As WUWT points out, John Holdren is one of many who have tried to link the cold winter in the USA this year to global warming.
In his White House video in January, he had this to say:
“A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues….
We also know that this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer, on average, because of greenhouse-gas pollution.”
But is there any evidence that extreme cold winters are becoming more common, or, for that matter, more extreme?
First, let’s check the temperature trends for the CONUS in winter.
Clearly, on a national basis, recent winters have not been unusually cold. In the last 10 years, only three winters have been colder than the 1901-2000 mean. Moreover, no winters in recent years have come anywhere near to being as cold as some of the winters in the 1970’s, for instance, or earlier.
But this graph only tells half the story. As it covers the whole country, it could cover up regional extremes. As we know, this winter has seen particularly cold weather in Mid West and East, but warmer conditions out West. The result is that, to some extent, they cancel each other out.
So, is there a way we can isolate the warm from the cold, and see whether cold winters are becoming more extreme in just parts of the country?
There is actually a very simple method, and that is to use NOAA’s own Climate Extremes Index. This provides the percentage of the country which have had extreme temperatures (or precipitation, drought etc) during the year. As both above average and below average temperatures are shown separately, we can look at extreme cold weather on its own.
The graphs below cover the Winter months (Dec to Feb) only, with the first using mean monthly maximum temperatures, and the second minimums. The results seem pretty similar.
It is abundantly clear that much less of the country has been affected by extreme cold this winter, and indeed other recent ones, when compared with the 20thC. There is also no trend towards cold winters becoming more common.
What is also interesting is that there does not seem to be much of a trend towards milder winters taking over. Only the winter of 2011/12 stands out in this respect, and there have been plenty of similar years previously.
There has been nothing unusual or unprecedented about this winter. And, as cold winters have become less frequent in the last couple of decades, there is absolutely no evidence to support Holdren’s claim that “this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer”.
NOAA give this definition for the (maximum temperature) index:
The U.S. CEI is the arithmetic average of the following five or six# indicators of the percentage of the conterminous U.S. area:
- The sum of (a) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much below normal and (b) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much above normal.
And their definition for “much above normal”:
In each case, we define much above (below) normal or extreme conditions as those falling in the upper (lower) tenth percentile of the local, period of record. In any given year, each of the five indicators has an expected value of 20%, in that 10% of all observed values should fall, in the long-term average, in each tenth percentile, and there are two such sets in each indicator
The Climate Extremes Index can be accessed at the link below. It covers temperatures, drought, rainfall and hurricanes, and can used on a seasonal or annual basis. There is also a regional section.
By Irina Galushko | RT | November 26, 2009
The message is clear – we are all going to die from swine flu. It spreads fast, it is dangerous, and it must be feared – says the World Health Organization.
But worry not – there is a way to save yourself. Just get a flu shot – and purchase a remedy for the deadly virus. Those are the instructions from the WHO.
However, the WHO may find itself coughing up explanations, as more and more scientists and health researchers, and even journalists, are starting to question the organization’s motives behind raising the alert so quickly.
According to the Danish Daily Information newspaper, the WHO and pharmaceutical companies are suffering from the profit bug. Or, to put it simply, the chief health care organization in the world has teamed up with the drug makers to create a phantom monster – and to rake in cash by selling a remedy for it.
Plastered all over the front pages and headlines news, swine flu made its triumphant entrance into limelight, heralded as the next “in” virus, which threatened to bring an end to humanity as we know it.
Let’s stop right there and talk numbers for a little bit.
So far, more than 3.5 million people have been reported to be infected with swine flu worldwide. More than 9,000 deaths have been confirmed.
In comparison: every year, up to one billion people get infected with seasonal flu, with up to 500 million deaths. These numbers come from the World Health Organization, but they never make headline news for some reason.
On June 11 of this year, the WHO declared swine flu a pandemic. But few know that, right before doing that, the Organization changed its definition, taking out the word “deadly” from it.
Aleksander Saversky, the chair of the Patient’s Rights Protection League, was one of those who did pay attention. He says it is clear that the WHO dramatized the situation around the H1N1 virus. In an interview to RT, Saversky speculated that it is due to the WHO’s close ties with the world’s major pharmaceutical companies.
And recently, Danish journalists conducted their own research, which resulted in accusations that the WHO, and scientists who appear to be independent are, in fact, on pharmaceutical companies’ payroll.
Saversky points out that the WHO declared the status of pandemic when only a few thousand people were infected with it – something that is highly illogical, he says, considering the hundred thousand more cases of seasonal flu never gets paid such high attention.
The virus was reported to be extremely deadly. Parallels were drawn to the Spanish Flu, which killed roughly 50 million people worldwide in the span of six months.
As panic spread, people rushed to clinics for Tamiflu – $145 a pop and by prescription only in the US – and for vaccinations, which range anywhere from $10 to $50. And despite the fact that many have lost their jobs in the financial crisis, and were left without health insurance, vaccinations and pharmaceutical sales skyrocketed. Nobody wants to die a grisly death from the supposedly new virus.
Aleksander Saversky warns the hullaballoo over swine flu is akin to the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” He says that, because of this hype, the next time a truly dangerous virus comes about, no one will take any precautions. Fooled once already by swine flu, people will ignore the warnings and fall prey to a more dangerous – and deadly virus.
In fact, vaccinating people from swine flu during the seasonal flu outbreak, in Saversky’s opinion, is criminal. People end up having to battle two viruses at the same time, which puts an enormous strain on the immune system.
Saversky puts the blame on capitalism – pharmaceutical companies make billions on people’s fears, combined with asymmetrical information dispersal (meaning that most people know very little substantial information about the virus, whereas the WHO, pharmaceutical companies and researchers know a lot more).
So, what’s to be done to conquer the virus – and stop the WHO?
Saversky says there is one solution – for governments worldwide to step in and take matters into their own hands, by controlling healthcare and pharmaceutical production.
Until that happens, however, remember to check for all common flu symptoms. And should a general disinclination to work of any kind be among them, rest assured – it is most probably a run-of-the-mill case of the Monday Blues.
Governments spent heavily on Tamiflu starting last decade when public health officials warned of deadly influenzas. But the billion-dollar investment produced only healthy outcomes for the balance sheets of the drug’s manufacturer, Roche.
This conclusion was reached by British researchers who said they could not substantiate claims by Roche and GlaxoSmithKline (which makes a rival flu drug) Relenza, that their products helped people fight off flu effects.
The British government—anticipating the potential death of 750,000 of its citizens in the event of a bird flu outbreak—spent more than $700 million stockpiling 40 million doses of Tamiflu, while the U.S. government forked out $1.3 billion on a massive antiviral reserve that includes the drug. Tamiflu is also listed by the World Health Organization as an “essential medicine.” Yet the researchers found few if any benefits from the two drugs and, in fact, discovered that they produce negative side effects (“psychiatric…renal…and metabolic adverse events”) which were previously dismissed or never acknowledged.
All the money spent by governments around the world on those stockpiles “have been thrown down the drain,” Carl Heneghan, a lead investigator of the study and a professor of evidence-based medicine at Britain’s Oxford University, told Reuters. This is because accurate data about the drugs has long been withheld from government regulators, the medical community and the public.
Five years ago, Tamiflu sales reached nearly $3 billion, in large part because of the H1N1 flu pandemic scare. The Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal fought for four years to gain access to Roche’s Tamiflu data. Once they succeeded, they conducted a joint analysis.
Roche officials dismissed the researchers’ findings, saying the drug firm “fundamentally disagrees with the overall conclusions” of the study.
“We firmly stand by the quality and integrity of our data, reflected in decisions reached by 100 regulators across the world and subsequent real-world evidence demonstrating that Tamiflu is an effective medicine in the treatment and prevention of influenza,” the company said in a prepared statement.
“Remember, the idea of a drug is that the benefits should exceed the harms,” noted Heneghan. “So if you can’t find any benefits, that accentuates the harms.”
“Why did no-one else demand this level of scrutiny before spending such huge sums on one drug?” Journal editor Fiona Godlee said to Reuters. “The whole story gives an extraordinary picture of the entrenched flaws in the current system of drug regulation and drug evaluation.”
To Learn More:
Researchers, Regulators and Roche row over Stockpiled Drug Tamiflu (by Kate Kelland, Reuters)
Tamiflu: Millions Wasted on Flu Drug, Claims Major Report (by James Gallagher, BBC News)
Neuraminidase Inhibitors for Preventing and Treating Influenza in Healthy Adults and Children (by Tom Jefferson, Mark A. Jones, Peter Doshi, Chris B. Del Mar, Rokuro Hama, Matthew J. Thompson, Elizabeth A. Spencer, Igho Onakpoya, Kamal R. Mahtani, David Nunan, Jeremy Howick, and Carl J. Heneghan; Cochrane Review) (abstract)
Swine Flu Stirred Profits, but Fewer Deaths than Predicted (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Profiting from Swine Flu (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Attorney Michael Connett summarizes 10 basic facts about fluoride that should be considered in any discussion about whether to fluoridate water. To download the flyer that accompanies this video, visit: http://www.fluoridealert.org/uploads/…. To watch Michael debate two advocates of fluoridation, see: http://www.wpsu.org/conversationslive….
Facts that don’t agree with claims
“One of the panel’s most striking new conclusions is that rising temperatures are already depressing crop yields, including those of corn and wheat.”
… is in this LA Times story by babout the latest IPCC report which has so much gloom and doom in it, one of the lead authors, Dr. Richard Tol, asked his name to be taken off of it for that very reason.
Problem is, the agricultural data doesn’t match the LATimes/IPCC claim, see for yourself:
Source: USDA data at http://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/ plotted by Dr. Roy Spencer.
Not only is the LATimes/IPCC claim about agriculture false for the world, but also the USA:
In fact, U.S. Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since the 1930s and Are Estimated to Double By 2030 according to Perry.
Maybe he’s just too lazy to check facts like this? Or, is it belief mixed with incompetence?
Food and feed quality are crucial to human and animal health. Quality can be defined as sufficiency of appropriate minerals, vitamins and fats, etc. but it also includes the absence of toxins, whether man-made or from other sources. Surprisingly, almost no data exist in the scientific literature on herbicide residues in herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) plants, even after nearly 20 years on the market.
In research recently published by our laboratory (Bøhn et al. 2014) we collected soybean samples grown under three typical agricultural conditions: organic, GM, and conventional (but non-GM). The GM soybeans were resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.
We tested these samples for nutrients and other compounds as well as relevant pesticides, including glyphosate and its principal breakdown product, Aminomethylphosponic acid (AMPA). All of the individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA, on average 9.0 mg/kg. This amount is greater than is typical for many vitamins. In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed residues of these chemicals (Fig. 1).
This demonstrates that Roundup Ready GM-soybeans sprayed during the growing season take up and accumulate glyphosate and AMPA. Further, what has been considered a working hypothesis for herbicide tolerant crops, i.e. that, as resistant weeds have spread:
“there is a theoretical possibility that also the level of residues of the herbicide and its metabolites may have increased” (Kleter et al. 2011) is now shown to be actually happening.
Monsanto (manufacturer of glyphosate) has claimed that residues of glyphosate in GM soy are lower than in conventional soybeans, where glyphosate residues have been measured up to 16-17 mg/kg (Monsanto 1999). These residues, found in non-GM plants, likely must have been due to the practice of spraying before harvest (for desiccation). Another claim of Monsanto’s has been that residue levels of up to 5.6 mg/kg in GM-soy represent “… extreme levels, and far higher than those typically found” (Monsanto 1999).
Figure 1. Residues of glyphosate and AMPA in individual soybean samples (n=31).
For organic and conventional soybeans, glyphosate residues were below the detection limit.
Seven out of the 10 GM-soy samples we tested, however, surpassed this “extreme level” (of glyphosate + AMPA), indicating a trend towards higher residue levels. The increasing use of glyphosate on US Roundup Ready soybeans has been documented (Benbrook 2012). The explanation for this increase is the appearance of glyphosate-tolerant weeds (Shaner et al. 2012) to which farmers are responding with increased doses and more applications.
Maximum residue levels (MRLs) of glyphosate in food and feed
Globally, glyphosate-tolerant GM soy is the number one GM crop plant and glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide, with a global production of 620 000 tons in 2008 (Pollak 2011). The world soybean production in 2011 was 251.5 million metric tons, with the United States (33%), Brazil (29%), Argentina (19%), China (5%) and India (4%) as the main producing countries (American Soybean Association 2013).
In 2011-2012, soybeans were planted on about 30 million hectares in the USA, with Roundup Ready GM soy contributing 93-94 % of the production (USDA 2013). Globally, Roundup Ready GM soybeans contributed to 75 % of the production in 2011 (James 2012).
The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported. In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004: a 50-fold increase, but only for GM-soy. The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the US and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the US. In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.
Has the toxicity of Roundup been greatly underestimated?
When regulatory agencies assess pesticides for safety they invariably test only the claimed active ingredient.
Nevertheless, these do not necessarily represent realistic conditions since in practice it is the full, formulated herbicide (there are many Roundup formulations) that is used in the field. Thus, it is relevant to consider, not only the active ingredient, in this case glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA, but also the other compounds present in the herbicide formulation since these enhance toxicity. For example, formulations of glyphosate commonly contain adjuvants and surfactants to stabilize and facilitate penetration into the plant tissue. Polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) and polyethoxylated tallowamine (POE-15) are common ingredients in Roundup formulations and have been shown to contribute significantly to toxicity (Moore et al. 2012).
Our own recent study in the model organism Daphnia magna demonstrated that chronic exposure to glyphosate and a commercial formulation of Roundup resulted in negative effects on several life-history traits, in particular reproductive aberrations like reduced fecundity and increased abortion rate, at environmental concentrations of 0.45-1.35 mg/liter (active ingredient), i.e. below accepted environmental tolerance limits set in the US (0.7 mg/liter) (Cuhra et al. 2013). A reduced body size of juveniles was even observed at an exposure to Roundup at 0.05 mg/liter.
This is in sharp contrast to world-wide regulatory assumptions in general, which we have found to be strongly influenced by early industry studies and in the case of aquatic ecotoxicity assessment, to be based on 1978 and 1981 studies presented by Monsanto claiming that glyphosate is virtually non-toxic in D. magna (McAllister & Forbis, 1978; Forbis & Boudreau, 1981).
Thus a worrisome outlook for health and the environment can be found in the combination of i) the vast increase in use of glyphosate-based herbicides, in particular due to glyphosate-tolerant GM plants, and ii) new findings of higher toxicity of both glyphosate as an active ingredient (Cuhra et al., 2013) and increased toxicity due to contributions from chemical adjuvants in commercial formulations (Annett et al. 2014).
A similar situation can be found for other pesticides. Mesnage et al. (2014) found that 8 out of 9 tested pesticides were more toxic than their declared active principles.
This means that the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) for humans, i.e. what society finds “admissible” regarding pesticide residues may have been set too high, even before potential combinatorial effects of different chemical exposures are taken into account.
For glyphosate formulations (Roundup), realistic exposure scenarios in the aquatic environment may harm non-target biodiversity from microorganisms, invertebrates, amphibians and fish, (reviewed in Annett et al. 2014) indicating that the environmental consequences of these agrochemicals need to be re-assessed.
Other compositional differences between GM, non-GM, and organic
Figure 2. Discriminant analysis for GM, conventional and organic soy samples based on 35 variables. Data was standardized (mean = 0 and SD = 1).
Our research also demonstrated that different agricultural practices lead to markedly different end products. Data on other measured compositional characteristics could be used to discriminate statistically all individual soy samples (without exception) into their respective agricultural practice background (Fig. 2).
Organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, significantly more total protein, zinc and less fiber, compared with both conventional and GM-soy. Organic soybeans contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy.
Roundup Ready GM-soy accumulates residues of glyphosate and AMPA, and also differs markedly in nutritional composition compared to soybeans from other agricultural practices. Organic soybean samples also showed a more healthy nutritional profile (e.g. higher in protein and lower in saturated fatty acids) than both industrial conventional and GM soybeans.
Lack of data on pesticide residues in major crop plants is a serious gap of knowledge with potential consequences for human and animal health. How is the public to trust a risk assessment system that has overlooked the most obvious risk factor for herbicide tolerant GM crops, i.e. high residue levels of herbicides, for nearly 20 years? If it has been due to lack of understanding, it would be bad. If it is the result of the producer’s power to influence the risk assessment system, it would be worse.
American Soy Association, Soystats. 2013. 16-5-2013.
Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. – Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997.
Aumaitre, L. A. 2002. New feeds from genetically modified plants: substantial equivalence, nutritional equivalence and safety for animals and animal products. – Productions Animales 15: 97-108.
Benbrook, C. M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. – Environmental Science Europe 24:24.
Binimelis, R., Pengue, W. and Monterroso, I. 2009. “Transgenic treadmill”: Responses to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass in Argentina. – Geoforum 40: 623-633.
Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan, J. and Primicerio, R. 2014. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. – Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.
Cuhra, M., Traavik, T. and Bøhn, T. 2013. Clone- and age-dependent toxicity of a glyphosate commercial formulation and its active ingredient in Daphnia magna. – Ecotoxicology 22: 251-262 (open access). DOI 10.1007/s10646-012-1021-1.
Duke, S. O., Rimando, A. M., Pace, P. F., Reddy, K. N. and Smeda, R. J. 2003. Isoflavone, glyphosate, and aminomethylphosphonic acid levels in seeds of glyphosate-treated, glyphosate-resistant soybean. – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51: 340-344.
EC . Review report for the active substance glyphosate. 6511/VI/99-final, 1-56. 2002. European Commission. Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General.
Forbis, A.D., Boudreau, P. 1981. Acute toxicity of MON0139 (Lot LURT 12011)(AB-81-074) To Daphnia magna: Static acute bio- assay report no. 27203. Unpublished study document from US EPA library
Harrigan, G. G., Ridley, G., Riordan, S. G., Nemeth, M. A., Sorbet, R., Trujillo, W. A., Breeze, M. L. and Schneider, R. W. 2007. Chemical composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean 40–3-2 grown in Europe remains equivalent with that of conventional soybean (Glycine max L.). – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 6160-6168.
James, C. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012. ISAAA Brief No. 44. 2012. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
Kleter, G. A., Unsworth, J. B. and Harris, C. A. 2011. The impact of altered herbicide residues in transgenic herbicide-resistant crops on standard setting for herbicide residues. – Pest Management Science 67: 1193-1210.
McAllister, W., Forbis A. 1978. Acute toxicity of technical glyphosate (AB–78–201) to Daphnia magna. Study reviewed and approved 8–30–85 by EEB/HED
Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Vendômois, J. S. and Seralini, G. E. 2014. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. – BioMed Research International http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179691.
Monsanto . Residues in Roundup Ready soya lower than conventional soy. http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/99/june99/220699_residue.html . 1999.
Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. – Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133.
Pollak, P. 2011. Fine chemicals: the industry and the business. – Wiley.
Shaner, D. L., Lindenmeyer, R. B. and Ostlie, M. H. 2012. What have the mechanisms of resistance to glyphosate taught us? – Pest Management Science 68: 3-9.
USDA . National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2013. 16-5-2013.
GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway
Professor of Gene Ecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway
PhD student, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Foreword by Anthony Watts
An essay by Monckton of Brenchley follows, but I wanted to bring this graphic from Dr. Mann’s recent Scientific American article to attention first. In the infamous “hide the decline” episode revealed by Climategate surrounding the modern day ending portion of the “hockey stick”, Mann has been accused of using “Mike’s Nature Trick” to hide the decline in modern (proxy) temperatures by adding on the surface record. In this case, the little white line from his SciAm graphic shows how “the pause” is labeled a “faux pause”, (a little play on words) and how the pause is elevated above past surface temperatures.
Looking at the SciAm graphic (see zoom at right), something didn’t seem right, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any citation given for what the temperature dataset used was. And oddly, the graphic shows Mann’s little white line peaking significantly warmer that the 1998 super El Niño, and showing the current temperature equal to 1998, which doesn’t make any sense.
So, over the weekend I asked Willis Eschenbach to use his “graph digitizer” tool (which he has used before) to turn Mann’s little white line into numerical data, and he happily obliged.
Here is the result when Mann’s little white line is compared and matched to two well known surface temperature anomaly datasets:
What is most interesting is that Mann’s “white line” shows a notable difference during the “pause” from HadCRUT4 and GISS LOTI. Why would our modern era of “the pause” be the only place where a significant divergence exists? It’s like “hide the decline” deja vu.
The digitized Mann’s white line data is available here: Manns_white_line_digitized.(.xlsx)
As of this writing, we don’t know what dataset was used to create Mann’s white line of surface temperature anomaly, or the base period used. On the SciAm graphic it simply says “Source: Michael E. Mann” on the lower right.
It isn’t GISS land ocean temperature index (LOTI), that starts in 1880. And it doesn’t appear to be HadCRUT4 either. Maybe it is BEST but not using the data going back to 1750? But that isn’t likely either, since BEST pretty much matches the other datasets, and in Mann’s graphic above, which peaks out at above 1°C, none of those hit higher than 0.7°C. What’s up with that? … continue
It wasn’t just people, animals and trees that were affected by radiation exposure at Chernobyl, but also the decomposers: insects, microbes, and fungi
Nearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today. Although no people live in the extensive exclusion zones around the epicenter, animals and plants still show signs of radiation poisoning.
Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains that those living in non-radiation poisoned areas; trees there grow slower; and fewer spiders and insects—including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there. Additionally, game animals such as wild boar caught outside of the exclusion zone—including some bagged as far away as Germany—continue to show abnormal and dangerous levels of radiation.
However, there are even more fundamental issues going on in the environment. According to a new study published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem.
The team decided to investigate this question in part because of a peculiar field observation. “We have conducted research in Chernobyl since 1991 and have noticed a significant accumulation of litter over time,” the write. Moreover, trees in the infamous Red Forest—an area where all of the pine trees turned a reddish color and then died shortly after the accident—did not seem to be decaying, even 15 to 20 years after the meltdown.
“Apart from a few ants, the dead tree trunks were largely unscathed when we first encountered them,” says Timothy Mousseau, a biologist at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and lead author of the study. “It was striking, given that in the forests where I live, a fallen tree is mostly sawdust after a decade of lying on the ground.”
Wondering whether that seeming increase in dead leaves on the forest floor and those petrified-looking pine trees were indicative of something larger, Mousseau and his colleagues decided to run some field tests. When they measured leaf litter in different parts of the exclusion zones, they found that the litter layer itself was two to three times thicker in the “hottest” areas of Chernobyl, where radiation poisoning was most intense. But this wasn’t enough to prove that radiation was responsible for this difference.
To confirm their hunch, they created around 600 small mesh bags and stuffed them each with leaves, collected at an uncontaminated site, from one of four different tree species: oak, maple, birch or pine. They took care to ensure that no insects were in the bags at first, and then lined half of them with women’s pantyhose to keep insects from getting in from the outside, unlike the wider mesh-only versions.
Like a decomposer Easter egg hunt, they then scattered the bags in numerous locations throughout the exclusion zone, all of which experienced varying degrees of radiation contamination (including no contamination at all). They left the bags and waited for nearly a year—normally, an ample amount of time for microbes, fungi and insects to make short work of dead organic material, and the pantyhose-lined bags could help them assess whether insects or microbes were mainly responsible for breaking down the leaves.
The results were telling. In the areas with no radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. But in places where more radiation was present, the leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight. By comparing the mesh with the panty hose-lined bags, they found that insects play a significant role in getting rid of the leaves, but that the microbes and fungi played a much more important role. Because they had so many bags placed in so many different locations, they were able to statistically control for outside factors such as humidity, temperature and forest and soil type to make sure that there wasn’t anything besides radiation levels impacting the leaves’ decomposition.
“The gist of our results was that the radiation inhibited microbial decomposition of the leaf litter on the top layer of the soil,” Mousseau says. This means that nutrients aren’t being efficiently returned to the soil, he adds, which could be one of the causes behind the slower rates of tree growth surrounding Chernobyl.
Other studies have found that the Chernobyl area is at risk of fire, and 27 years’ worth of leaf litter, Mousseau and his colleagues think, would likely make a good fuel source for such a forest fire. This poses a more worrying problem than just environmental destruction: Fires can potentially redistribute radioactive contaminants to places outside of the exclusion zone, Mousseau says. “There is growing concern that there could be a catastrophic fire in the coming years,” he says.
Unfortunately, there’s no obvious solution for the problem at hand, besides the need to keep a stringent eye on the exclusion zone to try to quickly snuff out potential fires that breaks out. The researchers are also collaborating with teams in Japan, to determine whether or not Fukushima is suffering from a similar microbial dead zone.
Rachel Nuwer writes for Smart News and is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com. She is a freelance science writer based in Brooklyn.
Nic Lewis and Marcel Crok have published a new report on climate sensitivity.
The title of the report is “A sensitive matter: How the IPCC buried evidence showing good news about global warming.” The report is published by the GWPF. The long version of the report is found [here]; a short version is found [here].
From the press release issued by the GWPF:
A new report published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation shows that the best observational evidence indicates our climate is considerably less sensitive to greenhouse gases than climate models are estimating.
The clues for this and the relevant scientific papers are all referred to in the recently published Fifth Assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, this important conclusion was not drawn in the full IPCC report – it is only mentioned as a possibility – and is ignored in the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM).
For over thirty years climate scientists have presented a range for climate sensitivity (ECS) that has hardly changed. It was 1.5-4.5°C in 1979 and this range is still the same today in AR5. The new report suggests that the inclusion of recent evidence, reflected in AR5, justifies a lower observationally-based temperature range of 1.25–3.0°C, with a best estimate of 1.75°C, for a doubling of CO2. By contrast, the climate models used for projections in AR5 indicate a range of 2-4.5°C, with an average of 3.2°C.
This is one of the key findings of the new report Oversensitive: how the IPCC hid the good news on global warming, written by independent UK climate scientist Nic Lewis and Dutch science writer Marcel Crok. Lewis and Crok were both expert reviewers of the IPCC report, and Lewis was an author of two relevant papers cited in it.
In recent years it has become possible to make good empirical estimates of climate sensitivity from observational data such as temperature and ocean heat records. These estimates, published in leading scientific journals, point to climate sensitivity per doubling of CO2 most likely being under 2°C for long-term warming, with a best estimate of only 1.3-1.4°C for warming over a seventy year period.
“The observational evidence strongly suggest that climate models display too much sensitivity to carbon dioxide concentrations and in almost all cases exaggerate the likely path of global warming,” says Nic Lewis.
These lower, observationally-based estimates for both long-term climate sensitivity and the seventy-year response suggest that considerably less global warming and sea level rise is to be expected in the 21st century than most climate model projections currently imply.
“We estimate that on the IPCC’s second highest emissions scenario warming would still be around the international target of 2°C in 2081-2100,” Lewis says.
I was asked to review this article prior to publication, and then was subsequently asked to write the foreword. The text of my foreword:
The sensitivity of our climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide is at the heart of the scientific debate on anthropogenic climate change, and also the public debate on the appropriate policy response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate sensitivity and estimates of its uncertainty are key inputs into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.
The complexity and nuances of the issue of climate sensitivity to increasing carbon dioxide are not easily discerned from reading the Summary for Policy Makers of the assessment reports undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Further, the more detailed discussion of climate sensitivity in the text of the fullWorking Group I reports lacks context or an explanation that is easily understood by anyone not actively reading the published literature.
This report by Nic Lewis andMarcel Crok addresses this gap between the IPCC assessments and the primary scientific literature, providing an overview of the different methods for estimating climate sensitivity and a historical perspective on IPCC’s assessments of climate sensitivity. The report also provides an independent assessment of the different methods for estimating climate sensitivity and a critique of the IPCC AR4 and AR5 assessments of climate sensitivity.
It emphasizes the point that evidence for low climate sensitivity is piling up. I find this report to be a useful contribution to scientific debate on this topic, as well as an important contribution to the public dialogue and debate on the subject of climate change policy.
I agreed to review this report and write this Foreword since I hold both authors of this report in high regard. I have followed with interest Nic Lewis’ emergence as an independent climate scientist and his success in publishing papers in major peer-reviewed journals on the topic of climate sensitivity, and I have endeavored to support and publicize his research. I have interacted with Marcel Crok over the years and appreciate his insightful analyses, most recently as a participant in climatedialogue.org.
The collaboration of these two authors in writing this report has resulted in a technically sound, well-organized and readily comprehensible report on the scientific issues surrounding climate sensitivity and the deliberations of the IPCC on this topic.
While writing this Foreword, I considered the very few options available for publishing a report such as this paper by Lewis and Crok. I am appreciative of the GWPF for publishing and publicizing this report. Public accountability of governmental and intergovernmental climate science and policy analysis is enhanced by independent assessments of their conclusions and arguments.
JC comments: I did think twice about writing a foreword for a GWPF publication. I try to stay away from organizations with political perspectives on global warming. That said, GWPF has done some commendable things, notably pushing for inquiries into the Climategate affair. And there really are very few options for publishing a report like this.
I think it is important to put forward alternative assessments of the key elements of the climate change debate — alternative to reports issued by the IPCC, the UK MetOffice, and the RS/NAS.
I’ve been thinking about the Argo floats and the data they’ve collected. There are about 4,000 Argo floats in the ocean. Most of the time they are asleep, a thousand metres below the surface. Every 10 days they wake up and slowly rise to the surface, taking temperature measurements as they go. When they reach the surface, they radio their data back to headquarters, slip beneath the waves, sink down to a thousand metres and go back to sleep …
At this point, we have decent Argo data since about 2005. I’m using the Argo dataset 2005-2012, which has been gridded. Here, to open the bidding, are the ocean surface temperatures for the period.
Figure 1. Oceanic surface temperatures, 2005-2012. Argo data.
Dang, I like that … so what else can the Argo data show us?
Well, it can show us the changes in the average temperature down to 2000 metres. Figure 2 shows that result:
The average temperature of the top 2000 metres is six degrees C (43°F). Chilly.
We can also take a look at how much the ocean has warmed and cooled, and where. Here are the trends in the surface temperature:
Once again we see the surprising stability of the system. Some areas of the ocean have warmed at 2° per decade, some have cooled at -1.5° per decade. But overall? The warming is trivially small, 0.03°C per decade.
Next, here is the corresponding map for the average temperatures down to 2,000 metres:
Note that although the amounts of the changes are smaller, the trends at the surface are geographically similar to the trends down to 2000 metres.
Figure 5 shows the global average trends in the top 2,000 metres of the ocean. I have expressed the changes in another unit, 10^22 joules, rather than in °C, to show it as variations in ocean heat content.
The trend in this data (6.9 ± 0.6 e+22 joules per decade) agrees quite well with the trend in the Levitus OHC data, which is about 7.4 ± 0.8 e+22 joules per decade.
Anyhow, that’s the state of play so far. The top two kilometers of the ocean are warming at 0.02°C per decade … can’t say I’m worried by that.
Watts Up With That? | March 1, 2014
From http://1.usa.gov/1mRYomm (PDF) I have converted the text for presentation here with Dr. Pielke’s response.
Dr. Roger Pielke responds:
I’m flattered that the White House has posted up an attack on me. Here is my response:
Please share far and wide.
Holdren’s letter is first, followed by Pielke’s response below.
Drought and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr
By John P. Holdren – February 28, 2014
In the question and answer period following my February 25 testimony on the Administration’s Climate Action Plan before the Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) suggested that I had misled the American people with comments I made to reporters on February 13, linking recent severe droughts in the American West to global climate change. To support this proposition, Senator Sessions quoted from testimony before the Environment and Public Works Committee the previous July by Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., a University of Colorado political scientist. Specifically, the Senator read the following passages from Dr. Pielke’s written testimony:
It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally.
Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less, frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century”. Globally, “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.”
Footnotes in the testimony attribute the two statements in quotation marks within the second passage to the US Climate Change Science Program’s 2008 report on extremes in North America and a 2012 paper by Sheffield et al. in the journal Nature, respectively.
I replied that the indicated comments by Dr. Pielke, and similar ones attributed by Senator Sessions to Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, were not representative of main- stream views on this topic in the climate-science community; and I promised to provide for the record a more complete response with relevant scientific references.
Dr. Pielke also commented directly, in a number of tweets on February 14 and thereafter, on my February 13 statements to reporters about the California drought, and he elaborated on the tweets for a blog post on The Daily Caller site (also on February 14). In what follows, I will address the relevant statements in those venues, as well. He argued there, specifically, that my statements on drought “directly contradicted scientific reports”, and in support of that assertion, he offered the same statements from his July testimony that were quoted by Senator Sessions (see above). He also added this:
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that there is “not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought.”
In the rest of this response, I will show, first, that the indicated quote from the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) about U.S. droughts is missing a crucial adjacent sentence in the CCSP report, which supports my position about drought in the American West. I will also show that Dr. Pielke’s statements about global drought trends, while irrelevant to my comments about drought in California and the Colorado River Basin, are seriously misleading, as well, concerning what is actually in the UN Panel’s latest report and what is in the current scientific literature.
Drought trends in the American West
My comments to reporters on February 13, to which Dr. Pielke referred in his February 14 tweet and to which Senator Sessions referred in the February 25 hearing, were provided just ahead of President Obama’s visit to the drought-stricken California Central Valley and were explicitly about the drought situation in California and elsewhere in the West.
That being so, any reference to the CCSP 2008 report in this context should include not just the sentence highlighted in Dr. Pielke’s testimony but also the sentence that follows immediately in the relevant passage from that document and which relates specifically to the American West. Here are the two sentences in their entirety (http://downloads.globalchange.gov/sap/sap3- 3/Brochure-CCSP-3-3.pdf):
Similarly, long-term trends (1925-2003) of hydrologic droughts based on model derived soil moisture and runoff show that droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century (Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006). The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends (Groisman et al., 2004; Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006).
Linking Drought to Climate Change
In my recent comments about observed and projected increases in drought in the American West, I mentioned four relatively well understood mechanisms by which climate change can play a role in drought. (I have always been careful to note that, scientifically, we cannot say that climate change caused a particular drought, but only that it is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of drought in some regions―and that such changes are being observed.)
The four mechanisms are:
1. In a warming world, a larger fraction of total precipitation falls in downpours, which means a larger fraction is lost to storm runoff (as opposed to being absorbed in soil).
2. In mountain regions that are warming, as most are, a larger fraction of precipitation falls as rain rather than as snow, which means lower stream flows in spring and summer.
3. What snowpack there is melts earlier in a warming world, further reducing flows later in the year.
4. Where temperatures are higher, losses of water from soil and reservoirs due to evaporation are likewise higher than they would otherwise be.
Regarding the first mechanism, the 2013 report of the IPCC’s Working Group I, The Science Basis (http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_TS_FINAL.pdf, p 110), deems it “likely” (probability greater than 66%) that an increase in heavy precipitation events is already detectable in observational records since 1950 for more land areas than not, and that further changes in this direction are “likely over many land areas” in the early 21st century and “very likely over most of the mid-latitude land masses” by the late 21st century The second, third, and fourth mechanisms reflect elementary physics and are hardly subject to dispute (but see also additional references provided at the end of this comment).
As I have also noted in recent public comments, additional mechanisms have been identified by which changes in atmospheric circulation patterns that may be a result of global warming could be affecting droughts in the American West. There are some measurements and some analyses
suggesting that these mechanisms are operating, but the evidence is less than conclusive, and some respectable analysts attribute the indicated circulation changes to natural variability. The uncertainty about these mechanisms should not be allowed to become a distraction obscuring the more robust understandings about climate change and regional drought summarized above.
Global Drought Patterns
Drought is by nature a regional phenomenon. In a world that is warming on the average, there will be more evaporation and therefore more precipitation; that is, a warming world will also get wetter, on the average. In speaking of global trends in drought, then, the meaningful questions are (a) whether the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts are changing in most or all of the regions historically prone to drought and (b) whether the total area prone to drought is changing.
Any careful reading of the 2013 IPCC report and other recent scientific literature about on the subject reveals that droughts have been worsening in some regions in recent decades while lessening in other regions, and that the IPCC’s “low confidence” about a global trend relates mainly to the question of total area prone to drought and a lack of sufficient measurements to settle it. Here is the key passage from the Technical Summary from IPCC WGI’s 2013 report (http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_TS_FINAL.pdf, p 112):
Compelling arguments both for and against significant increases in the land area affected by drought and/or dryness since the mid-20th century have resulted in a low confidence assessment of observed and attributable large-scale trends. This is due primarily to a lack and quality of direct observations, dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice, geographical inconsistencies in the trends and difficulties in distinguishing decadal scale variability from long term trends.
The table that accompanies the above passage from the IPCC’s report―captioned “Extreme weather and climate events: global-scale assessment of recent observed changes, human contribution to the changes, and projected further changes for the early (2016-2035) and late (2081-2100) 21st century”―has the following entries for “Increases in intensity and/or duration of drought”: under changes observed since 1950, “low confidence on a global scale, likely changes in some regions” [emphasis added]; and under projected changes for the late 21st century, “likely (medium confidence) on a regional to global scale”.
Dr. Pielke’s citation of a 2012 paper from Nature by Sheffield et al., entitled “Little change in global drought over the past 60 years”, is likewise misleading. That paper’s abstract begins as follows:
Drought is expected to increase in frequency and severity in the future as a result of climate change, mainly as a consequence of decreases in regional precipitation but also because of increasing evaporation driven by global warming1-3. Previous assessments of historic changes in drought over the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries indicate that this may already be happening globally. In particular, calculations of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) show a decrease in moisture globally since the 1970s with a commensurate increase in the area of drought that is attributed, in part, to global warming4-5.
The paper goes on to argue that the PDSI, which has been relied upon for drought characteriza- tion since the 1960s, is too simple a measure and may (the authors’ word) have led to over- estimation of global drought trends in previous climate-change assessments―including the IPCC’s previous (2007) assessment, which found that “More intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.”
The authors argue for use of a more complex index of drought, which, however, requires more data and more sophisticated models to apply. Their application of it with the available data shows a smaller global drought trend than calculated using the usual PDSI, but they conclude that better data are needed. The conclusion of the Sheffield et al. paper has proven controversial, with some critics pointing to the inadequacy of existing observations to support the more complex index and others arguing that a more rigorous application of the new approach leads to results similar to those previously obtained using the PDSI.
A measure of the differences of view on the topic is available in a paper entitled “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models”, published in Nature Climate Change at about the same time as Sheffield et al. by a leading drought expert at the National Center for Climate Research, Dr. Aiguo Dai. Dr. Dai’s abstract begins and ends as follows:
Historical records of precipitation, streamflow, and drought indices all show increased aridity since 1950 over many land areas1,2. Analyses of model-simulated soil moisture3, 4, drought indices1,5,6, and precipitation minus evaporation7 suggest increased risk of drought in the twenty-first century. … I conclude that the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30-90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.
The disagreement between the Sheffield et al. and Dai camps appears to have been responsible for the IPCC’s downgrading to “low confidence”, in its 2013 report, the assessment of an upward trend in global drought in its 2007 Fourth Assessment and its 2012 Special Report on Extreme Events (http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/) .
Interestingly, a number of senior parties to the debate―including Drs. Sheffield and Dai―have recently collaborated on a co-authored paper, published in the January 2014 issue of Nature Climate Change, entitled “Global warming and changes in drought”. In this new paper, the authors identify the reasons for their previous disagreements; agree on the need for additional data to better separate natural variability from human-caused trends; and agree on the following closing paragraph (quoted here in full):
Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the twenty-first century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will probably increase, although there may be regional exceptions.
Climate change is adding heat to the climate system and on land much of that heat goes into drying. A natural drought should therefore set in quicker, become more intense, and may last longer. Droughts may be more extensive as a result. Indeed, human-induced warming effects accumulate on land during periods of drought because the ‘air conditioning effects’ of water are absent. Climate change may not manufacture droughts, but it could exacerbate them and it will probably expand their domain in the subtropical dry zone.
Additional References (with particularly relevant direct quotes in italics)
Christopher R. Schwalm et al., Reduction of carbon uptake during turn of the century drought in western North America, Nature Geoscience, vol. 5, August 2012, pp 551-556.
The severity and incidence of climatic extremes, including drought, have increased as a result of climate warming. … The turn of the century drought in western North America was the most severe drought over the past 800 years, significantly reducing the modest carbon sink normally present in this region. Projections indicate that drought events of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the twenty-first century.
Gregory T. Pederson et al., The unusual nature of recent snowpack declines in the North American Cordillera, Science, vol. 333, 15 July 2011, pp 332-335.
Over the past millennium, late 20th century snowpack reductions are almost unprecedented in magnitude across the northern Rocky Mountains and in their north-south synchrony across the cordillera. Both the snowpack declines and their synchrony result from unparalleled springtime warming that is due to positive reinforcement of the anthropogenic warming by decadal variability. The increasing role of warming on large-scale snowpack variability and trends foreshadows fundamental impacts on streamflow and water supplies across the western United States.
Gregory T. Pederson et al., Regional patterns and proximal causes of the recent snowpack decline in the Rocky Mountains, US, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 40, 16 May 2013, pp 1811-1816.
The post-1980 synchronous snow decline reduced snow cover at low to middle elevations by
~20% and partly explains earlier and reduced streamflow and both longer and more active fire seasons. Climatologies of Rocky Mountain snowpack are shown to be seasonally and regionally complex, with Pacific decadal variability positively reinforcing the anthropogenic warming trend.
Michael Wehner et al., Projections of future drought in the continental United States and Mexico, Journal of Hydrometeorology, vol. 12, December 2011, pp 1359-1377.
All models, regardless of their ability to simulate the base-period drought statistics, project significant future increases in drought frequency, severity, and extent over the course of the 21st century under the SRES A1B emissions scenario. Using all 19 models, the average state in the last decade of the twenty-first century is projected under the SRES A1B forcing scenario to be conditions currently considered severe drought (PDSI<-3) over much of the continental United States and extreme drought (PDSI<-4) over much of Mexico.
D. R. Cayan et al., Future dryness in the southwest US and the hydrology of the early 21st century drought, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 107, December 14, 2010, pp 21271-21276.
Although the recent drought may have significant contributions from natural variability, it is notable that hydrological changes in the region over the last 50 years cannot be fully explained by natural variability, and instead show the signature of anthropogenic climate change.
E. P. Maurer et al., Detection, attribution, and sensitivity of trends toward earlier streamflow in the Sierra Nevada, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 112, 2007, doi:10.1029/2006JD08088.
The warming experienced in recent decades has caused measurable shifts toward earlier streamflow timing in California. Under future warming, further shifts in streamflow timing are projected for the rivers draining the western Sierra Nevada, including the four considered in this study. These shifts and their projected increases through the end of the 21st century will have dramatic impacts on California’s managed water system.
H. G. Hidalgo et al., Detection and attribution of streamflow timing changes to climate change in the western United States, Journal of Climate, vol. 22, issue 13, 2009, pp 3838-3855, doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2740.1.
The advance in streamflow timing in the western United States appears to arise, to some measure, from anthropogenic warming. Thus the observed changes appear to be the early phase of changes expected under climate change. This finding presages grave consequences for the water supply, water management, and ecology of the region. In particular, more winter and spring flooding and drier summers are expected as well as less winter snow (more rain) and earlier snowmelt.
By Roger Pielke, Jr. – 3/01/2014
Last week in a Congressional hearing, John Holdren, the president’s science advisor, characterized me as being outside the “scientific mainstream” with respect to my views on extreme events and climate change. Specifically, Holdren was responding directly to views that I provided in Senate testimony that I gave last July (and here in PDF).
To accuse an academic of holding views that lie outside the scientific mainstream is the sort of delegitimizing talk that is of course common on blogs in the climate wars. But it is rare for political appointee in any capacity — the president’s science advisor no less — to accuse an individual academic of holding views are are not simply wrong, but in fact scientifically illegitimate. Very strong stuff.
Given the seriousness of Holdren’s charges and the possibility of negative professional repercussions via email I asked him to elaborate on his characterization, to which he replied quite quickly that he would do so in the form of a promised follow-up to the Senate subcommittee.
Here is what I sent him:
I hope this note finds you well. I am writing in response to your characterization of me before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight yesterday, in which you said that my views lie “outside the scientific mainstream.”
This is a very serious charge to make in Congressional testimony about a colleague’s work, even more so when it comes from the science advisor to the president.
The context of your comments about me was an exchange that you had with Senator Sessions over my recent testimony to the full EPW Committee on the subject of extreme events. You no doubt have seen my testimony (having characterized it yesterday) and which is available here:
Your characterization of my views as lying “outside the scientific mainstream” is odd because the views that I expressed in my testimony are entirely consonant with those of the IPCC (2012, 2013) and those of the US government’s USGCRP. Indeed, much of my testimony involved reviewing the recent findings of IPCC SREX and AR5 WG1. My scientific views are also supported by dozens of peer reviewed papers which I have authored and which have been cited thousands of times, including by all three working groups of the IPCC. My views are thus nothing if not at the center of the “scientific mainstream.”
I am writing to request from you the professional courtesy of clarifying your statement. If you do indeed believe that my views are “outside the scientific mainstream” could you substantiate that claim with evidence related specifically to my testimony which you characterized pejoratively? Alternatively, if you misspoke, I’d request that you set the record straight to the committee.
I welcome your response at your earliest opportunity.
Today he has shared with me a 6-page single space response which he provided to the Senate subcommittee titled “Critique of Pielke Jr. Statements on Drought.” Here I take a look at Holdren’s response.
In a nutshell, Holdren’s response is sloppy and reflects extremely poorly on him. Far from showing that I am outside the scientific mainstream, Holdren’s follow-up casts doubt on whether he has even read my Senate testimony. Holdren’s justification for seeking to use his position as a political appointee to delegitimize me personally reflects poorly on his position and office, and his response simply reinforces that view.
His response, (which you can see here in full in PDF) focuses entirely on drought — whereas my testimony focused on hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and drought. But before he gets to drought, Holdren gets off to a bad start in his response when he shifts the focus away from my testimony and to some article in a website called “The Daily Caller” (which is apparently some minor conservative or Tea Party website, and the article appears to be this one).
Dr. Pielke also commented directly, in a number of tweets on February 14 and thereafter, on my February 13 statements to reporters about the California drought, and he elaborated on the tweets for a blog post on The Daily Caller site (also on February 14). In what follows, I will address the relevant statements in those venues, as well. He argued there, specifically, that my statements on drought “directly contradicted scientific reports”, and in support of that assertion, he offered the same statements from his July testimony that were quoted by Senator Sessions.
Let me be quite clear — I did not write anything for “The Daily Caller” nor did I speak or otherwise communicate to anyone there. The quote that Holdren attributes to me – “directly contradicted scientific reports” — is actually written by “The Daily Caller.” Why that blog has any relevance to my standing in the “scientific mainstream” eludes me, but whatever. This sort of sloppiness is inexcusable.
Leaving the silly misdirection aside — common on blogs but unbecoming of the science advisor to the most powerful man on the planet — let’s next take a look at Holdren’s substantive complaints about my recent Senate testimony.
As a starting point, let me reproduce in its entirety the section of my Senate testimony (here in PDF) which discussed drought.
What the IPCC SREX (2012) says:
- “There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced a trend to more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.”
- For the US the CCSP (2008)20 says: “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”21
What the data says:
8. Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”22
Figure 8. Figure 2.6 from CCSP (2008) has this caption: “The area (in percent) of area in severe to extreme drought as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the United States (red) from 1900 to present and for North America (blue) from 1950 to present.”
Note: Writing in Nature Senevirnate (2012) argues with respect to global trends that, “there is no necessary correlation between temperature changes and long-term drought variations, which should warn us against using any simplifications regarding their relationship.”23
20 CCSP, 2008: Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. Regions of Focus: North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, and U.S. Pacific Islands. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. [Thomas R. Karl, Gerald A. Meehl, Christopher D. Miller, Susan J. Hassol, Anne M. Waple, and William L. Murray (eds.)]. Department of Commerce, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, Washington, D.C., USA, 164 pp.
21 CCSP (2008) notes that “the main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”
22 This quote comes from the US Climate Change Science Program’s 2008 report on extremes in North America.
Let’s now look at Holdren’s critique which he claims places me “outside the scientific mainstream.”
Holdren Complaint #1: ”I will show, first, that the indicated quote [RP: This one: "“droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”21"] from the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) about U.S. droughts is missing a crucial adjacent sentence in the CCSP report, which supports my position about drought in the American West. . . That being so, any reference to the CCSP 2008 report in this context should include not just the sentence highlighted in Dr. Pielke’s testimony but also the sentence that follows immediately in the relevant passage from that document and which relates specifically to the American West.”
What is that sentence is question from the CCSP 2008 report that Holdren thinks I should have included in my testimony? He says it is this one:
“The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”
Readers (not even careful readers) can easily see Footnote 21 from my testimony, which states:
CCSP (2008) notes that “the main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”
Um, hello? Is this really coming from the president’s science advisor?
Holdren is flat-out wrong to accuse me of omitting a key statement from my testimony. Again, remarkable, inexcusable sloppiness.
Holdren’s reply next includes a section on drought and climate change which offers no critique of my testimony, and which needs no response from me.
Holdren Complaint #2: Holdren implies that I neglected to note the IPCC’s reference to the fact that drought is a regional phenomena: “Any careful reading of the 2013 IPCC report and other recent scientific literature about on the subject reveals that droughts have been worsening in some regions in recent decades while lessening in other regions.”
Again, even a cursory reading of what I quoted from the IPCC shows that Holdren’s complaint does not stand up. Here is the full quote that I included in my testimony from the IPCC on drought:
“There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced a trend to more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.”
Again, hello? Seriously?
Holdren Complaint #3: Near as I can tell Holdren is upset that I cited a paper from Nature that he does not like, writing, “Dr. Pielke’s citation of a 2012 paper from Nature by Sheffield et al., entitled “Little change in global drought over the past 60 years”, is likewise misleading.”
He points to a January 2014 paper in Nature Climate Change as offering a rebuttal to Sheffield et al. (2012).
The first point to note in response is that my citing of a paper which appears in Nature does not provide evidence of my being “outside the scientific mainstream” no matter how much Holdren disagrees with the paper. Academics in the “scientific mainstream” cite peer-reviewed papers, sometimes even those in Nature. Second, my testimony was delivered in July, 2013 and the paper he cites as a rebuttal was submitted in August, 2013 and only published in early 2014. I can hardly be faulted for not citing a paper which had not yet appeared. Third, that 2014 paper that Holdren likes better actually supports the IPCC conclusions on drought and my characterization of them in my Senate testimony.The authors write:
How is drought changing as the climate changes? Several recent papers in the scientific literature have focused on this question but the answer remains blurred.
The bottom line here is that this is an extremely poor showing by the president’s science advisor. It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far.
We’ve been seeing a lot of unexpectedly cool weather across the world. While this may be explained by local phenomenon such as the Northeast Monsoon in Malaysia and the Polar Vortex in the USA, a longer term trend of worldwide cooling is headed our way.
I say this because the sun – the main source of light and heat for our planet – is approaching a combined low point in output. Solar activity rises and falls in different overlapping cycles, and the low points of several cycles will coincide in the near future:
A) 11-year Schwabe Cycle which had a minimum in 2008 and is due for the next minimum in 2019, then 2030. Even at its recent peak (2013) the sun had its lowest recorded activity in 200 years.
B) 87-year Gleissberg cycle which has a currently ongoing minimum period from 1997 – 2032, corresponding to the observed ‘lack of global warming’ (more on that later).
C) 210-year Suess cycle which has its next minimum predicted to be around 2040.
Hence, solar output will very likely drop to a substantial low around 2030 – 2040. This may sound pleasant for Malaysians used to sweltering heat, but it is really not a matter to be taken lightly. Previous lows such as the Year Without A Summer (1816) and the Little Ice Age (16th to 19th century) led to many deaths worldwide from crop failures, flooding, superstorms and freezing winters.
But what about the much-ballyhooed global warming, allegedly caused by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere? Won’t that more than offset the coming cooling, still dooming us all to a feverish Earth?
Regarding this matter, it is now a plainly accepted fact that there has been no global temperature rise in the past 25 years. This lack of warming is openly admitted by: NASA; The UK Met Office; the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, as well as its former head Dr. Phil Jones (of the Climategate data manipulation controversy); Hans von Storch (Lead Author for Working Group I of the IPCC); James Lovelock (inventor of the Gaia Theory); and media entities the BBC, Forbes, Reuters, The Australian, The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
And this is despite CO2 levels having risen more than 13%, from 349 ppm in 1987 to 396ppm today. The central thesis of global warming theory – that rising CO2 levels will inexorably lead to rising global temperatures, followed by environmental catastrophe and massive loss of human life – is proven false.
(All the above are clearly and cleanly depicted by graphs, excerpts, citations and links in my collection at http://globalwarmingisunfactual.wordpress.com – as a public service.)
This is probably why anti-CO2 advocates now warn of ‘climate change’ instead. But pray tell, exactly what mechanism is there for CO2 to cause climate change if not by warming? The greenhouse effect has CO2 trapping solar heat and thus raising temperatures – as we have been warned ad nauseum by climate alarmists – so how does CO2 cause climate change when there is no warming?
Solar activity is a far larger driver of global temperature than CO2 levels, because after all, without the sun there would be no heat for greenhouse gases to trap in the first place. (Remember what I said about the Gleissberg cycle above?)
And why is any of this important to you and I? It matters because countless resources are being spent to meet the wrong challenges. Just think of all the time, energy, public attention and hard cash that have already been squandered on biofuel mandates, subsidies for solar panels and wind turbines, carbon caps and credits, bloated salaries of dignitaries, annual jet-setting climate conferences in posh five-star hotels… To say nothing of the lost opportunities and jobs (two jobs lost for every one ‘green’ job created in Spain, which now has 26% unemployment!). And most of the time it is the common working man, the taxpayer, you and I who foot the bill.
What if all this immense effort and expenditure had been put towards securing food and clean water for the impoverished (combined 11 million deaths/year)? Or fighting dengue and malaria (combined 1.222 million deaths/year)? Or preserving rivers, mangroves, rainforests and endangered species? Or preparing power grids for the increased demand that more severe winters will necessitate – the same power grids now crippled by shutting down reliable coal plants in favour of highly intermittent wind turbines?
In the face of such dire needs that can be met immediately and effectively, continuing to throw away precious money to ‘possibly, perhaps, maybe one day’ solve the non-problem of CO2 emissions is foolish, arrogant and arguably malevolent. To wit, the UN World Food Programme just announced that they are forced to scale back aid to some of the 870 million malnourished worldwide due to a $1 billion funding shortfall and the challenges of the ongoing Syrian crisis. To put this is context, a billion is a mere pittance next to the tens of billions already flushed away by attempted adherence to the Kyoto Protocol (€6.2 billion for just Germany in just 2005 alone!).
During the high times for global warmist doomsaying, sceptics and realists who questioned the unproven theories were baselessly slandered as ‘anti-science’, ‘deniers’, ‘schills for big oil’… Or even ‘war criminals’ deserving Nuremberg-style trials for their ‘crimes against humanity’!
Now that the tables are turned, just let it be known that it was not the sceptics who flushed massive amounts of global resources down the drain – while genuine human and environmental issues languished and withered in the empty shadow of global warming hysteria. Crimes against humanity, indeed.