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Round up and thanks

Filed under: — group @ 25 February 2007

A few tidbits from around that may be of interest:

  • Tom Yulsman is running a new blog (now linked in our blogroll) for the Center for Environmental Journalism at U. Colorado, Boulder, covering climate change as one of his ‘beats’.
  • The Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC), made up of business leaders, NGOs and academics released a statement on climate change. (Coverage BBC, Reuters)
  • The UN Foundation (an independent NGO established to support the UN mission) has helped put together a site called ‘IPCC facts‘ to help with the outreach associated with the IPCC Fourth Assessment. We haven’t examined every page, so if there are any questions, this is as good a place as any to go over them.

On the lighter side, those people who are fond of the offsetting concept (usually applied to carbon emissions) may find this site interesting (hat tip to Yarrow).

Finally, the more multi-lingual of our readers may have noticed the proliferation of translations of RC posts in recent weeks. We now have regular contributors translating articles into French, Slovak, Swedish and Portugeuse (as denoted by the hybrid flags associated with relevant articles). We can offer them nothing more than our deep gratitude – recent contributions have been from: Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Fernando Manuel Ramos and Ivan Bergier Tavares de Lima (ClimaGaia), Alexander Ač, Olivier Daniélo, Etienne Pesnelle, Jacob Wallström and Yves Fouquart. Many thanks to all!

(And if anyone else would like to help out on an occasional basis translating posts to their native language, please let us know. )

Update: And now turkish! (thanks to Figen Mekik).

Climate Reporting in Physics World

Filed under: — rasmus @ 23 February 2007 - (Português)

PhysicsWorld cover, Volume 20, no. 2, February 2007 The February 2007 issue of PhysicsWorld contains several articles relevant to climate research, with a main feature article on climate modelling written by Adam Scaife, Chris Folland, and John Mitchell, and a profile on Richard Lindzen as well as an article on geoengineering in the ‘News & Analyses’ section. The magazine also contains an article (‘Living in the greenhouse’) under ‘Lateral Thoughts’ that brings up a bunch of tentative analogies to a wide range of topics completely unrelated to the greenhouse effect in a technical sense, and an editorial comment ‘Hot topic‘, arguing that it would be wrong of PhysicsWorld to ignore those outside the mainstream. To be more precise, the editorial comment devotes a few lines justifying the profile on Lindzen and the report on geoengineering, with a reference to a Feynman quote: “There is no harm in doubt and scepticism, for it is through these that new discoveries are made”. Wise words! Nevertheless, I cannot resist making some reflections.

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Aerosols: The Last Frontier?

Filed under: — group @ 21 February 2007 - (Português)

Guest commentary from Juliane Fry, UC Berkeley

The recently released IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers reminds us that aerosols remain the least understood component of the climate system. Aerosols are solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere, consisting of (in rough order of abundance): sea salt, mineral dust, inorganic salts such as ammonium sulfate (which has natural as well as anthropogenic sources from e.g. coal burning), and carbonaceous aerosol such as soot, plant emissions, and incompletely combusted fossil fuel. As should be apparent from this list, there are many natural sources of aerosol, but changes have been observed in particular, in the atmospheric loading of carbonaceous aerosol and sulphates, which originate in part from fossil fuel burning. While a relatively minor part of the overall aerosol mass, changes in the anthropogenic portion of aerosols since 1750 have resulted in a globally averaged net radiative forcing of roughly -1.2 W/m2, in comparison to the overall average CO2 forcing of +1.66 W/m2.
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Save the World! Earn $25 million!

Filed under: — group @ 19 February 2007 - (Português) (Türkçe) (Français)

Guest commentary from Juliane Fry, UC Berkeley

On February 9, The Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson announced a $25 million prize for anyone who can demonstrate “a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate.” At the press conference announcing this “Virgin Earth Challenge”, Branson was joined by Al Gore, and the panel of judges for the competition includes additional climate change celebrities: James Hansen, James Lovelock, Tim Flannery, and Sir Crispin Tickell.

The goal of the competition is to find a method that will remove at least 1 billion tons of carbon per year from the atmosphere. It will be very interesting to see what ideas come to the fore to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere. $25m should encourage some creativity! (and of course, once working should bring in a significant amount of carbon offset money). A ruckus was caused last year when discussion of injecting SO2 into the stratosphere to form reflective sulfate aerosols to mask global warming made scientists feel they needed to state their position on this controversial, poorly understood proposal. During the discussion, a New York Times feature (described here ) discussed various “geo-engineering” alternatives to exert a cooling effect to mask global warming. At least in this case, we are not seeking to add something new and uncertain to the atmosphere, but rather, remove something that we added.

What triggers ice ages?

Filed under: — rasmus @ 16 February 2007 - (Português) (Türkçe) (Français)

by Rasmus Benestad, with contributions from Caspar & Eric

In a recent article in Climatic Change, D.G. Martinson and W.C. Pitman III discuss a new hypothesis explaining how the climate could change abruptly between ice ages and inter-glacial (warm) periods. They argue that the changes in Earth’s orbit around the Sun in isolation is not sufficient to explain the estimated high rate of change, and that there must be an amplifying feedback process kicking in. The necessity for a feedback is not new, as the Swedish Nobel Prize winner (Chemistry), Svante Arrhenius, suggested already in 1896 that CO2 could act as an amplification mechanism. In addition, there is the albedo feedback, where the amount of solar radiation that is reflected back into space, scales with the area of the ice- and snow-cover. And are clouds as well as other aspects playing a role.

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Cold Case vs. CSI

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 February 2007 - (Slovenčina)

If you are a follower of TV crime shows, it is likely that you’ve come across one of the CSI offshoots (CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation) and a slightly less well known show called ‘Cold Case‘. In both these shows, difficult crimes (usually murders) are solved using the most up-to-date forensic methods and incredible detective work. However, it will be obvious to even the most jaded TV watcher that the CSI crew get to have a lot more fun with the latest gadgets and methodologies. The reason for that is clear: with a fresh crime scene there is a lot more evidence around and a lot more techniques that can be brought to bear on the problem. In a ‘Cold Case’ (where the incident happened years before), options are much more limited.

Why bring this up here? Well it illustrates nicely how paleo-climate research fits in to our understanding of current changes. Let me explain….

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Nigel Calder in the Times

Filed under: — group @ 12 February 2007

As a prelude to a new book, Nigel Calder (who was the editor of New Scientist for four years in the 1960s) has written an op-ed for the Times (UK) basically recapitulating the hype over the Svensmark cosmic ray/climate experiments we reported on a couple of month ago (see Taking Cosmic Rays for a spin). At the time we pointed out that while the experiments were potentially of interest, they are a long way from actually demonstrating an influence of cosmic rays on the real world climate, and in no way justify the hyperbole that Svensmark and colleagues put into their press releases and more ‘popular’ pieces. Even if the evidence for solar forcing were legitimate, any bizarre calculus that takes evidence for solar forcing of climate as evidence against greenhouse gases for current climate change is simply wrong. Whether cosmic rays are correlated with climate or not, they have been regularly measured by the neutron monitor at Climax Station (Colorado) since 1953 and show no long term trend. No trend = no explanation for current changes.

WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2007 - (Português)

While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.

This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).

Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.

Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?

Fraser Institute fires off a damp squib

Filed under: — group @ 3 February 2007

New addition: Download an annotated pdf of the Fraser report. An interactive pdf file, to be read on the screen, is here, and a printable version is here. Suggestions for further commenting are welcome. Additions to the pdf have to be short, and tied to particular pieces of text or figures. And of course we will only incorporate comments that we deem to be scientifically sound and cogent.


While most of the world’s climate scientists were following the IPCC fest last week, a few contrarians left out in the cold were trying to to organize their own party.

An unofficial, “Independent Summary for Policymakers” (ISPM) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment report has been delivered by the Fraser Institute. It’s a long, imposing-looking document, resembling, come to think of it, the formatting of the real Summary for Policymakers (SPM) document that was released on Friday after final negotiations of the IPCC in Paris last week. The Fraser Institute has assembled an awesome team of 10 authors, including such RC favorites as tilter-against-windmills-and-hockey-sticks Ross McKitrick, and other luminaries such as William Kininmonth, MSc, M.Admin — whose most recent paper is “Don’t be Gored into Going Along” in the Oct-Nov issue of Power Engineer. To be fair, he did publish a paper on weather forecasting, back in 1973. According to the press release, the London kickoff event will be graced by the presence of “noted environmentalist” David Bellamy. It’s true he’s “noted,” but what he’s noted for is his blatant fabrication of numbers purporting to show that the world’s glaciers are advancing rather retreating, as reported here.

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The IPCC Fourth Assessment SPM

Filed under: — group @ 2 February 2007 - (Français) (Português) (Türkçe) (Español)

We’ve had a policy of (mostly) not commenting on the various drafts, misquotes and mistaken readings of the Fourth Assessment report (“AR4” to those in the acronym loop) of the IPCC. Now that the summary for policy makers (or “SPM”) has actually been published though, we can discuss the substance of the report without having to worry that the details will change. This post will only be our first cut at talking about the whole report. We plan on going chapter by chapter, hopefully explaining the key issues and the remaining key uncertainties over the next few months. This report will be referenced repeatedly over the next few years, and so we can take the time to do a reasonable job explaining what’s in it and why.

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