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Archive for January, 2009

“Climate and Uncertainty Symposium” – London, Feb 16

2009/01/29 1 comment

Sounds like a great idea…but there isn’t actually a lot about uncertainty, in the programme (look at what session A is supposed to be about, and what the speakers will in fact cover)

Climate and Uncertainty Symposium
Date and time
Monday 16th February 2009, 10:00-17:00 with poster session and drinks to follow.
Location
Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre (UCL, London).

The aim of this meeting is to bring together a wide spectrum of UCL researchers to discuss issues of uncertainty in climate predictions and the impact of those uncertainties on our ability to accurately forecast the effects of climate change on urban and natural systems, human health and public policy. The meeting will encompass perspectives and open discussion on climate uncertainty from information providers (e.g. climate / ocean modellers), method providers (e.g. statisticians) and users of outputs (e.g. climate impacts and policy researchers).

SESSION A – CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS: talks articulating the issues and questions arising in different application areas. Talks focus on what are the key questions about future climate in the different areas, how climate information is used, what sources of uncertainty have been identified as being of particular concern and what steps are being taken to address this.

SESSION B – INFORMATION PROVISION: talks focusing on research that aims to meet the needs of the applications community: what information and techniques are available, what are the limitations, where is the potential for improvement in current practice?

“Climate Change: Science and the Way Forward” Lecture – London, Feb 4

From my Inbox —-

UCL Environment Institute – Public Lecture Series 2008-09

“Climate Change: Science and the Way Forward”

Professor John Beddington
Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government

4th February 2009 6 – 8pm, Chadwick LT (Click here for map location: E4)

ABSTRACT
Over the coming decades, humankind will be presented with some enormous and interlinked challenges such as population growth, urbanisation and food, water and energy security; and the enormity of the task to address these linked issues will be made all the greater by changes to the Earth’s climate. A successful strategy will take the form of a co-ordinated, holistic and integrated approach. This lecture will outline these challenges, focus on the importance of collaboration between science disciplines and between countries and describe a number of the science and technology solutions available to us.

To register please click here:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/environment-institute/News/publicLectureForm.php

BIOGRAPHY
Professor John Beddington was appointed as Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) on 1 January 2008. John’s main research interests are the application of biological and economic analysis to problems of Natural Resource Management including inter alia: fisheries, pest control, wildlife management and the control of disease. He started his academic career at the University of York and spent three years on secondment from York as a Senior Fellow with the International Institute of Environment and Development. He has been at Imperial College since 1984, where he headed the main departments dealing with environmental science and technology. He was Professor of Applied Population Biology at Imperial until his appointment as GCSA.

He has been adviser to a number of government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (on Antarctic and South Atlantic matters), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (where he chaired the Science Advisory Council), the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office. He was for six years a member of the Natural Environment Research Council.

He has acted as a senior adviser to several government and international bodies, including the Australian, New Zealand and US Governments, the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In June 1997 he was awarded the Heidelberg Award for Environmental Excellence and in 2001 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2004 he was awarded the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by the Queen for services to fisheries science and management.

Catastrophism Is NOT Risk-Free

2009/01/27 1 comment

Catastrophism, the pumping up of dangers of all sorts as if the world would end tomorrow unless we all follow the catastrophist’s opinions, must have been with humanity since the first time somebody was able to foretell a solar eclipse.

Three of the dangers it carries must have been well known for almost as long:

  • Crying wolf is the best way to make sure nobody will do a thing when a really bad situation will happen
  • Lurid climate-related material is just as easily forgotten, and may convince the listener or reader that there is nothing at all one could do on the topic
  • There is no definite line between those who proclaim the world is going to the dogs because of “A”, and those who take advantage of “A” in order to grab as much power as they can

There is however a fourth danger for whom awareness is slowly emerging:

  • Spreading rumors about the planet becoming a hellish place because of person A”s behaviour, can and does often inspire somebody else to pick up arms and forcefully get rid of person A

A couple of examples from outside the climate arena:

  1. In “Understanding Race and Crime“, Colin Webster suggests that behind the Rwandan genocide there was no actual overpopulation (or lack of resources), rather their myth (=perception), the idea that despite much evidence to the contrary, there would have shortly been a major crisis
  2. In “Coming Chaos? Maybe not“,  Michael W Foley makes the point that crisis-motivated “violence is not a matter of social banditry but is politically organized […] In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the hysterical news reports to the contrary, violence was almost wholly the work of white vigilantes inspired by those same reports to ‘defend’ their communities against supposed looters

The two authors are making the same point: the main motivation for the violence is in the people’s conviction that things are going pretty badly indeed, and they have to do something, however illegal or immoral.

So next time somebody will try to argue that it is our duty to consider mostly worst-case scenarios, I will just remind them: catastrophism, with all its baggage of unintended consequences,  is a Pandora’s box. With Hope removed.

Guest Blog: Earth On The Brink Of An Ice Age

2009/01/15 9 comments

A guest blog by writer and researcher Gregory Fegel (gregoryfegel AT hevanet DOT com). Provided “as-is” in order to enrich the debate, whatever my opinions on the topic are.

Surely everybody believing in using the Precautionary Principle will agree with these words?

the very real threat of the approaching and inevitable Ice Age, which will render large parts of the Northern Hemisphere uninhabitable, is being foolishly ignored.

Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age

The Vostok ice core data graph

The Vostok ice core data graph

The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. Many sources of data which provide our knowledge base of long-term climate change indicate that the warm, twelve thousand year-long Holocene period will rather soon be coming to an end, and then the earth will return to Ice Age conditions for the next 100,000 years.

Ice cores, ocean sediment cores, the geologic record, and studies of ancient plant and animal populations all demonstrate a regular cyclic pattern of Ice Age glacial maximums which each last about 100,000 years, separated by intervening warm interglacials, each lasting about 12,000 years.

Most of the long-term climate data collected from various sources also shows a strong correlation with the three astronomical cycles which are together known as the Milankovich cycles. The three Milankovich cycles include the tilt of the earth, which varies over a 41,000 year period; the shape of the earth’s orbit, which changes over a period of 100,000 years; and the Precession of the Equinoxes, also known as the earth’s ‘wobble’, which gradually rotates the direction of the earth’s axis over a period of 26,000 years. According to the Milankovich theory of Ice Age causation, these three astronomical cycles, each of which effects the amount of solar radiation which reaches the earth, act together to produce the cycle of cold Ice Age maximums and warm interglacials.

Elements of the astronomical theory of Ice Age causation were first presented by the French mathematician Joseph Adhemar in 1842, it was developed further by the English prodigy Joseph Croll in 1875, and the theory was established in its present form by the Czech mathematician Milutin Milankovich in the 1920s and 30s. In 1976 the prestigious journal “Science” published a landmark paper by John Imbrie, James Hays, and Nicholas Shackleton entitled “Variations in the Earth’s orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages,” which described the correlation which the trio of scientist/authors had found between the climate data obtained from ocean sediment cores and the patterns of the astronomical Milankovich cycles. Since the late 1970s, the Milankovich theory has remained the predominant theory to account for Ice Age causation among climate scientists, and hence the Milankovich theory is always described in textbooks of climatology and in encyclopaedia articles about the Ice Ages.

In their 1976 paper Imbrie, Hays, and Shackleton wrote that their own climate forecasts, which were based on sea-sediment cores and the Milankovich cycles, “… must be qualified in two ways. First, they apply only to the natural component of future climatic trends – and not to anthropogenic effects such as those due to the burning of fossil fuels. Second, they describe only the long-term trends, because they are linked to orbital variations with periods of 20,000 years and longer. Climatic oscillations at higher frequencies are not predicted… the results indicate that the long-term trend over the next 20,000 years is towards extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation and cooler climate.”

During the 1970s the famous American astronomer Carl Sagan and other scientists began promoting the theory that ‘greenhouse gasses’ such as carbon dioxide, or CO2, produced by human industries could lead to catastrophic global warming. Since the 1970s the theory of ‘anthropogenic global warming’ (AGW) has gradually become accepted as fact by most of the academic establishment, and their acceptance of AGW has inspired a global movement to encourage governments to make pivotal changes to prevent the worsening of AGW.

The central piece of evidence that is cited in support of the AGW theory is the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph which was presented by Al Gore in his 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth.” The ‘hockey stick’ graph shows an acute upward spike in global temperatures which began during the 1970s and continued through the winter of 2006/07. However, this warming trend was interrupted when the winter of 2007/8 delivered the deepest snow cover to the Northern Hemisphere since 1966 and the coldest temperatures since 2001. It now appears that the current Northern Hemisphere winter of 2008/09 will probably equal or surpass the winter of 2007/08 for both snow depth and cold temperatures.

The main flaw in the AGW theory is that its proponents focus on evidence from only the past one thousand years at most, while ignoring the evidence from the past million years — evidence which is essential for a true understanding of climatology. The data from paleoclimatology provides us with an alternative and more credible explanation for the recent global temperature spike, based on the natural cycle of Ice Age maximums and interglacials.

In 1999 the British journal “Nature” published the results of data derived from glacial ice cores collected at the Russia’s Vostok station in Antarctica during the 1990s. The Vostok ice core data includes a record of global atmospheric temperatures, atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and airborne particulates starting from 420,000 years ago and continuing through history up to our present time.

The graph of the Vostok ice core data shows that the Ice Age maximums and the warm interglacials occur within a regular cyclic pattern, the graph-line of which is similar to the rhythm of a heartbeat on an electrocardiogram tracing. The Vostok data graph also shows that changes in global CO2 levels lag behind global temperature changes by about eight hundred years. What that indicates is that global temperatures precede or cause global CO2 changes, and not the reverse. In other words, increasing atmospheric CO2 is not causing global temperature to rise; instead the natural cyclic increase in global temperature is causing global CO2 to rise.

The reason that global CO2 levels rise and fall in response to the global temperature is because cold water is capable of retaining more CO2 than warm water. That is why carbonated beverages loose their carbonation, or CO2, when stored in a warm environment. We store our carbonated soft drinks, wine, and beer in a cool place to prevent them from loosing their ‘fizz’, which is a feature of their carbonation, or CO2 content. The earth is currently warming as a result of the natural Ice Age cycle, and as the oceans get warmer, they release increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Because the release of CO2 by the warming oceans lags behind the changes in the earth’s temperature, we should expect to see global CO2 levels continue to rise for another eight hundred years after the end of the earth’s current Interglacial warm period. We should already be eight hundred years into the coming Ice Age before global CO2 levels begin to drop in response to the increased chilling of the world’s oceans.

The Vostok ice core data graph reveals that global CO2 levels regularly rose and fell in a direct response to the natural cycle of Ice Age minimums and maximums during the past four hundred and twenty thousand years. Within that natural cycle, about every 110,000 years global temperatures, followed by global CO2 levels, have peaked at approximately the same levels which they are at today.

About 325,000 years ago, at the peak of a warm interglacial, global temperature and CO2 levels were higher than they are today. Today we are again at the peak, and near to the end, of a warm interglacial, and the earth is now due to enter the next Ice Age. If we are lucky, we may have a few years to prepare for it. The Ice Age will return, as it always has, in its regular and natural cycle, with or without any influence from the effects of AGW.

The AGW theory is based on data that is drawn from a ridiculously narrow span of time and it demonstrates a wanton disregard for the ‘big picture’ of long-term climate change. The data from paleoclimatology, including ice cores, sea sediments, geology, paleobotany and zoology, indicate that we are on the verge of entering another Ice Age, and the data also shows that severe and lasting climate change can occur within only a few years. While concern over the dubious threat of Anthropogenic Global Warming continues to distract the attention of people throughout the world, the very real threat of the approaching and inevitable Ice Age, which will render large parts of the Northern Hemisphere uninhabitable, is being foolishly ignored.

— Gregory F. Fegel

CO2 Warming? The Lab vs. The Atmosphere

2009/01/12 12 comments

How many times have we been told that the consequence of an increase in CO2 concentration has to be an increase in temperature because laboratory studies have incontrovertibly shown the “greenhouse” nature of CO2 (and other gases)?

And yet, the (negative) reply to those claims is very simple.

Everybody can incontrovertibly verify in their own kitchen that warmer air moves upwards, and colder air downwards. We can call that the “greenhouse” nature of height, to be  translated in mathematical models whose runs will surely convince some climate scientists about the existence of sizzling mountaintop conditions.

Now just imagine going up the K2 or the Aconcagua with such a climatologist, endlessly referring to progressively cooler temperatures as “noise masking the overall warming trend”…

——–

To anticipate the usual comments: the above cannot be used to disprove the greenhouse effect of CO2 in the atmosphere. But it shows that such an effect has to be proven in the real world, rather than on paper simply by reference to what is found in laboratories and using theoretical physics.

Climatic Schizochronia or The Tense Temporal Troubles of Global Warming

2009/01/12 4 comments

Schizochronia (skĭt’sə-krŏnē-ə): from the Ancient Greek schizein (σχίζειν, “to split”) and chronos (χρόνος, “time”)

n.

  1. Any of a group of scientific communication disorders usually characterized by confounding the reality of what happens in the present day with the possibility of what may happen decades in the future. Schizochronia is associated with catastrophist thinking and may have an underlying political cause.
  2. A “heavenly and profound” blog from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

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Is Anthropogenic Global Warming or Climate Change happening? The answer to that, many people believe it to be yes. There’s even a scientific consensus stating the same.

Has Anthropogenic Global Warming or Climate Change already happened? The answer to that, many people believe it to be yes. Trouble is, there’s no scientific consensus stating the same. In truth, according to the scientific consensus around AGW and CC, they cannot have happened as yet.

Usually, AGW and CC are coined in future tense. They must, for the sake of honesty and scientific truthfulness: think of “climate model projections” indicating temperature rises yes, but for later decades in the twenty-first century; and of the overwhelming majority of effects, expected rather than already observed.

What we have witnessed in the past few years instead, has been a rush to “discover” evidence for AGW and CC in today’s world. Lots of “smoking guns” and plenty of “wake-up calls”, appropriately trite expressions to accompany for evidence that quite simply cannot be there…unless the scientific consensus on AGW is very, very wrong.

Invariably, smoking guns have been revealed empty, and wake-up calls mute. There is nothing to show for AGW and CC, as I find myself repeating. Cue this blog, Watt’s, Climate Audit and countless others. Cue the amount of skepticism in practical circles such as among engineers and meteorologists.

Now, why is the simple point not more forcefully explained by leading AGW proponents: that the science refers to what might happen later this century, and that the search for current signs of impending future catastrophes is to the edge of pointless?

One may be forgiven to think that the issue is being polluted by advocacy, as the revelation of absence of evidence could pretty much kill all present political efforts in matters of climate. But if this schizochronia between claims about the present and science about the future has been useful so far, obviously it has to be continuously fed, and the more so as the years go by, like a biding of time until something truly tangible finally surfaces.

You see, we already have people openly hoping for major climate tragedies to happen in front of TV cameras, the sooner the better.

Expect lots, and I mean lots of additional “climate change has already ruined the planet” claims in 2009.

There’s Probably No AGW

2009/01/09 4 comments

Anybody up for a new “Bus Campaign”?

The Climate Change Unbeliever's Bus Campaign

It would be quite appropriate indeed, given the fact that Anthropogenic Global Warming has become an article of faith for some. Take Arianna Huffington (please!):

Although HuffPost welcomes a vigorous debate on many subjects, I am a firm believer that there are not two sides to every issue, and that on some issues the jury is no longer out. The climate crisis is one of these issues.

(my emphasis)

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