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ICECAP in the News
Dec 02, 2007
Polar Bear Population Forecasts: A Public-Policy Forecasting Audit

By J. Scott Armstrong, The Wharton School, Kesten C. Green, Monash University, and Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian

The issue of listing a species under the Endangered Species Act should be based on credible scientific forecasts. Based on our Internet search of the published scholarly research and on appeals to other researchers we have been unable to locate any papers that referred to scientific procedures for making forecasts of polar bear populations. Furthermore, a review of the references in the nine government reports written to support the listing of polar bears under the Endangered Species Act failed to find any papers relevant to scientific forecasting procedures. We take no issue with the scientific work of the researchers whose work we have reviewed as it relates to the past. Our concern is that there are currently no scientific forecasts of the polar bear population; nor of direction or magnitude of changes. Without scientific forecasts of a substantial decline of the polar bear population and of net benefits from feasible policies arising from listing polar bears, a decision to list polar bears as threatened or endangered would be irresponsible.

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Nov 30, 2007
Unnatural History

By By Patrick J. Michaels, in the American Spectator

Hurricane Katrina—a very big storm by any measure—has now been called the “largest ecological disaster in U.S. history,” according to the Christian Science Monitor, because it “killed or damaged about 320 million trees.” Moreover, Katrina was a double ecological whammy, as the downed trees will eventually rot or burn, releasing another increment (probably too small to detect) of dreaded carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas. The Monitor’s report was based upon an analysis of satellite imagery conducted by scientists at the University of New Hampshire.

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Part of the modern climate mythology is the assumption that every significant climate burp, such as the big El Nino of 1998, or the big hurricane season of 2005 is portentous of ecological disaster. Hardly. In fact, if today’s species were not adapted to these extremes, they simply wouldn’t be here.

Whenever a hurricane (or a fire) takes down a forest, it’s not replaced by anything but another forest. That vegetation will absorb some of the carbon dioxide that Katrina’s trees left behind. It will eventually look a lot like the one that got blown down, only to await the sawmill, or the next big hurricane. Read more here.

Nov 27, 2007
NRSP Launches ‘Unreliable Sources’ Initiative

Natural Resources Stewardship Project

The Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP) announces the launch of its ‘Unreliable Sources’ initiative to help counter the steady stream of climate science misinformation emanating from mass media, politicians, lobby groups and industry.

In an effort to help the public differentiate fact from fiction, rational science-based forecasts from sensationalist speculation, NRSP scientists will now regularly correct climate science misrepresentations being disseminated from the aforementioned sources. Whether it is the ill-founded claims of Al Gore and environmental lobby groups or the unscientific exaggerations of the World Nuclear Association, it is now more important than ever that a rational alternative point of view concerning the science of climate change is presented regularly – that is the purpose of NRSP’s “Contesting ‘Unreliable Sources’” project.

CBC climate science coverage will be first under the microscope. See full press release here.

Nov 26, 2007
Scared to Death Book Review

By John Brignell, for SPPI

Many of us who were involved in the early days of environmentalism, because of the disgusting and dangerous state of our post-war air and rivers, and had good reason to be satisfied with the progress that had been made, became distressed when the movement was suddenly hijacked by a new force. It seemed to be motivated by a hatred of industry and economic progress. Instead of relying on actual measurements of pollution, it began to extrapolate by means of theories and models. It developed the threat of the New Ice Age. Industrial pollution would block out the sun and plunge the world into an appalling frozen future. In Britain it was irrelevantly defeated by the searing summer of 1976, an isolate statistic that could have no bearing on climate and, though it caused ridicule, was nevertheless a portent of things to come. We innocently assumed that they would withdraw, but they simply did an about turn. Almost without pausing for breath, they converted the threat of an ice age to one of catastrophic global warming. Digging up old papers by the likes of Arrhenius and Callendar, and without a trace of embarrassment, they switched from accusing industry from freezing us to death to claiming that it would roast us. At the time most of us in science treated it all as a joke that no one could possibly take seriously. How wrong we were! We simply could not see that profound changes were taking place in society, that even science and its methods would come under a devastating threat.

Global warming is the scare that is the climax of this book. It is both unique and typical. It is unique in that economic failure is not just a by-product of the scare, it is the whole raison d’ętre. It is promoted by interests who oppose everything that would enhance the economic well-being of mankind (for example, realistic sources of energy as opposed to those that are intermittent, impracticable and only sustainable by grotesque levels of subsidy). It is typical in employing all the manoeuvres that have sustained the previous, less durable scares; i.e. selecting favourable data while ignoring more credible adverse data, practising overt and covert censorship, mounting ad hominem attacks on opponents, recruiting “scientists” to serve its purposes with public funds, while without evidence gratuitously accusing critics of receiving handouts from hated industrial sources, putting the frighteners on ill-informed ordinary people and so on. Scientifically this scare is dead in the water, even the measurement evidence of any warming occurring at all fades away on examination, but the weaker their case becomes the more fervently the faithful cling to their belief and the more bitter the bile they direct at infidels.  Read more here.

Nov 20, 2007
Changes in European Storminess?

By World Climate Report

A recent article will soon appear in Climate Dynamics, and we suspect it will not be carried by any news service. The international team of scientists is from the Climate Research Division of Environment Canada, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Austria, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, and the Institute for Coastal Research in Germany.

Matulla et al. note that others have investigated trends in storminess in Europe over the timescale of 100 years, and based on daily wind data, they have detected no trend. However, long-term wind data “are characterized by spatial sparseness and inhomogeneities, caused by instrumentation changes, site moves and environmental changes.” North-Western European storminess starts at rather high levels in the 1880s, decreases below average conditions around 1930 and remains declining till the1960s. From then until the mid 1990s a pronounced rise occurs and values similar to those of the early century are reached. Since the mid 1990s storminess is around average or below. This picture—a decline that lasts several decades followed by an increase from the 1960s to the 1990s and a return to calm conditions recently, is to be found for the North European triangle as well. The increase, however, is far less pronounced. Central Europe features high-level storminess peaking around the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century which is followed by a rapid decrease. Since then a gradual increase prevails until the 1990s and most recent values show a return to average or calm conditions. In their own words, they conclude that their work is in agreement with other studies in Europe showing “that storminess has not significantly changed over the past 200 years.” Read full story here.

Nov 17, 2007
Nuclear Energy and the CO2 Fiction

By Zbigniew Jaworowski Letter to the American Nuclear Society in 21st Century Science & Technology, Fall 2007

In 1989 I was invited by Dr Hans Blix, then the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency for a chat in his Vienna office. Staunch defender of the truth, it was more than a decade before he hit the headlines proving his honesty and integrity, as the head of the United Nations Commission for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. He had asked my opinion on future prospects for nuclear energy, in view of the societal effects of the Chernobyl disaster. I told him what I already said in an editorial to the Special Chernobyl Issue of the Environment International (Jaworowski 1988). Chernobyl was the greatest possible catastrophe of a nuclear power reactor—nothing worse could happen—and its worst effects were psychological. In terms of human losses, Chernobyl may be regarded as a minor one compared with other industrial catastrophes.

I doubt that my arguments convinced Dr Blix. He said that for gaining the public support for nuclear energy one should concentrate on its near-zero CO2 emissions, which may redeem us from the climatic warming doom scenario. Already at that time, I knew that this global warming scenario was a politicized science fiction, inflated with ideology and big money. I advised Blix that for the sake of honesty and scientific integrity, in promoting nuclear energy, the IAEA should refrain from using a fiction, the flaws of which sooner or later will be apparent.

The era of cheap energy (and thus of prosperity) is over, mainly due to insufficient and improper investments in energy production over the past few decades. This neglect in energy investment, partly sparked by environmentalists, combined with increased energy demand, may first lead to skyrocketing energy prices, and then to a decline of the world economy, with its drastic negative political, societal, and environmental effects. Read full letter here.

Zbigniew Jaworowski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., is a multidisciplinary scientist and former chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. He is now a senior advisor at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw.

Nov 13, 2007
No Consensus on IPCC’s Level of Ignorance

By Dr. John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama

Scepticism, a hallmark of science, is frowned upon. (I suspect the IPCC bureaucracy cringes whenever I’m identified as an IPCC Lead Author.) The signature statement of the 2007 IPCC report may be paraphrased as this: “We are 90% confident that most of the warming in the past 50 years is due to humans.” We are not told here that this assertion is based on computer model output, not direct observation. The simple fact is we don’t have thermometers marked with “this much is human-caused” and “this much is natural”. So, I would have written this conclusion as “Our climate models are incapable of reproducing the last 50 years of surface temperatures without a push from how we think greenhouse gases influence the climate. Other processes may also account for much of this change.”

How could the situation be improved? At one time I stated that the IPCC-like process was the worst way to compile scientific knowledge, except for all the others. Improvements have been adopted through the years, most notably the publication of the comments and responses. Bravo.

I would think a simple way to let the world know there are other opinions about various aspects emerging from the IPCC font would be to provide some quasi-official forum to allow those views to be expressed. These alternative-view authors should be afforded the same protocol as the IPCC authors, ie they themselves are their own final reviewers and thus would have final say on what is published. At that point, I suppose, the blogosphere would erupt and, amidst the fire and smoke, hopefully, enlightenment may appear.  Read more here.

Nov 11, 2007
Consequences of Arctic Tundra Shrub Invasion and Soot Deposition

By John E. Strack, Roger A. Pielke Sr., and Glen E. Liston in JGR, November 2007

Invasive shrubs and soot pollution both have the potential to alter the surface energy balance and timing of snow melt in the Arctic. Shrubs reduce the amount of snow lost to sublimation on the tundra during the winter leading to a deeper end-of-winter snowpack. The shrubs also enhance the absorption of energy by the snowpack during the melt season by converting incoming solar radiation to longwave radiation and sensible heat. Soot deposition lowers the albedo of the snow, allowing it to more effectively absorb incoming solar radiation and thus melt faster.

This study uses the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System version 4.4 (CSU-RAMS 4.4), equipped with an enhanced snow model, to investigate the effects of shrub encroachment and soot deposition on the atmosphere and snowpack in the Kuparuk Basin of Alaska during the May–June melt period. The results of the simulations suggest that a complete invasion of the tundra by shrubs leads to a 2.2C warming of 3 m air temperatures and a 108 m increase in boundary layer depth during the melt period. The snow-free date also occurred 11 d earlier despite having a larger initial snowpack. The results also show that a decrease in the snow albedo of 0.1, owing to soot pollution, caused the snow-free date to occur 5 d earlier. The soot pollution caused a 1.0C warming of 3 m air temperatures and a 25 m average deepening of the boundary layer. 

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See full paper here

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