Mr. Suzuki: "The skeptics are a small group known for their support of corporations like the fossil fuel industry. In fact, many are receiving money directly from the industry."
The New Scientist article yesterday, and many other science studies and reports over the years, suggest the Suzuki group is operating an empty political campaign. The Harper Conservatives should fear nothing as they work to set a Kyoto policy.
Reply #26 on:
September 22, 2006, 06:19:45 PM »
Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore
Actually no one paid me to be wrong about global warming. Or anything else.
"Exxon Misleads on Climate Change," according Reuters earlier this week. The story, headlined around the globe, was based on a letter sent by the British Royal Society to the oil giant ExxonMobil accusing it of funding groups that misinform the public about the reality of man-made global warming. The prestigious Royal Society is the world's oldest scientific organization. The letter is from Bob Ward, the Society's senior manager for policy communication. Apparently speaking on behalf of the Society, Ward expresses his "disappointment at the inaccurate and misleading view of climate change" conveyed by an ExxonMobil's 2005 Corporate Citizenship report. Ward also says that he did a quick analysis of public policy organizations listed in ExxonMobil's 2005 Worldwide Corporate Giving report and found that "25 offered views consistent with the scientific literature" whereas Ward says he found 39 groups featuring information that "misrepresented the science of climate change."
It's safe to say that Ward may count the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine and Reason Online as one of the 39 groups that he believes misleads the public on the issue of climate change. If that's the case, then at least some of the information that Ward says "misrepresents" climate change science may be past articles written by me. So the question is: Why did I do it? Did ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond hand me brown paper bags filled with stacks of unmarked bills in the back of taxis while whispering, "Ron, we're counting on your widely read and highly influential articles to help stave off the Green onslaught against our soaring profits"? Or was I a simple-minded dupe, passing along misinformation supplied to me during expensive lunches at the Palm by corrupt scientists who had been paid off by the oil giant? Or perhaps I am just generally skeptical of end-of-the-world scenarios and believe, as Carl Sagan famously did, that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"?
I have been Reason's science correspondent for nearly eight years now. Well before I joined the magazine, I had been reporting and opining on environmental science and policy issues for various publications and as a producer of a number of national PBS television series. As far as I can tell my first published expression of skepticism with regard to catastrophic global warming was in a review of environmentalist Bill McKibben's The End of Nature that I wrote as a staff writer for Forbes magazine in October, 1989 (unfortunately not available online). In that review, I noted that NASA climate modeler James Hansen had testified before Congress a year earlier that he had detected global warming. In my review, I noted, "Hansen is a reputable scientist, but his views are by no means universally accepted." I then quoted a number of climatologists who were skeptical of man-made global warming including MIT's Richard Lindzen and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Andrew Solow. Lindzen told me at the time, "We have no evidence whatsoever that greenhouse warming has begun." (Lindzen is still skeptical of catastrophic man-made global warming.) I would talk with them and many other climate scientists over the next decade and half as I continued to cover this issue.
My next prominent foray into the topic was Chapter 9, "The Sky is Falling," in my book Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (1993). Among much lengthy discussion of the science and politics of climate change, I noted that the satellite record temperature showed warming of 0.06 degrees Celsius per decade, which was one-fifth the 0.3 degrees per decade rate projected by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's First Assessment Report in 1990. The satellite data comes from climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama at Huntsville who would become my go-to guys on the subject. As will become evident below, I tend to trust empirical data over computer models.
In 1993, I accepted the offer to become the first Warren Brookes Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). CEI allowed me several months to do research for a technology policy book that unfortunately I was never able to finish. However, this established a fruitful relationship in which I eventually became the editor of a number of volumes on environmental policy and science with CEI. The idea was to offer good scientific evidence and policy prescriptions in contrast with the environmental alarmism and misinformation being propounded in the Worldwatch Institute's annual State of the World reports. Each volume contained chapters dealing with global trends in population, food, forest area, air pollution, fisheries, and so forth. The deal basically was that CEI paid me a fixed amount and I found and got final say on all the authors and that CEI could not edit what they had to say. I found commercial publishers for each volume.
Naturally each book contained a chapter on the issue of man-made global warming. The first book is The True State of the Planet (Free Press, 1995). The global warming chapter was written by University of Arizona climatologist Robert Balling. The chapter relied heavily on the satellite data which found that the atmosphere had cooled by a statistically significant -0.13 degrees Celsius since 1979. Adjusting for the cooling that resulted from the explosion of Mount Pinatubo that had propelled tons of sulfur particles to stratosphere, Christy calculated a slight warming trend of +0.09 degrees Celsius per decade. This was much less than the models were projecting.
The next volume, Earth Report 2000 (McGraw-Hill, 2000) contained a chapter on global warming by Roy Spencer who was then the senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Spencer pointed out that recently corrected satellite data found a slight warming trend of +0.01 degrees per decade between 1979 and 1997 and when one included the very warm El Nino year of 1998, the trend rose to +0.06 degrees per decade. This trend was only one-fourth the per - decade trend predicted by the models. Spencer added that various weather balloon temperature datasets showed a cooling trend of between -0.07 and -0.2 degrees per decade.
In 2002 came Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths (Prima Publishing). The global warming contributor was University of Alabama at Huntsville climatologist John Christy who is also the principal investigator for the satellite temperature measurements. Christy pointed out, "Since 1979, the global temperature trend is a modest +0.06 degrees Celsius per decade through March 2002." The myth about global warming was not that it was not happening, but that it was unlikely to be catastrophic for humanity or the planet. Christy concluded: "No global warming disaster is looming. Humans are causing an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which will likely cause a very slow rise in global temperatures with which we can easily cope."
So there was a contradiction in climate science. The models projected and the surface thermometer records were showing significant warming. On the other hand, the satellite dataset and various weather balloon datasets showed only very modest warming. Which was right? In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report at the request of the Bush Administration that found that a lot of proxy data indicated that warming was taking place. However, the NAS also noted that the divergence between the satellite data and the thermometer data was troubling. "The finding that surface and troposphere temperature trends have been as different as observed over intervals as long as a decade or two is difficult to reconcile with our current understanding of the processes that control the vertical distribution of temperature in the atmosphere," declared the report. The NAS added, "Because of the large and still uncertain level of natural variability inherent in the climate record and the uncertainties in the time histories of the various forcing agents (and particularly aerosols), a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established."
Given this divergence in the various temperature records, climate scientists naturally spent a lot of time and intellectual energy in trying to explain it. In August 2005, Science magazine published three papers that went a long way toward resolving the issue. One paper found that Christy and Spencer had failed to take proper account of satellite drift, which produced a spurious cooling trend to their dataset. Another found that the operation of weather balloons also tended to add spurious cooling to their data. When the corrections were made the satellite and weather balloon datasets were in better agreement with the surface thermometer datasets that showed higher warming trends.
On the day that the studies were released I wrote a column for Reason in which I declared that my skepticism of man-made global warming was at an end. The column was titled, "We're All Global Warmers Now." The first line read: "Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up." The bottom line? Christy and Spencer's corrected dataset finds warming of +0.123 degrees per decade. The corrected balloon data tend to support Christy and Spencer. However, the scientific team that found the errors in the satellite data corrects it to find warming of +0.193 degrees per decade. And the surface measurements show a warming trend of 0.15 degrees per decade. In the column, I quote Christy saying, "The new warming trend is still well below ideas of dramatic or catastrophic warming."
Then in May 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report of which John Christy was a co-author that further reconciled the differences in temperature trends. The report found that "global-average temperature increased at a rate of about 0.12 degrees C per decade since 1958, and about 0.16 degrees C per decade since 1979. In the tropics, temperature increased at about 0.11 degrees C per decade since 1958, and about 0.13 degrees C per decade since 1979." I blogged the report at Reason ' s Hit & Run the day the report was issued. I also noted that Christy told the Washington Post that he has a "minimalist interpretation" of the report because Earth is not heating up rapidly at this point.
Just to bring my intellectual journey in reporting and opining about the global warming issue up to date, I reviewed former vice-president Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth for Reason. I agreed that Gore has "won the climate debate" and that "on balance Gore gets it more right than wrong on the science" though I argued he exaggerates just how bad future global warming is likely to be. However, I agree that the balance of the evidence pretty clearly indicates that humanity is contributing to global warming chiefly by means of loading up the atmosphere with extra carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.
ExxonMobil has been a supporter of the Reason Foundation. Folks at the foundation confirmed when I called yesterday that the company has donated a little over $250,000 since 2000. The company's latest contributions were $10,000 in 2003 and $20,000 this past January. The last contribution poses a possible conundrum for hard-line corporate conspiracy theorists because it arrived about five months after I declared, "We're All Global Warmers Now." I would suggest that ExxonMobil supports the Reason Foundation because my colleagues robustly defend the free enterprise system. "Follow the money" is often pretty good advice when evaluating the source of information, but in the think tank and public policy magazine realm money tends follow opinion, rather than the other way around.
As further disclosure, I have worked with various organizations that I am told have also received grants from ExxonMobil, including CEI and the online publication TCSDaily (formerly TechCentralStation). At no time did anyone at those organizations ask me to change any of my reporting on global warming science or policy (or any other reporting on other topics for that matter). Back in the early 1990s, someone (whose name I have long forgotten) at Exxon asked me to write an article on global warming for the company's in-house magazine for $5,000. I absolutely refused. Finally, with regard to disclosure, I should mention that I own 50 shares of ExxonMobil that I bought on the advice of my stockbroker wife in October 2002 for $34.53 per share. I am happy to report that her advice was sound--those shares are going for about $64.00 today.
So if corporate shilling doesn't explain my stubborn skepticism about global warming, what does? Looking back over my reporting on the issue, I would argue the consistent theme is my reliance on temperature datasets as a way to either validate or invalidate the projections of computer climate models. Up until the last year or so, the satellite data and weather balloon data pointed to relatively modest global warming much below the trends predicted by most climate models. If those trends were correct then there was no imminent "planetary emergency." When the trends were shown to be incorrect last year, I "converted" into a global warmer. In the past year, a great deal of new evidence-reductions in arctic ice cover, growing Siberian lakes and so forth--has also tended to confirm the conclusion in my mind that man-made global warming may become a problem. Because of this accumulating evidence I am much less certain than Christy and Spencer are that the future warming is unlikely to be a significant problem.
And then there is also the matter of my intellectual commitments. We all have them. Since I work for a self-described libertarian magazine that should indicate to even the dimmest reader that I tend to have a healthy skepticism of government "solutions" to problems, including government solutions to environmental problems. I have long argued that the evidence shows that most environmental problems occur in open access commons-that is, people pollute air, rivers, overfish, cut rainforests, and so forth because no one owns them and therefore no one has an interest in protecting them. One can solve environmental problems caused by open access situations by either privatizing the commons or regulating it. It will not surprise anyone that I generally favor privatization. That's because I believe that the overwhelming balance of the evidence shows that centralized top-down regulation tends to be costly, slow, often ineffective, and highly politicized. As a skeptic of government action, I had hoped that the scientific evidence would lead to the conclusion that global warming would not be much of a problem, so that humanity could avoid the messy and highly politicized process of deciding what to do about it. Unhappily, I now believe that balance of evidence shows that global warming could well be a significant problem. Since it doesn't seem pertinent to the purpose of this column, I will leave the policy discussion of how to handle man-made climate change to another time.
So I didn't get any stacks of $20 dollar bills in brown paper bags from ExxonMobil (don't believe any photoshopped pictures you may see to the contrary). I also don't think that I was duped by paid-off scientists. Except for climatologist Robert Balling, as the embedded links above show, the sleuths at Exxonsecrets have uncovered no payments to the scientists I chiefly relied upon in my reporting over the years. But was I too skeptical, demanding too much evidence or ignoring evidence that cut against what I wanted to believe? Perhaps. In hindsight I can only plead that there is no magic formula for deciding when enough evidence has accumulated that a fair-minded person must change his or her mind on a controversial scientific issue. With regard to global warming it finally did for me in the last year. That was far too late for many and still too early for others. However, I can't resist pointing out that I became a "convert" on global warming nearly a year before some other prominent journalistic skeptics such as Gregg Easterbrook and Michael Shermer changed their minds.
So then not a whore, just virtuously wrong. Looking to the future, I can't promise that my reporting will always be right (no reporter can, but I will strive to make it so), but my reporting has always been honest and I promise that it always will be.
Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.
Re: Our Environment
Reply #27 on:
September 23, 2006, 09:30:11 AM »
You know i just cannot buy this whole global warming thing, I'm not the smartest guy in the world or the best educated I have no college degree just a simple Hih school diploma, If i recall correctly we have only recorded weather data for a couple hundred year's so how can any scientist prove that it is warmer now than 600 year's ago, there is alot of anecdotal evidence that goes both way for hundred's of year's, glacier growing and receding, certain type's of wine grape's that need a warmer climate than England have been grown there for long enough time to establish a vineyard, and then the climate changed again and they no longer grow there too cold once again.
It is just so hard for me to believe when all the evidence is considered.
I agree we need to take care of our planet/enviroment i just think there are those who have an agenda, i know i do at least to one extent or another, maybe not personal gain or world wide fame, my agend is to live the way i want too, it is an agenda though and it does color the way i think and do thing's so i would take what the "expert's" say with a grain of salt and go look at all the evidence before taking what the "expert's" say as gospel truth.
Usque Ad Finem
Consequences of Bad Science
Reply #28 on:
September 26, 2006, 11:50:35 PM »
Panic mongers using bad science to further their ends is nothing new. In the '70s overpopulation and "ZPG" was all the rage, though those zealots haven't spoken to the shrinking demographics many nations are now facing. In the '80s we were running out landfill space, a specious claim that brought us the specious recycling movement. As noted above, the '90s brought us global warming and associated follies.
In the "Silent Spring" '60s DDT was turned into a boogyman. As noted below, the panic mongering results are millions of dead and injured.
Bad science, rock on. Let's see what sort of senseless panic we can inspire next.
The Rx Africa needs to beat malaria
By FIONA KOBUSINGYE
I've had malaria many times. The disease killed my son, two sisters and four cousins. Every year, it infects 400 million Africans and kills up to 1 million of our children.
Even at only $1,000 per life (and surely our lives are worth far more than that), malaria costs Africa $1 billion annually. We also lose millions of working days, billions spent on medicines and hospital visits, and billions because tourists and foreign investment don't come to our countries.
But finally there is hope that we can stop this death and devastation - provided we can move past old biases about a lifesaving pesticide called DDT. Yes, I'm referring to the DDT you've heard so many terrible things about - that it poisons the environment and endangers human health. It happens to be one of the keys to saving countless African lives.
Sprayed just twice a year on the inside walls of homes, DDT keeps 90% of mosquitoes from even entering. It irritates those mosquitoes that do come in, so they don't bite, and kills any that land. No other chemical does all that. And as used in public health programs, it's perfectly safe - for people and the environment.
That's how DDT reduced malaria by 75% in many areas, enabling doctors to use the new ACT drugs to treat the much smaller numbers of people who still get sick. By using DDT and the drugs together, South Africa cut its malaria rates by 95% in three years.
So using the pesticide would be a no-brainer, right? Wrong.
As recently as this year, one of Africa's biggest trade partners - Europe - was so afraid of DDT that it considered imposing trade sanctions against African imports. Recently, the European Commission assured Africans that it would impose no blanket ban. But now these leaders must be held to their word.
And there are still vestiges of fear in America, where some in the environmental community stoke unsubstantiated hysteria rather than spreading facts about the pesticide.
Here's the simple truth. DDT is a lifesaver. Not using it kills young and old, rich and poor. Yes, we need many tools - including other insecticides, more bed nets, better medicines, more hospitals and many others - to stop malaria in its tracks.
But overcoming fear of using this chemical is one crucial way to begin saving millions of lives.
Kobusingye is coordinator of the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda.
Re: Our Environment
Reply #29 on:
September 27, 2006, 08:54:24 AM »
Question: Does DDT runoff into water cause birth defects and other serious problems in many animals e.g. birds' eggs spontaneously collapsing because they are too weak?
Cost & Benefits of DDT
Reply #30 on:
September 27, 2006, 05:18:08 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on September 27, 2006, 08:54:24 AM
Question:? Does DDT runoff into water cause birth defects and other serious problems in many animals e.g. birds' eggs spontaneously collapsing because they are too weak?
Lotta stuff out there about DDT and there are certainly quite a few folks who are still quite adamant that it's dangerous, though there is little empiric evidence supporting the claim. As with all things, benefits and costs have to be weighed; a million dead children a year is an unacceptable cost, IMO. Here's a couple pro-DDT pieces that cite their share of facts and figures:
Day of Reckoning for DDT Foes?
Thursday, September 21, 2006
By Steven Milloy
Last week?s announcement that the World Health Organization lifted its nearly 30-year ban on the insecticide DDT is perhaps the most promising development in global public health since? well, 1943 when DDT was first used to combat insect-borne diseases like typhus and malaria.
Overlooked in all the hoopla over the announcement, however, is the terrible toll in human lives (tens of millions dead ? mostly pregnant women and children under the age of 5), illness (billions sickened) and poverty (more than $1 trillion dollars in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone) caused by the tragic, decades-long ban.
Much of this human catastrophe was preventable, so why did it happen? Who is responsible? Should the individuals and activist groups who caused the DDT ban be held accountable in some way?
Rachel Carson kicked-off DDT hysteria with her pseudo-scientific 1962 book, ?Silent Spring.? Carson materially misrepresented DDT science in order to advance her anti-pesticide agenda. Today she is hailed as having launched the global environmental movement. A Pennsylvania state office building, Maryland elementary school, Pittsburgh bridge and a Maryland state park are named for her. The Smithsonian Institution commemorates her work against DDT. She was even honored with a 1981 U.S. postage stamp. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of her birth. Many celebrations are being planned.
It?s quite a tribute for someone who was so dead wrong. At the very least, her name should be removed from public property and there should be no government-sponsored honors of Carson.
The Audubon Society was a leader in the attack on DDT, including falsely accusing DDT defenders (who subsequently won a libel suit) of lying. Not wanting to jeopardize its non-profit tax status, the Audubon Society formed the Environmental Defense Fund (now simply known as Environmental Defense) in 1967 to spearhead its anti-DDT efforts. Today the National Audubon Society takes in more than $100 million per year and has assets worth more than $200 million. Environmental Defense takes in more than $65 million per year with a net worth exceeding $73 million.
In a February 25, 1971, media release, the president of the Sierra Club stated that his organization wanted ?a ban, not just a curb? on DDT, ?even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control." Today the Sierra Club rakes in more than $90 million per year and has more than $50 million in assets.
Business are often held liable and forced to pay monetary damages for defective products and false statements. Why shouldn?t the National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club and other anti-DDT activist groups be held liable for the harm caused by their recklessly defective activism?
It was, of course, then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Ruckelshaus who actually banned DDT after ignoring an EPA administrative law judge?s ruling that there was no evidence indicating that DDT posed any sort of threat to human health or the environment. Ruckleshaus never attended any of the agency?s hearings on DDT. He didn?t read the hearing transcripts and refused to explain his decision.
None of this is surprising given that, in a May 22, 1971, speech before the Wisconsin Audubon Society, Ruckleshaus said that EPA procedures had been streamlined so that DDT could be banned. Ruckleshaus was also a member of ? and wrote fundraising letters for ? the EDF.
The DDT ban solidified Ruckelshaus? environmental credentials, which he has surfed to great success in business, including stints as CEO of Browning Ferris Industries and as a director of a number of other companies including Cummins Engine, Nordstrom, and Weyerhaeuser Company. Ruckelshaus currently is a principal in a Seattle, Wash., -based investment group called Madrona Venture Group.
Corporate wrongdoers ? like WorldCom?s Bernie Ebbers and Tyco?s Dennis Kozlowski ? were sentenced to prison for crimes against mere property. But what should the punishment be for government wrongdoers like Ruckleshaus who, apparently for the sake of his personal environmental interests, abused his power and affirmatively deprived billions of poor, helpless people of the only practical weapon against malaria?
Finally, there is the question of the World Health Organization itself. What?s the WHO been doing for all these years? There are no new facts on DDT ? all the relevant science about DDT safety has been available since the 1960s. Moreover, the WHO?s strategy of mosquito bednets and malaria vaccine development has been a dismal failure. While the death toll in malarial regions has mounted, the WHO has been distracted by such dubious issues as whether cell phones and French fries cause cancer.
It?s a relief that the WHO has finally come to its senses, but on the other hand, the organization has done too little, too late. The ranks of the WHO?s leadership need to be purged of those who place the agenda of environmental elitists over the basic survival of the world?s needy.
In addition to the day of reckoning and societal rebuke that DDT-ban advocates should face, we should all learn from the DDT tragedy.
With the exception of Rachel Carson (who died in 1964), all of the groups and individuals above mentioned also promote global warming alarmism. If they and others could be so wrong about DDT, why should we trust them now? Should we really put the global economy and the welfare of billions at risk based on their track record?
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRWatch.com. He is a junk science expert, an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring: Environmentalist Mythology Killing Us Softly
by Steven Brockerman (August 11, 2002)
Theirs is the disease you don't hear about on the nightly news. Newspaper editorialists, too, are silent about the death toll from this ailment -- nearly 9 ? million people since 1999, of which 8? million were pregnant women or children under the age of five. No, the disease isn't AIDS. It's mosquito borne malaria, and we've had the means for wiping out this affliction for over a century. However, thanks to environmentalist mythology, the tool, DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), has been banned in most countries worldwide.
The ban on DDT, like the modern environmentalist movement itself, grew out of the book, Silent Spring, by Rachael Carson. As almost any school child today can parrot, Carson claimed DDT thinned the eggs of birds. Pointing to a 1956 study by Dr. James DeWitt published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Carson wrote: "Dr. DeWitt's now classic experiments [demonstrate] that exposure to DDT, even when doing no observable harm to the birds, may seriously affect reproduction."
DeWitt, however, concluded no such thing. Indeed, he discovered in his study that 50% more eggs hatched from DDT fed quail than from those in the control group.
Following Carson's lead, hippie environmentalists began claiming that raptor populations -- eagles, osprey, hawks, etc. -- were declining due to DDT. They failed to note that such populations had been declining precipitously for years prior to the use of DDT. Indeed, according to the yearly Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, 1941 to 1960, years that saw the greatest, most widespread use of DDT, the count of eagles actually increased from 197 in 1941 to 897 in 1960. A forty-year count over roughly the same period by the Hawks Mountain Sanctuary Association also found population increases for Ospreys and most kinds of hawks.
Finally, after years of study, researchers at Cornell University "found no tremors, no mortality, no thinning of eggshells and no interference with reproduction caused by levels of DDT which were as high as those reported to be present in most of the wild birds where ?catastrophic' decreases in shell quality and reproduction have been claimed" ("Effects of PCBs, DDT, and mercury compounds upon egg production, hatchability and shell quality in chickens and Japanese quail").
Carson, her book's affected prose designed to create optimum public panic, heralded, too, a coming cancer epidemic among humans. Her assertion was based on the high incidences of liver cancer found in adult rainbow trout in 1961 -- a result, not of DDT, but of a fungi produced carcinogen, aflatoxin.
Once again, environmentalists followed Carson's lead. A 1969 study ("Multigeneration studies on DDT in mice.") concluded that mice fed DDT developed a higher incidence of leukemia and liver tumors than unexposed mice. Epidemiology data of the preceding 25 years, though, showed no increases in liver cancer among the human populations in the areas where DDT had been sprayed. Upon further examination of the data, moreover, researchers discovered high incidences of tumors in the control group, too. Apparently, both groups had been feed food that was moldy, contaminated by aflatoxin.
Since then, in 1978, after a two-year study, the National Cancer Institute has concluded that, indeed, DDT is not carcinogenic. Even more recently, a study ("Plasma organochlorines levels and the risk of breast cancer") published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 1997 found nothing to indicate that the risk of breast cancer is increased by exposure to DDT or DDE (a byproduct of DDT).
None of this evidence, though, would have swayed William Ruckelshaus, head of a brand new Environmental Protection Agency in 1971. Ruckelshaus not only refused to attend EPA's 1971-72 administrative hearings on DDT, but also refused to read even one page of the 9,000 pages of testimony. Not surprisingly, Ruckelshaus ignored the findings of the hearings' judge -- ""DDT is not a carcinogenic ? a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man -- and banned DDT anyway. It's not surprising because William Ruckelshaus was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund -- later his personal stationery would have printed on it the following boast: "EDF's scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won."
Since 1971, pressured by specialized environmentalist organizations like the International Pesticide Action Network, much of the rest of the world has banned DDT, too. Those countries now rely on pesticides that are neither as effective nor as safe as DDT. Meanwhile, the death tolls from malaria in tropical Third World countries silently climbs. Heedless of this, environmentalists are now pressuring governments to preserve wetlands, i.e., swamps, which are the foremost breeding grounds of disease carrying mosquitoes. One would have to conclude, given the facts, that environmentalists are either insane or intent upon eradicating every human being from the face of the planet. At a UN sponsored earth summit in 1971, a delegate's remark gives us the answer: "What this world needs is a good plague to wipe out the human population."
If the death toll from malaria begins to mount in this country, we'll certainly hear about it on the nightly news. Malaria will be blamed, of course, but the real culprit will be environmentalist mythology, which has been killing us softly for decades.
Prophets of Climate Change, Part I
Reply #31 on:
September 27, 2006, 09:50:00 PM »
Global Warming: Apocalypse Now?
In 1906 the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius published a popular book speculating on the origins of the earth and of life upon it. (An English translation, Worlds in the Making, appeared in 1908.) In a nutshell, Arrhenius proposed that the solar system was born of a collision between cool stars, with the sun and the planets forming from the resulting nebular debris. The planets, he thought, were then seeded by living spores that had been propelled through the cosmos by electromagnetic radiation.
Unfortunately for Arrhenius, few of these ideas ever achieved wide currency, and most of them were considered far-fetched even at the turn of the last century. One, however, has lately experienced something of a revival: the notion that the earth?s climate is maintained within bounds that are favorable to life by the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. As early as 1896, Arrhenius had proposed that surface temperatures rise in proportion to atmospheric CO2, which absorbs radiated heat that would otherwise escape into space. Noting that CO2 can be generated by the burning of coal, Arrhenius predicted that the growth of industry might eventually result in a warmer planet (in modern terms, this would be called ?anthropogenic forcing?)?a salutary outcome from a Scandinavian point of view, since a more temperate climate would likely be a boon to agriculture in the North.
This ?greenhouse effect? is the cornerstone of the contemporary notion of global warming.1 A hundred years after Arrhenius wrote, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already nearly doubled, and the earth?s surface is on average about 0.6?C warmer?enough to convince many scientists and laypeople that Arrhenius was right at least about this. In 2001, the official estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was that we should expect a warming of about 3?C, give or take a few degrees, in the decades ahead.
But today?s prophets of climate change are not quite so sanguine as Arrhenius about the prospect of anthropogenic forcing. This is because, according to some models, even a relatively small rise in global mean temperature would result in dramatic changes in local climate patterns. While climate modelers generally agree that farmers in subarctic latitudes will benefit from warmer summers and milder winters, their forecast for the rest of the planet approximates the apocalypse: famine, drought, hurricanes, floods, mass extinctions?the list goes on. Most of these calamities, said to be of such a scale that they could threaten the viability of human civilization, are predicted to result from changes in weather patterns that would follow from rising temperatures in the oceans and the lower atmosphere.
The earth?s climate is an extraordinarily complex system, and most climatologists would probably concur that local perturbations cannot be foretold with precision. But given the magnitude of the prospective problem, many pundits and policymakers?with the backing of the scientific establishment?have become less interested in improving our understanding of climate change than in pressing for an immediate solution. By this they mean somehow reducing (or at least stabilizing) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
This is a difficult proposition, to say the least. About 70 percent of electricity in the United States is generated by the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly coal; our transportation network, which accounts for about a quarter of our greenhouse-gas emissions, is almost entirely dependent on petroleum. The picture in the rest of the world is not much better, as economic pressures dictate the construction of new coal-fired power plants not only in China and India but also in Germany and Eastern Europe. Despite all the fanfare surrounding Russia?s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in November 2004, bringing the treaty into force, most experts agree that, because of relatively modest emissions targets, allowances for international trading of carbon credits, and the exemption of major polluters like China, it will have no discernible impact on global CO2 emissions.
Nevertheless, as the intellectual class has increasingly become convinced of the reality of man-made climate change?recent ?converts? range ideologically from Gregg Easterbrook of the liberal New Republic to Ron Bailey of the libertarian Reason?environmentalists have correspondingly stepped up their efforts to build public support for some sort of action. The media now regularly proclaim the impending reality of climate change and encourage alarm. ABC News, offering not so much as a bow toward a scientific approach, recently asked viewers to submit stories about ?global warming? in their own communities. Even the July 2006 issue of Cond? Nast Traveler, not generally known for coverage of science and technology issues, includes tips for travelers who feel guilty about the damaging emissions generated by their airplane flights.
Among the more serious efforts to sway the debate are two new books, Tim Flannery?s The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth2 and Elizabeth Kolbert?s Field Notes from a Catastrophe,3 along with Al Gore?s much ballyhooed film, An Inconvenient Truth. Each of these presents a more or less comprehensive view of the scientific case for global warming, and describes in vivid detail some of the changes already attributed to rising temperatures: melting permafrost in Alaska, the crack-up of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica, thinning sea ice in the Arctic, fiercer and more numerous hurricanes in the Atlantic. And each suggests that the threat of global warming is supported by an overwhelming scientific consensus that, in their view, leaves absolutely no room for dissent.
The basic elements of the consensus are relatively easy to comprehend. Indeed, the three most important have already been mentioned. One is that surface thermometers have registered a global mean increase in temperature of about 0.6?C over the last century, give or take 0.15?C. This means that global temperatures are now higher than they have been in at least a thousand years, and perhaps since before the last major ice age. Likewise, atmospheric CO2 has increased from preindustrial levels of around 250 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to around 378 ppmv, a level probably not seen since the Pliocene era, around 3.5 million years ago, when atmospheric CO2 was higher for reasons that are basically unknown. There is little doubt, however, that at least some of the current increase is attributable to human activity.
So much for the data. The rest of what we ?know? about global warming comes from intricate computer simulations, called general circulation models (or GCM?s), which make use of these data and innumerable other observations about the earth?s atmosphere in order to predict the effects of continuing increases in CO2. Almost all the models forecast more warming, with the amount depending on various assumptions built into them. Although it is not clear from these results exactly why we should be alarmed?more on this later?Kolbert, Flannery, and Gore do their best to make sure that we are alarmed, enough to be willing to take drastic action. Each of them takes a slightly different rhetorical tack, but the ultimate message is always the same: we are on the verge of a catastrophe.
Kolbert?s book, which grew out of a series of articles written for the New Yorker in 2005, adopts a journalistic style; she reports from the ?front lines,? as it were, embedding her essential points in well-crafted vignettes and conversations with scientists. She treks to Alaska, where an expert in permafrost tells her that temperatures have already become dangerously high. In Greenland, she observes cracks and crevasses in the ice sheet, which seem to suggest that the island?s glaciers are melting. Experts on mosquitos, frogs, and butterflies attest to ecological changes that similarly portend a warming earth. Some people, it seems, have already bitten the bullet: Kolbert describes how the Dutch are abandoning their 500-year-old battle against the seas, dismantling their dikes and designing floating houses.
Despite its grim tidings, Field Notes is almost a pleasure to read, thanks to Kolbert?s casually elegant prose and attention to detail. Indeed, the anecdotal approach makes for a story both more interesting and less convincing than Kolbert might have hoped. By allowing scientists to present the case for global warming in their own words, Kolbert perhaps inadvertently gives the reader a glimpse into the doubts that still exist even among the most ardent believers in the problem?and into those believers? very human biases.
As compared with Field Notes, Tim Flannery?s The Weather Makers is more flamboyant, more decisive, and far more belligerent. Flannery, an Australian zoologist and something of a scientific celebrity, does little to hide his contempt for those who fail to take the problem of climate change as seriously as he does.
The Weather Makers starts off on an encouraging note, with an acknowledgment that climate change is difficult to evaluate impartially because the scientific issues are bound up in competing political and economic interests. Unfortunately, this pretense of evenhandedness collapses by the first chapter, which introduces the Gaia hypothesis?roughly, the idea that the earth?s oceans, soil, atmosphere, and living creatures function together as a kind of superorganism, resisting changes that would alter the global climate. It is our failure to adopt a Gaian view, Flannery suggests, that has led us into the current global-warming predicament. (James Lovelock, the British scientist who proposed the Gaia hypothesis in the late 1960?s, has predicted that global warming will lead to a mass extinction of the human population?a sort of Gaian ?final solution? to the problem of anthropogenic pollution.)
In Flannery?s view, the ?consensus? based on climate change models is too conservative. He thinks that climate change has already taken off in full force, and the outlook for the future is dire indeed. Where Kolbert is circumspect about warming trends at the poles, Flannery suggests that the entire polar ecosystem is on the brink of collapse, and that coral reefs bleached by overheated oceans may never recover. Droughts in the American West, Australia, and Africa are all attributed to global warming, as are Europe?s recent heat waves and floods. And this is just the beginning: Flannery predicts a rapid rise in global temperatures that will wipe out innumerable animal and plant species, not to mention agriculture in much of the world.
Is there anything we can do to mitigate the coming disaster? The Weather Makers devotes considerable attention to exploring possible solutions. These include geosequestration (pumping CO2 back into the earth?s crust) and alternative energy sources like hydrogen, nuclear, wind, and solar power. Not surprisingly, Flannery comes down on the side of wind and solar power, suggesting that these would be the most economical and democratic choices. Why democratic? Because, he imagines, each community and household can control its own electricity generation with wind farms and solar panels, while alternatives like nuclear power will merely perpetuate corporate control of the power grid.
Flannery reserves his greatest ire for big business, and for the conservative politicians he sees as subservient to it. In the end, he seems to think that if we fail to break free of our captivity to ?big oil? and ?big coal,? the imperative to regulate the climate will leave us with no choice but to submit to some sort of world government.
Somewhere in-between Kolbert?s measured warning and Flannery?s hysterical fearmongering lies An Inconvenient Truth. Narrated in its entirety by Al Gore, the film is part documentary, part hagiography: ominous warnings about the threat of climate change are interleaved with flashbacks to Gore?s childhood and other formative moments in the former Vice President?s career.
The movie covers much of the same ground as Field Notes and The Weather Makers, but with less concern for factual accuracy. Gore all but explicitly blames global warming for the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina; even Flannery only goes so far as to offer Katrina as an example of the kind of disaster that might become more prevalent in a warming world, and climatologists themselves are divided over whether global warming implies an increase in tropical-storm activity. In another segment, an animated polar bear is shown swimming for his life in an ice-free Arctic sea. Presumably the filmmakers resorted to animation because, in fact, most polar-bear populations are not under such imminent threat.
Gore?s overall strategy is to present the worst of worst-case scenarios as if they were inevitable, barring a miraculous reduction in atmospheric CO2. He suggests, for example, that Greenland?s ice cap is in danger of melting, which in turn would cause the jet stream to shut down?a bit like the scenario dramatized in the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. Needless to say, most earth and atmospheric scientists consider the likelihood of such an event to be vanishingly low. Animated maps show sea levels rising to inundate Miami, New York, and Shanghai, which is more than even the most extreme predictions would seem to allow.
One might note that An Inconvenient Truth contains more than its share of ironies and curious lacunae. Gore suggests that viewers can help cut back on their own carbon emissions by taking mass transit. And yet, during much of the movie, Gore is shown either riding in a car or traveling on a plane?by himself. He berates Americans for our reliance on fossil fuels, but, chatting amiably with Chinese engineers, seems peculiarly unconcerned by Chinese plans to build hundreds of new coal-fired power plants. Indeed, he compares vehicle-emission standards in the United States unfavorably with China?s. Touting ?renewable? fuels like those derived from biomass (which at present offer no carbon savings compared with traditional fuels), he does not mention nuclear power or other practical carbon-reducing alternatives to coal, oil, and gas.
In the end, An Inconvenient Truth brings nothing new to the global-warming debate, except perhaps its insistence that the ?debate? is over. Its effectiveness as a film?the New York Times has called it ?surprisingly engaging??hinges, one suspects, on the degree to which the viewer is likely a priori to have a favorable view of Al Gore. Those who basically like him, or hope to see him run again for the presidency, have described his performance as earnest and energetic, and have found his appeal persuasive; Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic, was so impressed that he pronounced the film likely to become a ?seminal political document.? To others, he comes across as a self-absorbed, condescending know-it-all.
Politics aside, however, does Gore have a point? Is it really true that the threat of climate change impels us to take action?
Prophets of Climate Change, Part II
Reply #32 on:
September 27, 2006, 09:50:39 PM »
The data themselves?that is to say, actual observations of the earth?s climate?are hardly grounds for much excitement. For example, the fact that global temperatures and CO2 levels are correlated in the climatological record is not in itself cause for panic. Consider the ?smoking gun? for many global-warming alarmists?the Vostok ice core, an 11,775-foot-long sliver of Antarctic ice that has allowed scientists to extrapolate atmospheric CO2 and temperature anomalies over roughly the past 420,000 years, showing that temperature and CO2 have risen and fallen roughly in tandem over this time frame.
But the key word here is ?roughly.? The Vostok data make it clear that at the onset of the last glaciation, temperatures began to decline thousands of years before a corresponding decline in atmospheric CO2. This observation cannot be replicated by current climate models, which require a previous fall in CO2 for glaciation to occur. Moreover, an analysis published in Science in 2003 suggests that the end of one glacial period, called Termination III, preceded a rise in CO2 by 600 to 1,000 years. One explanation for this apparent paradox might be that global warming, whatever its initial trigger, liberates CO2 from oceans and permafrost; this additional CO2 might then contribute in turn to the natural greenhouse effect.
Should we worry that adding even more CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels could contribute to a runaway warming effect? Probably not. In simple physical terms, each extra unit of CO2 added to the atmosphere contributes less to the greenhouse effect than the previous unit, just as extra layers of paint applied to a pane of glass contribute less and less to its opacity. For this reason, we have already experienced 75 percent of the warming that should be attributable to a simple doubling of atmospheric CO2 since the late 19th century, a benchmark we have not yet reached but one that is frequently cited as dangerous by those who fear global warming. Moreover, it seems unlikely that we can do very much about it.
Most models, of course, predict much more warming to come. This has to do with the way they account for the effects of clouds and water vapor, which are assumed to amplify greatly the response to man-made greenhouse gases. The problem with this assumption is that it is probably wrong.
Many scientists who study clouds?including MIT?s Richard Lindzen, a prominent skeptic of climate-change alarmism?argue that the data show the opposite to be true: namely, that clouds act to limit, rather than aggravate, warming trends. In any case, the GCM?s have failed miserably to simulate observed changes in cloud cover. Flannery, to his credit, is cognizant of this criticism, and acknowledges that the role of clouds is poorly understood. By way of a response, he draws attention to a computer simulation showing a high degree of correspondence between observed and predicted cloud cover for one model on a single day?July 1, 1998. Overall, however, GCM simulations of clouds are a source of significant error.
Indeed, the models are subject to so much uncertainty that it is hard to understand why anyone would bother to get worked up about them. Generally speaking, the GCM?s simulate two kinds of effects on climate: natural forcing, which includes the impact of volcanic eruptions and solar radiation, and anthropogenic forcing, which includes greenhouse gases and so-called aerosols, or particulate pollution. But the behavior of most of these factors is unknown.
The major models assume, for example, that aerosols act to cancel warming; this effect is said to ?explain? the apparent decline in global temperatures from the 1940?s to the 1970?s, when the popular imagination was briefly obsessed with the possibility of global cooling. Some scientists, however, are now claiming that the opposite is true, and that aerosols actually exacerbate warming.
Whatever the case, the impact of aerosols is so poorly understood that the term essentially refers to a parameter that can be adjusted to make the models? predictions correspond to actual observations. Making inferences from the models about the ?true? state of the earth?s climate is therefore an exercise in circular reasoning. To be sure, the business of fine-tuning GCM?s provides a livelihood for many climatologists, and may one day yield valuable insights into the workings of the earth?s climate. But the output of these models is hardly a harbinger of the end of civilization.
If the empirical basis for alarmism about global warming is so flimsy, it is reasonable to ask what can account for the disproportionately pessimistic response of many segments of society.
Part of the problem is that global warming has ceased to be a scientific question?by which I do not mean that the interesting scientific issues have actually been settled, but that many of those concerned about global warming are no longer really interested in the science. As Richard Lindzen has reminded us, the Kyoto Protocol provides an excellent illustration. Although there is widespread scientific agreement that the protocol will do next to nothing to affect climate change, politicians worldwide continue to insist that it is vital to our efforts to combat the problem of global warming, and scientists largely refrain from contradicting them.
Some have suggested that the underlying reason for this is economic. After all, public alarm is a powerful generator of science funding, a fact that is not lost on theorists and practitioners. In 2003, the National Research Council, the public-policy arm of the National Academy of Sciences, criticized a draft of the U.S. National Climate Change Plan for placing too much emphasis on improving our knowledge about the climate and too little on studying the likely impacts of global warming?the latter topic being sure to produce apprehension, and hence grants for more research. By the same token, the Kyoto process seems to lumber on in part because of the very large number of diplomats and bureaucrats whose prestige and livelihoods depend on maintaining the perception that their jobs are indispensable.
Money aside, it may be that many scientists have a knack for overinterpreting the importance of their own work. It is of course exciting to think that one?s research concerns an unprecedented phenomenon with far-reaching political implications. But not only can this lead to public misperception, it can encourage a politicization of the scientific literature itself. Scientists skeptical of the importance of anthropogenic warming have testified that it is difficult to publish their work in prestigious journals; when they do publish, their articles are almost always accompanied by rebuttals.
In fact, the scientific ?consensus? on climate change?at least, as it is summarized by Gore, Flannery, and the like?includes a very large number of disparate observations, only a small number of which are pertinent to understanding the actual determinants of contemporary climate change. The fact, for example, that certain species have become scarce or extinct is frequently presented as a cause for alarm about the climate. But such ecological shifts are often the result of idiosyncratic local conditions, and in any case are largely irrelevant to the broader issue of global warming.
In recent years the issue of climate change has also been used as a tool to embarrass the political Right, and especially the Bush administration?which, after Bill Clinton declined to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification, withdrew the U.S. signature from the pact. Although efforts to portray conservatives as insensitive to environmental issues are not new, what is new is the scope of the alleged problem, which requires not merely a targeted solution (like the phasing-out of chlorofluorocarbons in response to ozone depletion) but a radical change in our mode of energy generation and specifically a wholesale shift away from fossil fuels.
The really curious element here is that many of those who seem to have become convinced of the reality of climate change appear rather unwilling to take meaningful steps toward cleaner sources of energy. Like Flannery, they simply assert that a carbon-free economy will somehow be much more efficient and productive than one powered by fossil fuels?because, of course, we will be rid of evil and greedy energy companies, which many alarmists suspect are at the root of the problem.
Practically speaking, however, they have little to offer. Very few Democratic politicians have advocated the construction of new nuclear-power plants, a key element of the Bush administration?s energy plan and probably our best bet to avoid an increased reliance on coal. Although Senator Edward M. Kennedy (among other Democrats) signed a bill that would require the U.S. to derive 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, he has strenuously opposed a wind farm planned off the coast of Cape Cod, visible from his Hyannisport family estate.
The overall effect of these inconsistent policy goals?limiting fossil-fuel consumption without activating any viable substitutes?will be to drive up the price of energy, a move that will probably not much affect the affluent but will be quite problematic for the rest of us. Al Gore will be able to continue to crisscross the country by jet, while feeling virtuous about having encouraged the shift worker to reduce his energy consumption by using public transportation. And if the problem of global warming does not eventuate, so much the better. Alarmists will be able to reassure themselves that they have forestalled a catastrophe, even if this comes at considerable expense to the economy as a whole.
There are many good reasons to wean ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels, not least to cease enriching unsavory regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela. But in combating climate change, we should not ignore the damage done by the proponents of global-warning themselves in diverting money and energy away from more obvious and well-substantiated problems. Unfortunately, many people seem to be more concerned with the supposed menace of global warming, about which we can realistically do very little, than with problems like infectious disease, about which we can do quite a bit. Speaking of inconvenient truths, this is a real one.
Kevin Shapiro is a research fellow in neuroscience and a student at Harvard Medical School. He contributed ?Lessons of the Cloning Scandal? to the April Commentary.
1 Technically speaking, the greenhouse effect refers to the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, including not only CO2 but also water vapor, methane, and others. The contribution to the greenhouse effect of CO2 produced by combustion is properly called the Callendar effect, after the British scientist, Guy Stewart Callendar, who proposed it in 1938.
2 Atlantic Monthly Press, 384 pp., $24.00.
3 Bloomsbury USA, 192 pp., $22.95.
More on DDT Benefits and Costs
Reply #33 on:
October 03, 2006, 01:02:03 PM »
DDT will spare millions from malaria.
By Deroy Murdock
On a planet that aches for good news, here is a reason to cheer: Millions of people who otherwise might die, now will stay alive.
The World Health Organization on September 15 issued new guidelines calling for DDT to play ?a major role? in deterring and killing mosquitoes, which spread malaria. Each year, this debilitating, often deadly disease ails some 500 million people and kills about one million human beings, mainly poor Africans, Asians, and Latins under age five.
WHO malaria chief Dr. Arata Kochi said: ?Help save African babies, as you help save the environment.? WHO?s new policy is a major boon for millions in the Third World and a major triumph for a cadre of free-market activists who relentlessly have pursued this cause.
Malaria impedes blood flow to major organs, including the brain. Those it does not kill often remain listless and unproductive. WHO estimates that malaria costs poor nations $12 billion annually in unperformed work, unmanufactured goods, and unattracted foreign investment.
Dichloro-diphenyl-tricholoroethane, more mercifully called DDT, foils the mosquitoes that carry malaria. ?If it is sprayed just twice a year on the inside walls of homes, it keeps 90 percent of mosquitoes from entering,? says Fiona Kobusingye-Boynes, coordinator of the New York-based Congress of Racial Equality?s Uganda office. (Full disclosure: I have spoken at several CORE events.) ?It also irritates any mosquitoes that do come in, so they don?t bite, and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, does all that.?
Indoor DDT spraying reduced Zambia?s malaria cases and deaths by 75 percent in just two years.
South Africa?s before-and-after experience is even more dramatic. Yielding to environmentalists? pressure, South Africa abandoned DDT in 1996. Malaria cases soared from about 5,000 in 1996 to some 60,000 in 2001. Malaria deaths climbed from about 50 to about 425 over that period.
South Africa resumed indoor DDT spraying in 2001. That public-health campaign cut malaria?s toll by 80 percent within 18 months. By 2004, only about 5,000 South Africans contracted malaria, and just 50 or so died from it. Continued DDT spraying, coupled with modern ACT drugs (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies) slashed malaria?s impact by an astonishing 96 percent within three-and-a-half years of DDT?s reintroduction.
As an added bonus, DDT also prevents mosquitoes from spreading yellow fever, dengue fever, and plain, old itchy bites.
Some environmentalists fear that reviving DDT could harm fish and fowl, as ecologist Rachel Carson claimed in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Largely in response to Carson and concerns about eagles, the EPA banned DDT in the U.S. in 1972. The chemical quickly fell into disfavor, and malaria steadily expanded its lethal legacy. Since 1972, malaria has killed some 50 million people. Scientists debate, however, whether DDT truly threatened bald eagles by thinning their eggshells to the breaking point.
?DDT opponents choose birds over little boys and girls, in a false dichotomy that requires the sacrifice of neither,? says DDT proponent Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute. WHO and other aid groups plan only for trained public-health workers to spray biennially inside mud huts and cinder-block dwellings. Using crop dusters to bomb cotton fields with DDT, as America once did, is not in the cards. This should leave feathers unruffled.
Some ecologists also say DDT is unnecessary and, instead, recommend pesticide-treated bed nets. They work just fine ? if one stays in bed. The answer is to use bed nets during sleep and DDT for times when potential malaria victims are indoors, but out of bed.
While DDT advocates say there is no evidence that it endangers humans, especially in the small quantities needed for malaria control, critics contend that it may reduce the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers and/or cause babies to have low birth-weights. Compared to a million malaria deaths annually, mainly among the very young, this is like blocking a heart attack victim from an ambulance because he could experience a deadly traffic accident en route to an emergency room. That?s a risk worth taking.
Since the late 1990s, members of CORE, Africa Fighting Malaria, and the Kill Malarial Mosquitoes NOW! Coalition have penned piles of articles, organized dozens of meetings, lobbied scores of international relief officials, and delivered countless speeches ? always calling for DDT to be a key anti-malaria tool. They circulated a pro-DDT petition that attracted the signatures of Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and F.W. de Klerk of South Africa, ?Green Revolution? pioneer Dr. Norman Borlaug, and some 400 other prominent citizens.
?AFM?s work (both independently and as a leader of myriad advocacy groups) is one of the primary reasons why WHO has finally taken a vital stand in favor of DDT,? explains U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD (R., Okla.), a leading congressional DDT supporter. ?No legislative or oversight efforts in the authorizing or appropriations processes could have been as successful without AFM.?
While some liberals have joined this cause, its chief proponents have been free-marketeers like the University of Ottawa?s Amir Attaran; CORE?s Fiona and Cyril Boynes, Paul Driessen, and Niger and Roy Innis; and AFM?s Richard Tren. While these citizens could have fought for tax cuts and trade agreements, they instead stuck with this important but unglamorous cause.
So, why should Americans care about this? The Kill Malarial Mosquitoes NOW! Coalition?s Declaration of the Informed and Concerned persuasively argues that U.S. support for DDT promotes American interests:
Deploying DDT in developing countries is good for the United States. Cutting malaria and other mosquito-borne disease rates: (1) permits strides in education, individual productivity, and economic growth in Africa and elsewhere ? reducing foreign aid claims on U.S. politicians and taxpayers; (2) eliminates or quells the kinds of misery and non-productivity that often underlie regional unrest and result in requests for U.S. military intervention; and (3) diminishes the ever-present danger of outbreaks, and even pandemics, of exotic, insect-borne diseases in the United States as a result of global travel by infected persons.
Probably no other single action by the United States has the potential for saving more lives, reducing or eliminating more disease, curtailing more human misery, and promoting greater development and prosperity than support for the use of DDT to control malaria.
As a CORE-Uganda t-shirt reads: ?DDT is a weapon of mass survival.? Still, it is no panacea. An anti-malaria vaccine remains appealing, but elusive. For now, thanks to a focused cadre of activists, the WHO?s endorsement should help DDT reach millions who it will shield from early death. As Winston Churchill once said: ?Seldom have so many owed so much to so few.?
? Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.
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