Sunday, May 06, 2007

Is the warming hysteria cooling down?

One has to wonder if the backlash against anthropogenic warming hysteria has started. We had the UK television documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, seen by millions already. In Salon Camille Paglia came out of the closet as a warming skeptic. The prominent left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn challenged anthropogenic warming in the pages of The Nation. Now Der Spiegel is starting to run items questioning the “consensus” around global warming.

I’ve just been told that the new edition, which comes out tomorrow, has an article on what impact warming, if it occurs, would have on Germany. And it concludes the impact would be largely positive, including the saving of many lives. I will have to get a more detailed update as to the content. But I have gone to the Der Spiegel English language site and found some interesting things though the article in question is not yet available.

One article asks: Is the IPCC Doing Harm to Science? It gives some insight into the “scientific process” behind the IPCC reports. It describes a press conference where a spokesman for the IPCC says to the journalists that their report is still being debated and to be patient. Who was debating? Here is the description:
There, behind closed doors, politicians from more than 130 countries were arguing with the authors of the report of the precise wording of a thin, 23-page document. The document, known as the SPM, or Summary for Policymakers, contains the essence of the actual climate report, which is a scientific compendium divided into three volumes, each containing at least 1,000 pages. Negotiations were underway in Brussels over the summary of the second volume and, as always, it was a laborious process. The two groups debating the issue had little in common except a mutual interest in reaching a consensus. On the one side were the authors of the report, all scientists, who have done little else in the last three years than work on this report. For many of them, it was already asking too much to compress the contents of more than 1,000 pages into a 23-page summary. On the other side were the politicians, members of delegations from almost every country on earth. Sitting in alphabetical order in the chamber, their main concern was to adjust the report to suit their individual economic, environmental and foreign policies.
Typically reports on IPCC “reports” leave out any mention of how the report is written. It is presented as a “scientific consensus” without mentioning the prominent role played by politicians in rewriting the document to “suit their individual economic, environmental and foreign policies.” While the article says that laymen can’t debate the topic it fails to point out the politicians who have the final go-over on the IPCC document are themselves laymen.

But it does report that the skeptics seem to be picking up steam and that their ideas,
...are debated in serious media outlets, including the influential German newspapers Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt and the television program heute journal. In other countries, like the United States, people like bestselling author Michael Crichton debate with Pachauri's colleagues on radio talk shows, experts debate the scientific foundations of the IPCC's reports on the TV talk show Larry King Live, and in Great Britain the Channel 4 television network aired a documentary titled The Great Global Warming Swindle.
The author of this article is no skeptic. In fact the bias worked into sentences throughout the article reveals the prejudices of the author, a layman himself. If refers to Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT as a prominent skeptic. In fact it makes it sound as if he is the ONLY prominent skeptic. The author asks, “why is [Lindzen] the only one among serious critics who is expressing his outrage so vehemently?” He isn’t but that is what the author wants readers to think.

And the journalist, who dismissed the ability of laymen to pronounce scientific judgment then pronounces judgment himself. He says that Lindzen’s discussions “are still nothing but claims, popular theories as opposed to a transparent global process, a global plebiscite among climate researchers.” Odd he calls it a global plebiscite among scientists after spending several paragraphs describing the role politicians have in finalizing the public statements.

In this report the author argues that the lead authors of the various chapters are basically politically neutral scientists presenting only the facts. Yet repeatedly we have had scientists resign from the IPCC because they said the lead authors distorted their research, changed their conclusions and dishonestly presented material that was speculative as factual. The research of the scientists is not presented by these scientists it is presented by these lead authors appointed by the IPCC which is a body representing governments around the world. After the lead authors get a chance to rewrite the material it is then sent to governments for more rewriting. Then everything comes back to meeting for “negotiation” between politicians and scientists.

The very idea that one negotiates science is bizarre to me. This is not haggling in the market over the price of a trinket. It isn’t as if one side says $1 and the other demands $2 and the both settle for $1.50.

The author again shows his scientific conclusion: “Climate change is real, and it is overwhelmingly manmade.” The author ignores the Little Ice Age entirely. He does refer to global temperature increases since 1850 but neglects to mention that the Little Ice Age continued well into the 1800s. So any rise in temperature since then would be from an usually low level. In fact the river Thames continued freezing until as late as 1814. And only a few years earlier it had been so cold that people in New York could walk from Manhattan to Staten Island across a frozen New York Harbor. So why 1850? Coincidentally that was the year when it is thought the Little Ice Age ended and temperatures started to return to previous levels.

Prior to the Little Ice Age there was the period known as the Medieval Warm Period where temperatures were, on average, warmer than today. For instance Science magazine reports on The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea and notes that during the Little Ice Age the sea was one degree cooler than today and during the Medieval Warm Period it was one degree warmer than today.

After making it clear he is no heretic to be burned at the stake the author of the Spiegel article does say that the media has helped fuel hysterical alarmism. And he blames Al Gore for a lot of that hysteria. But he says don’t be too hard on St. Al since he is, after all, just a politician. But he then notes the same hysteria comes from people running the IPCC.
This doesn't mean that Gore should necessarily be taken to task for his statements. He is a politician. But it is odd to hear IPCC Chairman Pachauri, when asked what he thinks about Gore's film, responding: "I liked it. It does emotionalize the debate, but it seems that it has to do that." And when Pachauri comments on the publication of the first SPM by saying, "I hope that this will shock the governments so much that they take action," this doesn't exactly allay doubts as to his objectivity. When Renate Christ, the secretary of the IPCC, is asked about her opinion of reporting on climate change, she refers to articles that mention "climate catastrophe" and calls them "rather refreshing."
He also notes that no matter where one “encounters officials from the IPCC.... everyone seems to be talking more like environmental activists than scientists these days.” And he concludes with how the head of the IPCC will shortly be sitting on a panel where he will do what he believes is necessary, “be on the side of a good cause and not on the side of science.”

Then Der Spiegel runs an interview with German climate expert Hans von Storch. He is no skeptic but argues “we should spend more time talking about adjusting to the inevitable and not about reducing CO2 emissions. We have to take away people’s fear of climate change.” He tells them:
The fear of climatic catastrophes is an ancient one and not unlike our fear of strangers. In the past, people believed that the climate almost always changes for the worse, and only rarely for the better -- God's punishment for sinful behavior. And nowadays it's those hedonistic wastrels who pollute the air so that they can look at some pretty fish in the South Seas. It would be better if we only ever rode bikes. Oh, there's always someone wagging a finger in disapproval.
Von Storch is asked about the prediction of “thousands of heat-related deaths” and responds saying these “claims are completely idiotic and dubious”. He notes that the that claim was extrapolation using an unexpected heat wave. He notes that if the temperature is rising and we know it that humans prepare for it. Having lived in climates where the temperature routinely went over 100 degrees I can attest to that. What about the elderly cry the Greens?

Yet one of the biggest retirement areas in the world in Sun City, Arizona. The median age of a resident there is just over 72-years-old. Most have moved there from cooler locations. And it gets warm there, very warm. The average summer high temperature is 106 degrees and the average summer low temperature is 75 degrees. That this community of elderly thrives in such temperatures supports Storch’s comment.

Storch has one last warning for people.
Unfortunately many scientists see themselves too much as priests whose job it is to preach moralistic sermons to people. This is another legacy of the 1968 generation, which I happen to belong to myself. In fact, it would be better if we just presented the facts and scenarios dispassionately -- and then society can decide for itself what it wants to do to influence climate change.