Polar Bears Thrive, Contrary to WWF Claims


You’ve probably seen the commercials; TV actor Noah Wyle (ER, The Librarian) somberly informs us of an impending grave catastrophe: “A tragedy is unfolding in the world today. Climate change is threatening one of the most magnificent wild animals on the planet. Polar bears. They’re struggling to survive.”

Heart-tugging violins accompany video footage of a mother polar bear and her cuddly cub on a small ice flow.

The ice is melting all around them and food is becoming harder to find as they lose their hunting grounds. Climate change. It’s happening right now and its leaving mothers weaker and unable to provide for their young and cubs dying without enough to eat. As the struggle and the search for food continues polar bears are hanging on for survival. Polar bears are on their way to extinction. If we don’t act now, most will die in our children’s lifetime. But you can change that. Call now and join the Wildlife Rescue Team. For just $16 a month you’ll be part of the most ambitious effort to save wildlife and wild places the world has ever seen…. If we don’t act now, it could be too late for the polar bear.

It is a fundraising appeal for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the wealthiest environmentalist groups on the planet. The implied message is that the mother bear and cub in the film have been caught by the camera crew in their last desperate gasps, victims of man-made global warming. We are supposed to believe from the images we see, based upon Wyle’s narration, that they are weak and starving and soon will be joining the other members of their rapidly dying species.

However, there are several big problems with this picture and message. First of all, there is no evidence provided in the commercial or by WWF in its literature or on its website that this particular polar bear and her cub are weak, starving, or in any distress whatsoever. For all we can tell they are healthy and happy, floating on their iceberg as polar bears do and have done since they’ve been around on this planet. It is only the narration and the music that suggest otherwise. But, more importantly, the main message of the commercial is a … big lie. No sense in mincing words. Completely contrary to the WWF’s maudlin claims that the cuddly predators are on “their way to extinction,” polar bear populations have been exploding. The number of polar bears in the world is four to five times greater than it was 50 years ago, increasing from around 5,000 to an estimated 25,000. 

Canadian biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor, one of the foremost authorities on polar bears, says: “We’re seeing an increase in bears that’s really unprecedented, and in places where we’re seeing a decrease in the population it’s from hunting, not from climate change.” Dr. Taylor is a real scientist who actually goes out into the field and tracks, observes, tags, and counts polar bears and other arctic mammals. He has been doing this for over two decades, unlike the computer modelers who are making their dire predictions based on their own theoretical climate scenarios.


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The Dark Side of Solar Energy


Ed. note: With all the talk lately of solar panels being Earth’s salvation, especially at the G20 summit and China in particular, it seemed only appropriate to re-post the following article. Below is an excerpt from Sunburned: Solar’s Dirty Little Secrets from the May 2009 issue of Mac|Life.

Solar-powered gadgets have become de rigueur in our attempts at shrinking our carbon footprint. And utilizing the power of the sun is the one bright shining beacon of the alternative-energy movement. But there is a dark side to solar energy.

Materials used in solar panels are toxic.
Because solar is the hip, happening alt-energy trend du jour, the number of photovoltaic cells produced globally has increased dramatically in the past few years. But unfortunately, many of the solar panels manufactured today are made with cadmium, a highly toxic carcinogen that can cumulate in plant, animal, and human tissues. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has recently published a 45-page report, “Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry,” claiming that many of the environmental risks associated with the production and disposal of solar panels are not currently being addressed by the industry.

And because solar panels have a shelf life of 20 to 30 years, the Coalition claims that the panels have the potential of creating the next wave of hazardous e-waste when they “die.” What to do? Clearly, as the solar industry grows, environmentalists and consumers must demand that manufacturers develop systems to ensure that solar panels are recycled and their hazardous toxins kept out of our ecosystem.

China is dumping hazardous waste from solar factories in fields.
According to the Washington Post, in the race to cash in on the world’s demand for solar products, China been leading the charge in producing polysilicon, a key component in sunlight-capturing wafers. Unfortunately, China is not enforcing environmental regulations, and many of the new factories are dumping toxic silicon tetrachloride (a byproduct of polysilicon production) directly into nearby farmlands. (Just for perspective, 4 tons of this toxic byproduct is produced for every ton of polysilicon.) Because it is expensive and time-consuming to set up systems to recycle the hazardous materials, companies are instead dumping indiscriminately, and people close to these sites are complaining of illness, crop failures, acrid air, and dead fields. How to proceed? Alt-energy companies around the globe need to make sure the factories from which they acquire their solar components are practicing environmentally responsible manufacturing.

We use fossil fuels to make green energy.
Yes, solar power produces clean energy, but it requires utilizing our current resources to produce it. For the green movement to be truly sustainable, we need to make sure we are not trading one environmental problem for another. Yes, the world needs renewable energy as our fossil fuels dwindle, but we need to make sure we are not polluting and depleting to acquire and perfect the new technology.

Read rest…

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Pulled From The Vault: The Case for Skepticism on Global Warming

hungrykidswithbowls.jpg CCF note: Occasionally we like to highlight an item from our vault that provides exceptional insight into a particular issue. In this speech by Mr. Crichton, given on January 25, 2005, to the National Press Club, he "criticizes global warming scenarios. Using published UN data, he reviews why claims for catastrophic warming arouse doubt; why reducing CO2 is vastly more difficult than we are being told; and why we are morally unjustified to spend vast sums on this speculative issue when around the world people are dying of starvation and disease."

* * * * *

To be in Washington tonight reminds me that the only person to ever offer me a job in Washington was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That was thirty years ago, and he was working for Nixon at the time. Moynihan was a hero of mine, the exemplar of an intellectual engaged in public policy. What I admired was that he confronted every issue according to the data and not a belief system. Moynihan could work for both Democratic and Republican presidents. He took a lot of flack for his analyses but he was more often right than wrong.

Moynihan was a Democrat, and I’m a political agnostic. I was also raised in a scientific tradition that regarded politics as inferior: If you weren’t bright enough to do science, you could go into politics. I retain that prejudice today. I also come from an older and tougher tradition that regards science as the business of testing theories with measured data from the outside world. Untestable hypotheses are not science but rather something else.

We are going to talk about the environment, so I should tell you I am the child of a mother who 60 years ago insisted on organic food, recycling, and energy efficiency long before people had terms for those ideas. She drove refrigerator salesmen mad.  And over the years, I have recycled my trash, installed solar panels and low flow appliances, driven diesel cars, and used cloth diapers on my child—all approved ideas at the time.

I still believe that environmental awareness is desperately important. The environment is our shared life support system, it is what we pass on to the next generation, and how we act today has consequences—potentially serious consequences—for future generations. But I have also come to believe that our conventional wisdom is wrongheaded, unscientific, badly out of date, and damaging to the environment. Yellowstone National Park has raw sewage seeping out of the ground. We must be doing something wrong.

In my view, our approach to global warming exemplifies everything that is wrong with our approach to the environment. We are basing our decisions on speculation, not evidence. Proponents are pressing their views with more PR than scientific data. Indeed, we have allowed the whole issue to be politicized—red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat. This is in my view absurd.  Data aren’t political. Data are data. Politics leads you in the direction of a belief.  Data, if you follow them, lead you to truth.
When I was a student in the 1950s, like many kids I noticed that Africa seemed to fit nicely into South America. Were they once connected? I asked my teacher, who said that that this apparent fit was just an accident, and the continents did not move. I had trouble with that, unaware that people had been having trouble with it ever since Francis Bacon noticed the same thing back in 1620.  A German named Wegener had made a more modern case for it in 1912.  But still, my teacher said no.

By the time I was in college ten years later, it was recognized that continents did indeed move, and had done so for most of Earth’s history. Continental drift and plate tectonics were born. The teacher was wrong.

Now, jump ahead to the 1970s. Gerald Ford is president, Saigon falls, Hoffa disappears, and in climate science, evidence points to catastrophic cooling and a new ice age.
Such fears had been building for many years. In the first Earth Day in 1970, UC Davis’s Kenneth Watt said, “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder in 1990, but eleven degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.”  International Wildlife warned “a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war” as a threat to mankind. Science Digest said “we must prepare for the next ice age.”  The Christian Science Monitor noted that armadillos had moved out of Nebraska because it was too cold, glaciers had begun to advance, and growing seasons had shortened around the world. Newsweek reported “ominous signs” of a “fundamental change in the world’s weather.”

But in fact, every one of these statements was wrong. Fears of an ice age had vanished within five years, to be replaced by fears of global warming. These fears were heightened because population was exploding. By 1995, it was 5.7 billion, up 10% in the last five years.

Back in the 90s, if someone said to you, “This population explosion is overstated. In the next hundred years, population will actually decline.” That would contradict what all the environmental groups were saying, what the UN was saying. You would regard such a statement as outrageous.

More or less as you would regard a statement by someone in 2005 that global warming has been overstated.

But in fact, we now know that the hypothetical person in 1995 was right.  And we know that there was strong evidence that this was the case going back for twenty years.  We just weren’t told about that contradictory evidence, because the conventional wisdom, awesome in its power, kept it from us.
(This is a graph from Wired magazine showing rate of fertility decline over the last 50 years.)

I mention these examples because in my experience, we all tend to put a lot of faith in science. We believe what we’re told. My father suffered a life filled with margarine, before he died of a heart attack anyway. Others of us have stuffed our colons with fiber to ward off cancer, only to learn later that it was all a waste of time, and fiber.

When I wrote Jurassic Park, I worried that people would reject the idea of creating a dinosaur as absurd. Nobody did, not even scientists.  It was reported to me that a Harvard geneticist, one of the first to read the book, slammed it shut when he finished and announced, “It can be done!” Which was missing the point. Soon after, a Congressman announced he was introducing legislation to ban research leading to the creation of a dinosaur.  I held my breath, but my hopes were dashed. Someone whispered in his ear that it couldn’t be done.

But even so, the belief lingers.  Reporters would ask me, “When you were doing research on Jurassic Park, did you visit real biotech labs?”  No, I said, why would I? They didn’t know how to make a dinosaur.  And they don’t.

So we all tend to give science credence, even when it is not warranted. I will show you many examples of unwarranted credence tonight. But here’s an example to begin.  This is the famous Drake equation from the 1960s to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the galaxy.

        N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.

The problem with this equation is that none of the terms can be known. As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. The mathematical appearance is deceptive. In scientific terms—by which I mean testable hypotheses—the Drake equation is really meaninglessness.

And here’s another example.  Most people just read it and nod:
“How Many Species Exist? The question takes on increasing significance as plants and animals vanish before scientists can even identify them.”

Now, wait a minute…How could you know something vanished before you identified it?  If you didn’t know it existed, you wouldn’t have any way to know it was gone.  Would you?  In fact, the statement is nonsense. If you were never married you’d never know if your wife left you.

Okay. With this as a preparation, let’s turn to the evidence, both graphic and verbal, for global warming.  As most of you have heard many times, the consensus of climate scientists believes in global warming. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.  Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics.  Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.  In science, consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

And furthermore, the consensus of scientists has frequently been wrong. As they were wrong when they believed, earlier in my lifetime, that the continents did not move. So we must remember the immortal words of Mark Twain, who said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

So let’s look at global warming.  We start with the summary for policymakers, which is what everybody reads.  We will go into more detail in a minute, but for now, we assume the summary has all the important stuff, and turning to page three we find what are arguably the two most important graphs in climate science in 2001.
The top graph is taken from the Hadley Center in England, and shows global surface warming.  The bottom graph is from an American research team headed by Mann and shows temperature for the last thousand years.

Of these two graphs, one is entirely discredited and the other is seriously disputed. Let’s begin with the top graph.

I have redrawn the graph in Excel, and it looks like this.
Now the first thing to say is that there is some uncertainty about how much warming has really occurred.  The IPCC says the 20th century temperatures increase is between .4 and .8 degrees.  The Goddard Institute says it is between .5 and .75 degrees. That’s a fair degree of uncertainty about how much warming has already occurred.

But let’s take the graph as given.  It shows a warming of .4 degrees until 1940, which precedes major industrialization and so may or may not be a largely natural process.  Then from 1940 to 1970, temperatures fell.  That was the reason for the global cooling scare, and the fears that it was never going to get warm again.  Since then, temperatures have gone up, as you see here.  They have risen in association with carbon dioxide levels.  And the core of the claim of CO2 driven warming is based on this thirty-five year record.

But we must remember that this graph really shows annual variations in the average surface temperature of the earth over time. That total average temperature is ballpark sixteen degrees.  So if we graph the entire average fluctuation, it looks like this:
So all the interest is in this little fluttering on the surface.  Let’s be clear that I am graphing the data in a way that minimizes it.  But the earlier graph maximizes it.  If you put a ball bearing under a microscope it will look like the surface of the moon. But it is smooth to the touch.  Both things are true.  Question is which is important.

Since I think the evidence is weak, I urge you to bear this second graph in mind.

Now the question is, is this twentieth-century temperature rise extraordinary?  For that we must turn to the second graph by Michael Mann, which is known as the “hockey stick.”
This graph shows the results of a study of 112 so-called proxy studies: tree rings, isotopes in ice, and other markers of relative temperature.  Obviously there were no thermometers back in the year 1000, so proxies are needed to get some idea of past warmth. Mann’s findings were a centerpiece of the last UN study, and they were the basis for the claim that the twentieth century showed the steepest temperature rise of the last thousand years.  That was said in 2001. No one would say it now. Mann’s work has come under attack from several laboratories around the world. Two Canadian investigators, McKitrick and McIntyre, re-did the study using Mann’s data and methods, and found dozens of errors, including two data series with exactly the same data for a number of years. Not surprisingly, when they corrected all the errors, they came up with sharply differing results.
But still this increase is steep and unusual, isn’t it?  Well, no, because actually you can’t trust it.  It turns out that Mann and his associates used a non-standard formula to analyze his data, and this particular formula will turn anything into a hockey stick—including trendless data generated by computer.
Physicist Richard Muller called this result “a shocker…” and he is right.  Hans von Storch calls Mann’s study “rubbish.” Both men are staunch advocates of global warming.  But Mann’s mistakes are considerable.  But he will get tenure soon anyway.

But the disrepute into which his study has fallen leaves us wondering just how much variation in climate is normal.  Let’s look at a couple of stations.
Here you see that the current temperature rise, while distinctive, is far from unique.  Paris was hotter in the 1750s and 1830s than today.
Similarly, if you look at Stuttgart from 1950 to present, it looks dramatic.  If you look at the whole record, it is put into an entirely different perspective.  And again, it was warmer in the 1800s than now.

Now, these are graphs taken from the GISS website at the time I did my research for the book.  For those of you think the science is all aboveboard, you might contemplate this.  The data have been changed.


I have no comment on why the Goddard Institute changed the data on their website. But it clearly makes the temperature record look more consistently upward-trending and more fearsome than it did a few months ago.

All right.  With the second graph demolished, it is time to return to the first. Now we must ask, if surface temperatures have gone up in the twentieth century, what has caused the rise? Most people have been taught that the increase is caused by carbon dioxide, but that is by no means clear.


Two factors that were previously not of concern have recently come to the renewed attention of scientists. The first is the sun. In the past it was imagined that the effect of the sun was fairly constant and therefore any rise in temperature must be caused by some other factor. But it is now clear from work of scientists at the Max Planck institute in Germany that the sun is not constant, and is right now at a 1,000 year maximum. The data comes from sunspots.

According to Solanki and his associates,
This shows that solar radiation and surface temperature are correlated until recent times.  Solanki says that the sun is insufficient to explain the current temperatures, and therefore another factor is also at work, presumably greenhouse gases.  But the question is whether the sun accounts for a significant part of twentieth-century warming.  Nobody is sure.  But it is likely to be some amount greater than was previously thought.

Now we turn to cities:
Another factor that could change the record is heat from cities. This is called the urban heat bias, and as with solar effects, scientists tended to think the effect, while real, was relatively minor. That is why the IPCC allowed only six hundredths of a degree for urban heating.  But cities are hot: the correction is likely to be much greater.  We now understand that many cities are 7 or 8 degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.
(A temperature chart from a car driving around Berlin. The difference between city and country is 7 degrees.)

Some studies have suggested that the proper adjustment to the record needs to be four or five times greater than the IPCC allowance.

Now what does this mean to our record?  Well remember, the total warming in the 20th century is six tenths of a degree.
If some of this is from land use and urban heating (and one studies suggests it is .35 C for the century), and some is solar heating (.25 C for century), then the amount attributable to carbon dioxide becomes less.  And let me repeat: nobody knows how much is attributable to carbon dioxide right now.

But if carbon dioxide is not the major factor, it may not make a lot of sense to try and limit it. There are many reasons to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and I support such a reduction.  But global warming may not be a good or a primary reason.

So this is very important stuff.  The uncertainties are great.

And now, we turn to the most important issue.  WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE?

To answer this, we must turn to the UN body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The IPCC, the gold standard in climate science.

In the last ten years, the IPCC has published book after book.  And I believe I may be the only person who has read them.  I say that because if any journalist were to read these volumes with any care they would come away with the most extreme unease—and not in the way the texts intend.

The most recent volume is the Third Assessment Report, from 2001.  It contains the most up-to-date views of scientists in the field.  Let’s see what the text says.  I will be reading aloud.

Sorry, but these books are written in academic-ese.  They are hard to decipher, but we will do that.

Starting with the first section, The Climate System: An Overview, we turn to the first page of text, and on the third paragraph read:
Climate variations and change, caused by external forcings, may be partly predictable, particularly on the larger, continental and global, spatial scales. Because human activities, such as the emission of greenhouse gases or land-use change, do result in external forcing, it is believed that the large-scale aspects of human-induced climate change are also partly predictable. However the ability to actually do so is limited because we cannot accurately predict population change, economic change, technological development, and other relevant characteristics of future human activity. In practice, therefore, one has to rely on carefully constructed scenarios of human behaviour and determine climate projections on the basis of such scenarios.

Take these sentence by sentence, and translate into plain English.  Starting with the first sentence.  It’s really just saying:

Climate may be partly predictable.

Second sentence means:

We believe human-induced climate change is predictable.

Third sentence means:

But we can’t predict human behavior.

Fourth sentence:

Therefore we rely on “scenarios.”

The logic here is difficult to follow.  What does “may be partly predictable” mean?  Is it like a little bit pregnant? We see in two sentences we go from may be predictable to is predictable.  And then, if we can’t make accurate predictions about population and development and technology… how can you make a carefully-constructed scenario? What does “carefully-constructed” mean if you can’t make accurate predictions about population and economic and other factors that are essential to the scenario?

The flow of illogic is stunning. Am I are making too much of this?  Let’s look at another quote:
“The state of science at present is such that it is only possible to give illustrative examples of possible outcomes.”

Illustrative examples. The estimates for even partial US compliance with Kyoto—a reduction of 3% below 1990 levels, not the required 7%—has been predicted to cost almost 300 billion dollars a year.  Year after year. We can afford it. But if we are going to spend trillions of dollars, I would like to base that decision on something more substantial than “illustrative examples.”

Let’s look at another quote.
My concerns deepen when I read “Climate models now have some skill in simulating changes in climate since 1850…”  SOME SKILL? This is not skill in predicting the future.  This is skill in reproducing the past.  It doesn’t sound like these models really perform very well.  It would be natural to ask how they are tested.


While we do not consider that the complexity of a climate model makes it impossible to ever prove such a model “false” in any absolute sense, it does make the task of evaluation extremely difficult and leaves room for a subjective component in any assessment.

Now, the term “subjective” ought to set off alarm bells in every person here.  Science, by definition, is not subjective.  I will  point out to you that this is precisely the kind of issue that has Americans furious about the EPA.  We know you can’t let a drug company manufacture a drug and also test it—that’s unreliable, and everybody knows it.  So why in this high stakes climate issue do we allow the same person who makes a climate model to test it?

The flaws in this process are well known.  James Madison, our fourth President:

No man is allowed to be judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity.

Madison is right.

Climate science needs some verification by outsiders.


Again, am I making too much of all this?  It turns out I am not.  Late in the text, we read:
“The long term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

Surely it should lead us to close the book at this point. If the system is non-linear and chaotic—and it is—then it can’t be predicted, and if it can’t be predicted, what are we doing here?  Why are we worrying about the year 2100?

All right, you may be saying.  Perhaps this is the state of climate science, as the IPCC itself tell us.  Nevertheless we read every day about the dire consequences of global warming.  What if I am wrong?  What if a major temperature rise is really going to happen?  Shouldn’t we act now and be safe?  Don’t we have a responsibility to unborn generations to do so?

NEXT CHART – Act Now or Later?
Here is again the IPCC chart of predictions for 2100.  As you see, they range from a low of 1.5 degrees to a high of 6 degrees.  That is a 400% variation. It’s fine in academic research.  Now let’s transfer this to the real world.

In the real world, a 400% uncertainty is so great that nobody acts on it.  Ever.
If you planned to build a house and the builder said, it will cost somewhere between a million and a half and six million dollars, would you proceed?  Of course not, you’d get a new builder.  If you told your boss you were going on vacation and would be gone somewhere between 15 and 60 days, would he accept that?  No, he’d say tell me exactly what day you will be back.  Real world estimation has to be much, much better than 400%.

When all is said and done, Kyoto is a giant global construction project.  In the real world nobody builds with that much uncertainty.

Next, we must face facts about the present.  If warming is a problem, we have no good technological solutions at this point.  Everybody talks wind farms, but people hate them.  They’re ugly and noisy and change the weather and chop birds and bats to pieces, and they are fought everywhere they are proposed.  Here is the wind farm at Cape Cod, which has aroused everyone who lives there, including lots of environmentalists who are embarrassed but still…they don’t want them. Who can blame them? A very large anti-wind faction has grown up in England, partly because the government are trying to put farms in the Lake District and other scenic areas.

But whether we like the technology or not, do we really have the capability to meet the Kyoto Protocols?  Reporting in Science magazine, a blue-ribbon group of scientists concluded that we do not:
So, if we don’t have good technology perhaps we should wait. And there are other reasons to wait.  If in fact we are facing a really expensive construction job, we can afford it better later on. We will be richer.  This is a 400 year trend.
Finally, I think it is important to recognize that we can adapt to the temperature changes that are being discussed. We are told that catastrophe will befall if we increase global temperature 2 degrees.  But that is the difference in average temperature between New York and Washington DC. I don’t think most New Yorkers think a move to Washington is balmy.  Similarly, a move to San Diego is an increase of 9 degrees.

Of course this is not a fair comparison, because a local change is not the same as a global change.  But it ought at least to alert you to the possibility that perhaps things are not as dire as we are being told.  And were told thirty years ago, about the ice age.

Last, I want you to think about what it means to say that we are going to act now to address something 100 years from now.  People say this with confidence; we hear that the people of the future will condemn us if we don’t act.  But is that true?


We’re at the start of the 21st century, looking ahead.  We’re just like someone in 1900, thinking about the year 2000.  Could someone in 1900 have helped us?

Here is Teddy Roosevelt, a major environmental figure from 1900.  These are some of the words that he does not know the meaning of:

  • airport
  • antibiotic
  • antibody
  • antenna
  • computer
  • continental drift
  • tectonic plates
  • zipper
  • nylon
  • radio
  • television
  • robot
  • video
  • virus
  • gene
  • proton
  • neutron
  • atomic structure
  • quark
  • atomic bomb
  • nuclear energy
  • ecosystem
  • jumpsuits
  • fingerprints
  • step aerobics
  • 12-step
  • jet stream
  • shell shock
  • shock wave
  • radio wave
  • microwave
  • tidal wave
  • tsunami
  • IUD
  • DVD
  • MP3
  • MRI
  • HIV
  • SUV
  • VHS
  • VAT
  • whiplash
  • wind tunnel
  • carpal tunnel
  • fiber optics
  • direct dialing
  • dish antennas
  • gorilla
  • corneal transplant
  • liver transplant
  • heart transplant
  • liposuction
  • transduction
  • maser
  • taser
  • laser
  • acrylic
  • penicillin
  • Internet
  • interferon
  • nylon
  • rayon
  • leisure suit
  • leotard
  • lap dancing
  • laparoscopy
  • arthroscopy
  • gene therapy
  • bipolar
  • moonwalk
  • spot welding
  • heat-seeking
  • Prozac
  • sunscreen
  • urban legends
  • rollover minutes

Given all those changes, is there anything Teddy could have done in 1900 to help us? And aren’t we in his position right now, with regard to 2100?

Think how incredibly the world has changed in 100 years. It will change vastly more in the next century. A hundred years ago there were no airplanes and almost no cars. Do you really believe that 100 years from now we will still be burning fossil fuels and driving around in cars and airplanes?
The idea of spending trillions on the future is only sensible if you totally lack any historical sense, and any imagination about the future.

If we should not spend our money on Kyoto, what should we do instead?  I will argue three points.

First, we need to establish 21st century policy mechanisms.  I want to return to those pages from the IPCC.  The fact is if we required the same standard of information from climate scientists that we do from drug companies, the whole debate on global warming would be long over.  We wouldn’t be talking about it. We need mechanisms to insure a much, much higher standard of reliability in information in the future.

Second, we need to deal correctly with complexity of non-linear systems. The environment is a complex system, a term that has a specific meaning in science.  Beyond being complicated, it means that interacting parts that modify each other have the capacity to change the output of the system in unexpected ways.  This fact has several ramifications.  The first is that the old notion of the balance of nature is thoroughly discredited.  There is no balance of nature.  To think so is to share an agreeable fantasy with the ancient Greeks.  But it is also a shocking change for us, and we resist it. Some now talk of “balance in nature,” as a way to keep the old idea alive. Some claim there are multiple equilibrium states, but this is just a way of pretending that the balance can attained in different ways.  It is a misstatement of the truth.  The natural system of inherently chaotic, major disruption is the rule not the exception, and if we are to manage the system we are going to have to be actively involved.

This represents a revision of the role of mankind in nature, and a revision of the perception of nature as something untouched.  We now know that nature has never been untouched. The first white visitors to the New World didn’t understand what they were looking at.  In California, Indians burned old growth forest with such regularity that there is more old growth today than there was in 1850.  Yellowstone was a beauty spot precisely because the Indians hunted the elk and moose to the edge of extinction.  When they were prevented from hunting in their traditional grounds, Yellowstone began its complex decline.

We now have research to help us formulate strategies for management of complex systems.  But I am not sure we have organizations capable of making these changes.  I would also remind you that to properly manage what we call wilderness is going to be stupefyingly expensive.  Good wilderness is expensive!

Finally, and most important—we can’t predict the future, but we can know the present. In the time we have been talking, 2,000 people have died in the third world.  A child is orphaned by AIDS every 7 seconds.  Fifty people die of waterborne disease every minute. This does not have to happen.  We allow it.
What is wrong with us that we ignore this human misery and focus on events a hundred years from now?  What must we do to awaken this phenomenally rich, spoiled and self-centered society to the issues of the wider world?  The global crisis is not 100 years from now—it is right now.  We should be addressing it.  But we are not.  Instead, we cling to the reactionary and antihuman doctrines of outdated environmentalism and turn our backs to the cries of the dying and the starving and the diseased of our shared world.

And if we are going to remain too self-involved to care about the third world, can we at least care about our own?  We live in a country where 40% of high school graduates are functionally illiterate.  Where schoolchildren pass through metal detectors on the way to class. Where one child in four says they have seen a murdered person. Where millions of our fellow citizens have no health care, no decent education, no prospects for the future.  If we really have trillions of dollars to spend, let us spend it on our fellow human beings. And let us spend it now. And not on our impossible fantasies of what may happen one hundred years from now.

Thank you very much.


About the author:

state_of_fear.jpgMichael Crichton is the best-selling author of Stateof Fear, which takes the reader from the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanoesof Antarctica, from the Arizona desert to the deadly jungles of theSolomon Islands, from the streets of Paris to the beaches of LosAngeles. The novel races forward on a roller-coaster thrill ride, allthe while keeping the brain in high gear. Gripping and thoughtprovoking, State of Fear is Michael Crichton at his very best.

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Alaska’s ‘Frustrated’ Governor Palin On Our ‘Nonsensical’ Energy Policy

ANWR CCF Note: The following is from a July 11, 2008, interview with Investor’s Business Daily. Now that she’s been tapped for VP, it’s a very good read and should explain most misconceptions that the mainstream media and bloggers are already using to rake any muck as they break the news. Enjoy the Q&A.

* * * * *

Gov. Sarah Palin is a rising political star in Alaska, with an 84% approval rating. A strong advocate of opening her state to more oil drilling, she recently spoke with IBD.

IBD: Alaska was bought by the U.S. from Russia in 1867 specifically to ensure a supply of natural resources. How do Alaskans feel about the opposition from politicians representing the lower 48 to drilling for oil there?

Palin: Alaskans are frustrated because there is opposition in Congress to developing our vast amount of natural resources. We want to contribute more to the rest of the United States. We want to help secure the United States, and help us get off this reliance of foreign sources of energy.

It’s a very nonsensical position we’re in right now. We send President Bush and Secretary (of Energy Sam) Bodman overseas to ask the Saudis to ramp up production of crude oil so that hungry markets in America can be fed, (and) your sister state in Alaska has those resources. But these lands are locked up by Congress, and we are not allowed to drill to the degree America needs the development.

When we became a state 50 years ago, we struck a deal with the federal government where we said, "Let us in a union where we will be as self-sufficient as possible." And the federal government said, "Come in, you’ll be our 49th state, and you’ll do it by developing your God-given resources."

Fifty years later . . . we’re living up to our end of the bargain, and now we need the rest of the U.S. to live up to their end of the bargain, to lead America toward energy independence. Alaska should be the leader of an energy policy that gets us there.

IBD: Why does Alaska find it so hard to be listened to? The state’s senators have tried many times to get legislation through that would allow drilling, and they’ve been shot down every time.

Palin: There are great misconceptions about the developments up here. Take ANWR. The misperception is that this is a huge swath of pristine land, full of mountains and rivers and wildlife. Those are the pictures seen on TV. But what we’re talking about with ANWR is a 2,000-acre plot of land that is a smaller footprint than LAX or big airports outside Alaska.

It’s not mountainous, and there aren’t rivers flowing through it. So even the perception of what ANWR would entail is wrong, and we need to correct that.

But even more important than explaining the geography and physical aspects of this plot of land is that I have to show that Alaska will have the prudent oversight that Alaskans and Americans will expect as we develop our natural resources.

Here in Alaska we love our clean air and our clean water and our abundant wildlife. We will protect Alaska. I’m a Republican, and when I got elected, some accused me of being anti-development. I created a new office to just concentrate on oversight of resource development on the North Slope.

We’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re budgeting for strict oversight so we can prove to the rest of the U.S. that we will have safe, clean developments and will do this responsibly (and) ethically.

IBD: Does the rest of the U.S. have reason to doubt you?

Palin: In the past, Alaska’s reputation didn’t lead the rest of America to believe we were adamant about safe, clean, responsible development here.

I say that because we had legislators who are now serving prison time because they were found guilty of being corrupted for their votes on oil and gas taxes by oil and gas industry players. That reputation has really hurt Alaska, and it’s no wonder that some have not wanted to believe that we are opening a new chapter in Alaska’s life.

IBD: What’s your best assessment of Alaska’s ongoing oil and gas potential and especially how much can be gotten from ANWR?

Palin: There are billions of barrels of oil underneath the ground up there on the North Slope including ANWR. In Alaska alone we can supply seven years of complete crude-oil independence, and eight years’ supply of natural gas for Americans with ANWR (and) other areas of Alaska that we want to allow for development. That’s proof that Alaska can be a significant player in the world market.

IBD: How long will it take to develop these areas? Critics say five to 10 years.

Palin: ANWR would take five years to begin providing crude oil to our pipeline. But you have to consider that if we’d started this five years ago, then we wouldn’t be in this position right now. And who knows where we’re going to be in another five years.

There are even bigger sources of crude than ANWR . . . such as offshore areas like the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea. Congress can help us with those areas right now, bringing even more energy than ANWR and bringing it quicker.

We frequently find ourselves at the mercy of those who think that we must be protected from ourselves. Shell is up here wanting to drill offshore, but they’ve been fighting various environmental groups through the 9th Circuit Court and are running into very fierce pushback. In this area, Congress could help us with the development and bring those sources of energy to market quicker than ANWR.

IBD: Some politicians and presidential candidates say we can’t drill our way out of our energy problem and that drilling in ANWR will have no effect. What’s your best guess of the impact on prices?

Palin: I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can’t drill our way out of our problem or that more supply won’t ultimately affect prices. Of course it will affect prices. Energy being a global market, it’s impossible to venture a guess on (specific) prices. We never would have thought oil would reach $140. Only a few months ago, we thought $100 would be the peak. And here it is at $140 (with) no end in sight.

It’s very difficult to determine, but we do know the demand is going to continue to increase. The demand in Asia especially is one reason why prices are going to increase. But if I could predict energy prices, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.

IBD: How serious is the threat to development posed by designation of the polar bear as an endangered species?

Palin: We believe that listing polar bears as such is a significant threat to development, because most live on the North Slope. (But) the biggest problem with the ruling is that we are the only state that is impacted. Most polar bears (are found) in Canada. We’ve got other places in the world once again telling us Alaskans how to live, and whether we can develop.

We’ve coexisted with bears for decades to no detrimental effect. Our bear population is thriving. This listing is nothing but interference from outsiders who insist on keeping Alaska from developing our resources responsibly. I tell you, if we thought we were killing a species—in this case, the polar bear — we would mend our ways.

You have to remember, our native culture is paramount to the Alaska way of life. My husband is native, my kids are native. We have such respect for native culture, and the polar bear is part of it. We can develop and take care of animals, and we’ll continue to do both.

IBD: What about the impact of development on caribou and other wildlife?

Palin: There are magnificent caribou and wolves and bears and porcupines and birds all through Alaska. You can see them thriving today as you could in the 1960s, before pipelines were built. Talk about coexistence: We’ve got grizzlies roaming on the pipeline, and caribou migrations passing underneath it.

When people visit Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope, they appreciate how Alaska’s resources go from the ground to the pipeline to the lower 48. But they also get to learn about Arctic wildlife, because it’s right there, it’s thriving, and we work hard to responsibly develop resources so that will always be the case. Our mantra is develop responsibly. And as governor, I have to do more than talk. I have to walk the walk.

IBD: You’re proposing to give each Alaskan $1,200 to offset high energy costs. How can you do that?

Palin: It’s a plan that I’m bringing to our lawmakers because we do have an energy crisis and it’s ridiculous that we do. Alaskans are paying the highest costs to fill up their vehicles and heat their houses and businesses. Yet we’re the ones with the resources. We own the resources as individuals’ pocketbooks are shrinking.

Our state government coffers are bursting at the seams because 85% to 90% of our budget comes from oil and gas developments. So I’m saying we have a surplus, so give the surplus back to the people. Legislators are now . . . considering that.

I also proposed eliminating the gas tax levied on consumers some years ago. Some legislators would say they can find a place to spend it, and I’m sure (they) could. But I would rather those dollars also go back to the consumers.

IBD: Have you had inquiries about developing and managing energy resources from other states?

Palin: Well, one big piece of all this we haven’t spoken of is building a natural gas pipeline. It’s about a $30 billion project we’re proposing right now . . . to feed hungry markets. As Alaska approaches 50-year statehood, my promise is that we contribute to the rest of the country. I don’t want us to be seen as takers. And as we supply 20% of domestic crude oil to the rest of the United States, I want to ramp that up by supplying Alaskan natural gas that can flow through a pipeline we are proposing.

IBD: Do you have any thoughts about being named as a vice presidential candidate?

Palin: I think that any kind of national profile, if there is any elevation of that, it’s for Alaska itself. People are looking up here (and saying) we need you as leaders for energy policy. We have a willingness to develop responsibly and supply the rest of the United States, and that’s why we are being looked at. I just happen to be in a position of leadership where I get drawn into that.

As for vice president, it would be certainly an exciting thing to consider, but to me it’s so farfetched and out there that I don’t spend any time thinking about it because we have so many things to do in Alaska.


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NYT 1993: ‘ Study of Greenland Ice Finds Rapid Change in Past Climate’

greenland-nasa.jpg The next time some New York Times reporter wants to write about how man is responsible for warming the planet, maybe he should take a look at an amazing article his paper published on July 15, 1993, largely refuting any connection between the burning of fossil fuels and rising temperatures.

Written by Walter Sullivan, "Study of Greenland Ice Finds Rapid Change in Past Climate" addressed findings that suggest "the period of stable climate in which human civilization has flourished might be unusual, and that the current climate may get either warmer or colder much more quickly than had been believed — in spans of decades or even less."

Doesn’t sound like today’s hysterical press claims concerning global warming, does it? Neither does this (emphasis added throughout):

The scientists said their data showed that significantly warmer periods and significantly colder periods had occurred during the last interval between glacial epochs, about 115,000 to 135,000 years ago. They said they could not tell whether that meant similar changes were in store. Their findings were reported today in two papers in the journal Nature. […]

The new studies found that the average global temperature can change as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit in a couple of decades during interglacial periods, [Dr. J. W. C. White of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research of the University of Colorado] said. The current average global temperature is 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wow. You mean natural forces — i.e. unrelated to anything done by man! — can create temperature swings of 18 degrees in a couple of decades? And folks like Nobel Laureate Al Gore, along with most in the media and an overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress are advocating economically destabilizing legislation all because temperatures have risen about one degree in the past 150 years?

But there was more:

The research on the last period between glaciers is considered important because it may provide hints about the effects of rising levels of atmospheric gases, like carbon dioxide, that have a warming effect similar to that caused by the glass in a greenhouse.

"As the last interglacial seems to have been slightly warmer than the present one," the new report said, "its unstable climate raises questions about the effects of future global warming."

Pay particular attention to this next segment:

At one point between the last two glacial epochs, the climate melted enough polar ice to raise sea levels some 30 feet. As noted by a member of the drilling team, Dr. David A. Peel of the British Antarctic Survey, it was so warm in England that hippopotamuses wallowed in the Thames and lions roamed its banks.

And this happened without the anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels? How can that be?

In his commentary, Dr. White wrote: "We humans have built a remarkable socioeconomic system during perhaps the only time when it could be built, when climate was sufficiently stable to allow us to develop the agricultural infrastructure required to maintain an advanced society. We don’t know why we have been so blessed, but even without human intervention, the climate system is capable of stunning variability.

"If the Earth came with an operating manual, the chapter on climate might begin with a caveat that the system has been adjusted at the factory for optimum comfort, so don’t touch the dials."

Don’t touch the dials. Amen to that, brother!  Source

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From the Vault: Aliens Cause Global Warming

the-arrival.jpg CCF Editor’s Note: Occasionally we like to highlight an item from our vault that should be required reading for any person interested in how we got from rational, scientific thinking to the current hysterical pandering by politicians and environmentalists. This speech, while only a few years old, provides an excellent history “detailing how over the last thirty years scientists have begun to intermingle scientific and political claims.”


My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science-namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.

I have a special interest in this because of my own upbringing. I was born in the midst of World War II, and passed my formative years at the height of the Cold War. In school drills, I dutifully crawled under my desk in preparation for a nuclear attack.

It was a time of widespread fear and uncertainty, but even as a child I Believed that science represented the best and greatest hope for mankind. Even to a child, the contrast was clear between the world of politics-a world of hate and danger, of irrational beliefs and fears,of mass manipulation and disgraceful blots on human history. In contrast, science held different values-international in scope, forging friendships and working relationships across national boundaries and political systems, encouraging a dispassionate habit of thought, and ultimately leading to fresh knowledge and technology that would benefit all mankind. The world might not be a very good place, but science would make it better. And it did. In my lifetime, science has largely fulfilled its promise. Science has been the great intellectual adventure of our age, and a great hope for our troubled and restless world.

But I did not expect science merely to extend lifespan, feed thehungry, cure disease, and shrink the world with jets and cell phones. Ialso expected science to banish the evils of human thought—prejudiceand superstition, irrational beliefs and false fears. I expectedscience to be, in Carl Sagan’s memorable phrase, “a candle in a demonhaunted world.” And here, I am not so pleased with the impact ofscience. Rather than serving as a cleansing force, science has in someinstances been seduced by the more ancient lures of politics andpublicity. Some of the demons that haunt our world in recent years areinvented by scientists. The world has not benefited from permittingthese demons to escape free.

But let’s look at how it came to pass.

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president,commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest universitymainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at thenew National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist namedFrank Drake runs a two week project called Ozma, to search forextraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. Itturns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drakeorganizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famousDrake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is thefraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable ofsupporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fiis the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fractionthat communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life duringwhich the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI an serious footing as alegitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that noneof the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The onlyway to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses-justso we’re clear-are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be”informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with lifechoose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informedguess. It’s simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billionsand billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything meansnothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literallymeaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard viewthat science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drakeequation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI isunquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief insomething for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is theword of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created theuniverse in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there areother life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not asingle shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty yearsof searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely noevidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

One way to chart the cooling of enthusiasm is to review popularworks on the subject. In 1964, at the height of SETI enthusiasm, WalterSullivan of the NY Times wrote an exciting book about life in theuniverse entitled WE ARE NOT ALONE. By 1995, when Paul Davis wrote abook on the same subject, he titled it ARE WE ALONE? ( Since 1981,there have in fact been four books titled ARE WE ALONE.) More recentlywe have seen the rise of the so-called “Rare Earth” theory whichsuggests that we may, in fact, be all alone. Again, there is noevidence either way.

Back in the sixties, SETI had its critics, although not amongastrophysicists and astronomers. The biologists and paleontologistswere harshest. George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard sneered that SETI wasa “study without a subject,” and it remains so to the present day.

But scientists in general have been indulgent toward SETI, viewingit either with bemused tolerance, or with indifference. After all,what’s the big deal? It’s kind of fun. If people want to look, letthem. Only a curmudgeon would speak harshly of SETI. It wasn’t worththe bother.

And of course it is true that untestable theories may have heuristicvalue. Of course extraterrestrials are a good way to teach science tokids. But that does not relieve us of the obligation to see the Drakeequation clearly for what it is-pure speculation in quasi-scientifictrappings.

The fact that the Drake equation was not greeted with screams ofoutrage-similar to the screams of outrage that greet each Creationistnew claim, for example-meant that now there was a crack in the door, aloosening of the definition of what constituted legitimate scientificprocedure. And soon enough, pernicious garbage began to squeeze throughthe cracks.

Now let’s jump ahead a decade to the 1970s, and Nuclear Winter.

In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on “Long-TermWorldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations” but thereport estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to berelatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued areport on “The Effects of Nuclear War” and stated that nuclear warcould perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on theenvironment. However, because the scientific processes involved werepoorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimatethe probable magnitude of such damage.

Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciencescommissioned a report entitled “The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War:Twilight at Noon,” which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke fromburning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would beso much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere wouldreduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis,and that this would last for weeks or even longer.

The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and CarlSagan published a paper in Science called “Nuclear Winter: GlobalConsequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.” This was the so-calledTTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously theatmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from anactual computer model of climate.


the-arrival.jpgAt the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, neverspecifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:

Ds = Wn Ws Wh Tf Tb Pt Pr Pe… etc

(The amount of tropospheric dust=# warheads x size warheads xwarhead detonation height x flammability of targets x Target burnduration x Particles entering the Troposphere x Particle reflectivity xParticle endurance…and so on.)

The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drakeequation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. TheTTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out differentwartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, buteven so, the remaining variables were-and are-simply unknowable. Nobodyknows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creatingparticles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect oflocal weather conditions on the amount of particles that will beinjected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles willremain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concludedthat the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that noestimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study notonly made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

According to Sagan and his co-workers, even a limited 5,000 megatonnuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. Thegreatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperaturessomewhere between .5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed globaltemperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change threetimes greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subjectof some dispute.

But Sagan and his co-workers were prepared, for nuclear winter wasfrom the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. Thefirst announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan inthe Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized,high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear warwas held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, themost famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Saganappeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times.Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings withcongressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

The real nature of the conference is indicated by these artists’ renderings of the effect of nuclear winter.

I cannot help but quote the caption for figure 5: “Shown here is atranquil scene in the north woods. A beaver has just completed its dam,two black bears forage for food, a swallow-tailed butterfly flutters inthe foreground, a loon swims quietly by, and a kingfisher searches fora tasty fish.” Hard science if ever there was.

At the conference in Washington, during the question period, Ehrlichwas reminded that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists were quotedas saying nothing would grow there for 75 years, but in fact melonswere growing the next year. So, he was asked, how accurate were thesefindings now?

Ehrlich answered by saying “I think they are extremely robust.Scientists may have made statements like that, although I cannotimagine what their basis would have been, even with the state ofscience at that time, but scientists are always making absurdstatements, individually, in various places. What we are doing here,however, is presenting a consensus of a very large group ofscientists…”

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, andthe rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensusscience as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stoppedcold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been thefirst refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claimingthat the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus ofscientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, becauseyou’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do withconsensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on thecontrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, whichmeans that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference tothe real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant isreproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are greatprecisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let’s review a few cases.

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever followingchildbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, AlexanderGordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes,and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, OliverWendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presentedcompelling evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweissdemonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperalfever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was aJew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact noagreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century.Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive atthe right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent “skeptics”around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despitethe constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America,tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a diseasecalled pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious,and what was necessary was to find the “pellagra germ.” The USgovernment asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger,to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucialfactor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldbergerdemonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. Hedemonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the bloodof a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and othervolunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, andswallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what werecalled “Goldberger’s filth parties.” Nobody contracted pellagra. Theconsensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, asocial factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as thecause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continuedto deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth centuryepidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africaseem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensussneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was mostvigorously denied by the great names of geology-until 1961, when itbegan to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it tookthe consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jennerand smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressedmemory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy…the list ofconsensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensusis invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the scienceis not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agreesthat E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 millionmiles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.


But back to our main subject.

What I have been suggesting to you is that nuclear winter was ameaningless formula, tricked out with bad science, for policy ends. Itwas political from the beginning, promoted in a well-orchestrated mediacampaign that had to be planned weeks or months in advance.

Further evidence of the political nature of the whole project can befound in the response to criticism. Although Richard Feynman wascharacteristically blunt, saying, “I really don’t think these guys knowwhat they’re talking about,” other prominent scientists were noticeablyreticent. Freeman Dyson was quoted as saying “It’s an absolutelyatrocious piece of science but…who wants to be accused of being infavor of nuclear war?” And Victor Weisskopf said, “The science isterrible but—perhaps the psychology is good.” The nuclear winter teamfollowed up the publication of such comments with letters to theeditors denying that these statements were ever made, though thescientists since then have subsequently confirmed their views.

At the time, there was a concerted desire on the part of lots ofpeople to avoid nuclear war. If nuclear winter looked awful, whyinvestigate too closely? Who wanted to disagree? Only people likeEdward Teller, the “father of the H bomb.”

Teller said, “While it is generally recognized that details arestill uncertain and deserve much more study, Dr. Sagan nevertheless hastaken the position that the whole scenario is so robust that there canbe little doubt about its main conclusions.” Yet for most people, thefact that nuclear winter was a scenario riddled with uncertainties didnot seem to be relevant.

I say it is hugely relevant. Once you abandon strict adherence towhat science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a pressconference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you willget some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, youget Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger isalways there, if you subvert science to political ends.

That is why it is so important for the future of science that theline between what science can say with certainty, and what it cannot,be drawn clearly-and defended.

What happened to Nuclear Winter? As the media glare faded, itsrobust scenario appeared less persuasive; John Maddox, editor ofNature, repeatedly criticized its claims; within a year, StephenSchneider, one of the leading figures in the climate model, began tospeak of “nuclear autumn.” It just didn’t have the same ring.

A final media embarrassment came in 1991, when Carl Sagan predictedon Nightline that Kuwaiti oil fires would produce a nuclear wintereffect, causing a “year without a summer,” and endangering crops aroundthe world. Sagan stressed this outcome was so likely that “it shouldaffect the war plans.” None of it happened.

What, then, can we say were the lessons of Nuclear Winter? I believethe lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and anaggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science,and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established asfact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war isalready over without a shot being fired. That was the lesson, and wehad a textbook application soon afterward, with second hand smoke.

In 1993, the EPA announced that second-hand smoke was “responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmokingadults,” and that it ” impairs the respiratory health of hundreds ofthousands of people.” In a 1994 pamphlet the EPA said that the elevenstudies it based its decision on were not by themselves conclusive, andthat they collectively assigned second-hand smoke a risk factor of1.19. (For reference, a risk factor below 3.0 is too small for actionby the EPA. or for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine,for example.) Furthermore, since there was no statistical associationat the 95% confidence limits, the EPA lowered the limit to 90%. Theythen classified second hand smoke as a Group A Carcinogen.

This was openly fraudulent science, but it formed the basis for banson smoking in restaurants, offices, and airports. California bannedpublic smoking in 1995. Soon, no claim was too extreme. By 1998, theChristian Science Monitor was saying that “Second-hand smoke is thenation’s third-leading preventable cause of death.” The American CancerSociety announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-handsmoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent.

In 1998, a Federal judge held that the EPA had acted improperly, had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun”, and had”disregarded information and made findings on selective information.”The reaction of Carol Browner, head of the EPA was: “We stand by ourscience….there’s wide agreement. The American people certainlyrecognize that exposure to second hand smoke brings…a whole host ofhealth problems.” Again, note how the claim of consensus trumpsscience. In this case, it isn’t even a consensus of scientists thatBrowner evokes! It’s the consensus of the American people.

Meanwhile, ever-larger studies failed to confirm any association. A large, seven-country WHO study in 1998 found no association. Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. Yet we now read, for example, that second-hand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. At this point you can say pretty much anything you want about second-handsmoke.

As with nuclear winter, bad science is used to promote what mostpeople would consider good policy. I certainly think it is. I don’twant people smoking around me. So who will speak out against banning second-hand smoke? Nobody, and if you do, you’ll be branded a shill ofRJ Reynolds. A big tobacco flunky. But the truth is that we now have asocial policy supported by the grossest of superstitions. And we’vegiven the EPA a bad lesson in how to behave in the future. We’ve toldthem that cheating is the way to succeed.


the-arrival.jpgAs the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection betweenhard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. Inpart this was possible because of the complacency of the scientificprofession; in part because of the lack of good science education amongthe public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groupswhich have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shapingpolicy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as anindependent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American mediais dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like theNew York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content andeditorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, thenwho will hold anyone to a higher standard?

And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-ornon-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arriveat last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash thedetails of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. Iwould just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these thingsare established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in theunseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support thepolicy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, theisolation of those scientists who won’t get with the program, and thecharacterization of those scientists as outsiders and “skeptics” inquotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industryflunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. Inshort order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists areuncomfortable about how things are being done.

When did “skeptic” become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?

To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the globalwarming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed onmodels. Back in the days of nuclear winter, computer models wereinvoked to add weight to a conclusion: “These results are derived withthe help of a computer model.” But now large-scale computer models areseen as generating data in themselves. No longer are models judged byhow well they reproduce data from the real world-increasingly, modelsprovide the data. As if they were themselves a reality. And indeed theyare, when we are projecting forward. There can be no observational dataabout the year 2100. There are only model runs.

This fascination with computer models is something I understand verywell. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right. Becauseonly if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can youarrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’reasked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybodylost their minds?

Stepping back, I have to say the arrogance of the modelmakers isbreathtaking. There have been, in every century, scientists who saythey know it all. Since climate may be a chaotic system-no one issure-these predictions are inherently doubtful, to be polite. But moreto the point, even if the models get the science spot-on, they cannever get the sociology. To predict anything about the world a hundredyears from now is simply absurd.

Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would beprofitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea wasso crazy that it must be a scam?

Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If theyworried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably:Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about allthe horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse itwould be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except forsport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energysource that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium andJapan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900.Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t knowits structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport,or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet,an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA,EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay,remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, genesplicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards,lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive,plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dishantennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon,rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy,corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS… None of this would havemeant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know whatyou are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’seven worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into thefuture. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment’sthought knows it.


I remind you that in the lifetime of most scientists now living, wehave already had an example of dire predictions set aside by newtechnology. I refer to the green revolution. In 1960, Paul Ehrlichsaid, “The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world willundergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve todeath.” Ten years later, he predicted four billion people would dieduring the 1980s, including 65 million Americans. The mass starvationthat was predicted never occurred, and it now seems it isn’t ever goingto happen. Nor is the population explosion going to reach the numberspredicted even ten years ago. In 1990, climate modelers anticipated aworld population of 11 billion by 2100. Today, some people think thecorrect number will be 7 billion and falling. But nobody knows forsure.

But it is impossible to ignore how closely the history of globalwarming fits on the previous template for nuclear winter. Just as theearliest studies of nuclear winter stated that the uncertainties wereso great that probabilities could never be known, so, too the firstpronouncements on global warming argued strong limits on what could bedetermined with certainty about climate change. The 1995 IPCC draftreport said, “Any claims of positive detection of significant climatechange are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in thetotal natural variability of the climate system are reduced.” It alsosaid, “No study to date has positively attributed all or part ofobserved climate changes to anthropogenic causes.” Those statementswere removed, and in their place appeared: “The balance of evidencesuggests a discernable human influence on climate.”

What is clear, however, is that on this issue, science and policyhave become inextricably mixed to the point where it will be difficult,if not impossible, to separate them out. It is possible for an outsideobserver to ask serious questions about the conduct of investigationsinto global warming, such as whether we are taking appropriate steps toimprove the quality of our observational data records, whether we aresystematically obtaining the information that will clarify existinguncertainties, whether we have any organized disinterested mechanism todirect research in this contentious area.

The answer to all these questions is no. We don’t.

In trying to think about how these questions can be resolved, itoccurs to me that in the progression from SETI to nuclear winter tosecond hand smoke to global warming, we have one clear message, andthat is that we can expect more and more problems of public policydealing with technical issues in the future-problems of ever greaterseriousness, where people care passionately on all sides.

And at the moment we have no mechanism to get good answers. So I will propose one.

Just as we have established a tradition of double-blinded researchto determine drug efficacy, we must institute double-blinded researchin other policy areas as well. Certainly the increased use of computermodels, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who makethe models from those who verify them. The fact is that the presentstructure of science is entrepreneurial, with individual investigativeteams vying for funding from organizations which all too often have aclear stake in the outcome of the research – or appear to, which may bejust as bad. This is not healthy for science.

Sooner or later, we must form an independent research institute inthis country. It must be funded by industry, by government, and byprivate philanthropy, both individuals and trusts. The money must bepooled, so that investigators do not know who is paying them. Theinstitute must fund more than one team to do research in a particulararea, and the verification of results will be a foregone requirement:teams will know their results will be checked by other groups. In manycases, those who decide how to gather the data will not gather it, andthose who gather the data will not analyze it. If we were to addressthe land temperature records with such rigor, we would be well on ourway to an understanding of exactly how much faith we can place inglobal warming, and therefore what seriousness we must address this.


I believe that as we come to the end of this litany, some of you maybe saying, well what is the big deal, really. So we made a fewmistakes. So a few scientists have overstated their cases and have eggon their faces. So what.

Well, I’ll tell you.

In recent years, much has been said about the post modernist claimsabout science to the effect that science is just another form of rawpower, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivitythat really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no betterthan any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and theyanger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. Wecan take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danishstatistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The SkepticalEnvironmentalist.

The scientific community responded in a way that can only bedescribed as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complainedhe had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. Hispublisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that theeditor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists shouldshun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud howCambridge could have ever “published a book that so clearly could neverhave passed peer review.” )But of course the manuscript did pass peerreview by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and allrecommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking apress? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?

Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, whichseemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all aboutpower, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for elevenpages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite theirassertion that the book was “rife with careless mistakes.” It was apoor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparinghim to a Holocaust denier. The issue was captioned: “Science defendsitself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.” Really. Science has todefend itself? Is this what we have come to?

When Lomborg asked for space to rebut his critics, he was given onlya page and a half. When he said it wasn’t enough, he put the critics’essays on his web page and answered them in detail. Scientific Americanthreatened copyright infringement and made him take the pages down.

Further attacks since have made it clear what is going on. Lomborgis charged with heresy. That’s why none of his critics needs tosubstantiate their attacks in any detail. That’s why the facts don’tmatter. That’s why they can attack him in the most vicious personalterms. He’s a heretic.

Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. Ijust never thought I’d see the Scientific American in the role ofmother church.

Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it willbecome, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists toaggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler,former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that”Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics ofscience, not those of politics. If the scientific community will notunfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern thedifference-science and the nation will suffer.” Personally, I don’tworry about the nation. But I do worry about science.

Thank you very much.  Source


About the author:

state_of_fear.jpgMichael Crichton is the best-selling author of Stateof Fear, which takes the reader from the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanoesof Antarctica, from the Arizona desert to the deadly jungles of theSolomon Islands, from the streets of Paris to the beaches of LosAngeles. The novel races forward on a roller-coaster thrill ride, allthe while keeping the brain in high gear. Gripping and thoughtprovoking, State of Fear is Michael Crichton at his very best.

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