Monday, 29 November 2010

Jan Rotmans : Waarom Lomborg een charlatan is

De Nederlandse professor ?an Rotmans schreef dit opiniestukje in het NRC handelsblad dat ik graag meegeef :
Waarom Lomborg een charlatan is
Klimaatpopulist Björn Lomborg heeft een film uitgebracht: ‘Cool it’ (NRC Handelsblad, 23 november). Dat levert hem weer publiciteit op. Maar de aandacht voor Lomborg heeft weinig te maken met zijn onderzoek en zijn boodschap. Beide missen een wetenschappelijk fundament. Zijn benadering is inconsistent, zijn argumenten ongegrond en zijn oplossingen naïef.
Hij is inconsistent omdat hij vaak van mening is veranderd. Eerst ontkende hij dat er een klimaatprobleem was, vervolgens noemde hij het een klein probleem, daarna werd het een groot probleem maar waren er belangrijker problemen. En nu is het een van de grootste problemen waarvoor de mensheid staat, maar deugen de oplossingen niet.
Kijken we naar zijn onderzoek dan vallen twee zaken op. Hij strooit met getallen, waardoor hij wetenschappelijk lijkt, maar wie goed kijkt ziet dat hij manipuleert met data. Als statisticus focust Lomborg op kwantitatieve data, waarbij hij geen oog heeft voor onzekerheden en marges. Zo stelt hij in zijn film dat het aantal ijsberen de laatste 50 jaar fors is toegenomen, terwijl op basis van dezelfde gegevens kan worden geschat dat de populatie ijsberen licht is gestegen of zelfs constant is gebleven. Hij neemt echter de laagste schatting uit het verleden en de hoogste schatting uit het heden en manipuleert zo een significante trend.
Zijn mantra is de economische kosten-batenanalyse. Volgens Lomborg is dat een objectieve manier van het analyseren van het klimaatprobleem. Het is echter vooral een eenzijdige wijze van onderzoeken. Deze analyse gaat uit van de veronderstelling dat de effecten van klimaatverandering bekend zijn en uitgedrukt kunnen worden in geld. Maar wat niet wordt meegerekend zijn de effecten op natuur, cultuur en gezondheid, op niet-lineaire effecten (terugkoppelingen en drempelwaarden) en onzekerheden. Toekomstige effecten worden minder hoog ingeschat dan de huidige. Dit leidt vrijwel altijd tot onderschatting van de kosten en overschatting van de baten.
Lomborg negeert niet-lineaire effecten als de desintegratie van de ijskappen op Groenland en Antarctica, trivialiseert de gevolgen voor ecosystemen en haalt allerlei schaalniveaus door elkaar.
Op deze wijze reduceert hij het klimaatprobleem tot een rekensom. Om de som uit te rekenen gebruikt hij selectief klimaateconomische modellen, met name die van Bill Nordhaus en Richard Tol.
Nordhaus’ model geeft stelselmatig zeer lage schattingen van klimaatschade, minder dan 2 procent van het mondiale bnp, waarbij alle indirecte schade en niet-markt effecten worden veronachtzaamd. Ook het model van Tol is een extreem geval, dat op grond van dubieuze aannames uitrekent dat klimaatverandering tot 3 graden Celsius juist een groot economisch voordeel oplevert. Deze modellen leiden tot steeds weer dezelfde uitkomst: dat het beter is te wachten met het nemen van CO2-beperkende maatregelen.
Deze puur economische benadering is niet geschikt voor het oplossen van een complex probleem als het klimaat. Een integrale benadering is vereist, waarbij ook de sociale en ecologische invalshoek wordt meegenomen. Een benadering uitgaat van onzekerheid en risico, terugkoppelingen en drempelwaarden en die rekening houdt met extreme uitkomsten die minder waarschijnlijk zijn.
Lomborg vindt dat CO2-beperkende maatregelen te duur zijn en dat het beter is om te investeren in economische ontwikkeling. Tal van studies geven echter aan dat CO2-beperking helemaal niet duur is (0,5-1,5 procent van mondiaal bnp in 2030, zie de studie van McKinsey) en dat de eerste 15-20 procent van de CO2-beperking zelfs geld oplevert. CO2 beperking gaat dus niet ten koste van de economische ontwikkeling , maar draagt juist bij aan de versterking ervan. Zo toont een recente studie aan dat het energieneutraal maken van de gebouwde omgeving economisch voordelig is: het levert werkgelegenheid op, de huizen en gebouwen worden meer waard en gaan langer mee en ook de bewoners gaan erop vooruit.
Lomborg ziet technologische innovatie als dé oplossing. Hij wil een mondiale CO2-belasting invoeren en de opbrengsten daarvan besteden aan onderzoek en ontwikkeling van schone energie en ‘geo-engineering’, het ingrijpen in het klimaatsysteem met technische middelen. Dat eerste is onnodig, omdat de vernieuwbare energiebronnen (zon, wind, warmte) al beschikbaar zijn en spoedig concurrerend zullen zijn met fossiele energie. En geo-engineering, zoals het met ijzer bemesten van de oceaan of het injecteren van de stratosfeer met zwavel, is uiterst riskant. Het brengt onverantwoorde risico’s met zich mee. De aarde is geen laboratorium waar we mee kunnen experimenteren.
Waarom krijgt deze charlatan dan zoveel media-aandacht? Telt dan alleen zijn vlotte babbel en zijn charmante presentatie en niet de inhoud? De enige oplossing is een transitie naar een duurzame energie economie. Maar dit vergt een fundamentele andere wijze van produceren en consumeren. Het probleem schuilt in onszelf, de oplossing eveneens.
NRC handelsblad.
Dat Lomborg’s gebruikt van data en referenties vaak dubieus is, is allang geweten en wordt bv. uitstekend gedocumenteerd op deze site

Friday, 26 November 2010

Publieksenquête klimaat

De eerder dit jaar gepubliceerde resultaten van de in 2009 in opdracht van de overheid uitgevoerde publieksenquête over klimaatverandering tonen aan dat Belgen in het algemeen matig geïnformeerd zijn over klimaatverandering en het Kyoto-Protocol.
Positief is dan weer wel dat in ons land de onwetenschappelijke klimaatskepsis veel minder aanwezig is dan in de USA of zelfs Nederland. Toch lijkt het noodzakelijk om het publiek voldoende te informeren, want mensen die wel actief op zoek gaan naar informatie over klimaatverandering doen dat vaak op websites. En het is duidelijk dat er heel wat websites van een bedenkelijk niveau zijn.
Het rapport met volledige resultaten kan terug gevonden worden op de website klimaat.be

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Climate Science Rapid Responce Team (CSRRT) launched

Often non-scientists have some difficulties evaluating things they read about climate science. Therefore a team of professionals was set up to help the audience with questions they may have. The press release below clarifies the goals of the team  : 

NAME: Climate Science Rapid Response Team (CSRRT)

WEBSITE: www.climaterapidresponse.org

WHO & WHAT: The CSSRT is a match-making service between top scientists and members of the media and office holders and their staffs from various levels of government. Our group consists of dozens of leading scientists who wish to improve communication about climate change. The group is committed to providing rapid, high-quality information to media and government officials. Our members have expertise in virtually all areas of climate science and they are available to share their current understanding in a fairly rapid time frame.
HOW IT WORKS: Inquirers will use the form on the Website to identify themselves and to send their questions along with the desired timeframe of the response. That information will immediately be sent to three people: Dr. John Abraham, Dr. Ray Weymann, and Prof. Scott Mandia. These three “match-makers” will immediately notify up to three scientists with the most appropriate expertise. One scientist or one of the three CSRRT match-makers will then respond directly to the inquirer with the correct science information.

WHY WE DO IT: There is a sharp divide between what scientists know about climate change and what the public knows. The scientists of the CSSRT understand that better communication can narrow this gap. The media is in the best position to deliver accurate science information to the general public and to our elected leaders but only if they are provided with that information. The CSRRT is committed to delivering that service We are advocates for science education.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Worst EU lobbying awards 2010 : 3 more days left to vote

In 2005 a platform of several organisations (Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, Lobby Control and Spinwatch) handed out the first Worst EU-lobbying award to  the fake-grassroots organisation Campaign for Creativity (C4C)
The nominees in the climate category are :
  • Arcelor-Mittal : for successfully lobbying to get out of paying for permits under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
  • BusinessEurope : for it’s aggressive lobbying against EU-regulations to cut CO2-emissions while pretending to support climate actions.
  • RWE (nPower) : for it’s lobby work to keep its oil and coal power plants open
Voting closes November 26.

Joshua Livestro hired by the Sarah Palin campaign

In the Dutch blogosphere lots of attention was given to the fact Joshua Livestro was hired by the Sarah Palin political action campaign and i’m afraid this may not have been the best move.
All over Holland Joshua Livestro is considered to be a bit of a professional loser :
  • Livestro was director of the conservative Edmund Burke Foundation, but he got kicked out because , quote Burke ‘Livestro’s communications skills haven’t entered the 21st century’. The Burke foundation basically collapsed when new Director B.J. Spruyt did no longer want corporate money to dictate the Foundation’s agenda.
  • He was columnist for the Dutch TV program ‘Buitenhof’ but was sacked because his work was substandard
  • He started the anti-intellectual blog ‘De Dagelijkse Standaard’ but all his bloggers (except Hans Labohm) ran away before the blog even was online and Livestro had to look on internetforums for people wanting to fill his blog. Currently, the America-section on DDS is written by Michael van der Galliën, a guy who was mocked all over (including far right blogs like Het Vrije Volk which calls DDS an “hysteria-blog”) when writing Obama’s election would bring the USA on the brink of a civil war.
  • Livestro’s only DDS article on climate change wasn’t well received and the comments were rather harsh : “embarrassing” “written by a 12-year old?”, etc.
The well-read Dutch site ‘GeenStijl’ announced the news of Livestro’s appointment under the title “Torture blogger joins Palin’s team’. Livestro earned the nickname ‘torture blogger’ for saying the photos depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib to him resembled a frat party and that CIA’s practices of interrogation were milder than student hazing.
Joshua Livestro Sarah Palin De dagelijkse standaard laughter

If Sarah’s campaign directors were trying to alienate the Dutch audience they did a good job because in Holland the news of Livestro's appointment did little more than provoking a lot of laughter.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Ton Begemann’s strange Paleo-Eskimo Artic-agriculture claim

Ton Begemann Arctic Inuit Eskimo agriculture farm
Eskimo Tent Ring
Last year I read a claim from Dutch professor Ton Begemann in which he said in the past there used to be agriculture just 1000 km (600 miles) away from the North Pole, close to “Tranquilly Fjord” (actually the place is called Tanquary Fiord).
He says in August 2008 he visited two archaeological sites where Canadian Park Services have been doing research, and according to Begemann the Canadians told him :
  • Paleo-Eskimo groups of the Independence I culture lived in the area 1500 to 4000 years ago.
  • 1500 years ago, they survived from hunting (both on land and ice)
  • But 4000 years ago they did not just hunt, but also practiced agriculture.
  • The Paleo-Eskimo left remains of stone structures in which plant material was found, and from this the Canadians deducted the people practiced agriculture.
Begemann says the agriculture proofs there’s huge natural variation in Arctic temperatures without CO2 playing a role in it. (A bit of a fallacy itself, but let’s focus on the agriculture) 
I found his Artic-farming claim too absurd to give it much attention and assumed he must have misunderstood something when the rangers talked about the sites. But as Ton Begemann keeps insisting the Paleo-Eskimo were practicing agriculture and growing crops, maybe it’s useful to have a closer look at the case.
There are several reasons I found this story hard to believe :
Cultural Reasons : As far as I know, agriculture never was very widespread amongst indigenous people in Northern America, and certainly not in the High North. It would be strange they developed it ‘de novo’ in such a hard climate.
Climatological : The location Begemann visited is situated on Canada’s northernmost island : Ellesmere Island. The Tanquary Fiord sites he visited are located in Quttinirpaaq national park. The closest weather station near Tanquary Fjord is located in Eureka and both are roughly located on the same latitude. The shores of the Fiord are free from snow and ice in summer and there is some plant life in this short season. Nevertheless, this place is as polar as you can get. In the present era there are only three months in summer in Eureka with an average temperature above 0° C. The website of  Quttinirpaaq park gives a brief overview of al the challenges a vegetation faces in such an artic area.
4000 years ago the peak of the Holocene Climate Optimum was running to an end and temperatures were in the same range (maybe a little higher) than today. But even if we assume the average temperatures were slightly higher, summer was short and still very cold and therefore limiting growth speed. So even with slightly higher temperatures this certainly wasn’t a suited location for growing crops. When asked which crops the Paleo-Eskimo supposedly cultivated, Ton Begemann called that question irrelevant.
In fact, many people questioned Begemann about his strange Artic-agriculture claim and if he’s really sure he’s right. All he answers is : “i don’t know why i have never read about Arctic farming except in my own writings. But if you don’t believe me, ask the Canadian Park Services”. So that’s what I did.
The reply from Canada didn’t surprise me :
  • The people of the Independence I culture raised stone rings around their skin tents.
  • They were hunters, mainly for terrestrial mammals like musk-oxen and caribou (and any other occasional prey they could catch).
  • They never practiced agriculture
  • More generally : Arctic people never practiced agriculture.
  • They burned heather and dwarf-willow (and maybe other things) for fuel
I didn’t really ask the park services what the recovered plant residue was used for, but i guess there could be a a variety of reasons : maybe it was some remains from the fires they made, maybe they used some edible plants to spice up their diet, maybe they used it as a kind of matrass. Whatever. They did not practice agriculture. Probably the park rangers did say something about harvesting (non-cultivated) plants and Begemann misinterpreted this as a sign growing crops.  

Monday, 15 November 2010

Merchants of doubts : interview with Naomi Oreskes


Naomi Oreskes Eric Conway Merchants of Doubt
Science historian professor Naomi Oreskes just appeared in a radio-interview in Australia to talk about her book Merchants of Doubt. In the interview (and book) she explains how a few people, driven by ideology, started attacking scientific topics they feared would be an attack on freedom. The attack started in the circles around the George C. Marshall Institute and the first scientific topic that was attacked was not climate science but tobacco. With the financial aid of big industrial companies, the strategy used is manufacturing doubt, helped by the philosophical perversity proving something is right isn’t as easy as you might think.
As the strategy is still deployed until today, it is extremely important to both understand the strategy of doubt and to understand the importance of freedom-ideology and the somehow paranoid visions sometimes associated with it. Even though Oreskes talks about the American situation, you can easily compare what Oreskes talks about in the interview and the situation in the Low Countries and you’ll find out there’s a striking resemblance.
The role of ideology in understanding climate scepticism in Holland is pretty obvious. The sceptical website Klimatosoof even explicitly states in its FAQ-section : we suppose members of the Groene Rekenkamer are fighting for maximal personal and economical freedom (…) and belong to the libertarian fraction, a philosophy that wants to decrease the role of the government on every domain.
When you look at the other big climate sceptical webpage in Holland, climategate.nl, you’ll also recognize what Oreskes said. The first sentence in Rypke Zeilmaker’s latest post reads : Many "’scientists’ see global warming as an excellent tool for a socialist reform-agenda. Hajo Smit on the other hand is the perfect example of the role of paranoia in the debate. Hajo Smit often accuses people, without any provocation or apparent reason, that they want to censor or lock up unwanted individuals just like the Nazis and Communists did.
At present, the Dutch doubtmaster is Hans Labohm, an economist. He doesn’t understand climate science and sticks to quoting dubious claims he finds on the internet, even when he knows what he says is wrong or misleading. Once you recognize what he’s doing you’ll see that when he gets challenged about the mistakes in his posts or in the work of people he cites, he shows no interest whatsoever in the content of what he writes or the fact of what he says is correct or not. Instead he’ll give a reply like “…but the important things is to remember the science is not settled !”. He’s not interested in science but in manufacturing doubt. Which is no coincidence: one of the three scientists Oreskes talks about is S. Fred Singer, and it is this very same Singer who has close contacts with Labohm and they frequently show up together all over Europe.
I know what is written in this post is something I've said many times before on this blog, but understanding the role of non-scientific doubt and the important role of bias linked with a person’s ideology is vital in understanding the climate debate. So I will keep on hammering getting that message through.
The WtD-blog has a good post today on how the industry is involved in feeding the "uncertainty-meme" and manipulating the audience : Wolves in sheep's clothing : how big tobacco wanted to mimic the global warming sceptics and establish a "fake" NGO

Friday, 12 November 2010

Le populisme climatique


Stéphane Foucart le populisme climate rechauffement Claude Allegre
Le Monde journalist Stéphane Foucart just published the book Le populisme climatique in which he has a look at the roots of climate scepticism and the role of industry funded think thanks.
While he does have a look at the international network, he also focuses on the two best known climate sceptics in France, Claude Allègre & Vincent Courtillot, pointing out the errors they make. Foucart also addresses the different –gate affairs of the past year.
In a way, the interesting book is a French version of the English books Merchants of doubt and Climate Cover Up. If you speak French and haven’t read those two books, i can highly recommend this new book.
There’s a preview here (of course also in French)

The letter of the German Party Alliance '90/The Greens

November 3 several members of the German Alliance '90/The Greens wrote a letter to the German Government (i added some links) :
Deniers of climate change in the coalition government
The so-called “climate change sceptics” or “climate change deniers” for years have been a permanent fixture in American politics. Their influence on American politics is not insignificant. They are mainly supported and funded by the fossil fuels industry like Exxon (Esso) or Koch Industries. Now it appears that their influence is now growing in Germany and in Europe.
In the past weeks various press releases and other reports have appeared in the “Financial Times Deutschland” and news magazine “Der Spiegel” about on how certain climate change deniers were given a discussion forum by the CDU and FDP Bundestag’s fractions and that some parliamentarians of the ruling CDU and FDP factions were sympathetic to the ideas put forth by climate denier S. Fred Singer. This and a range of other activities by the so-called climate sceptics in Germany compel us to ask the German Government for its assessment.


We ask the German Federal Government:
1. Is the German Government aware of a scientifically published paper that has been subjected to peer review that questions climate change caused by man, and that is supported by scientific data?
2. In the view of the German Government’s Leadership, is there a scientific discussion on whether climate change is taking place and whether man has a decisive impact on climate?
3. Is the German Government aware of the publications from American physicist Fred Singer on the subject of climate protection? How does the German Government view the scientific reputation of Mr Singer in regards to climate protection?
4. For the German Government, do the arguments made by Fred Singer and other arguments presented have merit and are they “enlightening”? How do you assess the statements by Mr Singer that “Politicians that are embedded in climate change are more dangerous than climate change itself”?
5. Is the German Government aware of the ideas Mr Singer has previously promoted? What’s your view on the fact that he, for example, questioned the hazards of passive smoke, or that he contested the ozone layer was damaged by CFCs, or that he trivialized acid rain? With this background, how does the German Government judge the credibility of Fred Singer’s activities with regards to climate protection?
6. Is the German Government aware of who financed Mr Singer for his activities? Is the Federal Government aware of the funders who - like Exxon und Koch Industries in den USA - fund the activities of the climate change deniers in Germany?
7. Does the German Government share the opinion that events with Mr Singer provide a forum for the pure interests of the fossil fuel industry, and thus enhance their unscientific work and unserious activities?
8. Are there voices within the German Government who question the anthropogenic causes of climate change?
9. How does the German Government view the activities of the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) with regards to climate change? EIKE is supported by Fred Singer. In the Federal Government’s view, does the Institute work on the scientific question regarding the subject of climate change?
10. Is the German Government aware of whether climate denier conferences are also being financed by public funds, for example by the Liberal Institute of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation?
11. In general, does the German Government approve of the use of public funds for spreading the ideas of climate deniers like Fred Singer?
As they could've foreseen, the letter wasn't received well in the German blogosphere and there’s a lot of posts talking about Nazis and Communists…

Thursday, 11 November 2010

French Academy of Sciences refutes Claude Allègre’s book The climate Imposter

Earlier this year former French minister Claude Allègre published the error-loaded book The Climate Imposter ( L'Imposture climatique). A few of the errors and things Allègre just made up were adressed on Realclimate and another rebuttal in French can be found here. And on the site of Le Monde there's the members only Le cent-fautes de Claude Allègre (Allègre's 100 mistakes)

As the book was so wrong and the language used so denigrating (a few examples), more than 500 French scientists signed a letter asking Science Minister Valérie Pécresse to disavow Allègre's book by publicly expressing her confidence in French climate science.

As a result Minister Valérie Pécresse asked the French Academy of Sciences to organise a scientific debate. September, 12 more than 120 French and international scientists gathered and discussed several aspects of climate science.

Two weeks ago the results were published in the report Le Changement Climatique (in French). The conclusions are :

  • Several independent indicators show an increase in global temperatures in the period 1975-2003
  • This increase is mainly caused by raising CO2-concentrations
  • The increase in CO2, and to a smaller extent for some other GHG’s, is caused by human activities
  • This is a threat for our climate (and oceans as it causes acidification)
  • Decreased solar activity cannot explain the increased temperatures for the period 1975-2003

The academy accepted the report unanimously and signed by all members, including Claude Allègre himself. In a reaction Allègre stated that his positions did not change though and that he still thinks the role of CO2 has not been demonstrated. But that he sees the report as a compromise as the report adopts his personal visions. Which is a bit of strange reaction, as the report did not adopt his visions at all.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

EU sees U.S. "disappearing" as partner on climate

Press release via Reuters :

BEIJING/BRUSSELS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The European Union sees the United States "disappearing as a partner" in international climate talks after President Barack Obama suffered setbacks in midterm elections, the EU's top climate official said on Friday.

Obama has conceded that big Republican gains in Tuesday's elections undermined prospects for comprehensive legislation to tackle climate change.

"We're very disappointed about the United States going that way and dropping climate legislation," said Jos Delbeke, director general of the European Commission's climate team. "We see the U.S. disappearing as a partner in achieving meaningful climate action," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Beijing.

Obama's election in 2008 and his talk of saving a "planet in peril" briefly encouraged some countries to anticipate significant progress in talks on a new U.N. treaty to slow rising emissions of greenhouse gases. The U.S. election results have dented the few remaining expectations for a significant result at the next climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, from Nov. 29-Dec. 10. Obama said at last December's Copenhagen summit that he wanted to cut U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a cut passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but not by the Senate.

"We wonder how they can achieve their 2005 commitments without going for a cap and trade scheme," said Delbeke. "It will make it even more problematic for international climate negotiations."

Cap and trade schemes cap carbon emissions by power plants and factories by issuing a fixed quota of emissions permits which companies can trade among themselves. The U.S. reluctance to curb planet-warming emissions may also hit plans to raise a promised $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor nations cope with climate change. That plan partly hinges on curbs on emissions to push up the price of carbon in mechanisms such as the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme.

But Delbeke remained upbeat that the Cancun talks could achieve something.

"Cancun can still deliver, for example decisions on adaptation and deforestation, while progress should be made on the monitoring, reporting and verification question, but beyond that, the outlook is worrying."

BORDER TARIFFS

If countries such as the United States continue to avoid climate cuts, while the EU keeps making its industry pay for permits to emit carbon dioxide, trade imbalances will start to occur. Some EU companies are already calling for border tariffs to be slapped on imports to restore the balance.

"In the long term that may be a possibility," Delbeke told reporters at a briefing in Beijing earlier in the day.

"If we live in a world where the EU is the only one that has made a commitment and the U.S. is doing nothing, and other countries including China are doing nothing, then we would have a problem and I see this debate coming up. So far we have been holding back," he said.

"If China were to implement a cap and trade system that would be extremely helpful to help prevent such trade mechanisms coming into place." He praised China's progress so far on cap and trade. Delbeke also warned the fast-growing economy against misrepresenting its circumstances in climate talks.

"China is an emerging economy, is behaving like an industrial nation in many respects, and cannot use the song of developing countries to dress up its negotiating positions," he said.

That is a big issue for Europe's poorer nations, which protest against EU demands they help finance greening China's economy when the wealth per capita of Romania, for example, is much lower than that of Beijing. (Writing by Pete Harrison, editing by Rex Merrifield and Keiron Henderson)

Looks like scientists should start focussing on adaptation strategies in adressing the climate change issue, rather than hoping for mitigation.