Sunday, March 25, 2007

There is no such thing as a global temperature

...so how can there be an increase or a decrease in its average?

You might as well say that there is a global average telephone number.

The thesis is argued convincingly at this link by two very persistent and insightful Canadian authors and their Scandinavian colleague.

Key points:
(Those who glaze over easily when confronted by mathematics can skip to numbers 5, 6 and 7)
  1. Sums or averages over the individual temperatures in the field are not temperatures. Neither are they proxies for internal energy.
  2. Temperatures from a field (individually or averaged) neither drive dynamics nor thermodynamics. Instead dynamics are driven by gradients and differences, in temperatures and other variables.
  3. A global spatial average cannot be an index for local conditions, otherwise nonlocal dependence (i.e ”thermodynamics at a distance”) for local conditions would be required.
  4. The utility of any global spatial average of the temperature field as an index for global conditions has been presumed but not demonstrated.
  5. It is easily demonstrated that different spatial averaging rules over temperatures can have contrary trends in time (i.e. some increase while others decrease in time) when the two fields being compared have range-overlap, as they do in this context. This is demonstrated here in a basic example and subsequently with actual atmospheric temperature-field observations.
  6. No ground has been provided for choosing any one such statistic over the rest as the one proper index for global climate.
  7. If there are no physical or pragmatic grounds for choosing one over another, and one increases while the other decreases, there is no basis for concluding that the atmosphere as a whole is either warming or cooling.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mass delusion

I am at an industry conference in Australia and can not believe the wholesale acceptance of AGW theory as fact.

Australia is suffering from drought and heat, and so people are eager to find something that will change their bad fortunes. Farmers are suicidal over their current situation, cities are on water rationing and there is no relief in sight.

At the same time, it is recognized that China is opening a coal fired power plant every week for the next three years or so, and the Australian response is that they need to cut back so that the undeveloped countries have more headroom to emit increasing CO2. No one appears to be doing the math, that basically every developed country in the world will have to stop emitting CO2 in order that the net amounts remain unchanged.

Hopelessly uninformed. Today's sessions included the obligatory polar bear photo (they are endangered, doncha know, even though their numbers are rising) and comments that the next Nobel Prize might well go to an Inuit environmentalist who is hoping to preserve his way of life.

If policy is set by people to whom the facts are available, but who choose to follow their ideology, than we need to find more sensible people to set policy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

IPCC: Climate policy or Energy Policy?

If the IPCC were truly focused on the Climate, why would they ignore the rest of human forcings of climate and concentrate purely on CO2? Land use has a tremendous impact on both weather patterns and measurements of weather data, which are then extrapolated into today's climate models. And human emissions of substances other than CO2 (eg aerosols) affect the atmosphere on a global scale.

One answer is that the IPCC is really a policy group focused on energy usage, specifically hydrocarbons (although curious observers would also investigate the preferred status of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the Kyoto Accord). And if your real focus is on eliminating the use of fossil fuels, all those other forcings are merely distractions.

Here is an interesting commentary.

Muslims need to identify their real enemies, says Aussie Archbishop

THE Muslim community is overly sensitive and is the only migrant group to have plotted violence against Australia, Catholic Archbishop Cardinal George Pell has claimed.

Dr Pell said Muslim leaders needed to develop more appropriate responses to criticism.

"In a democratic society, every group is criticised - Prime Minister (John) Howard said quite rightly last year that if Catholics rioted in Australia every time they were criticised, there would be regular riots," Dr Pell said.

"It's not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigration and evasions while avoiding the point of issue, and unfortunately we've seen too much of this from some Muslim public personalities."

The comments came during Dr Pell's appearance on a panel about Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia as part of the national deliberative poll.

Dr Pell, who began studying Islam after the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the US, said he had met "many wonderful Muslims".

"But there are Islamists who are at war with the Western world - most of the victims of these extreme Muslims are fellow Muslims," he said. "So its important to distinguish accurately your real friends from your enemies and from those who only seem to be friends."

Dr Pell said integration was a "key tool" for a harmonious and secular democratic society.

"Equal rights however, carry with them equal responsibilities - problems arise when minorities demand special consideration that places them outside the law as it applies to other citizens," he said.

"Flexibility and adaptability are called for when refugees and immigrants arrive in our country but there is a limit in (adopting) minority demands beyond which a democratic host society cannot go without losing its identity."

Dr Pell said there was a small minority of Muslims "who really don't identify with Australia at all and are hostile to it". "There seems to be some significant evidence that some of them are planning violence against us here and elsewhere - that doesn't seem to happen in any other migrant group," he said.

Sydney Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali sparked controversy last year when he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat and suggested that rape victims who did not wear Islamic dress were as much to blame as their attackers.

He later appeared on Egyptian television to say Westerners were "liars and oppressors" who had less right to live in Australia than Muslims.

Dr Pell said a fear of Muslims had been "created" by the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the attacks on London transport in 2005. He said Muslims in Australia were offered the same rights as other citizens but he doubted non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world were afforded the same equality.

"I don't think that's the case. I don't think we could be having a meeting like this in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia," he said.

"Christians are being harassed, they're being persecuted and even sometimes in the Sudan being sold into slavery. I would like to know where my Muslim friends stand on this issue."

Sheik Mohammed Omran, from Melbourne's Islamic Information and Support Centre, said it was important to consider why Muslims were fighting against the West. "Why has the youth of England betrayed England even though they are fifth or sixth generation?" Sheik Omran said. "We have to learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat it here."

Sheik Omran said Australia had a responsibility to make Muslims feel welcome.

"You are the host. When I come to your house as a guest and you welcome me with an open heart, I see your generosity as a human - it doesn't matter what I believe in, I will love you and care for you as much as you care for me," he said.

Muslim countries had been great allies of the West during the fight against "our first enemy", communism, and Australia still had a close alliance with Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, Sheik Omran said.

Carbon Footprints in your food

[I'm just going to reprint this verbatim, and roll my eyes. Halfwise]


The greenhouse gas emissions caused by baked beans have amused schoolboys for decades. Now they are proving a headache for experts at Oxford University.

Recently the United Kingdom supermarket chain Tesco announced it would introduce labels on its products, detailing their carbon footprint. The information, it said, would go beyond the mere question of food miles -- how far the produce has been transported -- to include indirect greenhouse emissions given off during its production and processing. Tesco freely admitted that it doesn’t know how to measure this yet, and has effectively outsourced the problem to scientists at Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute in southern England, along with the promise of £5-million funding to help them along.

The problem for Tesco’s grand announcement is that Brenda Boardman, who leads the institute, is in the dark too. “I don’t know how we’ll do this either yet. We haven’t started and it’s not going to be an easy project,” she says. “Some ways of doing it are contested and there are accuracy issues. The first stage of the Tesco project is to get people together to talk about whether there is a standard way we can do it.”

In principle, the concept is easy. A so-called “life-cycle analysis” tots up the energy used to extract raw materials and turn them into products. The greater the energy use, the greater the carbon footprint, and the worse for the environment a product is. Tesco says such information would allow consumers to shop according to their environmental conscience. As demand for more damaging products falls, the thinking goes, so will the stocking of that product. The supermarket is not alone in coveting carbon labels: another UK food company, Duchy Originals, set up by Prince Charles, is among those investigating similar schemes.

The problems start in deciding exactly what emissions should be counted.

Direct carbon use is easy to measure, but indirect emissions are far more difficult. Should supermarkets include the electricity used to refrigerate products in their stores? What about the fuel in the tractors on a farm thousands of kilometres away? And if you think the answer is obvious, what about the fuel in the cars the farmworkers drive to get to work? “Boundaries are hugely difficult and, of course, the boundaries may not be in this country,” says Boardman. Some experts even argue the audited supply chain should extend as far as the ultimate source of energy -- the sun.

There are other problems too. Most experts argue that renewable sources of electricity should be treated differently from energy drawn from fossil fuels, which could give some French products a much lower carbon footprint because of that country’s heavy reliance on nuclear power, which produces almost carbon-free electricity. But will shoppers share the view that such products are truly green? And some vegetables transported from abroad could still have lower carbon footprints than those home-grown inside heated polytunnels with bags of fertiliser. “There are offsetting reasons why one may not be better than the other,” says Boardman.

Such difficulties have not stopped some industries trying to work out the “embodied energy” of their products. “Embodied energy is becoming a much more important aspect to take into account,” says Ken Double, head of evaluation at the Energy Saving Trust. “And when we talk about embodied energy we often mean embodied carbon.”

The building trade is ahead of the rest in calculating such embodied emissions, partly because improvements in energy efficiency have steadily eaten into the reductions that can be achieved in energy use, so attention has switched to reducing the embodied impact of the materials used. Geoff Hammond and Craig Jones, mechanical engineers at Bath University, have compiled an inventory of the embodied energy of common building materials including bricks, carpets, toilets, glass and paint. Measured in megajoules/kg of material, the highest embodied energies come from materials that require high-temperature processing, such as aluminium (154MJ/kg), rubber (102MJ/kg) and plastics (81MJ/kg). Natural materials such as clay and plaster have values less than 3MJ/kg. The Bath scientists have also allocated an embodied carbon value: manufacturing each kilo of the ceramic lavatory in your house, for example, sent 1,4kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The results neatly demonstrate the problem of developing advanced technology to tackle climate change. Photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity and are increasingly common on buildings, have an embodied energy of 1 305 to 4 752 MJ/m2, depending on design. Even a PVC framed double-glazed window has an embodied energy of about 2 300MJ/m2 -- with about 110kg of embodied carbon dioxide.

Boardman says such life-cycle calculations are often used to decide whether it would be more energy efficient to carry on using older products such as cars and buildings, or to replace them with cleaner versions. “You put together the carbon that has gone into making something with the lower levels of carbon that come from making it more efficient, and at some point there’s a crossover with your existing product.”

Such calculations are complicated, and without a standardised method, open to abuse. A report last year that claimed life-cycle analysis of new cars showed that hybrid cars consume more energy over their lifetime than gas-guzzling 4x4 vehicles. But Bob Saynor, a transport specialist with the Energy Saving Trust, says it was badly flawed. “There is a kernel of truth, in that it takes more energy to make a hybrid vehicle. But this adds only 2,5% to the total energy used in its lifetime, a figure dwarfed by savings of about 20% of total energy that come from hybrids’ better fuel consumption.”

The report’s authors, Saynor says, blundered in dividing the energy used to create a new model by the numbers of vehicles sold. “This explains their ludicrous conclusion that a Jeep is greener than a Honda Accord hybrid, since the Honda has so far only sold tens of thousands whereas old designs like the Jeep have sold millions.”

Dodgy embodied energy calculations can clearly produce emissions as bad as baked beans. Tesco has been warned. -- © Guardian News & Media Ltd 2007

Politician declares Africa corrupt, gets sacked

"Corruption is everywhere -- in the villages, wherever", Zambia's Lands Minister Gladys Nyirango acknowledged at a major conference on graft in Africa last week. Hours later she was sacked.

Africa has long had a reputation as the most corrupt continent, with only two countries, Botswana and Mauritius, making it into the top 50 of the latest annual Transparency International index on clean governance.

But the crippling impact of graft on what is also the world's poorest continent is being increasingly recognised and some leaders are doing more than paying lip service to the problem.

Nyirango was axed by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa while ironically attending an anti-corruption conference in Johannesburg. The conference was sponsored by the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Full Article