The 500-strong contingent of skeptics currently in New York for The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change were up early to hear Robert Balling and Ross McKitrick speak at breakfast.
A key message from the address by Professor Balling was that there are a lot of non-greenhouse signals that can impact climate including sulphates, dust, ozone, biomass burning and land use change. Given even the IPCC agrees that we have a poor understanding of the impact of these different variables on climate – how can the debate be over? The Professor concluded with the Thomas Huxley quote, “Skepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the one unpardonable sin”.
Ross McKitrick gave a very different type of address getting into the detail of the recent temperature record – how it is measured and how there is a large population effect on the US temperature data which accounts for about half the observed warming since 1980. Dr McKitrick went into the detail of the statistic analysis and his arguments with the IPCC and scientists at Realclimate.
Ross McKitrick speaking to the title ‘Quantifying the Influence of Anthropogenic Surface Processes on Gridded Global Climate Data’, 7am Breakfast Session
Bob Carter amongst the crowd who woke early to hear Dr McKitrick
Following the breakfast we had a choice of 6 different tracks on either paleoclimatology, climatology, impacts, economics, politics or movies. I spent most of the day in the ‘impacts’ track and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I even got to meet polar bear expert Mitch Taylor. He followed a presentation by entomologist Paul Reiter which emphasised malaria is not historically a tropical disease with outbreaks in the England, Sweden and Finland before the advent of DDT. Dr Reiter also made the point that Al Gore was completely wrong in his documentary to suggest that Nairobi did not have a history of malaria outbreaks – in fact here were five major epidemics to the 1950s.
Of course the best photographs for the day were from Mitch Taylor who told us about his field work in the Arctic counting polar bears – or more correctly field sampling using mark-recapture techniques. Dr Taylor said that these demographic studies indicated at least two subpopulations of polar bears in the Artic had a constant population size, that two were increasing in number and that two were in decline – one of these from over hunting and the Churchill subpopulation from climate change in particular a reduction in the amount of sea ice. Accepting the climate models Dr Taylor indicated that bear numbers could decline across the Artic from present numbers of about 24,500 to around 17,000 over the next 100 years.
Jennifer Marohasy and Mitch Taylor, Marriott Hotel, March 3, 2008 International Climate Change Conference
My colleague Alan Moran told me that the best speakers of the day were Tim Ball and Fred Singer at lunch, but still slightly jet lagged and still recovering from a breakfast of scrambled egg, hash-browns, spinach, bacon, fried tomato and a bit more I decided to sleep through lunch. I also missed Dr Moran’s presentation as it clashed with Dr Taylor’s.
Denis Avery giving a television interview.
I did wake up in time to hear William Briggs who gave a fascinating insight into the worldwide hurricane data concluding there is no discernable increase in either number or intensity. This conclusions was supported by Stan Goldenberg from NOAA who emphasised the importance of understanding how hurricane data has been collected historically in his presentation which included photographs taken inside the eye of hurricanes from flights within NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters – WP-3D Turbo Prop Aircraft.
Leon Ashby, South Australian landholder and director of the Australian Environment Foundation, films conference proceedings.
I sat in on one of the economics sessions and the talk by Michael Economides, University of Houston, focused on our past, present and likely future dependence on oil and gas explaining that these hydrocarbons account for 87 percent of the world’s energy needs and suggesting that there was no alternative to hydrocarbon energy in the immediate future with wind and solar only likely to ever meet half of 1 percent of our energy needs over the next century. This presentation, in which the professor explained he considered AGW “unadulterated nonsense” contrasted sharply with the presentation from Benny Peiser. Dr Peiser spoke at the last session for the day in the impacts track asking the question “What if Al Gore is right?” He put it to the audience that the current response from the world’s skeptics was not reassuring to the public or politicians and that given our “cultural baggage” people had reason to fear climate change. Dr Peiser, like the other speaker in this session, Dr Stan Goldberg from NOAA, suggested regardless of the cause of climate change we should prepare for it.
Dr Peiser acknowledged government across the world had no real solution to rising emission levels but that solutions would come through geoengineering. In contrast to Professor Economides, Dr Peiser suggested the world might one day be run on solar energy and that within a 100 or so years we would know how to make it rain.
With the conference over for the day, my colleague Alan Moran and I decided on a brisk walk through Central Park before a wine and meal at Morrell’s in Rockefellar Plaza.
A racoon in Central Park. March 3, 2008
Another great day thanks to conference organisers The Heartland Institute.
And you can read about yesterday here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002809.html