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Jim Prentice on Earth Day:

“As in any day where we symbolize a matter of significance, Earth Day highlights the cause, it highlights the importance of all of us making individual efforts, and so yes, it’s important,” he said.

“I would like Canadians to think about our responsibility as stewards as one of the most remarkable landmasses on the earth and the obligation we have to leave Canada, cleaner and better than we found it,” he said.

To make that a reality, he said, Canadians should think about whether they should reduce the size of their car, recycle more, leave their phone chargers plugged in or if they need to keep that flat-screen TV on all the time.

“It’s a question of the individual choices we make,” he added. “How many televisions are you going to have in your house? Are you going to shop and try to get the most efficient appliances in your home? It’s about choices.”

If Canadians should think about changing anything it is their laws and politicians, not their behaviour. We have tried Prentice’s approach before, after all. The One Tonne Challenge was an abject failure of a policy for reducing carbon emissions, and would not have made much of a dent considering the sources of most of this country’s emissions (see chart).


Note: The grey portion of the chart represents GHG emissions from the energy sector. The activity sectors reflect the UNFCCC methodology. Source: Environment Canada, 2007a. National Inventory Report: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, 1990–2005. Greenhouse Gas Division, Ottawa, Ontario.

And besides, if Prentice really wants to change Canadians’ behaviour, he should do more than exhort them to just think about doing so for one day a year. A price on carbon, as economists will agree, would do more to change behaviour than would simply thinking a little on Earth Day.

At least, he thinks its compelling. Bolding mine.

The table below shows c02 increases on Mt Loa since 1959. One can notice the spiking of co2 when el ninos occur, and how the co2 increases were higher when the PDO went warm. This further supports my idea that we are going to get our answer as to what is causing the warming. Cycles of c02 and the evidence that the co2 RESPONDS to warming not causes is pretty straightforward with co-ordinating the data. The real kick in the teeth of co2 being the driver is the big fall with the Pinitubo cooling!

[table at link]

When you put it against the global temps, the co2 is plainly following the Pacific.. the new cold PDO should see a flattening out of the rate of rise.

It would appear the co2 spikes are occurring with warming that is caused by the natural drivers of the warm PDO and the el nino. The most damming of the evidence against co2 being the driver was the drop around 1992 with Pinitubo cooling. To the rationale, objective person, does this look like co2 with its erratic up and downs around the times of el ninos, is the driver, or the driven. The answer is obvious, it is responding to spikes that occur with warming episodes, the driven, not the driver. You can see the response in co2 with and after the nino.

Joe Bastardi is a senior long range weathercaster with Accuweather, and often seen on CNN and Fox News. He is also quite, quite wrong about CO2, fails to explain the year on year overall rise in atmospheric CO2 measured at Mauna Loa and appears to be oblivious to the relationship between gas solubility and ocean temperature.

Meteorologists are not climatologists, and sometimes it shows.

In Medieval England, ambient energy was the labour saving power source of choice. Wind and water power, including tidal, was harnessed to run mills and forges all across England; there were thousands of them, perhaps around 10,000 in the early 14th century.

We can get a sense of their ubiquity from the following maps, first showing just the windmills recorded on manors in escheats (inquisitions post mortem). Source: Mills in the medieval economy: England, 1300-1540 By John Langdon.

Windmills 14thC

Water was also widely harnessed on manor lands, both inland and at the coast as tidal mills. 

Watermills 14thC

To get a sense of how common water and wind power was – when it used to be in everyone’s backyard – I also recommend reading The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages by Jean Gimpel.

Mark Fiore picked up the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning:

For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect, in print or online or both, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Mark Fiore, self syndicated, for his animated cartoons appearing on SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle Web site, where his biting wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues set a high standard for an emerging form of commentary.

According to the San Franciso Chronicle, “Fiore’s winning entry included "Science-gate," which adopts the voice-over tone of a mudslinging political ad to lampoon skeptics of global warming.”

You can see the winning entry here.

Simon Donnor has an interesting proposal for how Canada can make progress on meeting emissions targets. Provinces, if they commit to a defined federal standard for emissions reductions – say, an optimistic 14% below 1990 by 2020 – would become eligible for participation in a federal climate change policy program. This gives them access to tax incentives, rebates for efficiency measures and feed in tarrifs for renewable energy. Provinces can also follow B.C.’s lead and switch income tax for carbon taxes, keeping the revenues in the province.

The opt-in climate policy he suggests offers a realistic way of dealing with the Alberta problem. There’s no way of getting around the fact that Alberta is increasingly dependent on the tar sands, and it is not willing to come close to making, or meeting, an effective emissions reduction target. However, other provinces, like Ontario and Quebec, are committed to making reductions and the Federal government could have a role to play in helping them meet the reductions targets.

A key change in Canada has been the shifting of population, political power and wealth to the west. The West got in, and don’t expect them to put in place federal policy that it would perceive as being against its own interests. Indeed, if politics is shaping up to mean a shift in power away from the federal government to the provincial, the sort of role the federal government can play in climate change will need to reflect and respect that shift. An opt-in program is a good compromise.

Unfortunately, should all the provinces except Alberta choose to opt in and meet targets, there could be little benefit for Canada on the international stage if Canada as a country fails to make overall emissions reductions. Nonetheless, as Prof. Donner points out, “it would be a vast improvement on the status quo” and “break the stalemate that has stalled progress on emissions reductions”. I’ll take it as a good start.

More: http://www.themarknews.com/articles/1183-working-around-alberta-on-climate-change

It’s funniest when people die

Roy Spencer’s satire site ecoEnquirer’s article “Global Warming Activist, Journalist, Perish in Antarctica” fooled Fox and others. I’m not sure if a story where a bumbling Prof Schneider freezes to death should fairly be called satire or some kind of revenge fantasy.

Needless to say, this piece of humor doesn’t come close to the level of lulz obtained by Spencer’s previous, truly epic prank, “satellites show the Earth is cooling.” That one took years to expose.

Earth Hour: it’s all about the symbolism

Earth Hour came and went and one Kiwi produced a fine example of Poe’s Law ambiguity. Compare and contrast.

1. Obviously not a serious internet story:

“Power Hour” Trumps Earth Hour in the battle of conservation.

Power Hour was created for those Canadians who don’t care for the environmental movement and think global warming is a “complete joke”. The basic premise behind the Power Hour movement was to have participants turn on and consume as much electricity in their homes as possible during the hour from 8:30-9:30 pm as a stern act a defiance and way to counteract WWF’s Earth Hour campaign.

2. But what about this? Here’s New Zealander Rick Giles, President of Act on Campus:

I’m actually in favour of Edison Hour… generally it is a celebration of technology and the use of energy rather than the opposite, which seems to be the Earth Hour’s promoted idea.”

Bonus quote:

“Do you believe in man made climate change?” “No, not at all… based on, no one has brought the evidence forth that can counter what I understand presently. But I don’t even… Man made climate change. I think my argument is so powerful that it is not necessary to talk about it.

It’s so hard to do satire on live TV. Job well done. Maybe.

Supping from the Cornucopian teat

Nate Hagans, formerly a contributor at The Oil Drum, is off to Goldman Sachs to manage Cornucopia LLC, a new energy and resource hedge fund. He explains his conversion to Cornucopian thinking:

OK – here it is in a nutshell – though I used to think the main problem with economic theory was that it ignored biology on the demand side and ecology on the supply side, I now see the reality is that neither biology nor ecology has incorporated enough economic theory.

How could anyone continue to ignore economic theory? Especially once one considers these pearls of wisdom:

‘The United States must overcome the materialistic fallacy the illusion that resources and capital are essentially things which can run out, rather than products of the human will and imagination which in freedom are inexhaustible.’ –George Gilder

And then there’s Julian Simon, the intellectual powerhouse who liberated Bjorn Lomborg from the reality-based community:

‘On average, human beings create more than they use in their lifetimes. It has to be so or we would be an extinct species. This process is, as the physicists say, an invariancy. It applies to all metals, all fuels, all food, all measures of human welfare. It applies in all countries. It applies in all times.’ Julian Simon and Norman Myers from “Scarcity or Abundance”? New York Norton. 1994. pp.133-134.

“There is no reason to believe that at any given moment in the future the available quantity of any natural resource or service at present prices will be much smaller than it is now, or non-existent.” (Simon in The Ultimate Resource, 1981)

That’s the same Julian Simon who thought that resource limitation won’t be a problem because humans are smart, will one day invent Star Trek replicators and all live on the moon or something. And that’s why global warming is not a problem, but an opportunity.

Cornucopia LLC can help you seize that opportunity. Here are their core tenets.

1) the obvious fact that the environment falls outside of our market system, and therefore excess wealth derived from processing and packaging it, at least for those who have the balls to take it, is basically free.

1b) And God wants us to. (see Genesis 9, verses 1-2)

2) That growth and subsequent profits depends only in very small part on energy, but are primarily based on information, skill and human ambition. That human cleverness is the ultimate resource, requiring nothing but vacuum and time to create (almost) all conceivable value; and that matter and energy will always fall into line if we think about them cleverly enough. Since energy is a human concept, how can it be more fundamental than we are? This finally became clear to me.

3) The generation of financial capital (money) ushers in abundant social, human, natural and social capital as byproducts, but only to the ones near the source. Entropy does exist, just not in energy as I thought. As money is printed, you have to be close to its genesis to reap outsized rewards as the benefits it confers get watered down by the time it trickles into the economy at large.

Cornucopia LLC. Invest now.

Solved, every publishing scientist’s dilemma

It’s a problem all publishing serious scientists have had to face. From which prestigious journal should one seek a rejection letter, Nature or Science? Problem solved, as Nature and Science have decided to merge.

Science and Nature have ended their historic battle for the world’s best basic science articles, agreeing to cease their respective publications and co-launch an open-access, online-only journal with an innovative democratic peer-review system, sources at both journals revealed this morning.

In a novel revenue system funded by a grant from Facebook, preprints will be posted on a special social networking Web site where scientists registered in the newly created Faculty of a Million (trademark pending) can vote for acceptance by pressing a “Like” thumbs-up button or reject the paper by pressing a “Dislike” button. Each vote will cost $1/£1 and multiple votes are allowed. “There’s been criticism that peer review is too elitist, so we’re using the wisdom of the crowds,” says Aima Jouk, the journal’s new managing editor.

An end to elitist peer review? It’s about time.

You can preview the first edition of the new journal here.


It’s official: the tulips are blooming early in Ottawa. They usually come up in mid-April, not mid March. That’s how weird a winter it has been: soil temperatures two weeks ahead of schedule, no snowfall in March, record breaking warmth and now, early tulips.

artist impression of the Dutch ambassador

The Dutch ambassador isn’t worried:

Dutch ambassador Wim Geerts, who grew up with tulips, said Ottawa residents shouldn’t worry as things could change between now and festival time. "We’ll keep our fingers crossed," he said.

The organisers of the tulip festival plant the tulips to bloom in the early, middle or late season. They planted more than a million bulbs in October 2009.

There is no option of rescheduling the festival to coincide with the blooming of the tulips. "It’s a force that can’t be stopped," said Christine Charette, the festival’s director of planning and operations. "We have booked many acts. It has to begin as scheduled."

The festival, which runs from May 7 to May 24, draws close to 600,000 visitors to the Ottawa area.

Charette says she is hopeful. "This is Canada. It could snow tomorrow. We’re not too worried."

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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.

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.

-‘Aliens Cause Global Warming’. Michael Crichton, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. January 17, 2003

Here are two flowcharts to help anyone apply Crichton’s methodology.

1. Crichton’s simplified science/not science methodology

Crichton scientific consensus 1

Explanation: “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.”

2. Crichton’s science/not science methodology, with particular regard to reproducibilityCrichton scientific consensus 2

Explanation: “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.” Given that, as Crichton established, consensus = not science, and whereas the dictionary definition of consensus is a general agreement, then when a result is repeated (and agreed upon) by others, it will become the consensus and therefore cease to be science.

Further reading:

On evaluating claims of scientific consensus [link]

Coming to a consensus based on data, experimentation, and evidence [link]

Skeptical Inquirer and CSI (formerly CSICOP) have been at the forefront of promoting critical thinking and debunking paranormal claims and pseudoscience since 1977; their list of fellows (past and present) include Francis Crick, Richard Dawkins, Paul Kurtz, Stephen Jay Gould, Douglas Hofstadter, James Randi, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. If you aren’t aware of the work of CSI, I’d recommend taking a look.

Times have changed. The paranormal claims of the 70’s and 80’s no longer infest the zeitgeist as much as they once did; UFOs mysteriously vanished from the news with the increasing ubiquity of personal video cameras and the end of the X-Files, Uri Geller has long since been discredited, and televangelists no longer hold such sway on late night television. Pseudosciences like homeopathy, antivaccination hysteria and intelligent design have come to the fore, making the task of distinguishing between science and pseudoscience critical work.

I’d come to be involved with skepticism after an entirely unsatisfying undergraduate course on the philosophy of science. That was no fault of the professor teaching the course, as he was an excellent instructor; rather, it was unsatisfying because it was just too short. That one hour a week for six weeks sparked a lifelong desire to understand how and why we know what we know, and skepticism provided a hands on way to answer those questions. Working in plant sciences had given me a tangential interaction with the topic of global warming, but it was from a practical, scientific perspective: the effect of shifting climate zones on crop production, for example, and the effect of increasing CO2 on plant growth. The science wasn’t in question among my peers; we accepted the data that was out there and just got on with things. My introduction to climate science denial was through involvement with the skepticism / critical thinking movement.

Skeptics rely on the scientific method and the findings of science to resolve the demarcation problem, in particular between what is science and what is pseudoscience. Homeopathy, for example, is scientific-like. Proponents really can draw upon peer reviewed literature that appears to support its use. Yet homeopathy fails on replication, it fails to be supported by high quality trials, and it is entirely implausible, requiring the suspension of well established principles of chemistry and is founded in sympathetic magic. It is pseudoscience, not science, and on that there is a clear consensus in the skeptical – and scientific – community. On global warming, however, consensus in the skeptical community is much more elusive. A lot of skeptics – able to clearly identify pseudoscience in so many other topics, and otherwise accepting of scientific consensus in any other field – have become convinced that the science of global warming is suspect. It is a testament to the effectiveness of decades of disinformation, and susceptibility to the cognitive biases that affect all of us, that organised skepticism on the whole does not hold a clear position on the science of global warming – although there are a few exceptions, both among individuals and organisations, such as CSI. James Randi, a leading light in skepticism, is rather confused on the topic, while Michael Shermer only recently came to terms with the reality of global warming. It is a puzzle that skeptics will push back against anti-vaccination pseudoscience, homeopathy and chiropractic, and are in fact some of the loudest voices on these topics, yet hold little opinion on the science of global warming, despite this branch of scientific endeavour clearly being under sustained attack. That global warming comprises such a vast blind spot for skepticism was a great surprise to me, and I still find it extraordinary that skeptics can be among the most fervent climate science deniers.

So I’m delighted to see Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), pushing back against climate “skeptics”. They have taken a stand on their Facebook blog, with the Credibility Project, and with numerous articles on the subject in Skeptical Inquirer. Predictably, there’s been blow-back, as outraged readers have cancelled their subscriptions to the magazine. How refreshing then to read this robust defence, from Kendrick Fraser, the editor of Skeptical Inquirer:

This is the third SI reader who has cancelled his (it’s always a male) subscription over our climate change pieces in the current SI (not to mention the at least six who did so after our first round of articles several years ago). Boy, they don’t want to hear anything they disagree with, do they.

It is clear the anti-GW science crowd have their minds made up, and nothing anyone is going to say, no appeal to scientific evidence, no attempt to place things into an accurate context, no attempt to point out that many media and blog portrayals are not always fully accurate, no facts, no explanations, no attempts to show they themselves are being manipulated, nothing is ever going to change their minds. Very much like the evolution/creationist controversy, except that these are some of our longtime readers.

They do not want to engage forthrightly with factual, science-based statements or arguments. They only want their own views reinforced. There is no attempt at open-minded discussion or even fair argument. Just a determination to maintain their ideological purity and not have it be contaminated with any scientific information and perspective that doesn’t support their presuppositions. They want to draw a don’t-tell-me-anything-I-don’t-want-to-hear cocoon around themselves. Unfortunately, that cocoon is growing ever larger. And they know they are punishing us, because, even more than most publications, which have advertising, we depend mostly on subscription revenue.
Guess we should just go along with the crowd, the lynch mob. Hop on the bandwagon. Slam those damned ignorant climatologists coming up with all that nonsense about changing climate and a warming planet. Who needs science anyway?

Kendrick Frazier
Editor, Skeptical Inquirer: The Magazine for Science and Reason

So thank you, Mr. Frazier, for taking on the important task of defending climate science and illuminating the vacuity of climate science denial. Would that more skeptics would do the same.

And you know, that reminds me: it’s past time I subscribed to Skeptical Inquirer myself.


Mike Duffy has a real problem with teaching critical thinking. He’s coming right off my Christmas card list.

“When I went to the school of hard knocks, we were told to be fair and balanced,” Duffy was quoted from his speech in yesterday’s issue of the Amherst Daily News. “That school doesn’t exist any more. Kids who go to King’s, or the other schools across the country, are taught from two main texts.”

According to Duffy — a former CTV News journalist appointed to the Senate last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper — those two texts are Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky’s book on mainstream media, and books about the theory of critical thinking.

“When you put critical thinking together with Noam Chomsky, what you’ve got is a group of people who are taught from the ages of 18, 19 and 20 that what we stand for, private enterprise, a system that has generated more wealth for more people because people take risks and build businesses, is bad,” Duffy is quoted as saying.

Teaching Chomsky? I don’t care about that. Teach it, don’t teach it, whatever. But boy, do journalists need to learn about critical thinking. Take the journalist’s perennial inability to identify credible sources, and the demand for ‘balance’; as Richard Dawkins put it: “When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.”

And it turns out Duffy is, in fact, wrong. King’s don’t teach from Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, and the King’s School of Journalism makes no apologies for teaching critical thinking:

“We’re trying to teach people to have critical thinking skills, to hold accountable anyone who is in any way in authority,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Conservatives, the NDP, the Green party, they’re all fair game in the sense that they have to be able to be transparent.”

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