March 2007

Get up to speed with previous entries here

First it’s great when people know their own mind: program producer Martin Durkin emailed Dr Armand Leroi of Imperial College London and science popster Simon Singh to say: “You’re a big daft cock…hours and hours of shit programming on global warming…Never mind an irresponsible bit of film.making. Go and fuck yourself.”
Later the bi-polar controversialist commented: “Needless to say, I regret the use of intemperate language. It is so unlike me. I am very eager to have all the science properly debated…”

Don’t you just love the “Needless to say.” Anyway read the story here.

Meanwhile the empire strikes back: the Independent has run a story on “The Real Global Warming Swindle“: and I quote

One of the principal supports for his thesis came in the form of a graph labelled “World Temp – 120 years”, which claimed to show rises and falls in average global temperatures between 1880 and 2000….

The programme-makers labelled the source of the world temperature data as “Nasa” but when we inquired about where we could find this information, we received an email through Wag TV’s PR consultant saying that the graph was drawn from a 1998 diagram published in an obscure journal called Medical Sentinel. The authors of the paper are well-known climate sceptics who were funded by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and the George C Marshall Institute, a right-wing Washington think-tank.

However, there are no diagrams in the paper that accurately compare with the C4 graph. The nearest comparison is a diagram of “terrestrial northern hemisphere” temperatures – which refers only to data gathered by weather stations in the top one third of the globe.

However, further inquiries revealed that the C4 graph was based on a diagram in another paper produced as part of a “petition project” by the same group of climate sceptics. This diagram was itself based on long out-of-date information on terrestrial temperatures compiled by Nasa scientists.

Strange – I saw the program, noted the graph as important and have just googled ‘World Temp 120 years’ and found it on – yes thats the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies – dedicated to research into climate change.

Here it is updated and below it is the last similar graph I found:
As they are both showing the same thing (and if you don’t know that mean and average are the same thing you shouldn’t be reading this blog), its interesting to compare them.
The second one is scarier because its narrower, so all the lines are steeper and seem to be happening more suddenly. It also has a 5 year mimium of -6 in about 1910 which the first one doesn’t have and it has a sharp fall from 1940 to 1950 followed by a gradual upwards slope to 1980, whereas the first one has a plateau from 1950 to 1980 with an actual minimum around 1963.
Human beings are very strongly visual animals (when dogs take over as top species, data presentations will feature smells much more strongly than at present) and we pick up on these cues. Please see support page (yet to be written) “The Iniquities of Bubble Charts”. Which one is correct? who knows.

Anyway here’s a bit of good news: increasingly this blog reads that the temperature fall in the middle of last century was caused by the release of industrial sulphate particles and this masked global warming – and on either chart basis, it was pretty effective. We’ve stopped these because the Scandiwegians were whingeing about their forests, buts isn’t it comforting to think we can always bring them back.

More examples of how the special interest groups cannot resist piling Pelion on Ossa. As increasingly civilians agree with some of the most doom laden predictions, the professionals have to up the stakes.
A good example here: David Cameron in a speech on 12th March said that 15,590 species were threatened with extinction because of man’s activities. No said the WWF (in the paper edition only) “in reality the real figure would be much higher because IUCN (the World Conservation Union) ignored many of the predicted threats, including changing weather and temperature patterns”. Journalists: Anthony Browne and Sam Coates.

And from the Independent on 11th March (Geoffrey Lean and Rachel Beebe):
“Liz Hurley’s long-haul wedding has produced a carbon footprint so large that it would take the average British couple more than 10 years to contribute as much to heating up the planet as she and Arun Nayar have done in little over a week. It would take a typical Indian couple a massive 123 years.

A special study, by an Oxford-based footprinting consultancy, suggests the celebrations will release around 200,000kg of carbon into the atmosphere.

The consultancy, Best Foot Forward, reckons this is an underestimate.”

But they did the estimate…

Actually there’s an interesting angle on the Liz Hurley stats: her wedding cost $1.95m (half the top estimate) and produced 200,000kg of carbon. That’s 100gm per $.
The average Indian couple have an annual income of about $1500, but produce the same amount of carbon in 113 years: that’s 1180gm per $.
So in terms of ecomonic activity, Liz Hurley’s wedding is about 10 times less polluting than the average Indian couple!
Let’s hope that none of the money the wedding cost in India ended up in the hands of that couple.

See post below for introduction to this subject.

What has this blog found out so far? Well first of all, global warming is hot hot hot. A huge amount of today’s Times was about climate change. There was a pretty typical article, in this case by Mary Ann Sieghart: “it no longer seems tenable to dismiss the existence of global warming or to deny the contribution that humans have made to it.” What’s changed? the amount of coverage perhaps.

There was also an important letter from Terry Evans on climate change: “Sir, Your leading article (“Green Grind”, March 10 ) demonstrates the problem facing the layman in the debate over the cause of climate change”. He’s right of course, and that’s why this blog is trying to advance from the status of layman to keen amateur. We’ll be returning to Tel’s arguments in the future.

Meanwhile this is what this blog has found so far:

1) For the last 25 years, the earth’s measured temperature has been increasing pretty steadily and over the last century has been rising for most but not all of the time.

2) The theory that mankind has caused this – at least in part – is mainly because of a correlation between CO2 and global temperatures over the last 400,000 years (as proved by antarctic ice-cores). This is the famous Al Gore moment.

3) The current argument promoted by ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle‘ is that this correlation is coincidence rather than causation – because the rise in CO2 comes after the rise in temperature whereas the empirical man might expect cause to precede effect. In general, the consensus defence to this is not that the measurements of antarctic ice-cores are subject to error (and so this blog must assume that they are not), but that the flow of cause and effect is complicated in this case by feedback loops, threshholds, other gases and other possibilities.
As Terry Evans says “The discovery that deep ice cores showed that, in the past, carbon dioxide followed the movement of temperature means that serious positive feedback processes come into play which will increase carbon dioxide concentrations as air temperatures rise — ie, possible runaway warming. Most of these feedback processes are well understood.” This means that initial warming is caused by solar activity or suchlike, but is then sustained and possibly increased by rising CO2 levels (probably from warmer oceans retaining less dissolved gas).

4) Sceptics on the other hand believe that as global temperatures increase, so CO2 levels increase (probably from warmer oceans retaining less dissolved gas) but that the change in CO2 levels in no serious way explains previous or current changes in temperature. Changes in temperature are to do with the sun alone or its position relative to the earth – or possibly to the increase in methane emissions by the elephants who support this diskworld.

5) This blog was disappointed to learn (probably erroneously as it was from Wikipedia) that greenhouse gases do not warm the earth in the same way as a greenhouse warms. It had assumed that all controversy could be sorted out by getting a greenhouse, putting a small model of the earth inside it and chucking some dry ice into the bucket on the floor.

6) Hang on in there – we’re about to get to the point.

7) What is clear to this blog is that the relationship between CO2 levels and temperature is much more complicated than the layman is normally allowed to imagine. Catch a look at this graph:
Look at that sharp verticle red line right on the right of the graph – thats the CO2 level in the atmosphere – everyone agrees that this increase (150 years out of 400,000) is due to human activity (let’s be specific – its due to your gas-guzzling SUV, Mr America – now bow your head in shame). The question is – why aren’t we frying tonight?
CO2 levels now stand at 0.0365%, but in the past, the peak levels of around 0.028% occurred when the average global temperature was about 1.5C higher than the latest 5 year average.

8) Look, however much it wants to, this blog is unwilling to call this a load of old horseshit until it understands more about the feedback argument. But in its younger days, this blog used to make a living in the area of econometric modelling – things like the relationship between price and sales – in that case, whether cause or effect follow each other is much less important: a decrease in price could coincide with a competitive product launch and not cause an immediate increase in sales but over time and on average, the lower price increases the desirability of the product. In the CO2/temparature relationship, this blog doesn’t yet understand why that relationship shouldn’t be immediate – and waits for your comments.

9) When it was still involved in the black arts of modelling, this blog would have said that the relationship between CO2 and temparature had recently broken down, or fundamentally changed in ways that cannot currently be predicted (and cut its fees accordingly).
Because the website that I took the last graph from: also had this graph: to show the latest cause and effect
but if that is the current relationship, then the 400000 year plot – highly simplified – would look something like this:
which is not quite the same sort of Al Gore moment.

Dear me, tomorrow we’ll go back to something interesting like the number of potato sellers on the M4.

It is with considerable trepidation that this blog steps into the Global Warming Arena. This blog has always been somewhat sceptical about climate change because it can remember when the new Ice Age was about to come upon us (and don’t forget that the 1970s saw 7 bad winters). It also dislikes on principle the shrill puritanism that afflicts so many climate change campaigners. The glee with which they tell our young children that the world, far from being the fun place is appears, is in fact a hell built especially for the next generation disgusts this blog.

Nevertheless its a brave crapsniffer who argues with 2500 scientists in the IPCC, particularly since some of them probably know a lot about statistics. Also the consequences of being wrong are very serious: although as ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ pointed out, the consequences of believing in the orthodoxy are also serious.

To sum up then, although this post was inspired by ‘TGGWS‘, this blog is actually trying to work out for itself what the likely truth may be. JOIN IT ON AN EPIC JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY OVER THE NEXT FEW POSTS.

Todays temperature (London) 15C. Average for March: 10C. Record for March: 21C

The Times – 24th Feb 2007
Ben Webster – Transport Correspondent.

“More than 180 people were killed by uninsured drivers last year.”
Information box same article:
“2m uninsured drivers” Source: Motor Insurer’s Bureau/Association of British Insurers.

But in 2003, 3508 people were killed on British Roads. If that figure is the same for last year then only 5% of deaths are caused by uninsured British drivers, and if they cause deaths at the standard rate that would mean the total number of drivers in UK is 40 million.


Ah but total number of drivers is probably people with driving licenses. So this is probably crap but I can’t prove it.