By Tom Harris,
Natural Resources Stewardship Project & Dr. Ian Clark
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Adherents to the hypothesis of human-caused climate catastrophe were given a free ride from a public relations perspective in 2006. Despite the truly apocalyptic visions of Al Gore, David Suzuki and the Sierra Club, doomsters were rarely challenged to back up their claims with hard science. Everything from sea level rise to droughts, melting ice caps and drowning polar bears were blamed on global warming brought on by man's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Alternative climate science viewpoints were carefully screened out of government pronouncements and few in the public seemed to even notice. Oprah Winfrey summed up society's general naiveté about climate change when she concluded her December 5th interview of Gore, gushing, "Thank you for being our Noah!"
However exciting such an approach may be, it is time for Canadians to get real. Climate change is not a religion, or at least it shouldn't be ‚Äì it is science and like all science is subject to questioning and constant revision based on what scientists actually discover. And what is being discovered is taking us further away from any sort of consensus that human-produced CO2 is a major cause of global climate change.
Full article at CFP
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By Tom Harris,
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Published In: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Satirist Stephen Colbert coined a term truthiness, which the online encyclopedia Wikipedia explains is "to claim to ‘know' something . . . ‘from the gut' without regard to evidence, logic . . . or actual facts." Truthiness is an emotional appeal meant to short-circuit intellectual examination of the claims being made.
A prime example of the effectiveness of truthiness came in late December when environmental lobbyists persuaded the Bush administration to recommend that the polar bear be listed as threatened due to global warming. In lieu of evidence, environmentalists offered mostly anecdotes that polar bears are at risk: isolated reports of a few polar bears drowning in Arctic waters normally containing sea ice as well as a few instances of cannibalism among polar bears. Then they posited first that human caused global warming will melt most of the ice at the North Pole within 50 years, and that without the ice, polar bears will be unable to hunt seals, their preferred prey.
Environmentalists presented only one study which shows that one population of polar bears in Canada's Western Hudson Bay had seen a decline of 21 percent following a loss of the average weight of female polar bears which led to reduced cub survival.
Fortunately, both for policy and the polar bears, the plight of this one population does not reflect the population trend as a whole. Indeed, since the 1970s -- all while the world was warming - polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 to as many as 25,000 today (higher than at anytime in the 20th century). And historically, polar bears have thrived in temperatures even warmer than at present -- during the medieval warm period 1000 years ago and during the Holocene Climate Optimum between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago.
Polar bears have thrived during warmer climates because they are omnivores just like their cousin's the Brown and Black bears. Though Polar Bears eat seals more than any other food source at present, research shows that they have a varied diet when other foods are available including, fish, kelp, caribou, ducks, sea birds, the occasional beluga whale and musk ox and scavenged whale and walrus carcasses. In addition, Dr. Mitchell Taylor, a biologist with Nunavut Territorial government in Canada, pointed out in testimony to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that modest warming may be beneficial to bears since it creates better habitat for seals and would dramatically increase blueberry production which bears gorge themselves on when available.
Alaska's polar bear population is stable, and Taylor's research shows that the Canadian polar bear population has increased 25 percent from 12,000 to 15,000 during the past decade with 11 of Canada's 13 polar bear populations stable or increasing in number. Where polar bear weight and numbers are declining, Taylor thinks too many bears competing for food, rather than arctic warming, is the cause. That's right, the problem confronting polar bears may overpopulation not extinction!
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) while arguing that polar bears are at risk from global warming presented data which actually undermine their fear.
According to the WWF there are approximately 22,000 polar bears in about 20 distinct populations worldwide. Only two bear populations - accounting for about 16.4 percent of the total number of bears - are decreasing, and they are in areas where air temperatures have actually fallen, such as the Baffin Bay region. By contrast, another two populations - about 13.6 percent of the total number - are growing, and they live in areas were air temperatures have risen, near the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea. As for the rest, ten populations - comprising about 45.4 percent of the total number of bears - are stable, and the status of the remaining six populations is unknown.
For now the government will be taking public comments on the proposal - let's hope some science: facts, accuracy and truthfulness make an appearance before this goes too far. The polar bear is not threatened or endangered and should not be listed as such as a backdoor way to restrict energy use in the United States.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
If you found the last few weeks of global-warming publicity a little much, you ain't seen nothing yet. The Davos playground opens tomorrow, a sure source of fresh talk on the need for action to reduce carbon emissions. Tonight, George Bush delivers a State of the Union address; carbon controls are expected to get at least a mention as part of the President's continuing campaign to end America's oil "addiction" and attack climate change. Across Canada and Europe, governments are scrambling to make themselves look credible on what is now commonly thought to be the biggest crisis in human history. Corporations are scrambling to get close to the action, either to dodge policy bullets or cash in on the looming regulatory bonanzas.
The major reason for all this policy chaos is the pending release on Feb. 2 of a new assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the official producer of climate science, and its latest report will again say that climate change is real and human production of greenhouse-gas emissions is almost certainly one of the main causes, or some such declaration of qualified confidence.
To some degree, much will depend on the aggressiveness of IPCC language and how far its policy summary strays from the huge levels of uncertainty that are buried in the mass of unreadable -- and unread -- science reports. Close observers of the IPCC believe the objective of some of its members is to produce a policy summary that contains dire warnings of "dangerous" consequences from climate change. That would give the United Nations' power brokers a political club to force the United States and other countries to more extreme policy action to control carbon emissions.
As a miasma of talk and political manoeuvring gathers, generating massive volumes of commentary, announcements and policy frenzy, it will become clear that the the whole subject of climate change has collapsed into hopeless gamesmanship and paralysis.
The media appear set to play the story straight, latching on to the latest reports and policy initiatives as if they all formed part of a logical continuum: Climate is a priority, action is needed, and action is being taken.
Over the past week, Canada's Conservative government announced half a dozen pre-IPCC measures to give the impression of existing momentum before the report. There was little new in the plans -- money for renewables, subsidies for homeowners -- but the government sent out its new Environment Minister, John Baird, to officially declare the Conservative government's belief that climate change is real and the Conservatives are ready to act. That saves a lot of embarrassing media questions in the wake of the IPCC report. But it is also clear that Conservative climate policy on the big issues of emissions controls, carbon trading and regulation remains unknown and unfathomable.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks of Canada as an emerging energy "superpower," a phrase that seems at odds with the reduced energy regime implied by energy reduction to cut emissions. The Conference Board of Canada yesterday came up with the idea that Canada should aim to become a "Green Energy Superpower." These ideas are clearly in their infancy and have no real foundation other than rhetoric.
In Europe and the United States, the pre- IPCC scramble is even more intense and confused. The rise of the Democrats has produced a flush of political action. At least 10 different climate bills are floating around Congress aimed at imposing some kind of controls on emissions. Then there are state rules, including California's latest plans.
The U.S. policy framework is further confused by the tendency to conflate two different issues: climate change and energy security or, as it is sometimes called, energy independence. Some form of mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions are expected, although the exact purpose of any regime is never clear. Sometimes climate is the reason, at other times energy security is said to be the purpose. At other times, the subject is joined with smog, as the Financial Times did yesterday. It showed a picture of Los Angeles "cloaked in smog shortly before sunrise" followed by a comment from an electric-utility executive who said he expects carbon regulations to be a big 2008 presidential issue -- as if carbon regulation and smog control were the same issue.
A group of 10 CEOs -- of Alcoa, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, BP America, Du Pont -- yesterday urged President Bush to take action now to impose mandatory carbon regulation on industry. The group also includes Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, an activist group. He called the CEO initiative a "game changer" and a sign Washington should act before the 2008 presidential election. Many of the companies on the list have substantial vested interests in mandatory economy-wide regulation, either because they are major polluters themselves or they stand to cash in on the regulation by offering services and products.
Countries in Europe may be a little ahead of America on climate control. Their early efforts are generally in shambles. The continent's much-vaunted emissions-trading scheme is in disgrace, with prices falling to their lowest level on record. Nations are battling over how to regulate cars, airlines and other sectors. Germany appears to want out of the worst of the regulations.
As for China and other nations where carbon emissions are soaring, the gap between economic reality and the coming IPCC alarmism will be vast and impossible to traverse. The public-policy momentum, while seemingly rocketing forward through debate and announcements, is in fact a chaotic mess of indecision in which almost nothing is happening. Which is just as it should be.
Monday, January 22, 2007
By Dr. Timothy Ball
Current weather and climate changes are not outside long-term normal patterns. However, the public believes otherwise due to a combination of political exploitation of science and the ways people understand nature. Western education automatically assumes a uniformitarian view of nature, which is the general concept that change is gradual over long periods of time; the corollary is that sudden or extreme change is not normal. Brief studies of any past weather period show significant changes in short periods.
We’re selective in what we see, and notice individually and collectively. For instance, selectivity occurs when after being introduced to someone, you seem to meet them frequently. They were always there, but just not part of your “noticing.” Collectively, the media and the public have “noticed” the weather, especially severe events, so these events seem to be occurring more often. In addition, events are presented as unusual or unique: it was the highest or lowest temperature, rainfall, etc., “ever.” What is referred to is the barely century-old official weather record, an inadequate sample for the world’s 5 billion year history.
Official records are based on instrumental data, but there are many methods for determining climate changes over geologic time. They reveal much greater and more rapid changes. One aspect of the difficulty in accepting these changes is our ability to comprehend time. A million years is hard to understand, but it is easier to understand that length of time when you understand that half of North America was under a vast ice sheet just 22,000 years ago and eastern Canada was still under ice about 9,000 years ago. Another aspect is lack of knowledge about past climates.
How did the theory that human CO2 production would cause runaway warming or uncontrolled climate changes, reach such certainty and powerful political importance? Well, the specter of sudden dramatic changes of climate ultimately leading to the destruction of the planet is a perfect vehicle for people who believe our profligate western society is heading in the wrong direction. Chief among these is Canadian Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and until recently, Executive Officer for Reform in the U.N. Secretary General’s office. His comment, “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” speaks directly to the point.
Industry runs on energy, but you cannot directly attack the energy source because this would anger the vast majority who benefit from industrialized society. The easiest way is to show that the byproducts of industrial activity are causing the destruction of the planet, which, even if scientifically wrong, automatically provides the moral high ground. Carbon dioxide provided the vehicle and supposedly provided the science for the theory that human addition of CO2 would lead to uncontrolled global warming. The theory quickly became fact, and the scientific method of testing, and accepting or rejecting, was effectively thwarted. Scientists who tried to pursue testing it were branded as stooges of the energy companies.
There are side-effects created by industrialization, but eliminating industry also eliminates its positive effects on quality and length of life. In the extreme this becomes anti-humanism, but it also ignores the natural evolution of the human species. Environmentalism in its more virulent forms is anti-humanity and anti-evolution. Human progress is not a natural evolution but an unnatural aberration.
Recently, focus shifted from global warming to climate change because global temperatures have declined since 1998 while human addition of CO2 has increased, thus confounding the theory. The solution was to change terminology and concentrate on climate change. This works better for the fear-mongers because of our uniformitarian view and the lack of public awareness that climate constantly changes. Now the claim is that humans are the cause of any sudden or dramatic event, whether it is extremes of temperature, precipitation, wind, or storms.
It will take time for uniformitarianism’s demise and the realization that significant change is normal, but this will occur faster than previous paradigm shifts because of the Internet.
Dr. Timothy Ball is Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Canada’s Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP). Ball is an environmental consultant, author, columnist, and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. He has an extensive background in the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on the human condition.