Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #323

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President,  (SEPP)

The Next Cooling: SEPP Chairman emeritus Fred Singer has an article published in the American Thinker on the next ice age and what can be done to possibly prevent it. After dismissing the political notions of nuclear winter, he presents evidence that we live in a geological age of Ice Ages. [The estimated temperatures during the last significant ice age are about 6ºC (about 12ºF) below current temperatures.]

Given the frequent announcements of dangerous global warming by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and their followers, it is easy to overlook that possible cooling is real and dangerous to humanity. During the mild cooling, known as the Little Ice Age, hundreds of thousands died of famine and related diseases in Europe. Contrary to the IPCC and its followers, evidence of the cooling is found in Western Hemisphere, Asia and elsewhere.

As discussed in last week’s TWTW, this July, following years of research, The International Commission on Stratigraphy announced its recommendation to the International Union of Geological Sciences that the Holocene Epoch (the past 11,700 years) be divided into three ages, or stages: the Greenlandian, a warming from the cold Younger Dryas, the Northgripppian, and the Meghalayan.

The Meghalayan Age, from 4,200 years ago, is unique among the many intervals of the Geologic Time Scale in that its beginning coincides with a global cultural event produced by a global climatic event. Agricultural-based cultures and societies that developed in many regions after the end of the last Ice Age were impacted severely by a 200-year cooling and drying event that resulted in the collapse of civilizations and human migrations in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley. Evidence that this climatic event occurred about 4,200 years-ago has been found on all seven continents, including uninhabited Antarctica. The Harappan Civilization in the Indus Valley and plateau was perhaps the most advanced civilization of that time with an estimated population of about 5 million, covered systems for water and sewage, and a writing system, not yet deciphered. It virtually disappeared.

Carbon dioxide-caused warming, promoted by the IPCC, and others, appears weak compared with natural ice ages. The hard evidence of a warming from CO2 and greenhouse gases, including water vapor, indicates that warming from a doubling of CO2 may be 1ºC, or even less, perhaps one-half of the minimum warming forecast in four of the five IPCC Assessment Reports (AR) of 1.5º C. (AR4, 2007, projected a minimum warming of 2º C.) See Article # 1 and links under Changing Climate – Cultures & Civilizations.


Quote of the Week: “We must remember that a tentative judgment of truth is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty.” – Philosopher Simon Blackburn (Trinity College, Cambridge)

Number of the Week: One per one-hundred thousand? Over 70 years?


Group Think: In reviewing a paper by MIT’s Carl Wunsch (retired), “Towards understanding the Paleocean” published in 2010 by Quaternary Science Reviews, Judith Curry makes some remarkable observations. Wunsch was a participant in the 1979 report “Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment,” headed by Jule Charney. The report estimated that a doubling of CO2 will occur around 2030 to 2050.

The report considered five global climate models including the S. Manabe, et al. model at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, N.J, and the J. Hansen, et al. model at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, N.Y. The report estimated that the lower bound of temperature rise from a doubling of CO2 would be 2ºC from the Manabe model (underestimation of water-vapor feedback) and the upper bound would be 3.5ºC from the Hansen model (overestimation of water-vapor feedback). The best estimate for surface temperature rise was 3ºC with a probable error of plus / minus 1.5ºC. Also, the positive feedback from moisture will overwhelm all conceivable negative feedback mechanisms. [Boldface added.]

Wunsch’s participation in this critical report, carried forward by the IPCC, makes Curry’s observations even more remarkable. Judith Curry is no longer a part of the climate orthodoxy and is being shunned by her former colleagues. Her excerpts from the Wunsch paper on what she calls the sociology of climate science bear repeating [Boldface in the original unless stated otherwise]:

“From one point of view, scientific communities without adequate data have a distinct advantage: one can construct interesting and exciting stories and rationalizations with little or no risk of observational refutation. Colorful, sometimes charismatic, characters come to dominate the field, constructing their interpretations of a few intriguing, but indefinite observations that appeal to their followers, and which eventually emerge as ‘textbook truths.’

“Consider the following characteristics ascribed to one particular, notoriously data-poor, field (Smolin, 2006), as having:

1. Tremendous self-confidence, leading to a sense of entitlement and of belonging to an elite community of experts.

“2. An unusually monolithic community, with a strong sense of consensus, whether driven by the evidence or not, and an unusual uniformity of views on open questions. …

“3. In some cases a sense of identification with the group, akin to identification with a religious faith or political platform.

“4. A strong sense of the boundary between the group and other experts.

“5. A disregard for and disinterest in the ideas, opinions, and work of experts who are not part of the group, and a preference for talking only with other members of the community.

“6. A tendency to interpret evidence optimistically, to believe exaggerated or incorrect statements of results and to disregard the possibility that the theory might be wrong. This is coupled with a tendency to believe results are true because they are ’widely believed,’ even if one has not checked (or even seen) the proof oneself.

“7. A lack of appreciation for the extent to which a research program ought to involve risk.

“Smolin (2006) was writing about string theory in physics. Nonetheless, observers of the paleoclimate scene might recognize some common characteristics.

“Smolin’s (7) is perhaps the most important in his list. Good scientists seek constantly to test the basic tenets of their field–not work hard to buttress them. [Boldface added] Routine science usually adds a trifling piece of support to everyone’s assumptions. Exciting, novel, important, science examines the basic underpinnings of those assumptions and either reports no conflict or, the contrary–that maybe it isn’t true. Imagine Darwin working hard to fit all of his observational data into the framework of Genesis (today we laugh at the so-called intelligent design community for doing just that).”

After discussing the desire to simplify, Curry continues:

“The pitfall, which has not always been avoided, is in claiming–because an essential element has been understood–that it necessarily explains what is seen in nature.

“Extension of a simplified description or explanation outside of its domain of applicability is of little or no concern to anyone outside the academic community–unless it begins to control observational strategies or be used to make predictions about future behavior under disturbed conditions.

“But strikingly little attention has been paid to examining the basic physical elements of ‘what everyone knows.’”

The model problem

“[General circulation] models now dominate discussions of the behavior of the climate system. As with future climate, where no data exist at all, the models promise descriptions of climate change–past and future–without the painful necessity of obtaining supporting observations. The apparent weight given to model behavior in discussions of paleoclimate arises, also, sometimes simply because they are “sophisticated” and difficult to understand, as well as appearing to substitute for missing data.

“That models are incomplete representations of reality is their great power. But they should never be mistaken for the real world.

“If a model fails to replicate the climate system over a few decades, the assumption that it is therefore skillful over thousands or millions of years is a non sequitur. Models have thousands of tunable parameters and the ability to make them behave “reasonably” over long time intervals is not in doubt. That error estimates are not easy to make does not mean they are not necessary for interpretation and use of model extrapolations.

Curry wraps up with concluding remarks well worth reading, including:

“The pressures for “exciting” results, over-simplified stories, and notoriety, are evident throughout the climate and paleoclimate literature… Often important technical details are omitted, and alternative hypotheses arbitrarily suppressed in the interests of telling a simple story…” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending the Orthodoxy.


Quest for Knowledge: Although terms such as “truth” are generally avoided in TWTW, the concept goes to a core issue in science – the quest for knowledge about the physical world. The Quote of the Week comes from “On Truth” by Philosopher Simon Blackburn, reviewed by Julian Baggini. Speculation is a vital part of advancing scientific knowledge. The authors of the Charney Report, and those who accepted it, recognized it was speculative, not certainty.

How does one separate speculation from knowledge? The reviewer of Blackburn’s book, Julian Baggini, a co-founder of Philosophers’ Magazine, provides an answer – evidence.

“We accept things as true not because they are immune from any conceivable doubt but because they are supported by the evidence of experience.”

Nobel Laurate Richard Feynman may have called exploring the “evidence of experience” as hypothesis testing. In 1979, there was no strong evidence of what was occurring in the atmosphere, where the greenhouse gas effect occurs, to accept or reject the hypothesis of warming from CO2 strongly amplified by increased water vapor. Now, we have almost forty years of atmosphere temperature data. The atmosphere is not warming as envisioned by the models reviewed in the Charney Report. The report was written by careful, competent scientists. However, its findings have been superseded by hard evidence. See Article # 2 and links under Defending the Orthodoxy, and Change in US Administrations.


Fredrick Seitz Memorial Award: During the concluding dinner of The Heartland Institute’s “America First Energy Conference 2018,” on August 7, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel; SEPP will present the Fredrick Seitz Memorial Award to Dr. Roy Spencer. Spencer was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites.

When it became apparent that the atmosphere was not warming as expected by the IPCC, the climate orthodoxy, the bureaucracies that support them, the journals that favored them, etc.; they unleashed their slings and arrows of wrath on Roy Spencer and John Christy. Undaunted, Spencer and Christy continue to publicly publish their findings, making slight corrections as needed, no matter what the climate orthodoxy demand – a closed society as described above by Judith Curry.

Few deserve an award for exceptional courage in the quest for knowledge as much as Roy Spencer. (John Christy received the award in 2016.) We thank his important work. See http://www.drroyspencer.com/about/ and for conference information see http://americafirstenergy.org/


Chartmanship: A clever method used by some unscrupulous professionals to mislead the public is called Chartmanship. It was defined by the distinguished scientist, electrical engineer, and statistician, John Brignell (“The Epidemiologists: Have They got Scares for You, 2004) as “the art of using graphs without actually cheating.” The earlier, 1954 bestselling work by Darrell Huff, “How to Lie with Statistics,” gave some great examples.

To simplify the issue, one can classify these efforts as propaganda. Separately, Roy Spencer and Anthony Watts give some current examples, including one used by NASA-GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies). See links under Communicating Better to the Public – Use Propaganda.


Number of the Week: One per one-hundred thousand? Over 70 years? According to the web site of the American Cancer Society [Boldface added]:

“California’s Proposition 65, also called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, was enacted in 1986. It is intended to help Californians make informed decisions about protecting themselves from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

As part of the law, the state is required to publish a list of chemicals that are “known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” The list is updated at least once a year and now contains about 800 different chemicals. The complete list can be found on the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) website.

After some additional information, the web site explains the labels required under Proposition 65.

As part of the law, businesses selling products to people in California must provide “clear and reasonable warnings” before knowingly exposing people to any chemical on the list, unless the expected level of exposure would pose no significant cancer risk. This warning is often in the form of a label on the product or its packaging.

The law defines “no significant risk” as a level of exposure that would cause no more than 1 extra case of cancer in 100,000 people over a 70-year lifetime. So a compound can be unlabeled if a person exposed to the substance at the expected level for 70 years is estimated to have a 1 in 100,000 chance or less of getting cancer due to that exposure. The law also has similar strict cutoff levels for birth defects and reproductive harm. [Boldface added]

The concept of no significant risk at a level of exposure that would cause no more than 1 extra case of cancer in 100,000 people over a 70-year lifetime is a bureaucrat’s dream. The threshold is virtually incalculable, meaningless. Stating a product causes cancer according to the State of California is another way of “How to Lie With Statistics.” See links under California Dreaming.



1. The Next Ice Age

By S. Fred Singer, American Thinker, July 23, 2018


“While most people still worry about global warming, I am more concerned about the next Ice Age. A glaciation would present a serious problem for survival of our present civilization, akin to a nuclear winter that many worried about 30 years ago.

“Nuclear winter is all fantasy, of course; but ice ages are for real.

“Natural warming of the Earth reached a peak 65 million years ago. The climate has been generally cooling ever since. Antarctic ice sheets started growing 25 million years ago. In the last 2.5 million years, the Earth entered the period of Ice Ages [the geological name is The Pleistocene] and has been experiencing periodic glaciations where much of the land was covered by miles-thick ice sheets.

“There have been about 17 glaciations, each lasting approx. 100,000 years, separated by short interglacials lasting about 10,000 years.

“We are approaching the likely end of the present warm inter-glacial, called The Holocene. It’s time to prepare for the next glaciation to see how we can overcome it – or at least postpone its onset.

“Although we don’t fully understand the gradual onset and sudden termination of each glaciation, their timing is determined by astronomical factors – the inclination and precession of the Earth’s spin axis. They control the amount of sunshine [solar energy] reaching northern latitudes. The mathematics was worked out by the Serbian astronomer Milankovitch, but the physics is not yet certain.

“It is currently believed that a glaciation gets underway when a northern snow field [at latitude of about 65 degree N] survives during the summer and then gradually grows into an ice sheet.

“The survived snow field acts as a ‘trigger’ for commencing a glaciation. Its growth into an icesheet is conditioned by the ‘feedback’ as it reflects solar radiation and thus resists being melted by solar energy in the following summers.

“It is at this point where we can beneficially interfere. The effort involves two simple steps:

“Step 1. Locate any snow field that survives the summer, which can be done most readily by reviewing available satellite data.

“Step 2. Spread soot onto the snow field to reduce its albedo [reflectivity] and let the sun melt it during the following summer.

“Note that this proposal has low cost and little environmental risk – unlike schemes of geo-engineering to ‘fight’ global warming.

“This is a serious matter. The most recent glaciation which ended only 12,000 years ago covered Canada and the northern United States, as well as much of Europe. It left us the Great Lakes and also many small lakes in Minnesota. The total human population at that time is estimated about 100,000 Neanderthalers and eventually also Homo Sapiens.

“The present population explosion started with the growth of agriculture about 8,000 years ago. Harvest of crops continues to sustain such expansion, but may become impossible during a glaciation.

“We don’t know if the human population will shrink to the ‘carrying capacity’ of the Earth. The Neanderthalers were hunters; when they ran out of animals, they starved. But with likely supplies of unlimited energy and some human ingenuity, we may surmount this limit.”


2. ‘On Truth’ Review: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

A philosopher argues that truth is humble, not absolute: “A tentative judgment . . . is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty.” Julian Baggini reviews “On Truth” by Simon Blackburn.

By Julian Baggini, WSJ, July 24, 2018


SUMMARY: The reviewer, philosopher, writes:

“Defenders of truth have had a big job in recent decades, first tackling the challenge of postmodernism and, more recently, the rise of ‘post-truth.’ Simon Blackburn dealt with the first in his 2005 ‘Truth: A Guide.’ Perhaps surprisingly, he gets post-truth briskly out of the way early on in his second short, nonacademic book with ‘truth’ in the title. That is perhaps because he correctly diagnoses that there is no ‘crisis in the very concept of truth.’ Certain politicians might be playing fast and loose with truth, but ‘perjury is still a serious crime, and we still hope that our pilots and surgeons know their way about.’ The very fact that we deplore the disregard of truth is proof that we still value it.

“The post-truth phenomenon is largely a crisis of trust. The proliferation and Balkanization of news sources, abetted by the cloak of web anonymity, has left people feeling that they ‘have been denied trustworthy sources of information,’ Mr. Blackburn writes. In response, they ‘take refuge in believing whatever they would like to be true.’ If you can’t trust anyone or anything, you are left only trusting your gut.

“‘On Truth’ addresses this loss of trust obliquely, stepping back and examining how we can best reinstate our minds as judges. The first part runs through the standard textbook theories of truth, and the second deals with truth in specific contexts, particularly art, ethics and religion. This potentially dry structure allows the author, a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, to develop a sustained argument in defense of truth. As in his earlier books, Mr. Blackburn displays a rare combination of erudite precision and an ability to make complex ideas clear in unfussy prose.

If truth has seemed unattainable, he argues, it is because in the hands of philosophers such as Plato and Descartes it became so purified, rarefied and abstract that it eluded human comprehension. Mr. Blackburn colorfully describes their presentation of truth as a ‘picture of an entirely self-enclosed world of thought, spinning frictionless in the void.’

The reviewer discusses the alternatives from David Hume and American pragmatists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey. Then continues:

Put crudely, for the pragmatists ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ We take to be true what works. Newton’s laws got us to the moon, so it would be perverse to deny that they are true. It doesn’t matter if they are not the final laws of physics; they are true enough. ‘We must remember that a tentative judgment of truth is not the same as a dogmatic assertion of certainty,’ says Mr. Blackburn, a sentence that glib deniers of the possibility of truth should be made to copy out a hundred times. Skepticism about truth only gets off the ground if we demand that true enough is not good enough—that truth be beyond all possible doubt and not just the reasonable kind.

Truth of the more modest variety is neither mysterious nor elusive. We accept things as true not because they are immune from any conceivable doubt but because they are supported by the evidence of experience. As a school of thought called ‘coherentism’ maintains, there is no rock-hard, indubitable foundation for our beliefs, only a mutually supporting web of beliefs that hang together.

Seen in this way, truth even has a role in ethics and aesthetics. Ethics does not establish facts akin to scientific laws, but it can get things more or less right. Racism and sexism, for example, rest on false views of human difference, and the morality of abortion cannot be divorced from truths about how the fetus develops. ‘Ethics is our technique for living,’ says Mr. Blackburn, ‘and like any technique it can be practiced well or badly.’

He is sympathetic to the different theories he presents, trying to find what is true in each of them, even when the whole is false. The exception is religion, in which he finds no substantive redeeming features. Religion needs ‘to weld people into a social unit or congregation,’ he writes, and for that it needs a faith that ‘deliberately stupefies the understanding’ with ideas of ineffability and mystery. The only kind of religion that Mr. Blackburn finds remotely intellectually credible is one in which we express awe and gratitude to an unknown source of being without any pretense of understanding it.

Given his stress on how provisional and uncertain our grasp of truth is, he could perhaps have been more accommodating. As he quotes Peirce saying, inquiry ‘is not standing upon the bedrock of fact. It is walking upon a bog, and can only say, this ground seems to hold for the present. Here I will stay until it begins to give way.’ Many non-fundamentalist forms of religion would seem to exemplify this spirit. Ironically, Mr. Blackburn’s own last words suggest that we can be justified in believing some things that we cannot rationally establish. Expressing his hope that the enemies of reason will not prevail, he leaves the reader with an exhortation to ‘have faith that the best will overcome the worst.’ Amen.


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