Wednesday, November 28, 2007
This probably won't be as thorough as I'd normally like, but I've picked up a nasty cold and my head space is pretty foggy because of it. :-P I apologize now if I go off on a confused ramble...
First off, I've had it verified that one of the things that bugged me about the book - that it seemed to "talk down" to the reader - is in fact a format of the Idiot's Guide series. So I made the effort basically ignore that, which made it easier to read.
After my initial response to the forwards in my first impressions review, I was pleasantly surprised at the rest of the book. It was a lot more evenhanded than I had started to expect it to be.
The age of the book (copyright 2004) was both a positive and negative. On the negative side, some of the information is longer up to date - specifically anything from the 2001 IPCC report, which is the only one referred to, and the claim that of the 10 hottest years on record, most occurred in the 1990's, which was corrected well after this book was published. On the positive side, the only mention of Al Gore was in his role as vice-president, and there's no hysterical mentions of Hurricane Katrine. Other hurricanes are mentioned, but since they all happened at least a few years before the book was published, they're not in the forefront.
The book does a decent job of explaining the mechanisms behind various climactic events and the history of Earth's climate, as well as we know it. The event that gets the most space is El Nino. Unfortunately, the author has a habit of throwing in rhetorical questions after describing some major climactic event (hurricanes, tornadoes, whatever...), along the lines of "how much worse will it be in a warmer world?"
There were a number of contradictions, as well. For example, the author would go on about how incredibly complex climate is, that we are just beginning to understand it, and that there are many things we still don't know. He'd then go back to talking about CO2, as if 1) it where the only thing that drives climate and 2) as if climate was actually simple, and that we understood it completely.
Another area where of contradiction is with computer models. After going on about how difficult it is for a computer to model climate, not only because we don't know what all to put in, but no computer is powerful enough to include what we *do* know, etc., he then goes on to put complete faith in what the computer models predict.
When it comes to the CO2 numbers, he only talks about how CO2 levels have never been lower than 200ppm or higher than 280ppm until the industrial revolution (which he conveniently backs up to when it started 150 years ago in England, rather than when it had spread to significant portions of the world and was actually large enough to be considered). He then talks about current (to 2003) levels and the doubling expected (560ppm). It turns out that when he says CO2 levels have never been lower/higher than 200/280ppm, he actually means the last 10,000 years. I found that interesting, since he talks about the Younger Dryas (which ended about 11,500 years ago), during which temperatures suddenly dropped, then ended with temperatures increasing and estimated 8C in about 10 years, but never mentions what the CO2 levels are believed to have been during that period. (The best I've been able to find, by the way, is that it was <200ppm). class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_4">handbasket. Sure, he does use words like "could" and "might," but then switches to "will" rather quickly. There isn't much room for doubt in how these predictions are described, that these are things we're supposed to expect to happen. He spent a great deal of time describing the disastrous effects following the 1997/98 El Nino (I remember 1998, and I don't remember it being that bad!), then goes on to suggest a future where our climate is like that all the time.
What really got me, though, were the odd statements he'd throw in. For example, at one point he write that, sure, the medieval warming period was good for some areas, but it allowed Vikings to rape and pillage the coastlines of Europe. ???
Eventually, the book started to talk about the cure - what we can do to stop global warming. There's the usual stuff that we individuals can do - make our homes more energy efficient, use alternate forms of transportation, recycle, and so on. Then he talks about alternate energy sources, such as solar, wind, water, even fuel cells and nuclear power get mentioned.
In the end, I found the book to be both informative and frustrating. The lack of references to back up statements are my usual pet peeve, of course. The contradictions and lack of solid information rather than blanket statements are a problem.
The main reason I would NOT recommend this book, however, is that it is (dare I say it!) obsolete. While the basic information about things like how different weather systems work still apply, and I would recommend it as a backgrounder, there are too many key points that have been refuted for this book to be a decision maker.
Monday, November 26, 2007
IPCC: separating fact from fright.
What the IPCC reports actually talk about are the more prosaic problems of water supply, agricultural production, disease, extreme weather events and flooding: all of these are already-existing problems, and all of them are potentially resolvable through relatively simple societal and technological developments.Yet rather than discussing the need for more development, and a concerted global strategy to tackle social problems as they exist right now – not just in 100 years time – all of the attention and energy of political leaders is being focused on how we can stop producing so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
By David Bellamy and Jack Barrett
Carbon dioxide is not the dreaded greenhouse gas that the global warmers crack it up to be. It is in fact the most important airborne fertiliser in the world and without it there would be no green plants at all. In fact, a doubling of the levels of this gas in the atmosphere would bring about a marked rise in plant production -- good news for everyone, especially those malnourished millions who can't afford chemical fertilisers. Perhaps the time is ripe to really start worrying (again) about the fact that for the last 200 million years the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has been falling. Indeed it dropped to dangerously low levels during recent ice ages. The Plant Kingdom responded to this potentially catastrophic (no carbon no food) situation by producing the so-called C4 plants that can survive low CO2 by using sunlight more efficiently.Please talk to your plants -- and as you do, rest assured that they in effect will thank you, by recycling your waste carbon dioxide to make more plant material and return oxygen to the earth's atmosphere.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I'm trying to alternate my reading between pro- and con-AGW views. I like to look at both sides of issues and come to my own conclusions. After having to rush through my comparatively short and incomplete review of the last book before returning it to the library, I wanted to make sure I don't fall behind again.
This time, I'm working on The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Warming, from Michael Tennesen. (Passages quoted from the book will be in red italics.) This is a first impressions review only - I haven't finished the book. I'll be basing this review only on the forward, introduction, and back-of-the-book references. Although I'm about half way through the book itself, I won't touch that content until I post my final review.
The copyright for this book is 2004 (it took me a while to find that), so I would guess that the information in it is up to date to late 2003, perhaps early 2004. As such, I know that some of the information in there may not be accurate anymore, as our knowledge and technical abilities have increased. I expect that this will be only a small issue, though.
To begin, I have to say that this is my first exposure to any of the Idiot's Guide books. I'm thinking that the basic premise (that the readers are idiots??) is why, right from the start, I felt like I was being talked down to. The book actually starts on the inside cover with a letter to the reader, where it explains what the book is going to be about. Just in case the title, bullet points and quotes on the cover weren't quite enough, I guess. [scratches head] Why the book has two sets of contents ("Contents at a Glance" followed by "Contents"), I'm not sure. Part of the Idiot's Guide format?
The forward is written by two people. Stephen H. Schneider and Michael D. Mastrandrea. At first, I had some encouragement that there would be a level of scientific balance as, in the first paragraph, they write:
"...it is those who make knee-jerk, black-or-white statements about climate change is either "good for you" or the "end of the world" who are the real idiots, not basing their assertions on the full spectrum of scientific knowledge and understanding."
Unfortunately, that's about as balanced as it gets, as the writers later go on to to bemoan that, while it's appropriate for journalists to report "both sides" in other areas...
"In science, it's different. ... when reports present arguments for and against the existence of global warming, they are often giving equal voice to a mainstream, well-established consensus and the opposing views of a few extremists. To the uninformed, each position seems equally credible - after all, each claimant has a Ph.D. But you, the reader of this guide, will quickly see that these falsely dichotomous debates do not pit equally credible sides against each other. That is, although some "experts" and many politicians - especially in the United states, those affiliated with the fossil fuel industry or big car companies - assert that human-induced emissions have little impact on the climate, the vast bulk of those truly knowledgeable about climate change and its potential impacts are convinced there is overwhelming evidence for global warming and legitimate reason for concern. With this book you will have the facts to understand these concerns, and to better decide for yourselves who the real "idiots" are."
Wow. In a single paragraph, the writers say that...
- when it comes to science, the media shouldn't show "both sides" of an issue.
- that "both sides" refers to the existence of global warming, not the facts surrounding global climate in general (the "skeptics," by the way, aren't arguing whether or not there has been global warming. It's one of the few points both sides agree on. Not according to these two, it seems.)
- that when they do, the pro-AGW people are all part of the "mainstream, well-established consensus," but everyone else is just an extremist.
- that these debates are "falsely dichotomous."
- claims that only one side is credible - it's pretty obvious which side they mean.
- by putting "experts" for the other side in quotations, they imply that these "experts" are anything but. I find it funny that they include politicians on that side of things, what with Al Gore being the consummate politician, and very much in the AGW camp.
- blatantly insinuates that people who disagree with AGW are in the pay of some evil emp... er... industry, while equally implying that AGE proponents aren't in the pay of any special interest groups at all, which is absolute hooey...
- while only those "truly knowledgeable" are on the AGW side of things, implying that anyone who disagrees can't possibly be "truly knowledgeable."
- and finally, those who disagree with AGW are the true "idiots."
Wow. All that in just a few sentences. That was truly impressive!
So who are these two? Bios for both of them are conveniently included under the forward. Both have a substantial list of achievements (strangely, actual credentials are not mentioned - are they Ph.D's, too? It doesn't say.). Among them, Schneider is described as "active in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," and consultant to presidents. Mastrandrea, among other things, is a researcher, including "intergrated assessment modeling of the climate and economy as a tool for international and domestic climate policy analiysis, forecasting the impacts of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle... as a policymaking tool and analyzing the effects of global climate change on the world ecosystems."
Which looks to me like both their jobs rely on AGW being a big problem and, as such, might be just a touch biased. :-P Well, I wouldn't expect otherwise under the circumstances. We all have our biases, whether we admit to them or not.
Next is the Introduction, with includes "what you'll learn in the book","Extras","Acknowledgments","Special thanks to the technical reviewer", and "Trademarks."
Right from the start, the author is pretty clear on the book's basic premise - that global warming is a problem, CO2 is causing it, and it's our fault. The author does at least state that there is controversy over some things. He then mentions the IPCC predictions that CO2 increases will cause the earth's temperature to increase between 2.5F to 10.4F (1.4C to 5.8C) within this century.
At this point, I became curious about sources and dates, because I know that the IPCC has since lowered that prediction and, in their last report (not the summary of all reports that just got released), they admitted that temperatures haven't actually increased since 1998. That's when I skipped to the back.
Now, I have to admit I came to this book with certain expectations. One of those was that, unlike the last pro-AGW book (first impressions, final impression) I read, this one would be able to dedicate space to references and bibliographies. So I was surprised when I flipped to the back of the book and didn't find any at all!
This is what I did find.
Appendix A is a list of "Concerned Organizations."
Appendix B is "Further Reading," which includes "Books on Climate and Climate Change," (while some appear to be generic, others seems to be pro-AGW, which is to be expected) "Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC)," (only 2001 is mentioned, 3 titles), "Field Guides," (3 titles, seem to be generic), and finally, "Books on the Environment," (while a couple of titles seem generic, most seem to be of the disaster variety).
Appendix C is the glossary.
Then there's the Index.
No references. No bibliography. So on what basis is the reader to believe in the accuracy and research behind this book?
It turns out the answer to that is back in the Introduction.
After listing what the reader will learn in the 6 parts of the books (again - is this an Idiot's Guide format? Because I've never countered this sort of thing before), and a description of the Extras - text boxes scattered throughout the book under 4 headings, Climatoids, Warm Words, Hot Debates and "Caution" Global Warnings (the word caution is in a drawing of a sign).
In the Acknowledgments, the author mentions and thanks "all the people that helped me assemble the facts for this book," followed by a list of names and titles, then mention of many others too numerous to list.
Finally, there's the Special Thanks to the Technical Reviewer. It turns out that one person - "an expert who double-checked the accuracy of what you'll learn here..." is our guarantee, a David Reusch. No mention of who he is or why he is so eminintly qualified to replace any references, research papers, etc. A quick search shows me that he's with the EMS Earth and Environmental Sciences Institute with Penn. State University. His role as technical writer for this book is included on the list of accomplishments in his online CV. He does seem to be quite accomplished, and more than competent to be the tech writer for this book. I just would really prefer to see references and footnotes to actual research, etc.
So my first impression of this book is one of cautious skepticism. The lack of references in a book of this scope really bothers me (can you tell? *L*). While there seems to be a token effort towards balance, it's clear without even reading the book itself that there's only one conclusion the author intends for the reader to reach, even while claiming some sort of middle ground, and its purpose to be helping the reader reach their own conclusions based on facts. It's a contradiction, and one I find off-putting.
Green hero slammed as climate heretic
The conclusion (second page)
David Bellamy has come full circle in his four-decade-long career as an environmental activist. In the 1960s, before the era of environmental activism, his was a lonely voice decrying environmental damage by an official establishment insensitive to any view but its own, and dedicated to the conventional wisdom of the times.He then became an exemplar of the establishment, and helped make the environment a feature of the establishment as well. Now his is a lonely voice once more, again on the outs with an insensitive officialdom. The one constant throughout the decades: Prof. Bellamy's relentlessness in his fight for what he believes to be right.
What an amazing story. And AGW proponents wonder why people are increasingly having a hard time taking them seriously!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
A selection of interesting articles.
NASA Sees Arctic Ocean Circulation Do an About-Face
Linzen Says Chill Out
Polar bears in danger? Is this some kind of joke?
The Myth of Dangerous Human-Caused Climate Change. (pdf)
Despite predictions, sky is not falling
Know The Past And You Understand The Future. (pdf)
Hmm... this is a lot smaller on here that I meant it to be. Click on the image for the full size.
I was just playing around on my Paint Shop Pro. I made a picture tube using scanned images of famous diamonds, then came up with this. I think it turned out ok.
update: this is weird. The graphic disappeared some time after I posted it, even though it was working fine before. I've got it back again and hopefully it'll stay this time.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I was reading this article in the National Post, and thought it's be interesting to look at just the numbers.
Average deaths (per year unless otherwise specified):
Place............ heat related deaths.......... cold related deaths
Helsinki ............298........................................... 1,655
Athens.............. 1,376........................................ 7,852
UK..................... 2,000 (single event, see below)
England and Wales......................................... 25,000 (average each winter)
...........................................................................47,000 (average between '98-2000)
Europe.............. 200,000.............................. 1,500,000
Europe, 2003 heat wave, single event, total of 35,000 including:
France................ 15,000 (3,500 in Paris)
Spain and Italy.. 8,000
I need to verify this, but I believe Canada's average number of cold related deaths is 35,000 per year, and 150,000 in the US.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I had to push to finish this book today, as I have to return it to the library tomorrow. Well, I should've returned it today, but I'll just have to pay the late fee for one day. ;-) That's what I get for, you know, having a life. *L*
Today's review is for the book, The Politically Incorrect Guide (TM) to Global Warming and Environmentalism, by Christopher C. Horner, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
I'll start off with the things I didn't like about the book.
First off, the author has a rather sarcastic style of writing. Sarcasm has its place, I suppose. Used well, it can bring about a knowing chuckle, and he does use it well. After a while, though, it starts to get annoying. Kept up, it starts to feel pretentious. Depending on the chapter, he sometimes bounced back and forth between the line of annoying and pretentious. I have to admit, however, that I have little patience for sarcasm in the first place, so others would undoubtedly disagree with me.
I also found a couple perplexing errors in the book. Several times, for example, the author says that in AIT, Al Gore claims that polar bears can't swim. Considering he also brought up the computer generated animation of a swimming polar bear, unable to find any ice large enough to support it, I found that rather odd. Another example is an obvious typo that got missed - Arctic was used instead of Antarctic when discussing ice cores from Vostok. From the rest of the paragraph, it was obvious he was talking about the Antarctic and not confusing them.
The biggest problem I have with this book, however, is that the people who need to read it most, won't - or if they did, they wouldn't accept any of it. Horner and the CEI, you see, are on the black list of industry hacks in the pockets of Big Oil (that's if you believe the conspiracy claims). As such, we're not supposed to believe anything he says.
For those who are a bit closer to the fence, or even sitting on it, the book will be an eye opener. For those who have already done their homework and disagree with the alarmists (which does not, I want to make clear, mean denying that the Earth has warmed, or that humans are contributing more CO2 into the atmosphere), most of what's in the book is old news.
The author does a decent and thorough job of confronting the usual claims made by alarmists, and a few more that I was less familiar with. More importantly, the entire book is riddled with reference numbers. There are over 32 pages of references (that's after reducing the size of the font) backing up his claims, with each chapter having its own section.
Throughout the book are sidebars and text boxes with all sorts of extras. Some are charts and additional information. Others are quotes from articles or individuals. There's even a number of "books you're not supposed to read" titles. What really got my attention, though, were the quotes from various "green" organizations and their spokespeople. These quotes alone would be enough to call serious question the real motives of these people and organizations.
Where this book really sets itself apart, however, is the author's own perspective as an insider within the US political system. He's been at the meetings, he's read the reports (including the full IPCC reports, not just the Summaries for Policymakers), he's been part of the discussions - and he's seen the sorts of back room manipulations that are going on. His revelations are particularly devastating to the carefully contrived image of self sacrificing eco-heroism Al Gore tries to surround himself with.
The author also spends a fair amount of space exposing the hypocrisy of the EU governments, which he clearly dislikes, and in how the Bush administration is being vilified for doing things the Clinton government did. One of his points is a claim I've heard many times - that Bush has refused to sign the Kyoto agreement. I've heard it often enough that it was a bit of a surprise when he pointed out that Bush can't possibly sign the agreement. It's been already signed. By Clinton. It just hasn't been ratified by the US senate, which has already said it won't do. So Bush is now being admonished for doing that same thing Clinton did. Or should I say for not doing what Clinton didn't do. How's that for hypocrisy! *L*
There was another thing about the book that I slowly began to appreciate as I got farther into it, and it involves a peculiarity of US authors (though not unique to US authors; it's just where I see it the most). While it's perfectly normal for writers to write from the perspective of the country they're in, US authors (and the US media) tend to forget there are places outside the US, or if they do mention them, it tends to be from a viewpoint of superiority. Not so with Horner. One moment he'll be discussing events within the US government, the next he'll be talking about a similar event in Canada. He'll reference experts from around the world as easily as he'll reference experts from the US, with no difference in how he writes about them. Strange that it was the lack of disrespect that caught my eye. It actually wasn't until I noticed this that I realized how little I've been seeing that.
The book is a lot broader than the issues AGW and and anthropogenic climate change. He also covers other issues surrounding the green industry. He exposes just how much environmentalism has become big business, and the incredible amounts of money and effort they put forward to influence government to their advantage. They're doing the exact same thing they accuse Industry and Big Oil of doing, and for motives that are just as selfish.
In conclusion, I would definitely recommend the book to people who have doubts and are looking for answers. It gives plenty of answers from an insider's perspective.
For those already convinced that AGW and anthropogenic climate change is going to be the disaster AGW proponents say it is, I'd still recommend it, but the book would probably just piss them off.
First, check out these real-time images of the sun. Notice anything interesting?
In fact, there haven't been any sunspots visible since an "All Quiet Alert" was issued on Oct. 5.
The correlation between Earth temperatures and solar activity is far closer than anything else. The more solar activity, the higher the Earth's temperatures. Less solar activity is followed by colder temperatures. There's a lag of about 2-3 years.
I don't know of any other time we've observed 0 sunspots at all, never mind for such a long period, though it certainly may have happened before and we just don't know it. What will this mean for us within the next few years?
Next are a series of videos from a presentation called Climate Change - Is CO2 the Cause?
Then there's this interesting article by one of the IPCC's expert reviewers.
Monday, November 05, 2007
This is the continued review of the book, Wild Weather; The Truth Behind Global Warming. You can find part one here.
When I left off my earlier review, I was into the chapters of actual extreme weather events; Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Blizzards, Ice Storms, Drought and Fire.
Each chapter gave a at least one extreme weather events from the past, and at least one in recent years. Aside from the occasional statement of "global warming will make this worse/happen more often," it was quite balanced. The author does particularly well when discussing his specialty, trees. I did find his phrasing curious for many things. For example, when describing how insects survive freezing in the winter, such as how important it is that the freezing occurs between the cells, not in them, he describes it as if they are in control of the process. Or that animals choose whether to hibernate or migrate. I had this strange image of a squirrel thinking "gee, it's getting cold out. I wonder if I should store food and hang around for the winter, or go south this year?" I think, perhaps, a lot is lost in trying to simplify the descriptions, or perhaps he's just used to writing children's books and has the habit of talking down to children that is so common in books aimed at children. I don't know, but it sure was strange to read it.
Beyond that, there are little extras, such as How to Make a Quin-Zhee, or How to Prepare for a Hurricane Watch, as well as tidbits of trivia.
In reading the chapters, I came away with two things. First, the 1880's were a nasty time (which I'm not really surprised at, since there were two major volcanoes that decade, one in 1815, and Krakatoa in 1883). Second, even though he tries to imply that extreme weather events are more common and worse off today because of global warming, what we're seeing now doesn't hold a candle to some of the events in the past, such as three hundred year droughts.
Then we get to the second last chapter, Global Warming. This is where the balance disappears. I'll excuse the claim that 2005 was the hottest ever recorded, as the book was probably published after Hansen's error was discovered and NASA was forced to republish the corrected list, showing that 1934 was the hottest year instead of 1998. The claim that "Overall, Earth's temperature is within 1.8F (1C) of its highest temperature levels in the past million years," however, is another story altogether. It's already been established that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than now, and that the Roman Optimum was even warmer still.
The one that really had me shaking my head was his description of the greenhouse effect itself.
While I can understand why the greenhouse was used as a metaphor to describe what these gases in our atmosphere do, it's probably caused more misunderstandings than anything else.
The author writes:
Radiation emitted by the sun passes through the Earth's atmosphere, which resembles, in a crude way, a pane of glass on the roof of a greenhouse. As the sun's short-wave electromagnetic energy (visible wavelengths between 380 and 775 nanometers) passes through the glass roof, it hits the floor of the greenhouse - the surface of the Earth.
So far, so good.
Energy is absorbed and then re-radiated as a much longer wave (longer than 775 nanometers).
Still on the right track...
The long-wave radiation cannot pass through the glass roof, and thus, the greenhouse gets warmer. Similarly; the next time you open your car door after it has been sitting out in the full sunshine with windows closed, you will immediately notice that it is much hotter than the air outside.
That loud noise you hear is me banging my head on the desk.
The car in the sun analogy is even worse than the greenhouse - and it's an analogy taken straight from a David Suzuki speech, if I remember correctly.
Here's what really happens. When those long waves pass through the atmosphere, the greenhouse gases absorb them - the word "trap" is often used - for a short time. These gases then re-radiate the energy back out in all directions, some back to the earth, some out into space.
There's more to it than that, though, and you will rarely hear about it on either side of the issue. Earth is not a closed system the way a real greenhouse is, and certainly not like a car in full sunshine with the windows closed! What is forgotten is fluid dynamics. Things like clouds, wind, solar activity, even cosmic winds, the Earth's rotation and the tilt of its axis, all have their influence. The car in the sun with the windows closed has none of those things. That's why temperatures in a car can get hot enough to kill. To accurately compare, you'd have to not just open the windows, but the doors and the sunroof. You'd then have to make sure the car is in shade at least sometimes, slosh some water or ice shavings in there every now and then - oh, and it needs to be moving, too.
It doesn't get any better. In describing the make up of the atmosphere, he writes:
"... the troposphere, is made up of nitrogen (78 percent), oxygen (21 percent), argon (0.9 percent), and .1 percent other gases. This is the air we breathe. The "other" category includes gases such as CO2, methane, water vapor, and about 27 other trace gases..."
Once again, he relegates water vapor to a trace gas, after CO2 and methane. It would be more accurate to call it a "variable gas."
PERMANENT gases in the atmosphere by percent are:
(Note that these two permanent gases together comprise 99% of the atmosphere)
Other permanent gases:
VARIABLE gases in the atmosphere and typical percentage values are:
Water vapor 0 to 4%
Carbon Dioxide 0.035%
Note that water vapor can be up to 4%. Heck, anything better than 1% puts it higher than all but two of the permanent gases - hardly a "trace gas." (I would like to know just where in the world water vapor in the atmosphere would be 0%, since even the driest areas of the world, such as the tundra and the Antarctic, still have some moisture in the air.) Water vapor is also responsible for most of the greenhouse effect (I've read anywhere from 70% to 95% of the greenhouse effect is due to water vapor. See page one page two page three for a detailed description.)
The author then proceeds to make pretty much the same claims about CO2 and global warming that Gore does in AIT. Even the charts he uses look like the same ones in AIT. At least he brings up the Maunder Minimum and the effects of solar activity, though he repeats the claim that polar bears numbers are diminishing (they aren't), among others. On and on he goes with the litany of evils laid at the feet of global warming - without any references to back up his claims. Given what he's been using for resources, listed at the back of the book, it's no surprise that many of these are exaggerated, misrepresented, or simply wrong. I won't bother listing them here, since I've already discussed them when reviewing both the book and movie, AIT.
The final chapter is Hope for the Future. After another list of doom and gloom, he talks about things like how expected increases in the cost of gas is a good thing, as more companies are looking to producing hybrids, and mentions companies expanding into or using alternative energy sources. His historical perspective regarding recycling is a bit off, as he writes:
Twenty-five years ago, recycling was in its infancy. Today, recycling is a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry.
He forgets that humans have recycled (and reused) anything and everything they could for as long as we've around - it's just that no one ever called it recycling. The metal industry in particular has always encouraged recycling, Medieval tavern owners used to pay people to return the bottles drinks were sold in, and even scrap wool was sold on street corners to passersby.
That final chapter is the shortest of them all, at barely over 5 pages, and it's rather empty of anything that might be described as hopeful - unless you've got stocks in GE or DuPont. I'm not sure what that says about the author's real thoughts are about the future.
The book ends with a Wild Weather Timeline, Amazing Facts and Figures and What Others Say.
In conclusion, I found myself mostly unimpressed with this book. I can make exception for some things due to the size of the book, and I can live with the slightly odd phraseology he uses. The actual extreme weather events he describes are interesting, but he fails to make his case that these events are occurring more often, that they will get worse, or that global warming is the cause. There are too many factual errors and gaps of information, and a complete lack of hard references.
By Christopher Booker and Richard North
No one can deny that in recent years the need to "save the planet" from global warming has become one of the most pervasive issues of our time. As Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, claimed in 2004, it poses "a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism", warning that by the end of this century the only habitable continent left will be Antarctica.
Read the rest here.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Just for a quick rehash, this is in response to the article at http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/10/30/the-road-well-travelled/ and the issues it brought up. At this point, rather than fill the list with this discussion, I will instead post this on my blog and the discussion can continue there, if anyone wishes.
First off, the author talks about a book he feels "is the most important environmental book ever written." The books turns out to be a fictional novel portraying a doomsday world where the only living things left on earth are humans. Apocalyptic novels are nothing new, of course. It sells. What caught my attention was that, even after asserting the unlikelyhood of this sort of thing happening, he still says "it will change the way you see the world," and seems to be associating this fictional novel of a catastrophic human future with today's reality in a way that makes me immediately put my guard up.
Next, he talks about the UN's state of the planet report. At this point, I will openly admit my bias here. I don't trust anything from the UN (or the their IPCC). They are a political organization that have long since abandoned their original mandate and have developed into what I believe to be one of the must corrupt and harmful organizations in the world. The IPCC in particular is more about furthering their agenda than truth or scientific fact. link So for me, siting a UN report isn't enough. I'll have to see it corroborated from an unconnected source before I accept it. Here are a few points I wonder about, with links added as I go along. These will be incomplete, as some of the my sources are books that I've had to return and cannot currently look up.
Crop production has improved over the past 20 years (from 1.8 tonnes per hectare in the 1980s to 2.5 tonnes today), but it has not kept up with population. “World cereal production per person peaked in the 1980s, and has since slowly decreased
This is news to me, since I've seen numerous reports that crops in recent years have *increased,* not decreased. Granted, these weren't just cereal crops, but all plants in general, so perhaps my information isn't as specific.
(warning: just to people know, some of my sources are on the list of people you're not supposed to listen to, because they're supposedly "in the pockets" of big oil and industry. Most of these accusations are false or misleading, but that's another issue altogether)
link (see agriculture for numerous links)
He, however, mentions cereal crops vs. population. This is one of the population myths being perpetuated - that we don't/won't have enough food to feed the world. Right now, we have more than enough food to feed every man, woman and child in the world. The problem is politics, not production. Food isn't getting to the people who need it.
“(3). There will be roughly 9 billion people by 2050: feeding them and meeting the millennium development goal on hunger (halving the proportion of hungry people) would require a doubling of world food production(4).
Population estimates are one of those areas that defy prediction. As I mentioned before, predictions that overpopulation will lead to the end of the world as we know it go back centuries (I believe the earliest quotes I've read go back to the time of Socrates, but I may be remembering that wrong).
link (recommended reading: Simon's "Hoodwinking the Nation")
Monbiot then goes on to discuss water scarcity, which is another misleading point. The earth cannot 'run out' of water - it is constantly recycled. While water use and abuse is a serious issue, the phraseology is misleading.
link (links to full report on the right hand sidebar)
Next we have
Last week we learnt that climate change could eliminate half the world’s species(9); that 25 primate species are already slipping into extinction(10); that biological repositories of carbon are beginning to release it, decades ahead of schedule(11).
This is another area particularly difficult to predict and define. The current trend is to blame everything bad on humans and climate change. There are a lot of reasons species become extinct. Climate is one of them, and has been since life showed up on earth. What I have a problem with is that prediction that half the world's species could be eliminated (at least they say "could" not "would" - I'll grant them that), which is first of all, alarmist, and second, misleading. We don't even know how many species currently exist. New species are constantly being discovered, and surely some have become extinct without us ever discovering them. This is an area greatly prone to extrapolation and supposition. Like many, I assumed that when "experts" made these predictions, they had real world evidence to base it on, so I was greatly surprised that these predictions are often nothing more than mathematical calculations. See Facts Not Fear and Taken by Storm for more on that. Both books have extensive source listings. Also
The issue of carbon is one that drives me bonkers. The more I research it, the more I want to just throw my hands up in frustration. Especially when I see people using the terms "carbon" and "carbon dioxide" interchangeably. Carbon is a solid, CO2 is a gas. You'd think people would differentiate. Also, we are carbon based life forms on a carbon based planet. Our very existence depends on it. While I certainly wouldn't want to breath pure carbon, particulate matter not being very good on the lungs, it is neither pollution nor poison. And what's with this "ahead of schedule"? How do we know what's "normal" in the first place? Truth is, we don't. We can only, once again, only extrapolate using proxies with varying degrees of accuracy. Also, while you'll hear plenty about how much carbon is being released (usually when it's in the form of CO2), you won't catch many stories about what's being absorbed at the same time. link Nor will you read about how this freed up carbon is being taken advantage of by plant growth. link or how it may be beneficial. link
I am particularly disturbed by the incredible spin used to push for carbon trading caps and carbon credit schemes. These schemes accomplish nothing for the climate. They can't! We just don't have that sort of control. But people are making an awful lot of money off of other people's guilt and fears.
To prevent runaway climate change, we must cut the greater part - possibly almost all - of the world’s current emissions.
Another area of exaggeration with extremist proposals. First of all, there is no "runaway climate change." Study after study in many areas related to climate show that current climate changes are not at all unusual in the Earth's history. While we humans may be having a very slight effect on the overall climate, with a greater effect on local climate, if we immediately stopped all human industrial activity and human caused carbon/CO2 emissions, as we're being told we need to do in order to "fix" the climate, and removed what we've contributed to the atmosphere, it would make NO difference at all! This is something I've discussed before here so I won't repeat it again here. Even those who support the Kyoto Accord say that 100% adherence would only make a difference of 0.07C to the average global temperature by the year 2050.
This paragraph also touches on what I've come to believe is the greatest money scam ever invented - carbon trading and carbon credits. What a concept! It makes as much sense as gamers using real money to buy virtual money and/or virtual items, yet there are people who actually make a lot of money doing that.
In his concluding paragraphs, I found it amusing to read "The media, driven by fear and advertising, is hopelessly biased towards the consumer economy and against the biosphere." The main stream media has been the biggest promoter of AGW and catastrophic climate change. Recent front page spreads on Newsweek and Time magazines are just a couple of the more blatant examples, but not a day goes by that doesn't have a new batch of articles featuring AGW and climate change as tragedies.
Finally, he ends his article by returning to the fictional novel he started with, with a rather typical doom filled conclusion.
After reading the article, I made a point of looking up just who Monbiot is, as I was pretty sure I had come across him before. It was interesting to see just where I'd heard of him before, in light of the comment
"About the "anti-human attitude", Monbiot is one of the few who is trying to raise awareness that it those in poor nations who will suffer most from climate change. "
when I referred to the quoted portion of Monbiot's article and had written
"That would be rather harmless and embarrassing, except that these Malthusians have an anti-human attitude that is truly frightening."
Turns out I was more correct than I thought. When looking at his biography, the first thing I noticed is that this guy is an extremist. That, right off the hop, is a huge warning sign for me. Extremism is pretty much always harmful - I won't say always, since I suppose there has to be an exception somewhere, but I have yet to find one.
Here's an example of some other things I found...
"Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol, and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota."
(Proposal by British columnist George Monbiot, October 31, 2006 presaging what has since been leaked as a government proposal)
This from a guy up supposedly supports the poor? It's the poor who would suffer most under such a proposal. Or is this how he supports the poor?
"[E]very time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned."
Then I went and read some of his columns. Extremist is probably the politest thing I could say about him. This is hardly someone I'm going to take at all seriously, other than to be concerned about the harm he might cause.