Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Humour the secret of their success? reports that the Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, had a bit of fun at the expense of former Midnight Oil frontman, one-time environmental activist and now Labor MP, Peter Garrett. Costello misappropriated some classic pro-Aboriginal rights lines to chastise the Australian Labor Party (ALP) for raking in Commonwealth dollars for the rental of one of their buildings (i.e. they funded their political campaigns by renting a property to the government at a "very generous rent"). Here's the Treasurer in action:

At around the same time Senator Bob Brown was attacking Peter Garrett in the senate, saying that he has sold out the environment since joining the ALP. Brown's never been one to ignore controversy, and often gets confused, but this is a classic case of poor loser syndrome, especially given Labor's pro-global warming policies.'s Don Woolford put it like this:
“So the market-driven Liberals can have harmless, foolish fun and the warm and fuzzy Greens can hate. It seems upside down.”
Perhaps that's one reason why the Liberals are managing to hang on in Federal parliament.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Stern's Bias: Too Low a Social Discount Rate

Professor Willian Nordhaus of Yale University gives us an economist's view (PDF) of the Stern Report and finds one major flaw:
“The Review proposes using a social discount rate that is essentially zero. Combined with other assumptions, this magnifies enormously impacts in the distant future and rationalizes deep cuts in emissions, and indeed in all consumption, today. If we were to substitute more conventional discount rates used in other global-warming analyses, by governments, by consumers, or by businesses, the Review’s dramatic results would disappear, and we would come back to the climate policy ramp described above.”
Nordhaus covers the various possible ethical models that could set the social discount rate - for that alone the PDF is worth reading. He also looks at how Stern calculated the impact of global warming, including his use of Nordhaus' own study:
“If we look inside the impact boxes, we find some strange things. The damage estimates are much higher than the standard estimates in the impact literature. This probably occurs because of assumptions that tilt up the damage curve: rapid economic growth forever, high economic damage estimates, high climatic impacts of GHG accumulation, catastrophic risks, adverse health impacts, yet higher sensitivity of the climate system, and an adjustment for inequality across countries. Additionally, the Review drew selectively from studies, emphasizing those with high damage estimates, some of which are highly speculative. For example, the Review used estimates from the study of Nordhaus and Boyer (see footnote 12 below) that projected damages way beyond 2100; however, those authors noted that projections beyond 2100 were particularly unreliable.

However, the major point is that these impacts are far into the future, and the calculations depend critically upon the assumption of low discounting.”
via Prometheus

[Update: Prometheus has some great articles on misrepresentations of science in policy discussions and the politicization of science by scientists.]

Monday, November 13, 2006

GRACE satellite results inconclusive

The SMH dug up a year old story (actually even older) about the GRACE satellite and presented it as today's news in order to cash in on the global warming scare. Heaven forbid they actually report NASA press releases when they are released! The release includes this interesting line:
“Although the ice mass loss observed in the new study is less than half of what other recent research has reported, the results show that Greenland is now losing 20% more mass than it receives from new snowfall each year.”
Another report mentions that:
“Continued monitoring in the future is needed to determine whether this ice loss is a long-term trend, the authors point out.”
That is good, I'd hate a brand new technique that measures something different (mass) from all other studies (height of ice sheet) would be touted as 'proof' of global warming after only 3 years of data are collected.

At the same time last year, the ESA were releasing research that showed the amount of ice on Greenland
“Scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) recently analyzed 11 years of radar altimetry data for the Greenland Ice Sheet from its ERS satellites, and came up with a remarkable find. While the edges of the Greenland Ice Sheet have thinned, the high-elevation interior has actually grown in thickness as much as 6 cm (nearly 2.5 inches) per year, for the years 1992-2003. ”
Of course they must point out that this is consistent with global warming:
“We should expect that the increased snowfall produced by mild warming of the air mass over Greenland is only a temporary effect, however. As the computer models also indicate, once temperature increases exceed 3oC, new snowfall would not outpace the rate of melting, and the Greenland Ice Sheet would eventually melt away raising global sea level by as much as seven meters.”
Except that it's already melting away according to NASA, and we've had nowhere near a 3oC temperature increase. I guess they're still puzzling over that one ...

It seems that GRACE data presents some difficulties to global warming in other ways:
“A big complication in the GRACE measurement of the Antarctic ice sheet thickness is the fact that the land beneath is lifting, part of the “post-glacial rebound” after the last Ice Age, which ended only about 10,000 years ago (melting in Antarctica continued up until only about 4,000 years ago). The crust—the uppermost layer of Earth—floats on the rock beneath, which is plastic and responds to changes in its “load” (see last link). The melting of the huge ice age glaciers removed a large mass from Antarctica, and the continent is slowly lifting to reestablish equilibrium. The GRACE scientific team used geological estimates of ice thickness changes and a model of rock flow beneath Earth’s surface to estimate the uplifting of the land, which is a significant effect.

After taking into account all the above effects, the GRACE scientists find that from 2002 through 2005, the volume of the Antarctic ice sheet decreased substantially, corresponding to .4 mm plus or minus .2 mm of sea-level increase per year. This result was a surprise, both because of the extremely low temperatures in Antarctica, as mentioned above, and because forecasts of global warming had predicted increased snowfall in Antarctica.

In an earlier study, GRACE determined that the Greenland ice sheet is melting more rapidly than previously thought—in fact, the melting in Greenland and in Antarctica each produce about the same rate of sea level rise. So these ice sheets together add about .8 mm/yr. The overall rate of sea level rise over the last ten years, as obtained from statistical studies of radar measurements, is about 3 mm/year, and roughly half of this increase is due to thermal expansion of the oceans.

As the GRACE project continues, more data will accumulate and delineate the trend in ice sheet thickness over a longer time interval. Also, any change in the rate of melting would be unaffected by the correction for post-glacial rebound, which is presumed to be constant over long periods of time”
National Geographic reports that:
“The new study dates the start of accelerated melting to the spring of 2004 and finds the acceleration is confined to southern Greenland, Velicogna says.

"This leads us to think this [mass loss] is probably associated with ice discharge," Velicogna said.

Ice discharge—the dumping of glacial ice into the North Atlantic—is a process with built-in inertia, Velicogna says.

Even if temperatures suddenly drop in Greenland, she says, the discharge would continue for several years.

Velicogna adds that if the mass loss is indeed associated with warming global temperatures and temperatures continue to rise, the accelerated melting could spread to northern Greenland.

"We don't know for sure, but it could happen and is something to be watched for," she said. ”
Another bunch of NASA scientists knew in 2002 that gravity changes might not be climate related:
“Scientists believe movements of mass cause this recent change from the high latitudes to the equator. Such large changes may be caused by climate change, but could also be part of normal long-period climatic variation. "The three areas that can trigger large changes in the Earth's gravitational field are oceans, polar and glacial ice, and atmosphere," Cox said.”
Unfortunately that lab no longer exists, so finding our more about their research is a bit hard ...

Friday, November 10, 2006

The End is Nigh! (of global warming alarmism)

Christopher Monckton is writing a series of articles for the UK's Daily Telegraph on climate change. His first rejects completely the Stern Report:
“Last week, Gordon Brown and his chief economist both said global warming was the worst "market failure" ever. That loaded soundbite suggests that the "climate-change" scare is less about saving the planet than, in Jacques Chirac's chilling phrase, "creating world government". This week and next, I'll reveal how politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science.

Sir Nicholas Stern's report on the economics of climate change, which was published last week, says that the debate is over. It isn't. There are more greenhouse gases in the air than there were, so the world should warm a bit, but that's as far as the "consensus" goes. After the recent hysteria, you may not find the truth easy to believe. So you can find all my references and detailed calculations here.


The large, full-colour "hockey-stick" was the key graph in the UN's 2001 report, and the only one to appear six times. The Canadian Government copied it to every household. Four years passed before a leading scientific journal would publish the truth about the graph. Did the UN or the Canadian government apologise? Of course not. The UN still uses the graph in its publications.

Even after the "hockey stick" graph was exposed, scientific papers apparently confirming its abolition of the medieval warm period appeared. The US Senate asked independent statisticians to investigate. They found that the graph was meretricious, and that known associates of the scientists who had compiled it had written many of the papers supporting its conclusion.”
As mentioned above, he backs his article with a comprehensive 40-page PDF document with calculations, references and discussions.

Climate Audit applauds this first article:
“The article is here and the background information (or at least the first part) is given here in pdf format. The backgrounder in particular is a pretty good overview of the current state of the science, such as it is, and covers the salient points from MM03, MM05GRL and MM05EE pretty well.

There are some slips of the keyboard in the backgrounder, so perhaps someone would like to e-mail Chris about them, or mention them in the comments.”
They also point out that it seems Mike Hulme, doesn't like the Stern report's alarmist language, which is strange seeing as his research centre contributed to it:
“To state that climate change will be "catastrophic" hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.

Is any amount of climate change catastrophic? Catastrophic for whom, for where, and by when? What index is being used to measure the catastrophe?

The language of fear and terror operates as an ever-weakening vehicle for effective communication or inducement for behavioural change.”
From this blog on climate science research comes a set of interesting questions about climate science, followed by a pertinent dismissal of the UN's IPCC reports:
“These are important scientific questions which have either been poorly, or not at all, examined in climate assessments such as the IPCC and CCSP reports. Clearly, we need to move beyond such assessments that are written by individuals who are mostly evaluating their own research. Policymakers are poorly served by this inbred assessment framework by the scientific community.”
The more I read about this issue, the more it sounds like group-think taken to the extreme.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stern Report = Political BS

It seems the Stern report is really just a political stunt:
“The Stern review is not about climate change but about economic, technological and trade advantage. Its perpetrators seek power through climate scaremongering. The review's release was carefully timed to closely precede this month's US congressional elections and the Nairobi climate conference. Beyond these events, we can expect another burst of alarmist hallelujahs to accompany the launch of IPCC's assessment report in February.

Though it will be lionised for a while yet, the Stern review is destined to join Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb and think tank the Club of Rome's manifesto, Limits to Growth, in the pantheon of big banana scares that proved to be unfounded. It is part of the last hurrah for those warmaholics who inhabit a world of virtual climate reality that exists only inside flawed computer models.”

Bjorn Lomberg also has a go at the Stern report:
“Unfortunately, this claim falls apart when one 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 sensationalised, which is ultimately only likely to make the world worse off.


The review is also one-sided, focusing almost exclusively on carbon-emission cuts as the solution to the problem of climate change. Stern sees increasing hurricane damage in the US as a powerful argument for carbon controls. However, hurricane damage is increasing predominantly because there are more people with more goods to be damaged, settling in more risky habitats. Even if global warming does significantly increase the power of hurricanes, it is estimated that 95 per cent to 98 per cent of the increased damage will be due to demographics. The review acknowledges that simple initiatives such as bracing and securing roof trusses and walls can cheaply reduce damage by more than 80 per cent; yet its policy recommendations on expensive carbon reductions promise to cut the damage by 1 per cent to 2per cent at best. That is a bad deal.

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 tonne of CO2. The most well-recognised 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. Nordhaus finds that the social cost of CO2 is $2.50 per tonne. Stern, however, uses a figure of $85 per tonne. Picking a rate even higher than the official British estimates - which have been criticised for being over the top - speaks volumes. ”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Challenge to Journalists Who Cover Global Warming

Personally, I think we should all use more sustainable, healthier and environmentally sensitive power sources. In fact nuclear fission is currently my hands down winner for offering large amoutns of power, reasonably efficiently but still without harming the environment too much (and yes, you need to be careful of the waste products, but isn't that true of coal-burning powerplants too?).

However, I find myself sceptical when the someone claims that the relatively recent changes in climate are expressly due to human effects on the environment - not that these haven't been real - just that their actual net effect is not really well understood. It seems that I am not alone, as Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of the US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, has come out and laid down A Challenge to Journalists Who Cover Global Warming.

Inhofe particularly took aim at Al Gore's recent movie:
“Here is a sampling of some of the errors and misrepresentations made by Gore in An Inconvenient Truth:
  • He promoted the now-debunked “hockey stick” temperature chart in an attempt to prove man’s overwhelming impact on the climate.
  • He attempted to minimize the significance of the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age.
  • He insisted on a link between increased hurricane activity and global warming that most scientists believe does not exist.
  • He asserted that today’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth while ignoring that temperatures in the 1930s were as warm or warmer.
  • He claimed the Antarctic was warming and losing ice but failed to note that is true only of a small region and the vast bulk has been cooling and gaining ice.
  • He hyped unfounded fears that Greenland’s ice is in danger of disappearing.
  • He erroneously claimed that the ice cap on Mt. Kilimanjaro is disappearing due to global warming, even while the region cools and researchers blame the ice loss on local land-use practices.
  • He made assertions of a massive future sea-level rise that is way outside any supposed scientific “consensus” and is not supported in even the most alarmist literature.
  • He incorrectly implied that a Peruvian glacier’s retreat is due to global warming, while ignoring the fact that the region has been cooling since the 1930s and other glaciers in South America are advancing.
  • He blamed global warming for water loss in Africa’s Lake Chad, despite NASA scientists’ concluding that local population and grazing factors are the more likely culprits.
  • He inaccurately claimed polar bears are drowning in significant numbers due to melting ice when in fact they are thriving.
  • He failed to inform viewers that the 48 scientists who accused President Bush of distorting science were part of a political advocacy group set up to support Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004”
Inhofe's sample of press clippings from the last 100 years is also very revealing as it shows the press going back and forth between global warming and cooling - and each time maximising the outrageous claims, and ignoring contrary evidence.

I think this reveals a basic human truth, when confronted with environmental cycles that take place on timescales well beyond a human's lifespan, people tend to overreact and misjudge the effect this will have on their personal lives. It's like finding out that the Earth swings into and out of Ice Ages - and then immediately worrying about every drop in temperature that we feel day-by-day.

The real issue here is that some business people have found a way to use the current hype over global warming to push for government legislation to change the current business regulatory environment. Whether this will help or harm the environment, no one knows, however you can bet that these people have a very good idea how it will help them make money and harm their competitors.

Gus is bringing back the mo for Movember!

During Movember (the month formerly known as November) I’ll be growing a moustache. That’s right, I’m bringing the Mo back because I’m passionate about changing the state of men’s health.

Male health is a major issue, did you know:
  • Men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy of males is 6 years less than females.
  • Every year in Australia 2,700 men die of prostate cancer – more than the number of women who die from breast cancer.
  • Depression affects 1 in 6 men…Most don’t seek help. Untreated depression is a leading risk factor for suicide. Rates of suicide are more than double the national road toll.
Please go to, enter my Rego number which is 28818 and your credit card details. All donations of $2 and over are tax deductible.

The money raised by Movember will be used to change the face of men's health by creating awareness and funding research into prostate cancer and male depression. My stepfather recently had surgery on his prostate because of prostate cancer, and was lucky to have it detected early enough to avoid it becoming a terminal condition. Let's all help protect the men in our lives!