Category Archives: climategate

The twin evils of religion and environmentalism

There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents….

Or in more secular terms, isn’t it nice when someone finally sees the light.

It has been interesting watching the scales fall from the eyes of James Lovelock recently, as he has finally started to echo what many of us have been saying for several years. That a lot of the stuff we hear from greens is just a pathetic liberal secular substitute for Christianity; that a great deal of the global warming or climate change hysteria fits neatly into the same category as religious fanaticism, with little more scientific credibility, and that many of the models and predictions derived from them are mere scientific trash, the same harnessing of human emotions of guilt and the desperate need to be seen to be good. I am particularly amused since some environmentalist a while back tried to dismiss my blog because I was saying exactly that but I wasn’t Lovelock, therefore I was wrong, or some argument along those lines anyway. But it’s nice to see him catching up (yes, OK,  I know he is far smarter than me, so no need to point it out, but none of us is infallible and he did get some things wrong). We all make mistakes, and at least he has had the guts to admit it, unlike a lot of people, so all credit to him. He is just the latest in a long queue of people jumping the fence as green dogma and climate hysteria  is being exposed as nonsense.

It has been clear to me for over 15 years that the decline of religion wasn’t simply leaving people with no religion, but had left a hole in people’s lives that was being filled by 21st century piety, a basket of isms, such as environmentalism and vegetarianism, anti-capitalism, even socialism and liberalism. For very many people, these hit the same reward centre buttons as religion. I first lectured about their religion substitution appeal at a World Futures Society conference well over a decade ago, and have often got into professional trouble by repeating the same arguments ever since. (Actually, I don’t think there is anything wrong with vegetarianism per se, just the daft attitude that you have to cook them veggie stuff, but they don’t have to cook you meat, because they are obviously better than you and it would offend their obviously higher moral stance. That is the pathetic religion substitute bit, and I have zero tolerance of it).

Let me be quite clear here, to minimise offence to the innocent: not all environmentalist are seeking a religion substitute, where they can place themselves on a high moral pedestal and preach at everyone else. They don’t all think they are ‘holier than thou’. Not all are far more interested in their own sanctification than protecting the environment.

Actually, a great many environmentalists care deeply for the environment. Some are excellent scientists doing excellent and unbiased work, and achieving excellent results, and I am sure many of those are sick and tired of having their field wrecked by the bad apples, and their credibility undermined by the distortions or incompetence of others – it is all to easy to tar everyone with the same brush and i don’t want to do that. Many have the highest regard for the principles of science and want to use it to understand the environment so that they can protect it better. Just like you and me, I hope.

However, there are some bad apples, some deliberately distorting the truth, hiding declines, making sure other scientists can’t get papers printed, reducing historic temperatures to pretend rises are higher than they are, or using dubious statistical techniques on cherry picked data to make ridiculously inaccurate graphs. Others are merely incompetent, ignoring major contributing factors in their climate models. Some try to use distorted science to further programs such as social equalisation that have nothing to do with the environment, and some advocate policies that actually harm the environment. Some mix all of the above. The reason all too often seems to be the religious appeal. Worse, liberals, vegetarians and greens don’t like being told they’re wrong and certainly not being accused of being religious, even when it is blindingly obvious to others, and some use pretty underhand combat techniques as a substitute for decent arguments.

We often hear debates about the pros and cons of religion, how it may cause wars or homophobia or racism or whatever, and some of the criticisms are justified. However, on other hand there are the benefits of love and peace and caring for one another that also typically go with religion when it is exercised properly. In environmentalism, we see the desire to protect the environment as the superficial driver, and no-one can argue with that as a motivation, but meaning well doesn’t translate into a good outcome if your motives are then mixed with others, corrupted and polluted and then directed with little more intelligence than superstition and wishful thinking. Actual outcomes from environmentalism are all too often damaging. That is why environmentalism is now becoming just as corrupted as the Christian church once was, and why it can be argued that it is doing more harm than good. The environment may well be better off if we locked up all the environmentalists, or the greens anyway.

Although there were quite a few rubbish reports by others before it, the Stern Review was the first really important paper that drove environmental policies that resulted in great harm to the environment: inadvertently encouraging draining of peat bogs and chopping of rain forests to make room for palm oil plantations, thereby releasing huge quantities of CO2; the financial incentives of carbon trading mixed with inevitable and entirely predictable corruption forcing eviction of countless families in Africa; starvation of many people because of globally increased food prices because of the diversion of agricultural land being used to grow crops for biofuel conversion. I am certain that results like this weren’t Stern’s intention, he seems a decent enough chap, but a decent economist should be able to make the most basic and obvious predictions about how people might behave when faced with financial incentives – greed is hardly a 21st century invention – so his report must take some of the blame.

But Stern’s review can’t take all the blame for everything; there has since been a long stream of nonsense from the IPCC, politicians, parts of the media and a wide selection of climate research labs and environmental NGOs. Recently, it has been demonstrated that climate models are often less accurate than a purely random extrapolation. A garden snail would be better at it, literally. Hansen’s predictions have been laughable, as have those of our own MET office. All the research funding has been wasted on them. Religion may make you feel holy, but it really isn’t much use as a predictive tool. Some excellent work is being done on the actual extent and causes of climate change, but it is very often by those dismissed as heretics by the climate change church.

Since politicians grabbed the Stern review as a rare excuse to increase both taxes and their own popularity, politicisation of science has badly polluted many areas of environmental research, and the dirty tricks of politics have destroyed much of the credibility of science as a whole. The good science is there, but is mixed with trash. But far worse is the hijacking of environmentalism as a badly designed vehicle for social levelling. I am all in favour of helping the poor, but trying to do so by throwing money down the drain on environmental subsidies for inefficient energy production ends up being very bad at both helping the poor and helping the environment. It saps money from the economy, and simply wastes it. The result is an increase in poverty, not a decrease. All so that a few people can polish their halos. Everyone loses. If we want to alleviate poverty, it would be far better to save money by using more efficient technology and then spend it on programs specifically designed to help the poor directly.

Many people have observed the similarity between the church’s indulgences and carbon offset payments. The church’s great idea was that you can sin all you like providing you pay the fees to the church. The secular equivalent of carbon trading and offsetting almost begs criminals to exploit the system, and not surprisingly, they already have, and still are.

Another similarity between the evils of religion and environmentalism is the self-flagellation practised by some medieval monks. Anything that might help the environment but doesn’t hurt people enough seems to be rejected, such as shale gas, or nuclear energy. Shale gas is six times cheaper than wind energy and produces a lower CO2 footprint (CO2 doesn’t seem to be so problematic after all but that isn’t the topic of this blog). Nuclear is well-tried and tested and even many environmentalists accept that it is a good solution, being far safer than any other form of electricity production, and producing very low carbon emissions, if that’s your metric for goodness. But most environmentalists still want wind energy for reasons that seem perverse. They seem to want to find the most expensive, ugliest, least efficient system possible so that the pain is greatest. If eagles are chopped to extinction and small animals stressed so much they can’t breed, who cares? If millions of people are upset, all the better. They also want to waste as much as possible on solar before the price comes down to sensible levels, and lock in the high costs for as long as possible. To feel good about trying to maximise pain to as many people as possible while simultaneously damaging the environment does not even appear sane, let alone benign. It is as if self-flagellation isn’t enough; it has to be inflicted on everyone before they are happy. And as for the Spanish inquisition, that is echoed too. There have been ridiculous calls for anyone who doesn’t believe the lunatic rantings of the high priests to be locked up, or even murdered.

So it seems in some ways that the downside of environmentalist religion is even worse than the most perverted practices of medieval religion. But it doesn’t even offset it by giving benefits. Because so many of them despise science, environmentalist policies are often counter-productive. An excellent example is that in the 1970s, climate scientists were recommending sprinkling black carbon on the polar ice to increase heat absorption and thereby offset the coming ice age. Now, they seek to mess with the environment to reduce heat absorption to offset global warming. Now, it looks like cooling is coming after all, they will once again be doing almost the opposite of what seems to be required. There are very many examples of environmental policy damaging the environment from wind farms to coastal erosion to fishery management. The environment would be a great deal better if environmentalists stopped trying to help it. And we’d all be richer and happier.

What is a climate scientist? Indeed, are there any?

We hear the term frequently, but what qualifies some people and not others to be classed as climate scientists?  You might think it is just someone who studies things that affect the climate. But very many people do that, not just those who call themselves climate scientists. The term actually seems to refer solely to a group who have commandeered the term for themselves and share a particular viewpoint, with partly overlapping skills in a subset of the relevant disciplines. In recent times,it seems that to be an official ‘climate scientist’ you must believe that the main thing that counts is human interference and in particular, CO2. All other factors must be processed from this particular bias.

To me, the climate looks like it is affected by a great many influences. Climate models produced by ‘climate scientists’ have been extremely poor at predicting changes so far, and one reason for this is that they exclude many of the relevant factors.

I am struggling to think of any scientific discipline that doesn’t have something to say about some influence on climate. Many branches of chemistry and physics are important in understanding how the atmosphere works, and the oceans, and glaciers, and soil. We have some understanding of some natural cycles, but far from all, and far from complete. We need biologists and chemists and physicists to tell us about soil, and forests, and ocean life, and how species and entire ecosystems react and adapt to changing circumstances, with migrations or adaptation or evolution for example. We need to understand how draining bogs or chopping trees to make room for biofuels affects the climate. How using bio-waste for fuel instead of ploughing it into the ground affects soil structure, plant growth, and carbon interchange. We need to understand how cosmic rays interact with the earth’s magnetic field, how this is affected by solar activity, how sunspots form, and even gravitational interactions with the planets that affect solar cycles. We need to understand glacial melting, how glaciers move differently as temperature changes, how black carbon from diesel engines affects their heat absorption, how clouds form, how they act to warm or cool the earth according to circumstances. We need to understand ocean cycles much better, as well as gas and heat interchange between layers, how this is affected by weather and so on. I could go on, endlessly. We need to understand the many different ways we could make energy in the future, the many options for capture and containment of emissions or pollutants, or positive effects some might have on plant growth and animal food chains.

But it doesn’t stop with science, not be a long way. We also need people skilled in anthropology and demography and sociology and human psychology, who understand how people react when faced with choices of lifestyle when presented in many different ways with different spins, or faced with intimidation or eviction because of environmental policies.  And how groups or tribes or countries will interact and distribute burdens and costs and rewards, or fight, or flee. And religious leaders who understand well the impacts of religious pressures on people’s attitudes and behaviours, even if they don’t subscribe to any organised religion. Clearly environmental behaviour has a strong religious motivation for many people, even if that is just as a crude religion substitute.

We even need people who understand animal psychology, how small mammals react to wind turbine flicker for example, and how this affects the food chain, ecosystem balance and eventual interchange with the atmosphere and the rest of the environment.

And politicians, they understand how to influence people, and marketers, and estate agents. They can help predict behaviours and adaptation and how entire countries may or will interact according to changes in climate, real or imagined.

And we need economists to look at the many alternatives and compare costs and benefits, preferably without ideological and political bias. We need to compare strategies for adaptation and mitigation and avoidance. Honestly and objectively. And we need ethicists to help evaluate the same from human perspectives.

And we need loads of mathematicians, especially statisticians. Climate science is very complicated, and a lot of measurements and trend analyses need in-depth statistical skills, apparently lacking in official climate science, as evidenced by the infamous hockey stick graph. But we also need some to model things like traffic flows so we can predict emissions from different policies.

And we need lots of engineers too, to assess likely costs and timescales for development of alternatives for energy, transport, entertainment and business IT. We need a lot of engineers!

And don’t forget architects, who influence energy balance via choices of shapes, materials and colour schemes as well as how buildings maintain a pleasant environment for the inhabitants.

Ah yes, and futurists. Many futurists are systems thinkers with an understanding of how things link together and how they may develop. You need a few of them too.

I have probably forgotten lots of others. The point is that there are very many factors that need to be included. No-one, and I mean no-one, can possibly have a good grasp of all of them. You can know a bit about a lot of things or a lot about a few things, but you can’t know a lot about everything. I would say that there are no people at all who know about all the things that affect climate in any depth, and therefore no group deserves a monopoly on that title.

So, if you only look in any depth at a few interaction in the oceans and atmosphere and ignore many of the rest of the factors affecting climate, as ‘climate scientists’ seem to, it is hard to see a good reason to continue to hold the title any more than anyone with another label like astrophysicist, or politician. ‘Climate scientists’ as we currently classify them, know a bit about some things that affect climate. So do many other groups. Having skills in a few of the relevant areas doesn’t give any right to dismiss others with skills in a different few. And if they consistently get it wrong, as they do, then there is even less reason to trust their particular viewpoints. And that’s before we even start considering whether they are even honest about the stuff they do talk about. And as Donna Lamframboise has pointed out recently, they don’t deserve to be trusted.

http://thegwpf.org/best-of-blogs/5864-donna-lamframboise-no-reasonable-person-should-trust-climate-scientists.html

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition?

The Wall Street Journal carries an article on behalf of ‘climate scientists’ annoyed that some people don’t believe them any more. It asks ‘ do you consult your dentist about your heart condition?’ I think we’re supposed to answer ‘no’, and by extension, we should never believe anyone who isn’t an official ‘climate scientists’ about anything to do with climate.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204740904577193270727472662.html

Sorry, but I would happily answer ‘yes’ to their question under some circumstances, equivalent to those in today’s ‘climate science’. In some circumstances I would ask just about anyone with any medical knowledge except my heart doctor.

If for example:

he is totally ignoring the whopping great spike sticking out of my chest because no mention of it  appears in any peer-reviewed heart journals, or

my heart doctor regularly deliberately ignores the truth, or

he often tries to mislead me, telling me what is sort of the truth but spins it in such a way that it says almost the opposite, or

the association of heart surgeons only accepted as members those who belong to a particular faith and did everything it could to prevent anyone else with any actual heart expertise from joining, or

my heart doctor doesn’t believe that the heart is involved in pumping blood, and argues forcefully instead that blood flow happens by some sort of magnetic effect and that as everyone with any heart expertise whatsoever knows, the heart is only the seat of the mind and emotions, and that only a bunch of ill-informed ‘non heart doctor’ consultants, GPs, physicians, and even some dentists, who are never published in the official Association of Heart Surgeons Journal think the heart has anything to do with blood flow, or

my dentist was honest and spent a great deal of his time researching heart disease on the side, or

or my heart surgeon is being paid to tell me a particular answer regardless of my actual condition,or

my heart doctor holds huge investments in the funeral industry, or

there were any one of a million other reasons why my dentist might give me  more accurate and honest advice than my heart surgeon, then

yes I would. Then I would ask my dentist about my heart condition and ignore my heart doctor.

Computer models are not reality

I spent the first decade of my working life in mathematical modelling, using computers. I simulated all kinds of things to design better ones. I started on aircraft hydraulic braking systems, moved on to missile heat shields, springs, zoom lenses, guidance systems, electromagnetic brakes, atmospheric behaviour, lightning strikes, computer networks, telecomms systems, markets, evolution….

I wrote my last computer model soon after I became a futurologist, 21 years ago now. Why? Because they don’t work, in anything other than tiny closed systems. Any insight about the future worth mentioning usually requires thinking about highly complex interactions, many of which are subjective. Humans are very good at deductions based on very woolly input data, vague guesses and intuition, but it is not easy or even possible to explain all you take into account to a computer, and even if you could, it would take far more than a lifetime to write a model to do what your brain does routinely in seconds. Models are virtually useless in futurology. They only really work in closed systems where all the interactions are known, quantifiable, and can be explained to the computer. Basically, the research and engineering lab then.

Computer models all work the same way, they expect a human to describe in perfect detail how the system  works. When you are simulating a heat shield, whether for a missile of a space shuttle, it is a long but essentially very simple process because only very simple known laws of physics are involved. A few partial differential equations, some finite difference techniques and you’re there. The same goes for material science or biotech. Different equations, but essentially a reasonably well-known closed system that just needs the addition of some number crunching. When a closed system is accurately modelled, you can get some useful data. But the model isn’t reality, it is just an approximation of those bits of reality that the modeller has bothered to model, and done so correctly.

People often cite computer models now as evidence, especially in environmental disciplines. Today’s papers talk of David Attenborough and his arguments with Lawson over Polar Bears. I have no knowledge about polar bears whatsoever, either may be right, but I can read. The cited report http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/population-map.html uses mostly guesses and computer-generated estimates, not  actual bear counts. I’d be worried if the number of bears was known and was actually falling. Looking at the data, I still don’t have a clue how many bears there are or whether they are falling or growing in number. The researchers say they are declining. So what? That isn’t evidence. They have an axe to grind so are likely to be misleading me. I want hard evidence, not guesses and model outputs.

I discovered early on that not all models are what they appear. I went to a summer school studying environmental engineering. We had to use a computer model to simulate an energy policy we designed, within a specific brief. As a fresh mathematician, I found the brief trivially easy and jumped straight to the optimal solution – it was such a simple brief that there was one. I typed the parameters in to the model and it created an output that was simply wrong. I challenged the lecturer who had written it, and he admitted that his model was biased. Faced with my inputs, it would simply over-rule them for ethical reasons and use a totally different policy instead. Stuff that!

It was a rude awakening to potential dishonesty in models, and I have rarely trusted anyone’s models since. My boss at the time explained it: crap in, crap out. Models reflect reality, but only as far as the modeller allows. Lack of knowledge, omissions, errors and quite deliberate bias are all common factors that make models a less than accurate representation of reality.

Since that was my first experience in someone deliberately biasing their models to produce the answer they want, I have always distrusted environmental models. Much of the evidence since has confirmed bias to be a good presumption. As well as ignorance. The environment is an extremely complex system, and humanity is a very long way from understanding all the interactions well enough to model it all. Even a small sub-field such as atmospheric modelling has been shown (last year by CERN’s CLOUD experiment) to be full of bits we don’t know yet. And yet the atmosphere interacts with the ground, with space, with oceans, with countless human activities in many ways that are still in debate, and almost certainly in many ways we don’t even know exist yet. Without knowing all the interactions, and certainly without knowing all the appropriate equations and factors, we don’t have a snowflake’s chance in a supernova of making a model of the atmosphere that works yet, let alone the entire environment. And yet we see regular pronouncements on the far future of the environment based on computer models that only look at a fraction of the system and don’t even do that well.

Climate models suffer from all of these problems.

First, there is a lack of basic knowledge, even disagreement on what is missing and what is important. Even in the areas agreed to be important, there is strong disagreement on the many equations and coefficients.

Secondly, there are many omissions. In any engineering department, people will be well familiar with the problem of ‘not invented here’. Something invented by a competing team is often resented, rather than embraced. The same applies in science too. So models can feature in great detail interactions discovered by the team, though they may be highly reluctant to model things discovered by other scientists. Some scientific knowledge is therefore often missing from models, or tweaked, or discounted, or misunderstood and mis-modelled.

Thirdly, there is strong bias. If a researcher wants their work to further some particular point of view, it is extremely easy to leave things out of change equations or coefficients to produce the output desired. There are very many factors causing the bias now. Climategates 1 and 2 are enough to convince any right-thinking person that the field is corrupt beyond repair.

Finally, there are errors. There always are. Errors in data, algorithm, programming, interpretation and presentation.

Models can be useful, but they are far too open to human failings to ever consider computer model outputs as evidence where there is any debate whatsoever about the science or data. There is huge debate in climate science and researchers are frequently accused of bias, error, omission and lack of knowledge. But quite simply, these model outputs fail by the ‘crap in, crap out’ rule. Their output cannot be considered evidence, however much it may be spun that way by the researchers.

Let’s put it another way. One of the simplest programs most programmers write is to write ‘X is a genius’ again and again on the screen. But that doesn’t make it true, however often or large it is printed. The same goes for models. The output is only as honest as the researcher, only as accurate as their completeness and representation of the entire system. Using a long winded program to print ‘we’re all doomed’ doesn’t make it any more true. I don’t trust the researchers, I know the tricks, I don’t trust their models, and I don’t trust their output.

Climategate 2.0

It is depressing watching what is happening in climate change science and even more the media and government responses to anything that develops. Any pretence that it is about science is long gone now. It is now a mess of politics, pseudo-science and pseudo-religious beliefs, with genuine scientists on all sides finding their voices drowned out by the roar of the crowd. The sad thing is that there is a lot of good science being done on both sides of the climate change debate, but it has little impact because many people refuse to hear the truth in climate science unless it aligns with their prior allegiance.

Everyone agrees that climate is changing, but not about why. Everyone also agrees that CO2 is one of the contributors, but not on how great its contribution is. What is known is that warming has stopped for 13 years now, and even some warmists are now accepting that we may see a few decades of cooling now because they have finally accepted that climate change is dominated by natural cycles, though coverage of such matters depends on which paper you read. The same facts can be ignored, glossed over, or even turned upside down depending on the prejudice of the author.

The new Climategate release is a perfect example. (A searchable list of what has been released this time is at http://foia2011.org/) Some papers have focused on what the emails reveal about the determination to drive the warmist agenda of some researchers, and their tendencies to hide or ignore any data that goes against it. Others have ignored the content because it goes against what they want to hear, and have instead focused on how awful it is that they were stolen and how much some climate scientists have to put up with. You buy your paper and you choose which bits of the truth you get.

The field is highly politicised and increasingly polarised along party lines now, with left wingers mostly claiming belief that mainly humans are causing climate change and right wingers mostly claiming that it is mostly natural changes with only a small human component. It has been hijacked as a tool by those who want to redistribute wealth via carbon levies, or to obtain huge subsidies for people investing in wind and solar energy, even as carbon dioxide is frequently shown by new studies to be less important in climate change than was once believed.

In the face of changed science and greatly lowered estimates of likely warming, if any, it is still more important for some politicians and newspapers to save face than to save taxpayers trillions of dollars wasted investment. The emails show that researchers have been encouraged to beef up the dangers, and some had been in support of their own agendas anyway. A lot of evidence has been destroyed, and a lot of papers produced by ignoring data that runs against the predetermined message. More emails have been deliberately deleted to stop the full truth from becoming known. It is quite sickening, and all the more so because some papers and TV companies are still trying to gloss over the filth, corruption and lies.

The result isn’t just that we will have our countryside ruined unnecessarily by wind farms. As a direct result of all the money thrown down the drain on wasteful ‘green’ energy schemes, many people will die needlessly because of fuel poverty, many companies will go out of business, and many economies will suffer, with reduction in quality of life for billions. But the environment won’t benefit, because environmental polices are very poorly thought out. Peat bogs and forest will still be cleared, corruption will still increase, money will migrate towards the greedy and the corrupt, and people still murdered to make land available for biofuels or solar farms.

It is morally wrong. It is overdue for us to have a new start on environmental policy, looking at the science and throwing out that which has been tarnished and corrupted. We will otherwise cripple economies, ruin lives and kill many people, and the environment will be far worse off than if we pursued good policies based on real science.

Climate change – don’t panic, it was the Sun after all

Image courtesy of CERN, http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1221293

Pictured: Jasper Kirkby with his CLOUD chamber

Links to original sources announcing results:

CERN Press release http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2011/PR15.11E.html

letter to Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/nature10343.html

Congratulations to Jasper Kirkby and his team at CERN. A great day for science I think. The long-awaited results from Kirkby’s CLOUD experiment have come out, and say pretty much what he thought they would regarding the potential for cosmic rays to cause cloud seeding, but with more questions coming out, as they should when science has been done properly. The experiment also showed that the combinations of gases expected to be causing clouds at low atmosphere can’t, not even with cosmic ray help. So another science hurdle has fallen. We know a bit more about our world, but we also know a little more about what we don’t know. So now they have more questions to answer, and no doubt answering those will reveal yet more questions.

This stands in stark contrast to those who use the phrase ‘the science is now settled’. It wasn’t, still isn’t, and it won’t be any time soon. Physics is far from finished, so is chemistry and biology and every other branch of science.

The results of this experiment are politically very important. Governments, especially our own in the UK, have already sunk vast amounts of taxpayer cash into programmes based on the idea that humans are the main cause of global warming, now renamed as climate change, since the warming stopped in 1998. Carbon dioxide is known to be a greenhouse gas, with higher concentrations of it in the atmosphere leading to more of the sun’s heat being trapped. No-one disputes that, but heavily in dispute was how much of the climate change we see was due to human-generated CO2, how much from natural CO2 generation, and more importantly, from non-CO2-related causes, such as black carbon, CFCs, cosmic rays, sunspots, volcanoes, natural ocean cycles and so on. The list of contributors is long.

Kirkby showed several years ago that there was a high historic correlation between solar activity such as sunspots, incoming cosmic radiation flux and temperature here on earth. Long before people made any impact, climate was varying all the time, in high correlation with incoming radiation, and of course it still is. Any human contribution is on top of that natural source. Many climate scientists have steadfastly refused to accept this as a significant potential cause of warming, and so didn’t include sunspot activity cycles in their models. Some of the worse ones appear to have manipulated data to try to erase evidence of the effect. Arguments raged about sources of warming, whether, it was the sun, natural ocean cycles, or man-made CO2.

Climate science had become highly polarised, with a small group of scientists who huddled in the corner insisting that they are the only true climate scientists,and managed to gain control over official channels of climate science. Everyone else was pushed outside, denied any significant voice in climate journals because they are not one of the true believers, and somehow weren’t a ‘proper climate scientist’. But fortunately science doesn’t work like that for any length of time. True science always ends up winning. Political spin can only be sustained for so long.

The CLOUD experiment set out to answer the main question, the denial of which was the main pillar of the climate science AGW religion. Could cosmic rays be a significant factor in cloud formation? If the answer was no, then the CO2 advocates would be able to push their CO2-centric view much more strongly, since the cosmic ray effect was one of the main pillars of the opposing view. And of course if the answer is yes, then the climate models will need a great deal of change before they can be considered representative of the real world, as the sceptics had argued all along.

None of this suggests that CO2 doesn’t matter. What it does say with certainty is that CO2 is far less significant than had been stated by climate scientists, and by deduction, we need to worry far less about its increasing. Fantastic news. We will not be doomed by CO2 production after all. The changes in climate that we have seen are probably mainly down to solar activity after all, and we can’t do much about that except learn to live with what it throws at us.

Other research recently also backs up that view. More radiation escapes into space from the atmosphere than previously thought. Black carbon is a bigger factor than thought. The CO2 gearing is lower than thought. Soil chemistry is poorly understood. Ocean currents and cycles need a lot more study. Now we also know that some of the assumed chemistry in the lower atmosphere is wrong too.

Kirkby and his team have done a great job of pushing science forward in spite of significant adversity from political interference and the influence of corrupted science elsewhere.

Corruption never disappears overnight. The momentum of the CO2-centric view is enormous, and mere truth will only slow it down gradually. But truth is persistent. If we fight it, it won’t go away. The earth, and all the rest of the universe, cares nothing for political views or corruption. Physics is just there, and all we can do is work out how it works. As Star Trek’s Scotty famously observed ‘ye cannay change the laws of physics captain’.

What we should do as fast as we can is to stop throwing taxpayer money down the drain on account of disproven theories, and immediately to change any government policy based on carbon reduction.

As for science, we should accept the results from CERN, and their Danish adversaries in the spring, and move on. We should force those climate models with any significant influence to be changed to include the proven results of the studies of the last few years, to change their parameters and equations accordingly, and to model the whole system as far as science permits, not just those bits they are fond of.

If we understand out environment better, we can protect it better, and protect out own interests better too. Bad science leads always to bad policy. Only by pursuing the truth can we prosper in the long term. A few careers and bad apples might suffer, but the rest of us will be far better off.

I find this personally very reassuring. I have struggled for several years trying to understand climate science a bit, following the arguments on both sides, trying desperately to sort out what is obviously spin and lies from what seems to be good science – on both sides. My brain isn’t big enough, and I forget stuff quickly, so can’t really keep track of it. But over time, I was moving further and further from sitting on the fence, as it became obvious that most of the deviousness seemed to be on the CO2 driven side. The maximum contribution that CO2 could be making to climate change has gradually reduced as study after study suggested other factors that must account for at least some of the change. I don’t think I am really in any position to list the current percentage contributions from all the factors, but I reckon that CO2 accounts for maybe 10% of the change, maximum 15% now. But that is just a guess.

The big factor missing in my own belief set was the importance of cosmic radiation. I watched Kirkby’s lecture some years back and I found it convincing, but we have to do the science, and until we have, it is only guesswork. Now, he has. We have the result.

I no longer believe that CO2 is a major factor in climate change. I have been a sceptic for a good while, while trying hard to retain balance while waiting for Kirkby to finish. I am now very happy that his case is proven that it is the sun and not CO2 that causes most of our climate change. CO2 is at most a minor contributor and we can sleep easy while continuing to produce more of it. How much more before we can start worrying we need to look at further, but any reason for panic has gone.

Interesting additional blog commentary:

http://calderup.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/cern-experiment-confirms-cosmic-ray-action/

http://thegwpf.org/the-observatory/3702-cern-finds-qsignificantq-cosmic-ray-cloud-effect.html

Population growth is a good thing

This entry now forms a chapter in my book Total Sustainability, available from Amazon in paper or ebook form.

Climate science progress

It’s amazing what a few months can do. I’ve been watching the activity on the net since Climategate quite closely. Before that, I held the view that the earth was warming and that CO2 was probably a major contributor, but I was already sceptical that CO2 was the whole story because there were other plausible theories based on solar activity that affects cloud formation and they seemed to have a good foundation in historical evidence going back millennia. But like everyone else, I had no real idea how the climate worked. So, Climategate came for me in the middle of a learning period, where I decided that climate would figure much more in futures work, so needed to get a handle on it. I’ve now been studying climate science for about 9 months, so I still only qualify as a novice, and won’t be giving up my day job any time soon.

But Climategate was an eye-opener. I hadn’t realised just how flimsy the evidence for AGW (human-induced global warming) was until then, or how biased some of the climate scientists were, how they had done some bad science themselves, and then managed to block alternative theories, by withholding data, bullying journals into blocking publication, effectively seizing control of the IPCC and so on. I had assumed that the temperature data was sound, but it isn’t. I had assumed that the climate models took full account of solar activity, but they don’t. I assumed they looked at cloud formation mechanism in great detail, but they don’t. I assumed they looked at the data impartially instead of having a predetermined outcome and steering the models in that direction, but it turns out the models were designed to show warming and the inputs and equations selected and distorted to achieve that goal. Since many other researchers based their theories on that same data, their outputs were similarly corrupted. So it turns out that much of climate science has been corrupted and is badly in need of repair. Given that some of the data has been destroyed or altered, there is a lot of mess and damage to be cleared up.

But all is not lost. There is a lot of good science out there, and before climate science was politicised in the early 90s, some of the thinking and analysis was quite good quality. There have been several key studies recently that provide valuable insights, and several more well on the way. I have no doubt that science will recover slowly and we will end up with a good understanding how the Earth’s climate actually works, and will be able to figure out where it is going, and even some ideas how we might control it in some degree.

To give some idea how complex the field is, here are some of the things we know about the climate, and some that we know we don’t know.

There is historically a very strong correlation between cosmic radiation levels and climate. The galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) entering the solar system varies significantly, and the variations correlate well with temperature. The total amount of radiation we get from the sun varies only a small amount, and even the spectrum only varies by a little, but sunspot activity has a big effect on climate. It appears to do so via the enormous magnetic storms associated with sunspots, and the result is that cosmic rays are deflected and fewer enter the earth’s atmosphere. Thanks to some excellent work by Jasper Kirby and his colleagues at CERN, we know that cosmic rays entering the atmosphere produce a shower of other particles, and these can act as nucleation centres for water droplets to form from water vapour present in the atmosphere. These droplets can form clouds, and clouds can change reflect radiation back into space, and can also act as insulation. The exact mechanisms are not yet understood, but CERN is studying them now and expect to report in the next couple of years. As they do, we can start to include cloud formation related to sunspot activity and GCR variation into climate models.

Other studies by NASA on cloud formation will also help. Atmospheric behaviour is very complex, but the more we understand it, the better we can model it. In particular, NASA Goddard Space Research Centre has recently shown that aerosols in the atmosphere have a big effect on temperature. In particular, they discovered that black carbon from diesel exhausts has a huge effect on radiation absorption, and could account for much (50% or more) of the glacier melting that has been observed. Of course, it would be much easier to reduce black carbon than CO2. Other studies at the University of Waterloo suggest mechanism by which CFCs, released in the past by aerosol sprays and refrigerants, but now banned in many countries and phasing out in others, can interact with cosmic rays to break down ozone. Ozone absorbs solar radiation in the higher atmosphere, so reducing ozone results in more radiation being absorbed in the lower atmosphere, so increases warming. CFCs are a powerful greenhouse gas in their own right too. The reduction of CFCs in the atmosphere since 2000 correlates well with the levelling off of temperature, just as the rise over the previous decades correlates with the rise in temperature. As the ozone hole closes, temperature would tend to cool. Deforestation and change of land use is also very important. As trees are burnt, and as land turns to desert, or as fields are ploughed, dust enters the atmosphere. Small particles can stay there for days and affect cloud formation. And we may find that air travel contributes more to warming via contrails than by the CO2 emitted by the engines. Air traffic in most of the world flies too low to be so significant, but across the poles, the same altitude reaches a different region of the atmosphere where different reactions apply. The lower temperature at the poles results in a lower stratosphere, and some flights emit water vapour there. In a nutshell, it hangs around longer and causes more warming via cloud formation interactions with the lower atmosphere. This may be one of the major factors why the north pole is melting far faster than expected, while the south isn’t, having much less air traffic of course. But we need the science to be done, then we can model it properly.

So, with black carbon, dust, CFCs, ozone depletion, galactic cosmic ray flux variation, and a variable shield from solar magnetic activity, it already looks like CO2 is just one of a series of contributors to global warming. The CFCs may well turn out to be the bigger human influence. But as yet, these factors cannot all be properly compared, because we don’t understand the science behind the various interactions well enough. But we will be much better placed to do so in the next couple of years.

Scientists also know that oceans are responsible for much of the climatic variation. Oceans act as a huge thermal store as well as acting as a store of various gases. Movement of water between the depths and surface layers is a very slow process, so acts as both a long term damper and delay. Surface currents that transport heat around the world are also highly significant. And yet our understanding of the many factors is still in its infancy. El nino and la nina are still fairly new terms to most of us, and they still cannot be predicted well. Huge server farms are required just to model behaviour of small areas of ocean, so computer power is still one of the major bottlenecks. Getting good input data is another. It will be several years at least before we can accurately model ocean currents and properly predict their contributions to climate.

One of the most worrying factors is that the historical record indicated that we are in a period similar to the midieval warm period as far as solar activity and galactic radiation are concerned. The MWP was followed by a mini ice age, and there is informed speculation that we may well now be heading into another. It is overdue, and the patterns of warming and levelling off are just right. But the other factors of CFCs, CO2, desert dust, air travel and so on make it a very complex situation indeed.

The danger we are in as a result is that the climate could arguable go either way now. If it turns out that CO2 really is as bad as is made out, then temperature will increase and we are in danger of crossing some critical points where methane clathrates start to vapourise, giving runaway greenhouse warming. If on the other hand, and which is looking more likely by the day, CO2 is only a small player and the bigger effects are either natural or related to CFCs and black carbon, then we will see a few more years of turbulent weather followed by decades of cooling. Technology progress will reduce fossil fuel use anyway, so there will be less CO2 in the atmosphere to offset cooling. If we try to reduce CO2 in such a case, and also clear up other pollutants such as CFCs and black carbon, then we will suffer even more.

So we are like a guy standing on the edge of a cliff, wearing a blindfold. Lots of people are screaming at us, telling us to do something because we are in grave danger. But if we move before we can see the direction of the drop, we are as likely to die as to survive. By far the best course of action is to remove the blindfold before we do anything else.

So, we should spend much less money on wind farms, and put a lot more into research, making sure it goes to people who are more interested in doing good science than in proselytising a particular viewpoint.