A local NZ monthly community newspaper published an opinion piece by one "Green blogger" Thomas Everth, known to frequent this blog, on global warming. He was kind enough to take a crack at me in dispatches and a reader brought it to my attention. I'll ignore Thomas' cheap jibes and instead concentrate on his opening gambit. This is what I've asked the newspaper to consider publishing in reply.
In a blatant effort to mislead and scare your readers, Green blogger Thomas Everth makes more errors in the first 200 words of his recent global warming diatribe than I have made in my last three books totalling around 400,000 words.
Let's look at them, shall we?
- "One would think that in the face of: visibly vanishing Arctic ice Caps…"
In fact, after hitting a record low extent in 2007 caused mainly by wind patterns blowing ice into warmer waters, Arctic sea ice has grown significantly in coverage since 2007, even exceeding the 30 year average it is measured against. "Visibly vanishing"? I don't think so.
- "…the break up of huge Antarctic ice shelves,"
Actually, the "huge" ice shelves amount to less than a fraction of one percent of Antarctica's area, and they're in an area hit by warmer ocean currents than the rest of the ice continent. Furthermore, a string of recent scientific studies show the area has been even warmer in the past one thousand years than it currently is, naturally. Hardly the stuff of nightmares.
- "…methane bubbling melting permafrost,"
This is one of the favourite scare stories of Everth and some others, particularly those who frequent the local Chicken Little website Hot Topic, run by a South Island truffle grower. I was therefore amused when NIWA recently rubbished the idea of a major threat from methane hydrates. They had to rubbish it, because scientific data suggests the methane stores are actually highly stable. The permafrost was 30% warmer in the 1930s than it is now (naturally, again), but we did not all vanish in a methane explosion.
- "…vanishing glaciers,"
As the US National Science Foundation and others have well documented, glaciers and ice sheets have much longer response times (thermal lag) to warming or cooling than you'd think. Big glaciers, for example, can take up to a thousand years to show serious effects from a warmer climate, and big ice sheets can take up to tens of thousands of years, according to the US NSF (details in the book Air Con). All of which means that the melting we are seeing now is a delayed reaction to warming that took place between a hundred and a thousand years ago. I would remind readers that the warming that took place back then was entirely natural, as the knights of old were not driving SUVs.
[Addendum: Seeing as Hot Topic keep misconstruing this, a little elaboration on response time might be useful. A recent report on the Himalayan glaciers states this:
"The report highlights that glaciers are complex and that terminus fluctuations are the result of complex processes, with a time lag in response."
" The discussion appears to assume that under the same warming rate the terminus retreat rate should be constant. This is incorrect."
"The estimates of the response time of Indian glaciers are incorrect. The response times for sub-tropical glaciers lie in the time frame of decades to a century, depending among others on the size of the glacier. (The suggested response times of 6000 and 15 000 years may have some relevance for large ice sheets such as the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, but not for mountain glaciers)
"The response time is the time taken to reach a new steady state after climatic perturbation, in other words, the time taken until the snout reaches its new position in the new climatic situation. The immediate changes in snout position reflect the reaction time, the time taken to see any change in a glacier in response to a perturbation. The reaction time for small glaciers may be as short as a few years, longer for larger glaciers. The report attempts to compare the terminus fluctuation with contemporary meteorological data year-for-year over a period of ten years. This contradicts both the assumption in the report that response times are of the order of millennia, and also fails to take into account any lag time at all.
"The report also attempts to use average glacial speed as a measure of glacial response time. The time taken by ice deposited in the accumulation area to reach the snout indicates the average speed. For the Gara glacier, as an example, this is suggested to be 300 years, giving an average speed of 10 m per year. But this is not a direct indicator of response time and even less of reaction time."
The point I was making in Air Con and here is that glaciers do not melt on a dime, they take a long time in many cases. Renowden has tried to claim that NZ's Tasman has reacted rapidly in the last couple of decades to AGW, whereas in his ignorance he overlooks the long response time the Tasman has to 150 or more years of warming. The rapid change of the last two decades was built on the slower change already eating away at the glacier.
- "…heat waves,"
Everth conveniently forgets to include the balancing factor for heatwaves: cold spells. As many of your readers are now aware, the Northern Hemisphere has been hit by another brutal icy winter, even bigger than last year's record breaker. In December alone nearly 900 snowfall records in US towns and cities were broken or tied, and temperatures were 15 degrees below average in some areas. As a matter of factual record, more people die from the cold than in heat waves.
- "…record bush fires"
Your correspondent refers to the Australian bush fires, but readers of Air Con who've seen the chapter on those fires will recall that Australian temperatures are not fuelled by CO2 but by hot seasonal winds blown in from the central desert. (same problem in California and vulnerable parts of the US) It is a matter of factual record, again, that last summer's 'record' temperatures were no different to those measured in the great fire of 1851 – a blaze ten times larger than the 2009 killer fires in Victoria. The death toll in Victoria, incidentally, was far higher than 1851 because of a daft resource management bylaw introduced by Green councillors that prevented homeowners from cutting down vegetation close to their homes. Hence, when the blazes hit, houses burnt to the ground.
- "…the last decade being the hottest on record ever,"
Sounds impressive, except that technically 'ever' means only in the past 30 years, which is how long we've had satellite coverage of the planet. So really what Thomas is saying is that the last decade was the hottest of the last three decades. But as he didn't tell you, there's been no statistically significant warming at all over the past ten years, which is why one of the world's top climate scientists, Kevin Trenberth got so hot under the collar in the Climategate emails where he wrote:
"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't".
Green blogger and lobbyist Thomas Everth says one thing, climate scientist says, admittedly through gritted teeth, something quite different in implication.
"…new records for ocean temperatures broken in 2009,"
Well, there have been big lows in the past 24 months compared with the past couple of decades as well, so on balance, not such a big deal. As Thomas would be the first to acknowledge, short term fluctuations are not hugely meaningful. The only reason ocean temperatures were higher this year was because of the naturally occurring El Nino. Much more detail on this topic can be found in Air Con.
- "…ocean acidity increasing fast"
Not technically true either. The oceans are alkaline. What is happening is a tiny decline in alkalinity as the result of higher CO2 levels, but there is not actually enough surplus CO2 around at present to physically turn the oceans acid. What is probably much more significant, however, is a new peer reviewed study in the journal Science which shows overfishing could be a far bigger reason for declining alkalinity in the oceans.
That's because the study found up to 45% of the alkaline substance calcium carbonate in the oceans is actually produced by fish, which was not previously known, and when we take away the fish by excess fishing, we lower the alkalinity of the oceans.
"They have discovered that fish contribute a significant fraction of the oceans' calcium carbonate production," reported the study authors, "which affects the delicate pH balance of seawater. The study gives a conservative estimate of three to 15 percent of marine calcium carbonate being produced by fish, but the researchers believe it could be up to three times higher."
In other words, like the sinking islands example above, humans may indeed be hurting the oceans, but because of overfishing, not because of rising CO2 emissions.
- "With CO2 concentrations shooting up to pass 400ppm soon, we have entered a territory of Earth's atmospheric composition not seen for millions of years – CO2 having stayed at or below 280 ppm during those millions of years."
Er, not strictly true either. Recent studies have found global warming scientists 'cherry picked' only the CO2 readings from the past that suited their low 280ppm starting point. In fact, readings over the last 200 years suggest CO2 levels have averaged around 335ppm, and as high as 500ppm in some areas. Why is this significant? Because if you choose a low starting point, say 280, and you can show we've risen to 380 today, then that's a big rise in CO2 levels. But if the starting point was really 335, then the increase is nowhere near as big, and that would be "inconvenient" for the human impact on global warming argument that Thomas is running.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favour of greener technology and less harmful waste and pollution. But don't get fooled into believing CO2 is the problem. The emissions trading scheme will make multinational fat cats extremely wealthy, and Green lobbyists who are investing in those industries will benefit financially as well. But it will do nothing to change the climate, and nothing to clean up rivers and streams or the land generally.