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The Green Hegemony

The following are extracts from an ABC News bulletin broadcast on 30 January:

Wilderness photographer and bushwalker Dan Broun has just returned from the Central Plateau.
Vision he filmed shows how the fires have raced through the area, which is home to unique alpine flora including pencil pines, king billy pines and cushion plants, some more than 1,000 years old.
Mr Broun walked four hours into the bushfire affected areas on Saturday. “We need for people to understand that this is not a natural event.”

Ecologist Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick is also upset by the loss of alpine flora. “They’re killed by fire and they don’t come back,” said Professor Kirkpatrick. “It’s a species that would have been around in the cretaceous period. It’s regarded as one of the main reasons for listing Tasmania as a world heritage area.”

Fire ecologist David Bowman said the fires burning in Tasmania were a sign of climate change.
“This is bigger than us. This is what climate change looks like, this is what scientists have been telling people, this is system collapse.”

One cannot help but be saddened by this bushfire and the devastation it has wrought in the Tasmanian Highlands but the conclusions being drawn by the ABC’s experts are plain nonsense.
The nearest met station to the area under discussion is Liawenee, where, fortuitously, the Hydro Electric Commission began keeping records in the 1920s. According to the archives the mean annual rainfall between 1920 and 1926 was 1072 mm and that between 2003 and 2015 was 929 mm, a difference of only 13 percent. Furthermore average annual rainfall between 1957 and 1963 was even smaller, being only 914 mm.

There is no evidence of a change in the climate in this area and Prof. Bowman’s statement that “This is what climate change looks like … this is system collapse.” is not supported by the facts. Prof. Kirkpatrick’s similar lament that species that “have been around since the cretaceous” are “killed by fire and … don’t come back” is equally hard to swallow. Are we really expected to believe that, after 70 million years of ice-ages, cosmic impacts and major bushfires, conditions are so bad right now that these species are suddenly gone for good? Are we to believe that the alpine herbfield of the Highlands has never burned before?

Wildfire is a natural phenomenon in the Tasmanian landscape and this was so for millions of years prior to the arrival of humans. Indeed many indigenous species have evolved to deal with fire, and some, the eucalypts, even use fire to compete with rainforest species. And yet here we have two of the state’s foremost ecologists seemingly implying that somehow all this is Man’s handiwork.

What is behind these alarmist statements?

In my view they are a manifestation of the Green Hegemony which has been growing for the last 70 years or so. The communist intellectual, Gramsci, developed the idea of cultural hegemony to describe the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class world-view becomes the world-view that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm. In our dealings with the natural world we are expected to kow-tow to university scientists such as Bowman and Kirkpatrick who constitute a de facto intellectual elite, even though their fervently held opinions do not stand up to close scrutiny.

Some of the beliefs, explanations etc., i.e. the principles, that underlie this hegemony are as follows:

  • that there is a “natural balance”,
  • that this balance is disturbed by humanity to the detriment of Nature and
  • that any change in the natural world is evidence of such disturbance.

From these simple axioms many conclusions are drawn, such as

  1. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing and this is entirely due to human industrial activity and land use changes.
  2. Global average temperature is fluctuating therefore all increases (but not decreases) are due to #1 above.
  3. That the number of individuals of many animal and plant species are changing therefore this is always due to environmental and climate changes wrought by humanity.
  4. That there are too many people on the Planet.
  5. That the Planet would be better off if there were no people at all.
  6. That the Planet is facing immanent environmental disaster.
  7. That it is therefore imperative that we limit industrial activity.
  8. That it is therefore imperative that we limit population.
  9. That we do not have time to verify these conclusions using the scientific method but must act immediately before it is too late.

Firstly let me say – this is not science. These are not scientific principles thrashed out over the centuries by the Newtons and the Einsteins. The above principles correspond more closely to religious beliefs – ideas of purity and defilement are present in many religions; the Christians have the idea of original sin. In my view the Environmental Hegemony has come to hold sway partly as a result of the decline of religious belief in the West.

The three principles set out above can neither be proved nor disproved. They are a given. No-one has ever demonstrated that there is, or was, a natural balance. Indeed when a “natural balance” is observed, for example, one large boulder balancing on another, it is a spectacle so rare it is given a name, “The Devil’s Marbles”, or some such and becomes a tourist attraction.

Certainly humanity has affected the natural world to a remarkable degree; witness the transformation of much of Northern Europe and North America from forest to farmland but whether this was desirable or detrimental is a value judgement. Only a century ago most people would have seen this transformation as desirable. Back in those days, “wilderness” was a pejorative term.

It is no coincidence that these beliefs have grown up since the advent of new technologies, typified by satellites and computers, enabled us to gather and view environmental data on an unprecedented scale. When we did this the results turned out to be rather shocking:

The Environment is changing all the time!

How can this be? It is supposed to be a steady-state, a natural balance, Paley’s timepiece. And yet it behaves in this seemingly random and erratic way whenever we look at the fine detail. Global temperature, sea ice extent, glacier extent, the composition of the atmosphere all vary over time.

Obviously something is going on here; perhaps humans are to blame.

People have always been aware of the random nature of the weather but it was assumed that over large regions of space and large intervals of time these irritating variations would “cancel one another out”. After all, everyone knows that if you toss a coin a sufficient number of times the closer you get to 50 percent heads and 50 percent tails. Why doesn’t the weather average out like that to give a stable climate?

Well, in fact it does but we never see “average weather”, we only see “sample” weather. If you toss a coin a number of times the number of heads minus the number of tails is rarely exactly zero and the difference between heads and tails generally gets further and further away from zero as the number of tosses increases. The difference between the number of heads and the number of tails is called a random walk; its variance increases with the length of the sample.

I have shown statistically that global average temperature is also a random walk implying that there is nothing unexpected nor unusual about global temperature. There is no need to look for an explanation in terms of CO2 or solar activity or anything else. There is nothing to explain. There has been no climate change, at least not since Termination I which happened 11,000 years ago. The variations we have seen over the last 135 years are only what you would expect to see. The slight upward trend is known as a spurious regression. It would be strange if global average temperature ware completely uniform. Had it been trending downwards the alarmists would be predicting another ice age (as indeed they were in the 1970s). Much the same argument can be applied to other natural phenomena – “threatened” species numbers, ice-pack extent and so on.

My paper on this topic can be found here. It has so far been rejected by the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society and by Tellus A, a prestigious Swedish meteorological journal.

It might be argued that even if the Green Hegemony is technically not proven scientifically, it is no bad thing to “care for the planet”.

I strongly disagree.

Back in the 1960s when Rachel Carson wrote “A Silent Spring” there was certainly a need for action. Industries were free to pollute, willy-nilly, with no thought for the consequences. Heavy metals and PCBs fouled our waterways and photochemical smog polluted the air we breathe. Something had to be done.

And so it was. Industry in Western countries was forced to clean up its act. This is only now starting to happen in emerging economies such as China whose example serves to show us how far we have come.

However in the process a whole new zeitgeist came into being, a sort of politicised pantheism which I am describing; the Green Hegemony.

There is a downside to this. Here are a few examples:

There is now a confusion of Environmentalism with science in people’s minds. We are seeing a corruption of scientific data sets and of the scientific process which accompanies that confusion. See, for example, Jennifer Marohasy’s blog. Many scientists now see it as more important to save the Planet than to understand it. Anything which serves that end is seen as good science. In effect, taxpayers are funding zealots to preach to them. The scientific method has been abandoned in climate change circles.

There is a growing incapacity to manage natural phenomena stemming from profound misunderstanding of the natural world – examples are the downgrading of hazard reduction in the management of bushfires (e.g. the Kinglake fires and the ensuing Royal Commission) and the grotesque mismanagement of the Macquarie Island ecosystem which cost the taxpayer $23 million to repair.

But worst of all is the anti-humanism that accompanies green zealotry. We need to be very, very careful about this.

In a recent post David Attenborough was quoted as saying that humanity is a scourge on the planet and that if we don’t limit our population ‘the natural world will do it for us’. This philosophy is called Malthusianism. This is discussed by Matt Ridley in his recent book “The Evolution of Everything”.

It lead directly to:

  1. The appalling treatment of the Irish during the Great Famine,
  2. The deliberate starvation of millions in India in 1877,
  3. The German Society for Racial Hygiene (1905),
  4. The forcible sterilization of over 5,000 people per month in Germany in the 1930s,
  5. The forcible sterilization of 63,000 people in the US in the 1970s and
  6. The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

Of course “the natural world will do it for us”; all of my friends are ultimately going to die – that doesn’t mean I should go out and kill them.

Such a statement highlights the difference between being Left and being Green. The Left thinks Capitalism is despicable, the Greens think Humanity is despicable.

This is where it leads: to the delusions of state planning, of state control, of dirigisme, to the crushing of the human spirit, to a lack of faith in humanity itself. Imagine a world without humans; no chess, no mathematics, no science, no wonder, no dogs, no music, no painting, no art, no love, no conversation, no friends, no compassion.

Just bush.

Humanity is the best thing to happen to this planet, not the worst.

A letter to the paper – part II

Most of the letters in response to my original letters confirm my proposition that belief in Climate Change is ideological rather than scientific.

There was however one notable exception from my former colleague, Neil White.

Neil White’s Letter – 27 November:

John Reid seems to be bound up in an ideological strait jacket.

Physical systems don’t change at random, they change because of what is happening around them and in them.

The belief that the temperature time series looks like a random walk
(a) has been demonstrated to be wrong and
(b) is irrelevant anyway as this explanation ignores well-understood physics.

Unlike the other letters, Neil’s argument is not ideological blather. What is going on here?

A bit of philosophy – bear with me.

French scientist, Laplace. In 1814 he said:
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

This is the philosophy of Determinism.

It held sway until the end of the century when people like Boltzmann and Planck discovered that much of physics could be explained in terms of very large numbers of molecules bumping into one another at random. This is the alternative statistical or stochastic view of the world. At the same time the discovery of radioactivity confirmed that in Nature things do indeed happen at random. Boltzmann and Planck had laid the foundation of statistical physics and quantum mechanics.

Brownian motion is named after the botanist Robert Brown. In 1827, while looking through a microscope at pollen grains in water, he noted that the particles moved through the water but was not able to determine the mechanisms that caused this motion. They move in a jerky, random way called a random walk.

Armed with these new statistical concepts, Albert Einstein published a paper in 1905 that explained in precise detail how the motion that Brown had observed was a result of the pollen being bombarded by the random thermal motions of individual water molecules. This explanation of Brownian motion served as definitive confirmation that atoms and molecules really do exist.

Nowadays stochastic process pervades the physicist’s view of the world. It leads to the second law of thermodynamics (heat never flows from colder to hotter, i.e. entropy never decreases) and the idea that information and entropy are two sides of the same coin.

So we can take with a grain of salt Neil’s statement that physical systems don’t change at random. It is a 19th Century concept. His statement (a) is just plain wrong. My forthcoming paper will explain why it is wrong but it is too technical to go into here.

One field of science in which the stochastic model has had zero effect is fluid mechanics which is firmly trapped in the 19th Century. The fundamental equations of fluid dynamics are deterministic and cannot even handle the most fundamental phenomenon in fluid dynamics which is turbulence. Turbulence is a stochastic process. Hence Neil’s statement (b) is also somewhat optimistic; equations which cannot account for laboratory-scale turbulence can hardly be described as “well-understood”.

In fact fluid dynamics is not really a science at all. It is a branch of applied mathematics. Applied mathematicians confidently predict how the Universe ought to work, physicists strive to discover how it actually does work. There is a big difference. Applied mathematicians are rather like Dorothy Parker saying: I have made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with facts.

This may not have mattered too much. Applied mathematicians could have gone on in their ivory towers teaching students how to solve differential equations and pursuing their various arcane hobbies.

Then two things happened:

  1. people started wondering about whether increases in CO2 from industry could affect the climate and
  2. electronic computers gave the world unprecedented computational power.

So the fluid dynamics people, who already used fluid dynamic computer models to make weather forecasts, told everybody they could do the same thing for climate. Obviously, they thought, if you can predict the weather a week ahead, with a bit of tweaking you can predict the climate centuries into the future and so estimate the effect that CO2 will have on the planet.

No one stopped to ask whether this was in fact possible!

So what these guys did was to take Laplace’s deterministic world view and code it up for a super computer.

They took a modelling technique which is ideally suited to predicting the behaviour of machines and celestial bodies and applied it to the fluid processes of an entire planet.

It has failed dismally.

All the computer models predict exponentially rising temperatures but the real world fails to follow suit; exponentially rising temperatures have not been observed. But now so much money and effort have gone into this project that no-one can admit that it is a failure. Instead they desperately clutch at straws while science administrators and science PR people become ever more implausible in their excuses and ever more hysterical in their predictions.

If you look carefully at 135 years of good global average temperature data, it is a random walk like the movement of a pollen grain under a microscope. The supposed rising trend is just a random excursion. These apparent trends in random walk data are well known in Economics (spurious regression – Granger and Newbold, 1974). So far this idea has not filtered through to climate science.

There is no evidence of climate change; climate is a random walk.

A letter to the paper

On Tuesday 4th November my letter appeared in the Hobart Mercury Letters column:

My former colleagues, Doctors Hunter and Godfrey, seem anxious to promote the idea that climate change presents an immanent threat to civilization and that we should cease using fossil fuels ASAP. Your readers should be aware that in doing so they speak as environmental advocates not as scientists. Scientists, by definition, use the scientific method whereby theories which do not account for observations are rejected. Science is about facts.

In the present case, observed variations in global temperature may be fully accounted for as a random walk. The theory that there is an underlying rising trend in global temperature can be rejected with a high level of confidence; it is what is called a spurious regression. Scientists who continue to promote this theory do not understand statistics.

To some it may appear that global warming “must” be true because of observed variations of CO2 in the atmosphere. This too is a furphy. The rapid removal of radioactive carbon from the atmosphere following the 1960s atomic bomb tests demonstrates clearly that such variations are largely due to interchanges between the atmosphere and a very large oceanic reservoir and not to human activity.

The weight of opinion favours an alarmist view of climate change; the weight of evidence does not.

John Reid

It must have touched a nerve because on Friday 6 November there were five letters in response:

One was supportive (thank you Peter Troy), the rest trotted out the familiar arguments:

… the stakes in the climate change argument are very much higher than losing your house …

… burning of Borneo … melting of the ancient Greenland icecaps … seawater acidity affecting molluscs corals and plankton on which the world’s food chain relies …

… weight of scientific opinion …

… 9200 published papers …

… I hope the Mercury applies some sort of quality control to the letters it publishes …

I replied as follows:

Dear Sir

The responses in Friday’s Letters page to my letter about climate change all seem to have missed the point. I said that Hunter and Godfrey were speaking as Environmentalists not as scientists. This was not a put-down of Environmentalism nor of them as competent scientists, it was a statement of fact. They make moral judgements about how we should deal with the world, the climate in particular. They have every right to do this, but science is not about moral judgements, it is about facts. It is not about what ought to be the case, it is about what is the case.

This distinction between science and ideology is important; it first happened in the 17th century with the foundation of the Royal Society and resulted in great advances in science. Now the distinction has again become blurred so that scientists like myself, who dare to suggest that the global warming hypothesis may be wrong, are treated, not as mistaken, but as traitorous. Why would people become so passionate about this issue if it were not ideological? This confusion of science and Environmentalism distorts them both. Unfortunately it is a confusion which affects journal editors and funding agencies as much as scientists themselves.

Ideologies (including religions) are the means by which human moral progress is facilitated, the means by which great numbers of people organise themselves to make the world a better place: to convert the heathen, to free the slave, to save the Planet. The problem is, ideologies are static. It is almost impossible to change an ideology once it is established. People who try to do so are often denigrated as ‘heretics’, ‘recidivists’ and so on.

Environmentalism is no exception. It has been with us since Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ alerted us to the dangers of unrestrained industrial pollution. The environment became something worth preserving, not just because of its relevance to human welfare but for its own sake. But Environmentalism is holding science back. Unlike ideology, science changes all the time as new discoveries and new ideas come to light. In the field of climate science, because of its ideological character, new discoveries likely to challenge the accepted narrative are lucky to see the light of day.

One such new idea is that of false correlation and spurious regression. This has been widely used in the field of econometrics since 1974, but is not seen as relevant in climate science. My present paper on this topic, which explains global temperature changes as random fluctuations, has already been rejected twice by peer-reviewed journals.

I intend to persevere. Wish me luck.

John Reid
P.O. Box 279
Cygnet 7112

So far my reply, like my paper,  has not appeared in print.

Note: the second letter finally appeared in the Mercury on 24 Nov. 2015, almost unedited. A PDF can be downloaded here:  Letter241115.

The Embarrassing Bomb-Test-Curve


The Embarrassing Bomb-Test-Curve

Why all the fuss about carbon? It only stays in the atmosphere for 10 years.

During the 1950s and 1960s, several nations performed atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons. The radiation effects of these tests produced large amounts of C14-carbon dioxide (14CO2) in the air. 14C is an isotope of carbon, the common isotope being 12C. When the bomb tests ceased in 1963, the atmospheric level of 14CO2 had been raised to about twice its previous natural value. This extra 14CO2 can be used as a tracer for tracking the movement of carbon through the natural world – the Carbon Cycle. This wonderfully serendipitous experiment would be hard to beat even if someone designed it.

Over the following half-century the amount of 14CO2 measured in the global atmosphere diminished in a text-book exponential manner as shown in the diagrams above.

14C is radioactive but this curve is not the radioactive decay curve. The half-life of radioactive 14C is 5,730 years , whereas the half-time of the bomb-test curve is only 10 years, i.e. after 10 years only half was left, after 20 years, one quarter was left, after 30 years, only one eighth and so on.

The half-time of CO2 in the atmosphere is of great interest to climate modellers. They assume that CO2 is removed from the atmosphere according to a theoretical curve called the “Bern Model” or a similar curve called the ISAM model. The blue line in the lower panel shows predicted atmospheric decay curve of 14CO2 according to the Bern Model. It is quite different to the observed curve.

The Bern Model utilises four different half-times and does not return to nearly zero after 60 years as does the bomb-test curve. According to the Bern Model it will take centuries for 14CO2 (and anthropogenic CO2) to be ultimately removed from the atmosphere. The modellers chose to adopt the more alarmist scenario despite the fact that it is “non-physical” (i.e. obviously wrong).

Admittedly it is complicated: CO2 reacts with water chemically and this slows down the rate at which it dissolves. Furthermore, while there is a fast interchange of gases between the atmosphere and the top 100 metres or so of the ocean called the “mixed layer” (~70 Gt per year), it is widely assumed that there is much less transport through the bottom of the mixed layer (~2 Gt per year, IPCC figures). The latter is the reason for the flattening out of the Bern Model curve at times longer than 60 years.

But despite these quibbles about the half-time and the shape of the curve, one incontrovertible fact remains:

In 50 years nearly all the bomb-test 14CO2 has disappeared!

Since the 14CO2 reaction rates, solubilities and diffusion times are very similar to those 12CO2, this implies that all the ordinary atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere at the time of the bomb test has completely changed over.

Where has all the 14CO2 gone?

There are various possible CO2 reservoirs, e.g. the biosphere and the mixed layer, but the problem is that these are roughly same size as the atmosphere. A new equilibrium would be soon be reached wherein the bomb 14CO2 would be partitioned between the reservoirs in proportion to their capacity, so causing the bomb 14CO2 in the atmosphere to level off in a similar way to the Bern model curve.

Instead it tends to zero. That this happens implies that the bomb 14CO2 has either been transported to a reservoir that is much, much larger than the atmosphere or it has left the ocean-atmosphere system.

It is commonly accepted that approximately 38,000 Gt of CO2 are dissolved in the deep ocean, more than 100 times the amount generated by humans since the start of the industrial revolution. The deep ocean is larger than any other conceivable reservoir. Either the missing 14C is sequestered in the deep ocean or it has been removed altogether, perhaps as carbonate in the skeletal material of sea creatures.

WOCE – the World Ocean Circulation Experiment produced detailed maps of the major constituents of the oceans in the mid-1990s. The WOCE Atlas is on-line and it is certainly worth a look; oceanography at its very best. The Pacific Ocean maps and sections are the most detailed and complete.

One of the chemical signatures mapped by WOCE is delta 14C, the proportion of 14C above the background level. Here is a map of delta 14C in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 200 metres:


and here is a longitudinal section of the top 1000m at 150 deg W (near the Hawaiian Islands, represented by the black bar):


All of the pink area (delta 14C positive) reflects bomb-test 14C. Using WOCE maps of total carbon it is possible to estimate how much of the bomb-contaminated atmosphere finished up in the Pacific Ocean after 30 years.

The answer is 30 Gt, only a tiny fraction of 700 Gt lost from the atmosphere in that time.

Evidently atmospheric carbon is being sequestered in the Pacific at the rate of about 1 Gt/year which fits the IPCC figure of 2Gt per year for the whole ocean. Wherever most of the bomb-test 14C has gone, it is not the Pacific Ocean.

What about the Southern Ocean? Because the Southern Ocean is so turbulent, it has a very deep mixed layer and, in theory, this should allow, atmospheric CO2 to mix down much deeper and then to flow northward along constant density surfaces (isopycnals) into the deep, temperate-zone ocean. However recent theoretical work (Sallee et al, Nature Geoscience, 2012) has shown that only 0.42 Gt per year can be sequestered in this way. Furthermore WOCE sections such as Section P16, shown above, do not support the idea that the Southern Ocean is the gateway for CO2 transport into the deep Pacific. Rather, these observations imply that the bomb-test 14C has moved slowly downwards and equator-wards from the north and south temperate zone mixed layers across the isopycnals.

What about the Indian and Atlantic Oceans?There appears to be no WOCE delta 14C data available for these oceans. After 20 years the WOCE people have not quite gotten around to working up the Indian and Atlantic 14C data for public display.

What is the problem? Bomb-test 14C is the best tracer available for tracking the circulation of the deep ocean, the stated aim of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment. Its absence from the WOCE data sets is very strange. Under normal circumstances it would be reasonable to assume that this is due to some sort of technical glitch or funding hiatus. However taken together with NASA’s obvious embarrassment with their remarkable OCO-2 satellite observations of atmospheric CO2 distribution discussed previously here and here, it implies a hidden agenda. At the time of writing no further OCO-2 maps have been published by NASA. Why are CO2 maps so embarrassing?

The Keeling Curve. Wikipedia: The Keeling Curve is a graph which plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since 1958. It is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that began under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. Keeling’s measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Many scientists credit Keeling’s graph with first bringing the world’s attention to the current increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Graphs showing the remorseless increase of atmospheric CO2 are commonplace on the Web and in the media. Keeling’s Mauna Loa graph has been replicated many times at other monitoring sites throughout the world such as the Baseline Monitoring Station at Cape Grim in NW Tasmania. It is incontestable; the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing since 1958.

What is contestable is the explanation given for this increase. It is commonly assumed that the increase is entirely due to human industrial activity and land-use changes. It is commonly assumed that the movement of CO2 through the oceans and the biosphere, the Carbon Cycle, is well understood and that the human contribution is both significant and harmful. The bomb-test curve shows these assumptions to be questionable. It shows that the Carbon Cycle is certainly not well understood and that atmospheric CO2 does not behave as we thought it did back in 1995 when the IPCC was set up. As more information comes to light, the assumptions on which “Climate Science” is based become ever more dubious.

Gösta Pettersson, Professor Emeritus of biochemistry at Lund University and an expert in reaction kinetics, estimates that less than half of the observed CO2 increase is man-made. Murry Salby suggests the figure is less than one-third. If half of the atmospheric CO2 (360 Gt) turns over every 10 years due to natural causes this is hardly surprising; the human contribution in ten years is around 90 Gt.

Pettersson has self-published a book on this, “Falkst Alarm”, which unfortunately is in Swedish. English versions of key chapters can be downloaded here (paper4 and paper5).

Climate change has become a billion dollar industry. Let’s not spoil a good thing for the sake of a few maps.

The Subversion of Science by Green-Left Politics


The Subversion of Science by Green-Left Politics.

by John Reid

The Enlightenment
The development of modern science in the late 18th century went hand in hand with the rise of modern industrial capitalism. Its potteries, mines, steam engines, mechanization, and science itself, were all done by private enterprise. The role of government was to enforce patents and maintain a healthy legal and commercial environment.

Nowadays most scientists are paid by the government. What passes for science has largely become taxpayer-funded Environmentalism. Environmentalism has taken over much of science.

Scientists discover, understand and inform. 

Environmentalists preach.


All of us … are borrowing against this Earth in the name of economic growth, accumulating an environmental debt by burning fossil fuels, the consequences of which will be left for our children and grandchildren to bear.  Marcia McNutt – Chief Editor, Science Magazine.

This is preaching. There is no scientific justification for this statement, which was made by the editor of  one of the world’s most prestigious science journals.  It is a statement of militant Environmentalism, pure and simple. To say that she should have known better is to misunderstand the situation. It would be like saying that the Communists, who controlled big chunks of the Australian trade union movement in the 1950s, “should have known better”.  Environmentalists are way ahead of those old Communists; their “Long March through the Institutions” is now a fait accompli.

It works like this: activists use science to push for international action on a science-related issue in an area such as health or environment. Then, an international agreement is established, and the science on which it is has been based becomes institutionalized and funded by government. Time and again, when this happens, “the science” stops being science. This is because the scientists working on the relevant topic start being advocates and stop being researchers. After all, they are now being paid by the bureaucracy to support a particular doctrine, not to discover new stuff.

Real science, which requires a sceptical and innovative frame of mind, then withers on the vine.

Here are some examples:

Radiation Health
In 2012 I received 7000 milli-Sieverts of radiation as treatment for prostate cancer. I found out from the Web that this is twice the fatal dose! I became curious about how I came to survive this assault  and I discovered that radiation administered in moderate doses is not cumulative and is not especially harmful. In my case it was definitely beneficial.

But the International Committee for Radiological Protection says otherwise . They say radiation effects are always cumulative and that there is no safe dose: see here about Wade Allison‘s book, Radiation and Reason.

But you can’t be too careful, I hear you say. Well, yes you certainly can be too careful.  The Japanese government was too careful when it forcibly relocated 100,000 people following the Fukushima meltdown.

The facts:

  • Number of deaths:    about 1600 people.
  • Cause of deaths:    Suicide mainly.
  • Number of cases of radiation sickness:    3 people.
  • Number of deaths caused by radiation:    none!

The suicides arose from the social dislocation which occurred when people were compelled to leave their homes and their farms and their jobs and their schools to be relocated to the other side of Japan for reasons of political correctness.


The 1968 London Convention on Ocean Dumping
This forbids the disposal of poisons such as heavy metals in the deep ocean. Hydrothermal vents were discovered in 1977, 9 years after the convention took place.  Also known as “black smokers”, they lie on mid-ocean ridges and above volcanic hotspots, 2 to 3 kilometres below the surface of the ocean. Every year they  pump into the ocean:

  • 500 tonnes of Arsenic,
  • 1500 tonnes of Lead,
  • 50,000 tonnes of Copper,
  • 140,000 tonnes of Zinc and
  • many other metals including Uranium and its radioactive daughters.

This has been going on for, perhaps, a billion years or so.

Nature is the biggest polluter of the ocean and the London Convention is a joke. In fact it is worse than a joke because it precludes sensible, practical solutions to important environmental problems. For example, without it we could dispose of radioactive waste in deep ocean trenches where it would be out of harm’s way until it is ultimately subducted under the earth’s crust by geological processes.

Climate Change
The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is the most egregious example of this science-destroying institutionalization. It is all the more virulent because it feeds into the pre-existing mindset of Left and Green ideologies about “Corporate Greed” and “Mankind wrecking the planet”.

Billions of dollars are being pumped into this. Tens of thousands of climate modellers, their technicians and their computer jocks are the self-righteous recipients. They are not going to give up their funding easily – for them this is the greatest thing since sliced bread and, what is worse, most of them sincerely believe that they are saving the planet.

Over the last 30 years, Climate Science, once a forgotten little wallflower, has become a rock star.

There is really no solid evidence that human activities affect global climate. It is only a theory. Computer models based on this theory have no predictive power; they are  complicated curve-fitting exercises and, like all such curve-fitting exercise, they fail catastrophically outside the range of the fit.

On the other hand there is ample evidence that so-called “greenhouse gases” do not affect global temperature to any observable degree (see my UNFCCC Submission to the Federal Government for more detail), viz.:

  1. The observation that the amount of industrial CO2 added to the ocean-atmosphere system since the beginning of the industrial revolution, about 400 Gigatons, is only a tiny fraction of the total amount in the system, 32,000 Gigatons.

  2. The observed rate of decrease in temperature with height, the adiabatic lapse rate, is measured many times a day throughout the world by weather balloons and it fits a simple convective heat transport model of the lower atmosphere. It does not fit a simple radiative heat transport model; there is no blanket of CO2 “holding the heat in”.

  3. Careful comparisons of small changes in global average temperature with variations in atmospheric CO2 concentration indicate that the latter lags the former by about ten months indicating that temperature increases cause CO2 increases and not the other way around.

  4. The global distribution of atmospheric CO2 concentration recently observed by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory does not support the view that increases in this gas are largely due to Western industrial activity. Rather, the gas appears to emanate from the rice paddies and rain-forests of the Third World (see here and here).

  5. The observation that global average temperature has a variance spectrum which is “red” at every time scale from one year to 100,000 years (i.e. the longer the time scale the bigger the variation). The small variations (~0.8°C) which occurred during the 20th Century are only to be expected. They are random walk excursions. There is nothing to explain. Climate science is like picking patterns in TattsLotto numbers.  Meteorologists can predict the weather up to about a week ahead. That’s as good as it gets.

But if you are a scientist who is part of the climate change institution this evidence  is all irrelevant. The “Science of Climate Change” was frozen sometime back in the 1990s when the IPCC was first set up. Nowadays it is just a matter of running ever more complex computer simulations and making more “projections” of future climate and its alarming consequences.

And, of course, re-jigging the data so that it fits the models better.

We often hear it said that “97 percent of climate scientists agree …” and so on

Well they would, wouldn’t they.


About the author: I have a PhD in Upper Atmosphere Physics from the University of Tasmania. I have worked for the Australian Antarctic Division and CSIRO in auroral physics, ocean waves and fluid dynamic modelling.

I am a scientist – I discover things. I discovered cosmic noise absorption pulsations and I discovered the physics underlying the frequency down-shifting of surface gravity waves. I am presently working on a method for distinguishing between cyclical behaviour and random walk excursions in natural time series.

Ocean Acidification

Ocean Acidification

Okay then, if Climate Change is a furphy, what about Ocean Acidification? As CO2 induced acidity increases, at is certainly is at the moment, won’t this affect the capacity of all shellfish to breed and prosper as their shells dissolve or fail to form? Such an event must have a dramatic effect on marine ecosystems.

Here are some recent quotes from a experts:

Study outlines threat of ocean acidification to coastal communities in U.S.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Coastal communities in 15 states that depend on the $1 billion shelled mollusk industry (primarily oysters and clams) are at long-term economic risk from the increasing threat of ocean acidification, a new report concludes.

This first nationwide vulnerability analysis, which was funded through the National Science Foundation’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The Pacific Northwest has been the most frequently cited region with vulnerable shellfish populations … “Ocean acidification has already cost the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly $110 million and jeopardized about 3,200 jobs,” said Julie Ekstrom, who was lead author on the study while with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is now at the University of California at Davis.

George Waldbusser, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and biogeochemist, said the spreading impact of ocean acidification is due primarily to increases in greenhouse gases.

And here are some more experts from the same university:

Researchers think Axial Seamount off Northwest coast is erupting – right on schedule


NEWPORT, Ore. – Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano located about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington, appears to be erupting – after two scientists had forecast that such an event would take place there in 2015.

Geologists Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington made their forecast last September during a public lecture and followed it up with blog posts and a reiteration of their forecast just last week at a scientific workshop.

They based their forecast on some of their previous research – funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which showed how the volcano inflates and deflates like a balloon in a repeatable pattern as it responds to magma being fed into the seamount.

Maybe the unusually high CO2 concentrations observed in the coastal waters of Oregon have something to do with this persistent underwater volcano.

How long have we got?

Well it is not that simple.

Kate Madin writing in Oceanus Magazine, December 2009:

The scientists exposed the tanks to air containing CO2 at today’s level (400 parts per million, or ppm), at levels that climate models forecast for 100 years from now (600 ppm) and 200 years from now (900 ppm), and at a level (2,850 ppm) that should cause the types of calcium carbonate in shells (aragonite and high-magnesium calcite) to dissolve in seawater.

As expected, in the highest CO2 used, the shells of some species, such as conchs—large, sturdy Caribbean snails—noticeably deteriorated. The spines of tropical pencil urchins dissolved away to nubs. And clams, oysters, and scallops built less and less shell as CO2 levels increased.

However, two species of calcifying algae actually did better at 600 ppm (predicted for the year 2100) than at present-day CO2 levels, but then they fared worse again at even higher CO2 levels. Temperate (cool-water) sea urchins, unlike their tropical relatives, grew best at 900 ppm, as did a temperate limpet.

Crustaceans provided the biggest surprise. All three species tested—the blue crab, American lobster, and a large prawn—defied expectations and grew heavier shells as CO2 swelled to higher level

Evidently the point at which ocean acidification becomes a problem is still some way off even if we assume that atmospheric CO2 will continue to increase at the present rate.

That assumption is not justified. Atmospheric CO2 concentration has varied widely in the past even before the present industrial era. Like global average temperature, CO2 variations are fundamentally random in character and largely unrelated to human activity.

It appears then that the Ocean Acidification threat is all part of the same moral panic as Climate Change.


Climate Change is a Moral Panic



Climate Change and Moral Panic

John Reid

I am often asked how I can possibly doubt the reality of human induced climate change when so many highly qualified people support it; it would have to be a conspiracy on a grand scale.

As I see it, rather than a conspiracy, it is a moral panic similar to the witch hunts of earlier times. It is worth Googling “moral panic” to get a feel for this topic.

Moral panics have several distinct features. According to Goode and Ben-Yehuda, moral panic consists of the following characteristics:

  1. Concern – There must be belief that the behaviour of the group or category in question is likely to have a negative effect on society.
  2. Hostility – Hostility towards the group in question increases, and they become ‘folk devils’. A clear division forms between ‘them’ and ‘us’.
  3. Consensus – Though concern does not have to be nationwide, there must be widespread acceptance that the group in question poses a very real threat to society. It is important at this stage that the ‘moral entrepreneurs’ are vocal and the ‘folk devils’ appear weak and disorganised.
  4. Disproportionality – The action taken is disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the accused group.
  5. Volatility – Moral panics are highly volatile and tend to disappear as quickly as they appeared due to a wane in public interest or news reports changing to another topic.

Human induced climate change fits the first four points quite well with climate deniers as the folk devils. Note the emphasis on “consensus” in #3. I have discussed #4, disproportionality, in my previous post:  the evidence for human induced climate change is weak and there is strong evidence against it.

It is hard to understand how climate “deniers” pose a threat to society but evidently the President of the USA thinks they do according to his recent Call Out a Denier campaign

Climate Change has been rolling for nearly three decades now and can scarcely be termed “volatile”. Maybe it is because it has become an institution; thousands of people’s livelihoods have come to depend on keeping the panic level high.

It is an institutionalised moral panic.



UNFCCC Submission

On 28th March the Prime Minister released an issues paper inviting views on Setting Australia’s post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. The Web page states:

The issues paper provides the context for setting Australia’s post-2020 target and the key considerations that will inform the Government’s decision-making process.

We recognise the importance of consulting widely on this issue, and the views of the Australian community will be considered in setting the next target.

I made my submission yesterday. The link worked well and I had no problems with it. It was considerably easier than submitting a scientific paper for publication. Submissions close today (24/4/15).

My argument is that since the issue of emissions targets is based on the belief that carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activity affect global climate and given that no scientific evidence has yet been found to support this belief, the whole thing is a complete furphy and should be ignored or diplomatically downplayed by Government.

My conclusions were as follows:

It follows from the above that there is no scientific basis for introducing an emissions scheme. There may well be a political basis for doing so if we do not wish to be seen as an environmental pariah internationally. In which case we should chose the most conservative commitment such as parity with that of, say, China.

However it should be borne in mind that the present “Pause” in global temperature increase could, over the next decade, turn into a full decline and further confound the experts. Likewise the observed steady increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration may cease or even reverse. In either event, taking an independent line on this issue could serve us well in the long term.

The complete submission can be found here.

In Defence of Humanity

In Defence of Humanity

John Reid

A paper “Defining the Anthropocene” by Lewis and Maslin of the University of Leeds in the UK appeared in Nature last week. The abstract reads:

Time is divided by geologists according to marked shifts in Earth’s state. Recent global environmental changes suggest that Earth may have entered a new human-dominated geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Here we review the historical genesis of the idea and assess anthropogenic signatures in the geological record against the formal requirements for the recognition of a new epoch. The evidence suggests that of the various proposed dates two do appear to conform to the criteria to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene: 1610 and 1964. The formal establishment of an Anthropocene Epoch would mark a fundamental change in the relationship between humans and the Earth system.

It is not a new idea. There have various permutations of the name: Anthropozoic (Stoppani 1873),  Anthrocene (Revkin, 1992), Homogenocene (Samways, 1999) culminating in Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000) and there have been various permutations of the idea itself, e.g. Ruddiman (2003): The anthropogenic greenhouse era began thousands of years ago.

Then what is the significance of 1610 and 1964? Why all the fuss?

1964 was the era of atomic testing which left its mark on the trace concentration of various gaseous isotopes in the atmosphere. Lewis and Maslin rightly dismiss this as a marker because it has had no discernible effect for those of us who do not have access to a mass spectrometer. For them the important thing is the dip in atmospheric CO2 concentrations which occurred in 1610 which they have pompously dubbed the Orbis Spike.

Scientific American’s take on it is as follows:
Much like the golden spike that marks the end of the dinosaurs, the proposed Orbis spike itself would be tied to the low point of atmospheric CO2 concentrations around 1610, as recorded in ice cores, where tiny trapped bubbles betray past atmospheres…

The CO2 drop coincides with what climatologists call the little ice age. That cooling event may have been tied to regenerated forests and other plants growing on some 50 million hectares of land abandoned by humans after the mass death brought on by disease and warfare, Lewis and Maslin suggest. And it wasn’t just the death of millions of Americans, as many as three quarters of the entire population of two continents. The enslavement (or death) of as many as 28 million Africans for labor in the new lands also may have added to the climate impact. The population of the regions of northwestern Africa most affected by the slave trade did not begin to recover until the end of the 19th century. In other words, from 1600 to 1900 or so swathes of that region may have been regrowing forest, enough to draw down CO2, just like the regrowth of the Amazon and the great North American woods, although this hypothesis remains in some dispute.

Clearly humanity has had, and continues to have, a marked effect on large chunks of the planet. Farmland has replaced forest over most of North-western Europe, for example, and this process has been happening for millennia. What is new is the idea that there is a significant spike in atmospheric CO2 which is of major importance. Close examination of the CO2 record shows that there was indeed a slight dip which minimized around 1610 but there is no evidence to link this blip to the Little Ice Age nor to the putative disruption of American farming communities. It precedes the Maunder Minimum in solar activity by a couple of decades and so is unlikely to have a solar origin. It is most likely random noise.

It seems the purpose of the paper is give a scientific-sounding name to the effect humanity is having on the planet, the subtext being that such effect must be an unmitigated Bad Thing. Googling “anthropocene ruin” generates 248,000 hits: The year humans started to ruin the world (Bloomberg, Sydney Morning Herald), The year humans caused irreversible damage to the earth (Daily Mail) and on and on.

A common lament is the supposedly increased rate of species extinction, always assumed, of course, to be the result of human carelessness. Species extinction rates vary widely over time. The last great extinction occurred during the Paleocene and Eocene epochs between 65 and 37 million years ago. At the end of the Paleocene, a major episode of faunal turnover (extinction and origination) largely replaced many archaic groups with essentially modern groups which include primitive horses, rhinoceroses, tapirs camels and deer, rodents, rabbits, bats, proboscideans, and primates. In the late Eocene an episode of global cooling triggered changes in the vegetation that converted areas of thick rainforest to more open forest and grasslands, thereby causing another interval of evolutionary turnover that included the disappearance of the last of the primitive herbivores.

We should remember that humans have added hugely to biodiversity during the present epoch, the Holocene. Many varieties of domesticated animals and plants have been brought into existence by selective breeding by humans; think of all the multitudinous varieties of maze, of potatoes, of roses, of horses and cattle and dogs. Think of dogs. The dog, as we know it, would not exist but for us; there would only be wolves, coyotes and jackals. There may well be a case for renaming the entire Holocene, the Anthropocene. The idea that a geological epoch should start at a fixed calendar date is ridiculous.

It might be might be argued that varieties are not the same thing as species and that in that sense we have not increased biodiversity. That may be so but in effect all new species start out as varieties. The subtle genetic changes, which prevent different species interbreeding, happen quietly in the background. It is not obvious when a new species comes into existence whereas it is noticeable when a species becomes extinct. There is more than a whiff of Creationism in people such as David Attenborough striving so energetically to keep declining species in existence. Evolution hasn’t stopped; Planet Earth is a work in progress.

Lewis and Maslin’s paper isn’t science: it is Green propaganda.

The Best Science Problem Ever

The Best Science Problem Ever

John Reid


Science isn’t about finding solutions.

It’s really about finding problems.

I am talking about the taxpayer-funded science that is done in universities and government science agencies. If you are a working research scientist and you happen to solve a long-standing problem, how are you going to justify your funding for the next triennium? On the other hand, if you come up with, or participate in, a good Problem, it can keep you, your students and your institution funded for decades to come.

Climate Change is a wonderful science Problem with a capital “P” because it feeds into Western cultural preconceptions about guilt and redemption, about the fundamental wickedness of humankind and about the ultimate perfectibility of Man and Society. In the West there has always been a breast-beating minority with an exaggerated sense of sin, who wish to change the world before some imagined apocalypse overtakes us all. They tend to take the moral high ground and villify those who would question their baseless beliefs. Nowadays they are called “the Greens”.

Climate Change is the outcome of an unholy alliance between Problem-seeking scientists and Green zealots. Some people are both. Green scientists are the ones who are “saving the planet”. The rest of us are still trying to understand it.

The real beauty of the Climate Change Problem is that it can never be solved while at the same time it provides endless material for breast-beating media pronouncements.

Please comment: I had to switch off the comments facility because I was getting too much spam. Send your comments to me personally or to the email address in the banner at the top.

Is Bitter Better?

Foxgloves growing “outside the fence” near Cygnet, Tasmania.

Is Bitter Better?

John Reid

According to a recent article in Science magazine (“How modern humans ate their way to world dominance” by Ann Gibbons) humans have fewer bitter-taste genes than chimps. She writes:

… anthropological geneticist George Perry of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and his colleagues compared the genomes of modern humans and chimpanzees to the newly published genomes of a Neandertal and one of its close relatives, a mysterious human ancestor known as a Denisovan, known only from a few bones found in a Russian cave. All three groups of humans had lost two bitter taste genes, TAS2R62 and TAS2R64, that are still present in chimpanzees, the team reports this month in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Two million years ago, our early ancestors such as Australopithecus or early members of Homo likely found wild yams and other tubers bitter. But as humans began to cook, they could roast tuberous root vegetables long enough that they weren’t as bitter. (Today, hunter-gatherers still rely on roasted tubers as a major source of calories.) At the same time, hominins—members of the human family—lost those two particular bitter taste genes, so they were presumably able to eat a wider range of tuberous plants. Modern humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans all lost the ability to detect the bitter flavor in some wild plants and eventually modern humans bred varieties of squashes, gourds, and yams that are less bitter than the wild types.

My wife and I have been gardening on the edge of native forest in Southern Tasmania for a decade now and we have had some hands-on experience with native animals and bitter plants.

Rufous wallabies (Thylogale billardierii) are particularly voracious and will even eat potato tops. “Will it grow outside the fence?” is a popular topic among local gardeners. Bulbs such as daffodils will survive and sometimes beds of daffodils can be seen in wild places decades after house and gardener have disappeared.

We have noticed that plants noted for their alkaloid content, particularly foxgloves (digitalis) and tobacco (nicotiana), do quite well outside the fence, presumably because they taste bitter to the animals.

Now here’s the thing: presumably these plants evolved to secrete poisonous alkaloids to protect themselves from being eaten by animals and the taste genes of the animals co-evolved to prevent them from being poisoned by alkaloids. Hence having fewer bitter taste genes should be an evolutionary disadvantage rather than an advantage as the article suggests.

Maybe we humans lost the TAS2R62 and TAS2R64 genes because, having learned how to cook, we no longer needed them.

Jennifer writes to the Minister.

Many Australians go along with the catastrophic climate change myth because they find it hard to believe the sheer scale of the bureaucratic and scientific corruption necessary to maintain it. If you are one of them read this.

Jennifer Marohasy is a research scientist specialising in weed control and environmental management. The need for accurate meteorological data in her work has led her to question the current practice of “adjusting” historical Australian meteorological records. She recently wrote about this to the new Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister to the Environment, Mr Bob Baldwin MP.

Her letter concludes:

In conclusion, while the Bureau professes to use world’s best practice in the construction of temperatures series that ostensibly show run-away global warming, the techniques employed could perhaps be better described as designed to exclude the hot years of the Federation drought, negate the cooling evident across much of the continent from 1910 to 1950, and exaggerate recent warming from at least 1970 to 2000. That many senior managers at the Bureau have built their careers on the notion that temperatures will continue to increase, and are recorded in the Climategate emails as believing in the need to continually reinforce to the public that temperatures will continue to increase irrespective of the evidence, means the committee has a mighty job restoring some integrity to the official national temperature record. Indeed, I believe this will only be possible when there is cultural change at the Bureau, and within the climate science community more generally. I nevertheless wish you, and the new panel all the best in this most important endeavour.

The full text can be downloaded here.

Note that this “world’s best practice” in massaging records is precisely the same as that used by NASA in bringing us the “record hot year” of 2014.