Global Warming, Al Gore, And Sycophant Science
by Ming Zhen Shakya
-- Lines quoted at the beginning of Ernest Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Camouflage, as we all have learned from bitter experience, is nature's way of concealing the predatory to the detriment of the delicious or, from another perspective, of concealing the delicious to the detriment of the predatory.
As casual observers, we may regard a leopard's spots or a zebra's stripes as fascinating - though of no particular significance to our persons. But those who are being observed know that the failure to see the motivating truth behind an appearance can be an error that results in quick death or prolonged hunger.
When it is opinion that is on the menu, camouflage - whether openly paid for as advertising or covertly proffered as public relations - can also have unpleasant consequences. We see this most clearly when politics and religion intrude into controversial topics for which they have no natural appetites and no natural defenses. Ordinary citizens, having no more knowledge of the subject than the politician or cleric who rises to announce his opinion, will tend to support him according to their own identification with his political party or religion. Controversy generates news. Fame is power. Soon he and they are crusaders who will claim rights that are superior to those scientists who actually understand the problem and are qualified to solve it. Crusaders tend to direct attention to where they want it, which is usually a distance away from where it belongs. Worse, politics and religion, as rich and influential as they are opinionated, invariably attract "experts" - sycophant scientists who happily pitch their science to agree with the crusader's call.
We saw an example of religion's intrusion into the etiology of AIDS some thirty years ago. First, from fanatical pulpits we were told that the sexually transmitted "Gay Plague" was God's way of punishing homosexuals. When needle-sharing heroin addicts - many of whom were poor African American men - started to die of the disease, they were added to the list of sex and drug degenerates, doubly deserving of castigation. This assessment dovetailed nicely with the news that African monkeys had transmitted the virus to humans. Since AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease it followed that African men had sex with monkeys. These insults naturally generated indignation and denial among all people of African descent. But how could intelligent people refute the scientific assertions that AIDS-HIV had originated as an African simian virus?
Controversy still generated news and fame was still bankable. Any scientist who had a good reputation could concoct a plausible theory that AIDS was not caused by a monkey virus or spread by human fluid exchange, but rather was a "poor lifestyle" collection of symptoms, typically associated with drug addicts, which could be prevented or reversed by healthy diets, vitamin and nutritional supplements, stress reduction techniques, and so on through a litany of New Age nostrums. And worse, the anti-HIV propaganda machine offered various "proofs" that the expensive medications used to treat AIDS were toxic and actually killed the person foolish enough to take them. The scientist who published this "AIDS-is-not-caused-by-a-virus" hypothesis came from U.C. Berkeley's faculty. Nelson Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, bought the book and the theory, purchasing them with the lives of an uncountable number of Africans.
Unfortunately, a lie that restores dignity and gives hope lives long and prospers. This insidious "anti-HIV" lunacy was exposed and discredited - everywhere but in Africa. Politicians are not in the habit of arguing against staying healthy, staying heterosexual, staying drug free, and doing yoga. Even less are they inclined to admit that they made a mistake. Religious groups that opposed birth control joined those who scoffed at the idea that using condoms would prevent the transmission of AIDS. Advertising and public relations campaigns relentlessly discredited pharmaceutical regimens and so thoroughly camouflaged the truth that the sale of vitamins and nutritional supplements became very profitable. It did not help the scientist's case that one of his co-authors had been employed by a major vitamin supplier of the African market.
And all this sleazy science was in large measure facilitated by the unconscionable intrusion of religion into scientific matters.
Politics, being part of the same emotional swatch as religion, also does not shrink from a profitable opportunity to intrude into science.
Twenty years or so ago, the news magazines carried a small but peculiarly alarming story out of Israel. In the 1950s, an agricultural scientist, while doing research for an irrigation project, had carefully measured the amount of sunlight that struck the Israeli desert. When he again measured the sunlight in the 1980s, he discovered that the amount had decreased by a startling 22%. This alarming drop in sunfall became known as "Global Dimming."
Since nobody followed up his report in any public forum, the subject was fortunately of no interest to politicians or religious commentators. But through their science publications, responsible climatologists were cued to action. German observers had also marked a similar decline in the amount of sunlight striking the Alps. Universally, though not uniformly, an awning seemed to be covering the planet. Australian scientists recorded a concomitant decline in "pan evaporation" rates around the globe. In their studies of the effects of temperature and sunlight on the evaporation of water, they determined that direct sunlight had more of an effect on the evaporation rate than they had previously thought.
And then, in the wake of the 9/11/01 attack on New York and Washington when all U.S. planes were grounded, an American climatologist who had been investigating the effects of contrails on the atmosphere was surprised to see how clear the sky over Wisconsin had suddenly become. His measurements indicated that the range of day-to-night temperature extremes had noticeably widened - just from the absence of air traffic. We weren't exactly sure we understood what this all meant, but it was worrisome. What would happen if the rest of the contrail-type pollutants suddenly vanished and the full force of the sun struck the earth and was then trapped by those increasingly infamous greenhouse gasses?
Indian scientists determined that not only was the layer of pollutants blocking sunlight, but that each particle enabled water vapor to adhere to it, creating a kind of water-droplet mirror that reflected sunlight back into space. The Northern Hemisphere's greater landmass and population created more air pollution; and the particulate matter in northern clouds could disrupt the normal monsoonal movement of rain.
In the 1980s, France committed itself to nuclear energy. By 2002, it had 58 nuclear power plants on line. Having replaced so much haze-producing fossil fuel, France's skies cleared accordingly, but in 2003, in just two weeks of August more than 15,000 people died in response to soaring temperatures. Was this a grim reminder of what the post-9/11 contrail-cleared sky over Wisconsin had noted? We didn't know.
The deaths in France, the severity of the 2005 hurricane season, the recession of polar ice, and other seemingly anomalous weather occurrences were all listed under the rubric of Global Warming. Global Dimming, despite the extent to which the awning haze was apparently related to the problem, didn't get a footnote.
Al Gore brought politics into the problem by producing his well-made documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Congenial and attractive, Gore presented comprehensible graphs, cute animation, spectacular photographs, warm nostalgia and, of course, personal political references which were somewhat beside the point but at least showed that he was trying very hard to get over his loss of "the Bully Pulpit" to George Bush.
Immediately Mr. Gore addressed the problem of Global Warming by declaring that human activity had caused it by drastically increasing the production of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (This is Anthropocentric Global Warming -- AGW.) He illustrated this conclusion with several graphs and then revealed that, of all nations, the United States was the biggest source of the problem. We had seen NASA's photos of China's air pollution. We were confused.
Those of us who could still remember high school biology needed a bit more information. Since carbon dioxide was an odorless, colorless gas, it seemed counterintuitive to blame it for Global Dimming - but how it figured in Global Warming we did not know. If we remembered our lessons correctly, air-breathing animals breathed in oxygen and breathed out carbon dioxide. Conveniently, during photosynthesis, plants "breathed in" carbon dioxide and "breathed out" oxygen.
When people first noticed that this nice arrangement was being disturbed by an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, it was common practice to blame Brazil for cutting into its rainforest and excising "the lungs of the planet." And here things got complicated. The trees were being felled to create grazing land for producing the low-grade beef needed by burgeoning fast-food markets.
Nevertheless, the effect of this disturbance was that the excess CO2 created a kind of glass-barrier greenhouse. According to An Inconvenient Truth's graphics, sunlight could penetrate the barrier and heat the earth, but the heat that radiated from the earth could not penetrate the barrier and escape into space. Without the ability to dissipate heat, the planet's temperature was rising, causing glaciers to calve frenetically and polar ice shelves to collapse. Sea levels would soon rise, inundating coastlines until Florida was the size of Delaware.
We already had learned (the hard way from having to breathe city air) that pollution was composed of pollen and other biological substances; particulate matter consisting of dust, ash, and soot from fossil fuel exhausts which also produced carbon monoxide and those sulfur and nitrogen acids that burned our eyes; methane; an assortment of chemicals that evaporated into the atmosphere; and that "top of the Most Wanted list" carbon dioxide.
In fact, all of this information about the world getting hotter and darker was more than a tad confusing. Other scientists were registering objections to the extent of the AGW hypothesis. We needed an intermediary, a scientist who understood all these disparate data, was adept at conveying it, and had "no dog in the fight." We needed a Neil deGrasse Tyson or a Michio Kaku. We didn't get that. We got a politician and the inevitable agreement or disagreement based more upon identification with his political party than the science he offered.
When An Inconvenient Truth illustrated the effects of Anthropogenic Global Warming by showing the shrinking glacier of Kilimanjaro, it camouflaged the subject when it eliminated other possible causes for the receding ice that were contrary to and therefore contrasted with the only explanation it offered. We had seen on The History Channel and other programs the blessings of the Medieval Warming Period, which ended with the 1550 onset of the Little Ice Age -- the worst year of which was 1816, "the year without a summer" - the aggravation of an Icelandic volcanic eruption. We were told how glaciers had advanced until the Little Ice Age ended around 1860, when the temperature began to rebound to what it had been during the Medieval Warming Period.
In the opinion of many scientists, the receding glaciers were at least partially the result of that temperature restoration. Other scientists had long been alarmed by the deforestation around Kilimanjaro which curtailed the updraft of water vapor. A long period of aridity also reduced the amount of renewing snow. Anecdotal accounts of the area's inhabitants referred to volcanic activity within their memory. Scientists who had actually measured the heat escaping from the summit crater's fumaroles determined that lava was bubbling 400 feet beneath the surface. But AGW proponents cited only the Industrial Revolution and dismissed any other possibility.
Always, human beings - especially American human beings - are to blame. The U.S. has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which is clearly intended to hobble us. "Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG [Green House Gas] emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” (whatever that means).
Never mind that no U.S. city is in the top ten worst polluted cities in the world. When measuring lead contamination of soil; toxins in the water supply; radioactive fallout; etc., the polluted places are:
1. Linfen, China
2. Tianying, China
3. Sukinda, India
4. Vapi, India
5. La Oroya, Peru
6. Dzerzhinsk, Russia
7. Norilsk, Russia
8. Chernobyl, Ukraine
9. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan
10. Kabwe, Zambia
Anyone who considers China and India "developing" nations has not looked at our balance of trade statistics lately. And anyone who thinks that burdening American small business and industry even more to accommodate these polluting countries ought to take a vacation in one of them.
Mr. Gore had emphasized the deplorable extent to which politically motivated people had tried to undermine clean air standards - and he was right to do so. It would surprise no one to learn that academics and politicians who supported the dubious research of the petroleum industry were well-compensated or destined for a lucrative position in that industry. And it was a "given" that they had denigrated the scientific studies of opponents and had tried to squelch opposing views, going so far as trying to have scientists who held antithetic views removed from their positions.
But did anything different happen when the shoe was on the other foot?
A Russian hacked into the computers of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the UK. It collects global data, digests, and furnishes them to the U.N. and other institutions to use in formulating policies. He posted on the Internet the data he had accessed and in so doing revealed the deplorable extent that politics had infected science. This unit was effectively lobbying for the Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas position. And so they had denigrated the scientific studies of opponents and had tried to squelch opposing views, going so far as trying to have scientists who held antithetic views removed from their positions.
So we went from scientists praising "our friend, the exhaust manifold" to scientists lamenting "Americans drown helpless computer-generated polar bears." What we need to know now is the extent, if any, that academics and politicians have invested their money and their reputations in the alternative energy industries. How many of the people who now espouse global warming so fervently are in the employment pipeline of companies that produce solar; wind; tidal; battery; hydrogen and other non-petroleum powered engines; and such big-ticket items as nuclear power plants and dams?
The email correspondence between Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit who is the recipient of $22,000,000.00 in grant money, and various academics was revelatory - and often showed a hot "Crips versus Bloods" mentality rather than the cool, unbiased assessment of independent researchers we and the Brits imagined we were supporting with our tax dollars.
From: Ben Santer [of Lawrence Livermore Labs]
Date: Fri, 09 Oct 1009
I'm really sorry that you have to go through all this stuff, Phil. Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I'll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.
Data that did not support CRU's lucrative Anthropogenic Global Warming crusade were either discarded or skewed. Researchers who asked to inspect data that had been fudged or trashed were ignored. Legitimate climatology publications that printed articles presenting opposing viewpoints were ruthlessly attacked.
Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal writes, "The emails include discussions of apparent efforts to make sure that reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that monitors climate science, include their own views and exclude others. In addition, emails show that climate scientists declined to make their data available to scientists whose views they disagreed with."
And they did in fact do a lot of damage. exxonsecrets.org sums up the problems faced by one publication: "A major environmental journal, CR [Climate Research] publishes papers on all aspects of climate phenomena and their effects on life. In early 2003, Climate Research published an article by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas challenging the view that the late twentieth century saw anomalously high temperatures. The publication and ensuing controversy prompted the resignation of five of the ten Climate Research editors."
One of CRU's emails showed the initial phase of their campaign to destroy Climate Research. CRU had always derided "skeptics" for not being published in quality journals. When Climate Research published a skeptical article, CRU got vicious:
"This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature.' Obviously, they found a solution to that - take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board... What do others think?"
"I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ [New Zealand]. He has let a few papers through by [skeptics] Michaels and Gray in the past. I've had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice!"
(Poor Hans von Storch. We can barely contain our curiosity about what they had in store for him.)
In this scientific Brave New World it's sometimes smart not to put things in writing.
From: Phil Jones
Date: Thu, May 29 2008
Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
James Delingpole of the UK's Telegraph covering the scandal concludes: "The world is currently cooling: electorates are increasingly reluctant to support eco-policies leading to more oppressive regulation, higher taxes and higher utility bills; the tide is turning against Al Gore's Anthropogenic Global Warming theory."
Al Gore is certainly not responsible for the AGW theory; but the problem is that the statistics upon which that theory was based are no longer "carved in stone" because the scientists who were in charge of gathering them were too fiercely protective of their turf to be above the suspicion that something else besides planetary love was motivating them.
As a personal comment, for nearly 50 years I have lived in the Mojave Desert in the same house which is not air-conditioned; and I do not own a winter coat. I am not without interest in global warming. Mr. Gore's personal negative publicity doesn't bother me. Sure, I think it's funny that he was busted driving up to an environmental meeting driving his Cadillac Escalade; but in all fairness he might need a big car to transport the people and equipment he uses in his presentation. And that he pays $30,000. a year for his home's utility bills and uses no "alternative energy technology" is no doubt due to the mansion's age. He's a public figure from an historical political family and his residence requires additional energy-consuming protection. More, it's probably impossible to alter the plumbing and stick solar panels on an old and beautiful building. Esthetically it would be a nightmare. I have other issues with An Inconvenient Truth that have to do with Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Many years ago from out of the blue somebody made a recording of whales communicating in the most haunting, plaintive songs. We had never heard anything like this before. It was so strange and beautiful. It was not the repetitive call of a bird or an animal's growls and whimpers. There was the back and forth of conversation and intonations that conveyed perception and feeling. Nobody could translate the language, and nobody could forget it. And there was never a doubt that what we heard were the expressions of a rare intelligence, of minds that could love and think and sin and suffer. They lived together, moving in community; and we wondered if there were a Jesus of the whales, or maybe a Buddha.
Biologists would later confirm that the emotions we heard in the whales' songs were quite probably there since the whale's brain was filled with spindle neurons, cells that specialized in processing emotion and promoting social interaction.
Other people knew how extraordinary whales were. On TV, we watched Greenpeace and then the Sea Shepherd people harass whaling ships to prevent the slaughter of these creatures. The Japanese kill more than a thousand whales each year. They justify this by saying that they see no difference between killing pigs and killing whales. The Japanese have a longstanding inability to distinguish between living things. If it were possible to embarrass a nation for such a lack of discrimination, it would be a good PR move for the Sea Shepherd people to rename their ships "Unit 731" or "Nanking 1937."
In Oslo, Mr. Gore had gained that Bully Pulpit he so much wanted. Instead of the same old rhetoric, why didn't he think about those thousand whales Norway slaughters every year to sell the meat to Japan; and from the great Peace Podium say to that august audience of Norwegians, "Why in the name of heaven can you not put an end to these atrocities?"