I would be the last person to claim to be an expert on issues related to global warming. However, recent news items that have caught my attention have made me curious. In today’s article American physicists warned not to debate global warming it appears that there is unease regarding the close examination of the figures used in the current global warming algorithms and models.
Viscount Monckton claims that the fundamental figures used in the global warming models were derived from a theoretical model that looks good initially, but that fails to take into account the infinite variations in conditions presented by the real world. Here is his explanation of how the global warming believers’ climate models are verified:
“Since we cannot measure any individual forcing directly in the atmosphere, the models draw upon results of laboratory experiments in passing sunlight through chambers in which atmospheric constituents are artificially varied,” writes Monckton. “Such experiments are, however, of limited value when translated into the real atmosphere, where radiative transfers and non-radiative transports (convection and evaporation up, advection along, subsidence and precipitation down), as well as altitudinal and latitudinal asymmetries, greatly complicate the picture.”
And as the Register article reflects:
In other words, an unproven hypothesis is fed into a computer (so far so good), but it can only be verified against experiments that have no resemblance to the chaotic system of the Earth’s climate. It is not hard to see how the scientists could produce an immaculate “model” that’s theoretically perfect in every respect (all the equations balance, and it may even be programmed to offer perfect “hind-casting”), but which has no practical predictive value at all. It’s safe from the rude intrusion of empirical evidence drawn from atmospheric observation.
Within the Register article, an interesting link leads to an article entitled ‘The Question of Global Warming’ by Freeman Dyson, where he says:
In the history of science it has often happened that the majority was wrong and refused to listen to a minority that later turned out to be right. It may—or may not—be that the present is such a time. The great virtue of Nordhaus’s economic analysis is that it remains valid whether the majority view is right or wrong. Nordhaus’s optimum policy takes both possibilities into account. Zedillo in his introduction summarizes the arguments of each contributor in turn. He maintains the neutrality appropriate to a conference chairman, and gives equal space to Lindzen and to Rahmstorf. He betrays his own opinion only in a single sentence with a short parenthesis: “Climate change may not be the world’s most pressing problem (as I am convinced it is not), but it could still prove to be the most complex challenge the world has ever faced.”
The last five chapters of the Zedillo book are by writers from five of the countries most concerned with the politics of global warming: Russia, Britain, Canada, India, and China. Each of the five authors has been responsible for giving technical advice to a government, and each of them gives us a statement of that government’s policy. Howard Dalton, spokesman for the British government, is the most dogmatic. His final paragraph begins:
“It is the firm view of the United Kingdom that climate change constitutes a major threat to the environment and human society, that urgent action is needed now across the world to avert that threat, and that the developed world needs to show leadership in tackling climate change.”
The United Kingdom has made up its mind and takes the view that any individuals who disagree with government policy should be ignored. This dogmatic tone is also adopted by the Royal Society, the British equivalent of the US National Academy of Sciences. The Royal Society recently published a pamphlet addressed to the general public with the title “Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide.” The pamphlet says:
“This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming.”
In other words, if you disagree with the majority opinion about global warming, you are an enemy of science. The authors of the pamphlet appear to have forgotten the ancient motto of the Royal Society, Nullius in Verba, which means, “Nobody’s word is final.”
All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.
Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.
Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.
In the last few months I read another article by a physicist that also claimed a big fundamental flaw in the global warming figures used, and I will place a link to it here when I find it. In the meantime, here’s an interesting article: ‘Global Warming Debate Overheats With Bad Numbers’.
Instead of looking to supply our ongoing power needs via a vast network of potentially lethal, nuclear power plants, I would like to see more research done into micro power generation, and widespread adoption of it. From my limited understanding of it, it works like this: (1) you stick solar panels on your roof to directly generate electricity, which can be supplied to the national power grid when you don’t need to use it, as storage of electricity is difficult to achieve, apparently, and (2) panels on your roof which can directly warm water without using any electricity at all (thermal transfer).
A woman was recently shown on a UK TV program [find reference] where they were asking families whether, in light of the likelihood of 40+ percent energy cost rises, they would choose a capped flat-rate higher energy cost per unit now, or take their chances and pay a lower cost now but risk later cost rises. As expected some chose the former, and some the latter. But one woman, said that due to her usage of micro power generation her annual electricity costs were around £5, as opposed to £1000 to £2000 costs for standard households. That made me open my eyes!
A system like this, combined with usage of lower power light bulbs, and more efficient versions of things like plasma TVs, could greatly reduce the need for nuclear power plants. Of course, the costs for this technology are not small, currently, but I can’t help but feel that if there was enough support from government, these technologies could help us prevent ourselves from blundering along into likely nuclear accidents, like the one that occurred recently at Tricastin, in France on July 7th 2008, where 74 kg of liquid uranium was spilled and entered the water table.
The French nuclear industry has had a shaky start to July 2008, with two nuclear spills already.