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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

THE STATE OF GLOBAL CHANGE IN THE MEDIA (Part 9)

The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.
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When you muddle up politicians, scientists and environmentalist, the jumble is unpredictable. A rather inflammatory issue had to do with an earlier mentioned ocean sequestration of carbon dioxide project. One would think that something to reduce global climate warming would be embraced by environmentalists. In 1997, as one of the approved Kyoto Protocol projects, the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research took the lead for an international project involving the U.S., Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia and private supporters to plan for storing carbon dioxide off shore at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) on the Big Island. I won’t use his name, but a leading engineer on the team, called it “environmental stupidity” for the NELHA Board, Department of Energy and their world counterparts to cancel the project in 2003 after a sum of $5 million was spent on planning. Technically, the project was sound and safe, but environmentalists, led by Greenpeace, prevailed. More than anything else, they were concerned that approval of injecting carbon dioxide from power plants would prolong usage of fossil fuels.

Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain) has taken a swing at the notion of global warming with his State of Fear, suggesting that environmentalists are exaggerating these negatives. In 2005, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), when he was then chairing the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, featured Crichton, a medical doctor, but really, these days, only a science fiction writer, in a hearing, but refused to allow Peter Webster, atmospheric scientist from Georgia Tech, to testify. Webster nevertheless went to D.C. the day before and briefed congressional staffers. Yes, Senators have their own agenda, too. Scientists responded by calling Crichton’s novel more silly than scary, and truly science fiction. Even then, William Schlesinger, Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Science at Duke University said, “the best peer-reviewed science since Jurassic Park.” The consensus, though, is overwhelmingly negative about Crichton’s attempt at bringing balance to the field. In private communications to his peers (yes, even I get these), James Hansen explained why he just had to take a whack at Crichton, for this kind of ignorance should not be ignored.

A couple of months before Crichton’s, in 2004, there was also Meltdown, by Patrick Michaels, research professor of environmental studies at the University of Virginia, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, winner of the American Library Association’s worldwide competition for public service writing, and 2003 “Paper of the Year” award winner from the Association of American Geographers. The subtitle says it all: “The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.” James Glassman, Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, was quoted in print to say, “Pat Michaels, a gifted climatologist, tells the straight truth about the hysteria and ignorance surrounding climate change and how the scientific establishment has been led astray.” Hey, this is not an attempt by a fanatical best selling author who has no background in the subject.

No, instead, it is from a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. Cato Institute? Oh, it is a libertarian organization which wants to abolish minimum wage, end the prohibition of drug use and eliminate restrictions on racial and gender-based discrimination. The Institute draws from Republican writers and lobbyists. The American Enterprise Institute is one of the leading architects of Bush the Younger’s public policies and more than two dozen of AEI alumni have served in some capacity with our 43rd President. Some might recall that my “pal” Lee from Exxon from Chapter 1 was instrumental in creating AEI. I might finally add that 20% of funding for the World Climate Review, Michaels’ newsletter on global warming, is funded by fossil fuel sources. Now you know why some say there is no problem with global climate warming.

How did the U.S. react to the Kyoto Protocol officially became International law when President Putin and Russia ratified the Act in 2004, placing the 55 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions of all industrialized countries combined at 59%? Not at all, adding another bullet to the list of grievances against President Bush.

By then James Hansen, himself, was being muffled by the Administration, for his written statement of May 5, 2006, on “The Case for Action by the State of California to Mitigate Climate Change” started with:

“James Hansen submits this report as his personal opinion as a private citizen.”

Subsequently, in one of his regular messages to colleagues (June 13, 2006) he starts his piece to the New York Review of Books, reviewing The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth (Tim Flannery), Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (Elizabeth Kolbert) and An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Warming and What We Can Do About It (Al Gore, including the film directed by Davis Guggenheim) with, “as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:”

o A study of 1000 species found an average migration rate to both poles in the fifty year period up to 2000 at 20 miles, but isotherms showing temperatures moving 140 miles. The result will be a lot more extinctions because animals and plants are not moving fast enough.

o Half a million years ago when our Earth was 10°F (5.6°C) cooler, the sea level was 400 feet lower. Three million years ago, when 5°F (2.8°C) warmer, the sea level was 80 feet higher than today. This would mean that 50 million Americans, 150 million Indians (in India) and 250 million Chinese would be under water. But, of course, this will take centuries to occur, so cities will build walls or vacate.

o About 55 million years ago, there was a 10°F (5.6°C) temperature rise, which was caused by the release of frozen methane. (Hansen’s concern, though, is for the permafrost, not the deep ocean marine methane hydrates.)

o In 1974, chemists Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina started the information chain that led to chlorofluorocarbons (which damaged the ozone layer) being boycotted by the public, leading to the Montreal Protocol. The point here is that the public started it and governments followed. (SO THERE IS HOPE FOR GLOBAL WARMING!)

o Unfortunately, the global climate change burden on the fossil fuel industry has forced their hand into confusing and distracting governments. Hansen cites Michael Crichton (State of Fear) and U.S. Senator James Inhofe as particular pawns of the White House and fossil world.

o Al Gore is nominated as the Rachel Carson (Silent Spring successfully publicized the dangers of DDT) of global warming.

The comments in parentheses are mine.

The matter of Al Gore cannot be ignored. His Live Earth was incredible and Inconvenient Truth book and movie could well be his platform for greatness. He states that out of 925 recent articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Every article believes that global climate warming is happening. How much more convincing can one get! How do you reconcile the views of Fred Singer, John Christy, Michael Crichton, Patrick Michaels and their cohorts? Ignore them! They are mostly paid for by the oil industry or represent a distorted view to sell books or gain notoriety.

Hansen, in particular, in an e-mail sent to his colleagues on June 26, 2006, took special aim at Michaels in a draft entitled, “Swift Boating, Stealth Budgeting, and the Theory of the Unitary Executive,” where underscored is the point that his scientific position is being questioned by politicians and lawyers with contrary agendas. We all know that you hire a lawyer not necessarily to preserve the truth, but instead to argue your case. These contrarians, like Michaels, feed on oil and auto industry support, and are dedicated to creating public uncertainty. Stealth budgeting? There was a sudden retroactive 20% cut in the NASA Earth Science budget, practically a going out of business amount for Hanson’s program. Guess who is winning the intergovernmental climate change war? Here I thought the White House was finally showing some sense. But to vindictively punish Hansen and his program is stuff for movies. I can just imagine Al Gore’s or Michael Moore’s next documentary. Well, at least Gore rode the Live Earth wave.

Finally, the business-minded Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2006, ran an editorial based on a 15-year old chart of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to refute the reality of global climate warming. The U.S. Congress, this time the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, which, of course, was then Republican-led, predictably followed in July with a hearing to substantiate the Journal’s position. Naomi Oreskes, one of the authors of one of the global warming studies earlier cited, felt compelled to respond in an op ed article (meaning, placed opposite the editorial) by citing an analogy. At one time in the 1920’s, when the science of continental drift was still being debated, distinguished Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rebuffed that concept. By the 1950’s the overwhelming evidence was that the theory of plate tectonics was real. Jeffreys, however, died fighting this theory till his death. Not sure if Oreskes was just being kind to sincere scientists or what, but I think even she misses the point. Until it becomes absolutely necessary, industry and political parties that support them will continue to delay spending their potential profits to protect the environment, if no laws are there to stop them, especially if there are no marketing downsides.

In sync, polar researcher Peter Doran wrote a piece for The New York Times, chastising Michael Crichton and Ann Coulter (Godless) for misusing his data on the Antarctic. There is some rationale for exploitation this time, though, for 58% of this continent got colder from 1966 to 2000. It’s just that this anomaly had something to do with the ozone hole, and as we plug that leak through the banning of chlorofluorocarbons, the expected warming should return.

Thus, all things considered, there now seems to be little doubt that something terrible is happening to our climate, and we are the cause. It is also possible that we are focusing too much attention on technological fixes instead of playing the easier and more meaningful policy card. The point is made by Sebastian Mallaby of The Washington Post that the $1.2 billion the Administration has proposed to spend over five years for a particular renewable project is a laughable amount, for oil companies spend $18 billion/year just for research on future fossil fuels. Companies will make hydrogen and renewable energy a priority only when government taxes carbon or places a cap on it. While the world fiddles, this is a good time to go to methane, which really scares me. Stay tuned for Part 10.
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Tropical Storm Hanna at 55 MPH made a complete circle in the neighborhood of Haiti (killing at leasts 25) and the Bahamas, and now is appearing to head northwest on a path taking it parallel to the Florida coastline, to landfall in Georgia or the Carolinas this weekend. Hanna should attain hurricane status in two or three days.
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Tropical Storm Ike now at 66 MPH should on the September 6 (my birthday and the day Hanna is predicted to strike the USA) arrive at a spot just north of where Hannah is currently circling, but should keep heading west to where now one knows at this point. Ike should become a hurricane as early as today, by this weekend could be up to 110 MPH, and looms to be very, very dangerous.
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Tropical Storm Josephine is at 60 MPH and organizing. Because it is moving north of Hanna and Ike, Josephine could hit cooler waters, plus shear conditions, meaning that there could be some weakening by this weekend on a path towards the Carolina.
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In the Pacific Karina is now a tropical depression, and should further dissipate on a westward path.
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Crude oil dropped to $109.49/barrel today, with the DJI rising by 16 to 11,533.
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