Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Win one for Science!

I quote from the Houston Chronicle:

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

Monday, December 12, 2005

How to explain Geologic Time

As an undergraduate in a small "year" of five students, we were faced with the challenge to compete for the Science Prize, an annual event between departments within the Science faculty at Southampton University.

Our presentation was basically about time. Geologic time, that is. Somehow we had to illustrate the age of the Earth (4.5 BY, or 4,500,000,000 years) to an educated lay audience. We hit on the idea of using the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Our calculations suggested that the last page of the last volume represented home sapiens while a human lifetime would be represented by the last word, as long as it was a short word.

So we went to the main library to borrow the complete set, armed with a letter from our Prof., and towed the 48 volumes back to the lecture theater on a trolley.

It worked! We beat the Physics Department (who demonstrated multiplex communications) to First Prize! We were awarded a gift certificate for dinner at the Dolphin Hotel.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Hole in the Ozone Layer isn't getting well quick enough

You know, I really hope that the frequency of entries on this blog could slow down. But day after day there is some news item that needs the GWIG slant.

This one is about scientists who state that the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica isn't healing fast enough. Just how do they know that? I mean is there any scientific precedent that states how long it should take the ozone layer to heal?


David Cameron tackles Climate Change

Newly elected leader of the opposition Conservative Party staked his claim to the throne of UK politics at his first Prime Minister's Question Time (watch the video).

One of the topics chosen was climate change. How unfortunate, I thought, as I heard him rattle out the same out Kyoto-think rhetoric. His advisors clearly are not with the program of change that is affecting climate change. Too bad, for this could be an area where the man could be seen to be "before his time". As it is, I believe Prime Minister Tony Blair probably won that particular point by stressing technological transfer. And as I've stated before, Blair is head and shoulders above the rest of British politics when it comes to understanding the economics of global warming politics. Cameron needs to do some hard thinking on this one if he is to make any political capital out of it.

(Addendum: I'm pleased to see that others agree that this was not the smartest of subjects to choose!)

The Loose Tooth

Another report by the BBC on Antarctica. This time on the so-called "Loose Tooth", a large calving ice berg.

Once again, the emphasis is on the effects of warming. It's as though ice bergs only calve when the climate is warming. But read more of the article and there would appear to be no obvious climatic driver to the formation of the Loose Tooth. In fact the researches point out that the rift that is opening is more like a geological fault and is responding to internal pressures within the Ice Sheet.

The impression many readers will gain from this and many other such articles is the first "warming" commentary. I would imagine that eyes begin to glaze over at reading the line it comes down to the internal glaciological stress.

Reporting Ice Sheet Mapping

This report by the BBC summarizes some fascinating research done to map the base of a portion of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Too bad that the journalist "had to" emphasize the global warming issue and thus bias the entire article away from factual science and into the realm of supposition.

Communicating science is an uphill struggle.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sir David King's catastrophic climate change conundrum

When the British establishment turns a scientist into a titled scientist something happens to him (the scientist). Professor King is the government's chief scientific advisor and he has a bee in his bonnet about carbon dioxide emissions. The BBC reports that he sees burying large volumes of CO2 as the only way to avoid "catastrophic climate change". The article explains little but has the right dosage of scaremongering. Another glass half empty, you might say. Is that what we pay government advisors for?

The BBC ask readers to comment on this and many have. Interesting that those who support Kyoto have only emotional words to write while those who do not generally provide useful evidence why they don't. One Phil, from Oxford, goes so far as to offer some useful statistics. I'm going to quote them here as I don't think such comments are preserved on the BBC website:

CO2 is not a pollutant. We all breath it out and it's essential to life on the planet. Without it all the plants die and us with them.

CO2 only makes up 2% of greenhouse "gases", 97% is water vapour and the rest miscellaneous stuff such as methane. Human activity produces 6-9 GTonnes of CO2 every year which is 4-6% of the total, natural sources, mainly oceans, produce 150-153 GTonnes per year.

If Global Warming is happening don't let's get deluded that we can do anything about it. Kyoto won't make the slightest bit of difference. We'd be better off spending the money adjusting to the new conditions.

Thanks, Phil, for a useful contribution to the debate.

Mark Steyn

I knew that Montreal would bring on some good stuff and here it is. Mark Steyn is brilliant. Quote of the article (a difficult choice) must be:

But the point is, as Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace puts it: "Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that's what we're dealing with." Got that? If it's hot, that's a sign of global warming, and, if it's cold, that's a sign of global warming.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Like so much that is Green. . . .

I am not surprised by this story. 500 tons of British "green-bin" recycled material ends up as hazardous waste in Tanjong Priok, Indonesia.

Recycling has become a by word for being a good citizen - you don't recycle? Tut tut, you're not doing your bit.

The problem has been that once that trash is out of sight it's also out of mind. Now what?

Prof. Nils-Axel Mörner on rising sea levels in the Maldives

Professor Mörner recently retired from university life (his department at the University of Stockholm has since been closed). The politics of global warming just might have been involved. Here is an abstract from a recent paper Professor Mörner presented. I reproduce it without permission:

The Maldives like other low-lying areas have been condemned by IPCC to become flooded in 50-100 years. The INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (the international organisation that hosts the true world specialists on sea level changes) have studied the actual sea level changes in the Maldives and hope to be able to extend the studies to other parts of SE Asia. Our findings reveal that there is no reality behind the scenario of a recent future flooding. The sea level has not been rising in the Maldives in the last centuries and at around 1970 it even experienced a significant lowering. The models of IPCC are simply over-ruled by the theory and observation by sea level specialists within INQUA. We should all be happy about this, one would assume. This is not the case, however. The government of the Maldives has put much prestige in the fear of a future flooding, accusing the west of having caused this situation and demanding them to pay for it. Without a flooding scenario, they now fear that international aid might be cancelled. In this situation, our scientific studies in the Maldives are regarded as anti-governmental and we are now working under very complicated conditions. For the people of the Maldives it is a great relief not to live under a constant threat that all will be gone in one or two generations. For science it is necessary to be able to go on recording the true story and not having to rely on absurd models not anchored in field observations. For a poor country like the Maldives they should always be entitled to become assisted by countries in the west. Furthermore, a coastal country like the Maldives is always threatened by coastal events (storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc) that may have disastrous effects on a short-term scale.

I believe that this demonstrates clearer than anything that global warming has become a political hot potato. Imagine, the government of the Maldives wants to perpetuate an unproven hypothesis in the face of good science in order to extract aid from the West!

Back in carbonate sedimentation 101 at Southampton University in 1964/5 I can remember being taught how atolls keep pace with a subsiding seafloor or a rising sea level (different phenomena, by the way!) by constantly growing upward and outward.

Here's a good photo from wikipedia that demonstrates the theory of the classroom. My point in showing this is that the Maldives will continue to keep pace with whatever sea level change occurs for as long as the resort developers don't mess them around too much! It's not global warming they have to fear at all.

Thanks to David Kingsbury for putting me on to this!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Independent

No, I don't read the Independent - why would anyone want to? But this article deserves to be read and deconstructed. So here goes.

Killer storms and global warming. This paragraph fails to mention the fact that hurricanes wax and wane over periods of about 30 years or so. There is a strong probablility that this periodicy is connected with sunspot activity.

Rampant disease. This is the non-topic of the year, what with avian 'flu' being so much in the news. I call this section the very worst of scaremongering without basis. Deaths due to the heat wave in France could have been much less if the authorities hadn't gone into total denial. We can moderate insect borne diseases very simply - by limited the places they breed - as has been shown in countries like Malaysia and Singapore. Common sense approaches will save far more lives than scaremongering.

Rising Sea Levels. This is a real red herring. We live in a dynamic world but one that has certain finite conditions. Sea level is indeed rising in some parts of the world but in others it is dropping! How can that be! You could say it is a zero sum game but that is actually far too simple a condition in a complex world. Geological processes account for most, if not all, of the predictable sea level changes.

Devastated Wildlife. So polar bears will be the first "spectacular casualty" of global warming? The ice in the Arctic Ocean will be all gone by mid-Century? Ah, yes, selective evidence provides this allegation. Some scientists demonstrated that the north polar ice is shrinking in terms of area but other scientists pointed out that the bulk of polar ice hasn't changed significantly over the same time period.

Water Shortages. Again, think zero-sum. I don't think water is evaporating off the face of the earth so it must still be here. Not necessarily in the same place, of course. Part of the problem of living on a constantly changing planet. There's a lot we can do about preserving water supplies that has nothing to do with climate change (and the same goes with energy and many other natural resources).

Agricultural Turmoil. Ah, yes, the vexing problem of immigration, for that is what the concern is here. Rather than blame people for wanting to move from Ethiopia/Niger/Sudan to Europe/North America let's blame global warming, pretend to do something about it and keep those unfortunates where they are!

And finally, the "X Factor". The Independent's very own doomsday scenario, for the end of the world is nigh. It might well be. But then again, it might not. And as Michael Crichton put it so well in Jurassic Park - whatever disaster might prevail, even a nuclear holocaust, somewhere, locked deep in an ice sheet, bacteria and microbes will survive and will provide the material for a new explosion of life-forms. Not what readers of the Independent want to hear, of course!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"Thousands March"

So, according to the Daily Telegraph, thousands of demonstrators marched through London to protest that "not enough is being done to combat climate change". I guess you know what I think about that idea! But the truth is, it really doesn't matter once you realise that a few thousand marchers really doesn't add up to much - these are an extreme element of hairshirt greens, certainly not a reflection of mainstream thought.

One quote I cannot pass by: "Climate change is probably the greatest threat humanity faces - it has consequences of catastrophic proportions". Why does this environmental zealot feel it necessary to add the word "probably"? Probably because he's not so sure of himself?

The Beeb reports from Montreal

Oh, if it wasn't true it would be funny. This is the stuff of fantasy, not the real world!

First up, take a look at the photo accompanying the article. Electricity generation cooling towers spewing forth. . . . water vapor in the evening sky! But it must be pollution, surely?

Next, we have an august body named the Campaign Against Climate Change that has somehow got itself to the forefront of the environmental lobby, presumably by using ill-thought out and scientifically wrong information to scare an unwitting public. Visit their site and you are bombarded with reports that "more than a hundred attended a meeting in Oxford" as well as vituperous slander against their arch enemy Dubya. Doesn't seem to be a mainstream organization to me but they get top billing with the Friends of the Earth.

The arrogance of these people amazes me. The last thing they worry about is factual scientific evidence while they go about dismantling the very economic system that has nurtured them and given them everything they need - including the ease of transport to get to their demonstration and the heating to make their meeting rooms nice and cosy. I wonder how many would turn up if they had to walk 30 miles and then sit on straw mats in a cold, ill-lit barn in order to hold one of their meetings?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why the title?

Why did I call this blog "Global Warming is Good" and why does its URL include the word "globallychanging"?

My reference to global warming being good is out of frustration that the greens and the media always see the glass half empty, never half full. Indeed, august bodies such as the Royal Society have also failed to see the good side of a potentially warmer climate. The House of Lords report, on the other hand, did note some of the benefits and chastized those who only stressed the negative.

Am I guilty of stressing too much of the positive aspect of climate change? Maybe. But I do recognize that for every positive there can be a negative and this is something that seems to escape the observation skills of a green. My aim is to create balance in the reporting of climate change issues. As long as the media don't provide balance I feel it necessary to stress the positive aspects of climate change as well as to attempt to provide some education on the scientific basis for inquiry into climate change. This blog will have served its purpose the day that the media starts to do its job properly. But then we will have the politicians to contend with. . . .

Envirospin's best ever entry?