Monday 31 December 2012

Hot Talk, Cold Science - Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate

by S. Fred Singer (photo:

The Global Climate Treaty
According to proponents of the Global Climate Treaty, a consensus within the scientific community supports the view that human-caused global warming is occurring and that it threatens human health and well-being. Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from viewing the existence of global warming as “settled,” most atmospheric scientists and climate specialists hold that the global warming issue should be considered “unfinished business” requiring much further research.

Rather than embark on economically destructive policies to solve a problem that to the best of our knowledge does not exist, Singer urges policymakers to adopt a “no regrets” policy of continued research and unimpeded economic growth. We would then have more scientific knowledge, technology, and economic resources with which to confront climate warming, if we ever discover that it is occurring and poses a real threat. But prematurely mandating severe reductions of greenhouse gas emissions would make us—and developing countries, especially—poorer and less able to cope with any future problems.

No Scientific Consensus of Warming
That there is no scientific consensus of a global-warming threat is indicated by surveys of active scientists

In recent years, research on global climate change has led even more scientists to doubt that global warming is upon us or that it would soon bring Yet these doubts are characteristically downplayed in IPCC reports. These reports gave the false impression that all 2000-plus scientists who contributed to (or had their work cited in) the reports also supported the view that man-made global warming was occurring or posed a credible threat. The IPCC reports even indicated that the scientists who reviewed and commented on earlier drafts endorsed the report—whether their comments on the drafts were positive or negative.

Man-Made Global Warming Not in Evidence
The announced purpose of the Global Climate Treaty is to avoid “dangerous interference with the climate system.” However, this goal is entirely arbitrary because we have no scientific guidance for determining what constitutes a “dangerous interference.” Nor do we have evidence that human activity has had much effect on world climate.

While it is true that global temperatures have risen about 0.5 degree Celsius in the last century, most of this warming occurred before 1940, while most of the human-caused CO2 emissions occurred after 1940. Further, we simply do not know whether climate variability depends on carbon dioxide concentrations. Scientists are only now beginning to study the role of other potential factors in global climate change, such as the interaction between the atmosphere and oceans, variations in solar radiation, and the cooling effects of volcanic emissions and sulfate aerosols.

By and large, General Circulation Models (GCMs) have not yet considered these factors, which may explain why computer models cannot account for observed temperatures. Many models indicate that global warming has arrived and will intensify unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions like CO2. However, weather satellite and balloon-borne radiosonde data indicate that global temperatures have fallen slightly since 1980. (But neither the weather satellite data nor the discrepancy between them and the GCMs are mentioned in the IPCC Policymakers’ Summary.)

While surface temperatures show slight increases—notably smaller than those predicted by the models—this appears to be due to the urban heat island (UHI) effect, stemming from population increases near weather stations. After correcting for the UHI effect, the years around 1940 emerge as the warmest years of the century in both the U.S. and Europe.

The gap between the satellite observations and existing theory is large enough to cast serious doubt on all computer-model predictions of future warming. Whatever the cause of the gap, we cannot rely on GCM forecasts of future warming. (GCMs are not even consistent with each other; their temperature forecasts vary by some 300 percent.) Until GCMs become validated by actual climate observations, they should not be used as the basis for policy.

Would Global Warming Be a Threat?
Given the incessant talk about the purported catastrophes a global warming might cause—severe storms, coastal flooding, increases in mosquito-carried diseases—it sounds strange to hear about benefits from a global warming. Nevertheless, the scientific literature supports the view that increases in CO2 concentration and global temperatures, were they to materialize, might actually improve human well-being. Some benefits include a CO2-enriched biosphere more conducive to plant growth, longer frost-free growing seasons, greater water efficiency for plants, and more available farmland at higher latitudes.

A reduction in severe storms would be another likely benefit if global warming were to occur. Since a global warming would probably mostly warm the latitudes farther north and south, the temperature gradient between the equator and the poles would fall, thereby reducing the severity of storms. (Contrary to anecdotal reports, theory and observations indicate that severe storms, both tropical and extra-tropical, have not increased in the past 50 years. In fact, North Atlantic hurricanes have noticeably declined in frequency and in intensity.)

Rising sea levels, another alleged consequence of a global warming, may also be a phantom problem. It seems likely that a global warming would lower, rather than raise sea levels, because more evaporation from the oceans would increase precipitation and thereby thicken the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica. This possibility is supported by an observed inverse correlation between the rate of rise of the sea level and tropical sea surface temperature.

Ocean Fertilization and Economic Resilience
If increases in carbon dioxide concentrations do become a problem, a policy of ocean fertilization—to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton and speed up the natural absorption of CO2 into the ocean, as recently documented in field testing—seems more prudent (and cheaper) than energy rationing. Ocean fertilization would also likely bring an important side benefit: vast ocean deserts could be turned into thriving fisheries. Developing countries in particular would benefit from this less expensive policy by investing the saved wealth in strengthening the resilience of their economies, safeguarding against naturally occurring harmful climate events, and improving their health care systems.

About the Author
S. Fred Singer is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, President of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and a Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute for Space Science and Technology. He was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. He is the former director of the Center for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and former Chief Scientist, U.S. Department of Transportation.

Friday 21 December 2012

7th Python arrives in Newhaven

Carol Cleveland gives a talk to the Newhaven Chamber of Commerce members and their guests

Actress Carol Cleveland – best recognised as the only featured, female member of the Monty Python team and often referred to as the 7th Python – captivated an audience of Newhaven Chamber of Commerce members and their guests at the Newhaven Enterprise Centre on 4 December 2012. 

Carol relayed tales from her busy theatrical career, in particular from her days on the road with the Monty Python team – from appearing with them in the Flying Circus series to being on stage with them at the Royal Albert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl where they played to audiences of 8000 every night. More recently, she appeared in Not the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall for the Python’s 40th anniversary. On film, she played Dingo and Zoot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Miss Hannigan in Annie II, A Royal Adventure

She ended her talk with a hilarious tale of the time she met the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 

Her latest project is a new Python related film called A Liar’s Autobiography which is a 3D, animated film version of the late Graham Chapman’s book of the same name, for which Carol did most of the female voices. The film was recently premiered at the London Film Festival. 

Here she is in Monty Python's 1969 "Marriage Guidance Sketch":

And here she is in a documentary about the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: