Science

Last night I got home from an exhausting and exhilarating trip to New York City. During my stay, I barely got out of the hotel and I am still annoyed at all the wonderful presentations that I missed. Lucky for me, they will end up on the Internet shortly. I attended the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. There was some totally cool and breaking science stories at this conference, and here are some of the impressions I had when I was talking to Gardner Goldsmith at Against the Grain on Monday and Tuesday.

Monday

Tuesday

The global temperature has been stable since 1998 according to Ole Humlum at the University of Oslo. In the largest paper in Norway, he is stating that this stabilization can mean one of three things:

1. We have achieved a stable temperature
2. We have reached a "plateu" and rise again in a bit
3. We have reached a top in the global temperature, and it will soon start sinking again.

As a true scientist, Prof. Humlum says we do not have the knowledge of which one of these three alternatives will come to pass, but considering the fact that we have had an increase in CO2 concentration without a warming the last decade, the greenhouse theory  should be considered debunked by now.

The dogmatics in Norway is stating that Humlum cannot use the record year of 1998 as a benchmark year, although they have no problem using the cool 1970's as the benchmark to prove that its getting warmer. I am not sure how they can throw out a decade's worth of stable temperature as benchmark related though.

Even though media in Norway has shunned the climate skeptics in Norway for a long time, but their media climate is finally warming up. A push for less campaign journalism by the Norwegian trade publication for reporters on the week of the Nobel Prize gala in Oslo is slowly changing the debate. I talked to Prof. Humlum a few weeks before the Nobel award, and he had several tales of editors that told him that his research was not welcome on their pages, now he has a full page story on the biggest newspaper in the country.

Energy alternatives

by Lene Johansen on January 17, 2008

in Science

Harvesting the body heat of Svedes, cheesy floor and cars running on chocolate is some of the environmentally friendly energy alternatives in a recent Guardian article. Great story that shows how innovation happens between self-interested actors, rather than through government planning.

Sometimes, nothing gets the message through as a barrage sometimes. The guys at Popular Technology have collected a barrage of videos on climate change, so check it out when you have time.

Some disease are plaguing camels, and the obvious culprit is… -Global warming… you got it!

I read this story in the Guardian, and I had a déjà vu experience, remember this spring when some virus was plaguing the bee population in North America, causing them to die in large numbers. We did not really know that it was a virus until this summer, but several someone's suggested global warming was behind that too, until we knew it was the virus.

Now however, global warming is killing camels, cause microbes, viruses, and bacteria does not mutate, as we all know. At least global warming will be the culprit until some microbiologists take a look at the thing.

Norwegian researchers have been very concerned about arctic melting the last year, because improvements in satellite data shows an unprecedented melting. The measuring systems have, of course, only been available since the cooling period in the 70's. During a conference on Arctic melting in Oslo, Norway last week, the more than 40 researchers from all over the world concluded that soot from industry and combustion in Eastern Europe and Russia has escalated the melting of arctic ice. Easter Europe and Russia are the poorest areas of Europe and Northern Asia. The industry is old and outdated, I am sure the people who live in these countries would love to be able to afford cleaner, more efficient technology, but the energy rationing instituted by Kyoto will make that dream much harder to achieve.

You've probably seen the latest tizzy over the Bush Administration's "censoring of science" (see here and here). The case against the Bush Administration this time is that it edited testimony presented to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The testimony, originally 14 pages, was cut to six.

However, the narrative of a scientific cover-up is overwrought to say the least. The hearing was on the potential impact of global warming on human health, an exercise in speculation. It appears, if press accounts are correct, that what the Bush Administration cut from the director’s testimony was more speculation than settled science.

The Center for Science & Public Policy has published a new report looking at the claims made in the portions of the testimony that were cut (as reported in the press) and concludes that in every instance, whether it be heat-related mortality, disease, extreme weather, etc., there is no link between climate change and harm to human health. In every case human health or conditions that affect human health are improving. The report concludes that the Bush Admininstration didn't censor settled scientific findings, but rather unjustfiable speculation by CDC experts.

There's a hoax going round, with a very convincing "study" that claims not only to find a link between "benthic bacteria" and temperature increases, but also has the authors say that they were intimidated into not publishing their findings.  You can see this clever piece of inventiveness here. The author(s) have even made up past contents for the fake journal.  There is no Department of Climatology at the University of Arizona, nor is there a Daniel Klein or Mandeep Gupta in the U of A directory. Neither is there an Institute of Geoclimatic Studies.

A quick whois lookup indicates that the site is registered to one David Thorpe of Powys, Wales, in the UK.  There is a David Thorpe who claims to be a "prize-winning novelist and environmental journalist" there and who runs the company to whom the site is registered.  He blogs as The Low Carbon Kid.

Congratulations to Mr Thorpe on his eye for detail and the work that must have gone in to producing such a convincing-looking study at first sight.  I'm sure he'll fool lots of people who will find the "findings" extremely attractive, but globalwarming.org is not one of them.  We are skeptics, after all…

 

WASHINGTON — Injecting synthetic "super" greenhouse gases into the Martian atmosphere could raise the planet's temperature enough to melt its polar ice caps and create conditions suitable for sustaining biological life. In fact, a team of researchers suggests that introducing global warming on the Red Planet may be the best approach for warming the planet's frozen landscape and turning it into a habitable world in the future.

Margarita Marinova, then at the NASA Ames Research Center, and colleagues propose that the same types of atmospheric interactions that have led to recent surface temperature warming trends on Earth could be harnessed on Mars to create another biologically hospitable environment in the solar system. In the February issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, published by the American Geophysical Union, the researchers report on the thermal energy absorption and the potential surface temperature effects from introducing man-made greenhouse gases strong enough to melt the carbon dioxide and ice on Mars.

"Bringing life to Mars and studying its growth would contribute to our understanding of evolution, and the ability of life to adapt and proliferate on other worlds," Marinova said. "Since warming Mars effectively reverts it to its past, more habitable state, this would give any possibly dormant life on Mars the chance to be revived and develop further."

The authors note that artificially created gases–which would be nearly 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide–could be manufactured to have minimal detrimental effects on living organisms and the ozone layer while retaining an exceptionally long lifespan in the environment. They then created a computer model of the Martian atmosphere and analyzed four such gases, individually and in combination, that are considered the best candidates for the job.

Their study focused on fluorine-based gases, composed of elements readily available on the Martian surface, that are known to be effective at absorbing thermal infrared energy. They found that a compound known as octafluoropropane, whose chemical formula is C3F8, produced the greatest warming, while its combination with several similar gases enhanced the warming even further.

The researchers anticipate that adding approximately 300 parts per million of the gas mixture in the current Martian atmosphere, which is the equivalent of nearly two parts per million in an Earth- like atmosphere, would spark a runaway greenhouse effect, creating an instability in the polar ice sheets that would slowly evaporate the frozen carbon dioxide on the planet's surface. They add that the release of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide would lead to further melting and global temperature increases that could then enhance atmospheric pressure and eventually restore a thicker atmosphere to the planet.

Such a process could take centuries or even millennia to complete but, because the raw materials for the fluorine gases already exist on Mars, it is possible that astronauts could create them on a manned mission to the planet. It would otherwise be impossible to deliver gigaton-sized quantities of the gas to Mars. The authors conclude that introducing powerful greenhouse gases is the most feasible technique for raising the temperature and increasing the atmospheric pressure on Mars, particularly when compared to other alternatives like sprinkling sunlight-absorbing dust on the poles or placing large mirrors in the planet's orbit.

The United Nations is trying to blame natural disasters on, of all things, people. President Bush, however, is standing in its way.

The U.N. is holding its second-ever "World Conference on Disaster Reduction" this week in Kobe, Japan. Scheduled for the 10th anniversary of the deadly January 1995 earthquake in Kobe and following in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, you might think that the conference's focus would be 'natural disasters.'

But the first indication that this isn't necessarily the case comes when you compare the titles of the current and previous U.N. disaster conferences.

The title of the U.N.'s first disaster conference, held in 1994, was the �World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, which, incidentally, occurred during the U.N.-proclaimed "International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction" (1990-1999).

Natural disasters, as far as the U.N. is concerned anyway, apparently are no longer 'natural.'

Behind the "1984"-like de-natural-ization of the disaster conference is, of course, the ongoing effort by the U.N. – a leading promoter of the unproven notion that humans are significantly altering global climate for the worse – to be able to blame people, as opposed to Nature, for deadly and costly occurrences such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves and the like.

And the particular people that the U.N. would most like to pin the blame for global warming on would be deep-pocket Americans, American businesses and the American government. As the global warming alarmist community likes to point out, the U.S. is the largest single contributor to the alleged global warming, emitting 25 percent of all greenhouse gases while possessing only 4 percent of the world's population.

Toward the goal of blaming the U.S. for what used to be considered 'natural disasters' in order to eventually extract financial compensation, the U.N. conference's draft action plan is riddled with references to climate change [read, 'U.S.-made climate change'] as causing or contributing to 'disasters.'

The Bush administration rightly opposes the U.N.'s effort to de-naturalize disasters and has requested that the document's references to climate change be removed. But U.N. officials oppose such changes.

"I hope there will be a global recognition of climate change causing more natural disasters," said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

Weather disasters like hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves, cold snaps, ice storms always have, and always will plague man. As far as we know, they are entirely natural occurrences. There is absolutely no credible evidence that humans � much less Americans in particular – have had have any discernible impact on the frequency and severity of – dare I say it? – natural disasters.

Given the media's new habit of linking virtually any extreme or unusual weather with global warming, some scientists now even feel compelled to go out of their way to reaffirm that global warming isn't causing natural disasters, as in the case of the string of hurricanes that hit south Florida last summer.

The U.N. dramatizes the need for its 'action plan' by claiming that: economic damages resulting from 'disasters' have increased from about 1,500 disasters costing $200 billion during the 1970s to 6,000 disasters costing $700 billion during the 1990s; and the number of people 'threatened' by 'disasters' has increased from about 750 million people in the 1970s to about 2.5 billion people in the 1990s.

I don't know how accurate those estimates may be, but to the extent that natural disasters do wreak more economic havoc and threaten more people now than 30 years ago, that is most likely due to all the upscale development that has spread during that time to coastal regions and other areas more vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature.

Participating in the U.N. conference is the German insurance company Munich Re, which issued a report –Megacities � Megarisks: Trends and challenges for insurance and risk management,- bemoaning the alleged impacts of global warming and other 'disasters' on insurers.

Munich Re claims, for example, that the urban heat island effect – the modern-day phenomenon where cities are warmer than surrounding rural areas due to increased heat trapping by concrete and asphalt – amplifies the effect of global warming to increase the number of deaths caused by heatwaves.

Despite any intuitive appeal, this assertion is unfounded since there is no scientific evidence that global warming – which involves a hypothesized few-degree rise in global temperatures over the course of a century – has anything to do with summer heatwaves – which involve sudden dramatic, short-term shifts in local temperature.

Weather, after all, is not climate.

The end-game of the insurance industry, like that of the U.N. , is to be able to blame natural disasters on global warming so that it also can eventually seek compensation for its losses from U.S. businesses and taxpayers.

Insurers, apparently, are more than happy to accept premiums for writing risky policies, but not too happy when Mother Nature and policyholders force them to make good on claims.