Friday, February 25, 2011

Bloody bryozoans! Stealing our carbon dioxide!

Mr Bolt reports:

By studying collections of a marine bryozoan that date back to a famous 1901 expedition to the South Pole, researchers have found that those organisms were growing steadily up until 1990, when their growth more than doubled. The data, reported in the February 22 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, provide the highest-latitude record of a century of growth and some of the first evidence that polar carbon sinks may be increasing.

The bryozoan in question, known as Cellarinella nutti, is a filter-feeding invertebrate that looks like branching twigs. ...

“This is one of the few pieces of evidence that life in Antarctica has recently changed drastically,” said David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey. ”These animals are taking more carbon dioxide out of circulation and locking it away on the seabed.”

The more rapid growth of C. nutti reflects a coincident increase in the regional production of the phytoplankton that the bryozoan eats. Those algae rely on carbon dioxide dissolved into the seawater for their sustenance. The carbon in the algae is taken up by C. nutti, where it is incorporated into their skeleton and other tissues. As the animals grow, portions of it break off and are buried in the seabed. “Thus, the amount of carbon being buried on the seabed is increasing – whilst globally we are becoming more aware of the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Barnes said.

The important point here is uncertainty.

While the UN and the IPCC assume that climate feedbacks are positive, ie that the responses within the climate system to increasing carbon dioxide will have the net effect of making any warming worse, the reality is that we just don't know if this is true or not, and here we have an example where the system changes to possibly mitigate against any warming effect.

However, a knowledge of geological history should have prepared people for this. We know that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been greater in the past without causing the kind of doomsday outcomes the Greens keep droning on and on about, so we should expect that the dynamic responses of the system will probably tend towards returning it to a reasonable equilibrium.

Resource tax based upon assumptions that make the carbon tax pointless

Bill Leak 26 Feb
(Bill Leak's devastating cartoon from this morning's Weekend Australian.)

Terry McCrann points to the irreconcilable contradiction that lies at the heart of JuLiar Gillard's "national suicide pledge" to introduce two new taxes and drive up the cost of everything.

The proposed resources rent tax, (not in itself necessarily a bad idea), is based upon the assumption that the Chinese and Indian economies will continue to grow at their current breakneck speeds for the foreseeable future, and thus save the government's bottom line.

That is, they will continue to suck in the resources we mine, including coal, and continue to emit more and more carbon dioxide.

China is of course already now the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide and this is set only to grow in coming years.

Oh, but what's that I hear you say? China says it is embracing the wonderful fluffy future by setting the kind of renewable energy targets that will make dolphins sing and cuddly polar bears leap for joy, while we'll have the flying cars and floating cities we were promised all powered by nothing more than the sun's love?


Indeed, China for all its claimed commitment to aggressive world leadership in alternative energy, plans to get most of its electricity from coal-fired power. Not just today, but tomorrow and, indeed, the day after tomorrow.

Over the next 10 years, it plans to install net [yes, net!] new capacity of coal-fired power equal to 10 times our entire power generation sector.

Wind farms and solar panels are the window dressing hung on all this to make it look pretty. Nothing more.

And then there is India closely following behind.

Now, the upshot of all this is the fact that any reductions we make to the tiny 1.5% of global emissions that we produce are going to be completely dwarfed by the increases in global emissions made just by China and India, (let alone the rest of Asia and other parts of the world with growing economies).

(And if you honestly think the world is waiting with bated breath to see what Australia does, to then follow our lead, then you aren't a sucker, you are a fool.)

So, what's the point of setting out on a course of action whose only practical outcome will be to drive up the cost of everything we buy, either directly or indirectly, but which will have no environmental outcome at all?

Why is JuLiar all of a sudden a convert to taking action on climate change when, as Laurie Oakes observes, "just 10 months ago Gillard was demanding then prime minister Kevin Rudd shelve plans for an ETS. So strident was she on the issue that Rudd, according to a source close to him at the time, worried that she might actually “leave the show”?"

I suspect JuLiar doesn't really hold especially strong views on climate change, but she does know a political problem when she sees one, and she knows that one of Labor's biggest problems at the moment is the perception that it doesn't believe in anything or stand for anything.

Cue the return of the "greatest moral challenge of our time."

(And if you want a bit of a primer on just how differently the media treats one side of politics compared to the other, just go here and here and here.)

Finally, surely I'm not the only one worried that this bunch of clowns is "running" the country?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

"There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead"

Even Richard Farmer from the very left-leaning is appalled at the way Julia Gillard has gone back on what she said to the Australian people during the last federal election campaign.

When solemn election promises can be broken without even a pretence of explanation parliamentary democracy is in a sad, sad state. So it is in Australia now that Julia Gillard has confirmed that her word means nothing. Before the last election she vowed that there would be no carbon tax if she became Prime Minister. Today she announced one.

Ms Gillard now stands exposed as one of the great political liars of all times. She is not a woman to be trusted.

Here's the video:

Though very quickly on Twitter the excuse was 'well, John Howard said there'd never be a GST, and then he introduced it.'

Which is fine, except for one little point.

Howard, once he'd decided to try again to introduce a GST first took the proposal to the people at a general election. He staked his political survival on winning that election, and thus gaining a mandate, before introducing it.

He didn't say during that election campaign he wouldn't introduce a goods and services tax, only to do so once returned as the prime minister. 

Unlike Ms Gillard and her carbon tax.

And I'll pose the question here I've previously put to the Greens, only to be fobbed off: by how much will this measure, which by its very nature will drive up the cost of just about everything, reduce the average global temperature?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peer review and how sceptics are frozen out: the Antarctic example

Mr Bolt:

From the latest Spectator, a gotcha on the corruption peer-review process that the Climategate emails suggested but which Nicholas Lewis and Matt Ridley now demonstrate. Spectator editor Nelson Fraser sums up (the Lewis/Ridley article is behind a pay wall):

In January 2009, Nature magazine ran a cover story … conveying dramatic news about Antarctica: that most of it had warmed significantly over the last half-century. For years, the data from this frozen continent - with 90 percent of the world’s ice mass - had stubbornly refused to corroborate the global warming narrative. So the study, led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington, was treated as a bit of a scoop. It reverberated around the world. Gavin Schmidt, from the RealClimate blog, declared that Antarctica had silenced the sceptics. Mission, it seemed, was accomplished: Antarctica was no longer an embarrassment to the global warming narrative.

He spoke too soon. The indefatigable Steve McIntyre started to scrutinise his followings along with Nicholas Lewis. They found several flaws: Steig et al had used too few data sequences to speak for an entire continent, and had processed the data in a very questionable way. But when they wanted to correct him, in another journal, they quickly ran into an inconvenient truth about global warming: the high priests do not like refutation. To have their critique (initial submission here, final version here) of Steig’s work published, they needed to assuage the many demands of an anonymous ‘Reviewer A’ - whom they later found out to be Steig himself.

Lewis and Matt Ridley have joined forces to tell the story in the cover issue of this week’s Spectator. It’s another powerful, and depressing tale of the woeful state of climate science

in 2009, when Steig’s work started to fall apart, explains some of the problems McIntyre uncovered..

Why Almost Everything You Hear About Medicine Is Wrong

It seems Sharon Begley can be rational when she wants to be.

If she could apply a similar degree of healthy and appropriate scepticism to her climate change reporting, I'd be very pleased.

It appears a lot of medical research suffers from the same problem that a lot of climate research suffers from, ie "stasticulation" - the use of inappropriate statistical methods to arrive at, at best, erroneous conclusions or, at worst, contrived ones.

In climate science, the now infamous Hockey Stick is possibly the most egregious example.

And where would we be without epidemiology? For one thing, we'd have far fewer bullshit "health" stories in the papers and on the nightly news:

Statistical flukes also plague epidemiology, in which researchers look for links between health and the environment, including how people behave and what they eat. A study might ask whether coffee raises the risk of joint pain, or headaches, or gallbladder disease, or hundreds of other ills. "When you do thousands of tests, statistics says you’ll have some false winners," says Ioannidis. Drug companies make a mint on such dicey statistics. By testing an approved drug for other uses, they get hits by chance, "and doctors use that as the basis to prescribe the drug for this new use. I think that’s wrong."

Which is of course what certain people have been banging on about for years.

Even the case against second-hand cigarette smoke, (but not smoking itself), is based upon some pretty dodgy epidemiological studies with quite weak findings.

But this isn't about anti-science. It isn't an endorsement of rubbish like so-called complimentary or alternative therapies which either basically don't work or end up making you sicker.

And don't get me started on the anti-oxidant religion.

It is however about the proper application of the scientific method, but with an understanding that our knowledge is always contingent and partial.

Our minds should always be open to the possibility that, despite our best efforts, we can still be wrong and that we still have things to learn.

Yet another reason to be sceptical about the "science is settled" crowd, wherever we find them.

Keep in mind though, these reassessments aren't coming from fringe alternative medicine crackpots, but from men and women schooled in the scientific method and applying its most powerful insights.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The triviality of the Canberra press gallery

 fumes at the kind of thing that had me so cross, too, on Insiders today:

In the days immediately before Abbott’s perceived media gaffe, the big issue for the Canberra press gallery was whether it was appropriate for the liberal Party to send an email soliciting donations to fight the government’s flood tax. The email received more attention from journalists than such questions as why the Queensland government didn’t have disaster insurance (unlike other states) and why the federal government has agreed to pay for 75 per cent of the cost of repairing its infrastructure.

We know the Prime Minister has appointed committees to check how the $5 billion is spent, but we don’t know yet what that money is going to be spent on… At a press conference on Monday when the Prime Minister was asked about Queensland’s lack of insurance, and she ignored the 

question and changed the topic, no one bothered to follow her up.

No one is brave enough to ask why the rest of Australia should foot the bill for the failure of the Queensland government to take out insurance.

This week provided a clear demonstration of the misplaced priorities of the parliamentary press gallery. Trivialities (like Abbott’s media interview and the liberal email) were regarded as more important than a substantive policy point (government spending on flood recovery).

Oil has joined the past… natural gas is the future!

The natural gas cartel, a dream of Russia’s just a few years ago, is dead. It died when a natural gas revolution broke out and Gazprom lost.  Energy importing nations around the world are evaluating their own geology, currently, to see if they have shale reserves that can be tapped.  Nations like Argentina, Germany, Poland, France, and Sweden are looking into their national shale reserves.

The shale gas revolution is changing the world we live in, and the power structures of the past.

How to unlearn pessimism

For adults, one of the most important lessons to learn in life is the necessity of unlearning. We all think that we know certain things to be true beyond doubt, but these things often turn out to be false and, until we unlearn them, they get in the way of new understanding. Among the scientific certainties I have had to unlearn: that upbringing strongly shapes your personality; that nurture is the opposite of nature; that dietary fat causes obesity more than dietary carbohydrate; that carbon dioxide has been the main driver of climate change in the past.

I came across a rather good word for this kind of unlearning—"disenthrall"—in Mark Stevenson's book "An Optimist's Tour of the Future," published just this week. Mr. Stevenson borrows it from Abraham Lincoln, whose 1862 message to Congress speaks of disenthralling ourselves of "the dogmas of the quiet past" in order to "think anew."

Archbishop Cranmer queries as to whether or not the BBC's Michael Buerk did compare climate sceptics to paedophiles

Initially, His Grace was persuaded by Bishop Hill's indignation at the inflammatory juxtaposition of multiculturalist sceptics and anthropogenic climate-change deniers with paedophiles. But, having reflected (and having read some of Mr Buerk's other pronouncements on the BBC), it is evident that he is actually criticising those who propagate absolutist dogma and hold to an unquestionable creed.

The rest of His Grace's rumination is here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The screen-cap that shows that Channel 7 are lying


Part of Mark Riley's defense of his nakedly biased attempt to 'get' the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in Australia, has been to claim that there was no imputation made about Abbott's "shit happens" comment in Afghanistan.

The above picture shows this is a lie.

"one-in-a-hundred-year" floods hit Brisbane six times between 1840 and 1900

Two within a fortnight of each other.

So those wanting to jump on the climate change bandwagon may want to be cautious.

Maybe also cautious about media tropes like "one-in-a-hundred."

Is the climate "changing" for Queensland, or is it more a case of it going back to what it used to be?

The basic answer is that we really just don't know.

NASA's Hansen produces warming in January that the satellites didn't see, but still below Scenario C

Steven Goddard has it here.

Gregory S. Paul - Bringing dinosaurs to life

Climb the stairs to Gregory Paul's third-floor Charles Village apartment and you may quickly find yourself slipping back 100 million years or more into the Mesozoic era.

The Baltimore artist's walls are filled with lush portraits of dinosaurian wildlife in action, many in color. Tyrannosaurs step off across mud flats on a sunset hunt. A pair of feathered Archaeopteryx cavort like gulls at the surf line of an ancient beach.

The dynamic scenes are part of his work for the new Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs — but Paul, 56, a self-taught paleontologist, full-time illustrator, author and dino-consultant to TV, museums and the movies, is no newcomer.

I don't think Paul is my favourite palaeoartist, but he is very, very good.

Henry Rollins: "What came first, the shitty rave music or the shitty drugs?"

A developmental phase shift moved digits 1, 2 and 3 of the dinosaurian hand to positions 2, 3 and 4 in birds

Some say it's the last holdout for a handful of scientists still not convinced that birds evolved from dinosaurs. The fingers of the two groups of animals, they say, just don't match up. As embryos, birds seem to develop the equivalent of our middle three fingers, but theropods—two-legged, primarily carnivorous dinosaurs from which birds are thought to have evolved—sport the equivalent of our thumb, index, and middle fingers. Now, a study of chick embryos shows thatbirds do indeed have thumb, index, and middle "fingers" in their wings.

The rest here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

World Bank Report: Stern's Disaster Claims 'Completely Inconsistent With Empirical Evidence'

What this inherent uncertainty -- perhaps better characterized as inherent ignorance -- means of course is that strategies of robust decision making make good sense. That is to say, with respect to preparing for future extreme events, we should emphasize those strategies that are insensitive to uncertainties. Perhaps the most robust finding of each of these studies (and the broader literature) is that future damages will increase regardless of the the effects of human-caused climate change. Thus, improving adaptive capacity is a no-regrets course of action.

A single PDF of 678 pages - is this Climategate 2.0?

In my opinion, 13 months after Climategate an equally important document was made public. It is a single PDF file three megabytes in size and 678 pages in length. Although it contains the remarks of 232 separate individuals, no attempt was made to, say, number these individuals for easy reference. Thus, it is far from user-friendly.

Nevertheless, it is a gold mine. Info about the document may be found here. Details of a Canadian blogger’s efforts to shake it loose are here and here. The crucial point is that, within its pages, IPCC insiders have been remarkably candid. If one understands the larger context, many of their comments are jaw-dropping.

The rest here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

No, THIS is a missile cruiser!

The Kirov Class cruiser Peter the Great