Monthly Archives: May 2012

Milky Way and Andromeda to merge

I just finished a BBC article titled Hubble times galaxy pileup

In about 4 billion years the Milky Way will collide with our neighboring galaxy Andromeda. And 2 billion years later there will only be one galaxy.  Scientific study is a curious occupation.  Scientists are discussing events that will happen in 4 to 6 billion years.   The article is full of interesting information and this curiously amusing reassurance:

Our Sun’s position will be disturbed but the star and its planets are in little danger of being destroyed.

I suppose that is true….but in 4 billion years the sun will be a red giant, Mercury and Venus will have been consumed by the Sun and the Earth will be so close to the Sun that it will have no atmosphere and be unbearably hot.  But it won’t be damaged by the galaxy collision.   Go Earth.

Question Everything — Except Global Climate Science

The Science Channel begins many of their programs with the statement Question Everything.   I fear the Question Everything notion may have been abandoned by too many people within the Climate Science community.    Consensus says this, it must be true.  Scientific consensus changes all the time.  Defending what is presumed to be true today is not questioning everything.

When the International Panel on Climate Change IPCC) published their first Synopses report in 1992, it admitted the science was new and there was lots to learn.  By the 2007 report, the verdict was in.   Yep.  the IPCC knew what the answer was.  Question Everything was nowhere to be found.

Most pro global warming arguments I have seen either tout the consensus or attack the credibility of their opponent.  Neither belong in a Question Everything business.

Al Gore has equated skeptics to people that think the moon landings were faked.

IPCC chairman Pachauri, has compared dissenters to members of the flat earth society.

NASA Goddard Administrator and well known global warming hawk, James Hansen has said oil company executives and political opponents are guilty of high crimes against humanity and nature.  While testifying at a trial in the UK, Hansen used a Hitler reference, essentially equating  skeptical scientists to the politicians who failed to recognize the threat that was Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

I suspect Dr. Hansen abandoned question everything about 40 years ago when he became a political activist.

White House science adviser, John P. Cauldron has called skeptical scientists  heretics while defending scientific consensus in the Times article discussed later in this post.

Just about everybody in the climate game tries to associate doubters with the oil business or the smoking lobby.  Al Gore does both in his film.

Still doubt the political nature of the debate?  Check out this 2005 Scientific American Article, attacking critics of the Mann Hockey Stick Graph.   The article is extraordinarily one sided.  It assumes the Mann study is correct and attacks it’s opponents by …you guessed it …linking them to both the oil industry and the smoking lobby.

Next give the March 10,2010 New York Times article titled  Science taking steps to defend work on climate a peek.  The title of the piece accentuates the problem.   Dissenters are ridiculed, and advocates are allowed to complain about the politics of the climate game.  Consensus is defended.  Much of the article is complaining about the changed politics of the debate in a post climate-gate era.

Yep, politics and science don’t mix well.

In the  Times piece we learn that:

Climate scientists are paid to do climate science,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, a senior climatologist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. “Their job is not persuading the public

But if you read the Scientific American article, you know that Gavin Schmidt has a blog that was started in 2004 at    Perhaps the Times should have noticed that Dr. Schmidt has long played the politics game and was being more than a little bit hypocritical.

Politics is all about creating winning arguments, science is supposed to Question Everything.   Climate science has always been too much about politics.  The entire Kyoto treaty debate keeps politics front and center.   The Climate-gate e-mail scandal changed the political rules a bit, and changed who had control of the debate, but it’s still politics….blowing from a different direction.

Whenever politics takes over the scientific debate, Science loses.

Arctic Ice Statistics — Al Gore Style

Memory is a funny thing.  I’m glad I watched Mr. Gore’s film again before I  published a recent post.  I had remembered the film incorrectly and I was about to put up a post that would have been wrong…but I checked…and pulled the post. I was trusting my memory…and it was almost right.

I wish Al Gore was more careful.   His cavalier approach  is ever present is his discussion of the Arctic in An Inconvenient Truth. He shows slides and makes statements that are unsupported and sometimes factually wrong. Arctic engineering blunders are blamed on warming.  The Alaska Pipeline is being damaged by warming (news to me), which would be page one news in Alaska were it true.

He really shines when he talks about the Arctic ice pack.

He begins this section of his film by talking about Nuclear subs that patrol the Arctic.  We find out that Mr. Gore got to ride in the Arctic on one of these subs (its good to be VP).  We find out that these subs can surface in the Arctic but only where the ice is less than three and a half feet thick.  Because of this, they keep meticulous records of the ice. We learn that Mr. Gore went to the Arctic to get these records released, and after some serious arm twisting by Mr. Gore, the records were released.

We get to see data and the strangeness begins.

The data presented starts in 1900 and goes to 2005.  Nuclear subs, meticulous data in 1900?  The first Nuclear sub built in the world, the Nautilus, was completed in 1953 and made it’s first trip under the Arctic ice in 1958.  Any data before 1958 was not submarine data.

Let’s think about this a bit more.  The Arctic is one and a half times the size of the USA…and he is predicting ice by using sonar records from subs.   That record has to be spotty and intermittent.  The subs didn’t map the Arctic, they patrolled it.  This would be like driving I-70 across America and then predicting rain totals in San Diego using the I-70 data.

The shape of the record shown began dropping off in the 1970’s which also happens to be the time when Satellite mapping of the area began.  Call me crazy, but I suspect the data before the 1970’s was crap and I suspect submarines had very little to do with it.

The submarine story was interesting and entertaining…and he had good pictures too…but it had very little to do with the data being presented.  Mr. Gore is all about personalizing the story, setting an emotional hook, getting you to connect on an emotional level, and he likes to talk about himself.

And then things get really strange.

The title of the chart shown by Mr. Gore: Sea-ice extent has dropped by 1.5 million square km since 1970.  The chart shows the ice pack spent much of the 20th century between 13 and 14 million square kilometers.  And then Al Gore says the following….with the chart right behind him on the screen.

Starting in 1970, there was a precipitous drop off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap. It has diminished by 40% in 40 years.

40% in 40 years.  Come on Al.  1.5/13.5 = 11%, not 40.   And it took 35 years not 40.  Data Al Gore chose to present says 11% in 35 years.  He prepared the slide…and probably titled it too.   My last post was about Arctic Ice, and showed a 2.6% decline per decade, which is consistent with the 11% number. And my data is easy to get, no trip to the Arctic on a sub needed.  What’s going on?

I have a theory.  Mr. Gore is a politician, not a scientist.  As a politician, he is tuned into sound bites and connecting with his audience.  40 percent in 40 years is catchy and sounds good too. And it’s easy to remember.  He used it because he liked the way is sounded.

All throughout the film Mr. Gore personalizes the story.  He did this, visited that, we get to see his slides. He clearly is emotionally attached to the subject and he’s trying to get you attached too.  He is a skilled and experienced politician, but he is not a scientist. Perhaps that is why he does and says things that don’t match his documentation…perhaps he simply isn’t paying attention.  I suspect he is more focused on engaging the audience than presenting factual information.

Polar Bear hype at the Cleveland Science Center

I was in Cleveland last week, so I stopped by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, don’t worry I didn’t see any climate propaganda at the home of Elvis and the Beatles.   I had a great time and recommend it to anyone wandering close to Cleveland.

The Rock’s parking lot is at the Cleveland Science Center, which meant I had to walk through the lobby of the science center…and there it was smack dab in the center of the lobby, a plea for help for Polar Bears.  A very nice 4 sided display, with pretty pictures of Polar Bears floating on an iceberg.

Please send money to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)  to help save the Polar Bear.   My favorite part, two diagrams of the Arctic, one in 2005 and the other in 2050.  In the 2050 diagram…there is no summer ice.  Okay.  Let’s assume for a minute or two that the diagrams are both accurate (that the second is something other than a wild ass guess), what could the WWF possibly do to stop it?

Sure the ice cap might melt, and man might be at least partially to blame.  What plans does the WWF have to stop the melting?  Are they going to get China and India to stop their coal fired power plants, or better still get them to quit building new ones?   Maybe they have a secret way to get the 55 mph speed limit through Congress or they have a way to make Solar power economical.  And would it matter?

The Polar bear has been a species for 600,000 years, that’s 5 ice age cycles.  The Ice Cap probably melted 130,000 years ago when the world was lots warmer than it is today.  The Polar bear survived.  If it melted then, it could happen again with our without man’s assistance.

2050 is only 38 years into the future.  The National Snow and Ice Data Center  provides regular updates on the status of the Arctic Ice Sheet.  Their records indicate that the ice has been melting at a rate of 2.6% per decade since the late 1970’s and it peaked at least temporarily in 2007.  If the rate of melt stayed steady…. it would take 400 years to melt completely, not 38.

But the rate is not steady!

As of April 2012, the extent of the ice is about average.  If one took all the April data and averaged it, April 2012’s value is the one that would come up.  Yes AVERAGE.  Ice has been building in the Arctic since 2007.  2012 has been a very cold period, particularly from February through mid April.

Not to worry, I’m not predicting the next Ice Age advance, or the end of global warming…I’m just saying that the 2050 display was there to generate cash for the WWF….and it really was a wild ass guess.

World Population Growth is Slowing Down

My big beef with the global warming guys is not sloppy science, it’s allocation of assets.  The recent recession should have forced a thinking reset at the UN.
Resources are limited.   People all over the world are adjusting their spending.  We are still spending too much of our collective net worth on climate science.

Now for some good news…my big worry…too many people on the planet…is becoming less of a problem.  Bloomberg recently ran an article about changing population fertility rates.  An interesting article that talks how shifts in fertility rates throughout the world will impact global politics years into the future.

The article focused on the problems a declining birth rate can have in places like China, Japan and Western Europe…and that was interesting.  But I chose to look at the other side of the coin.   Maybe we won’t have mass starvation in the 22nd century.

The fertility rate is now 2.6 live berths per woman.  The average woman  in the world will have 2.6 live births during her lifetime.  It was 4.9 in 1960.  That is a dramatic change in only 51 years.  2.1 live berths is considered the number needed to maintain population.  We have gone from more than doubling each generation to about a 25% increase per generation.  Still too high but much better.

The CIA publishes estimates of fertility rates. Who knew, the CIA.  Every country in the top 20 is in Africa, except Afghanistan sitting at #9.  Niger tops the list with a rate of 7.52.  The average woman in Niger has more than 7 kids.  Wow.  India, the largest still growing population in the world has a fertility rate of 2.58, number 79 on the list of 222 nations.  The USA is in 122nd place at 2.06, a pretty good place to be.  Singapore is last on the list at .78.

If we can get Africa to slow down a bunch, and India to slow a little, maybe there is hope for the world.  Maybe we can stop population growth by slowing the fertility rate, rather than by rapidly increasing the death rate through famine or some nasty medical event.

When I think of things to worry about in the world…runaway population in much of Africa is something that comes to mind right away.  Others that also come to mind; safe drinking water, Alzheimer’s, air pollution (visible not carbon dioxide), AIDS, Cancer, and over fishing of the oceans.  Global warming doesn’t make my list.

Maybe it will some day…but the science has to become more compelling  before I jump on that bandwagon.

Population vs Climate — An allocation question

Two weeks ago I viewed AL Gore’s film for the first time in years.  I had forgotten so much.  Mr. Gore is an excellent speaker.  The film is an emotional, political  and personal appeal.   The film is also simplistic, moralistic and slick; too slick for my taste.

There are bits of science here and there, but it really is one long pseudo scientific, self congratulatory, political commercial.  And it won the Nobel prize…what were those Norwegians thinking?

I like little parts of the film here and there.   I liked the discussion about Antarctic ice cores.  My favorite section, a discussion about human population and how it impacts our world.  But here is the rub.  Mr. Gore wants to spend a huge percentage of the worlds net worth fighting global warming.  I would rather spend that money differently.

The world has lots of immediate problems, and most of them are because there are too many people, particularly in Africa and Asia.  Can we afford to attack the immediate problems that are global food, water and resources and fight the global climate battle.  A battle that might not be serious and may not be winnable.   The global warming fight, we might be tilting at windmills.

The problem is one of resource allocation.

I’m willing to wander a little ways in Al’s direction. But not too far.  Better vehicle fuel standards, sure.  More efficient lighting, you bet.  More electric cars, sure as long as I don’t have to buy one until they fix the battery problem.  Solar powered electrical grid, sorry Al,  I can’t get there.  When politicians try to advance technology before the technology is ready…expensive things happen.

When Mr. Gore says we need to replace all fossil fueled power plants in America and we need to do it  in 10 years, as he did in a 2008 New York Times editorial, I don’t know what to say.  Reality has left the building.  It is a political, financial and practical impossibility.

We live in a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) world, nothing is done in a hurry.  It takes years to plan, design, permit and construct power plants.  We could get  most of the site work done and most of the designs.  We might get some projects permitted, and fewer still will begin the construction process.  A smaller number still might get constructed in 10 years, but not many.  Delays are inevitable, people will sue (NIMBY).  Local regulatory commissions will delay.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will delay some more.

And that’s the easy part.  Power transmission lines everywhere.  Nobody wants power transmission in their neighborhood.  And because Mr. Gore has ruled out new Nuclear plants and natural gas plants, lots and lots of really long transmission lines will be necessary.

I’m sorry.  I can’t get there.  And I don’t want to pay for it either.  Natural gas is a relatively clean fossil fuel.   Slowly shift power from coal to natural gas.  Sure, but replace  natural gas, no way.  I can come up with a thousand more productive ways to spend that money.

And that really is the issue.  Where do we want to spend our scarce resource dollars.  But then that is the subject of another post….

Melting Glaciers — An Al Gore Tragic Tale

Recently, I spent a whopping 99 cents renting Al Gore’s film for five days. I hated to do it, but I needed to check something on the video and it took more than 99 cents worth of gas to get to the library.

I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity and prepare a few blogs reminiscing about all the things that make An Inconvenient Truth so special.

Today’s subject: Melting Glaciers

Sixteen minutes into the film Al Gore begins to talk about glaciers.

  • He begins with pictures of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1970 and today
  • He then adds Glacier National Park in 1910 and in the 1990
  • Then we see the Columbia Glacier in Alaska as it has receded since 1980.
  • Himalayas glaciers complete with dire predictions for 40 years from now, which the IPCC now admits was wrong by over 300 years.
  • Italy, the Italian Alps — pictures shown but no date.
  • Switzerland, multiple glaciers shown, no dates
  • Peru in the 70’s and today
  • Argentina in 1928 and in 2004

In two minutes we get to see Al Gore’s love affair with glaciers.  We see no less than 9 different glaciers that aren’t as big as they used to be.  Some are recent, some aren’t.

Most glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere have been receding.  I personally have witnessed Columbia Glacier and Portage Glacier’s decline.  Other glaciers have advanced…but it is true…as it gets warmer glaciers melt.  Yup, ice melts when it gets warm.

Mr. Gore specializes in rapid fire examples of his point…glaciers are melting.  Much of the melting shown is not recent melting which means it would have melted with or without anthropogenic carbon dioxide production.  Before 1950, most warming, according to Mr. Gore’s friends at the UN, was natural climate variation.  And some warming since then might be natural warming too.

So why bring it up?

It’s beautiful and it’s going away…how sad.  Mr. Gore is trying to set an emotional hook.  If he can get you to buy in emotionally…he’s got you.   We get to see slow motion pictures of a marine glacier calving, while Mr, Gore describes the natural disaster.

Yes glaciers can be beautiful.   In 1972, I watched the Columbia Glacier calve, while riding a ferry across Prince William Sound.  It was spectacular.   Glaciers are slow moving rivers of ice.  Any glacier that terminates in water is a marine glacier.   All marine glacier calve, the advancing ice meets the warmer water and melts and it the process it puts on a spectacular show.   Nature is being nature, Al Gore provided the drama.    Back in 1972, the Alaska State ferry Bartlett used to toot it’s whistle to try and get the Columbia Glacier to calve…to put on a show for the tourists.

Ice melting is not necessarily bad.  Ask anybody that lives in New York State or Russia or Canada.  15,000 years ago nobody lived in upstate New York.  Ice a mile thick covered much of New York State.  New York more like Greenland, doesn’t sound too good to me.  Those glaciers have receded and most New Yorkers are they did.

Today’s climate is about 1 degree C warmer than it was 150 years ago.  That will cause some ice to melt.  Most of that warming is widely believed to be natural climate variation.  Mr. Gore shows that ice turns to water as it warms….talk about a firm grip on the obvious.

Mr. Gore’s arguments require us to all share his view of nature.  The film opens and ends with Mr. Gore spouting platitudes while we watch a pretty creek.  We must all forget Mother Nature’s wild side.  If the world were a few degrees colder than it is today, Glaciers would be advancing rather than receding…and we wouldn’t necessarily like them so much.

Mr. Gore is trying to get you to buy into his vision….and he is trying to reach you emotionally.  If he can get you emotionally, he doesn’t have to worry about the rational stuff.   Mr. Gore is an excellent public speaker.   He can spout philosophy and make it sound like science. The discussion of glaciers may look like science, but there is no science on display….just a bit of geography and some pretty pictures.