Subtitle: Climate change for intelligent people
(Following is a guest-blog by Gary Bartlett, P.Eng. on global warming. I’ve added a few introductory remarks relating Gary’s concerns about what is being reported in the popular media to forensic engineering investigation)
Introductory remarks: Global warming and forensic engineering
A forensic engineering investigation of whether or not global warming is taking place might resolve the matter once and for all.
The scientific method underlies both the forensic engineering investigative process and the scientific investigative process. A difference is that the results of a forensic investigation are closely examined in a court of law and rejected if found wanting. On the other hand, the results of a scientific investigation, as sometimes reported, might not have received the same kind of exacting scrutiny.
This is particularly the case if the ‘scientific’ investigation is more in the nature of junk science serving the interests of the reporter rather than science. Or the results of the science are modified to reflect the personal interests of the scientist or his/her employer. Or simplied by the media with their sometimes questionable motives.
Articles in the Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 23, 2013, are relevant. The one by Elizabeth Renzetti on the muzzling of government scientists, page A2. A second by Margaret Wente on the questionable effect of global warming on the polar bear population, page F2.
Forensic engineering investigation must collect evidence – and follow the evidence where it leads, in resolving an issue objectively and with certainty. The opInion of a forensic engineer is judged in a court of law for its objectivity. The certainty with which the opinion is held is also solicited of the forensic engineer in assigning weight to the engineer’s results and opinion.
In a forensic engineering investigation, we form a hypothesis based on what we know, develop and carry out tests of the hypothesis, and, based on the results, confirm, modify, or refute the hypothesis (Ref. 1, 2, 3, and 4). We carry out more tests of a modified or a new hypothesis. An exhaustive implementation of that process solves the problem in most cases, if it can be solved, and enables an objective opinion to be rendered with considerable certainty.
G. Dedrick Robinson and Gene D. Robinson III don’t seem to believe that process has been followed to completion yet in an evaluation of the fact or otherwise of global warming. For example, they believe that evidence such as the history of the earth has not been considered properly in an investigation of global warming. They state their views in their book, “Global warming: Alarmists, Skeptics, and Deniers; A geoscientist looks at the science of climate change“.
If this is true – that the scientific method has not been rigorously followed in evaluating the fact or otherwise of global warming, it’s a serious omission. The evaluation would not stand up to the most gentle of cross examinations in a court of law never mind the aggressive examination to which the results of a forensic engineering investigation are sometimes subjected.
What have Robinson and Robinson found in their look at the science of climate change that would not be tolerated in a forensice engineering investigtion? Some of their findings are reviewed below in a guest-blog.
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Guidelines for Failure Investigation 1989
- ASCE Guidelines for Forensic Engineering Practice 2003
- Steps in the forensic engineering investigative process. Posted October 26, 2012
- What is forensic engineering?, published, November 20, 2012
(The following guest-blog of a recently published book on global warming has been contributed to The Forensic Engineering Blog by Gary Bartlett, P.Eng**)
Guest-blog: Climate change for intelligent people
I think that most of us understand that we need to be somewhat careful about believing everything that we hear and read. Nonetheless, the media seem destined to accept verbatim the pronouncements of those with vested interests in perpetuating myths about the climate with little or no attempt being made to validate what they are told. The result is a never-ending stream of terrifying pronouncements worthy of Chicken Little based on no science or on junk-science or on deliberately manipulated statistics. That kind of stuff can wear a person down and truly cause one to wonder if maybe *they* are correct. Well I was getting nervous, in any case.
Herein is an attempt to dispel some of the myths regarding climate change. It is based on a 2012 book entitled “Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers; A Geoscientist looks at the Science of Climate Change” by G Dedrick Robinson and Gene D. Robinson III, available from http://www.amazon.com/Global-Warming-Alarmists-Geoscientist-ebook/dp/B0070YUCXE.
The major attributes of this book are:
a) The authors do not enter any debate with those with other agendas, whether they be political or economic or media-driven. This book is a discussion of science as it impacts the climate of Earth, no more and no less; and
b) Conclusions reached in this book are based on scientific fact, historical data;, measurable trends, and peer-reviewed information.
My purpose in summarizing the major facts contained in the reference is simply to encourage others to maintain a certain amount of cynicism when reading information found in the media on the whole topic of global warming. If what one reads is not, or it cannot be, supported by science, then it’s best to move on.
C) BOOK’S MAJOR POINTS
Here is my attempt to provide a précis of the major conclusions – all fully supported in the book to which I have referenced – which should cause most people to take and maintain an open mind whenever they hear prognostications on the topic of global warming. Readers owe it to themselves to obtain the book and read the detail to substantiate my summary.
1) OMG, we are in a period of climate change! Guess what: there has never been a steady state in climate since as far back as science has been able to infer temperatures. By no means can current changes in temperature be described as even slightly unique or unusual. Ignore the term entirely when heard used with the adjective *alarming*.
The more that one drills down into the details of planet temperature variations, the more that temperature variation profile begins to resemble a fractal. Trying to forecast the future based on the nano-dimensioned period of, say, 50 years of temperature records is roughly equivalent to trying to estimate the shape of Halifax Bedford Basin from close examination of a foot-wide section of beach at the foot of the Dingle Monument a few miles away. At high tide.
2) The Greenhouse effect will kill us? Yes, there is a greenhouse effect. It has been known about for centuries. Unfortunately one hears the term in a negative sense, but it is exactly the opposite. Without the greenhouse effect (it prevents solar heat from escaping back into space), this planet Earth would be entirely frozen and life would have never developed. The major controlling criterion (95%) that governs the extent of the greenhouse effect is water vapour, not carbon dioxide. Doubling the current amount of carbon dioxide is equivalent to less than a 2% change in the amount of water vapour.
3) Carbon dioxide is a pollutant? That’s a strange way to view the product that all human life produces with every exhalation. It is even tougher to accept that negative connotation when carbon dioxide is of absolute fundamental criticality to photosynthesis. Plants demonstrate proportionally better results in an enriched carbon dioxide environment. While carbon dioxide may be increasing in the atmosphere (although blaming that rise on humans is grossly unfair), current carbon dioxide levels are roughly 1/10 of what they have been for most of the history of the planet.
4) Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are released from the burning of fossil fuels? Well, huge is a relative term, but fossil fuels as a carbon sink amount to a total 4,000 GigaTons whereas limestone as a carbon sink is estimated at 100,000,000 GigaTons. Carbon that enters the atmosphere from natural sources such as animal respiration and from the weathering of limestone greatly exceeds anything that humans are doing. One needs to study the system which processes and then circulates carbon dioxide around the planet (it is a closed system with a turn-around time measured in years!) to provide a better feel for how much guilt is really appropriate for you to feel after committing the sin of using the remote control to start the car and letting it warm up at idle on a winter morning.
5) Earth’s temperatures are being driven up by increases in carbon dioxide? That would indeed be unique since well-established history over millions of years shows that temperature increases (periods of global warming) were followed by increased levels of carbon dioxide, not the other way around. In the current scary environment, cause and effect are mistakenly being employed backwards.
6) Global temperatures are rising? Not for the past 17 years. See http://www.thegwpf.org/ipcc-head-pachauri-acknowledges-global-warming-standstill/.
7) Computer models are the answer? No, computer models are not (yet, if ever) the answer. The planet is a huge system which defies modelling to the degree at which confident predictions are credible. Most forecasts of impending climate horror are coming, not from a scientific analysis of historical facts, but are generated by inadequate models which suffer from many unknowns when they try to manipulate the data and peer into the future. Some of the unknowns in their algorithms are very critical in determining the final outcome of a climate predictive computer run. That is, a tiny change in the estimate of any one constant in the algorithm can cause huge variations in the resulting conclusions. The track record of general circulation model predictions of the past give no cause for confidence in their ability to predict the future, yet they are being heavily relied upon in the popular press (while more meaningful geophysical history is ignored),
8) Data and graphs tell the story, right? No, that’s not right. It is appallingly easy to manipulate data to support a forgone preferred conclusion by taking it out of context, or by playing with X- and Y-axis scaling, etc, just to identify too common distortions. Numerous well-known public presentations show conclusions that are not peer-reviewed and are not true except in the sense that they have been carefully selected and/or carefully presented or are specifically defined in words intended to deceive — all so as to support the position the presenter has espoused. Run, if anyone uses the word “correlation”. Here we need the rigour of science from respected sources.
9) Ice; Two problems:
- All the ice in the world is melting? Everyone talks about the melting of all the Arctic ice to the north of Canada as if that were the end of the story; no-one talks about an off-setting gain in ice near the south pole; and
- We shall die from rising sea levels? The sea level is rising already and has been for 18,000 years. The rise has been three-hundred and fifty feet so far over that period, and the world and the planet are coping. If all the ice in the Arctic were to melt and add to the oceans, the rise would be not be very exciting because most of the northern ice fields are already floating on water. If the Arctic ice were to melt, the oceans do not rise any more than does the water in a glass of sarsaparilla after the ice-cube melts. [The opposite is true of Antarctica but the ice pack is building there]
D) GRATITUTOUS ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
The writers of the book from which I have been so freely cribbing, did not say any of the following things. They are mine. They are based on the qualifications that I claim below (which when added up amount to nearly zero):
- Sun spots: Historical geophysical data would suggest that the climate (temperature) of the planet is greatly affected by sun spots. Current data suggest that the planet could be entering into a period of back-to-back low 11-year sunspot cycle periods similar to what is known as the Maunder Minimum which had been observed centuries before. Since good High Frequency communications propagation is directly proportional to the number of sunspots, this tentatively predicted period represents a prolonged bad-news situation for the amateur radio operator. It may also be bad news for the planet since global temperature can be shown as being related to the quantity, location, and characteristics of sun spots.
- The Maunder Minimum: The many scientists among amateur radio operators who specialize in propagation prediction have access to all known recorded history of sun spot numbers which they analyze for recognizable repetitive patterns. Others plot the data against the planet’s temperature, and if history repeats itself as perceived from these patterns in these consolidated plots, there is a case to be made that the next equivalent to the Maunder Minimum will result in less heat reaching earth from the sun. Because of fewer sunspots (which are hotter than the normal sun’s surface temperature), that will see the planet grow colder to the point that the earth could enter a mini ice-age. Freezing to death with no one to talk to is an unpleasant thought.
- History A big contributor to the problem associated with current reactions to “global warming” is that people do not read history. Big storms are nothing new. A hurricane in Newfoundland in 1775 killed four-thousand (4,000) people. It made Hurricane Sandy look like child’s play. The term “monster” does not truly apply to Sandy when considered against previous storms.
- Complicity People do not want to admit their own contribution to the catastrophic destruction that follows relatively common weather events. The severe damage from Hurricane Sandy was caused by bad human decisions when the consequences were easily predictable. Channels to incoming seawater waterways had been narrowed, thereby exacerbating tidal surges; private residents happily built things on known flood plains; condos and apartment buildings and businesses installed emergency generators and their control panels in their basements. And so it goes.
**Gary Bartlett, P.Eng. is not a geoscientist, astrophysicist, meteorologist, nor does he know anything about those hard topics. The closest he can come to claiming smarts in those areas is that he knows a guy - a long-time friend, who specialized for years in consulting geotechnical and environmental engineering, and now practices forensic engineering (Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng.). Oh, but Gary has faithfully watched professional weathermen Monty, Rube, Peter and Kailin on CBC-TV.
Gary Bartlett, on the other hand, does recognize well-written material with a thorough bibliography from respected sources, he does understand the significance of terms such as “peer-reviewed”, and he does value the demonstration of the proper scientific method as taught by UNB BScEE 1962-67. [His essential cynicism can be traced to a career spent exclusively in the aerospace industry, but that’s a different topic]
He really, really hopes that readers of this blog will buy the referenced book (see more about the author in the attached, below) to find out all the other encouraging fact-based peer-reviewed science that is collected there. And it’s an easy read, too. To top it off, Gene Robinson is personable and cooperative, too. To my surprise, he responded quickly to my request that he review the above précis of his book for accuracy, and his reply caused me to repair a couple of incorrect statements, and allowed me to strengthen others. I release it with confidence.
The World In 2033: Big Thinkers And Futurists Share Their Thoughts
On Global Warming: Gene Robinson
“Twenty years ago, alarmists were already predicting calamitous effects in the near future from a warming planet due mainly to petroleum and coal combustion. The 1990 best-seller Dead Heat painted a nightmarish picture of our world in 2020-2030 when the temperature would average six or seven degrees greater. The first IPCC reports of 1990 and 1995 supported such scary scenarios, giving them an aura of scientific respectability. What actually happened is that the mean global temperature since 1993 increased about 0.2 degree C through 2012 with most of that occurring in the record year of 1998, at the peak of a thirty-year warming trend. Since then, the global temperature has plateaued with no clear trend up or down. Because the flattening is at the high point of a warming trend, each year has to be among the warmest recorded years, as the media tirelessly trumpets. What a convenient way to mask the fact that although CO2 has continued to increase, temperature has not, in spite of the computer models.
What, then, can we project for global warming in 2033? Instead of the abrupt warming that alarmists always say is about to start, my rather cloudy crystal ball says global temperature is more likely to continue showing no clear trend or to be at the beginning of a cooling trend. Alarmists will continue to blame every severe weather event on climate change and to oppose all energy projects except solar and wind. All studies supporting the alarmist view will continue to be publicized in the liberal media while all studies reaching conclusions in opposition will be ignored. Liberal politicians will still support schemes to tax carbon by trying to scare people of what will happen without them, even as the skepticism of ordinary people continues to increase. Grants will still be doled out to scientists whose previous results supported the politically correct view while proposals from skeptics go unfunded. In short, just as little has changed with regard to the politicizing of the global warming theory in the last twenty years, little is likely to change in the next twenty.”
Dr. Gene D. Robinson is Professor Emeritus at James Madison University in Virginia and author of Global Warming: Alarmists, Skeptics & Deniers – A Geoscientist Looks at the Science of Climate Change, available at Amazon and most book stores. He is also the publisher at Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC.