March 15, 2009
The Clear and Cohesive Message of the International Conference on Climate ChangeBy Marc Sheppard
United by that conviction, over 800 scientists, economists, and policy makers arrived in New York City last Sunday to attend the Heartland Institute’s 2nd Annual International Conference on Climate Change. They came to talk a wide range of subjects, from climatology to energy policy, from computer climate models to cap-and-trade, from greenhouse gas (GHG) effects to solar irradiation. But most of all they came to help spread the word that the answer to the question posed by this year’s theme -- Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis? -- is a resounding NO.
Sunday’s keynote speakers wasted no time making that point. Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus scolded those whose alarmist opinions are driven by profits from writing and speaking fees, carbon trading and investments in non-carbon fuel products. And policy makers who blindly accept hyped Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publications as the final word in climate science. In truth, says Klaus, there is no fixed relationship between CO2 and temperatures, as clearly illustrated by the wavering heat trends of the 20th century, despite the steady rise in CO2.
Next, M.I.T’s Richard Lindzen explained that many scientists toe the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) line to “make their lives easier,” as underfunded scientists can write a single paper endorsing AGW and suddenly be inundated with offers. Even ambiguous or meaningless statements that can be easily spun are financially beneficial to scientists, so why complain about the spin? Ever wonder why you never stop hearing about studies finding GW responsible for everything from kidney stones to cannibalism? Explains Lindzen: It’s become standard that whatever you’re studying, include global warming’s effects in your proposal and you’ll get your funding.
Lindzen then dismissed climate models that alarmists depend on as they themselves depend entirely on warming positive feedback but, unlike nature, ignore the cooling effects of negative feedback. And rejected the warming alarmists alarm us about as so miniscule that there’s no need for any external forcing to achieve or explain it. In reality, said the world renowned atmospheric physicist, doubling or even tripling CO2 would have only marginal impacts on temperatures.
Both speakers masterfully set the stage for the days and sessions to come. What follows is just a sampling of the brilliance I encountered.
Roy Spencer echoed Lindzen’s position that negative feedbacks ultimately bring equilibrium to the energy balance, making sustained global warming a non-issue. David Douglass assured us that ocean and atmospheric heat will always work toward such balance as per conservation of energy laws. S. Fred Singer commented that a 2005 paper by Hansen et al claiming that Earth’s energy imbalance is proof of AGW was absurd.
Geologist and former astronaut Jack Schmidt inverted the IPCC position that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric CO2, which in turn warms the planet. Slowly increasing temperatures from 1660 AD or so, said he, would increase CO2 and methane from land, land confined water, the biosphere and, mostly, the oceans. The vapor pressure of CO2 is temperature sensitive. So as a matter of established physics of gases, we’d expect atmospheric CO2 to increase as temperature increases. Therefore, he concludes, saying that CO2 causes heating is like saying “accidents cause speeding.”
Singer moderated a panel discussion thoroughly debunking a recent paper claiming that CO2 put into the atmosphere lasts thousands of years. Participant Douglass questioned the premise as “it has nothing to do with global warming as CO2 continues to rise but GW stopped after 1998*.” But as Singer pointed out, alarmists will claim it proves that peak values reached in the next few years will determine climate for the next millennium.
And Christopher Essex nailed it: Their 1000 year forecast is remarkable – even groundhogs only predict 6 weeks ahead.
The Sun, The Seas and The Science
Astrophysicist Willie Soon proclaimed the sun-induced climate change theory alive and well. He believes that, while IPCC AR4 fraudulently disregarded Milankovich's theory of orbital influences on climate, the comings and goings of the ice ages may be controlled by changes in solar insolation at climatically sensitive latitudes. He displayed adjacent line graphs overlaying 20th Century arctic temperature anomalies with solar irradiance levels on one and atmospheric CO2 levels on the other. Whereas the former lined up almost perfectly, the latter wasn’t even close.
Jack Schmidt pointed out that the 1400 -1900 cold period known as the Little Ice Age corresponds to a cycling sequence of 3 deep minima of sunspot activity and was at its coldest during the last of these minima, the 70 year period of exceptionally few spots we now know as the Maunder Minimum. Dennis Avery reinforced his 1,500 year climate cycle argument and its implications for the current warming period. He told us that solar variations are linked to decade-lagging sea temperatures. What’s more, diminished sunspot activity since 2000 and Pacific Sea Surface cooling since 2008 predict a 20-30 year global cooling due to short term Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).
Don Easterbrook neatly tied variances in the PDO and another natural climate variability, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), to that of solar activity and, ultimately, temperatures. The geologist pointed out that while the IPCC predicted 1°F warming by 2011, there’s been none since 1998, and that the 1°F drop in 2008 was the largest global temperature change ever recorded. He too believes that the current PDO cool phase assures global cooling for as long as the next three decades.
Roy Spencer blamed the PDO for 75% of twentieth century warming. He provided a line graph plotting temperatures against the PDO and the correlation was quite remarkable. Weaker PDOs yielded warmer temperatures and the onset of stronger circulations cooled things down. As one might suspect -- Spencer’s graph depicted a decided cooling trend beginning in 2003.
ICECAP’s Joe D’Aleo also made an extremely compelling argument against the greenhouse effect and for the natural climate drivers of oceans, Sol, and yet another -- volcanoes. On D’Aleo’s graphs, PDO/AMO aligned well with USHCN temperatures over last century, as did stratospheric aerosol levels from volcanic eruptions, and total solar irradiance. He remarked that “all three show a cycle where the last few years look a lot like the 1960’s,” which immediately caught my attention. You see, just hours prior, I had been discussing NY weather with a British representative and had commented that this winter reminded me of those I experienced as a child in the 60’s.
Lord Monckton of Brenchley suggested that the positive feedback factor might actually be half what IPCC claims. Citing Soon’s work, he said temperatures have been plunging at the rate of 2°C per century over the last 7 years, and the reduction of Outgoing Longwave Radiation as observed by satellites is on an order of magnitude below what models predict:
The True Cost of Green Meddling
California Congressman Tom McClintock offered examples of just how global warming alarmism is damaging his state --- all in the form of radical construction blocking, agriculture crippling, resource wasting legislation the warm-mongers have gotten through to fight it. Here’s a beauty -- a homeowner can be fined $1000/day for refusal to cut down his trees if they block a neighbor’s solar panels, but also faces fines if he cuts them down or clears brush for fire preventive purposes. And Gov. Schwarzenegger – who just proposed the largest tax increase in history to make up for funds lost by his failed green policies -- wants Cal-E-Fornia to be “an example to the country.”
Bennie Peiser, founder and editor of the fabulous CCNet, explained the political backlash European greenies are experiencing. And it’s pretty bad -- Labor and Green parties are seeing the amalgamation of the recession and failed Kyoto-inspired energy policies driving their core voters away. Lawrence Solomon offered more examples of overseas carbon regulation disasters, declaring Kyoto the greatest single destroyer of the environment, especially in the third world.
And speaking of bad GHG accords, Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Chris Horner explained how liberals could sneak Kyoto II through the Senate by changing it from a treaty to an executive agreement. Treaties require a 2/3 Senate vote, and the Gore brigade knows damned well they’d never pull that one off. But with a little legislative sleight-of-hand, the vote required could be lowered to 3/5. And Horner warned in detail against an even slicker trick that would place it on the fast track, making it both amendment and filibuster proof – thereby requiring only 50% plus one.
Needless to say, the regressive tax increase which is Cap and Trade (CAT) was also a popular target.
CEI director Myron Ebell proclaimed John McCain’s loss last November to actually be good news, as McCain is the biggest supporter of CAT in the Senate and actually claims that energy rationing would be a net benefit to the economy. Ross Mckitrick blasted the idea of CAT systems with predetermined carbon caps as betraying a complete lack of faith in their design. If the goal is to force down carbon output, then a “truth-based” floating cap determined by temperature is called for. Suggesting we force down caps regardless of temperature response is a sign that they don’t believe their own rhetoric.
Dave Kreutzer warned that analytical models predict estimated aggregate losses to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $4.8 trillion and job losses in the manufacturing sector of nearly 3 million by 2029 if CAT were imposed under S. 2191. That’s over and above the million manufacturing job losses economists predict will occur even if we do nothing.
On Thursday, Easterbrook responded to a NY Times piece suggesting his positions are aligned with those of Obama’s science advisor -- John Holdren:
And the losses will extend beyond the monetary. Professor Arthur Robinson, author of the afore-quoted Oregon petition, revealed the true reasons we import 30% of our energy, even though “one Palo Verde Nuclear Installation in each state results in $200 billion net export of energy.” Robinson says there are those who would prefer that 30% grow much larger, encouraging higher energy prices and ultimately – rationing. And quickly advised -- once we become victims of rationing in the west we lose our all of our freedoms, but energy deprivation in third world countries will lead to the loss of tens of millions of lives.
And Monckton took on another deadly green scheme as only his Lordship can:
Such, as Kreutzer so perfectly described it, is the true “cost of accomplishing nothing.”
Of Bad Scientists, Bad Data, and Bad Conclusions
Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist John Theon expressed his regret that former employee, James Hansen, “didn’t receive the attention from me that he should have.” What followed was a heartfelt denunciation that included the fact that Hansen’s 1988 announcement of “unprecedented global warming” came as a surprise and embarrassment to Theon, as it was not NASA’s position. He then cried foul over Hansen’s endorsement of John Kerry for president in 2004, particularly after receiving the Heinz Environment Award, a $250,000 prize honoring the late-husband of Kerry’s wife in 2001. He pointed out that a civil servant endorsing a political cause violated the Hatch Act, and that alone should be grounds for dismissal, which he has publically called for. Says Theon: “I think the man is sincere, but he is suffering from a bad case of megalomania.”
There were a number of problems with data collection methods discussed.
Tom Segalstad gave us a lesson in the dubious integrity of ice-core samples. The Norwegian geologist cited numerous problems with retrieval, sampling, and storage, all of which may contaminate results. Remember -- the accuracy of these figures, combined with temperature proxies such as dendrochronology (tree ring growth analysis) is crucial as they are used to plot past temperature/CO2 correlations.
WUWT’s Anthony Watts favored us once again with stories and photographs of misplaced Maximum-Minimum Temperature Systems (MMTS). He and his cohorts have photographed and analyzed 75% of the 1200 plus national weather stations, and the results range from bad to hysterically bad. One slide showed a station in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where the thermometer was placed within feet of not one, but two air conditioning outlets. The fact this town reported temperature well above those of its neighbors didn’t seem to raise any red-flags with the good folks ate NOAA. So it’s not particularly shocking that only 11% of stations surveyed met the required Class I or Class II requirement of likely measurement error under 1°C.
Joe D’Aleo believes that surface data suffer from serious issues biasing them to the warm side, this due to station dropout, missing monthly data, and inadequate or nonexistent urban heat island effect (UHI) adjustment. Half of the warming since 1880 may be attributed to these measurement contaminations. In fact, Climate Audit’s Steve McIntyre said we don’t actually know that the 1998 was the warmest year of the millennium as minor variations in data version yield different results.
There was also much talk about response and adaptation.
Jack Schmidt believes that while we’re awaiting the collapse of the AGW scare, we should be preparing to deal with inevitable climate change, however unpredictable it may seem. We should recognize that production of our own domestic oil and gas, coal and nuclear resources buys us time to work these challenges and preserve our liberties and our national security. We should choose sustained R&D of potential energy sources, those with clear paths to commercialization rather than continue subsidies for premature production of flawed concepts.
Bob Carter stressed preparedness, warning that abrupt natural climate change is the dangerous hazard (both warming AND cooling) and demands a planned response, which must be assessed regionally. After all, climate hazards in the Gulf of Mexico are not the same as in Australia. Besides, says Bob, if hypothetical AGW actually materializes, well – we’re prepared for that too!
Meanwhile, Dennis Avery reminded us that history shows that warm times have been good times. During the Medieval Warm Period, world population doubled, crops flourished, there was less disease and no bubonic plague. Most of Europe’s castles and cathedrals as well as India’s most famous temples were built during that period. And that as polar bears date back 130,000 years, they’ve managed to adapt through many warming periods more severe than the current one.
So whether warmer or cooler, they’ll adapt again, as will the rest of the planet – including those self-interested homo sapiens.
The Message is Clear, Cohesive, and Catching On
Last Sunday, Klaus sparked a nervous laugh when he fretted continued alarmist mainstream acceptance with the words “last year’s speech didn’t help much.” But immediately following Klaus to the podium, Lindzen reminded the Czech and the audience at large that “we should never stop trying,” which was, of course, warmly received. And the next morning, Larry Solomon gave an inspiring example of why: Recent polls in Canada showed that those who believe in “consensus” fear global warming; those who have heard from skeptics even once do not. In fact, the dominant Canadian party that made carbon pricing a major issue just suffered a major defeat.
During Tuesday’s standing-O-rousing conference-closing speech, in which he marvelously referred to alarmists as “bed-wetting moaning Minnies of the Apocalyptic Traffic-Light Tendency -- those Greens too yellow to admit they’re really Reds,” Lord Monckton added:
And then emphasized unequivocally: “There is no climate crisis. There was no climate crisis. There will be no climate crisis.”
Before gaveling the momentous proceedings, Heartland’s own James Taylor offered further encouragement to those despondent over the uphill battle it’s been to promote climate realism in an environment of mass-media-driven hyper-alarmism. Public opinion is, avers Taylor, changing in our direction, and he cited specific polls and current events to support his optimism. And he credited talk radio, cable television, the internet, and blogs with providing information to the American public “whether the mass media wants them to have it or not.”
Yet I couldn’t help recalling something I heard the ever-wise John Sununu state during one of the Q&A sessions that morning, and I paraphrase: Everything we talk about here needs to be translated into something you can put on the 6 o’clock news or explain to your neighbor. He’s right, of course. Go ask a hype-victim what causes climate variations and he’ll reflexively snap “Carbon,” and that’s quite the simple concept to propagate. Now ask a climate realist, if you have the time and patience to sit through the response.
But leaving Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, I wondered whether it really mattered. After all, most believers don’t truly understand the workings of GHG theory, otherwise they’d surely question the influence of a trace gas. And our message may not be easily dumbed-down to a few words, but it is clear, nonetheless.
The very next day Gallup announced the results of a new poll finding that a record-high 41% of Americans now believe the seriousness of global warming is being exaggerated by “mainstream reporting.”
That’s up 11% in just three years -- despite our sometimes involute and ever media-mocked message.
Which lends undeniable assurance to Professor Lindzen’s keynote prediction that “we will eventually win against anthropogenic global warming alarm simply because we are right and they are wrong.”
* Note: I believed I heard 1991, and originally reported as such, but Professor Douglass just responded to my verification request and confirmed that 1998 is his correct position.
Marc Sheppard is the editor of AT’s forthcoming Environment Thinker.