One Global Warming Alarmist Now Admits He Went Overboard

Dr. James Lovelock one year before he wrote his book warning of global warming's dire consequences. (Click for credit)
Dr. James Lovelock is a bit of a “renaissance man.” He has a PhD in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and he has done medical research at Harvard, Yale, and the Baylor College of Medicine. However, he started working for NASA more than 50 years ago, and his research interests broadened considerably. As a part of his NASA work, for example, he invented the electron capture detector, which led to the detection of CFCs in the atmosphere, helping to draw a definitive link between CFCs and ozone destruction. He is the author of the “Gaia hypothesis,” the odd idea that about one billion years after forming, earth became the home of an incomplete life form that started shaping this planet’s evolution to complete its own development. According to this idea, the earth and all its inhabitants are simply parts of one gigantic life form, named Gaia (after the Greek goddess of the earth).

As odd as the Gaia hypothesis is, it motivatd Lovelock to study the earth’s systems, and as he studied them, he became convinced that global warming was a threat to Gaia. In 2006, he wrote a book called The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. It was full of the hysterical nonsense that is typical in the global warming literature, including absurd statements like:1

…before this century is over, billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the arctic region where the climate remains tolerable.

Clearly, then, Lovelock was convinced that global warming was going to radically change the world as we know it, devastating the human population. Time Magazine seemed to agree with him, because the next year, it named him one of 13 “Heroes of the Environment,” saying:

Jim Lovelock has no university, no research institute, no students. His almost unparalleled influence in environmental science is based instead on a particular way of seeing things. It is a way of seeing things as systems of connections, responses and feedback that applies both to experiments and instruments (of which he is a gifted inventor), and to the world itself.

How quickly times change. In a mere six years, Lovelock has significantly altered his tune. He still believes that global warming is real. However, he has finally taken the time to seriously look at the data, and even he admits that doomsday scenarios such as the ones that he painted in his book are wrong.

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Just How Evil Is This “Evil Twin”?

This cold-water coral flourished in acidic waters once it was given time to adapt. (Click for credit)
Ocean acidification has been called the “evil twin” of global warming. That’s because rising carbon dioxide levels are not just supposed to result in an overly-warm world. They are also supposed to result in an overly-acidic ocean. How does carbon dioxide in the air affect the acidity of the ocean? Well, the ocean absorbs a large fraction of the carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Some of that carbon dioxide then reacts with the water in the ocean, producing carbonic acid. The more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more carbon dioxide the ocean will absorb. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, more carbonic acid will be made. Thus, rising carbon dioxide levels will lead to a more acidic ocean.

Unlike the link between rising carbon dioxide levels and global warming, the link between rising carbon dioxide levels and ocean acidification is straightforward and has already been seen to some extent. As you may remember from high school chemistry, acidity can be measured using the pH scale. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH greater than 7 indicates a basic solution, while a pH lower than 7 indicates an acidic solution. The key for this discussion is as follows: the lower the pH, the more acidic the solution. Well, according to the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research council:1

The average pH of ocean surface waters has decreased by about 0.1 unit—from about 8.2 to 8.1—since the beginning of the industrial revolution, with model projections showing an additional 0.2-0.3 drop by the end of the century, even under optimistic scenarios

Now this might not sound like a big change, but the pH scale is logarithmic. That means if the pH decreases by 1 unit, the acidity has increased by a factor of 10! Thus, a drop in pH of 0.1 is actually a change of 26%. This means the ocean is 26% more acidic than it was before the beginning of the industrial revolution. If the models are correct (and who knows if they are), the ocean will increase in acidity by an additional 58 to 100 percent by the end of the century!

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Cooler Heads Are Starting to Prevail

Someone I respect and admire sent me a Wall Street Journal article that was published on January 27, 2012. It is an opinion piece written by 16 scientists and is entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.”1 While most of the scientists who authored the opinion piece are not climatologists, there are three notable exceptions: William Robert Kininmonth was in charge of Australia’s National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology from 1986 to 1998. Dr. Richard Lindzen is professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT and has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications in the field of climatology. Henk Tennekes is the former director of research at the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute.

These and the other 13 authors offered some advice to any candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy. He or she should understand:

…that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

The article makes many good points. It brings up the fact that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever left the American Physical Society because of its anti-science stance on global warming. It informs the reader that there has not been any detectable warming of the earth over the past ten years and that climate alarmists can’t explain why. It also tells us:

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse.

More importantly, it brings up the fact that all models which have been used to promote the idea that global warming is human-made and catastrophic in nature have consistently overpredicted the rise in earth’s surface temperatures for the past 22 years. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated. Those who want to convince us that drastic action must be taken to curb global warming typically use computer models to tell us how horrible the results of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be in future decades. However, those computer models have consistently been wrong, and most climate scientists know this.

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Certainty and Science Do Not Go Together!

Dr. Daniel Botkin holds a PhD in ecology and is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is best known for his books about nature, and has been called “one of the preeminent ecologists of the 20th century.” His website has a lot of good material, including an excellent FAQ regarding global warming.

The reason I am blogging about Dr. Botkin is that he authored a fantastic article in the December 2, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal. The article starts with an incredibly unscientific quote which comes (ironically enough) from NASA senior scientist Michael J. Mumma:

Based on evidence, what we do have is, unequivocally, the conditions for the emergence of life were present on Mars—period, end of story.

This kind of statement might excite people, but it does nothing to promote science. In fact, it does quite the opposite. As Dr. Botkin masterfully points out in his article, the phrase “period, end of story” should never be uttered by anyone who is trying to be scientific. The fact is that in science, we never have the end of the story. New information comes in constantly, and sometimes, it overturns old ideas, despite the fact that those ideas might be accepted by virtually every scientist on the planet. As the title of Dr. Botkin’s article correctly proclaims, absolute certainty is not scientific.

Dr. Botkin goes on to discuss how global warming advocates hurt their cause by making statements with absolute certainty, and I agree with his assessment. As I read his article, however, I couldn’t help but think about the hypothesis of evolution.

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Sea Ice and The Robustness of the Earth

As I have mentioned previously (here, here, here, and here), the earth has a wide array of negative feedback mechanisms that help it cope with change. This, of course, is exactly what you would expect for a system that was designed by an incredibly intelligent Designer. Unfortunately, many people who study the earth don’t understand these negative feedback mechanisms or don’t appreciate how incredibly powerful they are. As a result, they overstate the severity of certain trends that scientists observe. One excellent example of this comes from the observation that in recent years, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has dropped significantly.

Arctic sea ice as measured by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. (Click for more info)

In the graph above, a 21-year average of Arctic sea ice extent is shown with the heavy gray line. The gray band that extends above and below that line shows the variation one would expect from random fluctuations. Now look at the green dashed line. That’s what was measured in 2007. Clearly it is far, far below the average, and it is well below what you would expect from random fluctuations. As a result, the drop in sea ice is probably the result of a systematic change that is occurring in the Arctic. Not surprisingly, some doomsayers went off the deep end when they saw such data.

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Another Famous Physicist Leaves the APS Over Global Warming

Nobel Laureate Dr. Ivar Giaever (click for credit)
Dr. Ivar Giaever has a PhD in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was a biophysics scholar at Cambridge, and is professor at both his alma mater and the University of Oslo. Although he has an impressive list of accomplishments, he is best remembered for sharing the Nobel Prize in physics with Dr. Leo Esaki and Dr. Brian Josephson in 1973. The trio won the award for investigating a quantum mechanical effect called “tunneling” and how it relates to solids. When a particle (like an electron) passes through a barrier that Newtonian physics says it should not be able to pass through, we say that it has “tunneled” through the barrier. Specifically, Dr. Giaever showed how this quantum-mechanical phenomenon applies to superconductors, which are materials that conduct electricity without resistance.

Of course, that was almost fourty years ago. Since then, he made a name in the field of biophysics, shedding light on how large biological molecules as well as cells interact with thin metal films. While he still has academic appointments at both Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Oslo, he has dedicated most of his recent time to a company called Applied Biophysics, which specializes in scientific instrumentation used in biological research and drug discovery.

Why am I telling you about this world-renowned physicist? Because he has joined another famous physicist in protesting the American Physical Society’s stand on global warming by resigning from the society.

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The Inquisition Strikes Again!

On August 4, 2004, an article by Stephen C. Meyer appeared in a rather obscure peer-reviewed journal entitled The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington,1 and it quickly ignited a firestorm of controversy. Why? Did it contain fabricated data? No. That kind of thing doesn’t produce nearly as much controversy. One study, for example, says that 14% of scientists have observed their colleagues fabricating, falsifying, and modifying their data, and 72% have observed their colleagues engaging in questionable research practices.2 Did the article contain egregious errors? No. While the article has many detractors, their criticisms were leveled more at the fact that it was published than at the content of the work.

So what caused the controversy? This peer-reviewed article not only had the audacity to argue that the current view of evolution can never hope to explain life as we see it today, it actually dared to say:

An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate–and perhaps the most causally adequate–explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals and the novel forms they represent. For this reason, recent scientific interest in the design hypothesis is unlikely to abate as biologists continue to wrestle with the problem of the origination of biological form and the higher taxa.

That’s what caused the controversy. This well-reasoned paper, full of serious data-based arguments, was an attack on the scientific orthodoxy of the day and dared to argue that intelligent design was a reasonable scientific alternative. As a result, the Inquisition was mobilized. In the end, the publisher of the journal released a statement repudiating the article, the editor of the journal was branded a heretic, and he was then targeted for retaliation and harassment. After the dust had settled, the biological community breathed a sigh of relief, because orthodoxy had been successfully enforced. Another editor would surely think twice before allowing a well-reasoned argument for intelligent design to be published in his or her peer-reviewed journal, regardless of its quality.

Well, it seems that biology isn’t the only scientific field where orthodoxy is enforced by the Inquisition.

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Does This Really Blow a Gaping Hole in Global Warming?

A longtime reader of this blog sent me a blog post from Forbes entitled, “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism.” With such a provocative title, of course, I had to read it.

The blog post makes some amazing claims. It says that the data, published in the Journal Remote Sensing, demonstrate that global climate models do not agree with what happens in the real world when it comes to how much heat the earth is radiating into space. It then says:

The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.

Now this bothered me a bit, because we’ve known for a while that the global climate models don’t work very well. Back in 2009, for example, Richard Lindzen showed that global climate models don’t conform to the data when it comes to how the earth reacts to rising sea surface temperatures. Why should a paper that reaches essentially the same conclusion suddenly change the global warming debate?

The blog post concludes with this statement:

When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a “huge discrepancy” between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.

The way the author of the blog post, James Taylor, wrote about these data made me want to read the scientific paper that contained them. When I read it, however, I found that the “data” were significantly less dramatic than what Mr. Taylor indicates.

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Richard A. Muller on Global Temperatures


The video above is an excerpt from a much longer lecture, which you can find here. I find it interesting because the man giving the lecture is Dr. Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. What makes this video so interesting is that Dr. Muller believes that global warming is real. In a paper published in Technology Review back in 2003, he said:

Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate

Thus, he is a “true believer” in global warming. He actually goes on to talk about what he would LOVE to believe, and then he shudders at the idea that as a scientist, he has a desire to believe in anything. He wants his views to be completely data-driven.

Of course, this lies at the heart of his problem, because as he so clearly shows in the video above, the data that have been used to promote global warming are severely flawed. They have been manipulated. Indeed, he says that he cannot even believe the surface temperature data that show a slight increase in global temperature, because the same scientists who botched the famous “hockey stick” graph are the ones who did the analysis of surface temperature data to produce that graph.

As a result, Dr. Muller is doing his own statistical analysis of the surface temperature data to see for himself whether or not surface temperatures are increasing. His analysis will be reported here. I personally think that satellite data are more important in the analysis of global warming, and they still show no significant warming trend. Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see what Dr. Muller reports on his analysis of surface temperatures.

***UPDATE*** The LA Times has run a story indicating that based on 2% of the data being analyzed, Muller says his surface temperature data agree with the surface temperature data linked above. If the agreement remains after the other 98% has been analyzed, this will give us significantly more confidence that surface temperatures are actually warming. (Thanks to Singring for linking this article in a comment!)

It’s Too Bad The APS Won’t Learn from This

Dr. Harold Lewis is a giant in physics. At one time, he was the chairman of the physics department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is now an Emeritus professor at the same institution. He served in the Navy during World War II, was chairman of the technology panel on the Defense Science Board, chaired that same board’s study on nuclear winter, was on the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, was a part of the President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, chaired the American Physical Society’s study on Nuclear Reactor Safety, and was a member of the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. As if that’s not enough, he is a co-founder of JASON, a group of scientists who advise the United States Government on scientific and technological issues.

This giant recently resigned from the American Physical Society (APS). Why? Because he was sick and tired of the APS supporting pseudoscience when it comes to global warming. In his resignation letter, which I urge everyone to read, he specifically says:

…the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

Even though I doubt that the APS will learn from this action, I applaud Dr. Lewis for publicly separating himself from an organization that claims to be scientific but seems happy to throw science under the bus in order to jump onto a politically fashionable and incredibly lucrative bandwagon.

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