Denis Dutton, philosopher, academic, author, web entrepreneur and libertarian media commentator/activist, died on December 28, 2010. A professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, he died in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he lived. He was 66. Described by the New York Times as “an impassioned polymath, genial contrarian and native Californian,” Professor Dutton had taught at Canterbury since 1984. Blake Eskin, web editor for The New Yorker, wrote: “Denis helped prove that the Web could be a platform not only for fast-paced celebrity gossip and pictures of cute animals but for long and serious writing and the exchange of complex ideas.” We at The Resilient Earth morn the passing of an internet visionary, fellow skeptic and friend.
Time after time, the public has been harangued by climate change “experts” predicting all form of devastation due to anthropogenic global warming. The Greenland and Antarctic glaciers will melt, as will the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. Temperatures will rise by 2-6°C, perhaps more in higher latitudes. Weather patterns will shift, there will be droughts and torrential monsoon rains, cyclones will increase in intensity—where will it all end? Here's a thought, we might find the world a nicer place after a bit of global warming. In fact, given the general cooling trend seen over the Holocene (the period since the last glacial period ended around 14,000 years ago) and the Cenozoic (the time since the dinosaurs died, around 65 million years ago) human CO2 may be, in some small way, the only thing delaying another devastating ice age.
Carbon monoxide, CO, is a trace gas that is important in atmospheric chemistry. It indirectly influences climate and has significant effects on methane and ozone levels. CO is a byproduct of combustion—particularly the incomplete burning of fossil fuels and biomass—and conventional wisdom says that humans, with their tendency to set things on fire, should be responsible for releasing much of the gas into the atmosphere. Little is known about the abundance and sources of CO prior to the industrial age, or about the importance of anthropogenic activities have had. A new study in the journal Science presents a 650-year-long record of CO atmospheric concentration using samples from Antarctic ice cores. Reconstructed past CO variability and its causes have come up with a shocking fact: CO levels are at a 2,000 year low. Apparently, humans actually prevent wildfire, reducing the release of carbon monoxide and, consequently, CO2.
To ring in the new year, The Resilient Earth presents a collection of recent journal and news articles regarding climate science. Some are about actual science and others are more in the way of commentary on the state of global warming. New discoveries continue to be made, though the climate change faithful stubbornly refuse to abandon the party line: Earth's temperature is going to rise dangerously and humanity is to blame. Perhaps the most interesting development is that a number of green advocates have given up on avoiding global warming, deciding instead to stress the unfair social impacts that climate change will supposedly cause. At the end of 2010, here is a snapshot of the state of the climate change debate.
The influence of the Sun on Earth’s climate over time scales of centuries and millennia is all but ignored by current climate change dogma, with many climate scientists dismissing solar variation as too feeble to have much of an impact. Though it was recently discovered that variation at ultraviolet wavelengths is considerably greater than at lower frequencies, the change in total solar irradiance over recent 11-year sunspot cycles amounts to <0.1%. New research on longer time scales finds the change in total irradiance sufficient to affect the dynamics of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Detailed model studies of the Little Ice Age (~1400 to 1850 AD) conclude that the Sun controls an “ocean dynamical thermostat” that affects climate variability over large regions of the globe. It was also found that fully coupled general circulation models (GCMs), the kind used by the IPCC to make predictions of future global warming, lack a robust thermostat response. This means that the sensitivity of the climate system to solar forcing is underestimated by current GCMs—the climate models are proven wrong again.
For a second time, a letter has appeared in the journal Science urging scientists to action regarding climate change. “Because of the physics of the climate system, we must ensure that global emissions of greenhouse gases peak and start to decline rapidly within a decade in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the 2°C goal,” urge the authors, noting that “humankind has waffled and delayed for decades; further delay risks serious consequences for people and the ecosystems on which we rely.” What is not immediately obvious is who these correspondents are. While some are legitimate scientists, a number turn out to be from somewhat nebulous organizations and institutions. They are philosophers, ethicists and “decision scientists” who have turned shilling for climate disaster into a career. They grow like a tapeworm within the bowels of science—they are climate science parasites.
Much has be written and even more said about stopping climate change. The total foolishness of such a quest is obvious to anyone with even the most cursory understanding of Earth's climate over the Past 65 million years. The more science learns about the ever changing nature of climate the more capricious nature appears and the less significant the labors of H. sapiens are revealed to be. To place the ludicrous arguments and unsubstantiated fears of climate catastrophists in perspective, it is instructive to survey Earth's climate since the demise of the dinosaurs—the geological time period called the Cenozoic Era. During this long span of time, Earth's climate has undergone a significant and complex evolution. If one truth has been discovered by human science it is that Earth's climate is always changing, driven, as one set of researchers put it, by trends, rhythms and aberrations—the mechanisms of climate change.
The Alpha Ventus Wind Park is the first of its kind: a deep water wind farm in the stormy North Sea. It is composed of 12 turbines that together will generate 60MW of electrical power. When fully operational, the farm will be able to power 50,000 households. But barely two months after the ceremony opening Germany’s first deep water wind farm, six of the newly installed wind turbines were idle. This was not due to a lack of wind but because of gearbox damage: two turbines had to be replaced entirely, the other four repaired on site. Problems with Alpha Ventus highlight a series of poor decisions—a precipitous move to shut down working nuclear plants, rampant installation of solar cells, and a headlong rush into offshore wind generation among them—that could well have Germany facing blackouts in the not too distant future.
As you may know, the parasitic bureaucrats and scheming NGO representatives that comprise the dying but still twitching climate change cabal are holding a fun filled, two week blow out in Cancun, Mexico. They have gathered to preach the gospel of global warming and attack those who would thwart their plans for remaking the world according to their own slanted social views. They are keeping a low profile, after the disastrous meeting they had in Copenhagen this past December. For many, the Cancun meeting is basically a time for AGW true believers to lick their wounds and lounge about in the sun with like minded fanatics. For others it is yet another roll of the dice, a gamble that something meaningful will come from the conference. Here are some of the highlights from the bungle on the beach.
Though Earth and its climate are billions of years old, climate science is still very young. So young that surprising new discoveries are constantly being made. One such discovery in the field of paleoclimatology—the study of Earth's climate in the distant past—was the uncovering of a period of great warming around 40 million years ago, in the middle of the Eocene Epoch. In the midst of a general cooling trend beginning at the end of the preceding Paleocene Epoch (~55 mya) there were a number of dramatic, sudden bursts of global warming. The most celebrate of these is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM, when surface temperatures rose by 5-7°C. Recently, science has discovered another hot interval 15 million years later during the Middle Eocene. Named the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO), it marked a time when deep sea temperatures rose about 4-5°C and atmospheric CO2 levels peaked. As new information is uncovered, climate scientists are scrambling to interpret what caused this second, more sustained period of warming and what it may mean for current climate conditions.
For years climate alarmists have terrorized the public with frightening tales of impending disaster, a coming climate apocalypse. Because of global warming fertile croplands will become arid and barren while desert areas will experience torrential rain and uncontrollable flooding. Tropical rainforests will wither in the heat and polar ice will melt. Coastal areas and islands will disappear beneath the ocean and the world's great cities will huddle behind great seawalls to avoid the flood. Nature's furry will drive millions of refugees to migrate to less blighted lands, followed by plague, pestilence and war. Because of human hubris our civilization will collapse, as has happened so many times in the past. Or maybe not. A quiet revolution among anthropologists and archaeologists has overturned the scientific dogma surrounding failed ancient civilizations, with some lessons for those who currently preach climate catastrophe.
Al Gore, the high prophet of ecological doom, has stunned the climate change faithful by recanting his support for ethanol fuel. Now he tells us that supporting corn based subsidies was a mistake and that it had more to do with his desire to cultivate farm votes in the 2000 presidential election than with what was good for the environment. This announcement comes at a time when the US Congress has an opportunity to set things right. The current $0.45 per gallon tax credit for adding ethanol to gasoline automatically expires December 31, and all senators and congressmen need to do is nothing. Continue to dither and taxpayers will save six billion dollars plus the air will be cleaner. Unfortunately, the corn ethanol lobby has its hooks well planted in the US Congress, including many Republicans who supposedly have seen the light of spending reduction. Will Congress betray the people yet again?
If advocates for green, renewable energy are to be believed, wind farms do not threaten endangered bird species like eagles, hawks and owls. A recent article in Science implies that problems at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California have been reduced by spacing turbines farther apart and removing turbines from problematic sites. But on-site scientific studies have revealed that the kill rate for all birds, and for birds of prey in particular, have not been reduced and may have even increased. It seems that some eco-activists are so committed to expanding wind power as a way to fight global warming that they are turning a blind eye to the slaughter in the skies. How can these duplicitous greens be trusted if they are willing to drive endangered species to extinction in the name of reduced CO2 emissions?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently concurred with film director James Cameron that people who question the science of anthropogenic global warming are, in their opinions, “criminal.” Cameron, a Crank of the Week laureate, and Schmidt made the comments during a recent on stage conversation at a private event in Silicon Valley. During a two hour “discussion,” the duo of left-coast billionaires had a vacuous interchange in which they predicted that humanity “will have extincted 70% of the species on the planet by the end of the century.” This is another example of how people who can be very smart about some things can be very stupid about others.
World wide emission of CO2 from fossil fuel burning decreased by 1.3% in 2009 owing to the global financial and economic crisis says a report in Nature Geoscience. Estimated CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes (LUCs) have also declined compared with the 1990s. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was blamed on the contraction of GDP owing to the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Not so fast, say warmist scientists. They claim that CO2 will rise by 4.8% in 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcome in climate change circles.