Friday, May 09, 2008

Global Warming and Cooling - The Reality

Stephen Wilde has been a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1968. The first two articles from Mr Wilde were received with a great deal of interest throughout the CO2 Sceptic community. In Stephen Wilde's third and exclusive article below, he explores the mechanics and mechanisms involved in the Earth's warming and cooling. Needless to say, CO2 variations are unimportant

It's all very well doing what alarmists do which is to say that CO2 is rising and temperatures are rising so in the absence of any other known cause it must be man made CO2 that is warming the planet. That approach ignores both the differing scale of the possible influencing factors and the clear historical relationship between cooler climates and periods of a less active sun. The presence of the sun must be a much bigger influence on global temperatures than the greenhouse characteristics of CO2 on it's own.

At most the greenhouse effect can only be marginal though some have tried to talk it up by asserting that the planet would be very much colder without a greenhouse effect, which is correct, but avoids the issue of the rather small proportion of the overall greenhouse effect provided by CO2 and the even smaller proportion provided by man. It also begs the question as to whether the oceans are slowly releasing CO2 as a result of natural warming. If the oceans warm for any reason they will release CO2 into the atmosphere because water holds less CO2 at higher temperatures.

The greenhouse effect, as a whole, may smooth out rises and falls in temperature from other causes but is not itself the determining factor for global temperature. If the heat from the sun declines the global temperature will fall with or without any greenhouse effect and if the heat from the sun increases the global temperature will, of course, rise. The greenhouse effect does not create new heat. All it does is increase the residence time of heat in the atmosphere.

In the ice core record, CO2 increase has always lagged behind temperature rises and the lag involved is estimated to be 400 to 800 years. There has never been a period when a CO2 rise has preceded global warming. I have seen it argued that the past 30 years has been so exceptional that it MUST, for the first time in the history of the globe, be CO2 driving the warming trend. That is an assertion of such low probability that it should require very powerful evidence to support it. I have seen no such evidence. Indeed, on a cursory inspection the slow but steady increase in atmospheric CO2 is clearly not coming through in a slow but steady rise in global temperatures. Instead we see rises and falls in global temperatures that bear no obvious relationship to the steady rise in CO2 unless one puts the cart before the horse and announces that there is no other possible reason and the trend period adopted is carefully chosen to suit the proposition.

All it needs to cast doubt on the CO2 theory is an alternative possibility to explain a rising global temperature trend over the past 500 years and there is one. Everyone will have heard of the Little Ice Age and the global temperature would appear to have been recovering from it ever since. On a balance of probability is that not the more likely explanation of an overall warming trend ever since? Why introduce manmade CO2 at all except for politically motivated reasons? By all means exclude a recovery from the Little Ice Age as the reason if one can but the burden of proof is heavy and probably impossible to discharge with current knowledge. There was also a Mediaeval Warm Period (MWP) that preceded it. It has been asserted by some that the MWP was not as warm as the planet is now but there is evidence to the contrary such as Viking settlements in Greenland at the time. It has also been asserted that the MWP was not worldwide but some recent indications have been found in South America that it was warm there at about the same time. In any event it is unlikely that such a warm period affecting Greenland and Western Europe would not be worldwide. The heavy burden of proof is on those who would seek to deny it.

Be that as it may, there is a probability rather than a possibility that the warming trend since the lowest point of the Little Ice Age is continuing to this day and is the real cause of recent observed warming with only a minimal contribution, if any, from man made CO2 emissions.

Then there is the matter of scale. The greenhouse effect is mainly a phenomenon of the land surface and the atmosphere because more of the incoming heat is absorbed by water as compared to land and a lower proportion is reflected to participate in the greenhouse effect. However the surface of Earth is 70 % water. Water has a hugely greater heat carrying capacity than the land or the atmosphere above it. Land loses most of the heat it receives during the day via overnight radiation and the atmosphere loses heat rapidly via convection, rainfall and radiation to space despite the greenhouse effect. The true heat store that we need to consider, dwarfing by far any atmospheric greenhouse effect is all that water. I describe the implications of that below.

It seems so complex but the global heat balance only comes down to three parameters that swamp all others.

Heat from the sun.

The fact that 70% of the planet is water covered.

Heat, radiating out to a very cold Space.

Extra heat is constantly being generated within the Earth by convection and movement caused by external gravitational forces from the sun and other planets but that only seems to disrupt the basic scenario intermittently.

The heat from the sun varies over a number of interlinked and overlapping cycles but the main one is the cycle of 11 years or so. That solar cycle can last from about 9.5 years to about 13.6 years and appears to be linked to the gravitational effects of the planets of the solar system combining to affect the sun's magnetic field which seems then to influence the amount of heat generated and incidentally affects the number of sunspots. For present purposes I will concentrate on the past 1000 years during which the 11year cycle has been the main factor linked to observed temperature changes. For pre thermometer numbers we have to rely on less reliable indicators of past temperature.

It is clear that temperatures have varied so much over the past 1000 years that there have been substantial effects on human societies so disruption caused by weather and climate is by no means unusual. Many civilisations have fallen as a result of entirely natural changes in climate. Interestingly, they often blamed themselves for offending the Gods, nature or the planet (that sounds familiar!).

It is necessary to note that those disruptive changes have occurred quite quickly. A decade or two is quite enough to see changes that result in considerable hardship.

Because 70% of the planet is covered by water most heat from the sun is accepted by water. The seas take a long time to warm up or cool in comparison to land. Heat reaching the land by day is soon radiated back out to Space at night. Water has a much greater lag both in warming and cooling which also means that as a store of total heat the oceans are hugely effective. The strongest sunlight reaching the Earth is around the Equator that is primarily oceanic. The equatorial sun puts heat into the system year in year out whereas loss of heat is primarily via the poles with each alternating as the main heat loser depending on time of year.

The Earth therefore accumulates or loses heat to and from, primarily, the oceans. The land and the atmosphere are largely an irrelevance. That heat then has to find it's way out into Space over time. Before it can be radiated out into Space heat has to pass through the atmosphere.

The planet cannot maintain and does not maintain a constant temperature. It is not even possible to identify a specific current temperature for the whole planet and for present purposes there is no need to do so.

All I need to assert at this point is that whatever the Earth's temperature is at any given moment it will always be in the process of warming or cooling and, of course, the rate of that warming or cooling is highly variable.

Because the Earth is always either warming or cooling the point of balance could well be very fine so to attribute `blame' to any particular factor we have to ascertain the scale and degree of sensitivity of each factor we wish to consider.

The point I need to make here is that on the basis of historical evidence from weather and solar cycle records the largest single factor influencing global temperature, whatever it might be at any time, is variations in the input of heat from the sun.

It is clear from the historical record that warmer weather accompanies short solar cycles and cooler weather accompanies longer solar cycles. Although I refer to weather the fact is that weather over time constitutes climate so for present purposes they are the same. During the recent warming the cycle lengths were less than 10 years so that meant we were getting more heat from the sun whatever the alarmists say about Total Solar Irradiance (a flawed and incomplete concept).

So far, the current solar cycle (number 23) is into the 12th year in length and may go to the full 13.6 years for known astronomical reasons. The very fact that it is longer than the previous two cycles suggests we are getting less solar energy already and, surprise, surprise, it is now being accepted by alarmists that warming has stalled and the planet may be cooling for the next 10 years at least. All they can do now is bleat that the underlying man made warming signal is still there but they cannot prove that to be the case nor can they demonstrate the scale of it in relation to natural causes.

As far as I can see nobody seems to be able to say why the observed changes in weather that accompany changes in solar activity actually happen. They seem to be disproportionate to the changes in heat coming from the sun. This is where I feel the need to make a suggestion.

The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) Cycle has been heavily investigated for many years but seems to be looked at as a freestanding phenomenon that just redistributes heat around the globe, sometimes warming and sometimes cooling.

I think that is wrong. I believe that ENSO switches from warming to cooling mode depending on whether the sun is having a net warming or net cooling effect on the Earth. Thus the sun directly drives the ENSO cycle and the ENSO cycle directly drives global temperature changes. Indeed, the effect appears to be much more rapid than anyone has previously believed with a measurable response occurring within a few years of a change in solar energy input. Indeed I see some evidence for the proposition that for various reasons cooling occurs faster than warming but I will save that for another time.

It was no coincidence that during the years from 1975 to 2000 we had a strong emphasis on El Nino with warming-also known as a period of positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and now, with an emphasis on La Nina we have cooling or at least a stall in the warming (a period of negative PDO).

As regards the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that is simply a periodical change in the predominance either of El Nino (positive mode) or of La Nina (negative mode). El Nino events can occur in a positive PDO mode and vice versa.

I believe that both ENSO and PDO are manifestations of the same process and are directly driven by shifts in the balance of heat output from the sun as it switches to or from net warming and to or from net cooling effects on the Earth.

It was no coincidence that the change from one ENSO mode to the other was approximately contemporaneous with the extension of solar cycle 23 to a period longer than the preceding two solar cycles and at about the same time the PDO switched from positive to negative.

Although there are similar periodic oscillations in other oceans such as the Atlantic and the Arctic I believe that they follow the lead of ENSO and PDO. In effect they simply continue the distribution of the initial warming or cooling state around the globe and of course there are varying degrees of lag so that from time to time the other lesser oceanic oscillations can operate contrary to the primary Pacific oscillations until the lag is worked through.

I believe that this is a clear and simple theory of solar driven global climate change which should now be tested empirically.

Just looking at the activity levels of the past few solar cycles and the temperature and ENSO changes that occurred at about the same time would have revealed the truth if those who should have known better were not trying to implicate man generally and western nations in particular. Refer to my two earlier articles for fuller detail.

The fact is that the Earth could well be a highly sensitive water based thermometer as far as solar input is concerned. The balance between overall warming and overall cooling is probably finely linked to the energy received or not received from the sun over decadal time periods or possibly even less.

Advances have been made in predicting the likely activity levels of the sun so it should be possible to make general predictions as regards the onset of warming or cooling trends on Earth from solar observations and astronomical measurements of planetary influences on solar cycles.

Finally, one should consider whether other warming or cooling influences might have any significance to humanity and the environment.

The fact is that the solar effect is huge and overwhelming. Other influences can only ever delay or bring forward what would have happened anyway because of the time scales involved with solar changes that tend to develop and intensify over centuries. One must also remember that, the warmer the Earth gets, the faster the radiation of heat to Space because of an enhanced temperature differential so it would be false to propose an ever increasing positive differential as a result of adding any warming effect of man made CO2 to the effect of solar changes.

The length and intensity of a solar cool down would strip out the human portion of any extra CO2 quite ruthlessly because the cooler temperatures would increase the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and oceanic life would flourish to lock it away in the carbon cycle again in the form of organic calcium carbonate from a multitude of tiny sea creatures (which generally prefer cooler waters) falling to the sea bed.

In effect, all life on Earth has the benefit of an oceanic and atmospheric air conditioning system that clears out excess CO2 as well as well as dust, other particulates and noxious substances created by either the planet itself or the life forms on it from time to time.

Of course a single organism can upset the balance of it's own environment for a time but the planet always renews itself and repopulates with new life forms if necessary. The solution is always a new balance between numbers and lifestyle for any particular organism and that includes us.

That is why, despite hugely different environmental conditions in the past, including far higher CO2 levels, there has never been a `tipping' point that changed the pattern of glaciations and interglacials that have occurred with clockwork precision based on astronomical movements throughout the historical record.

Nor need we fear any man made addition to solar warming because the proportion of the warming which we would be responsible for would be insignificant against the scale of the solar induced portion. In any event, since cooling is worse than warming for humanity and most life on the planet, our production of CO2, however large in our puny terms, would be wholly beneficial for life on Earth. CO2 is the least of our problems so our attention and resources should be better directed to a more general concept of sustainability


The alleged polypill miracle

There is absolutely no evidence for the longevity claims below and there have been some scathing criticisms of the leap of faith embodied in the claims. It is all a statistical extrapolation from dubious data. All the ingredients have negative as well as positive effects and the bottom line could be a SHORTENED lifespan. The "polymeal" proposal is based on similar logic and yet we know from longevity studies that diet and lifestyle changes have negligible effects on lifespan. Remember that hard-won bit of wisdom: "The miracle cure of today is often the iatrogenic disaster of the future"

A five-in-one polypill developed by British doctors could prevent 100,000 premature deaths from heart conditions every year. The inventors of the pill - which could be taken daily by everyone over 55 at a cost of about 7 pounds a week - claim it could prevent 80 per cent of heart attacks and strokes among those who use it.

The drug, which combines five individual treatments, has received the backing of Prof Roger Boyle, the Government's national director for heart disease and stroke, who has called for it to be prescribed on the NHS. Prof Nicholas Wald, the director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: "I am delighted we have reached this milestone. Now we want to get it out there so people can use it. "Our mission is to make this available to everyone over 55 at an affordable price. ''The founders of our group would like this pill to be available to everyone for about 1 pound a day."

The polypill has been in development for several years. Research published by Prof Wald in 2003 concluded: "The polypill strategy could largely prevent heart attacks and stroke if taken by everyone aged 55 and older and everyone with existing cardiovascular disease. ''It would be acceptably safe and, with widespread use, would have a greater impact on the prevention of disease in the western world than any other single intervention." The paper added that a third of people taking the drug would benefit, gaining an extra 11 years of life on average.

More than 130,000 people suffer a stroke in Britain every year, half of whom die. Heart attacks affect up to 230,000 people each year, claiming the lives of 30 per cent of them. Prof Boyle said the polypill ''would certainly have a big impact''. He added: ''We need to remember that one third of deaths are due to cardiovascular disease, despite substantial reductions over the past few years."

The polypill comprises a cholesterol-reducing statin, three types of medicine to lower blood pressure and a folic acid that reduces levels of an amino acid implicated in heart attacks and strokes. Clinical trials have established that the individual ingredients prevent heart attacks and strokes, so the combined pill would only require small-scale trials to ensure it behaves in the same way. The inventors can then apply for a licence in Britain, leading to the pill becoming available within two years. It will be made by Cipla, one of India's largest pharmaceutical companies.


The NHS is trying to extinguish an alternative to its own appalling childbirth service

Independent but highly qualified and very experienced midwives face extinction over the issue of professional indemnity insurance. If no help is offered by the NHS to contract in self-employed midwives under the clinical negligence scheme, they will be forced to stop practising by 2009

I am a mother of three who managed, after a protracted fight with the NHS, to have a wonderful, inspiring, uplifting birth with a private independent midwife at home. I am not a nutter. I made more than 100 phone calls in the two weeks between hospital appointments to find someone who would listen to my reluctance to go under the NHS knife, to find someone who would take me on to birth my twins normally. I knew that I could do it, but I didn't really want to fork out £2,000 for the privilege. My mother had birthed my twin brother and me normally, so why couldn't I be encouraged to do the same? After all the puffing and panting, I discovered a secret that too few mothers are let in on: birth can be great. Not an ordeal to be got through, but a powerful beginning to motherhood, a set-up for all the snot, sweat and tears to follow. Every woman in this country deserves what I had. Our mothers had it, so why shouldn't we?

Choice: that awful overused government word. The only phrase I hate more in matters of state is “informed choice”. It doesn't mean a thing. Pregnant women don't have any choice. That baby is going to come out one way or another whether they like it or not. Childbirth is a bloody, messy, unpredictable, painful experience that transforms women from selfish girls-about-town into all-important mother figures. Go ask any therapist. So why, in this modern age of feisty female CEOs, are women being dazzled by the flashing lights and deafened by the beeping monitors into believing that they have “choices” when they waddle in the hospital labour ward (if it is actually open for business)?

And why are so many of the good, experienced midwives who understand that women need kindness and encouragement above all in labour getting the hell out of hospitals? And why are these last guardians of normal birth, self-employed independent midwives, being hounded by the NHS in medieval witch hunts to put them out of business?

Has the maternity profession missed something here? Are they really so busy arguing over money, power and control that they fail to notice the labouring woman in the corner, not waving but drowning in her birth pool?

OK, let's put the weapons down for a moment. No woman is going to be challenged here for wanting to wail at the moon on her birth ball, electing for the clinical certainty of a Caesarean or wanting more drugs than Amy Winehouse on the night before a prison visit. Let's accept that all women are different and like to do things their own way, and wouldn't choose the same pair of shoes on the high street or Babygro at Mothercare. Let's focus instead on how all women are the same, have the same creature needs at this worry-filled time, and how those needs are not being met.

First, the Government is saying all the right things. Since 1993 and the first well-worded document Changing Childbirth, successive governments have made confident noises to reassure women that they are going to be looked after properly. The latest 2005 White Paper says even more of the right things, namely that all women will be looked after by “a midwife they know before and after the birth”. Ann Keen, a Department of Health Minister, says: “This will be in place by 2009.” So much for the theory.

Now for the brutal, bloody truth. This one-to-one care is to be achieved by 2009, says the Department of Health, by recruiting 1,000 midwives. But that's not enough, say the Royal Colleges of Midwives and Obstetricians in their report, Safer Childbirth. We need a further 5,000 midwives just to offer one-to-one care in established labour - that's just the pushing stage, let alone the pregnancy and post-birth period. So while the numbers don't add up, paying for these midwives is even more disastrous. According to Louise Silverton from the Royal College of Midwives, the extra 330 million pounds funding announced with a fanfare in January has not been ringfenced, so as the money has started to trickle through last month, reports are already coming back that it's being spent on other wards by the local hospitals.

And how did we get to this stage where dangerously few midwives are looking after far too many women, as many as five in labour at the same time? Christine Beasley, the Chief Nursing Officer, puts the shortage down to the rising birth rate: “The Office of National Statistics suggested that this was a blip at first, but it is now clear that the rising birth rate is an established trend,” she explains. “And the midwifery workforce is ageing. It was part of the baby-boomer population - and many midwives are now approaching retirement. We are recruiting younger people in a more competitive world.”

And at this moment of crisis, when the burnt-out hospital midwives are routinely handling around 170 births each a year in a revolving door of hospital anonymity, the Government chooses to turn on the very last resort left to women such as myself - the independent midwife. These midwives have often been driven out of the NHS because they can no longer practise what they see as safe, women-focused care in the context of a hospital. Many of them are among the most skilful practioners of normal birth in this country - my midwife, Mary Cronk, had assisted at hundreds of successful normal twin births over her 50-odd years on call and tours the country lecturing on normal breech birth. Their possible extinction over an insurance issue that could so easily be solved by contracting them into the NHS as they are in New Zealand, or by just dropping it as a mandatory practice, is a frightening possibility. If the issue is not solved by 2009, all that they symbolise as the “gold standard” of care in this country will be gone with them. As Louise Silverton says: “The NHS should be able to offer this to independent midwives. It shouldn't be a gold standard. It should be every woman's right.”

Make no mistake, this is not just a middle-class fuss. In speaking to dozens of women who have suffered in silence over their recent treatment in hospital, we are all in the same dirty boat. One 19-year-old mother was taken on free of charge by Virginia Howes, an independent midwife in Canterbury, when it became clear that she had been told nothing at all about pregnancy or birth. The girl saw the difference between her own quick labour in a pool at home (“I felt safe and looked after”) and her sister's birth in hospital five months later (“It felt manic and busy all the time, she didn't cope well with it”). While the 19-year-old went on to breast-feed her baby for six weeks, her sister was ejected the next day, with a bottle given for the baby. She never breast-fed and suffered depression.

Post-natal depression, sometimes triggered by a bad birth experience, is rife. Ruth Weston, 39, who lives on a council estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire, forked out 15 per cent of her annual income for an independent midwife for her fifth child, after the trauma of her fourth. “With my first child I got a lot of care on the NHS, and, ten years on, I'm paying for it, and that's wrong. My five births can chart the deterioration of the service.”

As a student of liberation theology, she believes that the only way forward is for midwives and mothers to join forces, and she lobbies her MP and sends postcards to the local hospital to make her feelings known. “Abortion was legalised over a health issue. This is not a moral issue - a small number of women will go ahead and have their babies their way if independent midwives are lost. It's not acceptable, and it's not fair.” And that small number of women is already increasing as they opt out of the NHS altogether in favour of “freebirthing”. Veronica Robinson, editor of The Mother magazine, who lives in Cumbria, is writing a book on the subject, partly in answer to the number of inquiries that she fields from readers. “These women have educated themselves and are not irresponsible as people suggest,” says Veronica. “I think a lot more women will turn to unassisted birth.” Many of these radical freebirthers are often midwives themselves, she says.

However we fight the good fight, we must not sleepwalk into the nightmare of birth in America. In a country where one in three births is Caesarean and only 8 per cent of women are able to use midwives, 18-year-old girls are said to describe birth as like “having more plastic surgery”. Through the film The Business of Being Born, made with chat-show host Ricki Lake, however, that culture is now changing. The US campaign - The Big Push For Midwives - is being used for the Save the Independent Midwife Campaign here in the UK and the movie is being screened all around the country. “On the internet they have already said, ‘Ricki Lake gives birth naked... Ew, I want to vomit',” said Ricki Lake at the premiere. Popcorn, anyone?


The lost baggage airline is also now the no beef airline: "British Airways has ditched beef for economy class passengers this summer in an attempt to appeal to a more international passenger base. The familiar cabin crew inquiry of "chicken or beef?" will not be heard in economy after the airline ditched the national dish in favour of what it calls a lighter, healthier option. Critics will suspect that the relentless pressure to cut costs that all airlines are facing is behind the move, although BA said cost was not a factor. A spokesman for the airline told The Times: "We were looking for something with broad appeal. Research trends have shown us that fish pie is very popular in supermarkets so we decided to go with that and chicken and tarragon for the summer. "We can only serve two options and beef and pork obviously have religious restrictions," the spokesman added. BA's second-biggest long-haul market, after transatlantic routes, is to India".

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