Weekend Reading, watching the world change before our eyes

Some interesting news stories you might have missed during the Thanksgiving rush.

Some tentative indications that the late 20th century warming cycle might have ended.

  1. Bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers“, Anchorage Daily News, 13 October 2008 — “For decades, summer snow loss has exceeded winter snowfall.”
  2. Glaciers in Norway growing again“, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 November 2008 — Translation provided by Anthony Watts (original source).
  3. Global warming melts glaciers elsewhere, but not at Mount Shasta“, Chico News and Review, 9 October 2008

A reminder about drawing conclusions about global climate trends (either way) from isolated examples:  “Global warming melts glaciers elsewhere, but not at Mount Shasta“, Chico News and Review, 9 October 2008 

And — our weekly reminders of why the surface temperature network (a major pillar of the case for AGW) is not adequate for this purpose (no excerpts provided):


(a)  “Transformation 101“, Kevin Carey, Washington Monthly, Nov/Dec 2008 — “Technology is driving down the cost of teaching undergraduates. So why are tuition bills going up?”  Please read the full article; this is one of the more important long-term structural problems for America!  Excerpt:

On August 6, 2008, the Washington Post reported that tuition and fees at public colleges in Virginia will increase by an average of 7.3 percent this year. The article was four sentences long and ran in the Metro section, below the fold, in space reserved for unremarkable news. The drumbeat of higher education price increases has become so steady in recent years that it barely merits attention. But the cumulative effect is enormous: the average price of attending a public university more than doubled over the last two decades, even after adjusting for inflation. The steepest increases came in the last five years.

And there’s nothing routine about the way college costs are weighing down lower- and middle-income families. Students are still going to college-in this day and age, what choice do they have? But some are getting priced out of the four-year sector into two-year colleges, while others are trying unsuccessfully to simultaneously hold down a full-time job and earn a degree. More students are going deeply into debt, narrowing their career options and risking catastrophic default. The lightly regulated private student loan market, which barely existed ten years ago, now controls about 20 percent of loan volume, burdening financially vulnerable undergraduates with high interest rates and few legal protections. State and federal governments have poured tens of billions of new taxpayer dollars into student aid programs, only to see them swallowed up by institutions with a seemingly unlimited appetite for funds.

For years colleges have insisted that rapidly rising prices are unavoidable because higher education is a labor-intensive business that cannot become more efficient. A forty-minute lecture takes just as long to deliver today as it did a hundred years ago, they say; a ten-page paper takes just as long to grade. Because efficiencies in other industries are driving up the overall cost of skilled labor, colleges have to offer salaries to match, which pushes productivity down. (Economists call this “Baumol’s cost disease,” after the New York University economist who first made the diagnosis.) Regrettable for students, of course, but what can be done?

In fact, this premise is false. Colleges are perfectly capable of becoming more efficient and productive, in the same way that countless other industries have: through technology. And increasingly, they are. One of the untold stories in higher education is that the cost of teaching is starting to decline, but virtually none of those savings are being passed along to students and parents in the form of lower prices. Instead, colleges are pocketing the difference, even as they continue to jack up tuition bills. …

(b)  “The price of dissent on global warming“, David Bellamy, The Australian, 25 November 2008 — Excerpt:

WHEN I first stuck my head above the parapet to say I didn’t believe what we were being told about global warming, I had no idea what the consequences would be. I am a scientist and I have to follow the directions of science, but when I see that the truth is being covered up I have to voice my opinions.

According to official data, in every year since 1998, world temperatures have been getting colder, and in 2002 Arctic ice actually increased. Why, then, do we not hear about that? The sad fact is that since I said I didn’t believe human beings caused global warming, I’ve not been allowed to make a television program.

My absence has been noticed, because wherever I go I meet people who say: “I grew up with you on the television, where are you now?”

It was in 1996 that I criticised wind farms while appearing on children’s program Blue Peter, and I also had an article published in which I described global warming as poppycock. The truth is, I didn’t think wind farms were an effective means of alternative energy, so I said so. Back then, at the BBC you had to toe the line, and I wasn’t doing that.

At that point, I was still making loads of TV programs and I was enjoying it greatly. Then I suddenly found I was sending in ideas for TV shows and they weren’t getting taken up. I’ve asked around about why I’ve been ignored, but I found that people didn’t get back to me. At the beginning of this year there was a BBC show with four experts saying: “This is going to be the end of all the ice in the Arctic,” and hypothesising that it was going to be the hottest summer ever. Was it hell! It was very cold and very wet and now we’ve seen evidence that the glaciers in Alaska have started growing rapidly, and they have not grown for a long time.

… The thing that annoys me most is that there are genuine environmental problems that desperately require attention. I’m still an environmentalist, I’m still a Green and I’m still campaigning to stop the destruction of the biodiversity of the world. But money will be wasted on trying to solve this global warming “problem” that I would much rather was used for looking after the people of the world. Being ignored by the likes of the BBC does not really bother me, not when there are bigger problems at stake.

I might not be on TV any more but I still go around the world campaigning about these important issues. For example, we must stop the destruction of tropical rainforests, something I’ve been saying for 35 years.

Mother nature will balance things out, but not if we interfere by destroying rainforests and overfishing the seas. That is where the real environmental catastrophe could occur.

David Bellamy is a botanist, author of 35 books, and has presented 400 television programs.  (Wikipedia bio)

1.  “Bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers“, Anchorage Daily News, 13 October 2008 — “For decades, summer snow loss has exceeded winter snowfall.”  Excerpt:

Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of 2007-2008. Unusually large amounts of winter snow were followed by unusually chill temperatures in June, July and August.

2.  “Glaciers in Norway growing again“, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 November 2008 — Translation provided by Anthony Watts (original source):

Scandinavian nation reverses trend, mirrors results in Alaska, elsewhere.  After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). The actual magnitude of the growth, which appears to have begun over the last two years, has not yet been quantified, says NVE Senior Engineer Hallgeir Elvehøy.

The flow rate of many glaciers has also declined. Glacier flow ultimately acts to reduce accumulation, as the ice moves to lower, warmer elevations.

The original trend had been fairly rapid decline since the year 2000.

3.  “Global warming melts glaciers elsewhere, but not at Mount Shasta“, Chico News and Review, 9 October 2008.  Excerpt:

First, the good news: Mount Shasta’s seven glaciers are on the grow. The largest, Whitney Glacier, has averaged a 60-foot-a-year growth spree for the past 50 years, according to Dr. Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


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9 thoughts on “Weekend Reading, watching the world change before our eyes”

  1. Interesting reading. As a loyal reader who loves your blog, I thought you might be interested in a site that does a Myers-Briggs analysis of bloggers based on their blog: Typealyzer.

    Their analysis presented FM as:

    The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

    They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

  2. College costs keep rising because non-education related costs keep rising: gourmet dining halls, ridiculous student activities and services, and all manner of fluff designed to make a college lifestyle look attractive to the spoiled kids of the consumer age. Also, university endowments have taken steep declines in their portfolios in this bear market. Many university investment offices took David Swensen’s theory of asset allocation to extremes and allocated more money for illiquid investments (hedge funds, private equity, etc.) than they could stomach. They should have known better, but hey, these are all university-educated people.

    The ultimate effect should be very desirable. Uncompetitive colleges will be forced to close, and large numbers of people who don’t really need a college education can be channeled into blue-collar trades. I’ve seen too many retail clerks and administrative assistants with bachelors degrees. Their educations were a waste.

  3. From a link in the Bellamy article (I think), a peer-reviewed summary with over 30,000 signatures of which over 9,000 by PhD’s arguing against the anthropogenic global warming thesis, that increased levels of Co2 are beneficial for plant and animal life, and recommending that the US emphasise nuclear plants with the capability to use excess thermal heat from the process to transform coal into oil making the US a highly efficient net energy exporter. I think there is much merit in their argument even if in the short paper provided there are many details left unaddressed.

    However, if their core argument is correct, it behooves national governments including the US to take a very hard look at what they suggest since it could be easily implemented within a decade or so and basically solve all energy problems in industrial economies for several centuries.

    Summary of Peer-Reviewed Research“, Global Warming Petition Project, no date or author.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The concept of a “Global Warming Petition Project” reveals much about the highly political nature of the debate over global warming — and the efforts to convince the western world’s leadrers and general population about anthropogenic global warming (pro or con). Petitions are used in political campaigns — not scientific projects. Einstein and Newton needed no petition drives, nor did Watson-Crick-Wilkins (structure of DNA).

    The concept is absurd, as if scientists who have not studied climate science literature can judge its validity by virtue of their membership in the guild. As if truth can be proven by voting, as done by theological conclaves.

    These PR tools are used to avoid dealing with the substantial weaknesses discovered in the pro-AGW case – both data and methods. We need more research with meaningful and public 3rd party reviews of data and methods — as done in other sciences affecting the public welfare (e.g., development of new drugs).

  4. To “Erasmus”:

    The likelihood of Anthropogenic Global Warming was drawn by IPCC Working Group in their TAR WG1. This work has been addressed in peer reviewed journals and also; endorsed by international scientific institutions (in either: PDF-B, PDF-A) by:

    Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil), Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences,
    Academié des Sciences (France), Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany), Indian National Science Academy, Accademia dei Lincei (Italy), Science Council of Japan, Russian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society (United Kingdom), National Academy of Sciences (USA), Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    NOTE: The organizer of the "PETTION PROJECT" (in previous comment) is Frederick Seitz: past president of the US National Academy of Sciences, which now TOTALLY ENDORSES the likelihood of “anthropogenic global warming”

    Same conclusions of IPCC Report were backed by the following institutions:

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
    National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
    State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)
    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
    American Geophysical Union (AGU)
    American Institute of Physics (AIP)
    National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
    American Meteorological Society (AMS)
    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)
    International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, Inc (CAETS)

    The level of “institutional scientific endorsement” is overwhelming. Given this situation it is totally awkward that 30.000 signatures -from Mr/Mrs Erasmus’ previous comment- have invalidated the likelihood of Anthropogenic Global Warming.
    Fabius maximus replies: I hate to spoil this fun list, but a few points.

    (1) Data trumps authority. That’s why science differs from theology. The data flow over the past ten years has been highly destructive to much of the case for AGW; there are tentative indications that the climate itself is turning “against it” (i.e., entering a cooling cycle).

    (2) Petitions signed by scientists who have not studied the issue mean nothing. Membership in the guild has no significance in judging work outside one’s field. Michael Crichton discusses what he calls “consensus science” here. This is just progaganda, a technique perfected by Carl Sagan in his “nuclear winter” agitprop campaign (see “Nuclear winter: science and politics“, Brian Martin, Science and Public Policy, October 1988 — Excellent background description and bibliography. Vital background to understand the global warning debate.)

    (3) As has been clearly shown by Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, “peer review” has failed in several key elements of climate science. The reviews of Mann’s cannonical “hockey stick” articles had available neither his data nor methods (which were partially dragged into public view only after years of effort). Hence their “peer review” was meaningless. They might as well have sprinkled holy water on the text.

    (4) Most of this vollying back and forth of petitions is just hot air, a trivial commonplace of our era in which the growth of government power politicizes everything it touches.

    “The organizer of the “PETTION PROJECT” is Frederick Seitz: past president of the NAS, which now TOTALLY ENDORSES the likelihood of “anthropogenic global warming”

    The National Academy of Sciences (USA) appears on this list. But an actual review (a brief and sketchy review) by an NAS committee was unable to endorse those bold conclusions. {Some of the testuimony was damming about climate science practices (e.g. use of “cherry picking” proxy data)} See “SURFACE TEMPERATURE RECONSTRUCTIONS FOR THE LAST 2,000 YEARS“, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES (2006) — aka The North Report.

    (5) What does this mean? “Given this situation it is totally awkward that 30.000 signatures -from Mr/Mrs Erasmus’ previous comment- have invalidated the likelihood of Anthropogenic Global Warming.”

  5. My contribution above was in response to the Delmastro comment which has been lifted (surely just copying would have done the job?).

    Personally, I agree with you about the consensus issue, but only partly. The fact is that consensus is an important factor in the ‘real world’ where decisions are made, often in the political or politico-corporate arena, both by lead decision makers and also by followers, including voters. Without the appearance of widespread consensus viz. global warming, initiating world-wide cap and trade taxation will prove very difficult. Consensus is indeed mainly a political factor rather than a scientific one. But this is a political as well as scientific issue. Indeed, it is mainly because of the politics that the US, which could easily be self-sufficient in terms of energy already by using its abundant coal resources, is now embarking on all sorts of supposedly better alternatives.

    On that website they specify the PhD fields represented in the signatures and many are in directly related fields. The fact that they sign such a petition does not mean much (maybe they all work for Exxon?) but it does mean something, namely that those who keep stating that the vast majority of scientists have reached consensus and only a few crackpots disagree is disingenuous. For that reason I thought it helpful to provide evidence that there are large numbers of qualified scientists who do not necessarily agree with what is usually described as an ‘overwhelming consensus’. As Delmastro’s subsequent post illustrated.

    Although frustrated by the GW debate (if it even is one) my deeper concern is that the scientific method is a) overly beholden to commerce and politics and b) suspect in itself in far too many ways. Basing long-term decisions on the latest belief-system is what has gotten us into trouble far too many times in the past.

    I guess that is to be expected in human affairs so why expect anything to be different today… except that the quasi-religion of science purports to free us from exactly that trap. Unfortunately, we can see that it doesn’t because the scientific method is actually unable either to come up with a clear, unrefutable analysis of global climate or able to admit that it cannot, thereby ‘proving’, if you will, that the underlying method is seriously deficient both in theory and practice. And that should be of more widespread concern – given as how it effects medicine for example – than whether or not GW is true/false, anthropogenic or not etc.

  6. I agree too with Erasmus that consensus is quite important, and a pillar of society from some perspectives. This is the reason we, as non-scientific persona must look for consensus into the scientific community that studies the GW. Then as the scientific method does its work over time on the topic, hypothesis with conclusions could possibly change, and then we change our understandig. No problem with that !

    How could we, each individual, achieve such an understandig of GW and if there is or not, any antropogenic factor, by our own means? There is no more alternative than to discuss and show each others these arguments, and also read and inform ourselves from the “primary sources” of the scientific community (pro or skeptics).

    To an open minded individual -not fanatical like me- this is of great value. I am not a science schollar, but I have my brains and I can manage into the law of physics, statistics, economy, and contrary to the judgment of our Fabius Maximus -I do also manage and have acquaintance of the “scientific method”, that is why when there is consensus that the world is flat..i go for flat -UNTIL EVIDENCE (DATA) SHOW US…its beautifuly rounded. This is common sense, and I presume to use it in the same way Fabius does.

    I also agree that GW has been also driven into the agenda of politics, and saddly it is inevitable for many factors a reader of this blog can grasp. We owe Fabius the primary sources of articles, reports and journal publications on this topic, worth reading, and save us a lot of time.

    I have been skipping the sources Fabius left in his response to my comment that he turned into a post (I am honoured). And up to this moment I see much more clearly there are two consensus, one pro AGW, and the skeptics of the antropogenic factor. This is quite new to me, and I am into this from yesterday’s night…no problem with that.

    Regarding the “Petition Project” I would love to see more articles, letters, or publications from the signatories on the list. That would help a lot also.

    I do also feel “very much” frustrated to the GW debate. That for sure. Look at us !

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