Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Conference on "Climate Change Myths"

Way back in February 2007 I went to an Emerging Energies Technology meeting in Santa Barbara, and along to way picked up a book “Unstoppable Global Warming – every 1,500 years,” to read on the plane. I wrote a post for The Oil Drum combining the opinions expressed in the book with my conclusions from the Conference. I got some 262 comments to that post – there were some 150-odd about the book, some 55 of which were straight ad hominem attacks and a total of 5 addressed the scientific points that were brought up. It got me curious since, not having ventured in those waters before, I had presumed that the debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and the argument that carbon dioxide was causing global warming was being carried out as a scientific debate, and not a political or religious one.

So from then on, usually when writing about other conference trips, I would spend some time digging deeper into the subject and seeing what the data said. I soon came to the conclusion that there was indeed a Medieval Warming Period, a Little Ice Age, and a Roman Warming Period. But as I slipped in these tidbits to what are otherwise posts on the coming energy crisis, almost all the response was “ad hominem.” (You can see a small example recent example in my review of Richard Heinberg’s book which was put up on TOD last week) there are some 32 comments in the thread.

At the end of the last Administration, and with the incoming one heavily committed to the AGW belief, I wrote a post in which I tried to point out that with the evidence starting to be a lot less convincing, it would be dangerous for the Administration to go too far out on a limb supporting something that might not be true. This time there were 466 comments, though less of the ad hominem (though still some 25 folk that used it, some several times) and more of the science. But even though it brought a level of censorship to TOD that I found disturbing I felt the post worthwhile, and it did lead to the creation of this site.

I now see that my original projections are beginning to be born out, as more questioning editorials, and scientific information begin to appear in the daily press. Thus when a Conference brought 8 of those that would speak on “Debunking Climate Change Myths” to Springfield - which is close – I decided to go. And in my usual mode, here is what I saw and heard.

The meeting, which was organized by Ron Boyer of Surefire Strategies, had somewhere around 150 present, including students from a local school. (They had watched “An Inconvenient Truth” the previous day).

The first speaker was Joseph D’Aleo who is a retired meteorologist and runs the website Icecap . He showed a plot from Carter which plotted the temperatures since 3000 BC, showing the presence of four Warming Periods (including our own), noting that the peak temperatures for these were trending downwards. He then brought the discussion to more recent times with graphs that showed that the 1930’s were the warmest years of the 20th Century. I am going to insert a graph here from Dr. Hansen at GISS because it makes some of the later points that folk raised a little clearer.

Comparison of US temperatures and global temperatures (Source Hansen)

At this stage we were talking about the figure on the left. He then put up the first figure from Ian Plimer’s “Heaven and Earth” which showed the projections from different climate models plotted with the current trends over the past 20 years, and projected forward (and with a growing gap between the higher predictions and reality).

The information from the graph on the left comes from stations located around the US, but in 1990 a number of these stations were dropped, at the same time as there was an increase in the reported average temperature. So there is some question as to the accuracy of more recent averages, given that the recent survey by Anthony Watts has shown that many of the stations do not meet the required location standards, and that the readings do not recognize the increasing temperature effects of urbanization of the areas around the stations.

Station dropouts and temperature average changes (D'Aleo)

In switching to the global temps (no he didn’t use the graph on the right) he pointed out that there is a lot of the globe that is ocean. As a result the impact of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation , both of which appear to be on a 60-year cycle (graphs at the links) can be significant on the overall averages that are calculated. And when these are plotted with the changing global temperature, then the correlation was clear.

In a similar way he showed that put together, sunspot activity, ocean oscillation and global temperature showed that there was a clear correlation, which is absent when the temperature is plotted against carbon dioxide. He noted that the current monitoring of ocean temperatures by buoys showed no recent warming of the oceans, and that there may be a reduction in temperature.

In the transition to the next speaker it was noted that the local State Representatives (about four or five) were either already in the audience or would soon be there,

The second speaker was Duane Highley of the Associated Electric Cooperative. His mission was to explain the opposition of the Electric Cooperatives to the Waxman Markey bill, and highlight its impacts. Missouri has one of the highest dependencies on coal for power generation in the country (around 85%). For the nation the numbers are that about 50% of electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, but in the Midwest this rises to 80%. Thus any legislation that would impose costs for coal use would be felt more severely in the region.

In commenting on the IPCC report on AGW he noted that the terms used included “very likely” but that this is quoted as meaning a 66% certainty of warming– which is not mentioned in the media. Nor is the fact that the odds given that the world would see more storms was actually 50:50, and that there is no trend for more tornadoes (a topic of interest in Tornado corridor).

And then to bring the costs of Waxman Markey home he estimated that the cost per household could range from $175 to $1,800 a year, but because the average Missouri household generates the equivalent of a ton of carbon dioxide a month for household and about 1 t/month equivalent for transportation then – if the cost per ton of carbon is $28 the impact is not hard to calculate. (But it may be $50 a ton). To cope folk may have to go to rationing themselves to one car per family, as the caps on carbon get more severe over the next forty years.

How will the utility companies cope? Using offsets; natural gas; wind and biomass and gains in energy efficiency of consumption. The problem is that coal is 1/3rd of the cost of the next cheapest fuel and that is natural gas, which can be anticipated to run out in a couple of decades. Missouri just put in a 150 MW wind farm, but on the hottest day of the year only got 3 MW from it. He did not like the biomass alternative – to supply a 150 MW station with wood would require 14,000 truckloads of wood per day – half the traffic on the local interstate.

He further noted that the new light bulbs only impact 5% of a household consumption, and changing them saves only a third of that. Then he put up the pie chart showing how a household uses electric power and asked which of the uses should be cut first.

To those looking to a nuclear solution he noted that the nation needs four new reactors a year, but that there won’t be any new ones before 2018, and in the Midwest the first may arrive in 2022. Thus we will have to rely on coal and use CCS as well as using no-till farming and other offset technologies to meet the required goals.

At the end he polled the audience and about 60% got their power from an electric co-op with about 10% of the audience on the board of a co-op).

After the break Dennis Avery (who wrote the Climate Warming book I mentioned at the top) noted that it is very difficult to be heard with his message, but that they are making progress. He noted that temperature variations correlate at 22% with carbon dioxide levels, but correlate at the 79% level with sunspot activity. He noted that the Argo buoys have noted that the ocean stopped warming in 2003, and that the data from the Jason satellite shows that the Pacific is cooling. He described the history of discovery of the Dansgaard:Oeschger events and their significance. He noted that Bond had first noted the regularity of the 1,500 year cycle of the Warming Periods based on the presence of red ice-rafted rock in the North Atlantic. The periodicity is also confirmed by changes in fossil pollen, and the migration of different species as temperatures changed. (Ecotone migration).

He noted the 30-year segmentation of the global temperature cycle (which can be partly be seen in the fig on the right above). He noted that clouds reinforced the effects of carbon dioxide though it is not clear if they help or hinder the effect. He pointed out that 30 years of cooling negates the IPCC prediction of relentless warming.

Yet what have we to fear? In the earlier warming periods conditions were so good populations doubled, the temples in India and Angkor Watt were built. The effect of events such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation are reflected in the migration of salmon into the Columbia River, and cycles can be identified with 10 such over 400 years. The warming periods tend to be front loaded with a load of temperature rise at the front end, and then much less warming later, and so we may get another 0.5 degrees C increase over the next century. But there may well be a drought in the American South and West and the Mexican desert may well invade the USA. And then, in a thousand years we will have an Ice Age, whether Little or Large he didn’t know. Animals, insects and plants adapt, there is fossil jawbone of a polar bear that is 120,000 year old.

He did not think that the current thinking about the Climate would change, however, until decisions begin to hit people in their wallet.

The final speaker of the morning was Dr Anthony Lupo, the head of the Atmospheric Science Dept at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He talked on the changes in climate using information from the Missouri Climate Center. Climate is the long-term average of weather, but what is long-term? By definition 30-years. Climatology is the “crazy uncle” of meteorology. It is a complex subject and the atmosphere is only one of many parts that interact. These include the Cryosphere; the Oceans, the Lithosphere and the Biosphere. The problem is that each induces feedbacks in the others, and of these the atmosphere is the most sensitive and fastest to react.

He described how climate models work, based on energy balance between input and output. The problem with public reaction, however, is that they react to the most sensational results, even when these are least likely to occur. It must be remembered that the models are based on hypotheses of how the atmosphere reacts and that there are certain parts that are missing, such as the physics that deals with clouds and rain or precipitation. The numeric models are inadequate to cover the variables that should be included. And there are observational errors that arise because there was not enough data provided to the models to allow accuracy.

He put up a slide showing Sylvester the cartoon cat against a photo of a kitten to compare the state of the technology to reality. In Missouri the climate has not climbed as high as it was in the 1930’s. Some of the data they look at comes from the Missouri Tree Ring Laboratory.

After a pleasant lunch, the afternoon began with a talk by Marlo Lewis of the CEI who pointed out that a skeptic is one who enquires and then lets the evidence decide. He then began a skeptical look at the movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” He noted that, contrary to the movie, less people die as it gets warmer as has been shown in scientific studies. He pointed out that while ex-Vice President Gore pointed to deaths from heat in France in 2003, in most of the rest of the world it was cooler than usual. He noted that the science of hurricanes does not support the conclusion that they will increase in size and frequency. The worst period of activity recently was in 1812. And he noted that Greenland is losing ice at the rate of 0.4% of its ice per century. On top of which when the data is analyzed Greenland has been cooling for the latter two-thirds of the 20th Century. (This may have been a comment from the audience).

He was followed to the podium by Marc Morano who writes the Climate Depot website. He spoke more emotionally about the topic than most, pointing out many of the disturbing statements from those who advocate global warming, and whose remarks then get featured at his website. Particularly he focused on those that followed the maxim “you have to find ways to exaggerate the threat.” And there have been several of those just recently. He noted that science without debate is propaganda.

He used statements such as “a lot of people will get filthy rich doing nothing for the environment” to carry his message. And he went on to note that as the populace grow weary of the carbon dioxide debate then something else must take its place. The declining oxygen levels has been tried, so far with little success, so the next topic may be plastics.

He noted that Ex-VP Gore uses more electricity in a week than 28 million Ugandans (this is the proportion of that country that has no electricity).

After the break Craig Loehle, of the National Council for Air an Stream Improvement – who is a forester and an expert in tree rings, talked about the problems with Dr. Mann’s “hockey stick” plot of previous global temperatures, which is partially based on tree rings from the bristle cone pines of Colorado. He showed that the use of these rings may be inappropriate, and when they are removed, then the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age, which had disappeared in the plot reappeared. He noted that given the ubiquitous nature of data on the MWP and the LIA that graphs such as the “hockey stick” which don’t show it thus become “meaningless”.

He reiterated the comments on the data coming from the Argo buoys that showed ocean cooling and that as a result the sea levels are stabilizing and that there is not enough heat being stored in the ocean to jump-start global warming again.

He noted that, just recently, speakers from the Hadley Climate Research Unit had conjectured that we may be entering a 30-year period of global cooling. And he reiterated that tree ring data can be minsinterpreted and explained why.

The last speaker of the day was Doug Hoffman, who recently wrote the book “The Resilient Earth” and has a web site of that title. He gave a concise history of the Universe (appreciated since this was the last paper of the day) noting that in terms of both carbon dioxide levels and global temperature, when commentators say that current levels are “unprecedented” and “irreversible” they are wrong, as history has shown.

We are still technically in an Ice Age (defined as there being glacial ice – which is at the poles) and there have been times in the past when we were not (no glaciers). He gave a concise history of global warming theories (following the text in his book) bringing us up to the Inconvenient Truth movie and AGW which he pointed out is a theory. He noted that the movie made 5 predictions:

1 – The Greenland Glaciers were melting at an increasing rate – however he noted a recent report that showed that the glaciers are slowing, and that this prediction is not happening.

2 – Rising Ocean levels – He noted that the changes are so slight that it takes 50-years of data to be sure of the mm of change that are occurring, however, using data from the University of Colorado – Boulder he noted that this prediction is also not happening.

3- Extinction of the polar bears. In the 1950’s there were about 5,000 polar bears, the recent counts suggest that there are now around 25,000 so that this reduction in population that was predicted is not happening. (There aren’t just a few more, there are a h*** of a lot more).

4 – There will be more frequent hurricanes – A study over the past 350 years shows that the 1690’s were probably the worst period (in the heart of the Little Ice Age) and that recent scientific thinking (born out by the lack of hurricanes) is that this prediction is also not happening.

5 – The world will see more extreme temperatures. Dr. Hansen predicted steadily rising temperatures to Congress, they have not been – there have been hotter years and there is now a 0.8 deg C shortfall between the temperatures he predicted and reality.

When 5 predictions for a theory fail, it is generally time to agree that the theory is wrong. Consensus – that is public opinion – and is not justified by the science.

The meeting, in short, was a roll out of a series of scientific information to buttress the claim that many of the facts about Climate Change are Myths, although no one disagreed that the world has been warming. It was thus a change from the ad hominem attacks that are the usual part of the global climate debate.

If I had a concern, and it is a serious one, it is that this is becoming very much a politicized debate. This audience was drawn from the heart of the conservative Republican base. The folk that push AGW appear to be increasingly those out of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately nature, and the study of science to describe it, is party neutral. Making too many predictions as to what will happen can be dangerous to political health when they are proved wrong. We may not have to wait too much longer to find out who is correct.

15 comments:

  1. A short comment, HO, on the suggestion that the ocean might be cooling. Your link points to a Seattle Times story on the Argo float program.

    There was a manufacturing problem with a batch of the floats described in that story that led to them misreporting the depths of the temperature measurements. The data they reported showed temperatures cooler than actual, and those data were the basis of a journal article that was, in turn, the basis for the Seattle Times report. For a summary of this problem, see Nature 447:8-9 (2007). You'll find the original article by Lyman et al in Geophys. Res. Lett. 33 (2006) at www.junkscience.com, and reading it with the knowledge that the Argo data they used were in error will give you a different interpretation of ocean temperature than was reported by those mentioned in your conference report. Unfortunately, the influence of an erroneous article in the literature seems to live for longer than it should.

    Domingues et al take the other view of ocean warming at Nature 453:1090-1093 (2008).

    As you point out, and as I've sometimes wanted to here, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Oscillation have a strong influence on ocean (and land) temperatures, along with the more widely known El Nino and La Nina. The duration and influence of these cycles points out that a multi-decadal series of temperature measurements is needed to detect changes in climate.

    I apologise to others for the too-formal look of this comment. I've been having a problem with the comment box here for several days. I can't paste from my clipboard and my cursor keys don't work. It seems to be just at this site I have the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry about the problem, wish I could tell you what to do about it.

    There was a bit of difficulty deciding how to report some of the information since, in getting the references to the graphs, there was in some cases - as with the buoys - secondary information out there.

    In the interests of time (I had to leave on a business trip today) I decided just to post to the information that was given - since this is, in essence a report on what was said (and that is the way I usually try and report a Conference.)

    Hence I am grateful for the information, and for you making it available.

    Thanks

    Dave

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  3. Moving along, I'll just point out that the definition of 'very likely' in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report set the likelihood of an outcome or event at greater than 90%, not 66%.

    You'll find support for Al Gore's assertion that rising temperature is a threat at Nature 432: 610-614, where Stott et al untangle the influence of weather and climate on the deaths attributed to the European heat wave of 2003. That untangling is difficult, and the Stott et al paper is worth a read. Just because other parts of the globe were cooler than normal at the time (exactly what one would expect) doesn't prove that "less people die as it gets warmer".

    Folk at the Hadley Centre would be pretty upset that their work was being used to support an argument for global cooling. the Hadley Centre's website lists six climate change facts, of which I'll quote just the first four:
    1. "Climate change is happening and humans are contributing to it."
    2. "Temperatures are continuing to rise."
    3. "The current climate change is not just part of a natural cycle."
    4. "Recent warming cannot be explained by the Sun or natural factors alone."

    ReplyDelete
  4. And, as always, I'm grateful to you for providing the conference report.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gavin's response to the Station Droput theory:

    Your response to #167:

    “The station drop out ‘effect’ is just fake, and if you don’t like GISS, then use another analysis – it doesn’t matter. – gavin]”

    Is it? Virtually every rural weather station in Western Australia (without a major airport and therefore a large town) has no data in GISS beyond 1992. The dropout includes Australian Climate Reference Network stations administered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (e.g. Wandering, Bridgetown and Cunderdin).

    [Response: The records that are in the GHCN are put there by the regional bureaus. You need to ask ABM why they pick the stations they do to release the CLIMAT record (see Petersen and Vose, 1997 for details). However, if there was such a jump in the large scale indices in 1990, you should be able to see GISTEMP shift in comparison the RSS record for instance. You don't. The figure used in the D'Aleo piece seems to be an average simply of each individual station (without taking anomalies or adjusting for areas). Thus changing the number of stations shifts the mean temperature of the average station (depending on whether you drop out a tropical station or polar stations for instance). This has absolutely nothing to do with estimating the global mean anomaly. Thus it is fake. - gavin]

    23 January 2009 at 3:08 AM

    I'll admit to taking the lazy way out and being satisfied with appeals to authority like this, or articles that document how an overwhelming number of climate scientists are on board with AGW. I stick with trying to make people understand the global energy situation, climate by comparison is a magnitude more complex and fraught with political implications that just degenerate into fights, as you've seen.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The problem alas, as the British case I mention at the beginning illustrates, is that the Climate Change debate is influencing how governments plan their future and energy supplies therein. Climate Change arguments move nations away from coal, and then there is a realization that there isn't enough of anything else yet, and so the quite policy change of the UK Government.

    That realization has yet to be appreciated this side of the Atlantic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oops! The "quite policy" should be "quiet policy."

    Sorry!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi David. I was banned from TOD for posting against AGW. I always used science, and I too was viciously attacked for doing so. (when ever someone resorts to ad hominem attacks you know you have won) The editors of TOD decided to ban me instead.

    There is one question that you can ask anyone who claims AGW is true. Is there ANY climate or weather events that is happening now that is beyond normal variation? The answer is no, not one. Thus there is NO WAY of knowing if we are having an effect on the climate. Predictions of possible effects is NOT EVIDENCE, but PURE SPECULATION. AGW is a fraud. Read Red Hot Lies and Heaven + Earth.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've read the first, and the second is in my bag to read on the way home, I may post a review on them at some time. I thought the book "The Deniers" was interesting, in that regard.

    And for those that wonder, yes I do read books of the other persuasion.

    ReplyDelete
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