Sea level rise “greatest lie ever told”

I am frankly getting sick of hearing phrases like “Pacific island nations are already struggling with rising sea levels” on the news and other places – never backed up by any real data. Now Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, a sea-level expert, has come out and said the whole thing is a scam. A few excerpts:

But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, “the sea is not rising,” he says. “It hasn’t risen in 50 years.” If there is any rise this century it will “not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm”. …

The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on “going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world”.

There is a lot of aid money to be had in claiming your country is at risk of a natural disaster:

When running the International Commission on Sea Level Change, he launched a special project on the Maldives, whose leaders have for 20 years been calling for vast sums of international aid to stave off disaster. Six times he and his expert team visited the islands, to confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century. Before announcing his findings, he offered to show the inhabitants a film explaining why they had nothing to worry about. The government refused to let it be shown.

The Islamic government of the Maldives is particularly dodgy (I had a Maldivian flatmate once & it was an eye-opener, stories of aid being sold instead of given away etc, you can’t even take a Bible into the country), so this doesn’t surprise me much. Not everyone’s motives are pure…

Now the last thing I would suggest you do is blindly believe this scientist, or to blindly believe anyone else. Just note that there is debate on this issue, so the next time someone claims any island is struggling with rising seas, make sure they back it up with actual measurements.

If they can, please comment, it would be interesting to look at the data.

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Vatican hosting conference on Evolution

Ok, I’m not officially here, but I couldn’t let this one pass! I had gained the impression that Pope Benedict was more conservative than his predecessor (who stated evolution was “more than just a theory”), but this throws that idea out the window.

I would have no problem with the Vatican hosting a conference that was genuinely “A critical appraisal” of Darwinism, looking at it from both perspectives and discussing the science behind it and how it relates to Christianity. But that is not how they are approaching the issue. From the Vatican News Service:

Saverio Forastiero:

“…biological evolution – which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt…”

Fr. Tanzella-Nitti:

“…from the perspective of Christian theology, biological evolution and creation are by no means mutually exclusive.”

Now the idea that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive is a valid opinion to hold. But when such views are being stated by people organising the conference, who should be approaching the issue from an unbiased perspective and allowing both sides of the story to be debated, it shows the tone of the conference.

The topic of the conference:

Fr. Leclerc explained that the congress will be divided into nine sessions, focusing on “the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; … the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, … and what science has to say about the origin of human beings”. Attention will also be given to “the great anthropological questions concerning evolution, … and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature”. Finally, he said, “there will be two theological sessions to study evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church”.

In other words, they will be considering evolution to be an established fact, learning all about those “essential facts” underpinning it, then finally looking at how this can be fitted into Christianity through “correctly” understanding the scriptures.

There is only one way that discussion is designed to go…

Evolution is not an established fact – there are many dissenters, including atheists who disagree on purely scientific grounds. But just like global warming, if you speak up you will generally be ignored by the media (or ridiculed if you are lucky to be noticed), and could lose your job. Furthermore in the opinion of many Christians it IS mutually exclusive with Christianity – Evolution requires death before the Fall (undermining the Cross). It also requires God to use millions of years of death and suffering to create a world he then pronounces to be “very good”, and requires passages clearly written as literal (even in the Ten Commandments) to be interpreted as figurative to squeeze the theory into the text somehow.

By accepting evolution as undeniable fact before the conference even starts, discussion is stifled, and the results are predetermined – just like in a Green Party discussion on climate change…

Reflective plants and global warming – 2

My last post talked about some research into reflective plants that in my opinion will do nothing to combat global warming (even assuming humans are causing the earth to warm). But I actually think this research is a good thing.

Sure, it won’t cool the planet. But it is a great way of getting EU funding. Global warming is the current fad in science. If you want funding, you make sure your proposal mentions global warming somewhere. At the end of the day this will just be plant science and genetic engineering research that the scientists want to do. It is bound to further knowledge of genetic engineering techniques, or photosynthesis, or achieve something else useful. But they can pitch the research towards global warming this year to get funding, and in a few years time the same facilities can be used to combat cancer, or global cooling, or whatever.

Quality research requires long-term projects. But it is very hard to obtain funding for long-term projects these days, most funding being given in 3-year cycles. It is also hard to obtain funding for research for the sake of furthering human knowledge, funders want to see something useful after 3 years – which is fair enough as they are paying for it. But research purely for the sake of finding out the unknown is also vital, because it may be useful in the future in ways we cannot imagine today.

So you have to follow the fads and ensure that however society’s goals change you can satisfy those goals to get funding, while keeping your long-term, more widely useful but not currently fashionable work going at the same time.

So don’t panic too much thinking money will be wasted on something pointless, it all pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge that bit further, using the money of whoever wants to fund research this year. And the more global warming money that can be put into research rather than thrown away on carbon trading and other rubbish the better.

So I wish them luck and hope they find out something useful to further our knowledge of plant science.

Reflective plants and global warming – 1

Reflective plants and global warming – 1

Scientists come up with all sorts of original ideas to secure some funding and secure their jobs for the next few years! Check out this one from the BBC:

Farmers could help curb rising global temperatures by selecting crop varieties that reflect solar energy back into space, researchers say. …

Some crop varieties are naturally more reflective than others. A field of more reflective leaves will send more solar energy back into space than a field of a more absorbent variety.

Yes, you could feasibly reflect a little bit more heat back by doing this. But how much? Over 70% of the earths surface is ocean, which absorbs most of the light that hits it. Only around 30% of the land area is feasibly able to be farmed, and only a tiny fraction of that would be practical to actually plant in more reflective crops (encouraged by subsidies of course). Maybe you could plant 0.2% of the earth in reflective crops as a generous estimate?

“But another possibility for the future would be to produce a [leaf] surface that differs in reflectivity at different wavelengths, so it could selectively absorb wavelengths involved in photosynthesis.”

Newsflash: Leaves already do that. That is why they look green – they absorb the red light (which they use for photosynthesis), and reflect the green, which they don’t use. It is also why plants stay cool on a hot day while most surfaces get hot – they aren’t absorbing radiation they don’t need. But good on whoever thought up this idea, they’re bound to get someone to fund it, it sounds plausible.

So the plan is to plant a tiny fraction of the earth in plants that reflect a tiny fraction more light back into space (remembering plants are already extremely efficient at this so you can make only minor improvements). Supported by massive subsidies. And all while hoping that the market doesn’t act by planting more “bad” plants in unregulated countries to meet consumer demand.

Judge it for yourself.

Reflective plants and global warming – 2