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Is a Green and Sustainable Rebuild of New Orleans Possible?

Is a Green, Sustainable Rebuild of New Orleans Possible?

Anna Hartnell from Guardian had an interesting and thought provoking post published on August 29th over on the Guardian’s web site. The article, titled “New Orleans’s green dilemma” discusses, in the author’s words, why “Four years after Hurricane Katrina, residents are struggling to balance the costs and benefits of how they rebuild the city”…

In those four years since Hurrican Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, residents still struggle to get their life back on track. In the midst of all the destruction, poverty and reminders of horrible times – there remains hope and a determination to get back on their feet again.

There are a couple of organizations who are looking to assist New Orleans with rebuilding the city with greener, more sustainable building. Anna Hartnell writes more about these organizations:

[...] it’s not surprising that the reconstruction is being driven by strong environmental considerations. But after numerous delays, and with many of the poor and predominantly African American population still homeless, one gets the troubling sense that those who lost most to the storm may now be becoming pawns in a green agenda.

Global Green, an organization that teamed up with Brad Pitt, is piloting a “green community” in the Holy Cross area of the Lower Ninth Ward, home to some of the city’s poorest inhabitants. They say that if 50,000 homes destroyed by Katrina were rebuilt to their standards, over half a million tonnes of CO2 would be eliminated from the atmosphere – the equivalent, they claim, of taking 100,000 cars off the road. New Orleans residents would save $38m to $56m every year. It’s hard not to agree with this agenda in principle. A city built below sea level would be stupid not to be persuaded by the idea of carbon-neutral living, which its green homes will showcase to the rest of the US and the wider world.

But the problem with these technologically sophisticated green homes is that in the short term they are very expensive: organisations like Global Green and its offshoot, Make It Right, have been able to subsidise those homes built with private money. But massive subsidies would be needed if the entire city were to be rebuilt on this model. And of even greater concern for residents, these homes also take time: Global Green were on the ground in New Orleans in September 2005, and their first model green home – now open to visitors – wasn’t completed until April 2008.

And time is not on the side of those who wish to reclaim their homes in New Orleans. This was made abundantly clear shortly after Katrina when Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission proposed converting large swaths of the city’s flood-prone areas – including the Lower Ninth – into green spaces. The response of the city’s scattered residents – evacuated to far-flung places all over the US – was to return to pitch tents on the sites of their former homes, and to make themselves human barriers to the bulldozers poised to tear down their neighbourhoods.

Subsidizing rebuilding costs with private money is a realistic option in poverty stricken regions, although in tough economic times one can only wonder if the timing for such a plan is the best option. The larger question at hand though, and the one we’d like to hear our readers respond and comment on, is a question best framed by another comment from the author of the Guardian’s post:

[...] it also presents a real dilemma. For it is a vision that sits uneasily in the context of impoverished communities who have been made to pay many times over for the consequences of the exploitation of the earth’s natural resources, and which may well pay again for the privilege of becoming a national example of sustainable living. In this sense New Orleans can be seen as a microcosm of the global story about climate change, in which developing nations continue to carry the burden of western affluence.

Is a green and sustainable rebuild of New Orleans possible? Realistic? Wanted? Or, are the efforts of the organizations eager to try this simply using Western ideals blended with an opportunity to make use of an immediate example on US soil? Are Western thoughts a burden for cities like New Orleans and those outside of the States?

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Is Nuclear Power Renewable?

As a physicist, my belief is that one of the reasons that intelligent energy policies have not gained sufficient traction is that we are allowing those with political agendas to define some key energy terms.

Probably the most significant concept that we have unwittingly gone along with is the definition of the word “renewable.” Giving some critical thought to this moniker is no academic matter, as the majority members of the US Senate’s Energy Committee is currently pushing for a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (see: “Title VIII – Renewable Portfolio Standard” to view a draft). Their decision as to what is a “renewable” will have profound technical, economic and environmental consequences on the United States.

To my knowledge there is no official definition of this bandied about term. When asked, the meanings proffered vary quite a bit, but the key difference between a renewable and non-renewable is usually the rate of replenishment. Consider this typical definition: “Renewable is an energy resource that is replaced in a reasonable amount of time (our lifetime, our children’s lifetime)…”

Such a word as “reasonable” is subjective — not scientific. Who determines what is a reasonable amount of time, and what is it: 20 years? 100 years? 500 years? The reason the definition of renewable is focused on time, derives from the concern that we may exhaust some electrical energy sources, relatively soon.

But how much is enough to have? For instance, if we have 100 years of some fuel, would the replenishment rate really be that important? Clearly, within the next 100 years of use, there will be some profound changes made regarding the efficiency and applications of said fuel’s implementation — in ways we have little understanding of today.

Look at the well-reasoned expectations that were had in 1950 about what would happen in 2000 from this article published in Popular Mechanics in February 1950 entitled “Miracles You’ll See.” The message is that almost ALL of the best guesses were wrong.

In the same vein, prior technology predictions by experts (like Einstein) have also proven to be significantly off the mark. From Listverse, take a look at this list of “Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions.” Who among us will stand to say that we have a better understanding of technology than did Einstein?

In that light, consider the case for nuclear being “renewable.” First we should answer how much longer will our nuclear fuel supply last. Consider:

a) The Nuclear Energy Institute’s website, on a page entitled “How It [Nuclear Power] Works,” says: “The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008 jointly produced a report saying that uranium resources are adequate to meet nuclear energy needs for at least the next 100 years at present consumption levels. More efficient fast reactors could extend that period to more than 2,500 years.” It is absurd to say that a 2500 year supply doesn’t qualify this as renewable.

b) In addition, there are several proven alternatives to uranium as a source. One example is Thorium, which is much more plentiful than uranium. For a superior discussion about “The Sustainability of Mineral Resources” (and specifically uranium) read the end of this analysis entitled “Supply of Uranium” from the World Nuclear Association.

c) Bernard Cohen (Professor Emeritus of Physics at Pittsburgh University) has stated in an analysis entitled “How Long Will Nuclear Energy Last” that breeder reactors have enough raw material energy source to last us over a Billion years. That’s Billion with a “B.” When considering these sample facts, an important thing to keep in mind is this quote from some scientists at an excellent University of Michigan site: “Only 40 years ago, nuclear energy was an exotic, futuristic technology, the subject of experimentation and far fetched ideas.” (ref. Nuclear Energy & Society, by Ilan Lipper and Jon Stone).

Hard as it might seem to believe, but most of this nuclear development has occurred in just the tiny space of 40± years — so having any fuel supply that lasts 100± years could cover an enormous amount of new development.

Secondly, some definitions of “Renewable” include a reference to “power derived from natural sources” (e.g. this opinion piece in the business section of the Arizona Star, published last month, entitled “Don’t Reclassify Nuclear Power as Renewable”). Of course “natural sources” is amusingly non-descriptive since essentially all sources of electrical power are based on natural materials, and that includes nuclear.

To read more about this I’d strongly recommend Bill Tucker’s excellent book Terrestrial Energy, or a more condensed discussion he wrote here entitled “The Case for Terrestrial Energy.”

A University of Michigan study calculated that
since 1973, the overwhelming majority of
emissions reductions in the U.S. have been
the result of nuclear power generation.

A third factor sometimes appearing in the definition of “Renewable” is a reference to a power source’s ability to reduce CO2 (e.g. “clean”). That same University of Michigan site (above) has this very informative graph about how (worldwide) we have been able to reduce CO2 since 1973.

Now, for the sake of comparison, let’s quickly look at the flip side of this question, at the poster child for renewables: wind power. The indisputable fact is that an indispensable part of wind power electricity production is the requirement of LARGE amounts of land.

For instance, best estimates are that wind power requires more than a thousand times the land that nuclear does, to generate the equivalent amount of 24/7 power. BUT, that essential element of wind power generation (land) is NOT ”replaced in a reasonable amount of time.”

Before a source is labeled as “renewable” shouldn’t ALL of its major components be renewable? Otherwise, it would be like having all the materials to assemble a car, but no tires. The evidence says that we will run out of appropriate US land for industrial wind power before we run out of fossil fuel for electrical power sources. So considering this information, which is the true renewable: wind power or nuclear energy?

About the Author: John Droz received undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics from Boston College, and a graduate degree in physics from Syracuse University. He subsequently worked for GE/AESD (Utica, NY), Mohawk Data Sciences (Herkimer, NY), and Monolithic Memories (Cupertino, CA). For over 25 years Droz has been an environmental activist and is a participating member of several environmental organizations including the Adirondack Council, Association for Protection of the Adirondacks, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, Sierra Club, and the NYS Federation of Lakes.

Posted in Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Nuclear, Organizations, Policies & Solutions, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind7 Comments

Global Warming & Greentech

Environmentalism, ideally, is a broad and pluralistic movement that embraces diverse ideologies and myriad disagreements, unified only by a shared and sincere concern for the health of the natural world. Aside from this core value, how individuals and organizations practice their environmentalism must and should display infinite variety, because how love for the natural world is balanced with empathy for the aspirations of humanity is never easy. Environmentalism in this broadest sense is a value that has acquired a welcome momentum in recent years, but challenging this ideal, pluralistic version of environmentalism are powerful political agendas.

These agendas have become mainstream and monolithic and incorporate foreboding certainties centered on two fundamental planks:

  1. We are running out of resources at a terrifying rate.
  2. We are perilously near to a “tipping point” after which it will be too late to save our planet from total catastrophe due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

We categorically reject both of these planks, and we are environmentalists.

Attempting to debunk the notion that we are about to run out of resources is relatively easy. If you have any faith at all in the creativity of individual inventors and entrepreneurs, any faith at all in the power of that tragically – and hopefully temporarily – discredited thing called the “market,” you will know there is no situation of scarcity that eludes a solution as long as people are free to own private property, to buy and sell, and to innovate. But that freedom has always been challenged by environmentalists, who, even before global warming alarm became increasingly institutionalized, exercised powerful and inordinate control over economic development. With global warming as the pretext to further regulate and limit all combustion, all emissions, and virtually all land use, the freedom to efficiently create wealth is not just undermined, it is eviscerated. For universal prosperity to be possible in our lifetimes, global energy production must double, and human technology is nowhere near ready to accomplish this goal while simultaneously abandoning fossil fuels.

The good news is we don’t have to abandon fossil fuel, we just have to scrub out the remaining harmful particulates and toxins from fossil fuel emissions. In this transcript of a presentation by Dr. Richard Lindzen at GoingGreen East, delivered this past March in Boston, he correctly points out that if the global climate displayed positive feedbacks, which all climate models that predict disaster depend on, the planet would have burned up eons ago. There are many reasons why alarm over greenhouse gas emissions is misplaced, but this is one of the most elegant yet.

Even if Dr. Lindzen were wrong in his reasoning, it would not mean the alarmist lobby is right, nor would it change the fact that alarm over CO2 is taking away our freedoms and distracting us from genuine environmental challenges, or that we resolutely support his decision to speak his opinion. And it is the content of his arguments, and nothing else, that should concern us.
- Ed Ring

Global Warming & Greentech: Why global warming is unlikely to be a safe area for investment
by Richard Lindzen, April 14, 2009
Russian Tortoise
Sometimes truth is like the tortoise, slow to reach its
destination, but nonetheless unstoppable.
(Photo: EcoWorld)

“There can be little doubt that the issue of global warming presents green entrepreneurs with many tempting opportunities and it’s only natural that one would want to exploit these opportunities.”

Moreover, environmental opportunities are accompanied by the satisfaction of cloaking the profit motive in virtue. Still, it pays to remember that for any enterprise there is a responsibility, and one of those responsibilities is the ability to detect bullshit, or as it is more formally called, due diligence. You have been told since 1988 (if your memory should go back that far) that the science of global warming is settled and that all scientists agree. Those of you who are intimate with physics, know that no such claim would even be made for the standard model or for general relativity. Those of you who have attended college will have difficulty remembering classmates who studied climate – certainly not the obvious ‘rocket scientists.’ So how does it happen that a primitive, backwater science dealing with a complex system involving some the most formidable equations in physics and innumerable unexplained features come to be characterized by a certainty that escapes the strongest of sciences? And what exactly is the certainty claimed for given the innumerable facets of this issue? It is certainly not about the various catastrophic scenarios.

Most of you will recognize that the rhetoric of global warming is not the rhetoric of science, it is the rhetoric of politics, and, quite frankly, global warming has always been a political movement. As a political movement, it is characterized by an unusual degree of ugliness. Scientists who legitimately question the alarmism are regularly associated with holocaust denial – an insult to the scientist and a belittling of the holocaust by associating the real murder of millions with a guess about some future problem. And for over 20 years, it has, moreover, been an excellently organized political movement. There has, in fact, been no comparably organized opposition.

My first point is that as far as scientists go, most of the atmospheric scientists and oceanographers who I respect do endorse global warming (without generally being specific about exactly what they are endorsing). The important point, however, is that the science that they do that I respect is not about global warming. Endorsing global warming just makes their lives easier. For example, my colleague, Kerry Emanuel, received relatively little recognition until he suggested that hurricanes might become stronger in a warmer world (a position that I think he has since backed away from somewhat). He then was inundated with professional recognition.

Another colleague, Carl Wunsch, professionally calls into question virtually all alarmist claims concerning sea level, ocean temperature and ocean modeling, but assiduously avoids association with skeptics; if nothing else, he has a major oceanographic program to worry about. Moreover, his politics are clearly liberal. Perhaps, the most interesting example is Wally Broecker, whose work clearly shows that sudden climate change occurs without anthropogenic influence, and is a property of cold rather than warm climates. However, he staunchly beats the drums for alarm and is richly rewarded for doing so.

For a much larger group of scientists, the fact that they can make ambiguous or even meaningless statements that can be spun by alarmists, and that the alarming spin leads politicians to increase funding provides little incentive to complain about the spin.

Second, most arguments about global warming boil down to science versus authority. For much of the public, authority will generally win since they do not wish to deal with science. For a basically political movement, as the global warming issue most certainly is, an important task is to coopt the sources of authority. This, the global warming movement has done with great success.

Thus, for over twenty years, the National Academy had a temporary nominating group designed to facilitate the election of environmental activists. The current president of the academy is one of these. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has been headed by James McCarthy and John Holdren in recent years, and these have been public advocates for global warming alarm. Holdren is now President Obama’s nominee for science advisor. There are numerous further examples. How often have we heard a legitimate scientific argument answered by the claim that the alarmist scenario is endorsed by, for example, the American Physical Society (regardless of their lack of expertise in the issue)? How often have you heard innocuous claims by some society or another taken as endorsements of alarm? How often have you heard that any particular argument has been dealt with by (a clear advocacy website designed to assure warming alarmists that the basis for alarm still exists)?

Thirdly, the success with respect to the second item also gives the climate alarm movement control over carrots and sticks – which, in turn, is what makes it expedient for most scientists to go along. Note that the carrots are as important as the sticks, though the sticks matter a great deal when grants, publication and promotion are at stake.

With respect to carrots, for example, John Holdren was long on the board of the MacArthur Foundation which has awarded ‘genius’ grants to numerous environmental activists. Ironically, an award allegedly honoring the late Bill Nierenberg (who served as director of Scripps Oceanographic Institution), a very perceptive and active skeptic of climate alarm, is now given annually to an alarmist. One could go on at great length. At the stick end, one simply has to note that Science and Nature have both publically taken positions against publishing anything that opposes the notion of dangerous anthropogenic warming, while publishing highly dubious science endorsing the notion.

The process of coopting science on behalf of a political movement has had an extraordinarily corrupting influence on science – especially since the issue has been a major motivation for funding. Most funding for climate science would not be there without this issue. And, it should be added, most science funded under the rubric of climate does not actually deal with climate, but rather with the alleged impact of arbitrarily assumed climate change. All impacts depend on regional forecasts, and quoting the leading scientist at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (widely regarded as the foremost atmospheric modeling center), Tim Palmer, such forecasts are little better than guesses.

Nonetheless, regional forecasts are at the heart of numerous state initiatives to ‘fight’ climate change. These initiatives are usually prepared by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS), a Pennsylvania-based environmental advocacy group that purports to help states determine for themselves how to develop climate change policies. In reality, according to Paul Chesser of the John Locke Foundation, CCS tightly controls these commissions, who consider proposals mostly from a menu of options presented by CCS themselves. Nearly all the choices represent new taxes or higher prices on energy, increased costs of government, new regulations for businesses, and reduced energy-producing options for utilities, and therefore consumers. CCS is funded largely by a multi-million dollar global warming alarmist foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

What can the entrepreneur who wants to get to the bottom of this mess do? The most obvious point is to better understand the science, and to notice the obvious breaches of logic. Logic ultimately has to trump alleged authority. Moreover, there is generally a deep disconnect between consensus statements that commonly only repeat the trivial points that there has been some warming and that man’s emissions have caused some part of this, and the claims of catastrophe made by advocates. Pay attention to these differences. Note especially that citing various changes that are observed is simply to note that the earth is always changing; it is hardly evidence of man’s role in such changes.

With respect to better understanding the science, it is my view that the observations of almost a decade ago that outgoing long wave radiation associated with warmer surface temperatures was much greater than models predicted provided as good evidence as one could hope for that model sensitivities were much too high. However, without an adequate understanding of the physics, the point is largely missed. How can one communicate this to the public? Actually, the science isn’t all that hard.

John Sununu (formerly Bush I’s chief of staff, governor of New Hampshire, and professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University) offered an easily appreciated example of positive and negative feedback. In your car, the gas and brake pedals act as negative feedbacks to reduce speed when you are going too fast and increase it when you are going too slow. If someone were to reverse the position of the pedals without informing you, then the pedals would act as positive feedbacks: increasing your speed when you are going too fast, and slowing you down when you are going too slow.

Alarming predictions depend critically on the fact that models have large positive feedbacks. The crucial question is whether nature actually behaves this way? The answer is may well be no. In the common (though admittedly somewhat inaccurate) picture of the greenhouse effect, greenhouse substances (mainly thin high clouds and water vapor, but also CO2, methane, freons, etc.) act as a blanket, inhibiting the emission of infrared (heat) radiation. We know that in the absence of feedbacks (in which water vapor and clouds allegedly act to amplify the effect of added CO2), an increase in temperature will lead to a certain increase in this heat radiation (also known as outgoing longwave radiation, OLR). With positive feedbacks, this amount of radiation will be reduced (in terms of the ‘blanket’ imagery, the blanket has gotten thicker). Current models do, indeed, predict this. The feedback processes actually operate on very short time scales, and the earth’s temperature also undergoes relatively rapid fluctuations (associated with internal phenomena like El Nino). In response to such fluctuations, the emitted heat radiation will also fluctuate.

<br /> Climate Sensitivity to Feedbacks
In these diagrams we actually have a crucial piece of information that
tells us that models are greatly exaggerating climate sensitivity. It tells us that the
greenhouse blanketing effect in models is about 7 times greater than it is in nature.

As we see in the accompanying figures from a paper by Wielicki et al (2002), the actual fluctuations in heat radiation are substantially greater than those produced by models forced by the observed temperature fluctuations. They are also greater than what would be expected in the absence of feedbacks. This implies that nature is, as any reasonable person might suppose, dominated by stabilizing negative feedbacks rather than destabilizing positive feedbacks. It has been noted that the climate in models is an example of unintelligent design – something modelers are far more capable of than is nature.

Climate Sensitivity to Feedbacks
From 1985 until 1989 the models and observations are more or less the same –
they have, in fact, been tuned to be so. However, with the warming after 1989, the
observational spikes characteristically exceed 7 times the model values. This
corresponds roughly to a sensitivity of 0.5C for a doubling of CO2. Note that the ups
and downs of both the observations and the model (forced by observed sea surface
temperature) follow the ups and downs of temperature.

Getting people (including many scientists) to understand this is crucial. Once it is understood, the silliness of the whole issue becomes evident – though those who are committed to warming alarm as the vehicle for agendas ranging from a postmodern coup d’etat to simple personal profit will obviously try to obfuscate matters. Although the above results were confirmed by at least four other groups, there did appear a paper in 2006 by Wong, Wielicki et al that attempted to eliminate the observed discrepancy with models by adjusting the data. In this particular case, satellite orbital decay was shown to largely reduce the secular change in emitted heat radiation between the 80′s and 90′s. However, the episodic fluctuations remained substantially greater than those produced by the models. It is an interesting feature of climate science that when data disagrees with models, the data is inevitably ‘corrected’ to eliminate the disagreement. The ‘corrections’ in my experience are not implausible; the data, after all, is subject to numerous uncertainties.

However, the fact that such changes inevitably act to bring the data into better agreement with highly uncertain models is, in fact, highly implausible. There are many reasons why the weakness of the arguments for catastrophic anthropogenic warming are little known (though increasingly suspected by the general public). Some of these reasons are institutional. Those who note the weaknesses are limited by minimal resources.

Indeed, given the minimal resources available to those who are truly interested in how climate actually works, and the immense resources and power of the environmental movement, it is astounding that resistance has been as effective as it has been. That said, one should not underestimate the impressive degree of organization behind the climate alarm movement. Notable, in this regard, has been the Climate Action Network that has coordinated the activities of hundreds of environmental NGO’s since 1989. To be sure, there have been petitions by 100′s to tens of thousands of scientists opposing global warming alarm. These have been largely ineffective. However, there is now afoot a movement for these thousands of scientists to resign en masse from scientific and professional organizations wherein a few activist members have managed to speak for the entire membership in taking unrepresentative stands on the warming issue. Such a movement would make clear the shallowness of the claims of institutional authority.

The global warming issue has done much to set back climate science. In particular, the notion that climate is one dimensional which is to say that it is totally described by some fictitious global mean temperature and some single gross forcing a la increased CO2 is grotesque in its oversimplification. This error is perpetuated by those attempting to ‘explain’ climate with solar variability. Unlike greenhouse forcing, solar forcing is so vague that one can’t reject it. However, acting as though this is the alternative to greenhouse forcing is asking for trouble simply because it endorses the oversimplified paradigm. Remember, we are dealing with a small amount of warming (a few tenths of a degree concentrated in two relatively brief episodes) in an inadequately observed system. The proper null hypothesis is that there was no need whatsoever for external forcing in order to produce such behavior. The unsteady and even turbulent motions of the ocean and atmosphere are forever moving heat from one place to another on time scales from days to centuries, and, in doing so, they leave the system out of equilibrium with the sun leading to fluctuations in temperature. The thought that these turbulent fluctuations demand specific causes is absurd – about as absurd as calling for specific causes for each whirl in a bubbling brook.

Finally, I would suggest that history supports the notion that science eventually favors the truth, and I am confident that when this point is finally reached global warming alarm will be viewed as another inexplicable mania. There are many reasons for being confident of this. However, we have just gone over one of the most important scientific reasons. The satellite records of outgoing heat radiation show that the climate is dominated by negative feedbacks and that the response to doubled and even quadrupled CO2 would be minimal.

In a field as primitive as climate science, most of the alleged climate scientists are not even aware of this basic relation. And these days, as we have seen, attempts will be made to alter the data. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that the public is not likely to understand this as well. On the other hand, the fact that the global mean temperature anomaly has not increased statistically significantly since at least 1995, does not actually disprove anthropogenic global warming, but for the public this failure may well be crucial. (It may already have been crucial for the otherwise inexplicable surge in global warming propaganda over the past three years.)

For some of us, this is an occasional source of frustration, but one must always remember that this is a political rather than a scientific issue, and in a political issue, public perception is important. Moreover, the temperature record does demonstrate at least one critical point: namely, that natural climate variability remains sufficiently large to preclude the identification of climate change with anthropogenic forcing. As the IPCC AR4 noted, the attribution claim, however questionable, was contingent on the assumption that models had adequately handled this natural internal variability. The temperature record of the past 14 years clearly shows that this assumption was wrong. To be sure, this period constitutes a warm period in the instrumental record, and, as a result, many of the years will be among the warmest in the record, but this does nothing to mitigate the failure of nature to properly follow the models. To claim otherwise betrays either gross ignorance or grosser dishonesty (see Figures 2 and 3 from data from the UK Meteorological Office). When it comes to global warming hysteria, neither has been in short supply.

Richard Lindzen Portrait

About the author: Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( This paper was prepared for a keynote address delivered by Linzen at the AlwaysOn GoingGreen cleantech investor conference, held March 9-11th in Boston. This transcript is posted here with permission from the author, and the video of this address can be found at the GoingGreen East Program Archives; scroll through the program and click on Lindzen’s opening keynote at 8:30 a.m. on March 11th.

EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Causes, Energy, Engineering, Global Warming & Climate Change, History, Organizations, Other, Policies & Solutions, Radiation, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar3 Comments

Wind-Turbines Come with Unexpected Consequences

Wind turbine farms are popping up all over the place. The mammoth wind-mills are planted in the ground and then proceed to twirl their giant blades in a lazy circular motion, pumping out electricity in the process. The blades that cut through the sky vary in size, but are generally around 35 meters long. Of course some are bigger…much bigger. The largest turbine in the world – the Enercon E-126 – has a rotor diameter of 126 meters and stands proudly in Emden, Germany where it generates 20 million kilowatt hours per year. In the United States, wind generated power accounts for about one percent of the energy consumed. Wind turbines are symbols of the alternative energy movement, but the consequences of living near a wind farm aren’t always positive ones.

Wind turbines are constantly evolving into bigger, more efficient, and quieter machines. Unfortunately, individuals living next to these farms may complain of illnesses linked to the slow humming of the blades cutting through the wind. Symptoms range from migraines and mood swings to stomach aches and ulcers.

As if that isn’t enough, many individuals find that the large structures ruin the flow of the landscape, while others are horrified at the sight of a dead bird or bat lying near the turbine, after having suffered fatal injuries from flying near the blades.

The rapid spinning of the blades causes the air pressure around them to fluctuate. Decreases in the air pressure around turbines on exceptionally windy days have been known to kill bats by destroying their sensitive lungs, while vibrations in the air may not be heard, but can travel for miles effecting individuals living nearby.

Wind turbines are an excellent source of alternative energy, but not when human health is put on the line. This is a controversial topic, since organizations like the American Wind Energy Association claim that the noise from a wind turbine (1,000 feet away) is comparable to the light hum of a kitchen refrigerator, while neighbors to the farms are adamant that the contraptions have a detrimental effect on their lives.

Engineers are constantly improving wind-power technology with sound-dampening technologies, while researchers recommend that a wind farm should be surrounded with a buffer zone up to 3 miles wide. In theory, wind turbines are a great energy source: They are clean, efficient, self sustaining and create numerous jobs in an economy where finding employment is becoming more and more difficult. But nobody accounted for the health problems that the turbines seem to blow into homes.

Wind turbines are an innovative solution to the energy crisis. However, we can assume that there are going to be issues associated with wind farms until the design has been perfected.

The Enercon E-126 6.0 Megawatt Wind Turbine,
the largest wind turbine in the world, stands
656 feet (198 meters) from base to top of rotor sweep.

Posted in Causes, Electricity, Energy, Organizations, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind3 Comments

The Elusive Yet Abundant Hydropower in the Kyrgyz Republic

Can Soviet-era modes of energy resource cooperation survive between newly independent states?

It’s been awhile since the Kyrgyz Republic, along with Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations split off from the USSR and became sovereign nations. But in terms of managing their energy resources, Kyrgyzstan faces challenges that outwit nations with far more experience with political independence, and how they best address them highlights issues of globalization and free-trade that are universal.

When the lights go out in Bishkek, as they do frequently these days, more than a few of these citizens wish for the good old days of the Soviet Union, as they valiantly beat back the cold and the dark with lumps of coal and candles. Kyrgyzstan has hydropower, lots of it, but when this upstream nation needs electricity the most, in the shortened days of frozen winter, their downstream neighbor Uzbekistan needs the water released downstream the least. Water they need for agriculture during the summer they view as squandered as it floods their barren fields in the winter after passing through hydroelectric turbines upstream.

Back in the days of Soviet central economic planning, the solution was simple – extra fuel was shipped to Kyrgyzstan in the winter to feed their power plants, and the water stayed behind the dam to be released in the summer. Now that these nations are all independent entities, however, agreements that used to be quantified in cubic meters of water and kilowatt-hours of electricity are appended by the market value of these commodities, and as these values fluctuate, these legacy agreements leave one side, than the other, feeling like they have missed an opportunity.

The value of oil on the world market, however, means very little to someone trying to keep warm in Bishkek, where electricity selling for what we might consider the paltry sum of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour ($.015 US) is for them an exorbitant amount – so much that many citizens have been forced into debt just to pay their utility bills. Even if none of the other challenges of nation building were present – overcoming nationalistic and tribal rivalries, eliminating corruption and establishing democracy, the inevitably uneven pace at which any planned economy transitions to a free market economy guarantees social problems. From Kyrgyzstan to Washington DC, the appropriate degree of government intervention to smooth the disruptions of the market is unknown. What is certain is that neither extreme is desirable, and every nation and culture will fitfully find their own unique balance.

Bishkek Power Plant
Bishkek’s electricity generating plant can be seen in
the background – frequently starved for fuel.

Every year when the winter knocks the door at former Soviet Republics particularly Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan…

Many political pledges, populist programs, negotiations, concessions, and decrees are made to facilitate the easy access to energy needs at least for survival. The political equations among the Central Asian countries oscillate awkwardly on the use of common rivers water that produces major requirement for electricity and irrigation. Claimed to having the largest hydropower potential in the region, the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan) is facing the challenge of an energy quagmire.

Power fluctuations have caused major discontent in Kyrgyzstan, which has been embroiled in political and economic instability in recent years. The citizens of the landlocked Kyrgyzstan are going through yet another difficult winter and electricity generation is so low that the government has been unable to honor a pledge to end power cuts. The politics over energy demand and supply inside the Kyrgyzstan is ticking to explode at anytime as civil unrest.

According to government sources the exceptionally cold winter of 2007 forced them to produce more electricity than planned from the major Toktogul reservoir. Toktogul Hydro Power Station has a concrete gravity dam with height of 215 meters and water reservoir with a total volume of 19.5 km3 (cubic kilometers – a cubic kilometer or km3 is equivalent to, and frequently also expressed as “bcm” or billion cubic meters). The water inflow in the reservoir made 7.44 km3 till October 2008, which is 1.8 km3 less as compared to the last year at the same time. The water outflow reached 4.3 km3, 1.5 km3 less than in 2007. Once the volume of water in the Toktogul reservoir decreased even further in May 2008 to 6.8 km3, which was difficult to produce electricity. By overexploitation, the depletion of the Toktogul reservoir, which on 01 April 2008 amounted to only 7.2 km3, some 5 km3 lower than average (2002-2007).The water in reservoir is already low since 2007. The water inflows into Toktogul in 2007 summer were 1.7 km3 less than the average of the previous 15 years. The 2008 winter forced the government to exploit more water to produce electricity. So in the mentioned figure, the government highlighted that so far the situation is not normal for the winter of December-2008 to March 2009. For this reason the Kyrgyz government wants to conserve water in the reservoir by scheduled cutting electricity. So it was not primarily the 0.3 km3 net drop which necessitated the flow reduction, but to manage the low level of water in the reservoir and to produce more electricity required for this ongoing winter.

The Ministry of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources responsible for supplying electricity and heat informed the public that due to inadequate water supplies in the Toktogul Reservoir, there would be daily power cuts everywhere. School days are shortened or closed. A senior citizen of Bishkek, Rufat Aliev says,

“Even during World War-II, schools were never shortened or closed down.”

Although citizens reprieved from daily blackouts in the extreme cold for few days, the blackouts resume again on November 15 in rural areas and Bishkek countryside. Kyrgyz electricity company Severelectro has already restarted electricity blackouts in Bishkek in late 2008 and planning to continue in 2009. (See Table-1 of black out- schedule). Meanwhile, the President sacked the energy minister Saparbek Balkibekov when the minister apprehended the looming energy crisis in Feb, 2009!


Electricity generation in 2008 totalled 8.8 billion kilowatt hours, when in 2007 it was 10.5 billion. Due to the shortage of electricity generation, the prices of the electricity have been increasing gradually. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov announced the government’s plans to increase prices for electricity by 13 percent and water by 20 percent in April 2008.

According to the electricity, heating and hot water tariffs raising plan, the prices may increase by 25-30% starting from April – May 2009. But, right now the price is 62 Tyiyn per KW (1 Som= 100 Tyiyns, in mid-January 2008 the Kyrgyz Som would exchange for about .025 US dollars, ref. Kyrgyz/USD exchange rate) is much above the normal price. So far, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade estimated that the electricity blackouts cost Kyrgyzstan about 60 billion Soms or 6 percent out of GDP growth.

The new Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources, Ilias Davydov, said to the Parliament in mid-December that

“heating and electricity tariffs are not expected to rise since January 1, 2009.”

However, many people who live in condominiums, have already constructed small stoves in their apartments and buying coal, and/or mazut (heavy, low quality fuel oil) in order to heat their homes, in case the central heating system fails to provide the required heat. Although people are receiving heat from the central heating system in Bishkek, people are expecting a high increase in tariff in anytime in end of January 2009. During the summer, the Bishkek residents were angry and frustrated by the fluctuation of power supply. Nicholas Lukyanovich Kravtsov, a former Soviet energy specialist now heads the public association on protection of the rights of consumers ‘Yustin’ in Bishkek says,

“The government has created this myth of load shedding on the decline of water level in the reservoir including other myths of non-profitability of the energy sector, high prices for electricity and privatisation.”

Bishkek Power Plant
On another night without electricity, candlelight is seen
dimly through the windows of this apartment building.

The Complex Water and Energy
Nexus in Central Asia

In this situation, it is necessary to delve into policies and mechanisms for management of key resources – water and energy resources. According to the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, the countries of the region day by day would be involved in tough negotiations for water and energy. However, one-sided utilization of water resources of rivers for power generation entails problems in water supplies for people living in lower reaches, primarily for the irrigation purposes.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are located in the high mountains of Pamir and Tyan Shan, whose many glaciers supply the water which is the main energy resource in these countries. Hydropower provides over 90% of their energy supply. In the former Soviet region, after Russia, Tajikistan has the second highest water resource potential (530 billion kWh/year) followed by the Kyrgyzstan (142 billion kWh/year). However, most of the experts and government agencies are of the view that Kyrgyzstan exploits less than 9% of its hydroelectric potential. The annual hydropower potential of the smaller rivers is between 5 and 8 billion kWh, but only 3 percent has been utilised so far. Its rich water resources consist of 50 cubic kilometers of surface runoff a year, 13 km3 of potential ground water resources, 1,745 km3 of lake water, and 650 km3 of glaciers. The region’s largest rivers (the Naryn, 807 km; Chu, 380 km, Talas, 200 km, Saryjaz, Kara Darya, Chatkal, and others that belong to the Syr Darya and Amu Darya basins) find their headwaters in Kyrgyzstan.

There are 20 major power plants with a total installed capacity of 3,680 MW in the country. Although there is conflicting information about the total number of large hydropower and combined heat and power plants (CHP) in the Republic, it’s commonly accepted that 2,950 MW comes from 18 hydro power plants and approximately 725 MW comes from two heat and power plants.

(Source: Ministry of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources, Kyrgyz Republic)


According to the National Energy Program (NEP) of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2006-2010 and the Strategy of the Fuel and Energy Complex until 2025 (NEP), there will be addition of 3,960 MW from several hydropower stations by 2025 (See Table-4). However, this ambitious program needs sufficient investment. The NEP also envisages to commission 1200 MW Kavak state district heating power station by 2015. During the same period, the NEP will add to the hydropower generation from small hydropower amounting 178 MW.


Although power production is growing from 13.3 billion kWh in 1990 to 14.5 billion kWh in 2006, the citizens are deprived of electricity. The share of hydropower stations in power production increased from 67 to 94 percent, while the share of heat and power plants decreased drastically from 32 to 6 percent in 2006. In country’s fuel energy mix, hydropower takes 81 percent; heat and power plants 17 percent and small hydropower stations around 1.3 percent.

Most of the existing hydropower plants were constructed in Soviet times entirely along a single river – the Naryn River. Before 1991, Toktogul Reservoir was operated in ‘irrigation mode’, with large summer releases to satisfy irrigation demands in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and low winter releases. Surplus hydropower in summer produced by the Naryn Cascade was transmitted to the downstream Republics. During the winter, the Kyrgyz Republic received sufficient fuel to operate its combined heat and power plants. After 1991, fuel deliveries have not fully satisfied Kyrgyzstan’s needs. Therefore, the Kyrgyz Republic increased releases from the Toktogul Reservoir during winter. As a result, the reservoir operation has shifted to ‘power mode’ with large winter releases and lower summer releases. However, to address growing problems in the first half of the 1990′s, the Basin States entered into annual agreements on water allocation energy exchanges in an attempt to re-establish the pre-1991 operating regime. The 1998 Framework Agreement on the joint use of water and energy resources in the Syr Darya Basin between the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan places these agreements on a more formal footing. However, the implementation of the yearly basis negotiated outcome of the 1998 agreement is always questionable.

According to one of the senior Kyrgyz government representative,

“It was the balance system to make countries equal. But after collapse of the USSR, upper riparian countries had to buy fossil fuel from downstream countries in market price, while latter used water free of charge. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan cannot understand that Kyrgyzstan needs money to maintain all these reservoirs to provide with irrigation water”.

Chui River
Without successful barter for alternative fuel, hydropower
in winter comes at the cost of downstream summer irrigation.

The Barter system: Water vs Natural Gas

In the latest negotiation with Uzbekistan in Tashkent, the Kyrgyz Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources Ilias Davydov concluded the imported natural gas price at $250 per 1000 cubic meters. Although the minister explained that the price is quite acceptable, when Uzbekistan sells gas to Russia at $326 per 1000 m3, last year the price was very low at $145. Earlier, both the government has an intergovernmental agreement, where it says that Uzbekistan promises to deliver Kyrgyzstan gas, while Kyrgyzstan give 600 cubic meters of water and 600 million kW/h of electricity. The Kyrgyz government agreed on these conditions, in order to keep the Bishkek heat and power plant operational. Kyrgyzstan intended to negotiate with Uzbek authorities into leaving the gas price unchanged – $145 per 1000m3. In 2007/2008 the Uzbek gas cost Kyrgyzstan $145 per 1,000m3.

The Uzbek government has been accusing Kyrgyzstan not to abide by the water-energy deal that has historically governed water allocations between the two nations. Even per the agreed arrangement, however, the Uzbeks complain about being unable to attain their goals for irrigation needs in summer as well as over unwanted flooding in winter. The Uzbek government’s intention, ideally, is to make beneficial use of the water of the Naryn River and the Toktogul reservoir not only for the Kyrgyz Republic, but for the national economies of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as well. This is one of the most political and complicated issues between these neighbouring countries. There have been many instances of the downstream Uzbeks accusing the upstream Kyrgyz of not abiding the 1998 agreement which always renewed annually as per the parties request. For example, when Kyrgyz officials released more water for producing electricity during the Winter of 2008, most of the Uzbek’s arable land flooded. When the Uzbeks needed more water in the following summer for irrigation, the reservoir had less water. There were hardly any official remarks on this.

Similarly, the Kyrgyz government inked a deal with Kazakhstan to import of 250 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to Kyrgyzstan in September 2008. However, the head of the parliament committee on fuel-energy sector Yury Danilov suspected that the price of Kazakh electricity will make 3-4 soms per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

Chui River
A shuttered and vacant school in Bishkek. Until heat and
electricity becomes more reliable, students cannot learn.

The Role of Multilateral Development Banks

Major donor agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) consider the present energy situation in Bishkek is continue to be a concern. The ADB is believed to be agreed to allocate $20 million for black oil, coal and gas purchasing for the Bishkek heating plant in the first quarter of 2009. The World Bank immediately sanctioned an emergency assistant to rehabilitate the Bishkek Heating Plant.

The ADB has a strategy called Central Asia Economic Cooperation under which a project named CASAREM (Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market) has been implemented for allowing energy export to Afghanistan and Pakistan as a market for the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s energy. Maya Eralieva, Central Asia and Caucasus Coordinator of NGO Forum on ADB, says,

“The MDBs [Multilateral Development Banks] especially the ADB has been cajoling the Kyrgyz government to export energy to far Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the situation at home is very grim, why the ADB is suggesting to exporting energy to outside the national border.”

Like the ADB, the World Bank is also planning for an export market for the Kyrgyz hydro power with emphasising privatisation of the energy sector in Bishkek. The privatisation of Kyrgyzenergo (the State electric agency) has been stalled at the parliamentary level since 1997, when sell-offs of large monopolies were suspended following allegations of price rigging and corruption. However, during this present emergency situation many international agencies like USAID have been re-opening the public debate on privatization. According to the senior human rights activist, Natalia Ablova of the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law, privatization would be a very dangerous experiment at least for the Kyrgyzstan as there is non-transparency, no legal system to protect consumer rights, and no judicial control over private companies.

The Elusive Yet Abundant Hydropower in the Kyrgyz Republic

It’s interesting to note that the national Flag of Kyrgyz Republic carries the glowing sun, but the country is pressed with increasing energy shortages. In the flag there is the tunduk positioned in the center of the glowing sun. This image of the tunduk, which translates as rooftop, refers to the top of the boz-youi – the traditional house of nomadic Kyrgyz people. So far, this scenic and beautiful landlocked country is looking for ways and means to harness the full potential of its hydropower. To pacify the anger of citizens of Bishkek, the Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources Ilias Davydov said that the government will consider writing off of citizens’ debts in early 2009. However, Mr. Guljan Ibraeva, citizen of Bishkek says,

“Joint effort can resolve all the energy crisis, lack of water resources, food crisis in this region. We have to put all our efforts together and back to Soviet time designed system which is suitable and more sustainable.”

This winter may decide the future of Kyrgyzstan’s energy sector and its bilateral relation with the neighbouring countries on water and energy. The Country must pay attention to hydro-energy diplomacy seriously.

Avilash Roul

About the author: Avilash Roul, who recently completed his doctoral research on international environmental negotiations, particularly in the area of water security, has been writing, advocating, researching, and publishing on issues of the Environment and Development in various English Daily media since 2000. Earlier, he worked with Down To Earth (fortnightly magazine published in New Delhi, India). He also contributed regularly on Sundays for a column in New India Express on environment and development. More recently, Mr. Roul worked as an Assistant South Asia Regional Coordinator for the Bank Information Center (, that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank and regional development banks. He has served on advisory boards for many research institutions and community based organizations. He is core advisor on energy and environment for the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict (, a New Delhi based think tank. Presently, he strategically supports many community groups and CSOs across Asia to build their capacity for research and analysis, project investigation, and strengthening community participation in Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects, programs and policies while working with the Manila based NGO Forum on ADB ( He contributes his free time on researching and empowering and building capacity of various communities on environmental risk management, climate change, forest, mining, water and wildlife issues.

EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Organizations, Other, Policies & Solutions, Regional0 Comments

Sea Shepherds Paul Watson & the Steve Irwin: Using Any Measures to Protect Their Flock

Almost ten years ago, Time Magazine proclaimed Paul Watson as one of the major environmental heroes of the 20th century. During the 1970s Watson was part of numerous Greenpeace campaigns against whaling, but he always felt that these placid confrontations had little result against saving whales. Some of these graceful animals even died from attacks with Greenpeace Zodiacs swarming around whaling vessels.

According to Watson’s biography, everything came to light in 1975, as he was forced to watch a sperm whale die a few feet from his boat after it had been harpooned by Russian hunters. This was just not acceptable.

Watson didn’t mesh well with Greenpeace and felt that more extreme measures were necessary for actual results, but his strong opinions didn’t win him any favors: He ended up expelled from the board of directors when he was 27, with only a single vote opposing the decision – his own.

Watson used this opportunity to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which, unlike Greenpeace, uses more aggressive tactics to stop whaling. This doesn’t come without a price, though, and Watson has found himself in jail a few times on charges ranging from attempted murder to intentionally sinking a ship. Sea Shepherd does admit to having sunk at least ten ‘pirate’ whaling ships since 1979 and it is no surprise that a few nations look at this group as a kind of terrorist organization.

The newest ship, named after famed
Australian conservationist Steve Irwin.
(Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

If nothing else, the current exploits of the Sea Shepherd is excellent television and it is now part of a more controversial reality TV show airing on Animal Planet. This show, adequately titled ‘Whale Wars’, aired a few months ago and already has millions of devoted fans.

Laws have been set into place to ban whaling, but it remains an issue in countries where whale meat has been a staple for centuries. Japan is one of the major players in the Whale Wars game. Every part of the whale is valued in one form or another by the Japanese, and it is hard for an entire nation to accept a law that interferes with ancient traditions. Japan has tried to find loopholes to allow whaling, such as painting ‘Research Vessel’ on the side of obvious whaling ships, but even these boats seem to turn around when confronted with Watson’s ‘terrorist’ ship.

It will be interesting to see how much of an influence organizations like Sea Shepherd have on the environment where politics have failed. Many people feel that they give environmentalists a bad rap, however it is hard not to respect a man who has given up everything to save a species he cares for deeply.

Posted in Animals, Organizations34 Comments

Planet Metrics CIM Software

Earlier this month heralded the formal launch of “Carbon Information Management” (CIM) software from Planet Metrics, a Northern California based company that has been brewing this “web-based, multi-dimensional software that helps organizations to create and deploy innovative sustainability strategies” since early 2007.

Unlike Environmental Health and Sustainability (EH&S) software, such as the enterprise wide solutions offered by market leaders in that space such as ESS, CIM software focuses on helping enterprises assess the total carbon footprint of their products and processes. As such, CIM offers an important analytical tool to help companies move towards clean and sustainable operations that is very distinct from EH&S solutions. Like ESS, Planet Metrics appears to be the furthest along towards delivering a comprehensive solution in their space, although they do get competition from products offered by Carbon View and Clear Standards.

What differentiates Planet Metrics, according to CEO Andy Leventhal, is that the competition focuses on helping companies do carbon accounting and data collection, but they don’t have the ability to model carbon data, performing what-ifs, nor do they have the rich database of stored life cycle analysis (LCA) assessments. Also unique with Planet Metrics is how they have integrated over 4,500 LCA’s with an Economic Input/Output (EIO) model they licensed from Carnegie Mellon. With this continuously updated and expanded LCA/EIO engine, Planet Metrics has added a carbon assessment feature, allowing companies using their software to rapidly estimate the carbon impact of their operations.

As Leventhal emphasized, this tool allows companies to look at virtually every facet of their operation from a carbon impact perspective, from the supply chain and product design to the packaging, logistics and waste streams. “We want to help companies understand that carbon is an aspect of everything they do, letting them see ‘what’s inside what’s inside’ [from a carbon perspective]; how they can innovate with their suppliers to reduce their impact.”

Planet Metrics sees their customer base as the global Fortune 5000 companies. In addition to already working with several undisclosed major clients, they recently performed a carbon impact assessment for the massive Consumer Electronics show recently held in Las Vegas, where over 140,000 people attended from all over the world. “We would like to be recognized as the preeminent provider of software to help companies understand the emissions associated with what they’re making and what they’re moving,” said Leventhal, “we want to be used by sustainability teams, supply chain teams, designers; anyone doing deep investigations of where their carbon is being consumed in a carbon constrained environment.”
post resumes below image

The Planet Metrics modeling solution leverages a company’s data in
combination with their CIM database, including life cycle inventories,
Carnegie Mellon’s EIO-LCA data model, governmental statistics, and
other studies to generate a customer-specific emissions profile.
(Source: Planet Metrics)

The connection between carbon consumption and cost efficiency is not one-to-one, although as long as the cost of fossil fuel remains high the correlation is pretty strong. From that perspective, an analytical tool that can enable a company to identify areas where their carbon consumption efficiency can be improved will pay for itself in short order – regardless of the benefits of managing possible externalities relating to carbon emissions. As their website states: “Reduction of fuel or energy consumption will result in savings regardless of the regulatory status of carbon.”

Now that the price of fossil fuel has returned to earth, at least for a while, the correlation between carbon intensity and cost savings may not be as compelling. Imagine a company deciding whether or not to source a product with a high embodied electricity content (a photovotaic panel, for example). If this company is located somewhere in the intermountain region of the U.S., midway between a supplier in California and a supplier in Kentucky, and the price of the product is tied to the cost of electricity in each of those states, then they may find very little connection between carbon intensity and product cost. Electricity in California, worst case using natural gas, creates about 1.3 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour, and costs on average about $0.115 per kilowatt-hour. Electricity if Kentucky, presumably using coal, creates about 2.0 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour, but only costs $0.046 per kilowatt-hour; 50% more CO2 emissions, but less than 50% the cost. (Sources: For CO2/kWh, ref. this DOE page, table 1, “CO2 Emissions for Electricity in the U.S.,” for $/kWh, ref. the Electricity Costs table from Because of the recent, rather precipitous correction in the price of conventional fuels, the connection between economic factors and environmental sustainability factors is not as strong as when the price of fossil fuel was dramatically higher than it is today.

Nonetheless, adopting and mastering tools such as the CIM software available from Planet Metrics is in the interests of large companies, since increasing regulations regarding carbon intensity and carbon consumption appear to be inevitable. And inevitably the price for fossil fuels will rise again. Perhaps the biggest challenge to using Planet Metrics software is simply the vast and highly subjective nature of both the underlying data and the connecting logic. Accurately assessing the actual life-cycle carbon intensity of an entire supply chain can, ultimately, requires assessing and selectively connecting an infinite amount of often uncertain data. In this regard, CIM software might be compared to other models that attempt to grapple with infinite and uncertain data, from global climate simulations to hedge fund risk analysis tools to the Black-Scholes stock option pricing models. But in all these cases, the futility of achieving perfect accuracy should not deter the user from recognizing the utility of these models along with their limitations, and hopefully obtaining practical results.

Planet Metrics is backed by angel investors as well as the premier venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and to-date has a total equity investment of $2.3 million.

Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Electronics, Natural Gas, Organizations, Other, Packaging0 Comments

A Centrist Agenda for Obama

It is difficult to overstate the pride and the hope that accompanies the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States. As America’s leader, he brings youth, intellect, optimism and empathy to the world stage; he represents many of America’s greatest virtues; ability to change, desire to improve, belief in progress, compassion for everyone. Barack Obama is the latest wonderful surprise America has delivered to the world; he is American exceptionalism incarnate. The City on the Hill celebrates today, as a new page in history is turned. Obama’s victory showed the world the good character of the American people.

With a Democratic Congress, and an enthusiastic following rarely seen, Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to deliver on his promises of change. In the spirit of bipartisanship that has inspired the best of Obama’s deeds, as well as those of his challenger, here is EcoWorld’s centrist agenda for Obama’s Presidency – with right-of-center notions mingled with left-of-center notions. Those on the left will no doubt find many of these suggestions difficult – they will be joined by those on the right who find difficulties with all the rest. This agenda is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather, at least somewhat pertinent to the green and cleantech issues we cover.

Barack Obama


(1) Health Security: Make Medicare available to anyone who wants to pay the premiums, regardless of their age or work status. Make all healthcare expenditures deductible. Make Medicare coverage portable going into or coming out of private insurance plans, and allow private insurance plans to compete with Medicare. Don’t create any new administration, allow Medicare to take care of all of this. Allow Medicare to offer coverage to private companies who find their package competitive with private insurance plans. Fund this through collection of premiums and by raising the cap on Medicare withholdings.

(2) Retirement Security: Merge all public employee defined benefit plans in all states, counties and municipalities throughout the United States with Social Security, liquidate public employee pension funds and invest the proceeds into the Social Security fund. Have one, upgraded retirement security formula – based on Social Security – apply to all workers, public and private. This restores solvency to all state and local governments. Fund benefit upgrades by raising the Social Security limit as much as necessary, possibly by requiring a declining percentage of higher income bracket increments without ever applying a cap.

(3) Military Strategy: End America’s neglect of strategic military spending – deploy the F-22 and F-35 jets and accelerate development of the next generation of flying machines and all promising innovations in this vital area. Invest in space industrialization, starting with a no-compromise national aerospaceplane design. Restore and extend American leadership in all aspects of aerospace. This is an investment that yields the dividends of technological leadership and spinoffs to our industries.

(4) Reject Protectionism. Invest in struggling major U.S. manufacturers by providing low interest loans. In companies where these loans are provided, take over their corporate pension funds by merging them with the Social Security fund and apply to these workers the same set of defined benefit calculation formulas that all retired workers receive through Social Security. This restores solvency to America’s largest manufacturers and makes them more competitive. Prove that American workers combined with American innovation are second to none. Global trade provides benefits to everyone.

(5) Revisit the Global Warming Debate: Start by appointing two international peer review teams of respected scientists, one of skeptics, and one of alarmists. Let them report and compare findings based on observational data and model simulations in an intellectually honest manner. Meanwhile, bann global warming related fees and taxes, they are being used to delay government budget and spending reform. Recognize the fungible connection between allowing global warming takings and avoiding public sector fiscal reform.

(6) Adopt Centrist Ideology: Embrace the American opportunity, and continue entitlement reform. Explain the corrosive effects of welfare, and continue the reforms Clinton initiated. Challenge disadvantaged communities to rise out of the cycle of dependence through their own initiative, and encourage a meritocracy where initiative is rewarded. Recognize corruption exists in all sectors, corporate, financial, academic, government – everywhere. Reform Wall Street but also regulate and reform unions, especially in the public sector where they have far too much influence.

(7) Practice Common Sense Environmentalism: End excessive zoning and land use restrictions based on extreme environmental concerns and restore property rights. This will help everything from housing to resource extraction to stay affordable, and nurturing a robust competitive market for supplying goods will help avoid future bubbles. Focus on eliminating genuine pollution instead of worrying about CO2, for example, upgrade coal emission scrubbers to parts per billion (from parts per million) levels of toxin removal. Investigate environmental groups and other nonprofits who use their tax deductible donations for partisan political activity.

(8) Set Realistic Infrastructure Priorities: Invest in practical, versatile infrastructure that people want. Instead of subsidizing ultra high density “transit villages” and building light rail, get government out of the housing business, and fund more and wider freeways and car friendly infrastructure. Fund research to develop next generation busses and smart cars. Rebuild our roads and bridges – trains can wait. Restore balance to the urban planning dialogue. Embrace supply side resource solutions; instead of rationing water, build desalination plants and upgrade sewage treatment plants for water reuse. And if rate-payers are going to foot the bill for windfarms and solar fields, invest as well in underground transmission conduits.

9) Develop all Energy Sources: Continue to encourage alternative energy, but also develop more nuclear power, natural gas and oil. Help the coal fired power plants completely clean their emissions (except for the CO2 which is probably just a harmless trace gas that plants require to live and that we can’t possibly significantly reduce in any case). Create energy and water abundance; in general, emphasize creating resource abundance through market competition. Invest in any cost-effective energy investments that can be performed in a relatively clean manner. Restore intellectual honesty to impact comparisons, for example, the relative consequences of developing 1.0+ million square miles of fuel-growing lands vs. 100,000 square miles of tar sands.

10) Keep the Dream Alive: Once America has rekindled a new era of prosperity, the most sustainable and best yet, we can further improve all the entitlements we afford, all the investments we make, and all the marvels our technology delivers. Maybe by Obama’s second term we can already afford to start programs to build bullet trains and bases on the Moon. As our prosperity grows, we will continuously upgrade our treatments for every human ailment, have increased options to rescue and protect charismatic fauna and their habitats; we can and we will manage our industrial, financial and natural ecosystems better than ever. America is the heart of the new world generation; we have proven this again with the election of Obama; it is our time.

The Question of Carbon Trading: There is one huge question relating directly to Obama’s agenda and green issues, and that is carbon trading. If carbon trading is done right, and if it is the only way to prevent global economic deflation, then we probably should get started. Despite some claims to the contrary, the impact of carbon takings and redistribution is regressive, and even via a market trading application creates new and burdensome requirements for business. It could destroy many small businesses, and so it should only be applied to the largest companies in limited sectors.

Equally vital, implementation of carbon trading should reject the excessive preoccupation with reducing CO2 emissions. The motivation for carbon trading should be to accelerate transition to non fossil fuel energy, not to reduce CO2 emissions. Any sort of carbon sequestration or reduction schemes, absent other benefits such as improved efficiency – should not be considered eligible as offset investments. Carbon auction proceeds should be primarily invested in alternative energy production and research and an upgraded power grid. Carbon trading will revive Wall Street and create a new asset class on which to collateralize capital formation. For the purpose of global economic recovery alone, limited carbon trading is possibly worth considering if it can be correctly applied.

A recent column by a decidedly non-centrist commentator, the occasionally offensive but always lucid Mark Steyn noted an Obama Presidency would usher in the 4th wave of socialism in America. The first would have been the New Deal, the second LBJ’s Great Society, and the third the stealthy infiltration of state and local organizations over the past 25 years. But socialism is governance, socialism is collective behavior, ultimately socialism might describe the ideology of any functioning social contract. Can both entitlements and takings apply in a flat, impassive way, with an equal formula granted every citizen? If so, then as technology and economic freedom increases overall productivity, the government can steadily offer more services and security without relying on greater takings, or on counterproductive and unfair redistribution in either direction. Socialism is a continuum, not a place. How much is the question.

If this version of a centrist agenda is not anathema to Obama and his top people, is not excluded from the table, then one might hope a new and uniquely American center can form. If the ideological opponents of Obama’s original constituency are not overwhelmed and silenced in a storm of righteous rhetoric accompanied only by new government takings, and instead are helping to write the new laws, and being listened to “even more when we disagree,” then there is hope indeed. To make the next quantum leap, Obama must aspire to construct a transcendent center.

Posted in Cars, Coal, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, History, Infrastructure, Military, Natural Gas, Organizations, Other, People, Policy, Law, & Government, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar5 Comments

Climate Science

Has global warming alarm become the goal rather than the result of scientific research? Is climate science really designed to answer questions?

Editor’s Note: When the history of the early 21st century is written, it may be the financial health of the global economy was rescued by a new currency, carbon. This new asset class, fungible and tradeable, reinflated the balance sheets of governments and international financial institutions alike, and pulled humanity back from the brink of a worldwide depression. That is the hopeful scenario, and not one to be lightly dismissed.

The other outcome that may be our legacy, however, will be that just when technology and capitalism were about to deliver prosperity and security to an unprecedented number of people everywhere, and just at the time when what our financial systems needed was to embark on new investment in cost-effective energy and water infrastructure, we instead committed the wealth of humanity to deploying immature energy technologies, and arcane projects of no use and stupefying expense – such as blasting CO2 gas into underground caverns.

In either case, what historians will definitely wonder about in future centuries is how deeply flawed logic, obscured by shrewd and unrelenting propaganda, actually enabled a coalition of powerful special interests to convince nearly everyone in the world that CO2 from human industry was a dangerous, planet destroying toxin. This could be remembered as the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world – that CO2, the life of plants, was considered for a time to be a deadly poison.

In this recently presented paper by Dr. Richard Lindzen, published here in its entirety, he describes the origins of global warming alarm, the political agenda of the alarmists, their intimidation tactics, and the reasons for their success. Also, in painstaking detail, he debunks their key scientific claims and counterclaims. Dr. Lindzen is not alone – he is one of the prominent members of what has become thousands of reputable scientists who are coming forward to dispute the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is the prevailing threat to global climate. Anyone who firmly believes anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be dramatically reduced in order to protect our planet should read this paper by Dr. Lindzen, and other work by reputable skeptics. There is simply too much at stake, and too many sweeping political changes being justified because of CO2 alarm, for any responsible activist or policymaker, media influencer or ordinary voter, to not take a second look.
- Ed Ring

Climate Science: Is It Currently Designed To Answer Questions?
by Richard Lindzen, October 30, 2008
global warming simulation
“We have the new paradigm where simulation and programs
have replaced theory and observation.” – Richard Lindzen
(Source: NASA)

For a variety of inter-related cultural, organizational, and political reasons, progress in climate science and the actual solution of scientific problems in this field have moved at a much slower rate than would normally be possible. Not all these factors are unique to climate science, but the heavy influence of politics has served to amplify the role of the other factors.”

By cultural factors, I primarily refer to the change in the scientific paradigm from a dialectic opposition between theory and observation to an emphasis on simulation and observational programs. The latter serves to almost eliminate the dialectical focus of the former. Whereas the former had the potential for convergence, the latter is much less effective.

The institutional factor has many components. One is the inordinate growth of administration in universities and the consequent increase in importance of grant overhead. This leads to an emphasis on large programs that never end. Another is the hierarchical nature of formal scientific organizations whereby a small executive council can speak on behalf of thousands of scientists as well as govern the distribution of ‘carrots and sticks’ whereby reputations are made and broken.

The above factors are all amplified by the need for government funding. When an issue becomes a vital part of a political agenda, as is the case with climate, then the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research.

This paper will deal with the origin of the cultural changes and with specific examples of the operation and interaction of these factors. In particular, we will show how political bodies act to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.


Although the focus of this paper is on climate science, some of the problems pertain to science more generally. Science has traditionally been held to involve the creative opposition of theory and observation wherein each tests the other in such a manner as to converge on a better understanding of the natural world. Success was rewarded by recognition, though the degree of recognition was weighted according to both the practical consequences of the success and the philosophical and aesthetic power of the success. As science undertook more ambitious problems, and the cost and scale of operations increased, the need for funds undoubtedly shifted emphasis to practical relevance though numerous examples from the past assured a strong base level of confidence in the utility of science. Moreover, the many success stories established ‘science’ as a source of authority and integrity. Thus, almost all modern movements claimed scientific foundations for their aims. Early on, this fostered a profound misuse of science, since science is primarily a successful mode of inquiry rather than a source of authority.

Until the post World War II period, little in the way of structure existed for the formal support of science by government (at least in the US which is where my own observations are most relevant). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the major contributions of science to the war effort (radar, the A-bomb), to health (penicillin), etc. were evident. Vannevar Bush (in his report, Science: The Endless Frontier, 1945) noted the many practical roles that validated the importance of science to the nation, and argued that the government need only adequately support basic science in order for further benefits to emerge. The scientific community felt this paradigm to be an entirely appropriate response by a grateful nation. The next 20 years witnessed truly impressive scientific productivity which firmly established the United States as the creative center of the scientific world. The Bush paradigm seemed amply justified. (This period and its follow-up are also discussed by Miller, 2007, with special but not total emphasis on the NIH (National Institutes of Health).) However, something changed in the late 60’s. In a variety of fields it has been suggested that the rate of new discoveries and achievements slowed appreciably (despite increasing publications)2, and it is being suggested that either the Bush paradigm ceased to be valid or that it may never have been valid in the first place.

(2 At some level, this is obvious. Theoretical physics is still dealing with the standard model though there is an active search for something better. Molecular biology is still working off of the discovery of DNA. Many of the basic laws of physics resulted from individual efforts in the 17th-19th Centuries. The profound advances in technology should not disguise the fact that the bulk of the underlying science is more than 40 years old. This is certainly the case in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences. That said, it should not be forgotten that sometimes progress slows because the problem is difficult. Sometimes, it slows because the existing results are simply correct as is the case with DNA. Structural problems are not always the only factor involved.)

I believe that the former is correct. What then happened in the 1960’s to produce this change? It is my impression that by the end of the 60’s scientists, themselves, came to feel that the real basis for support was not gratitude (and the associated trust that support would bring further benefit) but fear: fear of the Soviet Union, fear of cancer, etc. Many will conclude that this was merely an awakening of a naive scientific community to reality, and they may well be right. However, between the perceptions of gratitude and fear as the basis for support lies a world of difference in incentive structure. If one thinks the basis is gratitude, then one obviously will respond by contributions that will elicit more gratitude. The perpetuation of fear, on the other hand, militates against solving problems. This change in perception proceeded largely without comment. However, the end of the cold war, by eliminating a large part of the fear-base forced a reassessment of the situation. Most thinking has been devoted to the emphasis of other sources of fear: competitiveness, health, resource depletion and the environment.

What may have caused this change in perception is unclear, because so many separate but potentially relevant things occurred almost simultaneously. The space race reinstituted the model of large scale focused efforts such as the moon landing program. For another, the 60’s saw the first major postwar funding cuts for science in the US. The budgetary pressures of the Vietnam War may have demanded savings someplace, but the fact that science was regarded as, to some extent, dispensable, came as a shock to many scientists. So did the massive increase in management structures and bureaucracy which took control of science out of the hands of working scientists. All of this may be related to the demographic pressures resulting from the baby boomers entering the workforce and the post-sputnik emphasis on science. Sorting this out goes well beyond my present aim which is merely to consider the consequences of fear as a perceived basis of support.

Fear has several advantages over gratitude. Gratitude is intrinsically limited, if only by the finite creative capacity of the scientific community. Moreover, as pointed out by a colleague at MIT, appealing to people’s gratitude and trust is usually less effective than pulling a gun. In other words, fear can motivate greater generosity. Sputnik provided a notable example in this regard; though it did not immediately alter the perceptions of most scientists, it did lead to a great increase in the number of scientists, which contributed to the previously mentioned demographic pressure. Science since the sixties has been characterized by the large programs that this generosity encourages. Moreover, the fact that fear provides little incentive for scientists to do anything more than perpetuate problems, significantly reduces the dependence of the scientific enterprise on unique skills and talents. The combination of increased scale and diminished emphasis on unique talent is, from a certain point of view, a devastating combination which greatly increases the potential for the political direction of science, and the creation of dependent constituencies. With these new constituencies, such obvious controls as peer review and detailed accountability begin to fail and even serve to perpetuate the defects of the system. Miller (2007) specifically addresses how the system especially favors dogmatism and conformity.

The creation of the government bureaucracy, and the increasing body of regulations accompanying government funding, called, in turn, for a massive increase in the administrative staff at universities and research centers. The support for this staff comes from the overhead on government grants, and, in turn, produces an active pressure for the solicitation of more and larger grants.3

(3 It is sometimes thought that government involvement automatically implies large bureaucracies, and lengthy regulations. This was not exactly the case in the 20 years following the second world war. Much of the support in the physical sciences came from the armed forces for which science support remained a relatively negligible portion of their budgets. For example, meteorology at MIT was supported by the Air Force. Group grants were made for five year periods and renewed on the basis of a site visit. When the National Science Foundation was created, it functioned with a small permanent staff supplemented by ‘rotators’ who served on leave from universities for a few years. Unfortunately, during the Vietnam War, the US Senate banned the military from supporting non-military research (Mansfield Amendment). This shifted support to agencies whose sole function was to support science. That said, today all agencies supporting science have large ‘supporting’ bureaucracies.)

One result of the above appears to have been the deemphasis of theory because of its intrinsic difficulty and small scale, the encouragement of simulation instead (with its call for large capital investment in computation), and the encouragement of large programs unconstrained by specific goals.4

(4 In fairness, such programs should be distinguished from team efforts which are sometimes appropriate and successful: classification of groups in mathematics, human genome project, etc.)

In brief, we have the new paradigm where simulation and programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity, and where the primary role of professional societies is the lobbying of the government for special advantage.

This new paradigm for science and its dependence on fear-based support may not constitute corruption per se, but it does serve to make the system particularly vulnerable to corruption. Much of the remainder of this paper will illustrate the exploitation of this vulnerability in the area of climate research. The situation is particularly acute for a small weak field like climatology. As a field, it has traditionally been a subfield within such disciplines as meteorology, oceanography, geography, geochemistry, etc. These fields, themselves are small and immature. At the same time, these fields can be trivially associated with natural disasters. Finally, climate science has been targeted by a major political movement, environmentalism, as the focus of their efforts, wherein the natural disasters of the earth system, have come to be identified with man’s activities – engendering fear as well as an agenda for societal reform and control. The remainder of this paper will briefly describe how this has been playing out with respect to the climate issue.

Abraham Lincoln
“You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time, but you
can not fool all of the people all of the time…”
- Lincoln (prior to the global warming scare)


The above described changes in scientific culture were both the cause and effect of the growth of ‘big science,’ and the concomitant rise in importance of large organizations. However, all such organizations, whether professional societies, research laboratories, advisory bodies (such as the national academies), government departments and agencies (including NASA, NOAA, EPA, NSF, etc.), and even universities are hierarchical structures where positions and policies are determined by small executive councils or even single individuals. This greatly facilitates any conscious effort to politicize science via influence in such bodies where a handful of individuals (often not even scientists) speak on behalf of organizations that include thousands of scientists, and even enforce specific scientific positions and agendas. The temptation to politicize science is overwhelming and longstanding. Public trust in science has always been high, and political organizations have long sought to improve their own credibility by associating their goals with ‘science’ – even if this involves misrepresenting the science.

Professional societies represent a somewhat special case. Originally created to provide a means for communication within professions – organizing meetings and publishing journals – they also provided, in some instances, professional certification, and public outreach. The central offices of such societies were scattered throughout the US, and rarely located in Washington. Increasingly, however, such societies require impressive presences in Washington where they engage in interactions with the federal government. Of course, the nominal interaction involves lobbying for special advantage, but increasingly, the interaction consists in issuing policy and scientific statements on behalf of the society. Such statements, however, hardly represent independent representation of membership positions. For example, the primary spokesman for the American Meteorological Society in Washington is Anthony Socci who is neither an elected official of the AMS nor a contributor to climate science. Rather, he is a former staffer for Al Gore.

Returning to the matter of scientific organizations, we find a variety of patterns of influence. The most obvious to recognize (though frequently kept from public view), consists in prominent individuals within the environmental movement simultaneously holding and using influential positions within the scientific organization. Thus, John Firor long served as administrative director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. This position was purely administrative, and Firor did not claim any scientific credentials in the atmospheric sciences at the time I was on the staff of NCAR. However, I noticed that beginning in the 1980′s, Firor was frequently speaking on the dangers of global warming as an expert from NCAR. When Firor died last November, his obituary noted that he had also been Board Chairman at Environmental Defense– a major environmental advocacy group – from 1975-1980. 5

(5 A personal memoir from Al Grable sent to Sherwood Idso in 1993 is interesting in this regard. Grable served as a Department of Agriculture observer to the National Research Council’s National Climate Board. Such observers are generally posted by agencies to boardsthat they are funding. In any event, Grable describes a motion presented at a Board meeting in 1980 by Walter Orr Roberts, the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and by Joseph Smagorinsky, director of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton, to censure Sherwood Idso for criticizing climate models with high sensitivities due to water vapor feedbacks (in the models), because of their inadequate handling of cooling due to surface evaporation. A member of that board, Sylvan Wittwer, noted that it was not the role of such boards to censure specific scientific positions since the appropriate procedure would be to let science decide in the fullness of time, and the matter was dropped. In point of fact, there is evidence that models do significantly understate the increase of evaporative cooling with temperature (Held and Soden, 2006). Moreover, this memoir makes clear that the water vapor feedback was considered central to the whole global warming issue from the very beginning.)

The UK Meteorological Office also has a board, and its chairman, Robert Napier, was previously the Chief Executive for World Wildlife Fund – UK. Bill Hare, a lawyer and Campaign Director for Greenpeace, frequently speaks as a ‘scientist’ representing the Potsdam Institute, Germany’s main global warming research center. John Holdren, who currently directs the Woods Hole Research Center (an environmental advocacy center not to be confused with the far better known Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a research center), is also a professor in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science among numerous other positions. He was the Clinton-Gore Administration spokesman on global warming. The making of academic appointments to global warming alarmists is hardly a unique occurrence. The case of Michael Oppenheimer is noteworthy in this regard. With few contributions to climate science (his postdoctoral research was in astro-chemistry), and none to the physics of climate, Oppenheimer became the Barbara Streisand Scientist at Environmental Defense. 6

(6 It should be acknowledged that Oppenheimer has quite a few papers with climate in the title – especially in the last two years. However, these are largely papers concerned with policy and advocacy, assuming significant warming. Such articles probably constitute the bulk of articles on climate. It may be fair to say that such articles contribute little if anything to understanding the phenomenon.

He was subsequently appointed to a professorship at Princeton University, and is now, regularly, referred to as a prominent climate scientist by Oprah (a popular television hostess), NPR (National Public Radio), etc. To be sure, Oppenheimer did coauthor an early absurdly alarmist volume (Oppenheimer and Robert Boyle, 1990: Dead Heat, The Race Against the Greenhouse Effect), and he has served as a lead author with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)7. Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions? 7

(7 Certain names come up repeatedly in this paper. This is hardly an accident. In 1989, following the public debut of the issue in the US in Tim Wirth’s and Al Gore’s famous Senate hearing featuring Jim Hansen associating the warm summer of 1988 with global warming, the Climate Action Network was created. This organization of over 280 ENGO’s has been at the center of the climate debates since then. The Climate Action Network, is an umbrella NGO that coordinates the advocacy efforts of its members, particularly in relation to the UN negotiations. Organized around seven regional nodes in North and Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, CAN represents the majority of environmental groups advocating on climate change, and it has embodied the voice of the environmental community in the climate negotiations since it was established. The founding of the Climate Action Network can be traced back to the early involvement of scientists from the research ENGO community. These individuals, including Michael Oppenheimer from Environmental Defense, Gordon Goodman of the Stockholm Environmental Institute (formerly the Beijer Institute), and George Woodwell of the Woods Hole Research Center were instrumental in organizing the scientific workshops in Villach and Bellagio on ‘Developing Policy Responses to Climate Change’ in 1987 as well as the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in June 1988. It should be noted that the current director of the Woods Hole Research Center is John Holdren. In 1989, several months after the Toronto Conference, the emerging group of climate scientists and activists from the US, Europe, and developing countries were brought together at a meeting in Germany, with funding from Environmental Defense and the German Marshall Fund. The German Marshall Fund is still funding NGO activity in Europe: (Pulver, 2004).

One could go on at some length with such examples, but a more common form of infiltration consists in simply getting a couple of seats on the council of an organization (or on the advisory panels of government agencies). This is sufficient to veto any statements or decisions that they are opposed to. Eventually, this enables the production of statements supporting their position – if only as a quid pro quo for permitting other business to get done. Sometimes, as in the production of the 1993 report of the NAS, Policy Implications of Global Warming, the environmental activists, having largely gotten their way in the preparation of the report where they were strongly represented as ‘stake holders,’ decided, nonetheless, to issue a minority statement suggesting that the NAS report had not gone ‘far enough.’ The influence of the environmental movement has effectively made support for global warming, not only a core element of political correctness, but also a requirement for the numerous prizes and awards given to scientists. That said, when it comes to professional societies, there is often no need at all for overt infiltration since issues like global warming have become a part of both political correctness and (in the US) partisan politics, and there will usually be council members who are committed in this manner.

The situation with America’s National Academy of Science is somewhat more complicated. The Academy is divided into many disciplinary sections whose primary task is the nomination of candidates for membership in the Academy. 8 Typically, support by more than 85% of the membership of any section is needed for nomination. However, once a candidate is elected, the candidate is free to affiliate with any section. The vetting procedure is generally rigorous, but for over 20 years, there was a Temporary Nominating Group for the Global Environment to provide a back door for the election of candidates who were environmental activists, bypassing the conventional vetting procedure. Members, so elected, proceeded to join existing sections where they hold a veto power over the election of any scientists unsympathetic to their position. Moreover, they are almost immediately appointed to positions on the executive council, and other influential bodies within the Academy. One of the members elected via the Temporary Nominating Group, Ralph Cicerone, is now president of the National Academy. Prior to that, he was on the nominating committee for the presidency. It should be added that there is generally only a single candidate for president. Others elected to the NAS via this route include Paul Ehrlich, James Hansen, Steven Schneider, John Holdren and Susan Solomon.

(8 The reports attributed to the National Academy are not, to any major extent, the work of Academy Members. Rather, they are the product of the National Research Council, which consists in a staff of over 1000 who are paid largely by the organizations soliciting the reports. The committees that prepare the reports are mostly scientists who are not Academy Members, and who serve without pay.

It is, of course, possible to corrupt science without specifically corrupting institutions. For example, the environmental movement often cloaks its propaganda in scientific garb without the aid of any existing scientific body. One technique is simply to give a name to an environmental advocacy group that will suggest to the public, that the group is a scientific rather than an environmental group. Two obvious examples are the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Woods Hole Research Center. 9

(9 One might reasonably add the Pew Charitable Trust to this list. Although they advertise themselves as a neutral body, they have merged with the National Environmental Trust, whose director, Philip Clapp, became deputy managing director of the combined body. Clapp (the head of the legislative practice of a large Washington law firm, and a consultant on mergers and acquisitions to investment banking firms), according to his recent obituary, was ‘an early and vocal advocate on climate change issues and a promoter of the international agreement concluded in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Mr. Clapp continued to attend subsequent global warming talks even after the US Congress did not ratify the Kyoto accord.’

The former conducted an intensive advertising campaign about ten years ago in which they urged people to look to them for authoritative information on global warming. This campaign did not get very far – if only because the Union of Concerned Scientists had little or no scientific expertise in climate. A possibly more effective attempt along these lines occurred in the wake of Michael Crichton’s best selling adventure, Climate of Fear, which pointed out the questionable nature of the global warming issue, as well as the dangers to society arising from the exploitation of this issue. Environmental Media Services (a project of Fenton Communications, a large public relations firm serving left wing and environmental causes; they are responsible for the alar scare as well as Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war campaign.) created a website,, as an ‘authoritative’ source for the ‘truth’ about climate.

This time, real scientists who were also environmental activists, were recruited to organize this web site and ‘discredit’ any science or scientist that questioned catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. The web site serves primarily as a support group for believers in catastrophe, constantly reassuring them that there is no reason to reduce their worrying. Of course, even the above represent potentially unnecessary complexity compared to the longstanding technique of simply publicly claiming that all scientists agree with whatever catastrophe is being promoted. Newsweek already made such a claim in 1988. Such a claim serves at least two purposes. First, the bulk of the educated public is unable to follow scientific arguments; ‘knowing’ that all scientists agree relieves them of any need to do so. Second, such a claim serves as a warning to scientists that the topic at issue is a bit of a minefield that they would do well to avoid.

The myth of scientific consensus is also perpetuated in the web’s Wikipedia where climate articles are vetted by William Connolley, who regularly runs for office in England as a Green Party candidate. No deviation from the politically correct line is permitted.

Perhaps the most impressive exploitation of climate science for political purposes has been the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by two UN agencies, UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) and WMO (World Meteorological Organization), and the agreement of all major countries at the 1992 Rio Conference to accept the IPCC as authoritative. Formally, the IPCC summarizes the peer reviewed literature on climate every five years. On the face of it, this is an innocent and straightforward task. One might reasonably wonder why it takes 100′s of scientists five years of constant travelling throughout the world in order to perform this task. The charge to the IPCC is not simply to summarize, but rather to provide the science with which to support the negotiating process whose aim is to control greenhouse gas levels. This is a political rather than a scientific charge. That said, the participating scientists have some leeway in which to reasonably describe matters, since the primary document that the public associates with the IPCC is not the extensive report prepared by the scientists, but rather the Summary for Policymakers which is written by an assemblage of representative from governments and NGO’s, with only a small scientific representation. 10, 11

(10 Appendix 1 is the invitation to the planning session for the 5th assessment. It clearly emphasizes strengthening rather than checking the IPCC position. Appendix 2 reproduces a commentary by Stephen McIntyre on the recent OfCom findings concerning a British TV program opposing global warming alarmism. The response of the IPCC officials makes it eminently clear that the IPCC is fundamentally a political body. If further evidence were needed, one simply has to observe the fact that the IPCC Summary for Policymakers will selectively cite results to emphasize negative consequences. Thus the summary for Working Group II observes that global warming will result in “Hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress.” This, however, is based on work (Arnell, 2004) which actually shows that by the 2080s the net global population at risk declines by up to 2.1 billion people (depending on which scenario one wants to emphasize)! The IPCC further ignores the capacity to build reservoirs to alleviate those areas they project as subject to drought (I am indebted to Indur Goklany for noting this example.))

(11 Appendix 3 is a recent op-ed from the Boston Globe, written by the aforementioned John Holdren. What is interesting about this piece is that what little science it invokes is overtly incorrect. Rather, it points to the success of the above process of taking over scientific institutions as evidence of the correctness of global warming alarmism. The 3 atmospheric scientists who are explicitly mentioned are chemists with no particular expertise in climate, itself. While, Holdren makes much of the importance of expertise, he fails to note that he, himself, is hardly a contributor to the science of climate. Holdren and Paul Ehrlich (of Population Bomb fame; in that work he predicted famine and food riots for the US in the 1980′s) are responsible for the I=PAT formula. Holdren, somewhat disingenuously claims that this is merely a mathematical identity where I is environmental impact, P is population, A is GDP/P and T is I/GDP. However, in popular usage, A has become affluence and T has become technology (viz Schneider, 1997.)


Given the above, it would not be surprising if working scientists would make special efforts to support the global warming hypothesis. There is ample evidence that this is happening on a large scale. A few examples will illustrate this situation. Data that challenges the hypothesis are simply changed. In some instances, data that was thought to support the hypothesis is found not to, and is then changed. The changes are sometimes quite blatant, but more often are somewhat more subtle. The crucial point is that geophysical data is almost always at least somewhat uncertain, and methodological errors are constantly being discovered. Bias can be introduced by simply considering only those errors that change answers in the desired direction. The desired direction in the case of climate is to bring the data into agreement with models that attempt to account for the observations by means of greenhouse forcing, even though such models have displayed minimal skill in explaining or predicting climate. Model projections, it should be recalled, are the basis for our greenhouse concerns. That corrections to climate data should be called for, is not at all surprising, but that such corrections should almost always be in the ‘needed’ direction is exceedingly unlikely. Although the situation suggests overt dishonesty, it is entirely possible, in today’s scientific environment, that many scientists feel that it is the role of science to vindicate the greenhouse paradigm for climate change as well as the credibility of models. Comparisons of models with data are, for example, referred to as model validation studies rather than model tests.

The first two examples involve paleoclimate simulations and reconstructions. Here, the purpose has been to show that both the models and the greenhouse paradigm can explain past climate regimes, thus lending confidence to the use of both to anticipate future changes. In both cases (the Eocene about 50 million years ago, and the Last Glacial Maximum about 18 thousand years ago), the original data were in conflict with the greenhouse paradigm as implemented in current models, and in both cases, lengthy efforts were made to bring the data into agreement with the models.

In the first example, the original data analysis for the Eocene (Shackleton and Boersma, 1981) showed the polar regions to have been so much warmer than the present that a type of alligator existed on Spitzbergen as did florae and fauna in Minnesota that could not have survived frosts. At the same time, however, equatorial temperatures were found to be about 4K colder than at present. The first attempts to simulate the Eocene (Barron, 1987) assumed that the warming would be due to high levels of CO2, and using a climate GCM (General Circulation Model), he obtained relatively uniform warming at all latitudes, with the meridional gradients remaining much as they are today. This behavior continues to be the case with current GCMs (Huber, 2008). As a result, paleoclimatologists have devoted much effort to ‘correcting’ their data, but, until very recently, they were unable to bring temperatures at the equator higher than today’s (Schrag, 1999, Pearson et al, 2000). However, the latest paper (Huber, 2008) suggests that the equatorial data no longer constrains equatorial temperatures at all, and any values may have existed. All of this is quite remarkable since there is now evidence that current meridional distributions of temperature depend critically on the presence of ice, and that the model behavior results from improper tuning wherein present distributions remain even when ice is absent.

The second example begins with the results of a major attempt to observationally reconstruct the global climate of the last glacial maximum (CLIMAP, 1976). Here it was found that although extratropical temperatures were much colder, equatorial temperatures were little different from today’s. There were immediate attempts to simulate this climate with GCMs and reduced levels of CO2. Once again the result was lower temperatures at all latitudes (Bush and Philander, 1998a,b), and once again, numerous efforts were made to ‘correct’ the data. After much argument, the current position appears to be that tropical temperatures may have been a couple of degrees cooler than today’s. However, papers appeared claiming far lower temperatures (Crowley, 2000). We will deal further with this issue in the next section where we describe papers that show that the climate associated with ice ages is well described by the Milankovich Hypothesis that does not call for any role for CO2.

Both of the above examples probably involved legitimate corrections, but only corrections that sought to bring observations into agreement with models were initially considered, thus avoiding the creative conflict between theory and data that has characterized the past successes of science. To be sure, however, the case of the Last Glacial Maximum shows that climate science still retains a capacity for self-correction.

The next example has achieved a much higher degree of notoriety than the previous two. In the first IPCC assessment (IPCC, 1990), the traditional picture of the climate of the past 1100 years was presented. In this picture, there was a medieval warm period that was somewhat warmer than the present as well as the little ice age that was cooler. The presence of a period warmer than the present in the absence of any anthropogenic greenhouse gases was deemed an embarrassment for those holding that present warming could only be accounted for by the activities of man. Not surprisingly, efforts were made to get rid of the medieval warm period (According to Demming, 2005, Jonathan Overpeck, in an email, remarked that one had to get rid of the medieval warm period. Overpeck is one of signators in Appendix 1.). The most infamous effort was that due to Mann et al (1998, 1999) 12 which used primarily a few handfuls of tree ring records to obtain a reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperature going back eventually a thousand years that no longer showed a medieval warm period.

(12 The 1998 paper actually only goes back to 1400 CE, and acknowledges that there is no useful resolution of spatial patterns of variability going further back. It is the 1999 paper that then goes back 1000 years.)

Indeed, it showed a slight cooling for almost a thousand years culminating in a sharp warming beginning in the nineteenth century. The curve came to be known as the hockey stick, and featured prominently in the next IPCC report, where it was then suggested that the present warming was unprecedented in the past 1000 years. The study immediately encountered severe questions concerning both the proxy data and its statistical analysis (interestingly, the most penetrating critiques came from outside the field: McIntyre and McKitrick, 2003, 2005 a,b). This led to two independent assessments of the hockey stick (Wegman,2006, North, 2006), both of which found the statistics inadequate for the claims. The story is given in detail in Holland (2007). Since the existence of a medieval warm period is amply documented in historical accounts for the North Atlantic region (Soon et al, 2003), Mann et al countered that the warming had to be regional but not characteristic of the whole northern hemisphere. Given that an underlying assumption of their analysis was that the geographic pattern of warming had to have remained constant, this would have invalidated the analysis ab initio without reference to the specifics of the statistics. Indeed, the 4th IPCC (IPCC, 2007) assessment no longer featured the hockey stick, but the claim that current warming is unprecedented remains, and Mann et al’s reconstruction is still shown in Chapter 6 of the 4th IPCC assessment, buried among other reconstructions. Here too, we will return to this matter briefly in the next section.

The fourth example is perhaps the strangest. For many years, the global mean temperature record showed cooling from about 1940 until the early 70′s. This, in fact, led to the concern for global cooling during the 1970′s. The IPCC regularly, through the 4th assessment, boasted of the ability of models to simulate this cooling (while failing to emphasize that each model required a different specification of completely undetermined aerosol cooling in order to achieve this simulation (Kiehl, 2007)). Improvements in our understanding of aerosols are increasingly making such arbitrary tuning somewhat embarrassing, and, no longer surprisingly, the data has been ‘corrected’ to get rid of the mid 20th century cooling (Thompson et al, 2008). This may, in fact, be a legitimate correction ( The embarrassment may lie in the continuous claims of modelers to have simulated the allegedly incorrect data.

The fifth example deals with the fingerprint of warming. It has long been noted that greenhouse warming is primarily centered in the upper troposphere (Lindzen, 1999) and, indeed, model’s show that the maximum rate of warming is found in the upper tropical troposphere (Lee, et al, 2007). Lindzen (2007) noted that temperature data from both satellites and balloons failed to show such a maximum. This, in turn, permitted one to bound the greenhouse contribution to surface warming, and led to an estimate of climate sensitivity that was appreciably less than found in current models. Once the implications of the observations were clearly identified, it was only a matter of time before the data were ‘corrected.’ The first attempt came quickly (Vinnikov et al, 2006) wherein the satellite data was reworked to show large warming in the upper troposphere, but the methodology was too blatant for the paper to be commonly cited. 13 There followed an attempt wherein the temperature data was rejected, and where temperature trends were inferred from wind data (Allen and Sherwood, 2008). Over sufficiently long periods, there is a balance between vertical wind shear and meridional temperature gradients (the thermal wind balance), and, with various assumptions concerning boundary conditions, one can, indeed, infer temperature trends, but the process involves a more complex, indirect, and uncertain procedure than is involved in directly measuring temperature. Moreover, as Pielke et al (2008) have noted, the results display a variety of inconsistencies. They are nonetheless held to resolve the discrepancy with models.

(13 Of course, Vinnikov et al did mention it. When I gave a lecture at Rutgers University in October 2007, Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers and a coauthor of Vinnikov et al declared that the ‘latest data’ resolved the discrepancy wherein the model fingerprint could not be found in the data.)

The sixth example takes us into astrophysics. Since the 1970′s, considerable attention has been given to something known as the Early Faint Sun Paradox. This paradox was first publicized by Sagan and Mullen (1972). They noted that the standard model for the sun robustly required that the sun brighten with time so that 2-3 billion years ago, it was about 30% dimmer than it is today (recall that a doubling of CO2 corresponds to only a 2% change in the radiative budget). One would have expected that the earth would have been frozen over, but the geological evidence suggested that the ocean was unfrozen. Attempts were made to account for this by an enhanced greenhouse effect. Sagan and Mullen (1972) suggested an ammonia rich atmosphere might work. Others suggested an atmosphere with as much as several bars of CO2 (recall that currently CO2 is about 380 parts per million of a 1 bar atmosphere). Finally, Kasting and colleagues tried to resolve the paradox with large amounts of methane. For a variety of reasons, all these efforts were deemed inadequate 14 (Haqqmisra et al, 2008). There followed a remarkable attempt to get rid of the standard model of the sun (Sackman and Boothroyd, 2003). This is not exactly the same as altering the data, but the spirit is the same. The paper claimed to have gotten rid of the paradox. However, in fact, the altered model still calls for substantial brightening, and, moreover, does not seem to have gotten much acceptance among solar modelers.

(14 Haqqmisra, a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University, is apparently still seeking greenhouse solutions to the paradox.)

My last specific example involves the social sciences. Given that it has been maintained since at least 1988 that all scientists agree about alarming global warming, it is embarrassing to have scientists objecting to the alarm. To ‘settle’ the matter, a certain Naomi Oreskes published a paper in Science (Oreskes, 2004) purporting to have surveyed the literature and not have found a single paper questioning the alarm (Al Gore offers this study as proof of his own correctness in “Inconvenient Truth.”). Both Benny Peiser (a British sociologist) and Dennis Bray (an historian of science) noted obvious methodological errors, but Science refused to publish these rebuttals with no regard for the technical merits of the criticisms presented. 15

(15 The refusal was not altogether surprising. The editor of Science, at the time, was Donald Kennedy, a biologist (and colleague of Paul Ehrlich and Stephen Schneider, both also members of Stanford’s biology department), who had served as president of Stanford University. His term, as president, ended with his involvement in fiscal irregularities such as charging to research overhead such expenses as the maintenance of the presidential yacht and the provision of flowers for his daughter’s wedding – offering peculiar evidence for the importance of grant overhead to administrators. Kennedy had editorially declared that the debate concerning global warming was over and that skeptical articles would not be considered. More recently, he has published a relatively pure example of Orwellian double-speak (Kennedy, 2008) wherein he called for better media coverage of global warming, where by ‘better’ he meant more carefully ignoring any questions about global warming alarm. As one might expect, Kennedy made extensive use of Oreskes’ paper. He also made the remarkably dishonest claim that the IPCC Summary for Policymakers was much more conservative than the scientific text.)

Moreover, Oreskes was a featured speaker at the celebration of Spencer Weart’s thirty years as head of the American Institute of Physics’ Center for History of Physics. Weart, himself, had written a history of the global warming issue (Weart, 2003) where he repeated, without checking, the slander taken from a screed by Ross Gelbspan (The Heat is On) 16 in which I was accused of being a tool of the fossil fuel industry. Weart also writes with glowing approval of Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. As far as Oreskes’ claim goes, it is clearly absurd 17. A more carefully done study revealed a very different picture (Schulte, 2007).

The above examples do not include the most convenient means whereby nominal scientists can support global warming alarm: namely, the matter of impacts. Here, scientists who generally have no knowledge of climate physics at all, are supported to assume the worst projections of global warming and imaginatively suggest the implications of such warming for whatever field they happen to be working in. This has led to the bizarre claims that global warming will contribute to kidney stones, obesity, cockroaches, noxious weeds, sexual imbalance in fish, etc. The scientists who participate in such exercises quite naturally are supportive of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis despite their ignorance of the underlying science. 18

(16 For reasons already mentioned, the claim of consensus is great propagandistic value to the global warming movement. Naturally, the existence of a substantial number of legitimate scientists who oppose alarmist assertions is embarrassing to those claiming consensus. A primary approach to such scientists has been to claim that they are lying because they have been paid off by the oil industry. The claim was, in general, both untrue and irrelevant. In the early 90’s Ted Koppel devoted half of a Nightline show to excoriating then Vice President Gore for asking him to dig up dirt on opponents of global warming alarm. However, Gelbspan cheerfully stepped into the breach.)

(17 Oreskes, apart from overt errors, merely considered support to consist in agreement that there had been some warming, and that anthropogenic CO2 contributed part of the warming. Such innocent conclusions have essentially nothing to do with catastrophic projections that involve dozens if not hundreds of ill-predicted and loosely connected variables. Moreover, most of the papers she looked at didn’t even address these issues; they simply didn’t question these conclusions.)

(18 Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Potsdam Institute, home of Greenpeace’s Bill Hare, now has a Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.)


It is often argued that in science the truth must eventually emerge. This may well be true, but, so far, attempts to deal with the science of climate change objectively have been largely forced to conceal such truths as may call into question global warming alarmism (even if only implicitly). The usual vehicle is peer review, and the changes imposed were often made in order to get a given paper published.

Publication is, of course, essential for funding, promotion, etc. The following examples are but a few from cases that I am personally familiar with. These, almost certainly, barely scratch the surface. What is generally involved, is simply the inclusion of an irrelevant comment supporting global warming accepted wisdom. When the substance of thepaper is described, it is generally claimed that the added comment represents the ‘true’ intenthe paper. In addition to the following examples, Appendix 2 offers excellent examples of ‘spin control.’

As mentioned in the previous section, one of the reports assessing the Mann et al Hockey Stick was prepared by a committee of the US National Research Counsel (a branch of the National Academy) chaired by Gerald North (North, 2006). The report concluded that the analysis used was totally unreliable for periods longer ago than about 400 years. In point of fact, the only basis for the 400 year choice was that this brought one to the midst of the Little Ice Age, and there is essentially nothing surprising about a conclusion that we are now warmer. Still, without any basis at all, the report also concluded that despite the inadequacy of the Mann et al analysis, the conclusion might still be correct. It was this baseless conjecture that received most of the publicity surrounding the report.

In a recent paper, Roe (2006) showed that the orbital variations in high latitude summer insolation correlate excellently with changes in glaciation – once one relates the insolation properly to the rate of change of glaciation rather than to the glaciation itself. This provided excellent support for the Milankovich hypothesis. Nothing in the brief paper suggested the need for any other mechanism. Nonetheless, Roe apparently felt compelled to include an irrelevant caveat stating that the paper had no intention of ruling out a role for CO2.

Choi and Ho (2006, 2008) published interesting papers on the optical properties of high tropical cirrus that largely confirmed earlier results by Lindzen, Chou and Hou (2001) on an important negative feedback (the iris effect – something that we will describe later in this section) that would greatly reduce the sensitivity of climate to increasing greenhouse gases. A proper comparison required that the results be normalized by a measure of total convective activity, and, indeed, such a comparison was made in the original version of Choi and Ho’s paper. However, reviewers insisted that the normalization be removed from the final version of the paper which left the relationship to the earlier paper unclear.

Horvath and Soden (2008) found observational confirmation of many aspects of the iris effect, but accompanied these results with a repetition of criticisms of the iris effect that were irrelevant and even contradictory to their own paper. The point, apparently, was to suggest that despite their findings, there might be other reasons to discard the iris effect. Later in this section, I will return to these criticisms. However, the situation is far from unique. I have received preprints of papers wherein support for the iris was found, but where this was omitted in the published version of the papers.

In another example, I had originally submitted a paper mentioned in the previous section (Lindzen, 2007) to American Scientist, the periodical of the scientific honorary society in the US, Sigma Xi, at the recommendation of a former officer of that society. There followed a year of discussions, with an editor, David Schneider, insisting that I find a coauthor who would illustrate why my paper was wrong. He argued that publishing something that contradicted the IPCC was equivalent to publishing a paper that claimed that ‘Einstein’s general theory of relativity is bunk.’ I suggested that it would be more appropriate for American Scientist to solicit a separate paper taking a view opposed to mine. This was unacceptable to Schneider, so I ended up publishing the paper elsewhere. Needless to add, Schneider has no background in climate physics. At the same time, a committee consisting almost entirely in environmental activists led by Peter Raven, the ubiquitous John Holdren, Richard Moss, Michael MacCracken, and Rosina Bierbaum were issuing a joint Sigma Xi – United Nations Foundation (the latter headed by former Senator and former Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth 19 and founded by Ted Turner) report endorsing global warming alarm, to a degree going far beyond the latest IPCC report. I should add that simple disagreement with conclusions of the IPCC has become a common basis for rejecting papers for publication in professional journals – as long as the disagreement suggests reduced alarm. An example will be presented later in this section.

(19 Tim Wirth chaired the hearing where Jim Hansen rolled out the alleged global warming relation to the hot summer of 1988 (viz Section 2).

He is noted for having arranged for the hearing room to have open windows to let in the heat so that Hansen would be seen to be sweating for the television cameras. Wirth is also frequently quoted as having said “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing — in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

Despite all the posturing about global warming, more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that global mean temperatures have not increased statistically significantly since 1995. One need only look at the temperature records posted on the web by the Hadley Centre. The way this is acknowledged in the literature forms a good example of the spin that is currently required to maintain global warming alarm. Recall that the major claim of the IPCC 4th Assessment was that there was a 90% certainty that most of the warming of the preceding 50 years was due to man (whatever that might mean). This required the assumption that what is known as natural internal variability (ie, the variability that exists without any external forcing and represents the fact that the climate system is never in equilibrium) is adequately handled by the existing climate models. The absence of any net global warming over the last dozen years or so, suggests that this assumption may be wrong. Smith et al (2007) (Smith is with the Hadley Centre in the UK) acknowledged this by pointing out that initial conditions had to reflect the disequilibrium at some starting date, and when these conditions were ‘correctly’ chosen, it was possible to better replicate the period without warming. This acknowledgment of error was accompanied by the totally unjustified assertion that global warming would resume with a vengeance in 2009. 20

(20 When I referred to the Smith et al paper at a hearing of the European Parliament, Professor Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute (which I mentioned in the previous section with respect to its connection to Greenpeace) loudly protested that I was being ‘dishonest’ by not emphasizing what he referred to as the main point in Smith et al: namely that global warming would return with a vengeance.

As 2009 approaches and the vengeful warming seems less likely to occur, a new paper came out (this time from the Max Planck Institute: Keenlyside et al, 2008) moving the date for anticipated resumption of warming to 2015. It is indeed a remarkable step backwards for science to consider models that have failed to predict the observed behavior of the climate to nonetheless have the same validity as the data. 21

(21 The matter of ‘spin control’ warrants a paper by itself. In connection with the absence of warming over the past 13 years, the common response is that 7 of the last 10 warmest years in the record occurred during the past decade. This is actually to be expected, given that we are in a warm period, and the temperature is always fluctuating. However, it has nothing to do with trends.

Tim Palmer, a prominent atmospheric scientist at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, is quoted by Fred Pearce (Pearce, 2008) in the New Scientist as follows: “Politicians seem to think that the science is a done deal,” says Tim Palmer. “I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts, especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain.” Pearce, however, continues “Palmer .. does not doubt that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done a good job alerting the world to the problem of global climate change. But he and his fellow climate scientists are acutely aware that the IPCC’s predictions of how the global change will affect local climates are little more than guesswork. They fear that if the IPCC’s predictions turn out to be wrong, it will provoke a crisis in confidence that undermines the whole climate change debate. On top of this, some climate scientists believe that even the IPCC’s global forecasts leave much to be desired. …” Normally, one would think that undermining the credibility of something that is wrong is appropriate.

Even in the present unhealthy state of science, papers that are overtly contradictory to the catastrophic warming scenario do get published (though not without generally being substantially watered down during the review process). They are then often subject to the remarkable process of ‘discreditation.’ This process consists in immediately soliciting attack papers that are published quickly as independent articles rather than comments. The importance of this procedure is as follows. Normally such criticisms are published as comments, and the original authors are able to respond immediately following the comment. Both the comment and reply are published together. By publishing the criticism as an article, the reply is published as a correspondence, which is usually delayed by several months, and the critics are permitted an immediate reply. As a rule, the reply of the original authors is ignored in subsequent references.

In 2001, I published a paper (Lindzen, Chou and Hou) that used geostationary satellite data to suggest the existence of a strong negative feedback that we referred to as the Iris Effect. The gist of the feedback is that upper level stratiform clouds in the tropics arise by detrainment from cumulonimbus towers, that the radiative impact of the stratiform clouds is primarily in the infrared where they serve as powerful greenhouse components, and that the extent of the detrainment decreases markedly with increased surface temperature. The negative feedback resulted from the fact that the greenhouse warming due to the stratiform clouds diminished as the surface temperature increased, and increased as the surface temperature decreased – resisting the changes in surface temperature. The impact of the observed effect was sufficient to greatly reduce the model sensitivities to increasing CO2, and it was, moreover, shown that models failed to display the observed cloud behavior. The paper received an unusually intense review from four reviewers.

Once the paper appeared, the peer review editor of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Irwin Abrams, was replaced by a new editor, Jeffrey Rosenfeld (holding the newly created position of Editor in Chief), and the new editor almost immediately accepted a paper criticizing our paper (Hartmann and Michelsen, 2002), publishing it as a separate paper rather than a response to our paper (which would have been the usual and appropriate procedure). In the usual procedure, the original authors are permitted to respond in the same issue. In the present case, the response was delayed by several months. Moreover, the new editor chose to label the criticism as follows: “Careful analysis of data reveals no shrinkage of tropical cloud anvil area with increasing SST.” In fact, this criticism was easily dismissed. The claim of Hartmann and Michelsen was that the effect we observed was due to the intrusion of midlatitude non-convective clouds into the tropics. If this were true, then the effect should have diminished as one restricted observations more closely to the equator, but as we showed (Lindzen, Chou and Hou, 2002), exactly the opposite was found.

There were also separately published papers (again violating normal protocols allowing for immediate response) by Lin et al, 2002 and Fu, Baker and Hartmann, 2002, that criticized our paper by claiming that since the instruments on the geostationary satellite could not see the thin stratiform clouds that formed the tails of the clouds we could see, that we were not entitled to assume that the tails existed. Without the tails, the radiative impact of the clouds would be primarily in the visible where the behavior we observed would lead to a positive feedback; with the tails the effect is a negative feedback. The tails had long been observed, and the notion that they abruptly disappeared when not observed by an insufficiently sensitive sensor was absurd on the face of it, and the use of better instruments by Choi and Ho (2006, 2008) confirmed the robustness of the tails and the strong dominance of the infrared impact. However, as we have already seen, virtually any mention of the iris effect tends to be accompanied with a reference to the criticisms, a claim that the theory is ‘discredited,’ and absolutely no mention of the responses. This is even required of papers that are actually supporting the iris effect.

Vincent Courtillot et al (2007) encountered a similar problem. (Courtillot, it should be noted, is the director of the Institute for the Study of the Globe at the University of Paris.) They found that time series for magnetic field variations appeared to correlate well with temperature measurements – suggesting a possible non-anthropogenic source of forcing. This was immediately criticized by Bard and Delaygue (2008), and Courtillot et al were given the conventional right to reply which they did in a reasonably convincing manner. What followed, however, was highly unusual. Raymond Pierrehumbert (a professor of meteorology at the University of Chicago and a fanatical environmentalist) posted a blog supporting Bard and Delaygue, accusing Courtillot et al of fraud, and worse. Alan Robock (a coauthor of Vinnikov et al mentioned in the preceding section) perpetuated the slander in a letter circulated to all officers of the American Geophysical Union. The matter was then taken up (in December of 2007) by major French newspapers (LeMonde, Liberation, and Le Figaro) that treated Pierrehumbert’s defamation as fact. As in the previous case, all references to the work of Courtillot et al refer to it as ‘discredited’ and no mention is made of their response. Moreover, a major argument against the position of Courtillot et al is that it contradicted the claim of the IPCC.

In 2005, I was invited by Ernesto Zedillo to give a paper at a symposium he was organizing at his Center for Sustainability Studies at Yale. The stated topic of the symposium was Global Warming Policy After 2012, and the proceedings were to appear in a book to by entitled Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto. Only two papers dealing with global warming science were presented: mine and one by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute. The remaining papers all essentially assumed an alarming scenario and proceeded to discuss economics, impacts, and policy. Rahmstorf and I took opposing positions, but there was no exchange at the meeting, and Rahmstorf had to run off to another meeting. As agreed, I submitted the manuscript of my talk, but publication was interminably delayed, perhaps because of the presence of my paper. In any event, the Brookings Institute (a centrist Democratic Party think tank) agreed to publish the volume. When the volume finally appeared (Zedillo, 2008), I was somewhat shocked to see that Rahmstorf’s paper had been modified from what he presented, and had been turned into an attack not only on my paper but on me personally. 22

(22 The strange identification of the CO2 caused global warming paradigm with general relativity theory, mentioned earlier in this section, is repeated by Rahmstorf. This repetition of odd claims may be a consequence of the networking described in footnote 7.)

I had received no warning of this; nor was I given any opportunity to reply. Inquiries to the editor and the publisher went unanswered. Moreover, the Rahmstorf paper was moved so that it immediately followed my paper. The reader is welcome to get a copy of the exchange, including my response, on my web site (Lindzen-Rahmstorf Exchange, 2008), and judge the exchange for himself.

One of the more bizarre tools of global warming revisionism is the posthumous alteration of skeptical positions.

Thus, the recent deaths of two active and professionally prominent skeptics, Robert Jastrow (the founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, now headed by James Hansen), and Reid Bryson (a well known climatologist at the University of Wisconsin) were accompanied by obituaries suggesting deathbed conversions to global warming alarm.

The death of another active and prominent skeptic, William Nierenberg (former director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute), led to the creation of a Nierenberg Prize that is annually awarded to an environmental activist. The most recent recipient was James Hansen who Nierenberg detested.

Perhaps the most extraordinary example of this phenomenon involves a paper by Singer, Starr, and Revelle (1991). In this paper, it was concluded that we knew too little about climate to implement any drastic measures. Revelle, it may be recalled, was the professor that Gore credits with introducing him to the horrors of CO2 induced warming. There followed an intense effort led by a research associate at Harvard, Justin Lancaster, in coordination with Gore staffers, to have Revelle’s name posthumously removed from the published paper. It was claimed that Singer had pressured an old and incompetent man to allow his name to be used. To be sure, everyone who knew Revelle, felt that he had been alert until his death. There followed a lawsuit by Singer, where the court found in Singer’s favor. The matter is described in detail in Singer (2003).

Occasionally, prominent individual scientists do publicly express skepticism. The means for silencing them are fairly straightforward.

Will Happer, director of research at the Department of Energy (and a professor of physics at Princeton University) was simply fired from his government position after expressing doubts about environmental issues in general. His case is described in Happer (2003).

Michael Griffin, NASA’s administrator, publicly expressed reservations concerning global warming alarm in 2007. This was followed by a barrage of ad hominem attacks from individuals including James Hansen and Michael Oppenheimer. Griffin has since stopped making any public statements on this matter.

Freeman Dyson, an acknowledged great in theoretical physics, managed to publish a piece in New York Review of Books (Dyson, 2008), where in the course of reviewing books by Nordhaus and Zedillo (the latter having been referred to earlier), he expressed cautious support for the existence of substantial doubt concerning global warming. This was followed by a series of angry letters as well as condemnation on the web site including ad hominem attacks. Given that Dyson is retired, however, there seems little more that global warming enthusiasts can do. However, we may hear of a deathbed conversion in the future.


This paper has attempted to show how changes in the structure of scientific activity over the past half century have led to extreme vulnerability to political manipulation. In the case of climate change, these vulnerabilities have been exploited to a remarkable extent. The dangers that the above situation poses for both science and society are too numerous to be discussed in any sort of adequate way in this paper. It should be stressed that the climate change issue, itself, constitutes a major example of the dangers intrinsic to the structural changes in science.

As concerns the specific dangers pertaining to the climate change issue, we are already seeing that the tentative policy moves associated with ‘climate mitigation’ are contributing to deforestation, food riots, potential trade wars, inflation, energy speculation and overt corruption as in the case of ENRON (one of the leading lobbyists for Kyoto prior to its collapse). There is little question that global warming has been exploited many governments and corporations (and not just by ENRON; Lehman Brothers, for example, was also heavily promoting global warming alarm, and relying on the advice of James Hansen, etc.) for their own purposes, but it is unclear to what extent such exploitation has played an initiating role in the issue. The developing world has come to realize that the proposed measures endanger their legitimate hopes to escape poverty, and, in the case of India, they have, encouragingly, led to an assessment of climate issues independent of the ‘official’ wisdom (Government of India, 2008). 23

(23 A curious aspect of the profoundly unalarming Indian report is the prominent involvement in the preparation of the report by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (an economist and long term UN bureaucrat) who heads the IPCC. Dr. Pachauri has recently been urging westerners to reduce meat consumption in order to save the earth from destruction by global warming.)

For purposes of this paper, however, I simply want to briefly note the specific implications for science and its interaction with society. Although society is undoubtedly aware of the imperfections of science, it has rarely encountered a situation such as the current global warming hysteria where institutional science has so thoroughly committed itself to policies which call for massive sacrifices in well being world wide. Past scientific errors did not lead the public to discard the view that science on the whole was a valuable effort. However, the extraordinarily shallow basis for the commitment to climate catastrophe, and the widespread tendency of scientists to use unscientific means to arouse the public’s concerns, is becoming increasingly evident, and the result could be a reversal of the trust that arose from the triumphs of science and technology during the World War II period. Further, the reliance by the scientific community on fear as a basis for support, may, indeed, have severely degraded the ability of science to usefully address problems that need addressing.

It should also be noted that not all the lessons of the World War II period have been positive. Massive crash programs such as the Manhattan Project are not appropriate to all scientific problems. In particular, such programs are unlikely to be effective in fields where the basic science is not yet in place. Rather, they are best suited to problems where the needs are primarily in the realm of engineering.

Although the change in scientific culture has played an important role in making science more vulnerable to exploitation by politics, the resolution of specific issues may be possible without explicitly addressing the structural problems in science. In the US, where global warming has become enmeshed in partisan politics, there is a natural opposition to exploitation which is not specifically based on science itself. However, the restoration of the traditional scientific paradigm will call for more serious efforts. Such changes are unlikely to come from any fiat. Nor is it likely to be implemented by the large science bureaucracies that have helped create the problem in the first place.

A potentially effective approach would be to change the incentive structure of science. The current support mechanism for science is one where the solution of a scientific problem is rewarded by ending support. This hardly encourages the solution of problems or the search for actual answers. Nor does it encourage meaningfully testing hypotheses. The alternative calls for a measure of societal trust, patience, and commitment to elitism that hardly seems consonant with the contemporary attitudes. It may, however, be possible to make a significant beginning by carefully reducing the funding for science. Many scientists would be willing to accept a lower level of funding in return for greater freedom and stability. Other scientists may find the trade-off unacceptable and drop out of the enterprise. The result, over a period of time, could be a gradual restoration of a better incentive structure. One ought not underestimate the institutional resistance to such changes, but the alternatives are proving to be much worse. Some years ago, I described some of what I have discussed here at a meeting in Erice (Lindzen, 2005). Richard Garwin (who some regard as the inventor of the H-bomb) rose indignantly to state that he did not want to hear such things. Quite frankly, I also don’t want to hear such things. However, I fear that ignoring such things will hardly constitute a solution, and a solution may be necessary for the sake of the scientific enterprise.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank Dennis Ambler, Willie Soon, Lubos Motl and Nigel Lawson for useful comments and assistance.

Appendix 1

July 11, 2008

On behalf of the organizing committee, and workshop co-sponsors IPCC, WCRP, IGBP, the US National Science Foundation, and Climate Central, we take great pleasure in inviting you to attend a “Joint IPCC-WCRP-IGBP Workshop: New Science Directions and Activities Relevant to the IPCC AR5” to be held March 3—6, 2009. The Workshop will be hosted by the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii. The workshop is open to WG1 LAs and CLAs from all four assessments. The proceedings will be made available to IPCC.

This workshop has several major goals:
1) New science results and research directions relevant for the upcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will be discussed, with a view to the manner in which new observations and models can ensure their fullest possible consideration in the upcoming AR5. This could include but are not limited to e.g., ice sheet instability, land use parameterizations, aerosols and their effects on clouds and climate, new attribution results beyond temperature, and improved ENSO projections.

2) Subsequent to the AR4, an international planning process has begun to perform a coordinated set of climate model experiments with AOGCMs as well as emerging Earth System Models (ESMs, including new aspects of climate-vegetation and carbon cycle feedbacks) to quantify time-evolving regional climate change using mitigation/adaptation scenarios. These experiments will address key feedbacks in climate system response to increasing greenhouse gases. For example, carbon cycle feedback was identified as one of the main uncertainties for the upper end of future climate projections in the AR4. An international process to produce a set of mitigation scenarios for use in WG1, termed Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), will culminate in the fall of 2008 when the scenarios will be turned over to the WG1 modeling groups. The ingredients in these scenarios (emissions and concentrations of various constituents) will be reviewed at the workshop to ensure they are compatible with what is required by the new Earth System Models. It is essential that scientists gathered at the workshop examine and discuss them in detail to ensure compatibility and consistency with the new ESMs, particularly with regard to land use/land cover and emissions, which will also be a central topic at the workshop. Additionally, output requirements for the model simulations and a strategy for extension of long-term simulations to 2300 will be discussed.

3) Decadal climate prediction has recently emerged as a research activity that combines aspects of seasonal/interannual predictions and longer term emission scenario-driven climate change. Recent research results, as well as plans for coordinated experiments to address science problems associated with the decadal prediction, will be discussed at the workshop.

For planning purposes, please register for the workshop at before September 1, 2008. Hotel information is available on that web site, and participants are encouraged to make their hotel reservations as soon as possible because reservations for the various hotel options are on a first come first served basis. Since there are large numbers of potential participants, we will need to know by that early date (September 1) whether or not you plan on attending so we can make appropriate logistical arrangements. A $100 registration fee per attendee will be collected at the workshop. Attendees to the workshop will be largely self-funded similar to the IPCC model analysis workshop held in Hawaii in March, 2005.

We look forward to this opportunity to have WG1 LAs and CLAs from all four assessments gather as a group for a science meeting for the first time in the history of the IPCC. The outcomes from this unique workshop will provide important scientific direction as input to the early planning stages for the IPCC AR5.

Best regards from the organizing committee,

Gerald Meehl, Jonathan Overpeck, Susan Solomon, Thomas Stocker, and Ron Stouffer

Appendix 2

Last year, a TV program opposing global warming alarmism, The Great Global Warming Swindle, was aired by channel 4 in Britain. The IPCC brought a complaint against the producers of the program to the British Office of Communications (OfCom). The OfCom held that the producers did not give the IPCC sufficient time to respond (they were given about a week), but that the program did not materially mislead the public. Steven McIntyre on his web site,, analyzes the decision as well as the dishonest responses of the IPCC officials to the OfCom findings. It is a lovely example of self-refutation. That is to say, the IPCC officials demonstrated that they were acting in a political capacity in the very process of denying this.

Ofcom: The IPCC Complaint

By Steve McIntyre

Ofcom’s disposition of the IPCC Complaint is here page 43. There are many interesting aspects to this decision that are distinct from any of the others. Ofcom’s actual finding is extremely narrow. IT rejected 2 of 6 complaints. On 3 of 6, it determined that the producers had provided notice to IPCC but the notice on Feb 27, 2007 did not leave IPCC with “reasonable time” to respond prior to the airing on March 8, 2007 (though Ofcom itself states that “three working days” is a “reasonable time” for the parties to file an appeal of the present decision. They also determined that the producers failed to give IPCC adequate notice that someone in the production would say that they were “politically driven”. Had the producers sent their email of Feb 27, 2007 on (say) Feb 20, 2007, including a mention in the email that one of the contributors stated that IPCC was “politically driven”, then the Swindle producers would appear to have been immune from the present findings. Little things do matter.

The two rejected claims are themselves rather interesting and make you scratch your head. As discussed below, Swindle contributors were said to have claimed that IPCC had predicted climate disaster and the northward migration of malaria as a result of global warming. IPCC denied ever making such claims and apparently felt that its reputation was sullied by being associated with such claims. These two matters were decided on other grounds, but many readers will be interested to read more about IPCC disassociating itself from claims that global warming would cause northward migration of malaria or predictions of climate disaster.

In addition, in its complaint, IPCC made grandiose claims about its “open and transparent process” and the role of review editors, describing the process as being in the public domain and by its nature designed to avoid “undue influence” of any reviewer. This will come as somewhat of a surprise to CA readers, who are familiar with the avoidance of IPCC procedures by Ammann and Briffa and the seemingly casual performance of review editor Mitchell and who have been following the relentless stonewalling by IPCC and IPCC officials of requests for specific information pertaining to this allegedly “open and transparent process”.

Two Rejected Complaints
They discarded two parts of the complaint entirely.

IPCC denied that it had claimed that malaria “will” spread as a result of global warming (as stated by Channel 4) and said that it was unfair for Channel 4 to have broadcast this claim without their having an adequate opportunity to respond. The claim was decided on other grounds (that the allegation by Paul Reiter did not mention specifically mention IPCC). However, many readers will be surprised and interested to know that IPCC considers that its reputation is diminished by attributing to it the view that malaria will spread as a result of global warming.

IPCC complained that the “programme falsely claimed that its FAR (1990) predicted “climatic disaster as a result of global warming” without an opportunity to defend itself against the indignity of being accused of making such a claim. It’s a relief to the rest of us to know that not only is the IPCC not predicting climatic disaster, but it considers being associated with such a claim to be an insult. Ofcom considered some interesting contemporary evidence, including a speech by Margaret Thatcher, the scientific content of which was approved by Houghton, and came to the view that this was not an unreasonable characterization. Their decision on this issue stated:

“the Committee considered that the comment that described the FAR (1990) as predicting “climatic disaster as a result of global warming” was not an allegation against the IPCC and was not unfair to it. It was not, therefore, incumbent on the programme makers to have offered the IPCC an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to this particular comment.”

The most interesting part of these two issues were the IPCC defenses.

Three Issues where the notice was insufficiently timely

On three parts of the Complaint (Reiter’s criticism of the malaria section of the IPCC report, Reiter’s criticism of how IPCC made up its author lists, Seitz’ criticism of the SAR-Santer fiasco), Ofcom found that Swindle had provided notice to IPCC within the requirements, but had failed to provide IPCC with enough time to respond.

What would be a reasonable amount of time? Ofcom says in their Guidelines for the handling of standards complaints and cases (in programmes and sponsorship) that three working days is a “reasonable time” for an appeal, 5 working days for broadcasters to deliver any requested material and 10 working days to deliver certain sorts of detailed written submissions.

While the producers had preliminary contact with IPCC in October 2006 (as a result of which they were referred to a website), the first notice to IPCC that they would be presenting the Reiter and Seitz allegations came on Feb 26, 2007 (a Monday). to which there was no response. A follow-up email was sent three days later on March 1, 2007, again with no response. At the time of the show’s first airing on March 8, 2007, ten days (8 working days) after the first notice letter, IPCC had still sent no response. Nor did it send one prior to the second airing. Ofcom noted:

“the IPCC is a large organisation with considerable resources at its disposal and that it employs a dedicated Information and Communications Officer. On the face of it, these factors might be taken to suggest the IPCC should have been in a position to respond to the programme makers’ emails (subject to being provided with sufficient information about the allegations that would be made in the programme)”

On the other hand, Ofcom noted that the producers had failed to properly inform IPCC of the deadlines:

As mentioned above, it was significant that the programme maker’s email of 26 February 2007 gave the IPCC no indication of when its response was required and the follow-up email of 1 March 2007 (sent at 7.33pm) subsequently gave a deadline of the following day. Neither of these emails indicated the date of broadcast.

Taking into account all the above factors, the Committee considered that it was unreasonable for the programme makers to have expected the IPCC to understand that its response was required in a matter of days, and that it was not reasonable to expect the IPCC to be able to provide a response within the one day of being advised of the deadline. The Committee therefore found that the opportunity to respond had not been offered in a timely way.

On these particular findings, there’s a process lesson about the need for clear and unequivocal notice. In this particular case, it seems highly unlikely that IPCC was going to bother responding in any event. So the producers could easily have avoided this particular problem merely by giving clearer and somewhat more informative notice. For example, had they sent out the email on Feb 20, 2007 instead of Feb 27, 2007, notifying the IPCC of their deadline, then it’s hard to see how these parts of the IPCC complaint could have even got as far as they did.

I note that it appears that IPCC itself did not even file the “IPCC Complaint”. It appears to be another concoction by Rado and associates. Their website says that:

“Sir John Houghton … co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC…. Dr Pachauri co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC. …Martin Parry also co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC… Professor [Robert] Watson co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC.”

which I take this as evidence that IPCC itself did not author the complaint. Normally, in order to be heard by Ofcom, a “fairness” complaint has to be made by the person directly affected. There are situations in which a third party can be authorized to make the complaint; I haven’t examined whether these situations apply here.

However the form of IPCC “authorization” seems highly curious. John Houghton supposedly “co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC”. While Houghton has obviously been an important figure in the IPCC movement, he is not listed at the IPCC website as one of its present officers and would not appear to have sufficient current authority to “authorize” the complaint. Robert Watson’s appearance on this list is also interesting. Watson is likewise not listed as an current IPCC officer; Rado’s website states that Watson is currently DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Adviser. That a DEFRA employee should perceive himself as having the authority to authorize the commencement of an action in the U.K. on behalf of IPCC, which, under other circumstance, asserts its immunity rights as an international organization, is intriguing to say the least.

A “Political” Organization

The last “issue” in play was the statement by Philip Stott that IPCC was a “politically driven” organization.

Dr Philip Stott: “The IPCC, like any UN body, is political. The final conclusions are politically driven.”

This matter differed somewhat from the 3 considered under the previous head in that no notice was given to the IPCC in their Feb 26, 2007 email that the production would say that they are “political”.

In its defence, Channel 4 said

“the programme contributor, Dr Philip Stott, was merely making a statement of fact. Channel 4 said the programme made the important and valid point that the IPCC is political as well as scientific. Channel 4 said the IPCC chairmen and authors are nominated by governments and the reports are viewed by government officials prior to publication. Further, Channel 4 said the IPCC had been criticised on a number of occasions for being hampered by political interference. Channel 4 therefore maintained it was entirely fair for Professor Stott to state that the IPCC is ‘politically driven.’”

The IPCC response will be particularly intriguing to Climate Audit readers who have followed IPCC’s refusal to provide a complete archive of its Review Comments and Responses (in direct breach of their own formal procedures), a refusal abetted by corresponding refusals of national FOI requests. Ofcom summarizes their response:

In relation to the IPCC being “politically driven”, the IPCC said that the requirement for openness and transparency in its processes ensured that it was impossible for any undue interference to take place or any undue pressure to be applied by any reviewer (government or otherwise).

The IPCC said the government expert reviewer is free to ask any lead author to reconsider what they have written, but based solely on scientific content. The lead author will then consider the comment or request for change. If the lead author then wishes to make the change, he/she has to account for the decision to his/her review editor, who will make the final decision. Such changes must then be documented and the results made public.

The IPCC said that, given the IPCC’s own procedures, Channel 4’s arguments in relation to this head of complaint were either ill-informed or disingenuous.

Huh? This is not a true description of the process that I’ve experienced or that has been documented here. “Disingenuous” – they must be taking etiquette lessons from Michael Mann.

In terms of my own personal experience, we know that Ammann evaded the formal “open and transparent” process by sending review comments about our work outside the properly instituted process and that the parties have subsequently refused to produce the presumably adverse comments. Did these exchanges result in “undue interference” or “undue pressure” by a reviewer? The purpose of the “open and transparent” process is to do what IPCC represented to Ofcom that it did. Too bad that it’s not a true description.

Similarly with the role of the Review Editors. IPCC testified to Ofcom that the “review editor” made the final decision. But Review Editor Mitchell has said that these decisions were up to Briffa and the chapter authors. Although IPCC says here that this process is “public”, IPCC has refused to provide Mitchell’s comments and Mitchell has concocted absurd and untrue reasons to avoid producing the comments (even claiming that he acted as an IPCC review editor in a “personal” capacity and that he has destroyed all his IPCC correspondence).

Here’s how Ofcom decided this matter:

In the Committee’s opinion, viewers would have understood from the full section (quoted above) that the IPCC was not a purely scientific body and that its ‘scientific’ conclusions were significantly tainted by political interests.

The Committee considered that such an impression went to the core of the IPCC’s function and reputation: in this regard it noted that the IPCC was set up following international governmental accord with the aim of producing objective scientific assessments to inform policy and decision making worldwide. The Committee considered that “politically driven” was a strong and potentially damaging allegation which, within the context of this part of the programme, suggested direct political influence and was clearly intended to call into question the credibility of the IPCC….

… In the circumstances, the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded a timely or appropriate opportunity to respond to the significant allegation that the conclusions of the IPCC were “politically driven”. This resulted in unfairness to the IPCC in the programme as broadcast.


So what exactly did IPCC win? Ofcom said that the producers should have given them more adequate notice time for Reiter’s allegations about the review of the malaria section and the listing of authors and for Seitz’ allegations about SAR and for the assertion that they would say that IPCC was “politically driven”.
Did Ofcom opine on whether IPCC was giving good or bad reports? Nope. It stuck to knitting and rendered carefully reasoned decisions on whether the producers gave adequate notice to someone being criticized, as required under the Broadcasting Code.


Now look at the crowing about this decision by IPCC officials.
Pachauri: Climate Science:

We are pleased to note that Ofcom has vindicated the IPCC’s claim against Channel Four in spirit and in substance, and upheld most of the formal complaints made by those who respect the IPCC process. It is heartening to see that the review process of the IPCC, and the credibility of the publications of the IPCC were upheld, as was the claim that Channel Four did not give the Panel adequate time to respond to most of their allegations. The IPCC is an organization that brings together the best experts from all over the world committed to working on an objective assessment of all aspects of climate change. The relevance and integrity of its work cannot be belittled by misleading or irresponsible reporting. We express our appreciation of the Fairness Committee at Ofcom, and are satisfied with their rulings on this matter.

Some of this is simply untrue. Ofcom did not “uphold” the review process of the IPCC or the credibility of IPCC publications. Neither did it trash them. It simply did not consider them. Pachauri is totally misrepresenting the decision.


The ruling today from Ofcom regarding the Great Global Warming Swindle programme has exposed the misleading and false information regarding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was contained in that programme and that has been widely disseminated by the climate denying community. The integrity of the IPCC’s reports has therefore been confirmed as has their value as a source of accurate and reliable information about climate change.

Again, all completely untrue. The Ofcom decision did “not expose the misleading and false information” regarding IPCC nor did it “confirm the integrity of the IPCC reports”. Nor did it endorse the programme nor did it trash the integrity of the reports. It didn’t make any decision on them one way or another. It simply said that the producers failed to give IPCC enough notice to respond.

Robert Watson

I am pleased that Ofcom recognized the serious inaccuracies in the Global Warming Swindle and has helped set the record straight.

Again untrue. Ofcom did nothing of the sort. It made no attempt whatever to sort out the scientific disputes.

Martin Parry:

This is excellent news. People and policymakers need to have confidence in the science of climate change. The reputation of the IPCC as the source of dependable and high quality information has been fully upheld by this Ofcom ruling. Channel 4’s Great Global Warming Swindle was itself a disreputable attempt to swindle the public of the confidence it needs in scientific advice.

Again completely untrue. The Ofcom ruling did not “uphold” the “reputation of the IPCC as the source of dependable and high quality information”. Nor did it disparage its reputation. It simply said that IPCC didn’t get enough time to respond.

Appendix 3

From the Boston Globe
Convincing the climate-change skeptics
By John P. Holdren | August 4, 2008

THE FEW climate-change “skeptics” with any sort of scientific credentials continue to receive attention in the media out of all proportion to their numbers, their qualifications, or the merit of their arguments. And this muddying of the waters of public discourse is being magnified by the parroting of these arguments by a larger population of amateur skeptics with no scientific credentials at all. Long-time observers of public debates about environmental threats know that skeptics about such matters tend to move, over time, through three stages. First, they tell you you’re wrong and they can prove it. (In this case, “Climate
isn’t changing in unusual ways or, if it is, human activities are not the cause.”) Then they tell you you’re right but it doesn’t matter. (“OK, it’s changing and humans are playing a role, but it won’t do
much harm.”) Finally, they tell you it matters but it’s too late to do anything about it. (“Yes, climate disruption is going to do some real damage, but it’s too late, too difficult, or too costly to avoid that, so we’ll just have to hunker down and suffer.”)

All three positions are represented among the climate-change skeptics who infest talk shows, Internet blogs, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and cocktail-party conversations. The few with credentials in climate-change science have nearly all shifted in the past few years from the first category to the second, however, and jumps from the second to the third are becoming more frequent. All three factions are wrong, but the first is the worst. Their arguments, such as they are, suffer from two huge deficiencies.

First, they have not come up with any plausible alternative culprit for the disruption of global climate that is being observed, for example, a culprit other than the greenhouse-gas buildups in the atmosphere that have been measured and tied beyond doubt to human activities. (The argument that variations in the sun’s output might be responsible fails a number of elementary scientific tests.)

Second, having not succeeded in finding an alternative, they haven’t even tried to do what would be logically necessary if they had one, which is to explain how it can be that everything modern science tells us about the interactions of greenhouse gases with energy flow in the atmosphere is wrong.
Members of the public who are tempted to be swayed by the denier fringe should ask themselves how it is possible, if human-caused climate change is just a hoax, that: The leaderships of the national academies of sciences of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and India, among others, are on record saying that global climate change is real, caused mainly by humans, and reason for early, concerted action. This is also the overwhelming majority view among the faculty members of the earth sciences departments at every first-rank university in the world.

All three of holders of the one Nobel prize in science that has been awarded for studies of the atmosphere (the 1995 chemistry prize to Paul Crutzen, Sherwood Rowland, and Mario Molina, for figuring out what was happening to stratospheric ozone) are leaders in the climate-change scientific mainstream.

US polls indicate that most of the amateur skeptics are Republicans. These Republican skeptics should wonder how presidential candidate John McCain could have been taken in. He has castigated the Bush administration for wasting eight years in inaction on climate change, and the policies he says he would implement as president include early and deep cuts in US greenhouse-gas emissions. (Senator Barack Obama’s position is similar.)

The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed – and continues to delay – the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

John P. Holdren is a professor in the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard and the director of the Woods Hole Research Center.


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Richard Lindzen Portrait

About the author: Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( This paper was prepared for a meeting sponsored by Euresis (Associazone per la promozione e la diffusione della cultura e del lavoro scientifico) and the Templeton Foundation on Creativity and Creative Inspiration in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering: Developing a Vision for the Future. The meeting was held in San Marino from 29-31 August 2008. Its Proceedings are expected to be published in 2009. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

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The Crichtonian Green

In 2004 author Michael Crichton published “State of Fear,” a novel that he uses as a platform to attempt to debunk global warming alarm. Whether or not one finds Crichton’s arguments compelling generally governs how someone might characterize his views on environmentalists and environmentalism. But Crichton, in his own way, is himself an environmentalist. Having obtained a transcript of a recent speech by Crichton on environmentalism, what follows is our synopsis of some of the key points he makes:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”

“Second hand smoke is not a health hazard and never was.”

“The evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.”

“There is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 21st century.”

“The percentage of U.S. land that is taken for urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.”

State of Fear)
by Michael Crichton

This is a lot of fairly contrarian stuff, but Crichton is correct about DDT, and assessing DDT – along with second hand smoke – rests on basic toxicology. Properly applied, DDT is a fantastic solution to malaria, and banning it instead of properly regulating its use has been a tragic mistake. Obviously second hand smoke with extreme exposure is harmful, but Crichton is saying the criteria being used to justify smoking regulations are far below genuinely harmful levels.

Our commitment to publishing skeptical analyses relating to global warming and global warming policies is well documented, but Crichton’s statement regarding low levels of urbanization is another area where we add conviction to principle. There is plenty of land in the United States, definitely including California. Declaring “open space” to be endangered is ridiculous. This fatally flawed argument – now buttressed if not guaranteed by the trump card argument of supposedly stopping global warming – is the justification to force people into ultra-dense, punishingly regulated and taxed urban bantustans inside the “green line,” or the “urban service boundary.” It is dangerous nonsense. Here’s one more of Crichton’s contrarian zingers:

“The Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing.”

We are constantly trying to get good information on this and it is astonishingly difficult, given how fundamental these two observations are towards assessing global climate change. But there is strong evidence supporting Crichton’s claim that the total ice mass of Antarctica is increasing. There is data indicating increasing or at least stable rates of snowfall in the interior, as well as data that the total surface area of the icecap is increasing. Furthermore, other than in limited areas where there is rising geothermal heat, or the waters around the relatively insignificant Antarctic Peninsula, most of the ocean around Antarctica is getting colder. In all cases this information is hard to find and often conflicting. Read our Climate page for much more.

Yet through all this, Crichton is an environmentalist – a Crichtonian environmentalist – but nonetheless someone with environmentalist sentiments. Consider this:

“It is incumbant on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved.”

Environmentalism, according to Crichton, has gone well beyond this invocation, and has become a movement that cannot admit to past or present mistakes or excesses. He believes environmentalism has fulfilled an innate urge that urban atheists find fulfilling as an alternative to religion. This may be a bit much at least insofar as environmentalists, including Crichton himself, come from an infinite diversity of faiths and personal perspectives. But Crichton is on to something when he questions the reactions he elicits from many environmentalists to, for example, his observations regarding DDT, second hand smoke, global warming, urbanization, the Sahara or the Antarctic. Why is debate closed on these issues when they can be challenged on a factual basis? Why can’t the facts speak for themselves? The intense reactions environmentalists have displayed towards Crichton are unfounded unless something more powerful than reason is involved – belief, ideology, passion, a primal inner need for meaning and mission.

Crichton’s opening remarks included compelling reminders that humanity has always adapted and humanity has relentlessly improved the collective well being, and this is continuing. In his closing remarks he warns how politicized and entrenched environmental organizations have become, stating “what more and more groups are doing is putting out lies, pure and simple, Falsehoods that they know to be false.”

Of course everything Crichton says is not true, just as everything the current environmentalist establishment maintains is not false, or unhelpful, but in his final remarks, here, he also described his state of fear, and mine – and to paraphrase Czech President Vaclav Klaus – what is at stake, our global climate or our freedom? Or according to Crichton,

In the end, science offers us a way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”

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