The EU policy on CO2 emissions has turned into a mindless, obsessed monster that cares not about climate, people or the planet. And it is getting its hands dirty with the lives of those it refuses to save.
In fact: the EU Commission has just let everybody know that the wholly preventable, daily killing of more than 4,000 people by black carbon (soot) is not a “top priority” and “should not divert attention away from carbon dioxide“.
It gets worse.
The reason for dismissing any attempt at limiting black carbon? It’s because “more research must be carried out to ascertain its impact more accurately“. Impact on what? On global warming. Yes: because, according to Frank Raes, head of the climate change unit at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), black carbon is “‘likely’ to contribute to climate change” but “the regional impacts of black carbon may be even more significant than its global warming effect” (my emphasis). Also, “the existence of both black and white aerosols, with warming and cooling impacts, makes it less straightforward to make a case for political action on black carbon“.
Talk about choosing the wrongest path.
Reduction of black carbon emissions is by far the easiest, clearest, fastest way to solve a lot of issues, in a win-win scenario that would include Himalayan glaciers and the rescuing of little children from certain death via easily-approved legislation:
Even the “EU policymakers speaking in Brussels” on 22 June say as much. According to EurActiv.com, “the health implications of particulate pollution make a compelling case for tackling black carbon, speakers agreed. Like other small particulates, it causes premature death and respiratory disease, they claimed“.
2. Mainstream science agrees: black carbon contributes to warming.
The IPCC AR4 reported the radiative forcing of black carbon as a total of +0.3 W/m2, not far from methane’s. And “given black carbon’s relatively short lifespan, reducing black carbon emissions would reduce warming within weeks“. Why, “tackling black carbon [may] have a beneficial impact on the climate only 5-10 years after its emissions are cut“.
3. Black carbon is also an issue that could be tackled immediately.
Seventy percent of it comes from “Open biomass burning (forest and savanna burning)“, “Residential biofuel burned with traditional technologies” and “Residential coal burned with traditional technologies“. In South-East Asia, “the majority of soot emissions […] are due to biofuel cooking“. There isn’t anything particularly difficult preventing drastic reductions, and in fact “developed nations have reduced their black carbon emissions from fossil fuel sources by a factor of 5 or more since 1950“. Sometimes, all it takes is a new stove, and access to better fuel than dessicated cow dung.
4. By dealing with black carbon, an example of future emission-related interventions could be set.
Policy-wise, the reduction of black carbon emissions is extremely easy: there is no “black carbon skeptic”, no “black carbon is natural” blog, no “alternative consensus on black carbon” international conference. No fossil-fuel-industry lobbyst has ever pushed against limiting black carbon emissions, and anybody and everybody can be easily convinced that there is something wrong in freeing up in the atmosphere notoriously unhealthy particulates.
Black carbon should be the “motherhood and apple pie” of environmental policy, and legislation and aid organization and distribution regarding the reduction in black carbon emissions could be in place in weeks.. Have a look at this video (from here):
And still…since black carbon may contribute to regional instead of global warming (as if anybody cared about the difference), plus it might or might not have cooling impacts in the form of “white aerosols”, then the cabinet of the EU Climate Action Commissioner simply does not want “the black carbon discussion to distract from the EU’s focus on cutting CO2 emissions“.
In other words: current EU policy is to cut CO2 emissions, rather than to do anything to the climate, or the well-being of anybody on this planet.
The monster of AGW/CO2 obsession is now fully in action.
ps What if the EU “is already dealing with the problem under its air quality legislation“? Well, so much for the global focus of climate action…also, somebody should be made aware of how far black carbon can travel from where it has been emitted…
pps Is any AGWer suggesting that black carbon emissions could be a good thing, regarding their cooling impacts, and who cares about dying children?
What do glaciers indicate? Much more than the local (or maybe even global!) temperature trends. In fact, read what The Register reports about the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in Antarctica:
[…] The PIG has flowed more and more rapidly into the Amundsen Sea since scientists have begun monitoring it, adding fresh water to the world’s oceans. […] Many scientists have theorised that the PIG’s accelerating flow is due to global warming. However, recent research [indicates] that the PIG’s ice flow formerly ground its way out to sea across the top of a previously unknown rocky underwater ridge, which tended to hold it back. Many years ago, however, before the area was surveyed in much detail, the glacier’s floating outflow sheet separated from the ridge top which it had been grinding away at for millennia and so picked up speed. This also allowed relatively warm sea water to get up under the sheet and so increase melting and ease of movement. […]
As luck has it, around three years ago I did myself some research about the Upsala glacier in Patagonia, used by The New York Review of Books to illustrate an article by Bill McKibben. The juxtaposition of photographs of Upsale taken respectively in 1928 and 2004 was captioned along the lines of “most of the glacier [has] melted“.
As usual, it didn’t take much to find out how wrong the caption was – most of the Upsala glacier has not melted at all (a correction was published by the NYRB a few weeks later).
More interestingly though, what I did find were scholarly references attributing the glacier’s retreat to mechanical rather than climatic stresses, just as now for Pine Island’s. In other words, an understanding of glaciers like of everything else can’t be confined to quick glances at photographic “evidence”. Without a proper field study, and without a complete analysis of the situation, “global warming” has becoming the ultimate refuge for the climate (scientific) scoundrels.
Let’s hope the one thing that will come out of all these years of blacklists, tricks, and less-than-sincere “peer” review is a meme about the true complexity of the planet, to be studied with care and maybe even awe instead than in order to support one’s pet political project.
Indeed: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
I have always been amazed at how easy it is to find AGW believers ready to casually toss the accusation of “denier!” to everbody and anybody not following their “party line” of impending human-cause planetary doom to be avoided via some unprecedented social and economic revolution (“denier” meaning of course all sorts of nasty insults).
The more the term is spread around, the less meaningful it becomes. Still, what are the effects of such a silly behavior?
The most obvious consequence is that they are killing any hope of a serious climate debate, and therefore any hope of seeing it seriously tackled. It makes one wonder what would push people worried about something to act in a way that makes inaction a certainty (one of many) , and the worry increase even more.
An even bigger risk we are running concerns the possibility that science itself will get damaged by professions of AGW belief. In fact, what exactly is a “denier”? According to many AGW activists, “denier” is somebody that “attacks” science, by refusing to acknowledge as Truth whatever the AGW consensus says at the moment. And of course, science must be defended from those “attacking” it…
In the real world instead, one could naively think a “denier” is somebody that “denies” something, but that’s definitely not the case in matters of climate. In my still-fresh Facebook quiz, I have reported the long, curious and illogical list of questions somebody has asked Roger Pielke, Jr. in order to establish the latter’s “denialism” or otherwise.
With the image firmly in mind of Cultural Revolution-style re-education labor camps for those providing the “wrong” answers, it is actually easy to spot the underlying misunderstanding: “denier!”-obsessed AGWers are completely missing the point of science.
Science is a process, not a collection of facts. There are innumerable web sites of different repute repeating that simple concept (many are .edu). One finds it in the US-National Science Education Standards of 1996. Even the US Supreme Court has accepted it:
‘Science is not an encyclopedic body of knowledge about the universe. Instead, it represents a process for proposing and refining theoretical explanations about the world that are subject to further testing and refinement’
(To be precise, science is also a collection of facts. But those “facts” can and will be easily changed with new “facts” as soon the process of science will show it as necessary. What remains truly unchanged, and what one should always refer to, is the process of science)
If the above were not enough, there are even more indications that what is important in science is the process, not the product. In his $1M Paranormal Challenge, James Randi goes at great lengths in order to focus the tests around a specific process, rather than simply dismissing everybody believing they can “provide objective proof of the paranormal“. And what about a video explanation by the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait himself (especially from 2m36s onwards)?
And finally: imagine having two people, one reaching the “consensus” conclusions through luck or guessing, the other one reaching conclusions different from the “consensus” but by using the process of science. Which of the two is the scientist, and which the naive, or denier?
A “denier” of science has therefore to be somebody that goes against, or wrongly manipulates, or misuses the process of science: and not just anybody that considers as most plausible a different collection of facts than the current consensus.
Otherwise, if a “denier” were somebody that doesn’t agree with the “scientific consensus”, here’s a glaring “denier” then: Albert Einstein refusing the consensus on quantum physics (and more). Here’s two more: Dr. Barry Marshall and Dr. Robin Warren, refusing the consensus on the absence of bacteria in the human stomach on their way towards winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Another “denier”? Martin Glaessner of Ediacaran fauna fame, refusing the consensus about pre-Cambrian complex lifeforms (or lack thereof).
This is so incredibly absurd…Einstein, Marshall, Warren, Glaessner and countless others have simply tried to push science forward using the process of science. Sometimes, they have been shown right: in other occasions (notably, Einstein’s) they haven’t. Still, nobody becomes a “denier” simply by getting the “incorrect” or “anti-consensus” answer. <sarcasm>Why, does anybody want to read about the “Dark Matter deniers“??</sarcasm>
And yet, most if not all calling against “climate deniers!” I have ever read, they focus on the “facts” of climate rather than analyze how do people reach their sometimes conflicting conclusions. They go down onto incredible minutiae, such as accusing of “denial” when one finds the IPCC predictions a little exaggerated, or admits being “slightly less” worried about methane in the permafrost than them.
Do “climate deniers” exist, in the definition of “denier” just provided? Of course they do (here’s an interesting even if a little over-the-top attempt at dealing with the details about climate skepticism and denialism, by what I would define a not-so-closet climate skeptic fed up with American global warming politics). The number of “deniers” is extremely small especially among the scientifically educated. They have as much a chance at damaging the process of science as a Kansas school board has to convince to Norwegian education minister to introduce the teaching creationism.
The real danger to science comes from the believer side instead, as it spreads around a completely incorrect idea of what science is about. The last thing we’d need at the moment, is an army of young researchers trained with the asinine idea that, in climate science and/or in any other science, the only way to be good scientists rather than “deniers” is to follow the consensus.
It’s becoming fashionable to talk about “global warming” and “climate change” in terms of “do it for the grandchildren”, in the sense of getting things in order now (i.e. long before anything bad has happened to the Earth’s climate) so that the grandchildren will be safe from whatever bad things “global warming” will bring (floods, droughts, hot, cold, rain, hail, the works).
(Why has this become fashionable? Here’s why)
The concept creeps in into a recent speech by Norwegian author Jostein Gaardner, talking about global warming at a literary festival as reported by Andy Revkin:
An important basis for all ethics has been The Golden Rule or the Principle of Reciprocity: you shall do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the golden rule can no longer just have a horizontal dimension – in other words a “we” and “the others.” We must realize that the Principle of Reciprocity also has a vertical dimension: you shall do to the next generation what you wished the previous generation had done to you.
The risk of falling into hubris by following the above, is almost a certainty.
The proposition “you shall do to the next generation what you wished the previous generation had done to you” is simply not supported by historical evidence. Does anybody believe that the society of 1890 was similar to the society of 1865 (35 years earlier, “one generation”)? Were the needs is 1950 similar in any way to those in 1915?
I can add a personal dimension to this. As luck has it, I am 35 years older than my son; my father is 35 years older than me; my paternal grandfather was 36 years older than my father (who knows, the pattern might have gone back further, but I do not think many birth records survived the 1908 Messina quake).
Of this I can be quite sure: whatever was in the minds of my father in 1975, it would have been hardly of any help to us in 2010. In fact, they had to face an energy crisis, with economies in ruins and high unemployment. But inflation was high too, and after another Oil Shock in 1979 somehow they all forgot to develop “clean” energy sources.
Did my father have any clue, could he have imagined our society as it is and with what level of confidence in order to do something useful for me and us all? Had he done something of relevance for 1975, say, bring the inflation down, or achieve energy independence, was that related at all to what he wished my grandfather had done in 1940, and would it have been of relevance for 2010? Say, would my grandfather or my father ever have guessed the troubles with lithium, and the importance a new discovery would have had this week?
Apart from the usual stuff that is, a world free of nuclear weapons, with no povery, the end of malnutrition and child and maternal deaths, etc etc (that’s the equivalent of motherhood and apple pie)…
Consider the world of 2045 now: can I expect it to be similar to mine? To what extent? What exactly am I presumed to be doing that would be relevant to my son when he will be in his forties, and how could I know? Worse: what can I ever think of the world of 2080, when my grandchildren (if I will ever have any) will be in their 40s?
Overall, in face of absolute ignorance, it does sound like the most sensible thing to do is to solve today’s problems, not the children’s or the grandchildren’s. After all…what is the “reciprocity” in something done across time, as there is nothing next generation can do for us now? The bare minimum we can do for them, if we really want to do something for them, is to stay alive enough until they’re not depending on us any longer. Everything else is as good a guess as any, and as bad.
“Twenty Steps Of Climate Denial” is the title of my first-ever Facebook quiz. Ever wondered if you are a climate change denialist? Wonder no more! You’ll know it all in less than 21 questions!
And now for a bit of background: 99.9% of the questions and answers are inspired by the curious adventures of Roger Pielke, Jr., replying to a barrage of question by a “gonzo journalist” that is either quite disturbed or very good at appearing so (I prefer the latter).
For those that can’t stand Facebook, here’s the list of “questions”:
- Your mountaintop removal coal operation is filthier than a Tiger Woods text message
- You have considered at least once the possibility that global warming might be “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind”
- You are a “junk science expert”
- After publishing an article of yours, the editor and half of Climate Research’s editorial board resign
- Your mission is to use arcane statistical analyses to break the “hockey stick”
- You are George Will, Roy Spencer, Marc Morano and/or admired by Glenn Beck
- You think global warming is basically a “political” issue
- You reluctantly admit that the earth is getting hotter, but insist that we’ll like the warmer weather
- You have called a gathering of activists in Copenhagen “Hitler Youth”
- Joe Romm dubbed you as the Most Debunked Science Writer in the Blogosphere
- You agree with this statement: “Post-normal science refers to situations in which knowledge is uncertain, values are contested and stakes are high.”
- You accept the scientific consensus on AGW, yet are often critical of climate scientists, for what you call “scientism” or “stealth advocacy”
- You have an article in Cato Institute’s “Regulation” magazine, or in “Energy and Environment”. Alternatively, you have worked for the George C. Marshall Institute or are a member of the House of Lords
- You are paid by the fossil fuel industry to lie
- You refuse to cap, trade, regulate or sufficiently tax carbon emissions
- Do greenhouse gases cause global warming?
- Does a hotter atmosphere mean more extreme weather?
- If not kept in check, will AGW be a source of increased costs of damage associated with hurricanes, floods, and extreme weather phenomena in the future?
- By dwelling on uncertainty, and implying that the science of climate change in some way is not “settled”, you have provided in the past a perfect excuse to do nothing
- You don’t renounce people like Anthony Watts
What would happen if the management of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa were handed over to our beloved climate-change activists? Just imagine:
- Civil unrest spreads during Opening Ceremony as South Africa, the Host Nation, is immediately disqualified since it is going to build a giant coal-fired power plant
- Opening-day (morning) sees the publication, by renowned experts, of match goal models with prediction of between 1 and 6 goals per match
- Report is leaked to “The Independent” urging nets to be made smaller, otherwise 100 goals will be scored per match in the 2098 Cup
- Opening-day (afternoon) sees the self-congratulation by same renowned experts and their admirers at the remarkable success rate of match goal models’ predictions
- Started with the aim of giving Tuvalu an equal chance in winning the Cup, global soccer negotiations quickly get stuck on discussions about the shape of the ball
- Middle point of the competition sees the self-congratulation by aforementioned renowned experts and admirers at the remarkable success rate of match goal models even in predicting that one team will win the Cup, eventually
- On the eve of the biggest match in their career, the England team is told in no uncertain terms by both Government and Parliament to unilaterally cut the “emissions” of footballs into opponents’ goal nets by 85% by the same evening. Heskey replaces Rooney while worries about the consequences of scoring almost no longer are summarily dismissed.
- During whirlwind world tour in-between the matches, (it’s them again!) the usual renowned experts fly to Bali to develop a consensus: Brazil will “very likely” (=90%) reach the quarterfinals
- Civil unrest spreads during World Cup Final as spectators are kept away from the “Soccer City” stadium. This is due to football trend analyses showing the specific event as “unimportant” (“weather”, not “climate”)
- Nil-nil results are blamed on BP-funded soccer denialists
Not just Damon and Kunen’s (already mentioned here)…by chance, I have found yet another Science paper (this time Broecker from August 1975) making it clear that, for a few years up to then, the general consensus among scientists had been that the world was cooling:
[…] the present cooling trend […] the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect[…]
Time to repeat myself: we have a ‘widely accepted [by the scientific community]…global cooling trend’, at least judging from Mitchell’s work in 1972; doubts about that growing in the same scientific community from 1975/1976, as per Damon and Kunen’s paper; but not early enough to prevent Newsweek from publishing its 1975 article, one that even mentions a certain Dr Murray Mitchell. That means that pieces of the global cooling puzzle do suggest that cooling was a widely-held view in the 1970s. Admittedly, such an agreed view did not last the whole decade: rather, it concerned the 1972 to 1975 period.