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What if global-warming fears are overblown?

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Postby Jaack » Sat May 16, 2009 5:04 pm

http://money.cnn.com/2009/05/14/magazin ... 2009051417

What if global-warming fears are overblown?

In a Fortune interview, noted climatologist John Christy contends the green crusade to fight climate change is "all cost and no benefit."

By Jon Birger, senior writer
Last Updated: May 14, 2009: 5:07 PM ET

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- With Congress about to take up sweeping climate-change legislation, expect to hear more in coming weeks from John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville.

A veteran climatologist who refuses to accept any research funding from the oil or auto industries, Christy was a lead author of the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as well as one of the three authors of the American Geophysical Union's landmark 2003 statement on climate change.

Yet despite those green-sounding credentials, Christy is not calling for draconian cuts in carbon emissions. Quite the contrary. Christy is actually the environmental lobby's worst nightmare - an accomplished climate scientist with no ties to Big Oil who has produced reams and reams of data that undermine arguments that the earth's atmosphere is warming at an unusual rate and question whether the remedies being talked about in Congress will actually do any good.

Christy's critics in the blogosphere assume his research is funded by the oil industry. But Christy has testified in federal court that his research is funded by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and that the only money he has ever received from corporate interests - $2,000 from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for penning a chapter of a global warming book in 2002 - he gave away to a charity, the Christian Women's Job Corps.
0:00 /3:37Duke: 80% less carbon by 2050

His most controversial argument is that the surface temperature readings upon which global warming theory is built have been distorted by urbanization. Due to the solar heat captured by bricks and pavement and due to the changing wind patterns caused by large buildings, a weather station placed in a rural village in 1900 will inevitably show higher temperature readings if that village has, over time, been transformed into small city or a suburban shopping district, Christy says.

The only way to control for such surface distortions is by measuring atmospheric temperatures. And when Christy and his co-researcher Roy Spencer, a former NASA scientist now teaching at UA-Huntsville, began analyzing temperature readings from NOAA and NASA satellites, they found much slighter increases in atmospheric temperatures than what was being recorded on the surface. Christy and Spencer also found that nearly all the increases in average surface temperatures are related to nighttime readings - which makes sense if bricks and pavement are in fact retaining heat that would otherwise be dispersed.

In testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in February, Christy displayed a chart showing central California temperature trends for both the developed San Joaquin Valley and the largely undeveloped Sierra foothills. "The daytime temperatures of both regions show virtually no change over the past 100 years, while the nighttime temperatures indicate the developed Valley has warmed significantly while the undeveloped Sierra foothills have not," Christy told the committee.

I recently spoke with Christy about his controversial research.

Why did you help write the 2001 IPCC report and the 2003 AGU statement on climate change if you disagreed with their fundamental conclusions?

With the 2001 IPCC report, the material in there over which I had control was satisfactory to me. I wouldn't say I agreed with other parts. As far as the AGU, I thought that was a fine statement because it did not put forth a magnitude of the warming. We just said that human effects have a warming influence, and that's certainly true. There was nothing about disaster or catastrophe. In fact, I was very upset about the latest AGU statement [in 2007]. It was about alarmist as you can get.

When you testified before Ways and Means, did you have any sense that committee members on either side were open to having their minds changed? Or are views set in stone at this point?

Generally people believe what they want to believe, so their minds will not change. However, as the issue is exposed in terms of economics and cost benefit - in my view, it's all cost and no benefit - I think some of the people will take one step backward and say, Let me investigate the science a little more closely.

In laymen's terms, what's wrong with the surface temperature readings that are widely used to make the case for global warming?

First is the placement of the temperature stations. They're placed in convenient locations that might be in a parking lot or near a house and thus get extra heating from these human structures. Over time, there's been the development of areas into farms or buildings or parking lots. Also, a number of these weather stations have become electronic, and many of them were moved to a place where there is electricity, which is usually right outside a building. As a result, there's a natural warming tendency, especially in the nighttime temperatures, that has been misinterpreted as greenhouse warming.

Are there any negative consequences to this localized warming?

It's a small impact, but there is an indication that major thunderstorms are more likely to form downwind of major cities like St. Louis and Atlanta. The extra heating of the city causes the air to rise with a little more punch.

Have you been able to confirm your satellite temperature readings by other means?

Weather balloons. We take satellite shots at the same place where the balloon is released so we're looking at the same column of air. Our satellite data compares exceptionally well to the balloon data.

During your House Ways and Means testimony, you showed a chart juxtaposing predictions made by NASA's Jim Hansen in 1988 for future temperature increases against the actual recorded temperature increases over the past 20 years. Not only were the actual increases much lower, but they were lower than what Hansen expected if there were drastic cuts in CO2 emissions - which of course there haven't been. [Hansen is a noted scientist who was featured prominently in Al Gore's global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."] Hansen was at that hearing. Did he say anything to you afterwards?

We really don't communicate. We serve on a committee for NASA together, but it only deals with specific satellite issues. At the Ways and Means hearing, he was sitting two people down from me, but he did not want to engage any of the evidence I presented. And that seems to be the preferred tactic of many in the alarmist camp. Rather than bring up these issues, they simply ignore them.

(Contacted by Fortune, Hansen acknowledges that his 1988 projections were based on a model that "slightly" overstated the warming created by a doubling in CO2 levels. His new model posits a rise of 3 degrees Celsius in global temperatures by 2100, vs. 4.2 degrees in the old one. Says Hansen, "The projections that the public has been hearing about are based on a climate sensitivity that is consistent with the global warming rate of the past few decades." Christy's response: "Hansen at least admits his 1988 forecasts were wrong, but doesn't say they were way wrong, not 'slightly,' as he states." Christy also claims that even Hansen's revised models grossly overestimated the amount of warming that has actually occurred.)

I know you think there's been something of a hysteria in the media about melting glaciers. Could you explain?

Ice melts. Glaciers are always calving. This is what ice does. If ice did not melt, we'd have an ice-covered planet. The fact is that the ice cover is growing in the southern hemisphere even as the ice cover is more or less shrinking in the northern hemisphere. As you and I are talking today, global sea ice coverage is about 400,000 square kilometers above the long-term average - which means that the surplus in the Antarctic is greater than the deficit in the Arctic.

What about the better-safe-than-sorry argument? Even if there's a chance Gore and Hansen are wrong, shouldn't we still take action in order to protect ourselves from catastrophe, just in case they're right?

The problem is that the solutions being offered don't provide any detectable relief from this so-called catastrophe. Congress is now discussing an 80% reduction in U.S. greenhouse emissions by 2050. That's basically the equivalent of building 1,000 new nuclear power plants all operating by 2020. Now I'm all in favor of nuclear energy, but that would affect the global temperature by only seven-hundredths of a degree by 2050 and fifteen hundredths by 2100. We wouldn't even notice it. To top of page
First Published: May 14, 2009: 11:15 AM ET
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Postby Aquatank » Mon May 18, 2009 7:00 am

Okay I'll play what if.
IF the the fears are overblown it still does not change the following:

1 ) By significantly reducing emissions of all types we reduce pollution. This has health as well as environmental benefits.

2 ) By switching to alternative sources of electricity and automotive power we reduce strategic and tactical risks to our nations economy and people.

3 ) By proving alternative energy sources are viable sources of power which can meet 100+% percent of our nations energy demands we can rid ourselves of nuclear power.

4) As an addition to 3 ) we can use the new alternative technologies as a international bargaining chip to stop nuclear power and weapons proliferation in non-nuclear countries and perhaps even as way to stop development of nuclear weapons and power in ones already developed. (Example instead of using the gift of light nuclear reactors as a way of trying to stop North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India from going nuclear giving them geothermal plants in excess of their power needs. If they refuse, or continue nuclear development after the plants are operational then it is clear they have become belligerant and proper sanctions and perhaps violent military action can be taken by the international community through the UNSC.)

5) By decentralizing electrical and automotive power we get to put the money back into local communities, and it redistributes to other products and services. If people invest the savings locally it allows local economies to grow redistributing wealth among the lower classes while keeping it from the 3% ultra rich who already control 90% of the money.

6) Switching to alternative energy and and anti-pollution means spending large amounts of money. That means large amounts of jobs become availiable which means the ecomnomy is stimulated by the redistribution of wealth.

7) The more the economy is stimulated by wealth distribution the more people buy which means sales taxes are provide more services, if if the economy makes enough in sales taxes through many purchases the income taxes can be reduced. If a FTT is reesatblished and used on stock trades additional money flow into federal governments to make up for current shortfalls and help provide services, perhaps even a semi-independent (like the post office) health care provider.

8 ) Global Warming or Not we have a serious problem arising in permafrost melting since it causes sinkholes that destroy property and infratsructure that must be addressed. Furthermore if the methane erupts from such areas in mass clouds the could cause aircraft flying over the area to crash from a sudden change in air pressure, and sometimes engine failure.
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Postby Tairaa » Mon May 18, 2009 12:51 pm

Nuclear power is clean! Cleaner then wind!

I guess not as clean as solar... But still! Like 1000X more efficient then solar and wind combined and clean! We can do it clean anyway, I don't know how clean our Nuclear power is right now...
"George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd."
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Postby Jaack » Mon May 18, 2009 3:00 pm

Aquatank wrote:Okay I'll play what if.
IF the the fears are overblown it still does not change the following:

1 ) By significantly reducing emissions of all types we reduce pollution. This has health as well as environmental benefits.

2 ) By switching to alternative sources of electricity and automotive power we reduce strategic and tactical risks to our nations economy and people.

3 ) By proving alternative energy sources are viable sources of power which can meet 100+% percent of our nations energy demands we can rid ourselves of nuclear power.

4) As an addition to 3 ) we can use the new alternative technologies as a international bargaining chip to stop nuclear power and weapons proliferation in non-nuclear countries and perhaps even as way to stop development of nuclear weapons and power in ones already developed. (Example instead of using the gift of light nuclear reactors as a way of trying to stop North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India from going nuclear giving them geothermal plants in excess of their power needs. If they refuse, or continue nuclear development after the plants are operational then it is clear they have become belligerant and proper sanctions and perhaps violent military action can be taken by the international community through the UNSC.)

5) By decentralizing electrical and automotive power we get to put the money back into local communities, and it redistributes to other products and services. If people invest the savings locally it allows local economies to grow redistributing wealth among the lower classes while keeping it from the 3% ultra rich who already control 90% of the money.

6) Switching to alternative energy and and anti-pollution means spending large amounts of money. That means large amounts of jobs become availiable which means the ecomnomy is stimulated by the redistribution of wealth.

7) The more the economy is stimulated by wealth distribution the more people buy which means sales taxes are provide more services, if if the economy makes enough in sales taxes through many purchases the income taxes can be reduced. If a FTT is reesatblished and used on stock trades additional money flow into federal governments to make up for current shortfalls and help provide services, perhaps even a semi-independent (like the post office) health care provider.

8 ) Global Warming or Not we have a serious problem arising in permafrost melting since it causes sinkholes that destroy property and infratsructure that must be addressed. Furthermore if the methane erupts from such areas in mass clouds the could cause aircraft flying over the area to crash from a sudden change in air pressure, and sometimes engine failure.


It's always rosy and works on paper. The market is a much better decision maker than individuals who want to force their will upon others.
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Postby Aquatank » Mon May 18, 2009 6:55 pm

Tairaa
what do you do with all the nuclear waste, even the French are stuck on that.

I'll concede that it probably takes more raw materials for wind, but wind is far more inexpensive. Solar is okay but is much more costly than wind, and tends to gather less energy. Geothermal has the potential to outmatch either. But nuclear thats as bad as fossil fuels, worse when accidents happen.

Furthermore by promoting nuclear here the rest of the world will want to follow our lead which means more nuclear reactors in rogue nations and radiological or nuclear weapons in enemy hands as a result. If we abandon nuclear energy in favor of the alternative sources the other nations will most likely follow our lead especially since the alternative is less expensive. This is our main problem the USA is a cultural leader, what we live like, eat like, and do becomes fashionable to a large extent in other nations. So when we continue to go nuclear we end up promoting nuclear proliferation whether we like it or not. By shifting our economic path along greener lines there is a large percentage of the global population which will want to follow suit. Its too bad we can't get over our cultural fascination with violence for the same effect.
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Postby Tairaa » Mon May 18, 2009 8:18 pm

That is true about the nuclear technology being used by rogue nations...

Nuclear waste, like DU? Put it back into the Earth. Where it was found deep, deep in a mountain somewheres.
"George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd."
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Postby Aquatank » Mon May 18, 2009 9:07 pm

"In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material" and also "huge quantities of contaminated soil and water."[1] Despite copious quantities of waste, the DOE has stated a goal of cleaning all presently contaminated sites successfully by 2025.[1] The Fernald, Ohio site for example had "31 million pounds of uranium product", "2.5 billion pounds of waste", "2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris", and a "223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste
I've swam and drank that water, betcha most people are as naive about that as I was back then.

Thats the aquifier that helps supply the towns around Cinncinatti. For decades no one knew Fernald was there, they thought it was Purina because of the red and white checkers and the sign that said "feed plant".

So your solution to the nuclear waste problem is to go full bore with nukes and sweep the the waste under the carpet, eh Tairaa?
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Postby Tairaa » Mon May 18, 2009 9:35 pm

Uranium is found where? Bellow the ground, or in mountains etc. What is the issue with putting it back after we've burnt it as a fuel source? What harm is it going to do in a mountain after we use it that it wouldn't do in a mountain before we use it?

And define exactly what nuclear waste is.
I didn't know, so I looked and found:
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-nuclear-waste.htm

Yeah, that makes sense. But hundreds and hundreds of feet of soil and rock are sufficient to tone down the radiation. So I don't see why my solution wouldn't work for that as well.
The rest is just poor handling, which I mean... It has to be overcome for sure, but it can be overcome.
"George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd."
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Postby greeney2 » Mon May 18, 2009 11:31 pm

I'm not too sure Nuclear can be considered cleaner than wind power. You have spent fuel rods to dispose of and the danger of a disaster, where wind is no more than a propeller, shaft and generator. Wind and solar are limited due to needing those conditions of nature. Hydro elecltric is clean, but has an enviormental impact, obviously requiring dams.
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Postby Aquatank » Tue May 19, 2009 6:43 am

Greeny2
I kinda understand where the Wind is more pluuting part is in their argument. It has to do with the footprint issue, and for wind it comes down tosomething like camping size cereal boxes or bulk cereal boxes. The simple fact is that for wind to work it probably require more raw materials. If you build lots of small turbines of less than 1MW its more materials than building a single 7MW. Furthermore installing wind also takes lots of new power lines, and an energy storage system thus more materials. Initial building them leaves a pretty big carbon footprint compared to nukes, however nukes have other concerns than carbon foot prints, they have various risks and problems involved from radiation and other pollutants from mining process to power output. On top of that after awhile the have to be decommisioned which is very costly and lengthy process.

I'm still in favor of the wind though because I believe new building materials made carbon from the coal mining industry, will keep the foot print smaller than traditional steel structures because while it starts out as a current footprint over time it decreases as the demands for turbines and the carbon ends up being used in other manufacturing areas of the economy.

I'm not too keen on dams myself, they can be okay sometimes but othertimes they are a big problem. Its a bit more interesting when it comes to wave & tidal power though, the 600ft long rubber snake generator might be good for coastal towns.

The geothermal issue gets me though, if it works properly, built properly and can be managed properly it trumps wind because of fewer materials having the advatage like nuclear plants but without all the bad points of nuclear, it does come with the flaw, like nuclear, of energy transmission loss though. But its centralized meaning fewer owners and money flowing away from smaller communities. It probably best to use Geothermal for large cities and Wind and Solar for rural towns.
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