Here are a few choice moments from the Lords debate. Some of them are rather startling. Please note that these are taken from the uncorrected transcript.
Lord Grantchester (Lab) has come up with some jaw-dropping figures on the threat of sea-level rise:
Eighty per cent of the best grade 1 agricultural land lies at or below current sea levels.
It's a long time since I watched proceedings in the House of Lords and having sat through ten minutes of the third Baron Grantchester (Lab) I remembered why I had found better things to do for the last few years. That said, while there was a lot about Tuesday's debate about climate change and energy policy to get depressed about, there were also some points of interest.
The debate was entitled "That this House takes note of the future of energy policy in the light of the climate change challenge." (Hansard here - note that there are two separate pages of text to access).
Michael Mann is interviewed for the Britannica blog.
The ordeal has nonetheless emboldened the climate change denial industry, including some members of the U.S. Congress, who are disingenuously exploiting the manufactured e-mail scandal to thwart efforts to pass meaningful climate change legislation.
Yawn. Wake me up when he's finished.
Michael Mann has been given space in New Scientist to say nothing, well, New.
I'D LIKE to say I was surprised when news broke a year ago that emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, had been hacked into and leaked, and that scientists' personal emails were being quoted out of context to disingenuously imply impropriety on their part. But I wasn't.
As so, so many people have noted, the emails are much, much worse in context.
The Grantham Institute should take a close look at their Director of Communications, Bob Ward. In the last few weeks in Australia he has been complicit in so many untruths that it should have a flow-on consequence for them in their dealings with the media.
So says Graham Young, an Australian journalist writing in an article entitled Why you should be careful dealing with Bob Ward, Director of Communications for the Grantham Institute.
I know what he means. The whole piece is well worth a read, with Ward seemingly claiming on TV that he has written a "systematic analysis" of sceptic papers, then failing to respond to requests to supply this analysis to Young, and then changing his story, claiming that he had only written an analysis of a paper by Bob Carter.
Amazingly Ward then upped the ante by writing a letter to the Australian saying that Young had falsely accused him of refusing to supply the paper. As Young notes, this was an extraordinary step, as the correspondence between them was to hand, so that Ward's story was readily shown to be untrue.
There has been some interesting fallout from Bob Ward's article at Geoscientist, which you may remember involved some Wardish criticisms of Joe Brannan for having the temerity to write a favourable review of The Hockey Stick Illusion. At the same time, Geoscientist printed an editorial muttering darkly about global warming deniers and the "powerful interests" that back them (allegedly).
This has led to some interesting correspondence on the Geoscientist letters page, which can be seen here. Here is an example:
Geoscientist is a magazine for geoscientists concerned with scientific issues, and in my view the editorials should reflect this. They should be balanced, non-partisan and they should promote geoscience in a rational way. Your article was a call to arms of the worst kind. You address the Fellows of the Society by saying "...the probability of our being responsible for most of the measured warming of the last century ... should be accepted by everyone, everywhere, as fact." This is totally out of order, and I take great exception to being hectored in this way.
The Geological Society has issued a statement on climate change, which can be seen here.
I've skimmed it and it seems to veer between the sensible and the ridiculous. This bit struck me as particularly amusing:
In the coming centuries, continued emissions of carbon from burning oil, gas and coal at close to or higher than today’s levels, and from related human activities, could increase the total to close to the amounts added during the 55 million year warming event – some 1500 to 2000 billion tonnes. Further contributions from ‘natural’ sources (wetlands, tundra, methane hydrates, etc.) may come as the Earth warms.
The idea of discussing what will happen to carbon emissions two hundred years or more into the future strikes me as, well, eccentric.
Another little bit which I noticed in passing was this sentence:
The Greenhouse Effect arises because certain gases (the so-called greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere absorb the long wavelength infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface and re-radiate it, so warming the atmosphere. This natural effect keeps our atmosphere some 30ºC warmer than it would be without those gases. Increasing the concentration of such gases will increase the effect (i.e. warm the atmosphere more)19.
The paper cited at the end is this one. Read the title:
19 Walker, J.C.G., Hays, P.B. and Kasting, J.F., 1981, A Negative Feedback Mechanism for the Long-Term Stabilization of Earth’s Surface-Temperature. Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans and Atmospheres 86, 9776-9782.
Madeleine Bunting is waxing lyrical about climate change in the Sahel, the semi-desert fringes of the Sahara.
For years now, the elders explain, they have been worried by climate change. Disrupted rain patterns, shifts in winds have no parallel in collective memory; they notice how it is prompting changes in the behaviour of animals and birds. But all of these anxieties are dwarfed by the sand dune now looming above their town – the result of those drier, fierce winds and erratic, intense rainfall.
It is worth comparing the doom-laden prognostications of Ms Bunting with a more scientific assessment of how the Sahel is doing.
recent findings suggest a consistent trend of increasing vegetation greenness in much of the region. Increasing rainfall over the last few years is certainly one reason, but does not fully explain the change.
National Geographic did an interesting article on the subject a while back.
Desertification, drought, and despair—that's what global warming has in store for much of Africa. Or so we hear. Emerging evidence is painting a very different scenario, one in which rising temperatures could benefit millions of Africans in the driest parts of the continent.
A few weeks back, someone was talking about the nonsense that is spouted by socialists (I think it was socialists anyway) and the remarkable fact that their repeatedly being proved wrong appeared to have no discernable effects on their careers.
Later this week, there is a programme on Channel Four in which environmentalists will describe just how wrong they have been over the years. I don't suppose this will harm the careers of participants like Mark Lynas either.
There is a web page and discussion thread for the series, which is called What the Green Movement got Wrong.
Ross McKitrick has a new presentation up, looking at the arguments that are made against coal-fired power stations - pollution, health, greenhouse gases and so on.
These arguments don't seem to be grounded in facts. (3Mb download)
Over the weekend, the Guardian had a worried-sounding report about the possibility of there being a Republican-dominated Congress in the USA after the midterm elections.
Republican leaders have begun gathering evidence for sweeping investigations of Barack Obama's environmental agenda, from climate science to the BP oil spill, if as expected, they take control of the House of Representatives in the 2 November mid-term elections, the Guardian has learned.
I'm sure this is right, and it looks as if one of their targets will be the Hockey Team:
Republican leaders have also said they are looking for ways to revisit last year's climate science controversy, sparked by hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia.
There can be little doubt that any Congressional inquiry would be conducted in gory detail, by legislators who are keen to get to the bottom of the affair and who have been thoroughly briefed on the details. This may be a consideration for the Science and Technology Committee as they consider how to respond to the recent hearings.
The University of East Anglia is holding a literary festival in November. Strangely, they haven't invited me to speak, but there is at least one event that should prove interesting:
Sir John Houghton, Phil Jones and Sir David King - Friday 12 November 2010.
If anyone is going, a report would be welcome.