Archive for October, 2007

>Poll: Shrill Tax Raiser vs Loopy Uncle Ron Paul

October 31, 2007 4 comments

>This is a pretty interesting poll from Rasmussen showing that Hillary vs Any Republican is basically a roughly 48-40 split. That holds true even when the poll is between her and the loopy Ron Paul, which shows that 1) her support is very solid at that number; but 2) that there is a large anti-Hillary base that would choose even Ron Paul. Interestingly, among voters who have heard of Paul, Hillary gets 48%. Among those lucky voters that have never heard of Paul, Hillary gets 48%.

She really is a polarising figure, which is why I give her no hope in a general election.

A recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey featuring a match-up between Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul highlights one of the perils that comes from overanalyzing poll results between candidates with different levels of name recognition.

In that survey, Clinton held a fairly modest 48% to 38% lead. But, a careful look at the results tells us a lot about the public’s opinion of Hillary Clinton and virtually nothing about their opinion of Ron Paul.

Why? First, because just about everyone in the United States has an opinion of Hillary Clinton. She has been a major player on the national and international stage for 15 years. Half the country has a favorable opinion of her and half holds the opposite view, but all have an opinion. Our most recent survey results show that nearly 60% of voters have a strongly held opinion about the New York Senator and former First Lady.

As for Ron Paul, 42% don’t know enough about him to have an opinion one way or the other. He’s one of 435 Congressman whose life is way below the radar screen for most Americans. Still, his presence in the GOP Presidential Debates has raised his profile a bit–26% now offer a favorable opinion and 32% say the opposite. But, only 16% have a strongly held opinion about Paul (7% Very Favorable, 9% Very Unfavorable).

A look at the crosstabs demonstrates that it is attitudes towards Clinton that are driving the numbers in this polling match-up. Among all voters, Clinton attracts 48% support. Among the voters who have never heard of Ron Paul or don’t know enough to have an opinion, guess what. Clinton attracts the exact same total–48% of the vote. So whether or not people have heard of Ron Paul as the challenger, support for Clinton doesn’t change.

Among the 51% who have heard of Ron Paul but don’t have a Very Favorable opinion of him, Clinton attracts 49% of the vote.

The only noticeable difference to be found is among that very small slice of the electorate that has a Very Favorable opinion of Paul. Seven percent (7%) of the nation’s voters fit this description and they prefer the Texas Congressman over the Democratic frontrunner by a 70% to 27% margin.

So, outside of a small group of avid Ron Paul fans, support for Senator Clinton is unchanged whether or not the survey respondent has ever heard of Ron Paul.

Looking at other recent match-ups confirms the sense that what we’re seeing is primarily a reflection of attitudes about the Democratic frontrunner. In the latest Rasmussen Reports polling, Clinton gets 47% against Fred Thompson, 48% against Mitt Romney, 48% against Mike Huckabee, 44% against Rudy Giuliani, and 44% against John McCain.

If you average the last three polls for Senator Clinton against each of these top five Republican hopefuls, Clinton’s support averages out at 48%. Using this three-poll average, Clinton attracts between 46% and 49% support no matter which Republican candidate is named in the survey.

A separate survey shows that nearly half the nation’s voters will definitely vote against Hillary Clinton if she is on the ballot in 2008. But, five of the top seven candidates for the White House also have more than 40% of the nation committed to voting against them at this time.

Clinton is the clear and dominant frontrunner in the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. There is no clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Ron Paul has yet to top the 4% level of support in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

That last line is a cracker. The 9/11 nutjob, anti-war, isolationist loons that spam every Internet poll in which Paul is a candidate must have to take an even bigger dose of Prozac each night than normal in order to cope with the stress of reality.

Categories: Politics, United States

>Rudd’s climate change lies

October 31, 2007 2 comments

>While regularly pillioring the government for its failure to act on climate change in 11 years, which I have pointed out previously is simply a lie, Labor leader Kevin Rudd has now done a complete backflip by stating that a Rudd government wouldn’t agree to a carbon scheme that didn’t include developing nations post-2012.

This position has never been Labor Party policy. Their policy all along has been that they will ratify Kyoto and accept whatever is decided by the world body for Australia.

They even embraced Al Gore messianic vision and proudly display a video from the world’s most boring man on their climate change website and when he was here last month Gore publicly backed the ALP’s position.

Kevin Rudd has consistently made statements similar to what he said last month:

“Within a little more than a year we will have a new president in the US and I predict we will have one committed to also solving the climate crisis.”

Mr Rudd criticised the federal government for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol 11 years ago and said failing to act would have a greater economic impact on Australia than on acting.

“The question farmers are asking me is: what are the long-term impacts of climate change on the ability of Australian agriculture to sustain itself?” he said.

Does Kevin Rudd believe that the world is facing a “climate crisis” if he is not going to ratify a post-2012 Kyoto agreement if developing nations don’t come on board. Surely, if it’s a crisis then he can’t have a bet both ways?

Does Kevin Rudd now believe that not acting on climate change will have a much greater economic impact than ratifying the expensive non-solution known as Kyoto? It has been clear all along that unilateral action by Australia, in absence of the developing nations, would be far more damaging to the Australian economy than what the government has proposed.

Is the symbolism of Kyoto now dead for Labor?

Thanks to Rudd’s untenable position, exposed in all its glory yesterday by Peter Garrett, it certainly appears to be.

Rudd has been telling lies on the issue of climate change since he took over as Labor leader.

Those lies are now coming home to roost.

(Nothing follows)

>Professor Bob Carter demolishes the current state of climate science

October 31, 2007 1 comment

>Robert M. “Bob” Carter is a research professor in the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, Australia. He is a geologist and marine geologist with special interests in stratigraphy and, more recently, climate change.

Like everyone associated with the anti-AGW position Bob Carter has brought the wrath of the Climate Machine down upon him due to the stridency of his views.

He’s not a climate scientist, they say.

Neither is Tim Flannery. Or Al Gore. Or Leonardo Di Caprio…!

Carter is, though, a member of the one group of scientists that have a proper understanding of what has been happening over the last millions of years – geologists.

In this recent lecture Carter brings his audience up to date with the state of climate science and completely demolishes to proposition that we’re in some sort of ‘unprecedented’ warming phase. The graphs he puts up showing rate of change in temperature will shock people who think that the rate of rise in the 20th century (or late 20th century) is abnormal.

Readers know how harsh I am on the drivel that passes for science and its proponents, who I put on a par with Lysenko and Hwang. In spite of the vicious ad hominem attacks on Carter, the Climate Faithful are yet to lay a glove on the accuracy of the body of his arguments.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change

>More incompetent than Hans Blix? Meet Mohamad ElBaradei.

October 29, 2007 Leave a comment

>The incompetence with which Hans Blix is generally regarded as having carried out his duties as head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to take some topping.

Unfortunately, his successor Mohamad ElBaradei has given a whole new definition to the term ‘incompetence’ and in the same way that Middle East journalist Robert Fisk’s name has become a verb – to ‘fisk’ – it would be appropriate if the same happened with ElBaradei to describe situations in which people or authorities, duly tasked with being in charge of a process or outcome, fail singularly in that task due to gross professional incompetence.

For example:

“Why hasn’t the United Nations resolved the issues in Darfur?”

“Oh, they’re too busy ElBaradeing.”

(Note that Google returns zero results for ‘elbaradeing’…it’s unusual to make up any term and not find it already thought of previously).

From Pakistan to North Korea to India and to Iraq the IAEA has been shown to be profoundly ineffective as those countries went about developing nuclear weapons capabilities, some successfully and some not, right under the noses of the watchdog.

The IAEA is the agency that is meant to be aware of the development of nuclear technologies around the world.

In spite of all of the evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons (read Kenneth Timmerman’s book – Countdown To Crisis, amongst others) including the fact that the centrifuges they’ve installed are only used for the production of weapons grade material, ElBaradei defends Iran, says they’re not trying to build nuclear weapons and berates the United States for overstating the case.

CHIEF UN atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said overnight he had no evidence Iran was building nuclear weapons and accused US leaders of adding “fuel to the fire” with recent bellicose rhetoric.

“I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now,” the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told CNN.

Last month the IAEA was caught with its pants down by Israel’s destruction of a nuclear development facility in Syria. The Syrian’s were so outraged (at getting caught) that they said almost nothing, expressing very minor outrage at what was an act of war by Israel. Whatever was bombed was clearly so secret that the Syrians wasted no time covering it up, as the before and after pictures below show:

What was ElBaradei’s response? He’s from the UN so, of course, it’s blame Israel time.

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog criticized Israel on Sunday for attacking a suspicious Syrian site last month, saying the “bomb first and then ask questions later” undermined global atomic monitoring work.

In his first public comment on Israel’s mysterious bombing run on what some analysts suggested was a nascent Syrian nuclear reactor, Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on the Israelis and other countries to share information with IAEA.

Israel has spent nearly 60 years sharing information with UN agencies and finding it used against them so it’s understandable that they’d take things into their own hands in this circumstance.

But Israel’s attack is not the main issue. The elephant in the IAEA’s padded cell is that it was completely unaware of Syria’s nuclear facility up until Israel’s action.

One of the under-reported benefits of toppling Saddam Hussein is that Libya voluntarily ceased its own nuclear program. Did the IAEA know about Tripoli’s dabbling in the odd bit of atom splitting? Of course not.

The IAEA didn’t even know about Iran’s program until it was well under way. Given that both China and Russia had been helping build the thing and they’re members of the UN’s Security Council it shows not only how clueless the IAEA is but also what a joke the Security Council has become given its charter of maintaining international peace and security. Letting a regime that thinks the twelfth Imam’s return is just around the corner, and the decisive conflict with the Jewish state is nigh, have nuclear weapons seems to be at least a tad at odds with the charter and just a little bit unwise.

What other rogue states are there in the process of quietly developing nuclear weapons? Is the nutjob that runs Venezuela heading down that path? Who knows? If anyone does then ElBaradei and his cronies will be the last to, that’s for sure.

(Nothing follows)

Categories: United Nations

>Common sense email from person with common sense

October 29, 2007 Leave a comment

>Reader Kevin sent an email pointing out that whatever the green agenda du jour is the answer is always the same – more government power tending towards socialism.

With all due respect, if the worst outcome of the global warming panic is that the politicisation of science means scientists will have to work harder to bring credibility to their research – that will be the least of our worries.

Please refer to an increasing trend of argument amongst educated and academic sources that liberal democracy is unsuited to deal with the demands of global warming and social response, and that other systems of governance should be handed power to deal with this !

This is not a good direction to start bringing into common currency of debate.

The key elements of response are seen as enforced reductions in energy use, rationing and restraint on consumption and a cessation of economic growth, even contraction of activity. Self evidently no one in their right mind will vote for this, so the argument becomes installation of a command regime to enforce change.

The latest spin being the UN report which the media suggest states that the human population already exceeds the biological carrying capacity of the planet. And as we can’t expand the planet’s biosphere – would you like to guess where this thrust about restoring ‘balance’ is going to wind up ?

We do not have to look far into the history of authoritarian regimes of the late 20th / early 21st century to imagine yourself, Jack, under this sort of regime huddled at home with restricted transport options, either too cold or too hot due to energy constraints, likewise limited communications access ( mandated to cut energy demand ), clutching your food and water ration books, and hoping that next knock on the door is not the Greenstapo informing you that your number has fallen out of the barrel and that you are the next unfortunate conscript in the Involuntary Rapid Population Abatement Project ( aka The Great Culling, as it will possibly come to be known ).

I suspect at that point both you and I will have some other thoughts in mind about the individuals that will have brought us to that point.

I like the point about liberal democracies supposedly being unable to cope with the ‘planetary emergency’ – to use Al Gore’s spin – which can only be dealt with by a command and control economy.

It’s also complete drivel that we’re already exceeding the load-bearing capacity of the planet, as the green alarmists keep telling us. I reckon we could double, or triple, in population and nobody would notice much of a difference. But that’s another story.

Thanks, Kevin. That was a well thought out email.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Culture, Environment

>Sunday night Aussie rock

October 28, 2007 Leave a comment

>You Am I is an Australian alternative rock band, fronted by vocalist/guitarist and main songwriter Tim Rogers. They were the first Australian band to have three albums successively debut at #1 on the ARIA Charts, and are renowned for their live performances. The band’s name was derived from late-night existential philosophising sessions, mainly under the influence of alcohol. You Am I had toured the United States beginning in the mid-’90s, including playing with Soundgarden on the Lollapalooza festival, Redd Kross, The Strokes, and Smoking Popes. (Soundgarden first came across them at the 1994 Big Day Out festival.) Despite little success overseas, the band became well known throughout Australia for Rogers’ Pete Townshend-esque guitar windmills and for its upbeat “ponce and thuggery” take on rock and roll. Further success came with the albums Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily, with both picking up ARIA Awards. Hourly, Daily was the first album released on the Shock label to go to number one in the ARIA charts upon launch. These albums were marked by retro-inspired ’60s bop and folky 12 string melodies, a departure from the band’s earlier hard rock/ grunge sound.

I can certainly attest to the power of You Am I as a live band. I think that Tim Rogers must also hold the record for swearing more than any other rock ‘n’ roll front man, which takes some doing.


Friends Like You

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Australia, Music

>Climate Change officially becomes a Religion

October 27, 2007 2 comments

>There’s been quite a bit to talk about on the world’s most boring subject – global warming – lately.

As regular readers know, I am a harsh critic of climate models. None of them have ever been accurate even when hindcasting; that is, start the model in 1920 and see if it’s accurate in 1950.

Now we have a series of articles reporting on research from Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington in Seattle who say that not only are models not accurate but that they never will be.

Is this good news for Climate Blasphemers like myself? Well, yes and no, as we shall see.

From New Scientist:

Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study.

The result will provide ammunition to those who argue not enough is known about global warming to warrant taking action.

…It now appears that the estimates will never get much better. The reason lies with feedbacks in the climate system. For example, as the temperature increases, less snow will be present at the poles. Less snow means less sunlight reflected back into space, which means more warming.

…What is more, they found that better computer models or observational data will not do much to reduce that uncertainty. A better estimate of sensitivity is the holy grail of climate research, but it is time to “call off the quest”, according to a commentary published alongside the paper.

Summary from Science magazine:

Uncertainties in projections of future climate change have not lessened substantially in past decades. Both models and observations yield broad probability distributions for long-term increases in global mean temperature expected from the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, with small but finite probabilities of very large increases. We show that the shape of these probability distributions is an inevitable and general consequence of the nature of the climate system, and we derive a simple analytic form for the shape that fits recent published distributions very well. We show that the breadth of the distribution and, in particular, the probability of large temperature increases are relatively insensitive to decreases in uncertainties associated with the underlying climate processes.

From Nature magazine:

Climate models might be improving but they will never be able to tell us exactly what to expect. That’s the conclusion of experts from the University of Washington, Seattle, who have set out to prove that predicting the exact level of climate change is by its very nature an uncertain science.

Over the past 30 years, climate models have not appreciably narrowed down the precise relationship between greenhouse gases and the planet’s temperature — despite huge advances in computing power, climate observations and the number of scientists studying the problem, say Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker. The researchers now argue that this is because the uncertainty simply cannot be reduced.

That really is pretty unequivocal. The models are not accurate and cannot be relied upon, which is what I’ve been saying all along. Anyone with even a modicum of ability in mathematics and statistics would say the same thing.

So is the argument won? Not so fast.

The Nature article continues:

They and other climatologists are now calling on policy-makers to make decisive policies on avoiding dangerous climate change, even if we don’t have perfect models. This means focusing on keeping the planet’s temperature below a certain point (and being willing and able to adjust emissions targets to achieve that), rather than trying to work out far in advance the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that will produce that level of warming.

The models are meant to represent the whole of our understanding of the climate system. They are the basis for all predictions of future climate change. If they’re wrong then it’s clear that we do not understand the climate system. Clearly, if they’re going to be as hopelessly inaccurate as they have been hitherto then only a fool would commit trillions of dollars of the world’s economic growth based on their forecasts.

Now we have a situation in which the whole basis of the climate change argument has fallen apart – “the science is settled” – so what’s the answer?

Throw the models out and continue the plan to restrict the world’s growth anyway.


With the evidence – models, surface temperature record, the Hockey Stick, An Inconvenient Truth – crumbling around them they turn to the only thing they can – faith.

Thus, climate science becomes more like a religion – or cult – every day.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change

>Why do we fund the drivel that passes as climate science?

October 25, 2007 Leave a comment

>Advanced nations now spend billions upon billions of dollars undertaking research into the supposed bogey called climate change.

New research conducted by Australia’s CSIRO claims that CO2 emissions were 35% higher in 2006 than the Kyoto base year of 1990.

When will the Climate Faithful get it into their thick heads that if CO2 is increasing rapidly but temperatures have stabilised over the last nearly 10 years then the causative effect of CO2 on climate has to be called into question – at the very least.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just days after the Nobel prize was awarded for global warming work, an alarming new study finds that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected.

Carbon dioxide emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase.

“In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slowdown” of nature’s ability to take the chemical out of the air, said Canadell, director of the Global Carbon Project at the research organization.

The changes “characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger-than-expected and sooner-than-expected climate forcing,” the researchers report.

Kevin Trenberth of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. said the “paper raises some very important issues that the public should be aware of: Namely that concentrations of CO2 are increasing at much higher rates than previously expected and this is in spite of the Kyoto Protocol that is designed to hold them down in western countries,”

The Kyoto Protocol isn’t working? Could that be because Europe (which has ratified Kyoto and implemented carbon trading) is increasing CO2 faster than it is meant to and, amusingly, faster than the US (which hasn’t ratified Kyoto), as well as the fact that the world’s largest emitter, China, is pumping huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere? But people still want Australia and the US to ratify the thing.

Alan Robock, associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University, added: “What is really shocking is the reduction of the oceanic CO2 sink,” meaning the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere.

The researchers blamed that reduction on changes in wind circulation, but Robock said he also thinks rising ocean temperatures reduce the ability to take in the gas.

“…he also thinks…”? These guys are meant to know. The functioning of the earth’s carbon sink needs to be fully understood in order for climate models to be accurate.

“Think that a warm Coke has less fizz than a cold Coke,” he said.

As distinct from the global warming argument, which has no fizz at all.

Neither Robock nor Trenberth was part of Canadell’s research team.

Carbon dioxide is the leading “greenhouse gas,” so named because their accumulation in the atmosphere can help trap heat from the sun, causing potentially dangerous warming of the planet.

While most atmospheric scientists accept the idea, finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been a political problem because of potential effects on the economy. Earlier this month, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President Al Gore for their work in calling attention to global warming.

“It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change,” Robock commented.

Whoa! Did I just read that correctly? I’m right? That’s gotta hurt the unscientific, influenced AGW proponents that leave contrarian comments on my blog at regular intervals.

“But what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted.”

I’ve been saying that the models have been a crock for umpteen years. Does the fact that the models have under-predicted the supposed effects of global warming mean that their forecasts are even more reliable because they’re lower than reality?

According to the new study, carbon released from burning fossil fuel and making cement rose from 7.0 billion metric tons per year in 2000 to 8.4 billion metric tons in 2006. A metric tons is 2,205 pounds.

The growth rate increased from 1.3 percent per year in 1990-1999 to 3.3 percent per year in 2000-2006, the researchers added.

Trenberth noted that carbon dioxide is not the whole story — methane emissions have declined, so total greenhouse gases are not increasing as much as carbon dioxide alone. Also, he added, other pollution plays a role by cooling.

If CO2 is not the whole story then why is Kyoto the whole answer? The dishonesty of the Climate Faithful is astonishing. He then chucks in the old pollution chestnut, which is how modellers dealt with the cooling from 1940-75, a time at which CO2 rose consistently meaning the planet should have warmed. No doubt, modellers will now go and stick in some more fudged pollution to account for the current difference.

There are changes from year to year in the fraction of the atmosphere made up of carbon dioxide and the question is whether this increase is transient or will be sustained, he said.

Models work on the basis that CO2 sustains itself in the atmosphere for about 100 years. If the science is settled then how can this be a question?

“The theory suggests increases in (the atmospheric fraction), as is claimed here, but the evidence is not strong,” Trenberth said.

The paper looks at a rather short time to measure a trend, Robock added, “but the results they get certainly look reasonable, and much of the paper is looking at much longer trends.”

The research was supported by Australian, European and other international agencies.

As I said, why do we fund so lavishly such drivel?

Categories: Climate Change

>But apparently we’re reaching a critical climate ‘tipping point’

October 25, 2007 Leave a comment

>To the politically driven activists who keep blathering on about the end of the world due to mankind pumping a miniscule amount of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we’ve reached a ‘tipping point’ in our climate system and if we don’t institute massively restrictive energy policies right now then we’re all doomed.

How do they know we’ve reached a tipping point? From their climate models, of course. You know them; they’re the ones that have never predicted past climate remotely accurately, have not predicted future climate on a 5 or 10 year scale but, apparently, are accepted as providing accurate forecasts for 100 years into the future.

The following shows the temperature record from Canadian Arctic ice core data.

Current temperature trends show that over the past 50 years Nunavut has experienced both strong warming and cooling. The warming trend occurs primarily in the west, where as the east has undergone a cooling trend. Of course, we never hear about the bits that have cooled.

So what is the variability over the last 60 years?

If you believe that man made CO2 emissions have created a ‘climate crisis’ and pushed us to a ‘tipping point’ then, to be blunt, you’re profoundly ignorant of:

  • the failure of climate scientists to follow the Scientific Method;
  • the failure of those climate scientists whose work is relied upon the most to make available to the public their data – even when it’s publicly funded research;
  • the demolition of the validity of the iconic Hockey Stick, which has seen even the IPCC derogate its position in its recent Fourth Assessment Report; and
  • the failure of climate models to hindcast or forecast with any accuracy. The back-fitting that goes on is unbelievable. If we relied on financial models that followed the same method then it’d take about a month to bankrupt the planet.

The main problem with all the of alarmist climate hysteria is the damage it will do to the public’s confidence in science.

Categories: Climate Change

>Global Warming Delusions

October 23, 2007 4 comments

>Daniel Botkin is president of the Center for the Study of the Environment and professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of “Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century”.

Botkin discounts the whole global warming hysteria so one presumes that he must be funded by Big Oil. If he’s not then maybe it’s because he believes in facts and the scientific method. The unscientific, opinion-as-truth loons at have been frothing at the mouth about this one.

Global warming doesn’t matter except to the extent that it will affect life–ours and that of all living things on Earth. And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.

Case in point: This year’s United Nations report on climate change and other documents say that 20% to 30% of plant and animal species will be threatened with extinction in this century due to global warming–a truly terrifying thought. Yet, during the past 2.5 million years, a period that scientists now know experienced climatic changes as rapid and as warm as modern climatological models suggest will happen to us, almost none of the millions of species on Earth went extinct. The exceptions were about 20 species of large mammals (the famous megafauna of the last ice age–saber-tooth tigers, hairy mammoths and the like), which went extinct about 10,000 to 5,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and many dominant trees and shrubs of northwestern Europe. But elsewhere, including North America, few plant species went extinct, and few mammals.

We’re also warned that tropical diseases are going to spread, and that we can expect malaria and encephalitis epidemics. But scientific papers by Prof. Sarah Randolph of Oxford University show that temperature changes do not correlate well with changes in the distribution or frequency of these diseases; warming has not broadened their distribution and is highly unlikely to do so in the future, global warming or not.

The key point here is that living things respond to many factors in addition to temperature and rainfall. In most cases, however, climate-modeling-based forecasts look primarily at temperature alone, or temperature and precipitation only. You might ask, “Isn’t this enough to forecast changes in the distribution of species?” Ask a mockingbird. The New York Times recently published an answer to a query about why mockingbirds were becoming common in Manhattan. The expert answer was: food–an exotic plant species that mockingbirds like to eat had spread to New York City. It was this, not temperature or rainfall, the expert said, that caused the change in mockingbird geography.

You might think I must be one of those know-nothing naysayers who believes global warming is a liberal plot. On the contrary, I am a biologist and ecologist who has worked on global warming, and been concerned about its effects, since 1968. I’ve developed the computer model of forest growth that has been used widely to forecast possible effects of global warming on life–I’ve used the model for that purpose myself, and to forecast likely effects on specific endangered species.

I’m not a naysayer. I’m a scientist who believes in the scientific method and in what facts tell us. I have worked for 40 years to try to improve our environment and improve human life as well. I believe we can do this only from a basis in reality, and that is not what I see happening now. Instead, like fashions that took hold in the past and are eloquently analyzed in the classic 19th century book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” the popular imagination today appears to have been captured by beliefs that have little scientific basis.

Some colleagues who share some of my doubts argue that the only way to get our society to change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe, and that therefore it is all right and even necessary for scientists to exaggerate. They tell me that my belief in open and honest assessment is naïve. “Wolves deceive their prey, don’t they?” one said to me recently. Therefore, biologically, he said, we are justified in exaggerating to get society to change.

The climate modelers who developed the computer programs that are being used to forecast climate change used to readily admit that the models were crude and not very realistic, but were the best that could be done with available computers and programming methods. They said our options were to either believe those crude models or believe the opinions of experienced, data-focused scientists. Having done a great deal of computer modeling myself, I appreciated their acknowledgment of the limits of their methods. But I hear no such statements today. Oddly, the forecasts of computer models have become our new reality, while facts such as the few extinctions of the past 2.5 million years are pushed aside, as if they were not our reality.

A recent article in the well-respected journal American Scientist explained why the glacier on Mt. Kilimanjaro could not be melting from global warming. Simply from an intellectual point of view it was fascinating–especially the author’s Sherlock Holmes approach to figuring out what was causing the glacier to melt. That it couldn’t be global warming directly (i.e., the result of air around the glacier warming) was made clear by the fact that the air temperature at the altitude of the glacier is below freezing. This means that only direct radiant heat from sunlight could be warming and melting the glacier. The author also studied the shape of the glacier and deduced that its melting pattern was consistent with radiant heat but not air temperature. Although acknowledged by many scientists, the paper is scorned by the true believers in global warming.

We are told that the melting of the arctic ice will be a disaster. But during the famous medieval warming period–A.D. 750 to 1230 or so–the Vikings found the warmer northern climate to their advantage. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie addressed this in his book “Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000,” perhaps the greatest book about climate change before the onset of modern concerns with global warming. He wrote that Erik the Red “took advantage of a sea relatively free of ice to sail due west from Iceland to reach Greenland. . . . Two and a half centuries later, at the height of the climatic and demographic fortunes of the northern settlers, a bishopric of Greenland was founded at Gardar in 1126.”

Ladurie pointed out that “it is reasonable to think of the Vikings as unconsciously taking advantage of this [referring to the warming of the Middle Ages] to colonize the most northern and inclement of their conquests, Iceland and Greenland.” Good thing that Erik the Red didn’t have Al Gore or his climatologists as his advisers.

Should we therefore dismiss global warming? Of course not. But we should make a realistic assessment, as rationally as possible, about its cultural, economic and environmental effects. As Erik the Red might have told you, not everything due to a climatic warming is bad, nor is everything that is bad due to a climatic warming.

We should approach the problem the way we decide whether to buy insurance and take precautions against other catastrophes–wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes. And as I have written elsewhere, many of the actions we would take to reduce greenhouse-gas production and mitigate global-warming effects are beneficial anyway, most particularly a movement away from fossil fuels to alternative solar and wind energy.

My concern is that we may be moving away from an irrational lack of concern about climate change to an equally irrational panic about it.

Many of my colleagues ask, “What’s the problem? Hasn’t it been a good thing to raise public concern?” The problem is that in this panic we are going to spend our money unwisely, we will take actions that are counterproductive, and we will fail to do many of those things that will benefit the environment and ourselves.

For example, right now the clearest threat to many species is habitat destruction. Take the orangutans, for instance, one of those charismatic species that people are often fascinated by and concerned about. They are endangered because of deforestation. In our fear of global warming, it would be sad if we fail to find funds to purchase those forests before they are destroyed, and thus let this species go extinct.

At the heart of the matter is how much faith we decide to put in science–even how much faith scientists put in science. Our times have benefited from clear-thinking, science-based rationality. I hope this prevails as we try to deal with our changing climate.

Categories: Climate Change