Main


June 28, 2014

Global Warming Tipping Point Models Are "Overblown"



(p. C3) Climate models for north Africa often come to contradictory conclusions. Nonetheless, mainstream science holds that global warming will typically make wet places wetter and dry places drier--and at a rapid clip. That is because increased greenhouse gases trigger feedback mechanisms that push the climate system beyond various "tipping points." In north Africa, this view suggests an expanding Sahara, the potential displacement of millions of people on the great desert's borders and increased conflict over scarce resources.

One scientist, however, is challenging this dire view, with evidence chiefly drawn from the Sahara's prehistoric past. Stefan Kröpelin, a geologist at the University of Cologne, has collected samples of ancient pollen and other material that suggest that the earlier episode of natural climate change, which created the Sahara, happened gradually over millennia--not over a mere century or two, as the prevailing view holds. That is why, he says, the various "tipping point" scenarios for the future of the Sahara are overblown.

The 62-year-old Dr. Kröpelin, one of the pre-eminent explorers of the Sahara, has traveled into its forbidding interior for more than four decades. Along the way he has endured weeklong dust storms, a car chase by armed troops and a parasitic disease, bilharzia, that nearly killed him.


. . .


. . . Dr. Kröpelin's analysis of the Lake Yoa samples suggests that there was no tipping point and that the change was gradual. He says that his argument is also supported by archaeological evidence. Digs in the Sahara, conducted by various archaeologists over the years, indicate that the people of the region migrated south over millennia, not just in a few desperate decades. "Humans are very sensitive climate indicators because we can't live without water," he says. If the Sahara had turned to desert quickly, the human migration pattern "would have been completely different."



For the full commentary, see:

HENRY I. MILLER. "Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable; More labor with lower yields is a luxury only rich populations can afford." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., May 16, 2014): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 15, 2014.)


One of the more recent Kröpelin papers arguing against the tipping point account is:

Francus, Pierre, Hans von Suchodoletz, Michael Dietze, Reik V. Donner, Frédéric Bouchard, Ann-Julie Roy, Maureen Fagot, Dirk Verschuren, Stefan Kröpelin, and Daniel Ariztegui. "Varved Sediments of Lake Yoa (Ounianga Kebir, Chad) Reveal Progressive Drying of the Sahara During the Last 6100 Years." Sedimentology 60, no. 4 (June 2013): 911-34.







April 16, 2014

Very Cold January Puzzled Global Warming True Believers



NiagraFallsInJanuay2014.jpg "Niagara Falls in January." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D3) At the exact moment President Obama was declaring last month that "climate change is a fact," thousands of drivers in Atlanta were trapped in a grueling winter ordeal, trying to get home on roads that had turned into ribbons of ice.

As the president addressed Congress and the nation in his State of the Union speech, it was snowing intermittently outside the Capitol. The temperature would bottom out later that night at 13 degrees in Washington, 14 in New York, 1 in Chicago, minus 6 in Minneapolis -- and those readings were toasty compared to some of the lows earlier in January.

Mr. Obama's declaration provoked head-shaking from Congressional climate deniers, and unleashed a stream of mockery on Twitter. "As soon as he mentioned 'climate change' it started snowing on Capitol Hill," said a post from Patrick J. Michaels, a climate skeptic at the Cato Institute.

The chortling was predictable, perhaps, but you do not necessarily have to subscribe to an anti-scientific ideology to ask the question a lot of people are asking these days:

If the world is really warming up, how come it is so darned cold?



For the full commentary, see:

Justin Gillis. "BY DEGREES; Freezing Out the Bigger Picture." The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 11, 2014): D3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date FEB. 10, 2014.)






March 24, 2014

Environmentalists Seek to Silence Those Who Dare to Disagree



(p. A13) Surely, some kind of ending is upon us. Last week climate protesters demanded the silencing of Charles Krauthammer for a Washington Post column that notices uncertainties in the global warming hypothesis. In coming weeks a libel trial gets under way brought by Penn State's Michael Mann, author of the famed hockey stick, against National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer Rand Simberg and roving commentator Mark Steyn for making wisecracks about his climate work. The New York Times runs a cartoon of a climate "denier" being stabbed with an icicle.

These are indications of a political movement turned to defending its self-image as its cause goes down the drain.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; Personal Score-Settling Is the New Climate Agenda; The cause of global carbon regulation may be lost, but enemies still can be punished." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 1, 2014): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 28, 2014, and has the title "BUSINESS WORLD; Jenkins: Personal Score-Settling Is the New Climate Agenda; The cause of global carbon regulation may be lost, but enemies still can be punished.")



The Krauthammer column that the environmentalists do not want you to read:

Krauthammer, Charles. "The Myth of 'Settled Science'." The Washington Post (Fri., Feb. 21, 2014): A19.






March 8, 2014

50% of Students Will Agree to a Request to Vandalize a Book



(p. 12) Do we realize how much power we wield with a simple request, suggestion or dare? New research by my students and me suggests that we don't.

We examined this question in a series of studies in which we had participants ask strangers to perform unethical acts. Before making their requests, participants predicted how many people they thought would comply. In one study, 25 college students asked 108 unfamiliar students to vandalize a library book. Targets who complied wrote the word "pickle" in pen on one of the pages.


. . .


Our participants predicted that an average of 28.5 percent would go along. In fact, fully half of those who were approached agreed. Moreover, 87 percent of participants underestimated the number they would be able to persuade to vandalize the book.


. . .


American culture idolizes individuals who stand up to peer pressure. But that doesn't mean that most do; . . .



For the full commentary, see:

VANESSA K. BOHNS. "Gray Matter; Would You Lie for Me?" The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., FEB. 9, 2014): 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date FEB. 7, 2014.)


The article summarized above is:

Bohns, Vanessa K., M. Mahdi Roghanizad, and Amy Z. Xu. "Underestimating Our Influence over Others' Unethical Behavior and Decisions." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40, no. 3 (March 2014): 348-62.






March 7, 2014

Polar Bears Can Adjust to Global Warming By Changing What They Eat



PolarBearEatingSeal2014-03-02.jpg"A polar bear eating a seal, its historically preferred prey." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D2) As a warming climate causes sea ice in the Arctic to melt earlier each year, polar bears are spending more time on land -- and changing their diets accordingly. A new study shows that the bears, whose traditional prey is ringed seal pups, are now eating more snow-goose eggs and caribou.


. . .


Samples of scat from different parts of the bay suggest that the bears are highly flexible and willing to change what they eat based on availability.

"Bears along the coast are eating more grass," Dr. Gormezano said. "Further inland they are eating more berries."



For the full story, see:

SINDYA N. BHANOO. "Observatory; CLIMATE CHANGE; Polar Bears Turn to Snow-Goose Egg Diet." The New York Times (Tues., JAN. 28, 2014): D2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 27, 2014, and has the title "Observatory; SCIENCE; Polar Bears Turn to Snow-Goose Egg Diet.")


The following scientific articles more fully report the results summarized above:

Gormezano, Linda J., and Robert F. Rockwell. "Dietary Composition and Spatial Patterns of Polar Bear Foraging on Land in Western Hudson Bay." BMC Ecology 13, no. 51 (2013).

Gormezano, Linda J., and Robert F. Rockwell. "What to Eat Now? Shifts in Polar Bear Diet During the Ice-Free Season in Western Hudson Bay." Ecology and Evolution 3, no. 10 (Sept. 2013): 3509-23.

Iles, D. T., S. L. Peterson, Linda J. Gormezano, D. N. Koons, and Robert F. Rockwell. "Terrestrial Predation by Polar Bears: Not Just a Wild Goose Chase." Polar Biology 36, no. 9 (Sept. 2013): 1373-79.






February 11, 2014

Global Warming Might Help Mangrove Forests Thrive in Florida



MangroveForest2014-01-19.jpg "Mangrove forests, like in the Everglades, serve as spawning grounds and nurseries for fish and as habitat for a wide array of organisms. But salt marshes are also ecologically valuable." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) Much of the Florida shoreline was once too cold for the tropical trees called mangroves, but the plants are now spreading northward at a rapid clip, scientists reported Monday [December 30, 2013]. That finding is the latest indication that global warming, though still in its early stages, is already leading to ecological changes so large they can be seen from space.


. . .


The mangrove forests that fringe shorelines in the tropics are among the earth's environmental treasures, serving as spawning grounds and nurseries for fish and as habitat for a wide array of organisms. Yet in many places, mangroves are critically endangered by shoreline development and other human activities.

So a climatic change that allows mangroves to thrive in new areas might well be seen as a happy development.


. . .


For years, scientists working in Florida had been noticing that mangroves seemed to be creeping northward along the coast. The new study is the first to offer a precise quantification of the change, using imagery from a satellite called Landsat, and to link it to shifts in the climate.

Patrick Gillespie, a spokesman for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, offered no specific comment on the new paper. By email, he said the agency had indeed "seen an increase in mangrove habitats to the north and inward along the Atlantic coast. It's difficult to determine whether this is good or bad for the ecosystem because it's happened over a relatively short period (p. A16) of time and may be a result of many factors."



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "Spared Winter Freeze, Florida's Mangroves Are Marching North." The New York Times (Tues., December 31, 2013): A14 & A16.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 30, 2013.)


The academic article on Florida's thriving mangrove forests, is:

Cavanaugh, Kyle C., James R. Kellner, Alexander J. Forde, Daniel S. Gruner, John D. Parker, Wilfrid Rodriguez, and Ilka C. Feller. "Poleward Expansion of Mangroves Is a Threshold Response to Decreased Frequency of Extreme Cold Events." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 111, no. 2 (January 14, 2014): 723-27.



MangroveMapGraphic2014-01-19.jpg















Source of Florida map graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







January 3, 2014

Global Warming Has Little Correlation with Levels of Carbon Dioxide




The authors of the commentary quoted below are Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer. Schmitt has at various times been a U.S. Senator, an Apollo 17 astronaut, and an adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. Happer is a professor of physics at Princeton University, and previously served as the Director at the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Research.


(p. A19) Of all of the world's chemical compounds, none has a worse reputation than carbon dioxide. Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That's simply not the case. Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.

The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA's and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been--and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather.


. . .


We know that carbon dioxide has been a much larger fraction of the earth's atmosphere than it is today, and the geological record shows that life flourished on land and in the oceans during those times. The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.



For the full commentary, see:

Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer. "OPINION; In Defense of Carbon Dioxide; The demonized chemical compound is a boon to plant life and has little correlation with global temperature." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., May 9, 2013): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 8, 2013, and has the title "OPINION; Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer: In Defense of Carbon Dioxide; The demonized chemical compound is a boon to plant life and has little correlation with global temperature." )


The lack of correlation between carbon dioxide and global temperature is rigorously supported in:

McMillan, David G., and Mark E. Wohar. "The Relationship between Temperature and CO2 Emissions: Evidence from a Short and Very Long Dataset." Applied Economics 45, no. 26 (2013): 3683-90.






December 30, 2013

Wind Power Fined $1 Million for Killing Birds



GoldenEagleOverWindTurbine2013-12-29.jpg "A golden eagle flies over a wind turbine on Duke Energy's wind farm in Converse County, Wyo." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A17) The Justice Department announced late . . . [in the week of Nov. 17-23] that a subsidiary of Duke Energy has agreed to pay $1 million for killing golden eagles and other federally protected birds at two of the company's wind projects in Wyoming. The guilty plea was a long-overdue victory for the rule of law and a sign that green energy might be going out of vogue.

As Justice noted in its news release, this is the first time a case has been brought against a wind company for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The 1918 law makes it a federal crime to kill any bird of more than 1,000 different species. Over the past few decades, federal authorities have brought hundreds of cases against oil and gas companies for killing birds, while the wind industry has enjoyed a de facto exemption. By bringing criminal charges against Duke for killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, Justice has ended the legal double standard on enforcement.



For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT BRYCE. "Wind Power Is Brought to Justice; Duke Energy's guilty plea for killing protected birds is an ominous sign for renewable energy." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Nov. 29, 2013): A17.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed words, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 28, 2013.)






December 22, 2013

Spain's $11 Billion Per Year Slows Global Warming by 61 Hours



(p. A17) Today Spain spends about 1% of GDP throwing money at green energy such as solar and wind power. The $11 billion a year is more than Spain spends on higher education.

At the end of the century, with current commitments, these Spanish efforts will have delayed the impact of global warming by roughly 61 hours, according to the estimates of Yale University's well-regarded Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model. Hundreds of billions of dollars for 61 additional hours? That's a bad deal.



For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "Green Energy Is the Real Subsidy Hog; Renewables receive three times as much money per energy unit as fossil fuels." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Nov. 12, 2013): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 11, 2013.)






December 21, 2013

Farm Land Reverts to Forest as Farmers Move to Cities



OrtegaDeWingLandRevertsToForest2013-10-27.jpg "NEW GROWTH; Marta Ortega de Wing once raised pigs in Chilibre, Panama, on land now reverting to nature, a trend dimming the view of primeval forests as sacred." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) CHILIBRE, Panama -- The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle -- palms, lizards and ants.

Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.

Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing's -- and much larger swaths of farmland -- are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

These new "secondary" forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest -- an iconic environmental cause -- may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.

"There is far more forest here than there was 30 years ago," said Ms. Ortega de Wing, 64, who remembers fields of mango trees and banana plants.

The new forests, the scientists argue, could blunt the effects of rain forest destruction by absorbing carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, one crucial role that rain forests play. They could also, to a lesser extent, provide habitat for endangered species.



For the full story, see:

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. "New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Saving Primeval Rain Forests." The New York Times (Fri., January 30, 2009): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date January 29, 2009 and has the title "New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests.")






November 23, 2013

"Engrossing, Brain-Tickling" Refutation of Al Gore's Global Warming Assertions



LomborgBjornCoolItDocumentary2010-10-25.jpg "The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg in "Cool It," a documentary based on his book." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.



(p. C8) Debunking claims made by "An Inconvenient Truth" and presenting alternative strategies, "Cool It" finally blossoms into an engrossing, brain-tickling picture as many of Al Gore's meticulously graphed assertions are systematically -- and persuasively -- refuted. (I was intrigued to hear Mr. Lomborg say, for instance, that the polar-bear population is more endangered by hunters than melting ice.)


. . .


. . . "Cool It" is all about the pep: playing down the talking heads and playing up the "git 'er done." If algae can suck up carbon dioxide and spit out oil, what on earth are we worrying about?



For the full review, see:

JEANNETTE CATSOULIS. "Global Warming and Common Sense." The New York Times (Fri., November 12, 2010): C8.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 11, 2010.)


The documentary is based on the book:

Lomborg, Bjørn. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.






September 29, 2013

2013 Has "Largest One-Year Increase in Arctic Ice" Ever Recorded



(p. A8) Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean underwent a sharp recovery this year from the record-low levels of 2012, with 50 percent more ice surviving the summer melt season, scientists said Friday. It is the largest one-year increase in Arctic ice since satellite tracking began in 1978.


For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "Arctic Ice Makes Comeback From Record Low, but Long-Term Decline May Continue." The New York Times (Sat., September 21, 2013): A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date September 20, 2013.)






September 13, 2013

Climate Scientists Are Puzzled by "Lull" in Global Warming, Even with "Record Pace" of Greenhouse Gases



(p. D3) As unlikely as this may sound, we have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming.

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists.



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "BY DEGREES; What to Make of a Warming Plateau." The New York Times (Tues., June 11, 2013): D3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 10, 2013.)






August 15, 2013

Global Warming Allows Russians to Build Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Arctic



NovatekArcticLiquefiedNaturalGasPlant2013-08-04.jpg "A rendering of Novatek's proposed $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on Russia's Arctic coast, scheduled to be done by 2016." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) YURKHAROVSKOYE GAS FIELD, Russia -- The polar ice cap is melting, and if executives at the Russian energy company Novatek feel guilty about profiting from that, they do not let it be known in public.

From this windswept shore on the Arctic Ocean, where Novatek owns enormous natural gas deposits, a stretch of thousands of miles of ice-free water leads to China. The company intends to ship the gas directly there.


. . .


Novatek, in partnership with the French energy company Total and the China National Petroleum Corporation, is building a $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the central Arctic coast of Russia. It is one of the first major energy projects to take advantage of the summer thawing of the Arctic caused by global warming.

The plant, called Yamal LNG, would send gas to Asia along the sea lanes known as the Northeast Passage, which opened for regular international shipping only four years ago.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "Polar Thaw Opens Shortcut for Russian Natural Gas." The New York Times (Thurs., July 25, 2013): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 24, 2013, and has the title "Polar Thaw Opens Shortcut for Russian Natural Gas.")






July 29, 2013

Biofuels Are Bad for the Planet



(p. A13) Biofuels are under siege from critics who say they crowd out food production. Now these fuels made from grass and grain, long touted as green, are being criticized as bad for the planet.

At issue is whether oil alternatives -- such as ethanol distilled from corn and fuels made from inedible stuff like switch grass -- actually make global warming worse through their indirect impact on land use around the world.

For example, if farmers in Brazil burn and clear more rainforest to grow food because farmers in the U.S. are using their land to grow grain for fuel, that could mean a net increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main "greenhouse gas" linked to climate change.


. . .


A study published in February [2008] in the journal Science found that U.S. production of corn-based ethanol increases emissions by 93%, compared with using gasoline, when expected world-wide land-use changes are taken into account. Applying the same methodology to biofuels made from switch grass grown on soil diverted from raising corn, the study found that greenhouse-gas emissions would rise by 50%.

Previous studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline reduces greenhouse gases. Those studies generally didn't account for the carbon emissions that occur as farmers world-wide respond to higher food prices and convert forest and grassland to cropland.



For the full story, see:

STEPHEN POWER. "If a Tree Falls in the Forest, Are Biofuels To Blame? It's Not Easy Being Green." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., November 11, 2008): A13.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)



Two relevant articles appeared in Science in the Feb. 29, 2008 issue:

Fargione, Joseph, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky, and Peter Hawthorne. "Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt." Science 319, no. 5867 (Feb. 29, 2008): 1235-38.

Searchinger, Timothy, Ralph Heimlich, R. A. Houghton, Fengxia Dong, Amani Elobeid, Jacinto Fabiosa, Simla Tokgoz, Dermot Hayes, and Tun-Hsiang Yu. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land-Use Change." Science 319, no. 5867 (Feb. 29, 2008): 1238-40.






July 13, 2013

Due to Global Warming, Chicago "Winters Have Softened"



(p. 20) Before anyone accuses me of being some latter-day A. J. Liebling, whose 1952 book "Chicago: The Second City" infuriated residents, let me say there are some good things about living here. The beauty of Lake Michigan. A former rail yard has become Millennium Park. Thanks to global warming, the winters have softened.


For the full review, see:

RACHEL SHTEIR. "Chicago Manuals." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., April 21, 2013): 1 & 20-21.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 18, 2013.)






July 1, 2013

Mainstream Climatologists Lower Best Guess Estimates of Global Warming (and Find High End Estimates "Pretty Implausible")



(p. D1) Since 1896, scientists have been trying to answer a deceptively simple question: What will happen to the temperature of the earth if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles?

Some recent scientific papers have made a splash by claiming that the answer might not be as bad as previously feared. This work -- if it holds up -- offers the tantalizing possibility that climate change might be slow and limited enough that human society could adapt to it without major trauma.


. . .


In 1979, after two decades of meticulous measurements had made it clear that the carbon dioxide level was indeed rising, scientists used computers and a much deeper understanding of the climate to calculate a likely range of warming. They found that the response to a doubling of carbon dioxide would not be much below three degrees Fahrenheit, nor was it likely to exceed eight degrees.

In the years since, scientists have been (p. D6) pushing and pulling within that range, trying to settle on a most likely value. Most of those who are expert in climatology subscribe to a best-estimate figure of just over five degrees Fahrenheit.


. . .


What's new is that several recent papers have offered best estimates for climate sensitivity that are below four degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the previous best estimate of just above five degrees, and they have also suggested that the highest estimates are pretty implausible.

Notice that these recent calculations fall well within the long-accepted range -- just on the lower end of it.



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "BY DEGREES; A Change in Temperature." The New York Times (Tues., May 14, 2013): D1 & D6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 13, 2013.)






June 24, 2013

We Should Disenthrall Ourselves of False Scientific Certainties



An Optimists Tour of the Future CoverBK2013-06-21.jpg
















Source of book image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ELpfH2bTO7c/Tb53WpKuDxI/AAAAAAAADrE/Zq8BQiiasJc/s640/An+Optimists+Tour+of+the+Future+Cover.jpg



(p. C4) Among the scientific certainties I have had to unlearn: that upbringing strongly shapes your personality; that nurture is the opposite of nature; that dietary fat causes obesity more than dietary carbohydrate; that carbon dioxide has been the main driver of climate change in the past.

I came across a rather good word for this kind of unlearning--"disenthrall"--in Mark Stevenson's book "An Optimist's Tour of the Future," published just this week. Mr. Stevenson borrows it from Abraham Lincoln, whose 1862 message to Congress speaks of disenthralling ourselves of "the dogmas of the quiet past" in order to "think anew."

Mr. Stevenson's disenthrallment comes in the course of a series of sharp and fascinating interviews with technological innovators and scientific visionaries. This disenthralls him of the pessimism about the future and nostalgia about the past that he barely realized he had and whose "fingers reach deep into [his] soul." It eventually turns him into an optimist almost as ludicrously sanguine about the 21st century as I am: "I steadfastly refuse to believe that human society can't grow, improve and learn; that it can't embrace change and remake the world better."

Along the way, Mr. Stevenson is struck by other examples of how the way he thinks and reasons is "in thrall to a world that is passing." The first of these bad habits is linear thinking about the future. . . .

We expect to see changes coming gradually, but because things like computing power or the cheapness of genome sequencing change exponentially, technologies can go from impossible to cheap quite suddenly and with little warning.



For the full commentary, see:

MATT RIDLEY. "MIND & MATTER; A Key Lesson of Adulthood: The Need to Unlearn." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., February 5, 2011): C4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The book praised by Ridley, in the passages quoted above, is:

Stevenson, Mark. An Optimist's Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets out to Answer "What's Next?". New York: Avery, 2011.






June 20, 2013

Nate Silver "Chides Environmental Activists for Their Certainty"



TheSignalAndTheNoiseBK2013-05-13.jpg











Source of book image: http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/OB-US032_bkrvno_GV_20120924132722.jpg






(p. 12) In recent years, the most sophisticated global-warming skeptics have seized on errors in the forecasts of the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) in order to undermine efforts at greenhouse gas reduction. These skeptics note that global temperatures have increased at only about half the rate the I.P.C.C. predicted in 1990, and that they flatlined in the 2000s (albeit after rising sharply in the late '90s).

Silver runs the numbers to show that the past few decades of data are still highly consistent with the hypothesis of man-made global warming. He shows how, at the rate that carbon dioxide is accumulating, a single decade of flat temperatures is hardly invalidating. On the other hand, Silver demonstrates that projecting temperature increases decades into the future is a dicey proposition. He chides some environmental activists for their certainty -- observing that overambitious predictions can undermine a cause when they don't come to pass . . .



For the full review, see:

NOAM SCHEIBER. "Known Unknowns." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., November 4, 2012): 12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 2, 2012.)


The book under review, is:

Silver, Nate. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don't. New York: The Penguin Press, 2012.






May 3, 2013

Organic Animals Cause More Global Warming than Non-Organic Animals



JustFoodBK2013-05-01.jpg















Source of book image: http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/OB-EH374_justfo_DV_20090821150506.jpg



(p. A23) Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country's land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.

Advocates of small-scale, nonindustrial alternatives say their choice is at least more natural. Again, this is a dubious claim. Many farmers who raise chickens on pasture use industrial breeds that have been bred to do one thing well: fatten quickly in confinement. As a result, they can suffer painful leg injuries after several weeks of living a "natural" life pecking around a large pasture. Free-range pigs are routinely affixed with nose rings to prevent them from rooting, which is one of their most basic instincts. In essence, what we see as natural doesn't necessarily conform to what is natural from the animals' perspectives.



For the full commentary, see:

JAMES E. McWILLIAMS. "The Myth of Sustainable Meat." The New York Times (Fri., April 13, 2012): A23.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 12, 2012.)


McWilliams' book on related issues, is:

McWilliams, James E. Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.






May 1, 2013

Global Warming Would Likely Prevent Coming Ice Age in North America



BencivengoBrianNationalIceCoreLab2013-05-01.jpg "Scientists like Brian Bencivengo of the National Ice Core Laboratory examine ice cores to determine past air temperatures at the location from which the core was obtained." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A15) In the . . . journal Science, Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues compiled the most meticulous reconstruction yet of global temperatures over the past 11,300 years, virtually the entire Holocene. They used indicators like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate.


. . .


Scientists say that if natural factors were still governing the climate, the Northern Hemisphere would probably be destined to freeze over again in several thousand years. "We were on this downward slope, presumably going back toward another ice age," Dr. Marcott said.

Instead, scientists believe the enormous increase in greenhouse gases caused by industrialization will almost certainly prevent that.

During the long climatic plateau of the early Holocene, global temperatures were roughly the same as those of today, at least within the uncertainty of the estimates, the new paper shows. This is consistent with a large body of past research focused on the Northern Hemisphere, which showed a distribution of ice and vegetation suggestive of a relatively warm climate.



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "Global Temperatures Highest in 4,000 Years." The New York Times (Fri., March 8, 2013): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 7, 2013.)


The Marcott article mentioned, is:

Marcott, Shaun A., Jeremy D. Shakun, Peter U. Clark, and Alan C. Mix. "Report: A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years." Science 339, no. 6124 (March 8, 2013): 1198-201.






April 30, 2013

Increased CO2 "Kept a New Ice Age at Bay"



(p. 38) . . . the repeated inventions and spread of agriculture around the planet affected not only the surface of the Earth, but its 100-kilometer-wide (60-mile-wide) atmosphere as well. Farming disturbed the soil and increased CO2. Some climatologists believe that this early anthropogenic warming, starting 8,000 years ago, kept a new ice age at bay. Widespread adoption of farming disrupted a natural climate cycle that ordinarily would have refrozen the northernmost portions of the planet by now.


Source:

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking Adult, 2010.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






April 19, 2013

New Technology Allows Maple Syrup Farms to Adapt and Thrive with Global Warming



MapleSyrupTubingVermont2013-04-06.jpg "Tom Morse, left, and his father, Burr, at work on their maple farm in Vermont." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 11) Scientists say the tapping season -- the narrow window of freezing nights and daytime temperatures over 40 degrees needed to convert starch to sugar and get sap flowing -- is on average five days shorter than it was 50 years ago. But technology developed over the past decade and improved in recent years offers maple farmers like Mr. Morse a way to offset the effects of climate change with high-tech tactics that are far from natural.

Today, five miles of pressurized blue tubing spider webs down the hillside at Morse Farm, pulling sap from thousands of trees and spitting it into tubs like an immense, inverse IV machine. Modern vacuum pumps are powerful enough to suck the air out of a stainless steel dairy tank and implode it, and they help producers pull in twice as much sap as before.

"You can make it run when nature wouldn't have it run," Mr. Morse said.

His greatest secret weapon is a reverse-osmosis machine that concentrates the sap by pulling it through sensitive membranes, greatly increasing the sugar content before it even hits the boiler. The $8,000 instrument with buttons and dials looks like it belongs in a Jetsons-era laboratory more than in a Vermont sugarhouse. But it saves more fuel and money than every other innovation combined. With it Mr. Morse can process sap into syrup in 30 minutes, something that used to take two hours.


. . .


The biggest United States maple farmers have expanded their production acreage and are tapping more trees than ever before: the total was 5.5 million taps last year, compared with slightly over 4 million taps 10 years earlier.

As a result, United States maple syrup production hit a new high in 2011. In Vermont, the top-producing state, sap yield per tap has risen over the past decade.



For the full story, see:

JULIA SCOTT. "Maple Syrup: Old-Fashioned Product, Newfangled Means of Production." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., March 31, 2013): 11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 30, 2013, and has the title "High-Tech Means of Production Belies Nostalgic Image of Maple Syrup.")






April 15, 2013

Scientists May Bring Back Extinct Woolly Mammoths to Help Fight Global Warming



SouthernGastricBroodingExtinctFrog2013-04-05.jpg

"The Southern gastric brooding frog, extinct for a quarter-century. Scientists made early embryos of the frog but they died." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Last week at a conference in Washington, scientists from Australia reported on their attempt to bring back a weird frog, the Southern gastric brooding frog, that went extinct about a quarter century ago. So far they have only made early embryos, which have died.

It is the early days for this new endeavor -- it could be years before scientists succeed in bringing species back from extinction. But many species are now gleams in scientists' eyes as they think of ways to bring them back. Woolly mammoths. A 70,000-year-old horse that used to live in the Yukon. Passenger pigeons, a species that obsessed Dr. Church's former student.


. . .


(p. A16) Before humans killed them, the nation had three billion to five billion passenger pigeons. They would take days to cross a city, noted Hank Greely, the director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University. "They left cities covered in an inch of guano," he said.


. . .


But there could be some unexpected advantages to bringing back certain species, or even to adding their DNA to that of today's species, Dr. Church said. For example, suppose elephants could live again in the Arctic. When woolly mammoths lived in the Arctic they would knock down trees and enable Artic grasses to flourish. Without trees, more sunlight was reflected and the ground was cooler. In winter, they would tramp down snow into the permafrost, enhancing it.

"Permafrost has two to three times more carbon than all the rain forests put together," Dr. Church said. "All you have to do to release carbon dioxide and methane is to melt it. With rain forests you have to burn it."


. . .


Mr. Greely cited another argument in favor of bringing back extinct species. He did not quite buy it, he said, but for him it had "a visceral appeal."

It is an argument about justice. Take the passenger pigeon. "We are the murderers," Mr. Greely said. "We killed them off. Shouldn't we bring them back?"



For the full story, see:

GINA KOLATA. "So You're Extinct? Scientists Have Gleam in Eye." The New York Times (Tues., March 19, 2013): A1 & A16.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 18, 2013.)

(Note: ellipses added.)






April 11, 2013

Global Warming Causes Trees to Grow Faster and Absorb More CO2



CentralParkTrees2013-03-08.jpg "CITY TREE, COUNTRY TREE; Scientists have been looking more closely at urban plant growth in places like Central Park." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D3) . . . , some . . . scientists have moved beyond political questions to explore how rising levels of heat and emissions might provide at least some benefits for the planet.


. . .


Lewis H. Ziska, a plant physiologist for the Department of Agriculture, . . . [said] . . . , "we need to think about the tools we have at hand, and how we can use them to make climate change work for us."

Among the tools are cities, which have conditions that can mimic what life may be like in the temperate zone of a heated planet.

"The city is our baseline for what might happen in future decades, and with all the negative effects global warming may have, there may be a bit of a silver lining," said Stephanie Searle, a plant physiologist who led a Columbia University research project on tree growth, and now works as a biofuels researcher at the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation. "Higher nighttime temperatures, at least, may boost plant growth." Robust growth takes more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.


. . .


The effects of higher, mostly urban emissions are what prompted Dr. Ziska to reappraise global warming as a potential benefit to humanity. In an essay last summer in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Ziska and a group of colleagues from across the world argued that an expected increase in world population to 9 billion people from 7 billion by 2050 necessitated a "green revolution" to enhance yields of basic grains. Carbon dioxide, the group suggested, could be the answer.

Since 1960, world atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by 24 percent to 392 parts per million and could reach 1,000 parts per million by the end of this century.


. . .


In New York, the Columbia researchers studied for eight years the growth of red oak seedlings at four locations, including an "urban" site near the northeastern edge of Central Park at 105th Street and a "remote" site in the Catskills 100 miles north of Manhattan near the Ashokan Reservoir.


. . .


The Columbia team's first red oak experiments ended in 2006, and average minimum temperatures in August were 71.6 degrees at the city site, but 63.5 degrees in the Catskills. Researchers also noticed that the city oaks had elevated levels of leaf nitrogen, a plant nutrient.

The team did two more rounds of experiments, then in 2008 made a final outdoor test using fertilized rural soil everywhere so all the seedlings got plenty of nitrogen. The urban oaks, harvested in August 2008, weighed eight times as much as their rural cousins, mostly because of increased foliage.

"On warm nights, the tree respires more," Dr. Griffin said. "It invests its carbon sugars to build tissue." By morning, the tree's sugars are depleted, and it has to photosynthesize more during the day, he continued. The tree grows more leaves and gets bigger.



For the full story, see:

GUY GUGLIOTTA. "Looking to Cities, in Search of Global Warming's Silver Lining." The New York Times (Tues., November 27, 2012): D3.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed "said" added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 26, 2012.)



The Ziska article mentioned above, is:

Ziska, Lewis H., James A. Bunce, Hiroyuki Shimono, David R. Gealy, Jeffrey T. Baker, Paul C. D. Newton, Matthew P. Reynolds, Krishna S. V. Jagadish, Chunwu Zhu, Mark Howden, and Lloyd T. Wilson. "Food Security and Climate Change: On the Potential to Adapt Global Crop Production by Active Selection to Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279, no. 1745 (Oct. 22, 2012): 4097-105.


The article co-authored by Searle and Griffin, and mentioned above, is:

Searle, Stephanie Y., Danielle S. Bitterman, Samuel Thomas, Kevin L. Griffin, Owen K. Atkin, and Matthew H. Turnbull. "Respiratory Alternative Oxidase Responds to Both Low- and High-Temperature Stress in Quercus Rubra Leaves Along an Urban-Rural Gradient in New York." Functional Ecology 25, no. 5 (Oct. 2011): 1007-17.






April 2, 2013

Great Cities Innovate to Adapt to Possible Global Warming Floods



(p. C3) Spurred by long histories of disastrous storms, the urban engineers of Venice, Tokyo and the Netherlands have been among the pioneers of modern flood control, building storm surge barriers and sea walls on the scale of the pyramids. Such structures could well be models for New York City in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

The cities most experienced in building bulwarks against flood tides and storm surges are at a turning point, however, in their struggle for control of nature. The land upon which they are built continues to sink, population grows and the seas around them rise. As city planners reach the limits of conventional flood control measures, they are experimenting with ways to re-engineer low-lying urban waterfronts.

In Rotterdam, architects are building houses that float on floods. Beneath Tokyo, engineers have tunneled to create miles of emergency floodwater reservoirs. And in St. Petersburg, where storm tides have flooded the city about once a year since its founding in 1703, engineers last year completed a storm-surge barrier more than 15 miles long.



For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Keeping Our Heads Above Water; What can New York learn from other great cities battling rising tides and sinking land?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 1, 2012): C3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 30, 2012.)






March 25, 2013

Scientist Sees Benefits in Plan to Increase Global Warming



(p. D2) Plants are . . . part of one theoretical plan for turning Mars into a suitable environment for human beings, a process called terraforming.


. . .


Chris McKay, a Mars expert at the NASA Ames Research Center, theorizes that engineers would first have to encourage the kind of global warming they want to avoid on Earth. This could be done by releasing greenhouse gases, like chlorofluorocarbons or perfluorocarbons, into the atmosphere. The goal would be to increase the surface temperature of Mars by a total of about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit.


. . .


With the rise in temperature, heat-trapping carbon dioxide would eventually be released from the planet's south polar ice cap, producing a further average temperature rise of even greater magnitude, perhaps as much as 70 degrees Celsius, or 126 degrees Fahrenheit.

These high temperatures would melt ice to produce the water needed for living things.



For the full story, see:

C. CLAIBORNE RAY. "Q & A; At Home on Mars." The New York Times (Tues., December 11, 2012): D2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 10, 2012.)


McKay wrote up some of his ideas in:

McKay, Christopher P. "Bringing Life to Mars." Scientific American Presents: The Future of Space Exploration (1999): 52-57.






March 17, 2013

NYT Climate Blogger Sees Evidence "Trending" Toward Less Global Warming



"Worse than we thought" has been one of the most durable phrases lately among those pushing for urgent action to stem the buildup of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

But on one critically important metric -- how hot the planet will get from a doubling of the pre-industrial concentration of greenhouse gases, a k a "climate sensitivity" -- some climate researchers with substantial publication records are shifting toward the lower end of the warming spectrum.

There's still plenty of global warming and centuries of coastal retreats in the pipeline, so this is hardly a "benign" situation, as some have cast it.

But while plenty of other climate scientists hold firm to the idea that the full range of possible outcomes, including a disruptively dangerous warming of more than 4.5 degrees C. (8 degrees F.), remain in play, it's getting harder to see why the high-end projections are given much weight.


. . .


In fact, there is an accumulating body of reviewed, published research shaving away the high end of the range of possible warming estimates from doubled carbon dioxide levels.


. . .


(. . . recent work is trending toward the published low sensitivity findings from a decade ago from climate scientists best known for their relationships with libertarian groups.)

Nonetheless, the science is what the science is.



Revkin, Andrew C. "CLIMATE CHANGE; A Closer Look at Moderating Views of Climate Sensitivity." Dot Earth: New York Times Opinion Pages Climate Blog. (posted February 4, 2013).

(Note: ellipses added.)






March 16, 2013

Antarctica Has 595,000 Emperor Penguins--Double Previous Count



EmperorPenguinsAntarctica2013-03-10.jpg "Using satellites, researchers counted Antarctica's emperor penguins at 46 colonies like this one near the Halley Research Station, finding numbers twice as high as previously thought." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A2) Antarctica has twice as many emperor penguins as scientists had thought, according to a new study using satellite imagery in the first comprehensive survey of one of the world's most iconic birds.

British and U.S. geospatial mapping experts reported Friday in the journal PLoS One that they had counted 595,000 emperor penguins living in 46 colonies along the coast of Antarctica, compared with previous estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 penguins based on surveys of just five colonies. The researchers also discovered four previously unknown emperor-penguin colonies and confirmed the location of three others.

"It is good news from a conservation point of view," said geographer Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who led the penguin satellite census. "This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space."

Although all of Antarctica's wildlife is protected by international treaty, the emperor penguins are not an officially endangered species. But they are considered a bellwether of any future climate changes in Antarctica because their icy habitat is so sensitive to rising temperatures.



For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Emperor Penguins Are Teeming in Antarctica." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 14, 2012): A2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 13, 2012.)






March 5, 2013

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions Have Little Effect on Global Warming



My colleague Mark Wohar, and his co-author David McMillan, have used sophisticated econometrics to analyze a very long time-series dataset on carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature. They find that CO2 has little, if any, effect on temperature. Here is the abstract of their paper:


(p. 3683) The debate regarding rising temperatures and CO2 emissions has attracted the attention of economists employing recent econometric techniques. This article extends the previous literature using a dataset that covers 800,000 years, as well as a shorter dataset, and examines the interaction between temperature and CO2 emissions. Unit root tests reveal a difference between the two datasets. For the long dataset, all tests support the view that both temperature and CO2 are stationary around a constant. For the short dataset, temperature exhibits trend-stationary behaviour, while CO2 contains a unit root. This result is robust to nonlinear trends or trend breaks. Modelling the long dataset reveals that while contemporaneous CO2 appears positive and significant in the temperature equation, including lags results in a joint effect that is near zero. This result is confirmed using a different lag structure and Vector Autoregressive (VAR) model. A Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) approach to account for endogeneity suggests an insignificant relationship. In sum, the key result from our analysis is that CO2 has, at best, a weak relationship with temperature, while there is no evidence of trending when using a sufficiently long dataset. Thus, as a secondary result we highlight the danger of using a small sample in this context.


Source:

McMillan, David G., and Mark E. Wohar. "The Relationship between Temperature and CO2 Emissions: Evidence from a Short and Very Long Dataset." Applied Economics 45, no. 26 (2013): 3683-90.

(Note: bold added.)






February 25, 2013

Green Threats to Restrict Coal Creates Incentive to Extract More Coal Now



(Wang, p. 1146) The last chapter of the book advances the supply-side analysis and presents the "Green Paradox," that "(t)he mere announcement of intentions to fight global warming made the world warm even faster" ([Sinn, p. ] 189). The key insight is that demand-reduction measures affect carbon supply through pressure on future prices. Since the existing "green" policies almost always involve increasing stringency and widening coverage over time, the increasing downward price pressure therefore induces resource owners to expedite extraction and thereby exacerbates the climate problem.


For the full review, see:

Wang, Tao. "The Green Paradox: A Supply-Side Approach to Global Warming." Journal of Economic Literature 50, no. 4 (Dec. 2012): 1145-46.

(Note: bracketed information added.)


The book under review is:

Sinn, Hans-Werner. The Green Paradox: A Supply-Side Approach to Global Warming. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2012.






December 8, 2012

"It Isn't What You Know that Counts--It Is How Efficiently You Can Refresh"



HalfLifeOfFactsBK2012-12-01.jpg












Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.







(p. A17) Knowledge, then, is less a canon than a consensus in a state of constant disruption. Part of the disruption has to do with error and its correction, but another part with simple newness--outright discoveries or new modes of classification and analysis, often enabled by technology.


. . .


In some cases, the facts themselves are variable.  . . .


. . .


More commonly, however, changes in scientific facts reflect the way that science is done. Mr. Arbesman describes the "Decline Effect"--the tendency of an original scientific publication to present results that seem far more compelling than those of later studies. Such a tendency has been documented in the medical literature over the past decade by John Ioannidis, a researcher at Stanford, in areas as diverse as HIV therapy, angioplasty and stroke treatment. The cause of the decline may well be a potent combination of random chance (generating an excessively impressive result) and publication bias (leading positive results to get preferentially published).

If shaky claims enter the realm of science too quickly, firmer ones often meet resistance. As Mr. Arbesman notes, scientists struggle to let go of long-held beliefs, something that Daniel Kahneman has described as "theory-induced blindness." Had the Austrian medical community in the 1840s accepted the controversial conclusions of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis that physicians were responsible for the spread of childbed fever--and heeded his hand-washing recommendations--a devastating outbreak of the disease might have been averted.

Science, Mr. Arbesman observes, is a "terribly human endeavor." Knowledge grows but carries with it uncertainty and error; today's scientific doctrine may become tomorrow's cautionary tale. What is to be done? The right response, according to Mr. Arbesman, is to embrace change rather than fight it. "Far better than learning facts is learning how to adapt to changing facts," he says. "Stop memorizing things . . . memories can be outsourced to the cloud." In other words: In a world of information flux, it isn't what you know that counts--it is how efficiently you can refresh.



For the full review, see:

DAVID A. SHAYWITZ. "BOOKSHELF; The Scientific Blind Spot." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., November 19, 2012): A17.

(Note: ellipses added, except for the one internal to the last paragraph, which was in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated November 18, 2012.)


The book under review, is:

Arbesman, Samuel. The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date. New York: Current, 2012.






November 10, 2012

The Case for More Climate Adaptations and Fewer Climate Mitigations



ClimatopolisBK2012-11-02.jpg

















Source of book image: http://perseuspromos.com/images/covers/200/9780465019267.jpg



(p. 777) Climatopolis begins with the assumption that our future will bring some combination of higher temperatures, sea level rise, more intense natural disasters, and changes in precipitation and drought conditions. The forecast is considered inevitable because of humanity's deep and (p. 778) growing dependence on energy from fossil fuels, the burning of which generates emissions that cause climate change. In a way that some readers are likely to find overly pessimistic, dismissive, or both, Kahn asserts that we are unlikely to invent a "magical" technology that allows us to live well without producing greenhouse gases. He is equally skeptical about whether geo-engineering will help stabilize the climate. So when it comes to facing a future that includes climate change, Kahn has concluded as soon as page 5 that "unlike a ship, we cannot turn away."

Economics is, after all, the dismal science, but early pessimism in Climatopolis quickly gives way to an overall optimistic theme. It is first encountered, somewhat surprisingly, in a chapter titled "What We've Done When Our Cities Have Blown Up." With examples that range from fires and floods to wars and terrorist attacks, Kahn makes the case that we humans are a surprisingly resilient species. Among the lessons he draws are that destruction often triggers economic booms, people learn from their mistakes, cities are shaped by the accumulation of small decisions by millions of self-interested people, and when conditions are bad in one location people migrate to where it is better.

Kahn gets traction out of the notion that people "vote with their feet," and he describes how climate change will affect where people want to go. Rising temperatures will cause Sun Belt cities in the United States to suffer, for example, while northern cities such as Minneapolis and Detroit will become more attractive places to live.


. . .


Climatopolis . . . cautions against maladaptive policies, and the recommendation here will be familiar to economists: prices should be left undistorted to reflect real costs and risks. Kahn is critical of a policy in Los Angeles under which people who demand more water pay a lower marginal price, and thereby face exactly the wrong incentive for conservation as water becomes increasingly scarce. He also points to the problems of subsidized insurance or caps on premiums for residents in climate-vulnerable areas, as these policies only promote greater vulnerability. What is more, Kahn would like us to stop treating people who move into harm's way as victims in need of a bailout when natural disasters strike. He writes that, "Ironically, to allow capitalism to help us adapt to climate change, the government must precommit to not protect 'the victims'."



For the full review, see:

Kotchen, Matthew J. "Review of Kahn's Climatopolis." Journal of Economic Literature 49, no. 3 (September 2011): 777-79.

(Note: ellipses added.)


Book under review:

Kahn, Matthew E. Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future. New York: Basic Books, 2010.






October 30, 2012

Preindustrial Icelanders Adapted to Adverse Global Cooling



(p. 254) We investigate the effect of climate on population levels in preindustrial Iceland. We find that short-term temperature changes affect the population growth rate. In particular, a 1ºC decrease in temperature causes about 0.57 percent decrease in the population growth rate for the two subsequent years, for a total effect of 1.14 percent. This effect appears to attenuate as the growth rate returns to trend in subsequent years. We also quantify the extent to which eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Icelanders adapt to long-run climate change. In particular, the data suggest that long-run adaptation to climate takes about 20 years and reduces the effect of cold shocks by about 60 percent. Our results also allow us to approximate the effect of permanent climate change on steady-state population levels. This approximation suggests that steady state population levels decrease by 10 percent to 26 percent for each 1ºC of sustained adverse temperature change.

(p. 255) . . .

If contemporary poor agricultural populations behave like their eighteenth- and nineteenth century Icelandic counterparts, then our results suggest that adverse climate change (which now refers to warming, not cooling) will have three effects. First, in the short run it will lead to a significant decrease in population growth rates. Second, over the course of a generation, adaptation will offset about 60 percent of the short run effects. Finally, in the long run, we expect a decrease in steady-state populations.



For the full article, from which the above conclusion is quoted, see:

Turner, Matthew A., Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Jian Chen, and Chunyan Hao. "Adaptation to Climate Change in Preindustrial Iceland." American Economic Review 102, no. 3 (May 2012): 250-55.

(Note: underlining added; the underlined words appeared on p. 254 of the print issue, and on p. 255 of the online issue, of the article.)






October 26, 2012

Government Disaster Relief Crowds Out Private Self-Protection



(p. 242) This paper has investigated the role of natural disaster shocks in determining gross migration flows, controlling for other place-based features. Using two micro datasets, we documented that in the 1920s and 1930s population was repelled from tornado-prone areas, with a larger effect on potential in-migrants than on existing residents, while flood events were associated with net inmigration. The differential migration responses by disaster type raises the question of whether public efforts at disaster mitigation counteract individual migration decisions. The nascent investment in rebuilding and protecting flood-prone areas could provide one example of public investment crowding out private self-protection (i.e., migration).

(p. 243) In future work, we plan to explore the role of New Deal disaster management more directly by exploiting variation across SEAs in federal expenditures and representation on key congressional committees. We predict that residents of areas that received federal largesse after a disaster in the 1930s will be less likely to move out and that new arrivals may be more likely to move in, while residents of areas that benefited less from New Deal spending will continue to use migration as a means of self-protection.



For the full article, from which the above conclusion is quoted, see:

Boustan, Leah Platt, Matthew E. Kahn, and Paul W. Rhode. "Moving to Higher Ground: Migration Response to Natural Disasters in the Early Twentieth Century." American Economic Review 102, no. 3 (May 2012): 238-44.






October 1, 2012

Global Warming Expands Range of Brown Argus Butterfly



BrownArgusButterfly2012-09-03.jpg "The brown argus butterfly has expanded its range in England." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. D3) A butterfly species in England is expanding its range, thanks to climate change.

In the current issue of Science, researchers at the University of York report that the brown argus butterfly has spread its reach in England northward by about 50 miles over 20 years as a warmer climate allows its caterpillars to feed off wild geranium plants, which are widespread in the countryside.



For the full story, see:

SINDYA N. BHANOO. "OBSERVATORY; A Butterfly Takes Wing on Climate Change." The New York Times (Tues., May 29, 2012): D3.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 24, 2012.)


The results summarized above are reported to the scientific community in:

Chen, Ching, Jane K. Hill, Ralf Ohlemüller, David B. Roy, and Chris D. Thomas. "Report; Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming." Science 333, no. 6045 (August 19, 2011): 1024-1026.






September 23, 2012

Ice Melts too Slowly for Obama Backed Arctic Oil Project



ArcticDrillingMap2012-09-03.jpgSource of map: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) Royal Dutch Shell . . . is spending billions of dollars to drill the first oil wells in U.S. Arctic waters in 20 years, backed by an Obama administration eager to show it wasn't opposed to offshore exploration.

But the closely watched project isn't going the way the company or the government hoped--illustrating the continuing challenge of plumbing for natural riches in one of the world's most unforgiving locations.

Sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern Alaska coast was slow to break up this year, leaving the drilling areas inaccessible much later than anticipated.



For the full story, see:

TOM FOWLER. "Shell Races the Ice in Alaska; Delays Put $4.5 Billion Arctic Drilling Plan in Danger of Missing Window Before Next Freeze." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., August 20, 2012): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date August 19, 2012.)






September 9, 2012

Economists Optimistic that Economy Can Adapt to Climate Change



EconomicsOfClimateChangeBK2012-08-28.jpg














Source of book image: http://www.bibliovault.org/thumbs/978-0-226-47988-0-frontcover.jpg




(p. 222) Efficient policy decisions regarding climate change require credible estimates of the future costs of possible (in)action. The edited volume by Gary Libecap and Richard Steckel contributes to this important policy discussion by presenting work estimating the ability of economic actors to adapt to a changing climate. The eleven contributed research chapters primarily focus on the historical experience of the United States and largely on the agricultural sector. While the conclusions are not unanimous, on average, the authors tend to present an optimistic perspective on the ability of the economy to adapt to climate change.


For the full review, see:

Swoboda, Aaron. "Review of: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present." Journal of Economic Literature 50, no. 1 (March 2012): 222-24.



Book under review:

Libecap, Gary D., and Richard H. Steckel, eds. The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.






August 21, 2012

Global Warming Heretic Svensmark May Be the Next Shechtman



(p. C) The list of scientific heretics who were persecuted for their radical ideas but eventually proved right keeps getting longer. Last month, Daniel Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of quasicrystals, having spent much of his career being told he was wrong.

"I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying," he recalled, adding that the doyen of chemistry, the late Linus Pauling, had denounced the theory with the words: "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists."

The Australian medical scientist Barry Marshall, who hypothesized that a bacterial infection causes stomach ulcers, received similar treatment and was taken seriously only when he deliberately infected himself, then cured himself with antibiotics in 1984. Eventually, he too won the Nobel Prize.


. . .


Perhaps it's at least worth guessing which of today's heretics will eventually win a Nobel Prize. How about the Dane Henrik Svensmark? In 1997, he suggested that the sun's magnetic field affects the earth's climate--by shielding the atmosphere against cosmic rays, which would otherwise create or thicken clouds and thereby cool the surface. So, he reasoned, a large part of the natural fluctuations in the climate over recent millennia might reflect variation in solar activity.

Dr. Svensmark is treated as a heretic mainly because his theory is thought to hinder the effort to convince people that recent climatic variation is largely manmade, not natural, so there is a bias toward resisting his idea. That does not make it right, but some promising recent experiments at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) raise the probability that Dr. Svensmark might yet prove to be a Shechtman.



For the full commentary, see:

MATT RIDLEY. "MIND & MATTER; Is That Scientific Heretic a Genius--or a Loon?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., November 12, 2011): C4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






June 30, 2012

Dinosaur Belches and Farts Made More Global Warming Gas than All of Today's Sources



(p. A6) Gassy dinosaurs may have spewed so much methane into the air that it could have helped warm the climate tens of millions of years ago, when temperatures were much higher than today, a team of U.K. scientists reported Monday.

The stomach gas released each year by a group of long-necked, plant-eating dinosaurs, which included the world's largest known land animals, may have equaled the total amount of methane produced every year today from all natural, agricultural and industrial sources, the researchers said Monday in the journal Current Biology. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 23 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

The new scientific work highlights the importance of wildlife, livestock and other natural sources of greenhouse-gas emissions in shaping the global climate.

As with cows, sheep and buffalo today, these plant-eating dinosaurs, known as sauropods, likely digested their leafy greens with the help of methane-producing microbes in their stomachs that fermented the plant matter after it was chewed and swallowed. Generally, other plant eaters and creatures that eat meat, including people, don't digest their food this way and pass gas that is mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with traces of methane and hydrogen.

Cattle belching and gas account for about 20% of U.S. methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.



For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Dinosaur Gas Emissions May Have Warmed Air." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 8, 2012): A6.

(Note: online version of the story is dated May 7, 2012.)


The academic article on sauropod methane emissions is:

Wilkinson, David M., Euan G. Nisbet, and Graeme D. Ruxton. "Could Methane Produced by Sauropod Dinosaurs Have Helped Drive Mesozoic Climate Warmth?" Current Biology 22, no. 9 (May 8, 2012): R292-R93.






June 28, 2012

Feds Subsidize First Solar's Losing Technology



(p. B2) First Solar's solar-panel business, which is focused on large solar installations that feed electricity to power companies, is dependent on government subsidies awarded to such developments.


. . .


But some worry that First Solar isn't well positioned for industry trends. The global solar-power market is moving toward rooftop solar-power systems, rather than the large-scale utility power plants where First Solar's products are most effective, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Jefferies Group Inc.

"This was a market leader, but its technology is being usurped or surpassed by the Chinese," said Mr. Pichel. "Their product is not competitive in the most economic and sustainable solar market, which is rooftop."



For the full story, see:

CASSANDRA SWEET And RUSSELL GOLD. "First Solar Cuts 2,000 Jobs; Panel Maker Laying Off 30% of Workers, Slashing Production Amid Supply Glut." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 18, 2012): B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: online version of the story is dated April 17, 2012.)






June 25, 2012

Coal Mines Help Paleontologists Learn about Environmental Change



DiMicheleWilliamSpringfieldCoal2012-06-12.jpg "SUBTERRANEAN; William A. DiMichele in the Springfield Coal. The dark mass is a coal seam; the lighter shale above is interrupted by a fossil tree stump." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. D3) In the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the largest fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as extensive as the previous contender.


. . .


"Effectively you've got a lost world," said Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, who has explored the site. "It's the closest thing you'll find to time travel," he added.


. . .


The reach of the Springfield forest should allow scientists to undertake ecosystem-wide analyses in a way never before possible in landscapes so ancient, and such studies may help them predict the effects of global warming today.

"With our own CO2 rises and changes in climate," said Scott D. Elrick, a team member from the Illinois State Geological Survey, "we can look at the past here and say, 'It's happened before.' "

Today, we burn the scale trees of the Carboniferous by the billions: they have all turned to coal. Newly discovered, the Springfield forest is already crumbling to bits, as coal-mine ceilings quickly do after exposure. But with continued mining, more ceilings are being revealed every day.

"You have to dig to find fossils, going inside the anatomy of the planet," Dr. Johnson said. "Bill DiMichele realizes he has an entire industry digging for him, creating a tunnel into an ancient world."



For the full story, see:

W. BARKSDALE MAYNARD. "An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues on Climate Change." The New York Times (Tues., May 1, 2012): D3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date April 30, 2012.)




AncientRiverbedMap2012-06-12.jpgSource of map graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






June 24, 2012

With Low Ratings, Planet Green Is Unsustainable



(p. B3) . . . , Discovery Communications -- which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the Science Channel and others -- announced in early April that it was shutting down Planet Green, a four-year-old channel that featured environmental programming. The channel floundered with low ratings and what executives said were a lack of entertaining eco-themed shows.


For the full story, see:

BRIAN STELTER. "No Place for Heated Opinions." The New York Times (Sat., April 21, 2012): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: online version of the story is dated April 20, 2012.)






May 24, 2012

Emperor Penguins Thrive in Antarctica



PenguinsGaloreInAntarctica2012-05-17.jpg "Using satellites, researchers counted Antarctica's emperor penguins at 46 colonies like this one near the Halley Research Station, finding numbers twice as high as previously thought." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. 2) Antarctica has twice as many emperor penguins as scientists had thought, according to a new study using satellite imagery in the first comprehensive survey of one of the world's most iconic birds.

British and U.S. geospatial mapping experts reported Friday in the journal PLoS One that they had counted 595,000 emperor penguins living in 46 colonies along the coast of Antarctica, compared with previous estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 penguins based on surveys of just five colonies. The researchers also discovered four previously unknown emperor-penguin colonies and confirmed the location of three others.

"It is good news from a conservation point of view," said geographer Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who led the penguin satellite census. "This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space."

Although all of Antarctica's wildlife is protected by international treaty, the emperor penguins are not an officially endangered species. But they are considered a bellwether of any future climate changes in Antarctica because their icy habitat is so sensitive to rising temperatures.



For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Emperor Penguins Are Teeming in Antarctica." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 14, 2012): A13.

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated April 13, 2012.)






May 19, 2012

Observed Climate "Not in Good Agreement with Model Predictions"



The author of the following commentary is a Princeton physics professor:


(p. A13) What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years. Monthly values of the global temperature anomaly of the lower atmosphere, compiled at the University of Alabama from NASA satellite data, can be found at the website http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/. The latest (February 2012) monthly global temperature anomaly for the lower atmosphere was minus 0.12 degrees Celsius, slightly less than the average since the satellite record of temperatures began in 1979.

The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.


. . .


Frustrated by the lack of computer-predicted warming over the past decade, some IPCC supporters have been claiming that "extreme weather" has become more common because of more CO2. But there is no hard evidence this is true.


. . .


Large fluctuations from warm to cold winters have been the rule for the U.S., as one can see from records kept by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. For example, the winters of 1932 and 1934 were as warm as or warmer than the 2011-2012 one and the winter of 1936 was much colder.


. . .


It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind's use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.


. . .


. . . we should . . . remember the description of how science works by the late, great physicist, Richard Feynman:

"In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience; compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong."



For the full commentary, see:

WILLIAM HAPPER. "Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again; The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with predictions." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., March 27, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)





May 14, 2012

Warming Planet May Cause Fewer High Clouds in Tropics, Allowing Heat to Escape into Space



CloudWeatherBalloon2012-05-03.jpg "A technician at a Department of Energy site in Oklahoma launching a weather balloon to help scientists analyze clouds." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the leading proponent of the view that clouds will save the day. His stature in the field -- he has been making seminal contributions to climate science since the 1960s -- has amplified his influence.

Dr. Lindzen says the earth is not especially sensitive to greenhouse gases because clouds will react to counter them, and he believes he has identified a specific mechanism. On a warming planet, he says, less coverage by high clouds in the tropics will allow more heat to escape to space, (p. A14) countering the temperature increase.


. . .


Dr. Lindzen accepts the elementary tenets of climate science. He agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, calling people who dispute that point "nutty." He agrees that the level of it is rising because of human activity and that this should warm the climate.

But for more than a decade, Dr. Lindzen has said that when surface temperature increases, the columns of moist air rising in the tropics will rain out more of their moisture, leaving less available to be thrown off as ice, which forms the thin, high clouds known as cirrus. Just like greenhouse gases, these cirrus clouds act to reduce the cooling of the earth, and a decrease of them would counteract the increase of greenhouse gases.

Dr. Lindzen calls his mechanism the iris effect, after the iris of the eye, which opens at night to let in more light. In this case, the earth's "iris" of high clouds would be opening to let more heat escape.


. . .


"If I'm right, we'll have saved money" by avoiding measures to limit emissions, Dr. Lindzen said in the interview. "If I'm wrong, we'll know it in 50 years and can do something."


. . .


"You have politicians who are being told if they question this, they are anti-science," Dr. Lindzen said. "We are trying to tell them, no, questioning is never anti-science."



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "TEMPERATURE RISING; Clouds' Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters." The New York Times (Tues., May 1, 2012): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 30, 2012.)






May 7, 2012

"Environmentalists" Yawn at Windmills Killing Thousands of Migratory Birds



(p. A15) Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, Calif. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks--as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act--are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.

A pernicious double standard is at work here. And it riles Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who wrote the petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He told me, "It's absolutely clear that there's been a mandate from the top" echelons of the federal government not to prosecute the wind industry for violating wildlife laws.

Mr. Glitzenstein comes to this issue from the left. Before forming his own law firm, he worked for Public Citizen, an organization created by Ralph Nader. When it comes to wind energy, he says, "Many environmental groups have been claiming that too few people are paying attention to the science of climate change, but some of those same groups are ignoring the science that shows wind energy's negative impacts on bird and bat populations."



For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT BRYCE. "Windmills vs. Birds; About 70 golden eagles are killed every year by turbines at California's Altamont Pass, reports the LA Times.." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., March 8, 2012): A15.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 7, 2012.)





May 1, 2012

Global Warming Would Reduce Deaths from Flu



(p. 4) According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this January was the fourth warmest in the documented history of weather in the contiguous United States.


. . .


. . . , our warm winter may have one unforeseen and felicitous consequence: a drastic reduction in the incidence of influenza.


. . .


This year's flu season, . . . , didn't officially begin until late last month. And while a true number is difficult to reach -- not every sick person is tested, for instance, and the cause of a death in the hospital can be clouded by co-morbidities -- it is likely that no more than a few hundred people in America, and possibly far fewer, have died of the flu this winter. Indeed, by any measurement, the statistics are historic and heartening. For every individual who has been hospitalized this season, 22 people were hospitalized in the 2010-11 flu season. Even more strikingly, 122 children died of flu last season and 348 during the flu outbreak of 2009-10 -- while this time around that number is 3.



For the full commentary, see:

CHARLES FINCH. "OPINION; The Best Part About Global Warming." The New York Times (Tues., March 4, 2012): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 2, 2012.)





April 3, 2012

Millennials Wiser on Environment than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers



(p. 6A) "I was shocked," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study's authors.


. . .


Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers - and 21 percent of Millennials - said the same.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.


. . .


The analysis was based on two long-term surveys of the nation's youth. The first, the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future project, is an annual survey of thousands of high school seniors, from which data from 1976 through 2008 was used.

Other data came from the American Freshman project, another large annual national survey, administered by the Higher Education Research Institute. Those responses came from thousands of first-year college students, from the years 1966 through 2009. Because of the large sample sizes, the margin of error was less than plus-or-minus half a percentage point.



For the full story, see:

MARTHA IRVINE. "'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' Not a Mantra for Young People." Omaha World-Herald (Sat., March 17, 2012): 6A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated Thursday March 15, 2012 and had the title "Study: Young people not so 'green' after all.")





December 9, 2011

Science Not Accurate at Predicting Storm Intensity



(p. D1) For scientists who specialize in hurricanes, Irene, which roared up the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend, has shone an uncomfortable light on their profession. They acknowledge that while they have become adept at gauging the track a hurricane will take, their predictions of a storm's intensity leave much to be desired.

Officials with NOAA's National Hurricane Center had accurately forecast that Irene would hit North Carolina, and then churn up the mid-Atlantic coast into New York. But they thought the storm would be more powerful, its winds increasing in intensity after it passed through the Bahamas on Thursday.

Instead, the storm lost strength. By the time it made landfall in North Carolina two days later, its winds were about 10 percent lighter than predicted.

It's not a new problem. "With intensity, we just haven't moved off square zero," Dr. Marks said. Forecasting a storm's strength requires knowing the fine details of its structure -- the internal organization and movement that can affect whether it gains energy or loses it -- and then plugging those details into an accurate computer model.

Scientists have struggled to do that. They often overestimate strength, which can lead to griping about overpreparedness, as it has with Irene. But they have sometimes underestimated a storm's power, too, as with (p. D3) Hurricane Charley in 2004. And it is far worse to be underprepared for a major storm.



For the full story, see:

HENRY FOUNTAIN. "Intensity of Hurricanes Still Bedevils Scientists." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D1 & D3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





December 2, 2011

Global Temperatures May Have Flattened, Justifying Global Warming Scepticism



TucumcariWeatherStation2011-11-10.jpgTucsonParkingLotWeatherStation2011-11-10.jpg"Well-sited weather stations, like the one at top in Tucumcari, N.M., are more reliable than others, such as one in a Tuscon, Ariz., parking lot." Source of caption: print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photos: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A2) "Before us, there was a huge barrier to entry" in the field of analyzing temperature numbers, says Richard Muller, scientific director of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team and a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Many scientists are giving the Berkeley Earth team kudos for creating the unified database.


. . .


"I'm inclined to give [satellite] data more weight than reconstructions from surface-station data," says Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician who writes about climate, often critically of studies that find warming, at his website Climate Audit. Satellites show about half the amount of warming as that of land-based readings in the past three decades, when the relevant data were collected from space, he says.

Such disputes demonstrate the statistical and uncertain nature of tracking global temperature. Even with tens of thousands of weather stations, most of the Earth's surface isn't monitored. Some stations are more reliable than others. Calculating a global average temperature requires extrapolating from these readings to the whole globe, adjusting for data lapses and suspect stations. And no two groups do this identically.


. . .


Calculating a global temperature is necessary to track climate trends because, as your TV meteorologist might warn, local conditions can differ. Much of the U.S. and Northern Europe has cooled in the last 70 years, Berkeley Earth found. So did one-third of all weather stations world-wide, while two-thirds warmed. The project cites this as evidence of overall warming; skeptics aren't convinced because it depends how concentrated those warming sites are. If they happen to be bunched up while the cooling sites are in sparsely measured areas, then more places could be cooling.


. . .


Any statistical model produces results with some level of uncertainty. The Berkeley Earth project is no different. That uncertainty is large enough to dwarf some trends in temperature. For instance, fluctuations in the land temperature for the past 13 years make it extremely difficult to say whether the Earth has been continuing to warm during that time.

This possible halting of the temperature rise led to a dispute between members of the Berkeley Earth team. Judith Curry, Mr. Muller's co-author and a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told a reporter for the Daily Mail she questioned Mr. Muller's claim, which he published in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal, that "you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer." She said that if the global temperature has flattened out, that would raise new questions, and scientific skepticism would remain warranted.



For the full story, see:

CARL BIALIK. "THE NUMBERS GUY; Global Temperatures: All Over the Map." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., November 5, 2011): A2.

(Note: ellipses added.)






November 29, 2011

Global Warming Reduces Bubonic Plague in U.S.



(p. D6) Global warming may have one minor but previously unknown benefit, scientists said this month: it may be cutting down cases of bubonic plague in the United States.


. . .


A study in this month's issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene tracked climatic conditions in 195 counties in 13 Western states, from Washington to Texas, that reported even one plague case since 1950.

Cases have dropped over time, and the study concluded that rising nighttime temperatures since 1990 had helped. Warmer nights melt winter snowpacks earlier, leading to drier soil in rodent burrows. When the soil gets too dry, fleas die.



For the full story, see:

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. "GLOBAL UPDATE; United States: Decrease in Bubonic Plague Cases May Be an Effect of Climate Change." The New York Times (Tues., September 21, 2010): D6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 20, 2010.)





November 21, 2011

Increase in Cholera Not Caused by Global Warming



(p. D6) Cholera outbreaks seem to be on the increase, but a new study has found they cannot be explained by global warming.

A bigger factor may be the cycle of droughts and floods along big rivers, according to Tufts University scientists who published a study in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene this month.



For the full story, see:

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. "GLOBAL UPDATE; Cholera: Climate Change Isn't a Culprit in Increasing Outbreaks, Study Finds." The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)





November 10, 2011

Global Warming Benefits Commerce by Opening Northeast Passage



NortheastPassageMapB2011-11-04.jpg "The Northeast Passage Opens Up. The Arctic ice cap has been shrinking, opening up new shipping lanes. This has given access to oil and gas fields, as well as fishing in international waters that were not accessible before." Source of caption and map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) ARKHANGELSK, Russia -- Rounding the northernmost tip of Russia in his oceangoing tugboat this summer, Capt. Vladimir V. Bozanov saw plenty of walruses, some pods of beluga whales and in the distance a few icebergs.

One thing Captain Bozanov did not encounter while towing an industrial barge 2,300 miles across the Arctic Ocean was solid ice blocking his path anywhere along the route. Ten years ago, he said, an ice-free passage, even at the peak of summer, was exceptionally rare.

But environmental scientists say there is now no doubt that global warming is shrinking the Arctic ice pack, opening new sea lanes and making the few previously navigable routes near shore accessible more months of the year. And whatever the grim environmental repercussions of greenhouse gas, companies in Russia and other countries around the Arctic Ocean are mining that dark cloud's silver lining by finding new opportunities for commerce and trade.

Oil companies might be the most likely beneficiaries, as the receding polar ice cap opens more of the sea floor to exploration. The oil giant Exxon Mobil recently signed a sweeping deal to drill in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean. But shipping, mining and fishing ventures are also looking farther north than ever before.

"It is paradoxical that new opportunities are opening for our nations at the same time we understand that the threat of (p. B13) carbon emissions have become imminent," Iceland's president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, said at a recent conference on Arctic Ocean shipping held in this Russian port city not far south of the Arctic Circle.

At the same forum, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered a full-throated endorsement of the new business prospects in the thawing north.

"The Arctic is the shortcut between the largest markets of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "It is an excellent opportunity to optimize costs."




For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "Amid the Peril, a Dream Fulfilled." The New York Times (Tues., October 18, 2011): B1 & B13.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 17, 2011 and has the title "Warming Revives Dream of Sea Route in Russian Arctic.")



VladimirTikhonovTankerBeringStrait2011-11-04.jpg"The tanker Vladimir Tikhonov in the Bering Strait." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





September 26, 2011

Solyndra Debacle Illustrates Why Feds Should Not Pick Tech Winners



The clip above is embedded from the Jon Stewart "The Daily Show" episode that was aired on Thurs., September 15, 2011.



Government "industrial policy" is likely to fail for many reasons. One is that the government decision makers are unlikely to know which future technologies will turn out to be the best ones. Another reason is that even if they know, government decision makers often decide based on what is politically expedient or what is beneficial to their friends.

Solyndra is a case in point, as Jon Stewart hilariously reveals.






September 1, 2011

Natural Causes of Rapid Temperature Change



(p. C4) Some three decades after Laki, 1816 was known as the "year without a summer" thanks to a big eruption in Indonesia. Even Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 caused a brief, though small, drop in world temperatures.

Other abrupt coolings have been bigger but less explicable. Earlier this year, two scientists from Brown University used lake sediments to conclude that the sharp cooling in Greenland during the late Middle Ages, which extinguished the Norse colonies, saw temperatures drop by seven degrees Fahrenheit in 80 years, much faster than recent warming there. Conversely, Greenland's temperature shot up by around 13 degrees in 50 years as the world came out of the last ice age 12,000 years ago and the ice sheets of North America and northern Europe retreated--again, unlike today's slow increase.



For the full commentary, see:

MATT RIDLEY. "MIND & MATTER; Will Volcanoes Cool Our Warming Earth?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., AUGUST 6, 2011): C4.






July 27, 2011

Cow Burps and Farts Cause 28% of Methane Release "Due to Human Activity"



(p. 6A) LOS ANGELES -- Scientists have isolated a bacterium from the gut of Australian Tam­mar wallabies that allows the animals to consume and digest grasses, leaves and other plant material without producing co­pious amounts of methane, as cattle do.

The microbe was discovered through a process described in a report published online recently by the journal Science.

Ultimately, the microbe might be put to use to reduce the car­bon footprint of cows and other ruminants, said report co-author Mark Morrison, a microbial bi­ologist in St. Lucia, Queensland.


. . .


The methane-rich burps and flatulence of cattle have been blamed for 28 percent of that greenhouse gas's global emis­sions due to human activity. Like other cud-chewing mammals, they produce methane as their systems work to break down and ferment the plant matter they eat.



For the full story, see:

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. "Wallaby microbe may one day help cut cows' methane footprint." Omaha World-Herald (Monday, July 4, 2011): 6A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





June 3, 2011

Denmark (Yes, Sanctimoniously 'Green' Denmark) Seeks to Exploit the BENEFITS of Global Warming



(p. A7) Denmark plans to lay claim to parts of the North Pole and other areas in the Arctic, where melting ice is uncovering new shipping routes, fishing grounds and drilling opportunities for oil and gas, a leaked government document showed Tuesday.


For the full story, see:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "WORLD BRIEFING | EUROPE; Denmark: Leaked Document Reveals Plans to Claim Parts of the North Pole." The New York Times (Weds., May 18, 2011): A7.

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 17, 2011.)





March 26, 2011

Kilimanjaro Snow Has "Come and Gone Over Centuries"



KilimanjaroSnow2011-03-09.jpg "Mount Kilimanjaro's top, shown in June, has lost 26 percent of its ice since 2000, a study says." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A6) The ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has continued to retreat rapidly, declining 26 percent since 2000, scientists say in a new report.

Yet the authors of the study, to be published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reached no consensus on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity's role in warming the global climate.

Eighty-five percent of the ice cover that was present in 1912 has vanished, the scientists said.

To measure the recent pace of the retreat, researchers relied on data from aerial photographs taken of Kilimanjaro over time and from stakes and instruments installed on the mountaintop in 2000, said Douglas R. Hardy, a geologist at the University of Massachusetts and one of the study's authors.


. . .


. . . Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the Institute for Geography of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, said that the ice measured was only a few hundred years old and that it had come and gone over centuries.

What is more, he suggested that the recent melting had more to do with a decline in moisture levels than with a warming atmosphere.

"Our understanding is that it is due to the slow drying out of ice," Dr. Kaser said. "It's about moisture fluctuation."



For the full story, see:

SINDYA N. BHANOO. "Mt. Kilimanjaro's Ice Cap Continues Its Rapid Retreat, but the Cause Is Debated." The New York Times (Tues., November 3, 2009): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 2, 2009 and has the title "Mt. Kilimanjaro Ice Cap Continues Rapid Retreat.")





March 8, 2011

Russia Boldly Seeks Oil in Arctic



RussianArcticOilPlatform2011-02-27.jpg"The Prirazlomnaya oil platform was brought to the Arctic seaport of Murmansk, 906 miles north of Moscow, to be adjusted." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) MOSCOW -- The Arctic Ocean is a forbidding place for oil drillers. But that is not stopping Russia from jumping in -- or Western oil companies from eagerly following.

Russia, where onshore oil reserves are slowly dwindling, last month signed an Arctic exploration deal with the British petroleum giant BP, whose offshore drilling prospects in the United States were dimmed by the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year. Other Western oil companies, recognizing Moscow's openness to new ocean drilling, are now having similar discussions with Russia.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER and CLIFFORD KRAUSS. "Russia Embraces Arctic Drilling." The New York Times (Weds., February 16, 2011): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the article was dated February 15, 2011 and had the title "Russia Embraces Offshore Arctic Drilling.")




ArcticOilAndGasMap2011-02-27.jpg
















Source of map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







February 5, 2011

Polar Bears Can Survive Global Warming



(p. 3A) ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- . . .

A study report published Wednesday rejects the often­ used concept of a "tipping point," or point of no return, when it comes to sea ice and the big bear that has become the symbol of climate change woes. . . .

Another research group proj­ects that even if global warming doesn't slow, a thin, icy refuge for the bears would still remain between Greenland and Canada.


. . .


A . . . study was to be pre­sented Thursday at the Ameri­can Geophysical Union confer­ence in San Francisco. That research considers a future in which global warming continues at the same pace.

And it shows that a belt from the northern archipelago of Canada to the northern tip of Greenland will likely still have ice because of various winds and currents.

The sea ice forms off Siberia in an area that's called "the ice factory" and is blown to this belt, which is like an "ice cube tray," said Robert Newton of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observa­tory at Columbia University.

That "sea ice refuge" will be good for polar bears and should continue for decades to come, maybe even into the next cen­tury, he said.



For the full story, see:

AP. "Scientists: It's Not Too Late for Polar Bears After All." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., December 16, 2010): 3A.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The first article mentioned is:

Amstrup, Steven C., Eric T. DeWeaver, David C. Douglas, Bruce G. Marcot, George M. Durner, Cecilia M. Bitz, and David A. Bailey. "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Can Reduce Sea-Ice Loss and Increase Polar Bear Persistence." Nature 468, no. 7326 (December 16, 2010): 955-58.


A poster on an earlier version of the second paper can be found at:

Pfirman, Stephanie, Bruno Tremblay, Charles Fowler, and Robert Newton. "The Arctic Sea Ice Refuge." March 2010.


The reference to the second paper is:

Pfirman, Stephanie, Robert Newton, Bruno Tremblay, and Brenden P. Kelly. "The Last Arctic Sea-Ice Refuge?" In Presented at meetings of American Geophysical Union, December 2010.





October 14, 2010

"A Novel Way to Extract CO2 from the Atmosphere"



(p. 96) UNDERSTANDING how the oceans absorb carbon dioxide is crucial to understanding the role of that gas in the climate. It is rather worrying, then, that something profound may be missing from that understanding. But if Jiao Nianzhi of Xiamen University in China is right, it is. For he suggests there is a lot of carbon floating in the oceans that has not previously been noticed. It is in the form of what is known as refractory dissolved organic matter and it has been put there by a hitherto little-regarded group of creatures called aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotrophic bacteria (AAPB). If Dr Jiao is right, a whole new "sink" for carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been discovered.


. . .


. . . , Dr Jiao and his (p. 97) colleagues propose that AAPB, and possibly other, similar microbes, have a predominant role in pumping carbon into a pool of compounds that cannot be turned back into carbon dioxide by living creatures, thereby building up a large reservoir that keeps carbon out of the atmosphere. If that idea is confirmed, it will need to be incorporated into the computer models used to understand the Earth's carbon cycle and its effect on the climate. But it also raises a more radical thought. The newly discovered microbial carbon pump could provide a novel way to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, should that ever be deemed necessary to combat climate change.



For the full story, see:

"Bacteria and climate change; Invisible carbon pumps; A group of oceanic micro-organisms just might prove a surprising ally in the fight against climate change." The Economist (September 11, 2010): 96-97.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 9, 2010.)





September 12, 2010

More than a Quarter of Weathercasters Believe "Global Warming is a Scam"



(p. A1) Joe Bastardi, . . . , a senior forecaster and meteorologist with AccuWeather, maintains that it is more likely that the planet is cooling, and he distrusts the data put forward by climate scientists as evidence for rising global temperatures.

"There is a great deal of consternation among a lot of us over the readjustment of data that is going on and some of the portrayals that we are seeing," Mr. Bastardi said in a video segment posted recently on AccuWeather's Web site.

Such skepticism appears to be widespread among TV forecasters, about half of whom have a degree in meteorology. A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was "caused mostly by human activities."

More than a quarter of the weathercasters in the survey agreed with the statement "Global warming is a scam," the researchers found.



For the full story, see:

LESLIE KAUFMAN. "Scientists and Weathercasters at Odds over Climate Change." The New York Times (Tues., March 30, 2010): A1 & A16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated March 29, 2010 and had the title "Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming.")





August 18, 2010

Carbon Dioxide Increased After the Globe Warmed, Not Before



The passages quoted below are from an opinion piece by retired physicist Jack Kasher who was a colleague of mine at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


I was pleased to see that the Millard school district pulled Laurie David's book, "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," due to "a major factual error" in a chart that shows rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels dating back 650,000 years. The chart claims to show that global warming is caused by increases in carbon dioxide levels, but the facts show that this is not the case.

In May, I attended an international conference on global warming in Chicago, with 73 speakers from 23 countries. The book and its erroneous chart were discussed there. (Go online to http://www.heartland.org/events/2010Chicago/index.html and click on "proceedings" to see most of the talks and PowerPoint presentations.)

When the error is corrected, the chart will show that in every single case over this time span the Earth warmed up first, followed by a later increase in carbon dioxide. This is clear proof that in the past global warming was not caused by an increase in CO2. If anything, it is the other way around. In each instance, something other than CO2 caused the temperature increase, which then might have made the CO2 rise. This chart shows that past history actually contradicts David's main assumption in her book -- namely that man-made carbon dioxide is causing global warming.



For the full commentary, see:


Dr. Jack Kasher. "Midlands Voices: Let's include uncertainties in global-warming lessons." Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday June 30, 2010): ??.






August 3, 2010

Expert Says Australian Cow Burps Add to Global Warming



KlieveAtholCattleBurpExpert2010-07-23.jpg"Athol Klieve, an expert on cattle stomachs, with steers used for research on reducing methane emissions from belching cattle." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) GATTON, Australia -- To hear Athol Klieve tell it, a key to reducing Australia's enormous carbon emissions is to make a cow more like this country's iconic animal -- the kangaroo.


. . .


Australia contributes more greenhouse gases per capita than just about any other country, with its coal-fired power plants leading the way. But more than 10 percent of those gases come from what bureaucrats call livestock emissions -- animals' burping.

At any given point, after munching and regurgitating grass, tens of millions of Australian cattle, as well as sheep, are belching methane gases nonstop into the air. With methane considered 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere, the burping has given ammunition to environmentalists, vegetarians and other critics of beef while initially putting the large meat industry on the defensive.


. . .


Ruminants release methane because of the peculiar way they digest their food. Inside a cow's foregut, which can contain more than 200 pounds of grass at any given time, fermentation of the food leads to the release of hydrogen, a byproduct that would slow down the fermentation. Microbes known as methanogens help the ruminants get rid of the excess hydrogen by producing methane gases that the animals release into the atmosphere.

In other animals known as hindgut fermenters, including humans -- in which food is fermented after going through their stomachs -- methane is sometimes released through flatulence, a fact that, Mr. Klieve said, has led to misunderstanding about his work

"We've had to put up with that all the time," Mr. Klieve said. "It comes from the front end! In the cow, it comes from the front end. But if you're a hindgut fermenter, it goes the other way."


. . .


Like cattle, kangaroos are also foregut fermenters. But instead of relying on methanogens to get rid of the unwanted hydrogen, kangaroos use different microbes that reduce hydrogen by producing not methane, but harmless acetic acids, the basis of vinegar.


. . .


"It's going to be very difficult to meet the current production needs, particularly for the current global population, with kangaroo," Ms. Henry said. "You need something like 10 kangaroos to produce the same amount of meat as one steer. You can't herd them or fence them in."

Undaunted, a few kangaroo meat entrepreneurs are pressing ahead, seeing methane emissions as a business opportunity.




For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI. "Gatton Journal; Trying to Stop Cattle Burps From Heating Up Planet." The New York Times (Weds., July 14, 2010): A14.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 13, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)


GattonAustraliaMap2010-07-23.jpg










Source of map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





July 25, 2010

More on How Federal Regulations Delay Oil Cleanup



(p. A15) First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.

The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total--roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.



For the full story, see:

PAUL H. RUBIN. "Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow? There are obvious actions to speed things up, but the government oddly resists taking them.." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 2, 2010): A15.






July 21, 2010

Defenders of Climategate Benefit from Global Warming Fears



(p. A15) Last November there was a world-wide outcry when a trove of emails were released suggesting some of the world's leading climate scientists engaged in professional misconduct, data manipulation and jiggering of both the scientific literature and climatic data to paint what scientist Keith Briffa called "a nice, tidy story" of climate history. The scandal became known as Climategate.

Now a supposedly independent review of the evidence says, in effect, "nothing to see here."


. . .


One of the panel's four members, Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, was on the faculty of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences for 18 years. At the beginning of his tenure, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU)--the source of the Climategate emails--was established in Mr. Boulton's school at East Anglia. Last December, Mr. Boulton signed a petition declaring that the scientists who established the global climate records at East Anglia "adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity."

This purportedly independent review comes on the heels of two others--one by the University of East Anglia itself and the other by Penn State University, both completed in the spring, concerning its own employee, Prof. Michael Mann. Mr. Mann was one of the Climategate principals who proposed a plan, which was clearly laid out in emails whose veracity Mr. Mann has not challenged, to destroy a scientific journal that dared to publish three papers with which he and his East Anglia friends disagreed. These two reviews also saw no evil. For example, Penn State "determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community."

Readers of both earlier reports need to know that both institutions receive tens of millions in federal global warming research funding (which can be confirmed by perusing the grant histories of Messrs. Jones or Mann, compiled from public sources, that are available online at freerepublic.com). Any admission of substantial scientific misbehavior would likely result in a significant loss of funding.

It's impossible to find anything wrong if you really aren't looking.



For the full commentary, see

PATRICK J. MICHAELS. "The Climategate Whitewash Continues; Global warming alarmists claim vindication after last year's data manipulation scandal. Don't believe the 'independent' reviews.." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., JULY 12, 2010): A15.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated JULY 10, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





June 16, 2010

Global Warming Would Benefit British Sparkling Wine Growers



RobertsMikeRidgeview2010-05-19.jpg"Mike Roberts, at Ridgeview in 2007, says making wine is easier now." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) DITCHLING, England--The English invented sparkling wine in the 17th century, but failed to profit from it because their cold, dank summers yielded crummy grapes. Three decades later, a French monk named Dom Pérignon adapted the idea and devised a winning tipple, Champagne.

The Brits are starting to claw back some ground. In January, a little-known bubbly from the U.K's Nyetimber Estate was crowned "world's best sparkling wine" at a prestigious taste-off in Italy, defeating a dozen Champagnes, including Roederer, Bollinger and Pommery. Last year, when Britain hosted the G-20 meeting, another effervescent Nyetimber was served to President Barack Obama, Germany's Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

English bubbly is on the rise partly due to better winemaking techniques. But some vintners say they're being helped by another, unexpected factor: a warming climate.

Official data indicate that the past 10 years were the warmest on record globally. In England, this led to plumper and riper grapes most seasons, especially for sparkling wines. The number of vineyards in the U.K. jumped to 416 in 2008 from 363 in 2000, according the trade group English Wine Producers

"Just 20 years ago, it was really difficult to make good wine in cooler climate areas," says Gregory Jones, who studies the effect of climate change on the (p. A18) global wine industry at Southern Oregon University. "Now it's not such a challenge."

With the help of warmer summers, "some of the risk of making sparkling wine here is gone," says Mike Roberts, founder and chief winemaker of the Ridgeview estate here, 45 miles south of London. "We have everything going for us to out-Champagne Champagne."

Last year, the fifth-hottest on record, Ridgeview's grapes ripened two weeks earlier than usual, allowing for the harvest to be brought in before the onset of wet October weather. Mr. Roberts and other English winemakers say 2009 was one of the best growing seasons they've seen.



For the full story, see:

GAUTAM NAIK. "'Warmer Climate Gives Cheer to Makers of British Bubbly; Thanks to Milder Summers, England Takes Some Air Out of France's Famous Tipple." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 11, 2010): A1 & A18.


RidgeviewEstateWine2010-05-19.jpg




















Ridgeview Estate's wine "to out-Champagne Champagne."


Source of photo: http://www.goodfoodpages.co.uk/images/listings/1580/large/ridgeview.jpg Source of quote: Mike Roberts above.






June 8, 2010

"Climate Change Was One of the Forces that Led to the Triumph of Homo Sapiens"



Handprint30000YearsOld2010-05-19.jpg








"The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins in Washington includes this 30,000-year-old handprint from France." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. C32) The exhibition's theme is "What Does It Mean to Be Human?" And the new image of the human it creates is different from the one from a century ago. It isn't that nature has suddenly become a pastoral paradise. Some of the most unusual objects here are fossilized human bones bearing scars of animal attacks: a 3-year-old's skull from about 2.3 million years ago is marked by eagle talons in the eye sockets; an early human's foot shows the bite marks of a crocodile. In one of the exhibition's interactive video stations, in which you are cleverly shown how excavated remains are interpreted, you learn that the teeth of a leopard's lower jaw found in a cave at the Swartkrans site in South Africa match the puncture marks in a nearby early-human skull: evidence of a 1.8 million-year-old killing.


. . .


During the brief 200,000-year life of Homo sapiens, at least three other human species also existed. And while this might seem to diminish any remnants of pride left to the human animal in the wake of Darwin's theory, the exhibition actually does the opposite. It puts the human at the center, tracing how through these varied species, central characteristics developed, and we became the sole survivors. The show humanizes evolution. It is, in part, a story of human triumph.


. . .


. . . at recent excavations in China, at Majuangou, stone tools were found in four layers of rock dating from 1.66 million to 1.32 million years ago; fossil pollen proved that each of these four time periods was also associated with a different habitat. "The toolmaker, Homo erectus," we read, "was able to survive in all of these habitats."

That ability was crucial. The hall emphasizes that enormous changes in the planet's climate accompanied hominin development, suggesting that the ability to adapt to such differing circumstances was the human's strength. Climate change was one of the forces that led to the triumph of Homo sapiens.



For the full review, see:

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN. "Exhibition Review; Hall of Human Origins; Searching the Bones of Our Shared Past." The New York Times (Fri., March 19, 2010): C25 & C32.

(Note: italics in original; ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 18, 2010.)





April 29, 2010

New York City Would Creatively Adapt to Global Warming



NewYorkWaterfrontNewLandscape2010-04-26.jpg "Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront In this MoMA show, a model by Architecture Research Office marries a wholly new landscape to Lower Manhattan's streets." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


Much is in doubt about "global warming" including how much the globe will warm, and how fast, to what extent the benefits of global warming would balance the costs, and what actions (such as Nathan Myhrvold's creative plan) might be taken to counteract global warming.

But one certainty is that if governments leave innovative entrepreneurial capitalism alone, human creativity will find ways to adapt in order to increase the benefits and reduce the costs.

Few cities have displayed as much creative destruction in architecture as New York. (One book on New York architecture was even called The Creative Destruction of Manhattan"). The article quoted below describes some visions of how New York City might adapt to an increase in sea level that might result from global warming.


(p. C21) "Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront," a new show at the Museum of Modern Art, reflects a level of apocalyptic thinking about this city that we haven't seen since it was at the edge of financial collapse in the 1970s, a time when muggers roamed freely, and graffiti covered everything.

Organized by Barry Bergdoll, the Modern's curator of architecture and design, the show is a response to the effects that rising sea levels are expected to have on New York City and parts of New Jersey over the next 70 or so years, according to government studies. The solutions it proposes are impressively imaginative, ranging from spongelike sidewalks to housing projects suspended over water to transforming the Gowanus Canal into an oyster hatchery.


. . .


(p. C23) A general interest in re-examining parts of the urban fabric that we take for granted, like streets, piers and canals -- as opposed to the more familiar desire to create striking visual objects -- is one of the main strengths of the exhibition. A team led by Matthew Baird Architects, for example, has focused on a huge oil refinery in Bayonne, N.J., that, if current estimates hold, will be entirely under water before our toddlers have hit retirement age. Rather than taking the predictable and bland route of transforming the industrial site into a park, the team proposes a system of piers that would support bio-fuel and recycling plants, including one that would produce the building blocks for artificial reefs out of recycled glass.

Those large, multipronged objects, which the architects call "jacks," could be dumped off boats in strategically chosen locations, where their forms would naturally interlock to create artificial reefs once they settled at the bottom of the harbor. The jacks are magical objects, at once tough and delicate, and when you see examples of them from across the room at MoMA, their heavy legs and crushed glass surfaces make them look almost like buildings.

But here again, what's really commendable about the design is the desire to look deeper into how systems -- in this case, global systems, both natural and economic -- work. According to Mr. Baird's research, the melting of the ice cap could one day create a northern shipping passage that would make New York Harbor virtually obsolete. The manufacturing component of the design is meant as part of a broader realignment of the city's economy that anticipates that shift.




For the full story, see:

NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF. "Architecture Review; The Future: A More Watery New York." The New York Times (Fri., March 26, 2010): C21 & C23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: The online version of the article is dated March 25, 2010 and has the title "Architecture Review; 'Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront'; Imagining a More Watery New York.")


The book I mention in my comments is:

Page, Max. The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.





March 18, 2010

Minnesota Windmills Do Not Turn in Cold Weather



WindmillStandStill2010-03-01.jpg "Inspecting a windmill in Chaska, Minn. The blades on some in the area have been stationary." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A12) For those who suspect residents in places like Minnesota of embellishment when it comes to their tales of bitterly cold winter weather, consider this: even some wind turbines, it seems, cannot bear it.

Turbines, more than 100 feet tall, were installed last year in 11 Minnesota cities to provide power, and also to serve as educational symbols in a state that has mandated that a quarter of its electricity come from renewable resources by 2025.

One problem, though: The windmills, supposed to go online this winter, mostly just sat still, people in cities like North St. Paul and Chaska said, rarely if ever budging. Residents took note. Schoolchildren asked questions. Complaints accumulated.

"If people see a water tower, they expect it to stand still," said Wally Wysopal, the city manager of North St. Paul. "If there's a turbine, they want it to turn."

No one knows for sure why these turbines do not. Officials believe there may be several reasons, but weather is the focus of much speculation.




For the full story, see:

MONICA DAVEY. "When Windmills Don't Spin, People Expect Some Answers." The New York Times (Fri., February 5, 2010): A12.

(Note: the online version of the article was dated February 4, 2010)





March 16, 2010

Myhrvold Innovates in Financing Innovation



MyhrvoldNathanIntellectualVentures2010-03-01.jpg "Nathan Myhrvold, chief of Intellectual Ventures, says patent holders are being treated unfairly." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


When Nathan Myhrvold was at Microsoft, he helped Bill Gates write The Road Ahead, a well-written book full of realistically optimistic speculation, forecast and analysis.

Besides his main initiative, discussed below, he has recently been in the news due to his bold and controversial suggestion for how to cheaply solve global warming.


(p. B1) BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Nathan Myhrvold wants to shake up the marketplace for ideas. His mission and the activities of the company he heads, Intellectual Ventures, a secretive $5 billion investment firm that has scooped up 30,000 patents, inspire admiration and angst.

Admirers of Mr. Myhrvold, the scientist who led Microsoft's technology development in the 1990s, see an innovator seeking to elevate the economic role and financial rewards for inventors whose patented ideas are often used without compensation by big technology companies. His detractors see a cynical operator deploying his bulging patent trove as a powerful bargaining chip, along with the implied threat of costly litigation, to prod high-tech companies to pay him lucrative fees. They call his company "Intellectual Vultures."

White hat or black hat, Intellectual Ventures is growing rapidly and becoming a major force in the marketplace for intellectual capital. Its rise comes as Congress is considering legislation, championed by large technology companies, that would make it more difficult for patent holders to win large damage awards in court -- changes that Mr. Myhrvold has opposed in Congressional testimony and that his company has lobbied against.


. . .


(p. B10) The issues surrounding Intellectual Ventures, viewed broadly, are the ground rules and incentives for innovation. "How this plays out will be crucial to the American economy," said Josh Lerner, an economist and patent expert at the Harvard Business School.

Mr. Myhrvold certainly thinks so. He says he is trying to build a robust, efficient market for "invention capital," much as private equity and venture capital developed in recent decades. "They started from nothing, were deeply misunderstood and were trashed by people threatened by new business models," he said in his offices here.

Mr. Myhrvold presents his case at length in a 7,000-word article published on Thursday in the Harvard Business Review. "If we and firms like us succeed," he writes, "the invention capital system will turbocharge technological progress, create many more new businesses, and change the world for the better."

In the article and in conversation, Mr. Myhrvold describes the patent world as a vastly underdeveloped market, starved for private capital and too dependent on federal financing for universities and government agencies, which is mainly aimed at scientific discovery anyway. Eventually, he foresees patents being valued as a separate asset class, like real estate or securities.

His antagonists, he says, are the "cozy oligarchy" of big technology companies like I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard and others that typically reach cross-licensing agreements with each other, and then refuse to deal with or acknowledge the work of inventors or smaller companies.


. . .


Mr. Myhrvold personifies the term polymath. He is a prolific patent producer himself, with more than 100 held or applied for. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton and did postdoctorate research on quantum field theory under Stephen Hawking, before founding a start-up that Microsoft acquired.

He is an accomplished French chef, who has also won a national barbecue contest in Tennessee. He is an avid wildlife photographer, and he has dabbled in paleontology, working on research projects digging for dinosaur remains in the Rockies.





For the full story, see:

STEVE LOHR. "Turning Patents Into 'Invention Capital'." The New York Times (Thur., February 18, 2010): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 17, 2010.)


The Bill Gates book is:

Gates, Bill. The Road Ahead. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995.


Myhrvold's Harvard Business Review essay is:

Myhrvold, Nathan. "The Big Idea: Funding Eureka!" Harvard Business Review 88, no. 2 (March 2010): 40-50.



MyhrvoldNathanFreezeDryMachine2010-03-01.jpg "Nathan Myhrvold with a machine that freeze-dries food. Intellectual Ventures so far has paid $315 million to individual inventors." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





March 10, 2010

Briffa's Tree Ring Evidence Undermines "Hockey Stick" Global Warming Graph



(p. A12) The problem: Using Mr. Briffa's tree-ring techniques, researchers in the '90s built charts suggesting temperatures in the late 20th century were the highest in a millennium. The charts were dubbed "hockey sticks" because they showed temperatures relatively flat for centuries, then angling higher recently.

But Mr. Briffa fretted about a potential issue. Thermometers show temperatures have risen since the '60s, but tree-ring data don't move in tandem, and sometimes show the opposite. (Average annual temperatures reached the highest on record in 2005, according to U.S. government data. They fell the next three years, and rose in 2009. All those years remain among the warmest on record.)

In his same 1999 email, Mr. Briffa said tree-ring data overall did show "unusually warm" conditions in recent decades. But, he added, "I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago."

In other words, maybe the chart shouldn't resemble a hockey stick.

The data were the subject of heated back-and-forth before the IPCC's 2001 report. John Christy, one of the section's lead authors, said at the time that he tried in vain to make sure the report reflected the uncertainty.

Mr. Christy said in an interview that some of the pressure to downplay the uncertainty came from Michael Mann, a fellow lead author of that chapter, a scientist at Pennsylvania State University, and a developer of the original hockey-stick chart.

The "very prominent" use of the hockey-stick chart "overrules what tentativeness some of us actually intended," Mr. Christy wrote to the National Research Council in the U.S. a month after the report was published. Mr. Christy, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, provided that email.

"I was suspicious of the hockey stick," Mr. Christy said in an interview. Had Mr. Briffa's concerns been more widely known, "The story coming out of the [report] may have been different in tone and confidence."




For the full story, see:

JEFFREY BALL And KEITH JOHNSON. "Push to Oversimplify at Climate Panel." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., February 26, 2010): A1 & A12.




GlobalWarmingOversimplifiedGraph2010-02-28.gif
























Hockey stick graph is on top; more accurate, but much less publicized graph, is on bottom. Source of graphs: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.
















March 4, 2010

Doubts on Sainthood for U.N.'s Global Warming Nobel Prize Winning Pachauri



GorePachauriNobelPrizes2010-02-28.jpg "Rajendra K. Pachauri, right, the United Nations climate panel's leader, at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony with Al Gore in 2007." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist's version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations' climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore.

Critics, writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm -- a claim he denies.

They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel's landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.

The report, they contend, misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge about diverse topics -- including the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers and the rise in severe storms -- in a way that exaggerates the evidence for climate change.

But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri's resignation last week.

Critics, writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm -- a claim he denies.

They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel's landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.

The report, they contend, misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge about diverse topics -- including the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers and the rise in severe storms -- in a way that exaggerates the evidence for climate change.




For the full story, see:

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. "U.N. Climate Panel and Its Chief Face a Siege on Their Credibility." The New York Times (Tues., February 9, 2010): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: The online version of the article is dated February 8, 2010, and has the title "Skeptics Find Fault With U.N. Climate Panel.")





March 1, 2010

Thousands Waited Hours in Subzero Cold Trying to Enter Global Warming Conference ("This Is What UN Efficiency Looks Like")



(p. A10) As dozens of developing countries threatened to walk out of the Copenhagen climate-change summit, thousands of NGOs, journalists, lawyers, activists were still trying to get in.

The thousands queued from the early morning into the afternoon on Monday to register for the summit but found themselves in a line that barely budged for most of the day. Only those who already had accreditation -- obtained during the first week of the summit or over the weekend -- were let in; the rest braved subzero temperatures for some glimpse of a breakthrough.

Would-be attendees chanted "Let us in!" to Danish policemen ringing the Bella Center.

United Nations officials announced at one point that the process of accreditation would stop at 6 p.m. today, prompting boos and catcalls and cries of "shame" from those in line. One sign declared: "This is what UN efficiency looks like."



For the full story, see:

Guy Chazan. "Copenhagen Dispatches; Some Walk Out of Gathering, But Many More Want In." The Wall Street Jounal (Tues., December 15, 2009): A10.

(Note: the online version of the commentary had the title "Thousands Line Up for Climate Conference" and the date December 14, 2009.)





February 16, 2010

When the Green Pedalers Went Home, the Grid Powered the Christmas Tree



CopenhagenPedalPoweredXmasTree2010-01-23.jpg









"The pedal-powered Christmas tree at City Hall Square." Source of caption: the print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo (which appeared in the print, but not the online, version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below): http://www.chriskeam.com/blog/uploaded_images/Copenhagen-Xmas-tree-792971.jpg



(p. A16) Copenhagen has splashed out on every kind of green widget to shore up its environmental credentials as host of the world's biggest climate change conference in years. Most of the emissions-free wizardry is familiar, such as electric cars. Here's one you may not have seen yet: An extra "green" Christmas tree.

At the Danish capital's City Hall Square, 15 to 20 volunteers can sit on stationary bikes located around a massive, decorated tree and pedal away to keep it light, at least during the day. The bikes are connected to electrical tie-ups that ultimately power hundreds of lights on the tree.


. . .


Late at night, the big tree continues to sparkle--but thanks to traditional power outlets, not pedal power--once the volunteers have gone home.




For the full story, see:

Spencer Swartz. "Copenhagen Dispatches: Pedal Power: Copenhagen Lights Christmas Tree With Bikes." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., December 16, 2009): A16.

(Note: the title of the online version of the article is "Pedal Power: Copenhagen Lights Christmas Tree With Bikes" and is dated December 15, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 28, 2010

U.N. Glacial Melt Prediction Based on Decade-Old "Misquoted" Interview with One Scientist



In an earlier entry, evidence was quoted suggesting that many Himalayan glaciers are growing, rather than contracting as is widely claimed. Now The New York Times reveals that a "much-publicized" U.N. prediction of Himalayan glacier disappearance by 2035, was based on an old misquoted interview with a single scientist who now repudiates the prediction.


(p. A8) A much-publicized estimate from a United Nations panel about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change is coming under fire as a gross exaggeration.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 -- the same year it shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore -- that it was "very likely" that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 if current warming trends continued.

That date has been much quoted and a cause for enormous consternation, since hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on ice and snow melt from these glaciers for their water supply.

The panel, the United Nations' scientific advisory body on climate change, ranks its conclusions using a probability scale in which "very likely" means there is greater than 90 percent chance that an event will occur.

But it now appears that the estimate about Himalayan glacial melt was based on a decade-old interview of one climate scientist in a science magazine, The New Scientist, and that hard scientific evidence to support that figure is lacking. The scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain, a glacier specialist with the government of the Indian state of Sikkim and currently a fellow at the TERI research institute in Delhi, said in an e-mail message that he was "misquoted" about the 2035 estimate in The New Scientist article. He has more recently said that his research suggests that only small glaciers could disappear entirely.




For the full story, see:

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. "U.N. Panel's Glacier Warning Is Criticized as Exaggerated." The New York Times (Tues., January 19, 2010): A8.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 18, 2010.)





January 27, 2010

Warming of Arctic Would Allow Faster, Safer Cable Route



NorthwestPassageFiberOpticCableRoute2010-01-23.jpg Source of map: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.


(p. 4A) ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Global warming has melted so much Arctic ice that a telecommunication group is moving forward with a project that was unthinkable just a few years ago: laying underwater fiber optic cable between Tokyo and London by way of the Northwest Passage.

The proposed system would nearly cut in half the time it takes to send messages from the United Kingdom to Asia, said Walt Ebell, CEO of Kodiak-Kenai Cable Co. The route is the shortest underwater path between Tokyo and London.

The quicker transmission time is important in the financial world where milliseconds can count in executing profitable trades and transactions. "Speed is the crux," Ebell said. "You're cutting the delay from 140 milliseconds to 88 milliseconds."


. . .


"It will provide the domestic market an alternative route not only to Europe - there's lots of cable across the Atlantic - but it will provide the East Coast with an alternative, faster route to Asia as well," he said.

The cable would pass mostly through U.S., Canadian international waters and avoid possible trouble spots along the way.

"You're not susceptible to 'events,' I should say, that you might run into with a cable that runs across Russia or the cables that run down around Asia and go up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. You're getting away from those choke points."




For the full story, see:

DAN JOLING, Associated Press Writer. "Loss of Arctic Ice Opens Up New Cable Route." Omaha World-Herald (Fri., January 22, 2010): 4A.

(Note: the online version of the article had the title: Global warming opens up Arctic for undersea cable" and was dated January 21, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 21, 2010

Green Danes Embrace Hot Air Escaping Through Open Doors



PedalPoweredSmoothies2010-01-16.jpg"Environmental displays in Copenhagen's City Hall Square include pedal-powered smoothies." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


I mainly liked the article cited below for the photo displayed above.

But there also was this bit, showing that beyond some silly green pretensions, not all is rotten in Denmark:


(p. A11) . . . , cracks in Copenhagen's green facade were easy to spot on Friday at the nearby Stroget, a popular car-free shopping area in the city center. In the late afternoon every shop door was propped open, sending clouds of heated air into the chilly street.

Some cities impose fines on shopkeepers who allow excess energy to escape through open doors.

But Jan Michael Hansen, the executive director of Copenhagen City Center, an organization representing shops along the three-quarter-mile-long corridor, was nonplused. A closed door keeps customers away, which is bad for business, he explained.

He seemed puzzled that the visitor brought it up. "I have never had an inquiry like this before," he said.




For the full story, see:

TOM ZELLER Jr. and ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Reporter's Notebook; Global and Local Concerns Meet in 'Hopenhagen'." The New York Times (Fri., December 10, 2009): A11.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated December 10, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 20, 2010

Global Warming "Consensus" Achieved by Suppressing Skeptical Research



(p. A25) When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.

That can no longer be the case. The alliance of scientists at East Anglia, Penn State and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (in Boulder, Colo.) has done its best to bias it.

A refereed journal, Climate Research, published two particular papers that offended Michael Mann of Penn State and Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. One of the papers, published in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), was a meta-analysis of dozens of "paleoclimate" studies that extended back 1,000 years. They concluded that 20th-century temperatures could not confidently be considered to be warmer than those indicated at the beginning of the last millennium.

In fact, that period, known as the "Medieval Warm Period" (MWP), was generally considered warmer than the 20th century in climate textbooks and climate compendia, including those in the 1990s from the IPCC.

Then, in 1999, Mr. Mann published his famous "hockey stick" article in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which, through the magic of multivariate statistics and questionable data weighting, wiped out both the Medieval Warm Period and the subsequent "Little Ice Age" (a cold period from the late 16th century to the mid-19th century), leaving only the 20th-century warming as an anomaly of note.

Messrs. Mann and Wigley also didn't like a paper I published in Climate Research in 2002. It said human activity was warming surface temperatures, and that this was consistent with the mathematical form (but not the size) of projections from computer models. Why? The magnitude of the warming in CRU's own data was not as great as in the models, so therefore the models merely were a bit enthusiastic about the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mr. Mann called upon his colleagues to try and put Climate Research out of business. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," he wrote in one of the emails. "We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

After Messrs. Jones and Mann threatened a boycott of publications and reviews, half the editorial board of Climate Research resigned. People who didn't toe Messrs. Wigley, Mann and Jones's line began to experience increasing difficulty in publishing their results.




For the full commentary, see:

PATRICK J. MICHAELS. "OPINION; How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus; The East Anglia emails are just the tip of the iceberg." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., DECEMBER 18, 2009): A25.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated DECEMBER 17, 2009.)





January 13, 2010

Obama Leaves Exciting Global Warming Summit Early Due to D.C. Blizzard



CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepC2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate from China sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://img4.allvoices.com/thumbs/event/900/570/44914193-delegate-from.jpg.


(p. A17) COPENHAGEN -- The global effort to combat climate change is stuck in essentially the same place after a massive United Nations summit that it was before the confab: with major emitters deadlocked over how much each of them should have to do to curb the rising output of greenhouse gases.


. . .


Mr. Obama . . . left before the final vote to try to beat a snowstorm that pounded the Washington, D.C., area this weekend.




For the full story, see:

JEFFREY BALL. "Summit Leaves Key Questions Unresolved; U.N. Effort in Copenhagen Sets Stage for Further Haggling Over Emissions Caps, Funds for Poor Nations." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., DECEMBER 21, 2009): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepB2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 19, 2009." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleep2010-01-07.jpg"A French delegate sleeps during all-night discussions at Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://www.rfi.fr/actuen/images/120/FRANCECOPEN432.jpg.





January 12, 2010

World's Poor Care More About Food and Illness than Global Warming



(p. A21) The saddest fact of climate change--and the chief reason we should be concerned about finding a proper response--is that the countries it will hit hardest are already among the poorest and most long-suffering.

In the run-up to this month's global climate summit in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Consensus Center dispatched researchers to the world's most likely global-warming hot spots. Their assignment: to ask locals to tell us their views about the problems they face. Over the past seven weeks, I recounted in these pages what they told us concerned them the most. In nearly every case, it wasn't global warming.

Everywhere we went we found people who spoke powerfully of the need to focus more attention on more immediate problems. In the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia, 27-year-old Samson Banda asked, "If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?" In a camp for stateless Biharis in Bangladesh, 45-year-old Momota Begum said, "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about." On the southeast slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 45-year-old widow and HIV/AIDS sufferer Mary Thomas said she had noticed changes in the mountain's glaciers, but declared: "There is no need for ice on the mountain if there is no people around because of HIV/AIDS."




For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "OPINION; Time for a Smarter Approach to Global Warming; Investing in energy R&D might work. Mandated emissions cuts won't.." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., DECEMBER 15, 2009): A21.





January 11, 2010

NSF Study Shows Many Himalayan Glaciers Growing Larger



HimalayasWesternIce2010-01-07.jpg"This photo taken from the International Space Station in 2004 shows the abundance of ice in the Himalayas, upon which much of the continent of Asia relies for water." Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.


(p. 1A) Two UNO professors have discovered that some glaciers in Pakistan are growing in size -- a discovery that could toss them into the center of a climate-change controversy.


. . .


(p. 2A) News of the research is beginning to leak into science publications. "Science" magazine, for instance, mentioned the as-yet unpublished University of Nebraska at Omaha research in a November story about the debate over Himalayan glaciers.

The UNO research team will attract more attention Friday, when Shroder and Bishop give their presentation at the American Geophysical Union's annual conference.

What they'll present is decades in the making: Shroder first received federal funding to study Afghanistan's geography and geology in 1977, and he has taken 20 research trips to Pakistan since then.

Using a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Shroder and Bishop and a team of graduate students trekked to a group of glaciers clustered around K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, in 2005.

What they found was startling: Their on-the-ground research and satellite images show that many of the glaciers are growing in the rugged, mostly uninhabited region on the Pakistani-Chinese border.


. . .


Shroder achieved brief fame in intelligence circles when he snuck from Kabul to the Salang Pass in northern Afghanistan in the 1980s. There, he took photos of North Korean troops who had crossed the border to support the Red Army -- knowledge that American intelligence agencies didn't have until Shroder handed over the photos.

Now the veteran professor is bracing himself for a potential backlash when the UNO team's research paper comes out in the next few weeks.




For the full story, see:

Matthew Hansen. "UNO Scientists Pinpoint Global Warming Oddity in Himalayas." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., December 17, 2009): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article had the title "These glaciers are growing.")



ShroderJack2010-01-07.jpg












Regents Professor Jack Shroder. Source of photo: http://www.unomaha.edu/glims/img/Portraits/Jack%20shroder-visa.jpg






January 4, 2010

"Claims that Climate Change Is Accelerating Are Bizarre"



The author quoted below on global warming is a Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


(p. A19) Is there a reason to be alarmed by the prospect of global warming? Consider that the measurement used, the globally averaged temperature anomaly (GATA), is always changing. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down, and occasionally--such as for the last dozen years or so--it does little that can be discerned.

Claims that climate change is accelerating are bizarre. There is general support for the assertion that GATA has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the 19th century. The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.

The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode.




For the full commentary, see:

RICHARD S. LINDZEN. "The Climate Science Isn't Settled; Confident predictions of catastrophe are unwarranted." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., December 1, 2009): A19.

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated NOVEMBER 30, 2009.)





December 31, 2009

Global Warming Climatologist Leaves Post Due to His "Efforts to Keep the Work of Skeptical Scientists Out of Major Journals"



(p. A6) The head of the British research unit at the center of a controversy over the disclosure of thousands of e-mail messages among climate-change scientists has stepped down pending the outcome of an investigation.

Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, said that he would leave his post while the university conducted a review of the release of the e-mail messages. The university has called the release and publication of the messages a "criminal breach" of the school's computer systems.

The e-mail exchanges among several prominent American and British climate-change scientists appear to reveal efforts to keep the work of skeptical scientists out of major journals and the possible hoarding and manipulation of data to overstate the case for human-caused climate change.

In a related announcement, Pennsylvania State University said it would review the work of a faculty member who is cited prominently in the e-mail messages, Michael Mann, to assure that it meets proper academic standards.



For the full story, see:

JOHN M. BRODER. "Climatologist Leaves Post in Inquiry Over Leaks." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., December 2, 2009): A6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated December 1, 2009 and has the slightly different title "Climatologist Leaves Post in Inquiry Over E-Mail Leaks.")





December 27, 2009

Emails Vindicate Skeptics Who Questioned Scientific Basis of Global Warming



(p. A1) Just two years ago, a United Nations panel that synthesizes the work of hundreds of climatologists around the world called the evidence for global warming "unequivocal."

But as representatives of about 200 nations converge in Copenhagen on Monday to begin talks on a new international climate accord, they do so against a background of renewed attacks on the basic science of climate change.

The debate, set off by the circulation of several thousand files and e-mail messages stolen from one of the world's foremost climate research institutes, has led some who oppose limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and at least one influential country, Saudi Arabia, to question the scientific basis for the Copenhagen talks.

The uproar has threatened to complicate a multiyear diplomatic effort already ensnared in difficult political, technical and financial disputes that have caused leaders to abandon hopes of hammering out a binding international climate treaty this year.


. . .


(p. A8) On dozens of Web sites and blogs, skeptics and foes of greenhouse gas restrictions take daily aim at the scientific arguments for human-driven climate change. The stolen material was quickly seized upon for the questions it raised about the accessibility of raw data to outsiders and whether some data had been manipulated.

An investigation into the stolen files is being conducted by the University of East Anglia, in England, where the computer breach occurred. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has also said he will look into the matter. At the same time, polls in the United States and Britain suggest that the number of people who doubt that global warming is dangerous or caused by humans has grown in recent years.


. . .


Science is about probability, not certainty. And the persisting uncertainties in climate science leave room for argument. What is a realistic estimate of how much temperatures will rise? How severe will the effects be? Are there tipping points beyond which the changes are uncontrollable?

Even climate scientists disagree on many of these questions. But skeptics have been critical of the data assembled to show that warming is occurring and the analytic methods that climate scientists use, including mathematical models used to demonstrate a human cause for warming and project future trends.

Both sides also have at times been criticized for overstatement in characterizing the scientific evidence. The contents of the stolen e-mail messages and documents have given fresh ammunition to the skeptics' camp.

The Climatic Research Unit's role as a central aggregator of temperature and other climate data has also made it a target. One widely discussed file extracted from the unit's computers, presumed to be the log of a researcher named Ian Harris, recorded his years of frustration in trying to make sense of disparate data and described procedures -- or "fudge factors," as he called them -- used by scientists to eliminate known sources of error.




For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN and JOHN M. BRODER. "Facing Skeptics, Climate Experts Sure of Peril." The New York Times (Mon., December 7, 2009): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated Sun., December 6, 2009 and has the title "In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril.")

(Note: ellipses added.)


Note: the online version of the article includes the following, very interesting, correction of the print version:

Correction: December 15, 2009
Because of an editing error, an article on Dec. 7 about the scientific evidence supporting global warming overstated the level of certainty expressed in a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a network of scientists, that human-caused warming was under way and, if unabated, would pose rising risks. The panel said that most warming since 1950 was "very likely" caused by humans, not that there was "no doubt." The article also misidentified the temperature data cited by a scientist at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit who had expressed frustration in a log about trying to make sense of disparate data. The data was direct measurements of temperature, not indirect indicators like the study of tree rings.

(Note: italics and bold in original.)





December 26, 2009

Emails Reveal Global Warming Scientists Exclude Contrary Views



ClimateGateEmails.gifSource of photo and email images: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



One can imagine Michael Crichton looking down on us with a sad smile:


(p. A3) The scientific community is buzzing over thousands of emails and documents -- posted on the Internet last week after being hacked from a prominent climate-change research center -- that some say raise ethical questions about a group of scientists who contend humans are responsible for global warming.

The correspondence between dozens of climate-change researchers, including many in the U.S., illustrates bitter feelings among those who believe human activities cause global warming toward rivals who argue that the link between humans and climate change remains uncertain.

Some emails also refer to efforts by scientists who believe man is causing global warming to exclude contrary views from important scientific publications.

"This is horrible," said Pat Michaels, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute in Washington who is mentioned negatively in the emails. "This is what everyone feared. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone who does not view global warming as an end-of-the-world issue to publish papers. This isn't questionable practice, this is unethical."

John Christy, a scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville attacked in the emails for asking that an IPCC report include dissenting viewpoints, said, "It's disconcerting to realize that legislative actions this nation is preparing to take, and which will cost trillions of dollars, are based upon a view of climate that has not been completely scientifically tested--but rather orchestrated."

In all, more than 1,000 emails and more than 2,000 other documents were stolen Thursday from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K. The identity of the hackers isn't certain, but the files were posted on a Russian file-sharing server late Thursday, and university officials confirmed over the weekend that their computer had been attacked and said the documents appeared to be genuine.


. . .


In one email, Benjamin Santer from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., wrote to the director of the climate-study center that he was "tempted to beat" up Mr. Michaels. Mr. Santer couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

In another, Phil Jones, the director of the East Anglia climate center, suggested to climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University that skeptics' research was unwelcome: We "will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" Neither man could be reached for comment Sunday.




For the full story, see:

KEITH JOHNSON. "Climate Strife Comes to Light; Emails Illustrate Anger of Scientists Who Believe Humans Are Root of Global Warming." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., NOVEMBER 23, 2009): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the printed version of the article is mostly the same as the online version, but has some differences in order and content. The part quoted above is consistent with the printed version. The passages quoted are the same in both versions, except that the paragraph on the views of John Christy appears later in the online version, and the online version omits his phrase "but rather orchestrated." [I skimmed for differences, but am not absolutely sure that I caught them all.])

(Note: the title of the online version of the article is: "Climate Emails Stoke Debate; Scientists' Leaked Correspondence Illustrates Bitter Feud over Global Warming.")





December 24, 2009

Heretics to the Religion of Global Warming



SuperFreakonomicsBK.jpg















Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.



(p. A19) Suppose for a minute--. . . --that global warming poses an imminent threat to the survival of our species. Suppose, too, that the best solution involves a helium balloon, several miles of garden hose and a harmless stream of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the upper atmosphere, all at a cost of a single F-22 fighter jet.


. . .


The hose-in-the-sky approach to global warming is the brainchild of Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. The basic idea is to engineer effects similar to those of the 1991 mega-eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which spewed so much sulfuric ash into the stratosphere that it cooled the earth by about one degree Fahrenheit for a couple of years.

Could it work? Mr. Myhrvold and his associates think it might, and they're a smart bunch. Also smart are University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, whose delightful "SuperFreakonomics"--the sequel to their runaway 2005 bestseller "Freakonomics"--gives Myhrvold and Co. pride of place in their lengthy chapter on global warming. Not surprisingly, global warming fanatics are experiencing a Pinatubo-like eruption of their own.


. . .


. . . , Messrs. Levitt and Dubner show every sign of being careful researchers, going so far as to send chapter drafts to their interviewees for comment prior to publication. Nor are they global warming "deniers," insofar as they acknowledge that temperatures have risen by 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century.

But when it comes to the religion of global warming--the First Commandment of which is Thou Shalt Not Call It A Religion--Messrs. Levitt and Dubner are grievous sinners. They point out that belching, flatulent cows are adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than all SUVs combined. They note that sea levels will probably not rise much more than 18 inches by 2100, "less than the twice-daily tidal variation in most coastal locations." They observe that "not only is carbon plainly not poisonous, but changes in carbon-dioxide levels don't necessarily mirror human activity." They quote Mr. Myhrvold as saying that Mr. Gore's doomsday scenarios "don't have any basis in physical reality in any reasonable time frame."

More subversively, they suggest that climatologists, like everyone else, respond to incentives in a way that shapes their conclusions. "The economic reality of research funding, rather than a disinterested and uncoordinated scientific consensus, leads the [climate] models to approximately match one another." In other words, the herd-of-independent-minds phenomenon happens to scientists too and isn't the sole province of painters, politicians and news anchors

.


For the full commentary, see:

BRET STEPHENS. "Freaked Out Over SuperFreakonomics; Global warming might be solved with a helium balloon and a few miles of garden hose." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., OCTOBER 27, 2009): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





December 23, 2009

Copenhagen Global Warming Performer Asks for More Summer "Because It's Too Cold to Be Out Here"



(p. 12) . . . a small contingent of climate skeptics and libertarians opposed to caps on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions derided the United Nations talks.

"We want to be able to live our lives like we've always led them before -- as free citizens in free democracies," said David Pontoppidan, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Copenhagen, who addressed passers-by through a megaphone over the chatter of two helicopters hovering far above. "We want free debate; we want to be able to be taken seriously even though we don't agree with the U.N."


. . .

Leading the march from the square this afternoon, a man in blue coveralls, with vaudevillian face paint and a faux Cyrano nose, could be seen sweeping the street and peering into a rolling trash bin painted to resemble the planet. It emitted plumes of white dust and mournful musical notes.

"This is our comment on global warming," said the sweeper, Jens Kloft, a Danish performance artist. "We want to have an international compromise on global warming -- a better climate, but two more months of summer in Denmark please. Because it's too cold to be out here."




For the full story, see:

TOM ZELLER Jr. "Thousands March in Copenhagen, Calling for Action." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., December 13, 2009): 12.

(Note: the last two paragraphs quoted above are from the print version; the NYT deleted them from the online version. Also, the first paragraph quoted, is from the print version of that paragraph, and not the shortened online version. The online version of the article is dated Sat., December 12, 2009.)

(Note: ellipses added.)





December 19, 2009

Safe Drinking Water Matters More than Global Warming



(p. A17) Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.

For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about."

One of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, Mrs. Begum has lost faith in the media and politicians.

"So many people like you have come and interviewed us. I have not seen any improvement in our conditions," she said.

It is time the developed world started listening.




For the full commentary, see:

Bjørn LOMBORG. "Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh; Momota Begum worries about hunger, not climate change." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., NOVEMBER 9, 2009): A17.





December 5, 2009

Malaria "Weakly Related to Temperature"; "Strongly Related to Poverty"



(p. A17) In the West, campaigners for carbon regulations point out that global warming will increase the number of malaria victims. This is often used as an argument for drastic, immediate carbon cuts.

Warmer, wetter weather will improve conditions for the malaria parasite. Most estimates suggest that global warming will put 3% more of the Earth's population at risk of catching malaria by 2100. If we invest in the most efficient, global carbon cuts--designed to keep temperature rises under two degrees Celsius--we would spend a massive $40 trillion a year by 2100. In the best case scenario, we would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%.

In comparison, research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the number of those infected with malaria within one decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives. . . .

Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty. It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response.




For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "Climate Change and Malaria in Africa; Limiting carbon emissions won't do much to stop disease in Zambia." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., NOVEMBER 2, 2009): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated Nov. 1st.)





November 23, 2009

Global Warming Did Not Cause Southeast Drought



(p. A13) The drought that gripped the Southeast from 2005 to 2007 was not unprecedented and resulted from random weather events, not global warming, Columbia University researchers have concluded. They say its severe water shortages resulted from population growth more than rainfall patterns.

The researchers, who report their findings in an article in Thursday's issue of The Journal of Climate, cite census figures showing that in Georgia alone the population rose to 9.54 million in 2007 from 6.48 million in 1990.

"At the root of the water supply problem in the Southeast is a growing population," they wrote.

Richard Seager, a climate expert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who led the study, said in an interview that when the drought struck, "people were wondering" whether climate change linked to a global increase in heat-trapping gases could be a cause.

But after studying data from weather instruments, computer models and measurements of tree rings, which reflect yearly rainfall, "our conclusion was this drought was pretty normal and pretty typical by standards of what has happened in the region over the century," Mr. Seager said.

Similar droughts unfolded over the last thousand years, the researchers wrote. Regardless of climate change, they added, similar weather patterns can be expected regularly in the future, with similar results.




For the full story, see:

CORNELIA DEAN. "Study Links Water Shortages in Southeast to Population, Not Global Warming." The New York Times (Fri., October 2, 2009): A13.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated Oct. 1st and has the title "Southeast Drought Study Ties Water Shortage to Population, Not Global Warming.")


The research summarized in the passages above can be read in its full and original form, at:

Seager, Richard, Alexandrina Tzanova, and Jennifer Nakamura. "Drought in the Southeastern United States: Causes, Variability over the Last Millennium, and the Potential for Future Hydroclimate Change." Journal of Climate 22, no. 19 (Oct. 1, 2009): 5021-45.





November 13, 2009

Global Warming Is Least Worry of Vanuatu Island's Poor



(p. A19) In a warning often repeated by environmental campaigners, the Vanuatuan president told the United Nations that entire island nations could be submerged. "If such a tragedy does happen," he said, "then the United Nations and its members would have failed in their first and most basic duty to a member nation and its innocent people."

Torethy Frank, a 39-year-old woman carving out a subsistence lifestyle on Vanuatu's Nguna Island, is one of those "innocent people." Yet, she has never heard of the problem that her government rates as a top priority. "What is global warming?" she asks a researcher for the Copenhagen Consensus Center.


. . .


Torethy and her family of six live in a small house made of concrete and brick with no running water. As a toilet, they use a hole dug in the ground. They have no shower and there is no fixed electricity supply. Torethy's family was given a battery-powered DVD player but cannot afford to use it.


. . .


What would change her life? Having a boat in the village to use for fishing, transporting goods to sell, and to get to hospital in emergencies. She doesn't want more aid money because, "there is too much corruption in the government and it goes in people's pockets," but she would like microfinance schemes instead. "Give the money directly to the people for businesses so we can support ourselves without having to rely on the government."

Vanuatu's politicians speak with a loud voice on the world stage. But the inhabitants of Vanuatu, like Torethy Frank, tell a very different story.



For the full commentary, see:

BJøRN LOMBORG. "The View from Vanuatu on Climate Change; Torethy Frank had never heard of global warming. She is worried about power and running water." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., OCTOBER 23, 2009): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version is dated Thurs., Oct. 22.)





October 19, 2009

"Recent Temperature Plateau" May Undermine Case for Global Warming



GlobalWarmingPlateauGraph2009-09-27.jpgSource of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A10) The world leaders who met at the United Nations to discuss climate change on Tuesday are faced with an intricate challenge: building momentum for an international climate treaty at a time when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.

The plateau in temperatures has been seized upon by skeptics as evidence that the threat of global warming is overblown. And some climate experts worry that it could hamper treaty negotiations and slow the progress of legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.


. . .

Underscoring just how little clarity there is on short-term temperature fluctuations, researchers from Britain's climate change office, in a paper published in August, projected "an end to this period of relative stability," with half the years between now and 2015 exceeding the record-setting global temperatures of 1998.

Whatever the next decade may hold, critics of global warming have lost no time in using the current temperature plateau to build their case.

"I think it supports the arguments of those who've said, 'What's the rush for policy on this issue?' " said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist affiliated with George Mason University and the Cato Institute, a group opposing most regulatory solutions to environmental problems.


. . .

A clearer view of whether the recent temperature plateau undermines arguments for dangerous climate change in the long run should come in a few years, as the predictions made by the British climate researchers are tested. Their paper appeared in a supplement to an August issue of The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

While the authors concluded that there was a 1 in 8 chance of having a decade-long pause in warming like the current plateau, even with rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, the odds of a 15-year pause, they wrote, are only 5 in 100. As a result, the next few years of observations could tip the balance toward further concern or greater optimism.

Meanwhile, social scientists who study the way people understand and respond to environmental problems say it is not surprising that the current temperature stability has created confusion and apathy.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Plateau in Temperatures Adds Difficulty to Task of Reaching a Solution." The New York Times (Weds., Sept. 23, 2009): A10.

(Note: the online version lists a date of September 21 and has the title as "Momentum on Climate Pact Is Elusive", but the body of the article seems to be the same as the print version.)

(Note: ellipses added.)





October 8, 2009

Adaptation Greatly Reduces Negative Effects from Global Warming



One of the advantages of flexible economic systems, such as capitalism, is that they can adapt to unexpected or exogenous changes in the environment (e.g., changes in the weather). In the empirical analysis quoted from below, the primary finding is that roughly half of the short-term negative effects on income from rising temperatures, "are offset in the long run through adaptation."

Almost all of the countries in the sample of 12 deviate substantially from the ideal of entrepreneurial capitalism. So the reduction by half is probably a much smaller amount of adaptation than would occur in a sample of countries that had adopted policies that allowed a flourishing of entrepreneurship.


(p. 203) Using subnational data from 12 countries in the Americas, we show that the negative crosssectional relationship between temperature and income exists within countries, as well as across countries. We then provide a theoretical framework for reconciling the substantial, negative association between temperature and income in cross section with the even stronger short-run effects of temperature shown in panel models. The theoretical framework suggests that half of the negative short-term effects of temperature are offset in the long run through adaptation.



Source:

Dell, Melissa, Benjamin F. Jones, and Benjamin A. Olken. "Temperature and Income: Reconciling New Cross-Sectional and Panel Estimates." American Economic Review 99, no. 2 (May 2009): 198-204.





October 7, 2009

Global Warming Creates Benefit of Arctic Shipping Shortcut



GermanShipArtcticPassage.jpg "A German ship, following a Russian icebreaker, is about to complete a shipment from Asia to Europe via Arctic waters." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A1) MOSCOW -- For hundreds of years, mariners have dreamed of an Arctic shortcut that would allow them to speed trade between Asia and the West. Two German ships are poised to complete that transit for the first time, aided by the retreat of Arctic ice that scientists have linked to global warming.

The ships started their voyage in South Korea in late July and will begin the last leg of the trip this week, leaving a Siberian port for Rotterdam in the Netherlands carrying 3,500 tons of construction materials.

Russian ships have long moved goods along the country's sprawling Arctic coastline. And two tankers, one Finnish and the other Latvian, hauled fuel between Russian ports using the route, which is variously called the Northern Sea Route or the Northeast Passage.

But the Russians hope that the transit of the German ships will inaugurate the passage as a reliable shipping route, and that the combination of the melting ice and the economic benefits of the shortcut -- it is thousands of miles shorter than various southerly routes -- will eventually make the Arctic passage a summer competitor with the Suez Canal.

"It is global warming that enables us to think about using that route," Verena Beckhusen, a spokeswoman for the shipping company, the Beluga Group of Bremen, Germany, said in a telephone interview.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws." The New York Times (Fri., September 10, 2009): A1 & A3.




NortheastPassageMap2009-09-26.jpg "A Shortcut Across the Top of the World." Source of caption and map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





September 30, 2009

Adaptation of Thai Rice Farmers to Global Warming



A 2009 study of the effects of global warming on Thai rice farmers, finds that most such farmers have been able to fully adapt to milder changes, and to allay the worst effects of extreme changes. The researchers note that for milder changes, the farmers may even benefit from the increased rainfall that often accompanies such changes. The researchers also note that the adaptation would have been greater if they had been able to take account of the full range of adaptations the farmers could make:


(p. 210) Our results illustrate the complexity of climate change effects on rice yields at both the aggregate and individual levels, the scope of farmers' ability to counter climate change, and thus the importance of accurate modeling of farmers' decisions. Overall, farmers are unable to neutralize the adverse effects of the more extreme climate change. However, they are able to cope with milder climate change and even benefit slightly from small increases in rainfall. While most farmers manage to adjust to milder climate change, poor farmers are less able to do so.

It should be noted that in our analysis we consider only farmers' adjustment through input decision rules. We do not model or incorporate possible changes in timing of input usage, nor broader adjustments such as changes in the type of crop grown or migration. As a result, our findings may overstate both yield changes and implied welfare effects of climate change.




Source:

Felkner, John, Kamilya Tazhibayeva, and Robert Townsend. "Impact of Climate Change on Rice Production in Thailand." American Economic Review 99, no. 2 (May 2009): 205-10.





September 25, 2009

Creator of Cap-and-Trade Now Says Plan is Ineffective and Inflexible



CrockerThomas2009-09-13.jpg











"When he was a graduate student in the 1960s working to reduce pollutants, Thomas Crocker devised a cap-and-trade system similar to one being considered in Congress." Source of photo and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A7) In the 1960s, a University of Wisconsin graduate student named Thomas Crocker came up with a novel solution for environmental problems: cap emissions of pollutants and then let firms trade permits that allow them to pollute within those limits.

Now legislation using cap-and-trade to limit greenhouse gases is working its way through Congress and could become the law of the land. But Mr. Crocker and other pioneers of the concept are doubtful about its chances of success. They aren't abandoning efforts to curb emissions. But they are tiptoeing away from an idea they devised decades ago, doubting it can work on the grand scale now envisioned.

"I'm skeptical that cap-and-trade is the most effective way to go about regulating carbon," says Mr. Crocker, 73 years old, a retired economist in Centennial, Wyo. He says he prefers an outright tax on emissions because it would be easier to enforce and provide needed flexibility to deal with the problem.


. . .


Mr. Crocker sees two modern-day problems in using a cap-and-trade system to address the global greenhouse-gas issue. The first is that carbon emissions are a global problem with myriad sources. Cap-and-trade, he says, is better suited for discrete, local pollution problems. "It is not clear to me how you would enforce a permit system internationally," he says. "There are no institutions right now that have that power."

Europe has embraced cap-and-trade rules. Emissions initially rose there because industries were given more permits than they needed, and regulators have since tightened the caps. Meanwhile China, India and other developing markets are reluctant to go along, fearing limits would curb their growth. If they don't participate, there is little assurance that global carbon emissions will slow much even if the U.S. goes forward with its own plan. And even if everyone signs up, Mr. Crocker says, it isn't clear the limits will be properly enforced across nations and industries.

The other problem, Mr. Crocker says, is that quantifying the economic damage of climate change -- from floods to failing crops -- is fraught with uncertainty. One estimate puts it at anywhere between 5% and 20% of global gross domestic product. Without knowing how costly climate change is, nobody knows how tight a grip to put on emissions.

In this case, he says Washington needs to come up with an approach that will be flexible and easy to adjust over a long stretch of time as more becomes known about damages from greenhouse-gas emissions. Mr. Crocker says cap-and-trade is better suited for problems where the damages are clear -- like acid rain in the 1990s -- and a hard limit is needed quickly.

"Once a cap is in place," he warns, "it is very difficult to adjust." For example, buyers of emissions permits would see their value reduced if the government decided in the future to loosen the caps.



For the full story, see:

JON HILSENRATH. "Cap-and-Trade's Unlikely Critics: Its Creators; Economists Behind Original Concept Question the System's Large-Scale Usefulness, and Recommend Emissions Taxes Instead." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., AUGUST 13, 2009): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





September 23, 2009

Scientists Believe Life Emerged from a Process of "Creative Destruction" and Global Warming



CosmicCrashSite2009-09-07.jpgSource of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A9) In a paradox of creation, new evidence suggests that devastating avalanches of cosmic debris may have fostered life on Earth, not annihilated it. If so, life on our planet may be older than scientists previously thought -- and more persistent.

Astronomers world-wide have been transfixed by a roiling gash the size of Earth in the atmosphere of Jupiter, caused by an errant comet or asteroid that smashed into the gas giant last month. The lingering turbulence is an echo of a cataclysmic bombardment that shaped the origin of life here 3.9 billion years ago, when millions of asteroids, comets and meteors pummeled our planet.


. . .


But in their super-heated plunge through the atmosphere, these asteroids and meteors may have helped create conditions ideal for emerging life. "Everyone focuses on the meteor that hits the ground," says geochemist Richard Court at London's Imperial College. "No one thinks about the products of its journey that get pumped into the atmosphere."

As they vented, they collectively could have imported billions of tons of life-sustaining water into the air every year, Dr. Court and his colleague Mark Sephton recently determined. They calculated that these showers of volatile rocks delivered 10 times the daily outflow of the Mississippi River every year for 20 million years. By analyzing the fumes emitted under such extreme heat, they discovered these rocks also could have injected billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.

Combined with so much water vapor, the carbon dioxide could have induced a global greenhouse effect. That could have kept any life emerging on Earth safely in a planetary incubator at a time when the planet might easily have frozen because the Sun radiated 25% less energy than today. "The amount of CO2 that was produced is about the same we produce today through fossil fuel use and we know that is a climate-changing volume," says Dr. Court.


. . .


"It is literally a revolution in our ideas about how our solar system evolved," says asteroid expert William Bottke at the Southwest Research Institute. "It could be that our form of life today -- every living thing that we see today -- is due to this bombardment that happened 3.9 billion years ago."



For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "SCIENCE JOURNAL; Some Creative Destruction on a Cosmic Scale; Scientists Say Asteroid Blasts, Once Thought Apocalyptic, Fostered Life on Earth by Carrying Water and Protective Greenhouse Gas." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., AUGUST 14, 2009): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)





September 20, 2009

Global Warming Laws May Increase Food Prices



(p. A5) Some of the nation's biggest food and agriculture companies are planning to release a flurry of studies in coming weeks that scrutinize the potential impact of climate-change legislation, warning that it could lead to higher food prices.


. . .


In a letter sent last month to Sens. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, and Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the coalition said the House bill "will increase food and feed prices and reduce the international competitiveness of our businesses."

The letter said Congress "must take extreme care to avoid adverse impacts on food security, prices, safety, and accessibility to necessary consumer products." The letter also criticized the House bill for failing to provide transitional assistance to "low-income households struggling with rising food prices."

When the group's studies are released, possibly by the end of August, they are likely to reignite tensions between food and ethanol producers that have raged since 2007 when Congress passed energy legislation that gave a big boost to the corn-ethanol industry.

The food industry has complained that the energy bill pushed up prices for corn and other key food ingredients that resulted in higher consumer prices as the ethanol industry siphoned more corn to make ethanol.



For the full story, see:

LAUREN ETTER. "Food Firms Fret Over Potential Impact of Climate Bill; Coalition, Including Agricultural Giants, Plans to Draw Attention to Concerns That Legislation Could Lead to Higher Food Prices." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 13, 2009): A5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





September 15, 2009

Global Warming Allows Humans to "Skip" Next Ice Age



SundayLakeAlaska2009-09-06.jpg "Researchers use a floating platform to take sediment cores from Sunday Lake in southwestern Alaska." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A17) The human-driven buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere appears to have ended a slide, many millenniums in the making, toward cooler summer temperatures in the Arctic, the authors of a new study report.

Scientists familiar with the work, to be published Friday in the journal Science, said it provided fresh evidence that human activity is not only warming the globe, particularly the Arctic, but could also even fend off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age over the next few dozen millenniums.


. . .


In the very long term, the ability to artificially warm the climate, particularly the Arctic, could be seen as a boon as the planet's shifting orientation to the Sun enters a phase that could initiate the next ice age.

As a result of such periodic shifts, 17 ice ages are thought to have come and gone in two million years. The last ice age ended 11,000 years ago and the next one, according to recent research, could be 20,000 or 30,000 years off discounting any influence by humans. The last ice age buried much of the Northern Hemisphere under a mile or more of ice.

With humans' clear and growing ability to alter the climate, Dr. Overpeck said, "we could easily skip the next opportunity altogether."



For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Global Warming Is Delaying Ice Age, Study Finds." The New York Times (Fri., September 4, 2009): A17.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age.")

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The reference to the full scientific presentation of the research is:

Kaufman, Darrell S., David P. Schneider, Nicholas P. McKay, Caspar M. Ammann, Raymond S. Bradley, Keith R. Briffa, Gifford H. Miller, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Bo M. Vinther, and Members Arctic Lakes 2k Project. "Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling." Science 325, no. 5945 (2009): 1236-39.





September 9, 2009

Congress Takes Exotic, Costly Global Warming Trip



GlobalWarmingGlobeTrottersMap.gifSource of map: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) WASHINGTON -- When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.

The 11-day trip -- with six spouses traveling along as well -- took place over New Year's 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.

It's tough to calculate the travel bills racked up by members of Congress, but one thing's for sure: They use a lot of airplanes. In recent days, House of Representatives members allocated $550 million to upgrade the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these -- even though the Defense Department says it doesn't need all the planes. . . .

The South Pole trip, led by Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), ranks among the priciest. The lawmakers reported a cost to taxpayers of $103,000.

That figure, however, doesn't include the actual flying, because the trip used the Air Force planes, not commercial carriers. Flight costs would lift the total tab to more than $500,000, based on Defense Department figures for aircraft per-hour operating costs.



For the full story, see:

BRODY MULLINS and T.W. FARNAM. "Lawmakers' Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots; Penguins, a Rocket-Propelled Airplane (and Tax Dollars) Also Involved." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., June 10, 2009): A1 & A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)



RocketAssistedSiEquippedPlane.jpg "The type of rocket-assisted, ski-equipped plane that took the lawmakers to the South Pole." Source of photo and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





July 31, 2009

Obama EPA Censors Global Warming Skeptic



CarlinAlan2009-07-05.jpg














"Alan Carlin, 35-year Environmental Protection Agency veteran." Source of caricature and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A11) In March, the Obama EPA prepared to engage the global-warming debate in an astounding new way, by issuing an "endangerment" finding on carbon. It establishes that carbon is a pollutant, and thereby gives the EPA the authority to regulate it -- even if Congress doesn't act.

Around this time, Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. "We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA," the report read.

The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from "any direct communication" with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office." (Emphasis added.)

Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: "With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don't want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate." Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.



For the full commentary, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. "OPINION: POTOMAC WATCH; The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JULY 3, 2009): A11.

(Note: ellipsis in original; italics added by Strassel.)





July 10, 2009

Lomborg Warns of "Climate-Industrial Complex"



(p. A19) Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.

The tight relationship between the groups echoes the relationship among weapons makers, researchers and the U.S. military during the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the might of the "military-industrial complex," cautioning that "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." He worried that "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."

This is certainly true of climate change. We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test. We must ask whether a "climate-industrial complex" is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain.



For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "OPINION: The Climate-Industrial Complex; Some businesses see nothing but profits in the green movement." Wall Street Journal (Thurs., MAY 22, 2009): A19.





June 23, 2009

"Evidence Suggests" that Bangladesh Can "Cheaply and Safely" Protect Itself Against Global Warming



BeelBhainaBangladeshNewLand2009-06-10.JPG"In Beel Bhaina, a low-lying 600-acre soup bowl of land on the banks of the Hari River, in Bangladesh, land that was once under water is now full of greenery." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A6) BEEL BHAINA, Bangladesh -- The rivers that course down from the Himalayas and into this crowded delta bring an annual tide of gift and curse. They flood low-lying paddies for several months, sometimes years, at a time. And they ferry mountains of silt and sand from far away upstream.

Most of that sediment washes out into the roiling Bay of Bengal. But an accidental discovery by desperate delta folk here may hold clues to how Bangladesh, one of the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change, could harness some of that dark, rich Himalayan muck to protect itself against sea level rise.

Instead of allowing the silt to settle where it wants, Bangladesh has begun to channel it to where it is needed -- to fill in shallow soup bowls of land prone to flooding, or to create new land off its long, exposed coast.

The efforts have been limited to small experimental patches, not uniformly promising, and there is still ample concern that a swelling sea could one day soon swallow parts of Bangladesh. But the emerging evidence suggests that a nation that many see as indefensible to the ravages of human-induced climate change could literally raise itself up and save its people -- and do so cheaply and simply, using what the mountains and tides bring.



For the full story, see:

SOMINI SENGUPTA. "In Silt, Bangladesh Sees Potential Shield Against Sea Level Rise." The New York Times (Fri., March 20, 2009): A6.



BeelBhainaBangladeshMap.jpg











"An influx of silt after a flood made Beel Bhaina higher." Source of map and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






June 17, 2009

Cooking with Cow Shit Adds to Global Warming (and Would Be Ended by Economic Growth)



SootFromCookingIndia.jpg"Cooking in Kohlua, India. Soot from tens of thousands of villages in developing countries is responsible for 18 percent of the planet's warming, studies say." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


Economic growth is sometimes seen as increasing pollution. But the article quoted below shows that primitive cooking methods, which occur in the absence of economic growth, cause one of the most damaging forms of pollution: black carbon.


(p. A1) KOHLUA, India -- "It's hard to believe that this is what's melting the glaciers," said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world's leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.

As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.

In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot -- also known as black carbon -- from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.

While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the (p. A12) planet's warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming -- especially in the short term, climate experts say. Replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed stopgap, while nations struggle with the more difficult task of enacting programs and developing technologies to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.


. . .


Better still, decreasing soot could have a rapid effect. Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for years, soot stays there for a few weeks. Converting to low-soot cookstoves would remove the warming effects of black carbon quickly, while shutting a coal plant takes years to substantially reduce global CO2 concentrations.


. . .


Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of environmental engineering at Stanford, said that the fact that black carbon was not included in international climate efforts was "bizarre," but "partly reflects how new the idea is."



For the full story, see:

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. "By Degrees; Black Carbon; Soot From Third-World Stoves Is New Target in Climate Fight." The New York Times (Thurs., April 16, 2009): A1, A12.

(Note: ellipses added; the title of the online version is "By Degrees - Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight." )


BlackCarbonMap.jpg





Source of maps: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





June 7, 2009

Global Warming Lowers Sea Levels Near Juneau



GlaciersRecedingJuneau2009-05-31.jpg"Glaciers around Juneau are receding 30 feet or more each year." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) JUNEAU, Alaska -- Global warming conjures images of rising seas that threaten coastal areas. But in Juneau, as almost nowhere else in the world, climate change is having the opposite effect: As the glaciers here melt, the land is rising, causing the sea to retreat.

Morgan DeBoer, a property owner, opened a nine-hole golf course at the mouth of Glacier Bay in 1998, on land that was underwater when his family first settled here 50 years ago.

"The highest tides of the year would come into what is now my driving range area," Mr. DeBoer said.

Now, with the high-tide line receding even farther, he is contemplating adding another nine holes.

"It just keeps rising," he said.

The geology is complex, but it boils down to this: Relieved of billions of tons of glacial weight, the land has risen much as a cushion regains its shape after someone gets up from a couch. The land is ascending so fast that the rising seas -- a ubiquitous byproduct of global warming -- cannot keep pace. As a result, the relative sea level is falling, at a rate "among the highest ever recorded," according to a 2007 report by a panel of experts convened by Mayor Bruce Botelho of Juneau.



For the full article, see:

CORNELIA DEAN. "Higher Seas? As Alaska Glaciers Melt, Land Rises." The New York Times (Mon., May 18, 2009): A1 & A11.

(Note: the title of the online version of the article is: "As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It's Land That's Rising.")


JuneuauGolfCourse2009-05-31.jpg"Morgan DeBoer opened a nine-hole golf course, above, at the mouth of Glacier Bay in 1998 on land that did not exist when his family settled in the area 50 years ago." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





June 1, 2009

"Infinitely Smart" Physicist and Futurist Expresses Global Warming Doubts



DysonFreeman2009-05-30a.jpg Dyson says that the "climate-studies people" have ". . . come to believe models are real and forget they are only models." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (The caption used here is adapted from the body of the article, and is not the caption used under the photo in the article.)



The cover story of the March 29, 2009 Sunday New York Times Magazine section was a breath of fresh air on an old hot topic. Here is a small sample of a large article:


(p. 32) FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson has quietly resided in Prince­ton, N.J., on the wooded former farmland that is home to his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study, this country's most rarefied community of scholars. Lately, however, since coming "out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned," as Dyson sometimes puts it, there has been noise all around him. Chat rooms, Web threads, editors' letter boxes and Dyson's own e-mail queue resonate with a thermal current of invective in which Dyson has discovered himself variously described as "a pompous twit," "a blowhard," "a cesspool of misinformation," "an old coot riding into the sunset" and, perhaps inevitably, "a mad scientist." Dyson had proposed that whatever inflammations the climate was experiencing might be a (p. 34 sic) good thing because carbon dioxide helps plants of all kinds grow. Then he added the caveat that if CO2 levels soared too high, they could be soothed by the mass cultivation of specially bred "carbon-eating trees," whereupon the University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner looked through the thick grove of honorary degrees Dyson has been awarded -- there are 21 from universities like Georgetown, Princeton and Oxford -- and suggested that "perhaps trees can also be designed so that they can give directions to lost hikers." Dyson's son, George, a technology historian, says his father's views have cooled friendships, while many others have concluded that time has cost Dyson something else. There is the suspicion that, at age 85, a great scientist of the 20th century is no longer just far out, he is far gone -- out of his beautiful mind.

But in the considered opinion of the neurologist Oliver Sacks, Dyson's friend and fellow English expatriate, this is far from the case. "His mind is still so open and flexible," Sacks says. Which makes Dyson something far more formidable than just the latest peevish right-wing climate-change denier. Dyson is a scientist whose intelligence is revered by other scientists -- William Press, former deputy director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a professor of computer science at the University of Texas, calls him "infinitely smart." Dyson -- a mathematics prodigy who came to this country at 23 and right away contributed seminal work to physics by unifying quantum and electrodynamic theory -- not only did path-breaking science of his own; he also witnessed the development of modern physics, thinking alongside most of the luminous figures of the age, including Einstein, Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Witten, the "high priest of string theory" whose office at the institute is just across the hall from Dyson's. Yet instead of hewing to that fundamental field, Dyson chose to pursue broader and more unusual pursuits than most physicists -- and has lived a more original life.

. . .

(p. 36) Not long ago Dyson sat in his institute office, a chamber so neat it reminds Dyson's friend, the writer John McPhee, of a Japanese living room. On shelves beside Dyson were books about stellar evolution, viruses, thermodynamics and terrorism. "The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models," Dyson was saying. "They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models." Dyson speaks in calm, clear tones that carry simultaneous evidence of his English childhood, the move to the United States after completing his university studies at Cambridge and more than 50 years of marriage to the German-born Imme, but his opinions can be barbed, especially when a conversation turns to climate change. Climate models, he says, take into account atmospheric motion and water levels but have no feeling for the chemistry and biology of sky, soil and trees. "The biologists have essentially been pushed aside," he continues. "Al Gore's just an opportunist. The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers."

Dyson agrees with the prevailing view that there are rapidly rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by human activity. To the planet, he suggests, the rising carbon may well be a MacGuffin, a striking yet ultimately benign occurrence in what Dyson says is still "a relatively cool period in the earth's history." The warming, he says, is not global but local, "making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter." Far from expecting any drastic harmful consequences from these increased temperatures, he says the carbon may well be salubrious -- a sign that "the climate is actually improving rather than getting worse," because carbon acts as an ideal fertilizer promoting forest growth and crop yields. "Most of the evolution of life occurred on a planet substantially warmer than it is now," he contends, "and substantially richer in carbon dioxide." Dyson calls ocean acidification, which many scientists say is destroying the saltwater food chain, a genuine but probably exaggerated problem. Sea levels, he says, are rising steadily, but why this is and what dangers it might portend "cannot be predicted until we know much more about its causes."



For the full article, see:

NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF. "The Civil Heretic." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., March 29, 2009): 32-39, 54, 57-59.

(Note: ellipses in top photo caption, and in article quotes, are added.)


DysonFreeman2009-0530b.jpg
















"Freeman Dyson." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






May 24, 2009

Global Warming Environmentalists Propose to Tax Sheep Emissions



SheepBurp1.jpg













". . . , researchers rustle up sheep behind the lab in Palmerston North, New Zealand, . . . " Source of photo and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A1) PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand -- On a typical day, researchers in this college town coax hungry sheep into metal carts. They wheel the fluffy beasts into sealed chambers and feed them grass, then wait for them to burp.

The exercise is part of a global effort to keep sheep, deer, cows and other livestock from belching methane when they eat and regurgitate grass. Methane is among the most potent greenhouse gases, and researchers now believe livestock industries are a major contributor to climate change, responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than cars are, according to the United Nations.

Plenty of people, including farmers, think the problem of sheep burps is so much hot air. But governments are coming under pressure to put a cork in it, and many farmers fear that new livestock regulations could follow. They worry that environmentalists will someday persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to seek to tax bovine belches. Some activists are urging consumers to stop buying meat and thus slow climate change.

All of which is breathing new life into the study of sheep stomachs. Researchers have tried just about everything, from changing the animals' diets to breeding new sheep they hope will be less gassy. They've concocted (p. A9) cocktails of clover, garlic and cottonseed oil to try to curb methane. They have even tried feeding the animals chloroform, which can stymie the production of gas if it doesn't kill the animal.

But sure as grass grows, livestock keep producing methane.

. . .

. . . , roughly 48% of New Zealand's greenhouse gases come from agriculture, compared with less than 10% in such large, developed economies as the U.S. Agricultural leaders fear their livestock-heavy economy could be at risk if there's an international move to tighten rules on animal emissions.

Kiwis tried to get a leg up on the problem in 2003, when politicians proposed an emissions tax on livestock. Farmers thought they were getting fleeced and attacked what they called a "fart tax." The idea was tabled.




For the full story, see:

PATRICK BARTA. "Silencing the Lambs: Scientists Target Sheep Belching to Cut Methane; Reducing Gas in Livestock Could Help World Breathe Sigh of Relief Over Global Warming." Wall Street Journal (Thurs., FEBRUARY 26, 2009): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)


SheepBurp2.jpgSheepBurp3.jpg







[Researchers place sheep] "in a cart to be wheeled into sealed chambers to measure levels of the greenhouse gas methane the animals burp up."






Source of photos and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





May 14, 2009

Global Warming Makes Arctic Less Hostile



StatoilHydroLNGplant2009-05-16.jpg "Statoilhydro's pioneering liquefied natural gas plant on an island off Hammerfest in Norway has encountered an array of problems." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) HAMMERFEST, Norway -- A Norwegian oil company has gone to the ends of the earth -- almost literally -- to get at some of the world's last untapped energy resources.

StatoilHydro ASA operates a pioneering venture deep inside the Arctic Circle, energy's final frontier. The company pumps natural gas from under the freezing waters of the Barents Sea, cools it into a liquid and exports it to Europe and the U.S.

The project, called Snoehvit, has taken StatoilHydro and the entire oil and gas industry into uncharted territory. Before, no one had ever produced liquefied natural gas in the Arctic -- or in Europe, for that matter.

. . .


The oil companies are being aided by climate change. Lashed by storms and strewn with icebergs, the Arctic is one of the most hostile environments on earth. But global warming is melting the polar ice cap, opening up new shipping routes and unlocking once-inaccessible mineral deposits.

. . .


(p. B4) StatoilHydro, . . . , is upbeat. The plant is currently running at 80% to 90% of capacity, up from around 60% last year, company officials say. Outages are typical for the run-in period of a big LNG project, and flaring will soon be a thing of the past. Sure, they say, the start-up period has been troubled, but this is a field with a production life of up to 40 years.



For the full story, see:

GUY CHAZAN. "Norwegian Oil Firm Goes to Energy's Last Frontier." Wall Street Journal (Fri., FEBRUARY 13, 2009): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: LNG in the quotes is the abbreviation for liquefied natural gas.)


ArcticOilReserves2009-02-16.gif Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





May 12, 2009

Life Thrived When Earth Was Far Warmer than Now



SnakeLargest2009-02-16.jpg "An artist's rendering of the prehistoric snake Titanoboa cerrejonensis, which was 42 feet long and lived 60 million years ago." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A7) Some 60 million years ago, well after the demise of the dinosaurs, a giant relative of today's boa constrictors, weighing more than a ton and measuring 42 feet long, hunted crocodiles in rain-washed tropical forests in northern South America, according to a new fossil discovery.


. . .


But the existence of such a large snake may also help clarify how hot the tropics became during an era when the planet, as a whole, was far warmer than it is now, and also how well moist tropical ecosystems can tolerate a much warmer global climate.

That last question is important in assessments of how human-driven global warming might affect the tropics.


. . .


The team examined how warm it had to be for a snake species to be that large by considering conditions favoring the largest living similar tropical snake, the green anaconda, said Jason J. Head, the lead author of the paper and a paleontologist at the University of Toronto. They concluded that Titanoboa could have thrived only if temperatures ranged from 86 to 93 degrees.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Fossils of Largest Snake Give Hint of Hot Earth." The New York Times (Thurs., February 4, 2009): A7.

(Note: ellipses added.)





March 29, 2009

Vaclav Klaus: The Czech Republic's Free Market Crusader


KlausVaclav2009-02-15.jpg "President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic is known for his economic liberalism." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A6) To supporters, Mr. Klaus is a brave, lone crusader, a defender of liberty, the only European leader in the mold of the formidable Margaret Thatcher. (Aides say Mr. Klaus has a photo of the former British prime minister in his office near his desk.)


. . .


As a former finance minister and prime minister, he is credited with presiding over the peaceful 1993 split of Czechoslovakia into two states and helping to transform the Czech Republic into one of the former Soviet bloc's most successful economies.

But his ideas about governance are out of step with many of the European Union nations that his country will lead starting Jan. 1.

While even many of the world's most ardent free marketeers acknowledged the need for the recent coordinated bailout of European banks, Mr. Klaus lambasted it as irresponsible protectionism. He blamed too much -- rather than too little -- regulation for the crisis.

A fervent critic of the environmental movement, he has called global warming a dangerous "myth," arguing that the fight against climate change threatens economic growth.

. . .


Those who know Mr. Klaus say his economic liberalism is an outgrowth of his upbringing. Born in 1941, he obtained an economics degree in 1963 and was deeply influenced by free market economists like Milton Friedman.

Mr. Klaus's son and namesake, Vaclav, recalled in an interview that when he was 13, his father told him to read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to better understand Communism's oppressiveness.

"If you lived under communism, then you are very sensitive to forces that try to control or limit human liberty," he said in an interview.



For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "A Fiery Czech Is Poised to Be the Face of Europe." The New York Times (Tues., November 25, 2008): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)





February 15, 2009

"Little Risk the Ice Sheet Will Collapse"


JakobshavnIsbraeGlacierFissure.jpg "To probe the underside of Greenland's glaciers, NASA researcher Alberto Behar released 90 specially tagged rubber ducks into a fissure of the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier in Greenland, tracking their progress along underground melt-water streams." Source of caption: typed from print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: edited screen capture from the online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) As researchers learn more about the mechanics of Greenland's glaciers, they are becoming convinced that, by itself, the sub-surface water slide created by so much melting ice may be a short-lived seasonal effect, says University of Washington polar scientist Ian Joughin. The glaciers speed up in the summer but slow down in the fall. If that's true, there may be little risk the ice sheet will collapse as some scientists recently feared -- at least not for the foreseeable future.


For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "The Sober Science of Migrating Rubber Duckies; An Armada of Tub Toys Sets Sail in New Research Discipline, 'Flotsam Science,' and Helps Unravel Enduring Planetary Mysteries." Wall Street Journal (Mon., November 14, 2008): A13.




January 20, 2009

Global Warming Benefits Democracy in Greenland


Ice.jpg Source of captionless photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 20) . . . for the residents of the frozen island, the early stages of climate change promise more good, in at least one important sense, than bad. A Danish protectorate since 1721, Greenland has long sought to cut its ties with its colonizer. But while proponents of complete independence face little opposition at home or in Copenhagen, they haven't been able to overcome one crucial calculation: the country depends on Danish assistance for more than 40 percent of its gross domestic product. "The independence wish has always been there," says Aleqa Hammond, Greenland's minister for finance and foreign affairs. "The reason we have never realized it is because of the economics."

. . .

But the real promise lies in what may be found under the ice. Near the town of Uummannaq, about halfway up Greenland's coast, retreating glaciers have uncovered pockets of lead and zinc. Gold and diamond prospectors have flooded the island's south. Alcoa is preparing to build a large aluminum smelter. The island's minerals are becoming more accessible even as global commodity prices are soaring. And with more than 80 percent of the land currently iced over, the hope is that the island has just begun to reveal its riches.

. . .

In November, Greenlanders will vote on a referendum that would leverage global warming into a path to independence. The island's 56,000 predominantly Inuit residents have enjoyed limited home rule since 1978. The proposed plan for self-rule, drafted in partnership with Copenhagen, is expected to pass overwhelmingly.



For the full story, see:

STEPHAN FARIS. "Phenomenon; Ice Free; Will Global Warming Give Greenland Its Independence?" The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., July 27, 2008): 20.

(Note: ellipses added.)




November 21, 2008

Russia Expands Icebreaker Fleet to Exploit Benefits of Global Warming


HealyIceBreaker20080824.jpg "The Healy, shown in May 2007 in the Bering Sea, is an ice-breaking ship used mainly for science." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 6) A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.

The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States' two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.

And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon's Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country's ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world's largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska's Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce -- and potential conflict and hazards -- like never before.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., August 17, 2008): 6.




November 7, 2008

Michael Crichton's Scariest Story


CrichtonMichael2003.jpg






Michael Crichton speaking on environmentalism at the Fairmont Hotel on September 15, 2003. Source of photo: Bill Adams' posting at http://www.pbase.com/bill_adams/image/21439440


The papers announced yesterday (11/6/08) that Michael Crichton had died of cancer a couple of days earlier (11/4/08).

I had mixed feelings about his stories. On the one hand, they seemed mainly to stir up unrealistic fears about technology, which I see as mainly a benefit to humanity. On the other hand, they often involved intelligent heroes who struggled against danger, and won (or at least partly won).

Crichton's best story may have been one of his last, State of Fear. In that book, he took on the environmental movement, and showed in a powerful appendix, how some scientists and scientific institutions have failed us, by creating fear that is not grounded in the free exchange of ideas and evidence.

Crichton did not have to take on this issue---it earned him vituperative enemies, and probably lost him some readers. But in the end, he too was an intelligent hero who struggled against danger---the danger of politically correct closed minds.

Michael Crichton, Rest in Peace.

P.S.: Crichton had some scientific credentials. Here are a couple of interesting facts about his life:

(p. A27) At Harvard, after a professor criticized his writing style, the younger Mr. Crichton changed his major from English to anthropology and graduated summa cum laude in 1964. He then spent a year teaching anthropology on a fellowship at Cambridge University. In 1966 he entered Harvard Medical School and began writing on the side to help pay tuition.

. . .

In 1969, after earning his medical degree, Mr. Crichton moved to the La Jolla section of San Diego and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Already inclining toward a writing career, he tilted decisively with "The Andromeda Strain," a medical thriller about a group of scientists racing against time to stop the spread of a lethal organism from outer space code-named Andromeda.



For the full obituary, see:

WILLIAM GRIMES. "Michael Crichton, Author of Thrillers, Dies at 66." The New York Times (Thurs., November 5, 2008): A27.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

CrichtonMichaelHarvard2002.jpg Michael Crichton during an April 11, 2002 lecture at the Harvard Medical School (from which he graduated). Source of photo: http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/04.18/11-crichton.html




October 18, 2008

U.S. Geological Survey Finds Huge New Gas and Oil Reserves in Arctic


ArcticOilGasMap.jpg

Source of the graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A9) The Arctic contains just over a fifth of the world's undiscovered, recoverable oil and natural-gas resources, according to a review released Wednesday, confirming its potential as the final frontier for energy exploration.

A report by the U.S. Geological Survey found that the area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- nearly two-thirds the proved gas reserves of the entire Middle East -- and 90 billion barrels of oil.

The report, the culmination of four years of study, is one of the most ambitious attempts to assess the Arctic's petroleum potential. One of its main findings is that natural gas is three times as abundant as oil in the Arctic, and most of that gas is concentrated in Russia.

The survey reflects interest in an area once off-limits to oil exploration. It has become more accessible as global warming reduces the polar icecap, opening valuable new shipping routes, oil fields and mineral deposits.



For the full story, see:

GUY CHAZAN. "Cold Comfort: Arctic Is Oil Hot Spot; Hard-to-Reach Energy Reserves Limit Potential." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 24, 2008): A9.

See also:

JAD MOUAWAD. "Oil Survey Says Arctic Has Riches." The New York Times (Thurs., July 24, 2008): C1 & C4.

WardHuntIceShelfCrack.jpg "A Canadian ranger looks along the length of one of the gaping new cracks in the large Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, in an April photo. Climate change is opening up the region's potential for energy exploration." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.





September 24, 2008

Higher Prices to Operate Cars, Increases Demand for Segways



SegwayPizza.jpg









Using a Segway to deliver pizza. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. B2) With gasoline prices and global warming on their minds, more Americans are getting out of their cars and riding to work -- and riding on the job -- on the once-maligned Segway.

Scott Hervey of Yorba Linda, Calif., bought one of the electric scooters on June 7 and has put 150 miles on it commuting to his custodian's job at Disneyland, about 12 miles away. He had considered buying a Segway for four years, and gasoline prices finally drove him to do it. Now he "glides," as Segway enthusiasts say, to work. "I like passing gas stations," says the 54-year-old.

The two-wheeled Segway, a self-balancing vehicle that runs on a rechargeable battery, debuted amid massive hype in 2001. Tech icons like Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.'s chief executive officer, and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos predicted it would change the way people lived. But critics panned the high-tech scooter for its $5,000 price tag and portrayed it as a toy for geeks and the rich. Some cities banned it from sidewalks because of safety concerns.

Today, the Segway is gaining converts. It plugs into a standard electrical outlet and can get up to 25 miles per charge.

Sales at the scooter's maker, Segway Inc., have risen to an all-time high, says CEO Jim Norrod. The closely held Manchester, N.H., company doesn't release detailed numbers. (A September 2006 recall showed the company had sold 23,500 Segways.) But Mr. Norrod says he expects sales this quarter to jump 50% from a year earlier, versus a 25% year-over-year increase in the first quarter.



For the full story, see:

STU WOO. "Segway Glides as Gasoline Jumps; Maligned Scooter Winning New Fans; $5,000 Price Tag." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., June 16, 2008): B2.





July 23, 2008

Global Warming Would Result in FEWER Hurricanes


The NYT ran an article on Knutson's 2004 study that claimed that global warming would result in more hurricanes. But a search (on 6/19/08) of the online NYT database reveals no 2008 articles that include both "Knutson" and "global" in their content.

So apparently the NYT does not consider it newsworthy that Knutson's most recent research (see below) finds that global warming would result in fewer hurricanes.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Global warming isn't to blame for the recent jump in hurricanes in the Atlantic, concludes a study by a prominent federal scientist whose position has shifted on the subject.

Not only that, warmer temperatures will actually reduce the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic and those making landfall, research meteorologist Tom Knutson reported in a study released Sunday.

In the past, Knutson has raised concerns about the effects of climate change on storms. His new paper has the potential to heat up a simmering debate among meteorologists about current and future effects of global warming in the Atlantic.



For the full story, see:

"Study: Global warming not worsening hurricanes." MSN onllne Posted May 19, 2008 11:37 AM ET. Downloaded on 6/19/08 from: http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=AP&date=20080519&id=8664109

(Note: the AP article appeared in many outlets, including "Warming Absolved in Scientist's Altered View of Hurricane Frequency." Omaha World-Herald (Mon, May 19, 2008): 4A.)


The reference to the Knutson article is:

Knutson, Thomas, Joseph Sirutis, Stephen Garner, Gabriel Vecchi, and Isaac Held. "Simulated Reduction in Atlantic Hurricane Frequency under Twenty-First-Century Warming Conditions." Nature Geoscience 1 (2008): 359-64.




July 18, 2008

Global Warming Alarmists "Want Us to Sacrifice Liberty"


KlausVaclavCzechPresident.jpg








President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

In addition to his insights into global warming, Vaclav Klaus is an advocate of the work of Joseph Schumpeter.

(p. A9) Mr. Klaus is . . . interested in the politics of global warming. He has written a book, tentatively titled "Blue, Not Green Planet," published in Czech last year and due out in English translation in the U.S. this May. The main question of the book is in its subtitle: "What is in danger: climate or freedom?"

He likens global-warming alarmism to communism, which he experienced first-hand in Cold War Czechoslovakia, then a Soviet satellite. While the communists argued that we must all sacrifice some freedom in pursuit of "equality," the "warmists," as Mr. Klaus calls them, want us to sacrifice liberty -- especially economic liberty -- to prevent a change in climate. In both cases, in Mr. Klaus's view, the costs of achieving the goal, and the impossibility of truly doing so, argue strongly against paying a price of freedom.

. . .

In Europe, Mr. Klaus has the reputation of a firebrand, if not a loose cannon. This is a president, after all, who calls global warming "alarmism" a "radical political project" based in a form of "Malthusianism" that is itself grounded on a "cynical approach [by] those who themselves are sufficiently well-off."

"It is not about climatology," he insists. "It is about freedom."



For the full article, see:

BRIAN M. CARNEY. "The Weekend Interview with Vaclav Klaus; The Contrarian of Prague." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 8, 2008): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




May 10, 2008

"Nature" Article Forecasts Cooler Europe and North America Over Next Decade


The journal Nature (along with the journal Science) is often viewed as one of the two most prestigious journals in science. The NYT article below reports that a recent Nature article forecasts that temperatures in Europe and North America will be cooler over the next decade.

After the portion quoted below, the NYT article goes on to reassure global warming true-believers that a decade of cooling would in no way be evidence against the global warming maintained hypothesis.

(p. A10) After decades of research that sought, and found, evidence of a human influence on the earth's climate, climatologists are beginning to shift to a new and similarly daunting enterprise: creating decade-long forecasts for climate, just as meteorologists routinely generate weeklong forecasts for weather.

One of the first attempts to look ahead a decade, using computer simulations and measurements of ocean temperatures, predicts a slight cooling of Europe and North America, probably related to shifting currents and patterns in the oceans.

The team that generated the forecast, whose members come from two German ocean and climate research centers, acknowledged that it was a preliminary effort. But in a short paper published in the May 1 issue of the journal Nature, they said their modeling method was able to reasonably replicate climate patterns in those regions in recent decades, providing some confidence in their prediction for the next one.


For the full story, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Scientists Work on Decade-Based Forecast for the Climate." The New York Times (Thurs., May 1, 2008): A10.




May 2, 2008

Government Supported Biofuels Increase Global Warming


BiofuelGraph.gif











Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A4) While the U.S. and others race to expand the use and production of biofuels, two new studies suggest these gasoline alternatives actually will increase carbon-dioxide levels.

A study published in the latest issue of Science finds that corn-based ethanol, a type of biofuel pushed heavily in the U.S., will nearly double the output of greenhouse-gas emissions instead of reducing them by about one-fifth by some estimates. A separate paper in Science concludes that clearing native habitats to grow crops for biofuel generally will lead to more carbon emissions.

The findings are the latest to take aim at biofuels, which have already been blamed for pushing up prices of corn and other food crops, as well as straining water supplies. The Energy Department expects U.S. ethanol production to reach about 7.5 billion gallons this year from 3.9 billion in 2005, encouraged by high prices and government support. The European Union has proposed that 10% of all fuel used in transportation should come from biofuels by 2020.

Some scientists have praised biofuels because growing biofuel feedstock would remove gases that trap the sun's heat from the air, while gasoline and diesel fuel take carbon from the ground and put it in the air. However, some earlier studies didn't account for one hard-to-measure factor: the decision by farmers world-wide to convert forest and grasslands to grow feedstock for the new biofuels.

. . .

[One] study's funding came from the National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota's Initiative on Renewable Energy and the Environment, . . . The other paper relied on funding from various indirect sources, including the Hewlett Foundation and the Agriculture Department.



For the full story, see:

GAUTAM NAIK. "Biofuels Hold Potential for Greater Levels of CO2; Land Use for Crops May Cancel Out Benefits of Use." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., February 8, 2008): A4.

(Note: ellipses added; and bracketed word added.)

(Note: the somewhat different title of the online version was "Biofuels May Hinder Antiglobal-Warming Efforts; Carbon Emissions Could Increase As Land-Use Shifts.")





April 30, 2008

Global Warming Hits the Arctic (But Skips the Antarctic?)


A New York Times article spent nine paragraphs on the damage to the Arctic from global warming. At the top of the article is a substantial photo showing shrinking ice around Canada's Northwest Passage.

Then at the end of the article, there is a tenth paragraph, consisting of the following single sentence:


(p. A6) Sea ice around Antarctica has seen unusual winter expansions recently, and this week is near a record high.


Global warming is an important issue. So in judging the truth and severity of global warming, why is the shrinking of ice in the arctic, worth so much more attention than the expanding of ice in the antarctic?

(In fairness to the NYT, given the overwhelming politically correct pressure to be onboard the global warming bandwagon, especially among NYT readers, one might argue that what made the article notable was not that it lacked objective balance, but that the NYT had the courage to include the final sentence at all.)


For the full story, or at least the part of the full story that the NYT wants to report, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Scientists Report Severe Retreat of Arctic Ice." The New York Times (Fri., September 21, 2007): A6.




April 25, 2008

Active Volcano in Antarctica: Another Cause for Melting Ice


VolcanoActiveAntarctic.jpg Source of graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A8) Here is another factor that might be contributing to the thinning of some of the Antarctica's glaciers: volcanoes.

In an article published Sunday on the Web site of the journal Nature Geoscience, Hugh F. J. Corr and David G. Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey report the identification of a layer of volcanic ash and glass shards frozen within an ice sheet in western Antarctica.

For Antarctica, "This is the first time we have seen a volcano beneath the ice sheet punch a hole through the ice sheet," Dr. Vaughan said.

Heat from a volcano could still be melting ice and contributing to the thinning and speeding up of the Pine Island Glacier, which passes nearby, but Dr. Vaughan doubted that it could be affecting other glaciers in West Antarctica, which have also thinned in recent years. Most glaciologists, including Dr. Vaughan, say that warmer ocean water is the primary cause.


For the full story, see:

KENNETH CHANG. "Scientists Find Active Volcano In Antarctica." The New York Times (Mon., January 21, 2008): A8.




April 19, 2008

Retreat of Ice Is "Opening Up New Possibilities"


Source of map: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. R12) The Arctic summers have grown longer, raising concerns among scientists and environmentalists that the polar ice cap is melting and that carbon emissions from oil and other fossil fuels are to blame. But for players in the energy industry, the longer summers and the retreat of the permanent ice cover are opening up new possibilities.

. . .

Energy companies already are seeing a "dramatic difference" in the amount of time they can work in the far north, says Mike Watts, exploration director at Cairn Energy PLC, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based company. On Jan. 9 it acquired licenses to explore off the west coast of Greenland, which is a self-governed province of Denmark. Greenland is also considering a sale of east-coast rights in 2012. For the moment, those waters remain choked with ice year-round, but four years from now "that might have changed," says Mr. Watts.

. . .

Efforts by GustoMSC and other offshore-drilling experts represent the first significant research push into Arctic drilling technology in 20 years. At present, only around five rigs are capable of drilling in Arctic waters more than 300 feet deep, where energy companies are increasingly turning their focus, and even those tend to operate in 2,000 feet of water or less. Rigs now under construction will be able to search for oil in waters up to 12,000 feet. But Bob Long, chief executive at Transocean Inc., the world's largest offshore driller, estimates it will be 15 years before the supply of deep-water Arctic rigs catches up with demand.

. . .

To create Bully No. 1, GustoMSC took the standard design for its latest generation drillship -- which looks like an oil tanker with a derrick on top -- and set about winterizing it. The Bully will feature the bow of an icebreaker and be constructed from an ultra-flexible grade of steel to protect the hull from shattering in extreme cold. Heating systems will be installed along every inch of piping. Special heating units will also protect ballast tanks, which use seawater to stabilize the rig and can freeze in extreme cold. Engine vents will be widened and warmed to keep ice from building up.


For the full story, see:

BRIAN BASKIN. "Producers; Northern Exposure; As the Arctic gets warmer, oil and gas producers see the chance for a big expansion. But plenty of technological hurdles remain." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., February 11, 2008): R12. & R14.

(Note: ellipses added.)


ArcticExplorerShip.jpg
"ARCTIC EXPLORER. The Bully No. 1 drillship, now being built in Shanghai, will start work in 2010." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.




April 15, 2008

Rejecting Environmentalism's "Politics of Limits"


BreakThroughBK.jpg









Source of book image: http://a1055.g.akamai.net/f/1055/1401/5h/images.barnesandnoble.com/images/13180000/13180098.JPG


(p. D5) In survey after survey, American voters say that they care about global warming, but the subject ranks quite low when compared with other concerns (e.g., the economy, health care, the war on terror). Even when Mr. Gore's Oscar-winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth," was at the height of its popularity, it did not increase the importance of global warming in the public mind or mobilize greater support for Mr. Gore's favored remedies--e.g., reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by government fiat. Mr. Gore may seek to make environmental protection civilization's "central organizing principle," as he puts it, but there is no constituency for such a regime. Hence even the Democratic Party's presidential candidates, in their debates, give global warming only cursory treatment, with lofty rhetoric and vague policy proposals.

There is a reason for this political freeze-up. In "Break Through," Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger argue that Mr. Gore and the broader environmental movement--in which Mr. Gore plays an almost messianic part--remain wedded to an outmoded vision, seeing global warming as "a problem of pollution to be fixed by a politics of limits." Such a vision may have worked in the early days of environmentalism, when the first clear-air and clean-water regulations were pushed through Congress, but today it cannot mobilize enough public support for dramatic political change.

What is to be done? Messrs. Nordhaus and Shellenberger want to replace the pollution paradigm with a progressive one. They broached this idea in "The Death of Environmentalism," a controversial 2004 monograph that ricocheted around the Internet. "Break Through" gives the idea a fuller exposition and even greater urgency. The authors contend that the environmental movement must throw out its "unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts, and exhausted strategies" in favor of something "imaginative, aspirational, and future-oriented."


For the full review, see:

JONATHAN H. ADLER. "BOOKSHELF; The Lowdown on Doomsday." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, November 27, 2007): D5.





April 3, 2008

Lomborg Shows How Kyoto Protocol Wastes Money


CoolItBK.jpg









Source of book image:
http://images.tdaxp.com/tdaxp_upload/cool_it_md.jpg


(p. D7) Standing in the practical middle is Bjorn Lomborg, the free-thinking Dane who, in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (2001), challenged the belief that the environment is going to pieces. Mr. Lomborg is now back with "Cool It," a book brimming with useful facts and common sense.

Mr. Lomborg--"liberal, vegetarian, a former member of Greenpeace," as he describes himself--is hard to fit into any pigeonhole. He believes that global warming is happening, that man has caused it, and that national governments need to act. Yet he also believes that Al Gore is bordering on hysteria, that some global-warming science has been distorted and hyped, and that the Kyoto Protocol and other carbon-reduction schemes are a terrible waste of money. The world needs to think more rationally, he says, about how to tackle this challenge.

. . .

Mr. Lomborg cites studies showing that by implementing Kyoto--at a cost of trillions of dollars--we might be able to achieve a 3% reduction in fluvial and coastal flooding damages. If we instead adopted smart flood policies--e.g., an end to public subsidies that encourage people to settle in flood plains, a shrewder use of levees--we could achieve a 91% reduction in damages at a fraction of the Kyoto cost.


For the full review, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. "BOOKSHELF; A Calm Voice in a Heated Debate." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, September 13, 2007): D7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




February 9, 2008

Recent Years Were Not as Hot as Thought

 

HotestYearsGraph.gif    Source of graph:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. 19)  Never underestimate the power of the blogosphere and a quarter of a degree to inflame the fight over global warming.

A quarter-degree Fahrenheit is roughly the downward adjustment NASA scientists made earlier this month in their annual estimates of the average temperature in the contiguous 48 states since 2000. They corrected the numbers after an error in meshing two sets of temperature data was discovered by Stephen McIntyre, a blogger and retired business executive in Toronto. Smaller adjustments were made to some readings for some preceding years.

All of this would most likely have passed unremarkably if Mr. McIntyre had not blogged that the adjustments changed the rankings of warmest years for the contiguous states since 1895, when record-keeping began.

Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaughtold his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.”

Mr. McIntyre, who has spent years seeking flaws in studies pointing to human-driven climate change, traded broadsides on the Web with James E. Hansen, the NASA team’s leader. Dr. Hansen said he would not “joust with court jesters” and Mr. McIntyre posited that Dr. Hansen might have a “Jor-El complex” — a reference to Superman’s father, who foresaw the destruction of his planet and sent his son packing.

 

For the full story, see: 

ANDREW C. REVKIN.  "Quarter-Degree Fix Fuels Climate Fight."  The New York Times, Main Section  (Sunday,  August 26, 2007):  19.

 




January 25, 2008

Global Warming May Give U.S. Access to Big Deposits of Oil, Gas and Minerals

 

   The icebreaker Healy finished a new survey of the seafloor off the northern coast of Alaska.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A16)  A new survey by American oceanographers of the seafloor north of Alaska, completed last month aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, provides fresh evidence that the United States has much at stake in the region. The sonar studies found hints that thousands of square miles of additional seafloor could potentially be under American control. That floor might yield important deposits of oil, gas or minerals in coming decades, government studies have concluded.

So far did the sea ice pull back this summer that the expedition was able to scan the bottom several hundred miles farther north than in previous surveys, said the project’s director, Larry Mayer, an oceanographer at the University of New Hampshire. The team found long sloping extensions 200 miles beyond previous estimates.

Though more surveys will be needed to firm up any American claim, countries have a right to expand their control of seabed resources well beyond the continental shelves bordering their coasts if they can find such sloping extensions.

 

For the full story, see: 

MATTHEW L. WALD and ANDREW C. REVKIN.  "New Task for Coast Guard In Arctic's Warming Seas."  The New York Times   (Fri., October 19, 2007):  A16.

 




January 12, 2008

Newfoundland Benefits from Global Warming

 

 NewfoundlandIceberg.jpg   "An iceberg as seen off the coast of Twillingate in Newfoundland."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. B1)  Up and down the rock-ribbed coast of Newfoundland in centuries-old fishing villages like this one, Americans and Europeans are taking advantage of a warming climate and a struggling regional economy to buy seaside summer homes for the price of a used SUV.

. . .  

In Twillingate, at least 17 inns and bed-and-breakfasts regularly book Americans and Europeans, up from just two a decade ago. The tourists come to watch the shimmering procession of icebergs the size of city blocks that calve off the coast of Greenland and ride the Labrador Current past town between May and July. After the icebergs are gone, the waters fill with humpback, right and fin whales that spend summer feeding offshore.

. . .

Climate change is attracting some of the tourism. The average temperature during the summers in Newfoundland and Labrador has increased by nearly four degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years, says David Phillips, the Canadian government's senior climatologist. From 2001 through 2005, there were an average of 123 days when the weather was 77 degrees or warmer. In 1991-1995, it averaged just 63 days. Over the last 50 years the growing season -- the gap between winter's last frost and autumn's first -- has widened by three weeks.

. . .  

Some Americans have begun to try to flip properties. New York artist Brian Byrne (sic) and his business partner bought a waterfront, six-bedroom home two years ago for $72,000. Now they're asking $170,000. "There's a lot of potential up there for tourism," Mr. Byrne (sic) says.

 

For the full story, see: 

Douglas Belkin. "Property Report; More Americans Warm Up To Homes in Newfoundland." The Wall Street Journal  (Weds., August 8, 2007):  B1.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

 NewfoundlandHouse.jpg   Brian Bryne (sic), a New York City artist, along with a partner, bought this Newfoundland house as a speculative investment.  Source of photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

 




December 26, 2007

"Global Warming Provides Opportunities"

 

(p. C3)  In the short term, global warming provides opportunities, . . . , especially in temperate zones. Warming trends have lengthened the golfing season in Antalya, Turkey, by over a month, said Ugur Budak, golf coordinator of Akkanat Holdings there.

Golfing used to begin in March. But tourists from Britain and Germany are now coming to Antalya in February.

“Winters are milder, so the effect on us for now is good,” Mr. Budak said. So far there had not been problems like water shortages that are experienced in other parts of the world, he said, “but we know we could be vulnerable in the future.” 

 

For the full story, see: 

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL.  "How Do You Ski if There Is No Snow?"  The New York Times  (Thurs., November 1, 2007):  C3.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




December 22, 2007

X Prize Foundation "Encourages Entrepreneurship"

 

   "From left, Bob Weiss of the X Prize Foundation; Larry Page of Google; Peter Diamandis of X Prize; Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. 33)  THE quests are monumental: end global warming; build a private spaceship; cure diseases; develop a car that can go 100 miles on a gallon of gas.

But the prizes are also monumental: millions and millions of dollars.

Such extreme public interest projects have been taken up by foundations, most prominently the X Prize Foundation, an 11-year-old group in Santa Monica, Calif., that rewards innovation on an entirely new scale.

“The world faces difficult problems — bigger than government, business and nonprofits can handle,” said Tom Vander Ark, president of the X Prize Foundation. The foundation encourages entrepreneurship, he said, and “competitions can create and reshape markets.”

In 1996, the foundation offered a $10 million prize, called the Ansari X, for someone to invent a private passenger rocket ship able to fly nearly 70 miles up and back again. A team led by the aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, and paid for with more than $20 million from Paul G. Allen, a founder of Microsoft, collected the $10 million in 2004.

The X Prize Foundation is not alone in its ambitious ventures: Google.org, the nearly two-year-old philanthropic arm of Google, has kicked off a $10 million competition to inspire production of plug-in hybrid vehicles so energy efficient they can sell excess electricity back to the utility.

. . .

“It’s a new kind of grant-making,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, an entrepreneur who sold his company, Ethos Water, to Starbucks and became a senior adviser to the X Prize Foundation. “It’s a mode that encourages experimentation rather than prescribing solutions. It sets the stage for innovation and dynamism that the grantor can’t anticipate.”

. . .

Cash prizes to induce innovation are not new. Peter Diamandis, the 46-year-old aeronautical engineer and physician who founded the X Prize Foundation, said he was inspired by the $25,000 aviation prize offered in 1919 by a New York hotelier, Raymond Orteig, to the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. The prize went, of course, to Charles Lindbergh, whose grandson, Erik Lindbergh, is on the X Prize Foundation board.

In the same spirit, “We asked ourselves, how do we demonstrate the technology and stimulate market interest?” said Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives at Google.org. “How do we advance the technology around plug-ins? The usual way is to quietly go about looking at investment opportunities, make investments and have some impact. We decided to take a different route, a public request for investment proposals. We wanted to look beyond the usual players, bring attention to a critical area and catalyze competition and innovation.”

. . .

The X Prize Foundation announced the new competitions at the Clinton Global Initiative, a conference organized by former President Bill Clinton and held in September in New York.

“Think of this,” Mr. Clinton said at the time. “Twelve prizes in areas designed to break barriers to human health, have children live longer, solve all these education problems and do it in the most cost-effective way. This is the most amazing idea to me, trying to unleash entrepreneurship in the public interest.”

 

For the full story, see: 

KEITH SCHNEIDER.  "Win Fabulous Prizes, All in the Name of Innovation."  The New York Times, Giving Special Section  (Sun., November 12, 2007):  33.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




November 8, 2007

"Merchant Generator" Leads Nuclear Renaissance

 

  Source of graphic:  online version of the WSJ article quoted, and cited, below. 

 

(p. B1)  In a move that could mark the beginning of a nuclear-power revival, a New Jersey-based energy company today plans to submit an application to build and operate two new reactors. The request, the first submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 31 years, comes from an unlikely source: NRG Energy Inc., a company that has never before built a nuclear plant.

The application -- for a two-reactor addition to the company's existing South Texas nuclear station -- could offer the first full test of the nuclear agency's new licensing process, which has been under development since the 1980s. The new process allows companies to submit a single application for a construction permit and conditional operating license, eliminating the risk that a firm could build a plant but not be allowed to run it.

. . .

(p. B2)  . . . , the industry has regained momentum, partly because other forms of power generation have continued to show significant flaws. Coal-fired plants undermine efforts to combat global warming. Many natural-gas-fired plants rely on a fuel with volatile prices. And renewable energy mostly comes from intermittent forces like wind, rain and sunlight.

This first application comes from a somewhat unlikely source; NRG is a so-called "merchant generator," a company that makes electricity and sells it on the open market. NRG has never built a nuclear plant, and because it doesn't own a utility, has no ratepayers to whom it could bill the estimated $5.5 billion to $6 billion expense.

"We're like the uncola," says David Crane, NRG chief executive in Princeton, N.J.

. . .

So far, it appears merchant generators think Texas provides the most promising market. Deregulation in that state has resulted in a sharp run up in wholesale power prices since 2004. A recent decision by Dallas-based TXU to abandon efforts to build eight coal-fired plants could result in shrinking electricity reserves in the coming years, creating an environment receptive to operators looking to bring large units online and sell such units' full output.

 

For the full story, see: 

REBECCA SMITH.  "Nuclear Energy's Second Act? Bid to Build Two New Reactors In Texas May Mark Resurgence; NRC Gears Up for Many More."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., September 25, 2007):  B1 & B2.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




November 7, 2007

Entrepreneur Venter Advances Toward Useful Control of Cells

 

   Source of graphic:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

Scientists at the institute directed by J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, are reporting that they have successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another, an achievement they see as a major step toward creating synthetic forms of life.

Other scientists who did not participate in the research praised the achievement, published yesterday on the Web site of the journal Science. But some expressed skepticism that it was as significant as Dr. Venter said.

His goal is to make cells that might take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce methane, used as a feedstock for other fuels. Such an achievement might reduce dependency on fossil fuels and strike a blow at global warming.

“We look forward to having the first fuels from synthetic biology certainly within the decade and possibly in half that time,” he said.

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, said the transplantation technique, which leads to the transferred genome’s taking over the host cell, was “a landmark accomplishment.”

“It represents the complete reprogramming of an organism using only a chemical entity,” Dr. Ebright said.

Leroy Hood, a pioneer of the closely related field of systems biology, said Dr. Venter’s report was “a really marvelous kind of technical feat” but just one of a long series of steps required before synthetic chromosomes could be put to use in living cells.

 

For the full story, see: 

NICHOLAS WADE. "Pursuing Synthetic Life, Scientists Transplant Genome of Bacteria."  The New York Times   (Fri., June 29, 2007):  A1 & A18.

 

VenterCraig.jpg   J. Craig Venter.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




October 4, 2007

Global Warming is No Threat to North Atlantic Current

 

   A view of part of the Greenland ice sheet.  Source of the photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. D3) OSLO — Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.

The idea, which held climate theorists in its icy grip for years, was that the North Atlantic Current, an extension of the Gulf Stream that cuts northeast across the Atlantic Ocean to bathe the high latitudes of Europe with warmish equatorial water, could shut down in a greenhouse world.

Without that warm-water current, Americans on the Eastern Seaboard would most likely feel a chill, but the suffering would be greater in Europe, where major cities lie far to the north. Britain, northern France, the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway could in theory take on Arctic aspects that only a Greenlander could love, even as the rest of the world sweltered.

All that has now been removed from the forecast. Not only is northern Europe warming, but every major climate model produced by scientists worldwide in recent years has also shown that the warming will almost certainly continue.

“The concern had previously been that we were close to a threshold where the Atlantic circulation system would stop,” said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We now believe we are much farther from that threshold, thanks to improved modeling and ocean measurements. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current are more stable than previously thought.”

. . .

“The ocean circulation is a robust feature, and you really need to hit it hard to make it stop,” said Eystein Jansen, a paleoclimatologist who directs the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research, also in Bergen. “The Greenland ice sheet would not only have to melt, but to dynamically disintegrate on a huge scale across the entire sheet.”

The worst imaginable collapse would likely take centuries to play out, he said. Any disruption to the North Atlantic Current — whose volume is 30 times greater than all the rivers in the world combined — would thus occur beyond the time horizon of the United Nations climate panel.

 

For the full story, see: 

WALTER GIBBS.  "Scientists Back Off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World."  The New York Times  (Tues., May 15, 2007):  D3. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

 AtlanticWarmWaterCirculationMap.jpg  Source of the map:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




September 29, 2007

An Innovative Way to Reduce Global Warming, If We Need One

 

(p. B1) What if we wait too long to act on global warming? What if nothing we do is enough? Already, scientists are working up plans of last resort: stratospheric sprays of sulfur, trillions of orbiting mirrors and thousands of huge off-shore saltwater fountains.

Each is designed to counteract global warming by deliberately deflecting sunlight, rather than by retooling the world's economy to eliminate carbon-rich oil, coal and natural gas.

Some scientists argue that such actions might be easier and relatively cheaper. Until recently though, whenever University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling, recipient of a 2005 Nobel Prize, raised such geo-engineering ideas, "half the audience thought I was crazy and the other half thought I was dangerous," he said. As global temperatures rise and greenhouse-gas emissions accelerate, however, even wild ideas are becoming respectable.

. . .

Earlier this month, researchers at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., released the most precise computer studies yet evaluating the controversial sunshade idea. Their findings, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that a last-ditch engineering effort to block sunlight could reverse global warming -- at least temporarily. Indeed, it could lower average temperatures to levels not seen since 1900. "Every study we do seems to indicate it would work," said Carnegie climate modeler Ken Caldeira.

. . .

For Nobel laureate Schelling, the political advantages of geo-engineering outweigh its technical risks. It may be easier to launch a climate-control project than to persuade people all over the world to stop using fossil fuels. "It drastically converts the whole subject of climate change from one of regulation involving six billion people to a simple matter of a budgetary agreement about how to manage the modest cost," Prof. Schelling said. "I think geo-engineering is going to be the deus ex machina that will save the day."

 

For the full story, see: 

ROBERT LEE HOTZ.  "SCIENCE JOURNAL; In Case We Can't Give Up the Cars -- Try 16 Trillion Mirrors."  The Wall Street Journal   (Fri., June 22, 2007):  B1.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




September 24, 2007

Arctic Species Readily Adjust to Big Climate Swings

 

  "White arctic bell-heather (Cassiope tetragona) in the remote Svalbard archipelago of Norway."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A12) Many Arctic plant species have readily adjusted to big climate changes, repeatedly recolonizing the rugged islands of the remote Svalbard archipelago off Norway’s coast through 20,000 years of warm and cool spells since the frigid peak of the last ice age, researchers report in today’s issue of the journal Science.

Their finding implies that, in the Arctic at least, plants may be able to shift long distances to follow the climate conditions for which they are best adapted as those conditions move under the influence of human-caused global warming, the researchers and some independent experts said.

Some experts on climate and biology who were not involved with the study, which was led by scientists from the University of Oslo, said it provided a glimmer of optimism in the face of generally bleak scientific assessments of the vulnerability of ecosystems to the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases.

Terry L. Root, a biologist at Stanford who has been involved with many studies concluding that plants and animals are measurably feeling the effects of human-driven warming, described the Svalbard research as “great news.”

. . .

Norwegian and French scientists analyzed the DNA of more than 4,000 samples of nine flowering plant species from Svalbard, a group of islands between the Scandinavian mainland and the North Pole. They said they found genetic patterns that could be explained only by the repeated re-establishment of plant communities after the arrival of seeds or plant fragments from Russia, Greenland or other Arctic regions hundreds of miles away.

 

For the full story, see: 

ANDREW C. REVKIN.  "Many Arctic Plants Have Adjusted to Big Climate Changes, Study Finds."   The New York Times  (Fri., June 15, 2007):  A12. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

For the original Science article, see: 

Alsos, Inger Greve, Pernille Bronken Eidesen, Dorothee Ehrich, Inger Skrede, Kristine Westergaard, Gro Hilde Jacobsen, Jon Y. Landvik, Pierre Taberlet, and Christian Brochmann.  "Frequent Long-Distance Plant Colonization in the Changing Arctic."  Science 316, no. 5831 (2007):  1606-09.

 




August 14, 2007

NASA Leader Attacked for Good Sense on Global Warming

 

How much of global warming is due to human activity is far from clear.  And if the current, modest, gradual warming continues, there will be winners and losers, and plenty of time to adjust.  Winners will include, for instance, those pursuing agriculture in northern regions, and shippers seeking a feasible 'Northwest Passage.'

Economic forecasting is highly inaccurate beyond a few months out, for most variables, So who can honestly claim to know that the long-term losses of the losers will be larger than the long-term gains of the winners?

And if I am right, then what Michael Griffin said below, makes sense, and did not deserve the contempt and vitriol he received from the global warming environmentalists.

 

(p. A21) “I have no doubt that global — that a trend of global warming exists,” the administrator of NASA, Michael Griffin, said in a taped interview that was broadcast Thursday on National Public Radio. “I am not sure that it is fair to say that is a problem we must wrestle with.”

“I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings,” he said. “I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

. . .

Jerry Mahlman, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said Mr. Griffin’s remarks showed he was either “totally clueless” or “a deep antiglobal warming ideologue.”

James Hansen, a top NASA climate scientist and lead author of the research paper, said the comments showed “arrogance and ignorance” because millions of people will probably be harmed by global warming.

 

For the full story, see: 

"NASA Leader: Who Says Warming Is a Problem?"  The New York Times  (Fri., June 1, 2007):  A21.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

 




August 7, 2007

Liberal Actor Paul Newman Endorses Nuclear Power

 

   Paul Newman.  Source of photo: http://www.philly.com/dailynews/columnists/howard_gensler/7660986.html

 

WASHINGTON: Venerable actor Paul Newman, known for his movies, his auto racing and his organic salad dressings, weighed in Wednesday on a nuclear power plant in New York's suburbs that some fear is a terrorist magnet.

The Indian Point plant is safer than military bases he has visited, Newman said.

Newman, the star of such films as "Cool Hand Luke," "Hud" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," visited the facility in Buchanan, New York, on Monday, according to Jim Steets, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns Indian Point.

The veteran actor, restaurateur and organic-food producer praised the nuclear power facility as an important part of the region's energy future because it does not produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.

 

For the full story, see: 

"Renaissance man Paul Newman endorses nuclear power plant some consider a risk to New York."   International Herald Tribune  (Weds., May 23, 2007).

 




July 18, 2007

Global Warming Allows Growing Subtropical Plants Further North

 

   Source of graphic:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A1)  Forget the jokes about beachfront property. If global warming has any upside, it would seem to be for gardeners, who make up three-quarters of the population and spend $34 billion a year, according to the National Gardening Association. Many experts agree that climate change, which by some estimates has already nudged up large swaths of the country by one or more plant-hardiness zones, has meant a longer growing season and a more robust selection. There are palm trees in Knoxville and subtropical camellias in Pennsylvania.

 

For the full story, see: 

SHAILA DEWANSHAILA DEWAN.  "Feeling Warmth, Subtropical Plants Move North."  The New York Times  (Thurs., May 3, 2007):  A1 & A20.

 




July 12, 2007

Argentine Evidence on Global Warming

 

   Source:  screen capture from the Reuters video clip mentioned below.

 

On July 10, 2007, Reuters and other news sources (including CNN) reported that Buenos Aires had experienced its first snowfall in 80 years.

To see Reuters' brief video clip on the snow, visit: 

http://www.javno.com/video.php?rbr=4137&l=en

 

ArgentineSnowCoveredTrucks.jpg   "A truck driver makes his way through snow-covered trucks Tuesday in Punta de Vacas, Argentina."  Source of the truck caption and photo:   

"Snow leaves trucks stranded on Argentina-Chile border."  CNN.com POSTED: 3:06 p.m. EDT, June 13, 2007.

 




July 1, 2007

Environmental "Horror-Movie Scenarios Are Looking Less and Less Plausible"

 

(p. D2)  . . . most of the horror-movie scenarios are looking less and less plausible. Climate change will probably occur not with a bang but with a long, slow whimper, as you can see in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report concludes that it's ''very likely'' that humans are now the main factor warming the climate. But even as the panel's scientists are becoming surer of the problem, and warning of grim consequences this century and beyond, they're eschewing crowd-thrilling catastrophes. Since the last I.P.C.C. report, six years ago, they haven't raised the estimates of future temperatures and sea levels.

While Mr. Gore's movie shows coastlines flooded by a 20-foot rise in sea level, the report's projections for the rise this century range from 7 inches to 23 inches. The panel says Greenland's ice sheet will shrink and might eventually disappear, but the process could take ''millennia.'' The Antarctic ice sheet is projected to grow, not shrink, because of increased snowfall.

The scientists acknowledge uncertainties and worrisome new signs, like the sudden acceleration in the flow of Greenland's glaciers several years ago. But the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, didn't extrapolate a short-term trend into a disaster, and its caution is vindicated by a report in the current issue of Science that the flow of two of the largest glaciers abruptly decelerated last year to near the old rate.

The panel does consider it ''likely'' that future typhoons and hurricanes will be stronger than today's. But it also expects fewer of these storms (albeit with ''less confidence'' in that projection).

As for the Gulf Stream, it is ''very unlikely'' to undergo ''a large abrupt transition during the 21st century,'' according to the new report. The current is expected to slow slightly, meaning a little less heat from the tropics would reach the North Atlantic, which could be good news for Europe and North America, since that would temper some of the impact of global warming in the north.

Whatever happens, you can stop fretting about the Gulf Stream scenario in Mr. Gore's movie and that full-fledged Hollywood disaster film ''The Day After Tomorrow.'' Mr. Gore's companion book has a fold-out diagram of the Gulf Stream and warns that ''some scientists are now seriously worried'' about it shutting down and sending Europe into an ice age, but he must have been talking to the wrong scientists.

There wouldn't be glaciers in the English shires even if the Gulf Stream did shut down. To understand why, you need to disregard not only the horror movies but also what you learned in grade school: that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping London so much warmer than New York even though England is farther north than Newfoundland.

This theory, originated by a 19th-century oceanographer, is ''the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend,'' in the words of Richard Seager, a climate modeler at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He and other researchers have calculated that the Gulf Stream's influence typically raises land temperatures in the north by only five degrees Fahrenheit, hardly enough to explain England's mild winters, much less its lack of glaciers.

Moreover, as the Gulf Stream meanders northward, it delivers just about as much heat to the eastern United States and Canada as to Europe, so it can't account for the difference between New York and London. Dr. Seager gives the credit to the prevailing westerly winds -- and the Rocky Mountains.

When these winds out of the west hit the Rockies, they're diverted south, bringing air from the Arctic down on New York (as in last week's cold spell). After their southern detour, the westerlies swing back north, carrying subtropical heat toward London. This Rocky Mountain detour accounts for about half the difference between New York and London weather, according to Dr. Seager.

The other half is caused by to the simple fact that London sits on the east side of an ocean -- just like Seattle, which has a much milder climate than Siberia, the parallel land across the Pacific. Since ocean water doesn't cool as quickly as land in winter, or heat up as much in summer, the westerly winds blowing over the ocean moderate the winter and summer temperatures in both Seattle and London.  

 

For the full story, see: 

John Tierney. "FINDINGS; A Cool $25 Million For a Climate Backup Plan."  The New York Times (Tues., February 13, 2007):  D1-D2.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




June 23, 2007

Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Against Kyoto

 

(p. 8) Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician who recently led the Copenhagen Consensus, an economic analysis of global environment and development issues , said that while global warming was a serious problem, Kyoto-style limits would have little impact and would divert resources better spent on alleviating poverty.

He said one element missing from most climate discussions was the need for a more vigorous effort to improve climate-friendly energy technologies like solar power and carbon capture, in which greenhouse emissions are trapped and pumped underground before they can escape into the atmosphere.

While many advocates have proposed an emissions tax, Dr. Lomborg said a much smaller investment in research and development on such technologies would be more likely to help in the long run.

 

For the full story, see: 

ANDREW C. REVKIN.  "Talks to Start On Climate Amid Split On Warming."  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., November 5, 2006):  8. 

 




June 17, 2007

Nordhaus Critiques Stern's Case for Environmental Disaster


My only major disagreement with the commentary below, is that I have much more confidence that, given free market institutions, our descendants will have the incentives, energy, and ingenuity, to solve the problems that they will face.

 

The Stern Review’s most influential critic has probably been William Nordhaus, a 65-year-old Yale professor who is as mainstream as economists come.  Jeffrey D. Sachs, the anti-poverty advocate, calls Mr. Nordhaus “about the most reasonable man I know.”

He was the first speaker after lunch, and, of course, he had some very nice things to say about Sir Nicholas. The report “was presented here very eloquently by a distinguished scholar,” Mr. Nordhaus said. But then came the juicy stuff: the Stern Review “commits cruel and unusual punishment on the English language,” Mr. Nordhaus said, and the British government’s opinion on climate change is no more infallible than was its prewar view about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

This was fairly tame compared with the comments of another Yale economist, Robert O. Mendelsohn. “I was awestruck,” he said, comparing Sir Nicholas to “The Wizard of Oz.” But “my job is to be Toto,” he added, in the same good-humored tone Mr. Nordhaus used. “Is it in fact The Wizard of Oz, or is it nothing at all?”

The two professors raised some questions about the science in the Stern Review. Mr. Nordhaus wondered if carbon emissions and temperatures would rise as quickly as the report suggests, and Mr. Mendelsohn predicted that people would learn to adapt to climate change, reducing its ultimate cost.

But their main objection revolved around something called the discount rate. The Stern Review assumed that a dollar of economic damage prevented a century from now (adjusted for inflation) is roughly as valuable as a dollar spent reducing emissions today. In effect, the report argues for spending the money to cut emissions because future generations have as much claim on resources as current generations. “I’ve still not heard a decent ethical argument” for believing otherwise, Sir Nicholas said at the debate.

I’m guessing that your instinct is to agree with him. Mine certainly was. The problem is that none of us actually behave this way. If we really thought that our great-grandchild deserved our money as much as we do, we would never go out to dinner again. Instead, we would invest the $50 we would have spent on dinner, confident that it would grow over time and become perhaps $1,000 for our great-grandchild to put toward health care, education or a supercomputer. Any of that is preferable to our measly dinner.

But a dollar today truly is more valuable than a dollar a century from now. For one thing, your great-grandchild will almost certainly be richer than you are and won’t need your money as much as you do. So spending a dollar on carbon reduction today to avoid a dollar’s worth of economic damage in 2107 doesn’t make sense. We would be better off putting the money toward something likely to have a higher return than alternative energy, like education.

Technically, then, Sir Nicholas’s opponents win the debate. But in practical terms, their argument has a weak link. They are assuming that the economic gains from, say, education will make future generations rich enough to make up for any damage caused by climate change. Sea walls will be able to protect cities; technology can allow crops to grow in new ways; better medicines can stop the spread of disease.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

DAVID LEONHARDT.  "Economix; A Battle Over the Costs of Global Warming."  The New York Times  (Weds., February 21, 2007):  C1 & C5.





June 14, 2007

Entrepreneur Bets on Nuclear Power Revival

 

Entrepreneur Kyle Kimmerle at one of his 600 uranium claims.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

Kyle Kimmerle is an entrepreneur, risking his own money.  If he guesses right, he will make himself rich, by helping provide the fuel needed for generating electricity for us. 

 

(p. C1)  . . .   Prices for processed uranium ore, also called U308, or yellowcake, are rising rapidly. Yellowcake is trading at $90 a pound, nearing the record high, adjusted for inflation, of about $120 in the mid-1970s. The price (p. C4) has more than doubled in the last six months alone. As recently as late 2002, it was below $10.

A string of natural disasters, notably flooding of large mines in Canada and Australia, has set off the most recent spike. Hedge funds and other institutional investors, who began buying up uranium in late 2004 to exploit the volatility in this relatively small market, have accelerated the price rally.

But the more fundamental causes of the uninterrupted ascendance of prices since 2003 can be traced to inventory constraints among power companies and a drying up of the excess supply of uranium from old Soviet-era nuclear weapons that was converted to use in power plants. Add in to those factors the expected surge in demand from China, India, Russia and a few other countries for new nuclear power plants to fuel their growing economies.

“I’d call it lucky timing,” said David Miller, a Wyoming legislator and president of the Strathmore Mineral Corporation, a uranium development firm. “Three relatively independent factors — dwindling supplies of inventory, low overall production from the handful of uranium miners that survived the 25-year drought and rising concerns about global warming — all have coincided to drive the current uranium price higher by more than 1,000 percent since 2001.”

. . .  

. . .   “We won’t build a new plant knowing there’s nowhere to put the used fuel,” Mr. Malone of Exelon said. “We won’t build one without community support, and we won’t build until market conditions are in place where it makes sense.”

But that is not holding back Kyle Kimmerle, owner of the Kimmerle Funeral Home in Moab. Mr. Kimmerle, 30, spent summers during his childhood camping and working at several of his father’s mines in the area. In his spare time he has amassed more than 600 uranium claims throughout the once-productive Colorado Plateau.

“My guess is that next year my name won’t be on the sign of this funeral home anymore and I’ll be out at the mines,” he said.

He recently struck a deal with a company to lease 111 of his claims for development. The company, new to uranium mining, has pledged $500,000 a year for five years to improve the properties. Mr. Kimmerle will receive annual payments plus royalties for any uranium mined from the area.

 

For the full story, see: 

SUSAN MORAN and ANNE RAUP.  "A Rush for Uranium; Mines in the West Reopen as Ore Prices Reach Highs of the 1970s."  The New York Times  (Weds., March 28, 2007):   C1 & C4.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

UraniumPriceGraph.gif   Yellowcake, which is processed uranium, is in the third jar from the left of the top photo.  The photo below it is of old equipment at a dormant uranium mine.  Source of the photos and the graphic:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




May 25, 2007

Global Warming Would Give Access to Huge Oil and Gas Now Under Ice

 

The WSJ summarizes a Feb. 18, 2007 article from the Boston Globe.  Here is an excerpt from the summary:

 

(p. B12) Among the many changes global warming might bring, the melting ice in the Arctic could eventually give access to the oil and gas under the ice, estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey to amount to a quarter of the world's reserves. Fifty-five million years ago the region was a warm land of crocodiles and palm trees whose remains have since become fossil fuel, reports Drake Bennett. The Arctic ice has made the fuel practically inaccessible by making drilling hard and blocking ships.

 

For the full summary, see:

"Informed Reader; Global Warming; Arctic Melting May Clear Path to Vast Deposits of Oil and Gas."  The Wall Street Journal  (Weds., February 21, 2007):  B12.

 




May 13, 2007

New York Times Reports Al Gore Inaccurate and Alarmist on Global Warming

 

   Al Gore lectures.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. D1)  Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

. . .

(p. D6)  Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.

“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim that “our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.

Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook told the group. “And I’m not a Republican.”

 

For the full story, see: 

WILLIAM J. BROAD.  "From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype." The New York Times  (Tues., March 13, 2007):  D1 & D6.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

EasterbrookDon.jpg   Geologist Don Easterbrook.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




April 28, 2007

Why is Al Gore Afraid of Bjorn Lomborg's Questions?


GoreAlCartoon.gif   Al Gore.  Source of the image:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. 

 

(p. A16) The interview had been scheduled for months. Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled. What happened?

. . .

Clearly we need to ask hard questions. Is Mr. Gore's world a worthwhile sacrifice? But it seems that critical questions are out of the question. It would have been great to ask him why he only talks about a sea-level rise of 20 feet. In his movie he shows scary sequences of 20-feet flooding Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing and Shanghai. But were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The U.N. climate panel expects only a foot of sea-level rise over this century. Moreover, sea levels actually climbed that much over the past 150 years. Does Mr. Gore find it balanced to exaggerate the best scientific knowledge available by a factor of 20?

Mr. Gore says that global warming will increase malaria and highlights Nairobi as his key case. According to him, Nairobi was founded right where it was too cold for malaria to occur. However, with global warming advancing, he tells us that malaria is now appearing in the city. Yet this is quite contrary to the World Health Organization's finding. Today Nairobi is considered free of malaria, but in the 1920s and '30s, when temperatures were lower than today, malaria epidemics occurred regularly. Mr. Gore's is a convenient story, but isn't it against the facts?

. . .

Al Gore is on a mission. If he has his way, we could end up choosing a future, based on dubious claims, that could cost us, according to a U.N. estimate, $553 trillion over this century. Getting answers to hard questions is not an unreasonable expectation before we take his project seriously. It is crucial that we make the right decisions posed by the challenge of global warming. These are best achieved through open debate, and we invite him to take the time to answer our questions: We are ready to interview you any time, Mr. Gore -- and anywhere.

 

For the full commentary, see:

FLEMMING ROSE and BJORN LOMBORG  "Will Al Gore Melt?"  The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., January 18, 2007):  A16. 

(Note:  ellipses added.) 

 




March 18, 2007

Environmentalists' Advocacy of Tire Reefs, Hurts the Environment


   Tire reef deposited in 1972 near the coast of South Florida will be expensive to remove.  Source of photo:  online verison of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

As we listen to the doom scenarios of environmentalists about global warming, we should ponder the evidence that, decades later, we sometimes learn that environmentalist proposals can be bad for the environment.  

 

(p. 23) “The really good idea was to provide habitat for marine critters so we could double or triple marine life in the area; it just didn’t work that way,” said Ray McAllister, a professor of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University who was instrumental in organizing the project. “I look back now and see it was a bad idea.”

. . .

Gov. Charlie Crist’s budget includes $2 million to help remove the tires. The military divers would work at no cost to the state by making it part of their training.

A monthlong pilot project is set for June. The full-scale salvage operation is expected to run through 2010 at a cost to the state of about $3.4 million.

. . .

“We’ve literally dumped millions of tires in our oceans,” said Jack Sobel, an Ocean Conservancy scientist. “I believe that people who were behind the artificial tire reef promotions actually were well-intentioned and thought they were doing the right thing. In hindsight, we now realize that we made a mistake.”

 

For the full story, see: 

"Tires Meant to Foster Sea Life Choke It Instead."  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., February 18, 2007):  23.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




March 1, 2007

Al Gore "Deserves a Gold Statue for Hypocrisy"


  Al Gore's energy consuming mansion.  Source of photo: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/02/28/an-inconveniently-easy-headline-gores-electric-bills-spark-debate/

 

Here is the full text of a 2/26/07 press release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research that has rightly received a lot of attention from the mainstream media and from the blogosphere:

 

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”

Gore’s home uses more than 20 times the national average

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

"As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.

 

Source of the press release:

http://www.tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=367

 




February 15, 2007

House Hearing on Global Warming Canceled Due to Severe Winter Weather


BlitzerWolfSituationRoom.jpg  Wolf Blitzer, the host of CNN's "Situation Room" program.  Source of photo:  http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/cnn/inside_the_situation_room_24403.asp

 

Yesterday afternoon (2/14/07) on CNN's "Situation Room" program, host Wolf Blitzer reported something close to the following:

 

'A House of Representatives hearing on global warming was canceled today, because of the severe winter weather.'

 




February 12, 2007

Al Gore Freezes


   Al Gore.  Source of image:  http://drinkingliberally.org/blogs/louisville/archives/2006/01/

 

For the past couple of weeks, much of the country has been suffering from non-stop frigid weather.  So on "Weekend Update" on NBC's Saturday Night Live (2/10/07), something close to the following was reported:

 

'And in an ironic note:  this week while lecturing on global warming, Al Gore froze to death.'

 




February 6, 2007

"Bitter Cold Grips the Nation": Evidence for Global Cooling?


   Screen capture from the MSN web site whose link is given below.

 

Several weeks ago, when much of the nation was experiencing above-average temperatures, network reports intoned how the warmth was a sign of global warming.  So using consistent reasoning, should they not now intone that the bitter cold is a sign of global cooling?  

Note that there is no mention of global warming (or cooling) in the Today Show report mentioned below.

 

On one of the NBC web sites, the Today Show report was described this way:  "Deep freeze Feb. 5: Midwest and Northeast residents hunker down for a deep freeze expected to last most of the week. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports."


Here is the link to the report: 

http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm?f=00&g=0de6ae06-e747-4aaf-9a7e-7e81ef9224f7&p=hotvideo_m_edpicks&t=m5&rf=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16987213/&fg=

 




December 5, 2006

Global Warming May Finally Open Northwest Passage to Shipping

 

  "The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen met a plate of "new ice" on the Northwest Passage, but it was easily traversed."  Source of caption, and photo:  online version of the Washington Post article quoted and cited below.

 

ICEBREAKER CHANNEL, Northwest Passage -- The Amundsen's engines growl low, as if in warning.  The ship steals ahead; its powerful spotlights stab at fog thick with the lore of crushed ships and frozen voyagers.  Ice floes gleam from the void like the eyes of animals in the night.

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen weaves in graceful slow motion through the ice pack, advancing through the legendary Northwest Passage well after the Arctic should be iced over and shuttered to ships for the winter.

The fearsome ice is weakened and failing, sapped by climate change.  Ultimately, this night's ghostly procession through Icebreaker Channel will be the worst the ship faces on its late-season voyage.  Much of the trip, crossing North America from west to east through the Northwest Passage, will be in open water, with no ice in sight.

The Amundsen is here to challenge the ice that has long guarded the legendary Northwest Passage across the roof of the Earth, and to plumb the scientific mysteries of an Arctic thawing from global warming.

A relentless climb of temperature -- 5 degrees in 30 years -- is shrinking the Arctic ice and reawakening dreams of a 4,000-mile shortcut just shy of the North Pole, passing beside the Arctic's beckoning oil and mineral riches.

"Shipping companies are going to think about this, and if they think it's worth it, they are going to try it," says the captain of the Amundsen, Cmdr. Alain Gariepy, 43.  "The question is not if, but when."

 

For full story, see: 

Doug Struck.  "Melting Arctic Makes Way for Man; Researchers Aboard Icebreaker Say Shipping Could Add to Risks for Ecosystem."  Washington Post  (Sunday, November 5, 2006):  A01.

 

   Source of map:  online version of the Washington Post article quoted and cited above.

 




November 30, 2006

Copenhagen Consensus: Money Spent on Global Warming Would Do More Good Elsewhere


(p. A12) The report on climate change by Nicholas Stern and the U.K. government has sparked publicity and scary headlines around the world.  Much attention has been devoted to Mr. Stern's core argument that the price of inaction would be extraordinary and the cost of action modest.

Unfortunately, this claim falls apart when one actually reads the 700-page tome.  Despite using many good references, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is selective and its conclusion flawed.  Its fear-mongering arguments have been sensationalized, which is ultimately only likely to make the world worse off. 

. . .  

Mr. Stern is also selective, often seeming to cherry-pick statistics to fit an argument.  This is demonstrated most clearly in the review's examination of the social damage costs of CO2 -- essentially the environmental cost of emitting each extra ton of CO2.  The most well-recognized climate economist in the world is probably Yale University's William Nordhaus, whose "approach is perhaps closest in spirit to ours," according to the Stern review.  Mr. Nordhaus finds that the social cost of CO2 is $2.50 per ton.  Mr. Stern, however, uses a figure of $85 per ton.  Picking a rate even higher than the official U.K. estimates -- that have themselves been criticized for being over the top -- speaks volumes.

. . .  

Last weekend in New York, I asked 24 U.N. ambassadors -- from nations including China, India and the U.S. -- to prioritize the best solutions for the world's greatest challenges, in a project known as Copenhagen Consensus.  They looked at what spending money to combat climate change and other major problems could achieve.  They found that the world should prioritize the need for better health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education, long before we turn our attention to the costly mitigation of global warning.

We all want a better world.  But we must not let ourselves be swept up in making a bad investment, simply because we have been scared by sensationalist headlines.

 

For the full story, see: 

BJORN LOMBORG.  "Stern Review."  Wall Street Journal (Thurs., November 2, 2006):  A12.

(Note:  the ellipses are added.)

 




August 27, 2006

Power to the People


VogtleCoolingTowers.jpg Cooling towers at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.  Source of photo:  the online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


A long, and informative cover-story in the NYT, discusses the costs and benefits of nuclear power.  My read is that, on balance, the considerations in the article favor nuclear energy.  Here are a few passages from near the end of the article:


(p. 64)  Gary Taylor, . . ., the C.E.O. of Entergy Nuclear, says he believes a doubling of the number of nuclear plants around the world is inevitable, both to satisfy energy demands and to counter global warming.  As Taylor puts it:  ''The reality is, what is scalable in the time frame that addresses the issues?  If it isn't this technology, I don't know what it would be.''  Diaz, the former head of the N.R.C., told me he sees a similarly bright future for nuclear.  ''The world is going to go nuclear, because they do not have any other real alternatives,'' he says.  I met plenty of other engineers within the industry who went even further.  Their feeling about nuclear power is close to evangelical, in that they seem to approach the technology with moral certitude while being loath to acknowledge any of its many negatives.  Would that include the utility executives who will ultimately decide if -- and what -- to build?  I'm not sure it would.  To those I spoke with in the uppermost ranks, nuclear power isn't a belief system.  It's a business.  And to them, what might come out of, say, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 -- the waste and the power and the profits -- would be nearly identical to what comes out of Units 1 and 2.

At least that was my conclusion in Georgia, where Jeff Gasser, the Southern Company's chief nuclear officer, took me through a long tour of the plant.  He was smart, meticulous and intensely committed to the obscure safety protocols that go on at nuclear power facilities.  Most of all he was forthright about the advantages and disadvantages of the nukes business.  When we went to visit the spent-fuel pool in Vogtle, where the used fuel-rod assemblies are stored under 20 feet of protective water, Gasser let me know that we would die if we pulled one of the fuel assemblies out of the pool.  ''We would receive, before we could get to the exit door a few feet away, a lethal radiation dose,'' he said.  I quickly had to check the radiation dosimeter I was wearing -- another legal requirement of the N.R.C. -- to see if I was already glowing.  (It read zero.)  ''The communications people hate it when I use words like 'lethal' and 'irradiated,' '' Gasser continued.  ''But the fact is, there is no perfect way of generating electricity.  There are byproducts for every type.''  Like many others, he went through the positives and negatives of coal, gas, solar, wind and nuclear.  In his opinion, he added, with Vogtle's engineering, redundancy of safety systems and its trained operators, it was a safe, reliable and efficient way of making electricity.  That was his sales pitch.

We had already passed through the containment buildings, where the reactors heat the pressurized water.  So Gasser took me through the turbine building, an enormous room the size of a soccer field, where the steam turns the fan blades.  Eventually, we went out a back door into the sunlight.  The deafening sounds of turbines and machinery subsided to a dull thrum.  We removed our earplugs and walked over to a small forest of electrical transformers, our backs to the plant.  The electricity from the turbines inside comes out here, Gasser explained, its voltage is transformed, and it is then put into the grid.

Gasser made a pushing motion toward the green hills before us.

''Once the power is sent out of here, it can go everywhere,'' he explained.  And I could see that it did go everywhere.  The high-tension wires stretched away from where we stood, in several directions, through deep cuts in the pinelands, as far as I could see.

 

For the full article, see:

JON GERTNER.  "Atomic Balm? '   The New York Times Magazine, Section 6  (Sunday, July 16, 2006),  36-47, 56, 62 & 64.





July 27, 2006

Global Warming Turns Greenland Green

 

GreenlandPotatoFarm.jpg  A potato farm in Greenland has been able to expand as more land is arable due to higher temperatures.  Source of image:  the online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A1)  QAQORTOQ, Greenland -- Stefan Magnusson lives at the foot of a giant, melting glacier.  Some think he's living on the brink of a cataclysm.  He believes he's on the cusp of creation.

The 49-year-old reindeer rancher says a warming trend in Greenland over the past decade has caused the glacier on his farm to retreat 300 feet, revealing land that hasn't seen the light of day for hundreds of years, if not more.  Where ice once gripped the earth, he says, his reindeer now graze on wild thyme amid the purple blooms of Niviarsiaq flowers.

The melting glacier near Mr. Magnusson's home is pouring more water into the river, which he hopes soon to harness for hydroelectricity.

"We are seeing genesis by the edge of the glacier," he says.

Average temperatures in Greenland have risen by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 30 years -- more than double the global average, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute.  By the end of the century, the institute projects, temperatures could rise another 14 degrees.

The milder weather is promoting new life on the fringes of this barren, arctic land.  Swans have been spotted recently for the first time, ducks aren't flying south for the winter anymore and poplar trees have suddenly begun flowering.

. . .

(p. A12)  For Greenlanders, adapting to the effects of climate change is nothing new.  Oxygen isotope samples taken from Greenland's ice core reveal that temperatures around 1100, during the height of the Norse farming colonies, were similar to those prevailing today.  The higher temperatures were part of a warming trend that lasted until the 14th century.

Near the end of the 14th century, the Norse vanished from Greenland.  While researchers don't know for sure, many believe an increasingly cold climate made eking out a living here all but impossible as grasses and trees declined.  Farming faded away from the 17th century to the 19th century, a period known as the Little Ice Age.  Farming didn't return to Greenland in force until the early 1900s, when Inuit farmers began re-learning Norse techniques and applying them to modern conditions.  A sharp cooling trend from around 1950 to 1975 stalled the agricultural expansion.

Since then, temperatures have mainly been on the upswing.  Ole Egede is taking advantage of the warmer climate.  He and his brother live on Greenland's southwest coast on an isolated farm at the head of an inlet that can be reached only by helicopter or by a boat that can navigate around the icebergs that often choke the blue fiord.  Mr. Egede started Greenland's first commercial potato farm in 1999 and it remains the largest potato farm in Greenland.

Improved farming technology and methods, such as new cold-resistant seed varieties and cultivation techniques -- are responsible for some of Greenland's expanding agriculture.  But experts credit the more-favorable climate with much of the new growth.  "There's no doubt he's now growing potatoes because of better conditions," Mr. Hoegh, the farming consultant, says of Mr. Egede.

 

For the full story, see: 

LAUREN ETTER.  "Feeling the Heat For Icy Greenland, Global Warming Has a Bright Side As Temperatures Inch Up, Melting Glaciers Bring New Life to a Frozen Land But Could Polar Bears Vanish?"   The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., July 18, 2006):  A1 & A12.

 

 GreenlandMap.gifSource of map:  the online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

 




July 11, 2006

Global Warming Ranked at Bottom of World Priorities by Economists and Ambassadors


LomborgBjorn.gif Bjorn Lomborg.  Source of image:  online version of WSJ article cited below.

 

(p. A10) Bjorn Lomborg busted -- and that is the only word for it -- onto the world scene in 2001 with the publication of his book "The Skeptical Environmentalist."  A one-time Greenpeace enthusiast, he'd originally planned to disprove those who said the environment was getting better.  He failed.  And to his credit, his book said so, supplying a damning critique of today's environmental pessimism.  Carefully researched, it offered endless statistics -- from official sources such as the U.N. -- showing that from biodiversity to global warming, there simply were no apocalypses in the offing.  "Our history shows that we solve more problems than we create," he tells me. For his efforts, Mr. Lomborg was labeled a heretic by environmental groups -- whose fundraising depends on scaring the jeepers out of the public -- and became more hated by these alarmists than even (if possible) President Bush.

Yet the experience left Mr. Lomborg with a taste for challenging conventional wisdom.  In 2004, he invited eight of the world's top economists -- including four Nobel Laureates -- to Copenhagen, where they were asked to evaluate the world's problems, think of the costs and efficiencies attached to solving each, and then produce a prioritized list of those most deserving of money.  The well-publicized results (and let it be said here that Mr. Lomborg is no slouch when it comes to promoting himself and his work) were stunning.  While the economists were from varying political stripes, they largely agreed.  The numbers were just so compelling:  $1 spent preventing HIV/AIDS would result in about $40 of social benefits, so the economists put it at the top of the list (followed by malnutrition, free trade and malaria).  In contrast, $1 spent to abate global warming would result in only about two cents to 25 cents worth of good; so that project dropped to the bottom.

"Most people, average people, when faced with these clear choices, would pick the $40-of-good project over others -- that's rational," says Mr. Lomborg.  "The problem is that most people are simply presented with a menu of projects, with no prices and no quantities.  What the Copenhagen Consensus was trying to do was put the slices and prices on a menu.  And then require people to make choices."

Easier said than done.  As Mr. Lomborg explains, "It's fine to ask economists to prioritize, but economists don't run the world."  .  .  .

So all the more credit to Mr. Lomborg, who several weeks ago got his first big shot at reprogramming world leaders.  His organization,  the Copenhagen Consensus Center,  held a new version of the exercise in Georgetown.  In attendance were eight U.N. ambassadors, including John Bolton.  (China and India signed on, though no Europeans.)  They were presented with global projects, the merits of each of which were passionately argued by experts in those fields.  Then they were asked:  If you had an extra $50 billion, how would you prioritize your spending?

Mr. Lomborg grins and says that before the event he briefed the ambassadors:  "Several of them looked down the list and said 'Wait, I want to put a No. 1 by each of these projects, they are all so important.'  And I had to say, 'Yeah, uh, that's exactly the point of this exercise -- to make you not do that.'"  So rank they did.  And perhaps no surprise, their final list looked very similar to that of the wise economists.  At the top were better health care, cleaner water, more schools and improved nutrition.  At the bottom was . . . global warming.

 

For the full interview, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL.  "The Weekend Interview with Bjorn Lomborg; Get Your Priorities Right."  The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., July 8, 2006):  A10.

(Note:  first ellipsis is added; the second ellipsis is in the original.)  

 

    Source of book image:   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0521010683/ref=cm_cr_dp_2_1/104-0101568-2686373?ie=UTF8&customer-reviews.sort%5Fby=-SubmissionDate&n=283155





June 15, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth About "An Inconvenient Truth"


   Al Gore.  Source of photo:  http://in.news.yahoo.com/051008/137/60gzj.html

 

(p. A25) If Al Gore's new movie weren't titled ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' I wouldn't have quite so many problems with it.

. . .

Gore shows the obligatory pictures of windmills and other alternative sources of energy.  But he ignores nuclear power plants, which don't spew carbon dioxide and currently produce far more electricity than all ecologically fashionable sources combined.

A few environmentalists, like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, have recognized that their movement is making a mistake in continuing to demonize nuclear power.  Balanced against the risks of global warming, nukes suddenly look good -- or at least deserve to be considered rationally.  Gore had a rare chance to reshape the debate, because a documentary about global warming attracts just the sort of person who marches in anti-nuke demonstrations.

Gore could have dared, once he enticed the faithful into the theater, to challenge them with an inconvenient truth or two.  But that would have been a different movie.


For the full commentary, see:

JOHN TIERNEY.  "Gore Pulls His Punches."  The New York Times  (Tuesday, May 23, 2006):    A25.





April 27, 2006

Chernobyl Accident Cannot Occur In U.S. Type Reactors


Twenty years ago (April 25, 1986), the Chernobyl nuclear accident sent a plume of radiation into the air above Ukraine.  The word "Chernobyl" remains the most emotionally charged argument used by the opponents of nuclear energy.  But if examined carefully, the main lesson from Chernobyl may be that what happened there cannot occur in the better designed light water reactors used in the United States, and most of the rest of the world.  William Sweet, the author of the commentary below, has also authored Kicking the Carbon Habit:  Global Warming and the Case for Renewable and Nuclear Energy.

 

(p. A23) . . . , though it went unnoticed at the time and has been inadequately appreciated since, Chernobyl also cast into relief the positive features of the reactors used in the United States and most other advanced industrial countries.

The reactor at Chernobyl belonged to a class that was especially vulnerable to runaway reactions.  When operating at low power, if such reactors lost water, their reactivity could suddenly take off and very rapidly reach a threshold beyond which they could only explode.  Making matters worse, surprisingly little more pressure than normal in the machine's water channels would lift its lid, snapping the vital control rods and fuel channels that entered the reactor's core.

On the night of April 25, 1986, poorly trained and supervised plant operators conducted an ill-conceived experiment, putting the machine into the very state in which reactivity was most likely to spike.  Within a fraction of a second, the reactor went from being barely on to power levels many times higher than the maximum intended.

This kind of accident cannot happen in the so-called light water reactors used in the United States and most of Western Europe and Asia.  In these reactors, the water functions not only as a coolant but as a "moderator": self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions cannot take place in its absence.  This is a very useful passive safety feature.  If coolant runs low, there is still a danger of a core meltdown, because the fuel retains heat; but the reactor will have automatically and immediately turned itself off.

 

For the full commentary, see:

WILLIAM SWEET.  "The Nuclear Option."  The New York Times  (Weds., April 26, 2006):  A23.

 

The reference to Sweet's related book is:

Sweet, William.  Kicking the Carbon Habit:  Global Warming and the Case for Renewable and Nuclear Energy.  Columbia University Press, 2006.


Source of book image:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0231137109/sr=8-1/qid=1146071688/ref=sr_1_1/104-5668094-9083929?%5Fencoding=UTF8






April 26, 2006

Founder of Greenpeace Endorses New Nuclear Reactors


MoorePatrick.jpg   Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace.   Source of image:    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/25/us/25nuke.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

(p. A24) WASHINGTON, April 24 — The nuclear industry has hired Christie Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, the environmental organization, to lead a public relations campaign for new reactors.

Nuclear power is "environmentally friendly, affordable, clean, dependable and safe," Mrs. Whitman said at a news conference on Monday.  She said that as the E.P.A. leader for two and a half years, ending in June 2003, and as governor of New Jersey for seven years, she had promoted various means to reduce the emission of gases that cause global warming and pollution.

But Mrs. Whitman said that "none of them will have as great a positive impact on our environment as will increasing our ability to generate electricity from nuclear power."

. . .

Mr. Moore said he favored efficiency and renewable energy, but added that solar cells, which produce electricity from sunlight, were "being given too much emphasis and taking too much money."  A dollar spent on geothermal energy, he said, was "10 to 12 times more effective in reducing greenhouse emissions."

Mr. Moore is the director of a company that distributes geothermal systems in Canada.  He is also a supporter of what he called "sustainable forestry" because, he said, building with wood avoided the use of materials whose manufacture releases greenhouse gases, like steel and concrete.

Mr. Moore, who left Greenpeace in 1986, favors many technologies that some environmentalists oppose, including the genetic engineering of crops, and has referred to his former colleagues as "environmental extremists" and "anti-human."

. . .

Representatives of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the Teamsters also spoke in favor of new reactors.


For the full story, see:

MATTHEW L. WALD.  "Ex-Environmental Leaders Tout Nuclear Energy."  The New York Times (Tues., April 25, 2006): A24.

 




April 25, 2006

Hurricanes Not Caused by Human-Induced Climate Change: More on Why Crichton is Right


The Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT analyzes the case for human-induced global warming:

(p. A14) There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism.

. . .

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.

If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less -- hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

. . .

In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming -- not whether it would actually happen.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.


For the full commentary, see:

RICHARD LINDZEN. "Climate of Fear." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 12, 2006): A14.




March 31, 2006

Nuclear Power Looking "Increasingly Attractive"


(p. A2) Nuclear power has looked increasingly attractive in many nations amid advancing energy prices and concerns about rising emissions believed to cause global warming. Costs for energy sources such as coal have risen amid global expansion and China's increasing need for raw materials. China and India, especially, are looking to nuclear power as their consumption expands.

Meanwhile, emissions of the gases believed to cause global warming have risen despite efforts in many nations to adhere to the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol.

At the same time, improved reactor design has led to increased interest in the long-dormant U.S. market, which dried up in the early 1980s amid public outcry about safety and investors' dismay over high costs. Since then, manufacturers have continued to build reactors overseas in Asia and Europe, while the U.S. remains the most coveted market because of its economic might and hunger for new energy sources.


For the full article, see:

DENNIS K. BERMAN. "Toshiba to Buy Nuclear-Power Firm." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., January 24, 2006): A2.

(Note: A somewhat different version of the article appeared in the online version of the WSJ, under the title: "Japan's Toshiba Wins Nuclear-Power Assets; Purchase of Westinghouse May Open Door to Markets Like U.S., China and India.")




February 15, 2006

"Growing Recognition of Economic Costs" of Koyoto Protocol



Commentary on the Kyoto Protocol:

(p. 3) . . . the current stalemate is not just because of the inadequacies of the protocol. It is also a response to the world's ballooning energy appetite, which, largely because of economic growth in China, has exceeded almost everyone's expectations. And there are still no viable alternatives to fossil fuels, the main source of greenhouse gases.

Then, too, there is a growing recognition of the economic costs incurred by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol.

As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, a proponent of emissions targets, said in a statement on Nov. 1: ''The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.''

This is as true, in different ways, in developed nations with high unemployment, like Germany and France, as it is in Russia, which said last week that it may have spot energy shortages this winter.

. . .

The only real answer at the moment is still far out on the horizon: nonpolluting energy sources. But the amount of money being devoted to research and develop such technologies, much less install them, is nowhere near the scale of the problem, many experts on energy technology said.

Enormous investments in basic research have to be made promptly, even with the knowledge that most of the research is likely to fail, if there is to be any chance of creating options for the world's vastly increased energy thirst in a few decades, said Richard G. Richels, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit center for energy and environment research.

''The train is not leaving the station, and it needs to leave the station,'' Mr. Richels said. ''If we don't have the technologies available at that time, it's going to be a mess.''



For the full commentary, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "THE WORLD; On Climate Change, a Change of Thinking." The New York Times, Section 4 (Sun., December 4, 2005): 3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





October 10, 2005

"The Positive Side of Global Warming"


The New York Times devoted more than two full pages to the advantages of the melting of the Arctic ice cap. Here is a short excerpt:

(p. A1) By Mr. Broe's calculations, Churchill could bring in as much as $100 million a year as a port on Arctic shipping lanes shorter by thousands of miles than routes to the south, and traffic would only increase as the retreat of ice in the region clears the way for a longer shipping season.

With major companies and nations large and small adopting similar logic, the Arctic is undergoing nothing less than a great rush for virgin territory and natural resources worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Even before the polar ice began shrinking more each summer, countries were pushing into the frigid Barents Sea, lured by undersea oil and gas fields and emboldened by advances in technology. But now, as thinning ice stands to simplify construction of drilling rigs, exploration is likely to move even farther north.

Last year, scientists found tantalizing hints of oil in seabed samples just 200 miles from the North Pole. All told, one quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources lies in the Arctic, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The polar thaw is also starting to unlock other treasures: lucrative shipping routes, perhaps even the storied Northwest Passage; new cruise ship destinations; and important commercial fisheries.

"It's the positive side of global warming, if there is a positive side," said Ron Lemieux, the transportation minister of Manitoba, whose provincial government is investing millions in Churchill.


For the full story, see:

CLIFFORD KRAUSS, STEVEN LEE MYERS, ANDREW C. REVKIN and SIMON ROMERO. "As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound." The New York Times (Mon., October 10, 2005): A1, A10-A11.




HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg


















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats