Climate Change and the Future of Mankind: Donald Trump and his Team

The last section of the book edited by me: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013, http://www.cambridge.org/9781107019614 , ends as follows:

‘………. climate change is just one of the dangers facing nature and
mankind; others include over-exploitation of resources caused by population growth
and over-consumption, habitat destruction such as deforestation, pollution, and invasive
species. With regard to climate change, we conclude with a quote from an
Amazon “ description” of the important book by the American physicist and climate
expert Joseph Romm (2006), which suggests that everything is not yet lost. There is
hope if we do something now. Because of the prominent role of the USA as an
economic and scientifi c power, a leading role will have to be played by that country,
but countries such as Australia with its enormous coal and gas reserves must play their
role as well.
“ Global warming is the story of the twenty-first century. It is the most serious issue
facing the future of humankind, but American energy and environmental policy is
driving the whole world down a path toward global catastrophe. According to Joseph
Romm, we have ten years, at most, to start making sharp cuts to our greenhouse gas
emissions, or we will face disastrous consequences. The good news, he writes, is that
there is something we can do – but only if the leadership of the U.S. government acts
immediately and asserts its influence on the rest of the world.”’

(Citation from Romm, J. N. (2006). Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics–and What We Should Do. New York: William Morrow.)

President Obama had taken steps to address some of the issues related to climate change, although he was restricted in what he could do by the obstruction of the Congress. What can we expect from the team assembled by the President-elect Donald Trump? Paul McGeough, in the Sydney Morning Herald December 17-18, has given an overview of the team, yet to be confirmed by the Senate (‘All The President’s Men (and women)’: Two retired generals head Defense and Homeland Security, and a third will be National Security Advisor. All three have fairly right-wing views, in particular the third one, Michael Flynn, with respect to Iran. Secretary of State is the ‘outgoing chairman and stockholder of Exxon Mobil’, a ‘climate change sceptic’, Chief Strategist the ‘white nationalist and former chairman of inflammatory far-right propaganda platform Breithart’, compared with which even the Murdoch run Fox News is moderate; CIA Director is ‘outspoken in favour of CIA’s use of torture and against Iran nuclear deal’; Attorney General is a former state attorney general who ‘failed confirmation as a judge in 1986 due to alleged racist comments’;  Labor is a fast food chain executive, opponent of minimum wage laws and Obamacare’; Energy is a climate change sceptic; Health and Human Services is is a strong opponent of Obamacare, ‘womens’ health programs and abortion’; Education is a billionairess who is a  ‘strong advocate of charter schools and voucher funding for school choice’; Environmental Protection Agency  is a ‘climate change denier…close to fossil fuel industry’; etc.

According to McGeough, ‘the team is mostly wealthy-dominated by billionaires and megamillionaires. By one calculation, the combined wealth of Trump’s 17 picks to date, more than $9.5 billion, is greater than the combined wealth of the 43 million least wealthy households in the country…’

What can we expect? Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he would reduce corporate tax and that Obamacare would be abolished or strongly modified. He has used aggressive language against Iran and China, will send large numbers of Mexicans back and build a wall (partly now to be replaced by fences, apparently, and to be paid by Mexico), and has promised to make America strong again, also by building up its military. Concerning climate change, his and his team’s past histories suggest that all the progress made under Obama will very likely be reversed. He even went so far as to proclaim that the USA would leave the Paris climate change agreement. Some reports claim that the NSA will have to concentrate on space activities and stop monitoring activities of climate change on Earth. Some NSA climate scientists feel so threatened that they have begun to make backups of  climate data on their private computers.  NASA appears to have the largest and most important such data base of any country; without it predictions of climate change would become almost impossible. All this may sound ridiculously insane, but in Australia -for example- there also have been attempts (only partially successful) by the more extreme wing of the right-wing government to restrict climate work by the CSIRO, the Australian national research organization, which has been at the forefront of climate research in Antarctica.

What does all this mean for our future? Accumulating research data, for example those on melting of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic and its effects on sea level rises, show how urgent research on the threats posed by climate change are. We must know how great and how fast the changes will be, if we want to take effective measures to guarantee the survival of mankind. One should never give up hope, but the (not yet confirmed) composition of the new government of the US does not look good, to phrase it mildly.

 

Hottest February on record

A few weeks ago I found a 16-page pamphlet in my mailbox titled: The Paris Climate Summit 2015. A waste? Hubris? Poor science? Alarmism gone mad? A gravy train? Take your pick.

A quote from the first page: ” But there is certainty beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building lock for all life on Earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet. Yet today our children and our public are taught that CO2 is a toxic pollutant that will destroy life and bring civilization to its knees”.

Also on page 1, Robert Mugabe, the “murderous tyrant”, is quoted as a speaker in favour of climate regulation: “Unless current trends are reversed, disaster stalks planet Earth”.

And in the Introduction: “Especially when one reads of the call for major changes to our economic and industrial systems …. on the basis of a theory which has been shown to have major flaws and errors. That’s right, let me repeat that “on the basis of a theory which has been shown to have major flaws and errors”.

 

What, then, is the present situation?

“NASA this weekend released new data which shows that February 2016 was not only the hottest in recorded history, but it soared past all previous records, prompting scientists to describe the announcement as “an ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet.”

The average global surface temperature for February was 1.35°C warmer than the global average for the month between 1951-1980—a margin that shattered the previous record of 1.14°C, which was set just one month earlier—and exceeded preliminary figures released earlier this month.”

And Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, presently  a visiting professorial fellow at the University of New South Wales, speaks of a kind of climate emergency. Full article here:

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/03/14/nasa-drops-major-bomb-march-toward-ever-warmer-planet

 

Of course, one observation does not prove a ‘theory’. Therefore, have a look here: https://krohde.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/misleading-information-on-climate-change-and-corrections/

Free book on parasites in aquaculture

Entire book, with many colour and black/white figures, “Negative Effects of Parasites on Fish Farms Production”can be downloaded here:

Contents:

INTRODUCTION
I.1.
Fish farms
I.2.
Aquaculture production in Egypt
I.3.
Water quality management
I.4.
Potential adverse effects
I.5.
Dynamics of disease transmission
I.6.
Fish disease and Prevention
PARASITES AND THEIR NEGATIVE EFFECTS ON FISH FARMS PRODUCTION
II.1. Protozoan parasites
II.1.1. Phylum: Mastigophora Diesing, 1866

Trypanosomosis, cryptobiosis, Ichthyobodosis

II.1.2. Phylum: Ciliophora Doflein, 1901
Ichthyophthiriasis
Trichodiniosis,
Chilodonellosis
II.1.3.
Phylum: Apicomplexa Levine, 1970
Coccidiosis
II.1.4. Phylum: Microspora Sprague, 1977
Microsporidiosis
II.1.5. Phylum: Myxozoa Grassé, 1970
Henneguyosis,
Myxozoan disease in aquaculture caused by Kudoa sp.
Whirling disease
II.2. Helminth parasites
II.2.1.
Infections caused by monogenean parasites
II.2.2.
Infections caused by digeneatic trematodes (Flukes)
II.2.3.
Infections caused by cestode parasites (Tapeworms)
II.2.4.
Infections caused by nematode parasites
II.2.5.
Infections caused by acanthocephalan parasites
II.3. Annelid worms (Leeches)
II.4. Crustacean parasites
II.4.1. Infections caused by lernaeid parasites
II.4.2.
Infections caused by Ergasilus species
II.4.3.
Infections caused by caligid copepods
II.4.4.
Infections caused by Argulus
II.4.5.
Infections caused by isopods
II.5.
Damage caused by parasitic larvae of molluscs
III.
CONCLUSIONS
IV.
RECOMMENDATIONS
V.
REFERENCES

Is there a role for philosophy in science?

Scientists who adhere to a strictly “naturalistic” interpretation of science claim that only approaches which can be tested empirically (verified and/or falsified) are valid. The nobel laureate in physics Richard Feynman, for example, argued that string theory was not testable and therefore not scientific. A number of physicists and philosophers of science recently met in Munich to discuss the problems which have arisen in physics because theories, such as string theory, become increasingly more difficult to test. Some theoreticians at the meeting provided arguments to show that philosophical approaches, which in the foreseeable future (if at all) cannot be tested empirically, might well be valid.

 

For a full discussion see here:

“String theory, the multiverse and other ideas of modern physics are potentially untestable. At a historic meeting in Munich, scientists and philosophers asked: should we trust them anyway?”

 

https://www.quantamagazine.org/20151216-physicists-and-philosophers-debate-the-boundaries-of-science/

Corrected sunspot history suggests climate change not due to natural solar trends

According to the International Astronomical Union (7 August 2015), sunspot activity over the last 300 years has remained more or less stable and cannot, therefore, be responsible for global warming since the industrial revolution.

 

“The Sunspot Number is a crucial tool used to study the solar dynamo, space weather and climate change. It has now been recalibrated and shows a consistent history of solar activity over the past few centuries. The new record has no significant long-term upward trend in solar activity since 1700, as was previously indicated. This suggests that rising global temperatures since the industrial revolution cannot be attributed to increased solar activity.” 

“The Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715, when sunspots were scarce and the winters harsh, strongly suggests a link between solar activity and climate change. Until now there was a general consensus that solar activity has been trending upwards over the past 300 years (since the end of the Maunder Minimum), peaking in the late 20th century — called the Modern Grand Maximum by some.”

“This trend has led some to conclude that the Sun has played a significant role in modern climate change.”

 “The apparent upward trend of solar activity between the 18th century and the late 20th century has now been identified as a major calibration error in the Group Sunspot Number. Now that this error has been corrected, solar activity appears to have remained relatively stable since the 1700s.”

Full article (Science Daily) here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150807220750.htm

 

 

A new book on the history of climate change politics in Australia

A book on the history of climate change politics in Australia, describing the disastrous influence of the right wing media (particularly those controlled by Murdoch) and the big mining corporations has just been published. Author is Maria Taylor (“Global Warming and Climate Change. What Australia knew and buried….then framed a new reality for the public”).  http://press.anu.edu.au/titles/global-warming-and-climate-change/ : A free copy can be downloaded at this address.

The book is based on Taylor’s research for a PhD at the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science of The Australian National University. From the ANU site on her book: “Her multi-disciplinary investigation of the public record and the input of science, politics, economics, journalism and contemporary mass media has revealed for the first time how and why Australia buried a once good understanding of global warming and climate change — to arrive after 25 years at the confusion and stalemate we are still in today. “

An outline and discussion of he book is available here:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2015/aug/06/how-australians-were-ready-to-act-on-climate-science-25-years-ago-and-what-happened-next

Excerpts:

“In 1989 Hawke described a “growing consensus amongst scientists” showing there was a strong chance that major climate change was on its way, that this change was linked to human activity, and this could have “major ramifications for human survival” if nothing was done.”

‘The Howard government …….. cautious climate policy positions ……. to justify it through media articles. That modelling was supported financially by the likes of the Australian Coal Association, the oil giant Exxon Mobil and the mining majors BHP and Rio Tinto.”

 

” ……. by 1997, many political and economic reporters were “dutifully scribing the story established by the business and political elite”.

A point to make is the role of the media in Australia, which is so dominated by the Murdoch press. That played a key role, in a sense that as the 90s rolled on it was so much easier to get out a consistent narrative if you don’t have a really diverse press. From what I saw – and what the documentary evidence showed – the ABC did have a leadership role for a long time in informing the public about climate change, but it really drew back in the late 90s. There was no other story being told.

Free-market neoliberal thinktanks, including the Institute of Public Affairs, promoted climate science denialist views and industry talking points that were picked up by the media.”

Niall Ferguson: Civilization, und Goethes Faust

Der britische Historiker Niall Ferguson, bekannt unter anderem durch sein Buch The Pity of War, in dem er die Ursachen des Ersten Weltkrieges untersucht, und weitere Bücher, hat in einem brilliant geschriebenen Buch einen Abrisss der geschichtlichen Entwicklung der westlichen Zivilisation gegeben und versucht, die Ursachen ihres Erfolges zu verstehen (Civilization. The Six Killer Apps of Western Power, 2011). Auf Seite 305 (der Penguin Ausgabe von 2012) zählt er diese killler applications auf. Sie sind: Wettbewerb, wissenschaftiche Revolution, Herrschaft des Gesetzes und der representativen Regierung, moderne Medizin, die Verbrauchergesellschaft, und die Arbeitsethik. In einer Fussnote auf Seite 324 (sozusagen als Abschluss des Buches) erwähnt er als ‘foundational texts of Western civilization’ (als grundlegende Texte der westlichen Zivilisation) die folgenden Werke: King James Bible, Isaac Newtons Principia, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, Adam Smith’s Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, und Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (und als Anhang William Shakespeare’s plays und ausgewählte Reden von Abraham Lincoln und Winston Churchill).

Diese Auswahl scheint mir etwas einseitig anglozentrisch zu sein. Wie wäre es hiermit?:

Luthers Bibel (durch Gutenbergs Erfindung des Massendruckes der direkte Anlass zur schnellen Verbreitung des Wissens und aller späteren wissenschaftlichen Fortschritte), Johannes Kepler Astronomia Nova und Harmonices Mundi, Goethe Faust I und II, Immanuel Kant Über den ewigen Frieden, Johann Sebastian Bach Matthäus Passion, Beethoven Neunte Symphonie, Alexander von Humboldt Cosmos, Gregor Mendel Vererbungsgesetze, Max Weber Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, Ludwig Boltzmann Entropie, Max Planck Quantum, Albert Einstein Allgemeine Relativität. Und ferner (keine ‘Grundlagen’ der westlichen Zivilisation aber vielleicht mehr zukunftsweisend als zum Beispiel Konsumerismus und Wettbewerb): Die Upaschinaden und Arthur Schopenhauer Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung.

Auf Seiten 65-66 zählt er die wichtigsten 29 “breakthroughs” zwischen 1530 und 1789 auf. Überraschend, Keplers Gesetze der planetarischen Bewegungen fehlen, ohne Zweifel eines der wichtigsten Entdeckungen der Renaissance und von vielen als von entscheidender Bedeutung für die wissenschaftliche Revolution im 17. Jahrhundert angesehen, eine wesentliche Vorraussetzung von Newtons Gravitationslehre. Die Entwicklung des binären Systems durch Leibniz sollte ebenfalls hier stehen.

Der bekannte schweizer Ökonom H.C. Binswanger hat in einem Buch ausführlich beschrieben, wie Goethe in seinem Faust die Entwicklung der modenen Welt dargestellt hat. Faust, der Repräsentant der modernen Welt, ist ein tatkräftiger Unternehmer, sein Erfolg möglich gemacht durch die Erfindung des Papiergeldes (das die Goldwährung erstetzt), die Äquivalenz zwischen Währung und produzierten Güter, und die Eigentumsgesetze). Historisch genau beschrieben ist im Faust die folgende Sequenz: 1. Papiergeld  (Bank of England), Dampfmaschine (James Watt) und damit Anfang der industriellen Revolution, Römisches Eigentumsgesetz des “Dominion”, d.h. das Recht zu benutzen und zu konsumieren: Code Napoleon). Goethe weist auch auf die potentiellen Gefahren hin: eine wirkliche Gefahr besteht darin, dass bei wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung die Konsequenzen für die Umwelt nicht in Rechnung gestellt werden. In anderen Worten, Faust ist der moderne Mann mit all seinen Stärken und Schwächen. In keinem der von Ferguson angeführten “foundation” – Texten wurde auf die potentiellen Gefahren durch die Zerstörung der Umwelt hingewiesen; Goethes Faust ist also zumindest in diesem Punkt viel zukunftsweisender.

Was die Bibel anbetrifft, nicht die King James Bibel sondern Luthers Bibel ins Deutsche übersetzt stand am Anfang der protestantischen Revolution und dem schnellen Anstieg der westlichen Macht, ihre Wirkung möglich gemacht durch Gutenbergs Erfindung des schnellen Massendruckes, von Ferguson als die wichtigste westliche Entwicklung vor der industriellen Revolution nur kurz früh in seinem Buch erwähnt. Was bei Ferguson ebenfalls fehlt ist die stärkere Betonung der typisch westlichen Musik die durch Bach, Mozart, Beethoven Wagner und viele andere zu einem Höhepunkt geführt wurde, und ein wesentliches Element des modernen westlichen Menschen ist.

Und was die Literatur anbetrifft, die von Ferguson erwähnten ‘plays’ von Shakespeare sind sicherlich schön und gross, doch welche Schlüsse auf die moderne Welt lassen sie zu? Grimmelshausen Der abenteuerliche Simplizissimus und Brecht Der Gute Mensch von Szechuan und Leben des Galilei scheinen mir in der Hinsicht relevanter zu sein.

Insgesamt, die erstaunlichen von Ferguson beschriebenen ‘Fortschritte’ (wenn man sie so nennen soll) der westlichen Welt in den letzten 300 Jahren sind vielleicht nicht mehr als ein Schluckauf in einer Geschichte, die kurz vor der Katastrophe steht, wenn wir die Fehlentwicklungen nicht in den Griff bekommen. Und können wir hoffen, dass die “foundations”, die von Ferguson gefundenen Grundlagen dieser Entwicklungen, ausreichen, eine bessere Zukunft zu sichern? Man muss wie Ferguson schon ein Bewunderer von Präsident Reagan, Margaret Thatcher und Churchill sein, um das zu glauben, und viele sind das nicht.

Ich schliesse mit einem Zitat von Noam Chomsky aus meinem vorhergehenden Post:

“Die menschliche Spezies gibt es schon vielleicht seit 100.000 Jahren und sie steht jetzt vor einem einzigartigen Moment in ihrer Geschichte. Diese Spezies ist jetzt an einem Punkt, an dem sich sehr bald entscheiden wird, in den kommenden Generationen, ob das Experiment des sogenannten intelligenten Lebens weitergehen wird oder wir fest entschlossen sind, es zu zerstören. Überwiegend erkennen Wissenschaftler, dass fossile Energieträger im Boden bleiben müssen, damit unsere Enkel eine Zukunft haben. Aber die institutionellen Strukturen unserer Gesellschaft versuchen, jeden Tropfen aus der Erde zu pressen. Die Folgen, die Auswirkungen der vorhergesagten Effekte des Klimawandels für die Menschheit in nicht sehr ferner Zukunft sind katastrophal und wir rasen auf diesen Abgrund zu.”

 

H. C. Binswanger. The Challenge of Faust. Science 281, 31 July 1998.

H. C. Binswanger. Money and Magic: a Critique of the Modern Economy in Light of Goethe’s Faust, University of Chicago Press 1994 (transl. from German).

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/oct/22/very-great-alexander-von-humboldt/

Niall Ferguson. Civilization. The Six Killer Apps of Western Power. Penguin 2012.

Solar activity and new “little” ice age, and another interpretation

The Lomonosov State University Moscow has published a press release that presents evidence for the possibility of a small “little” ice age developing in about fifteen to twenty years. The evidence is that the sun undergoes cycles in activity indicated by the number of observed sun spots (50 per year during the previous little ice age lasting from 1645 to  1700, and 40 – 50 000 during the warmer period after it), and that we are approaching a point when activity should decrease.

 

“In 17th century, though, there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40-50 thousand sunspots. Analysis of solar radiation showed that its maxima and minima almost coincide with the maxima and minima in the number of spots.”

“If the similar reduction will be observed during the upcoming Maunder minimum this can lead to the similar cooling of the Earth atmosphere. According to Dr Helen Popova, if the existing theories about the impact of solar activity on the climate are true, then this minimum will lead to a significant cooling, similar to the one occurred during the Maunder minimum.

However, only the time will show soon enough (within the next 5-15 years) if this will happen.”

 

Full article here:

http://astronomynow.com/2015/07/17/diminishing-solar-activity-may-bring-new-ice-age-by-2030/

 

I have asked Professor Michael Box, a renowned climate physicist from the University of NSW, Sydney, to comment on this post and he has given me permission to add his comments here.

Klaus,
Yes, it is causing quite a stir, isn’t it? Let me see how much light I can shed.

The analysis techniques used to underpin the prediction of very low sunspot numbers (principal component analysis) is well known and ‘valid’ as to what it does. Using it to project into the future is somewhat less valid, as other factors which have not shown up in the past data may be waiting in the wings. I guess I would rate the chances of very low sunspot numbers in the 2030s as less than 50-50, but certainly not at, or close to, zero.
So that brings us to the more important issue of the impacts. The Little Ice Age (so-called) is certainly ‘real’, although many questions remain.
When did it begin? I’ve seen dates of anywhere from 1300 to 1450 – both well before the start of the Maunder Minimum in 1645.
When did it end? Again I’ve seen dates as late as 1850 (well after the end of the MM in 1715), which might well imply that the only reason it did end is the onset of global warming!
Was it global, or regional? There is plenty of evidence from Europe and some from North America. I’ve seen a suggestion of some evidence from New Zealand. However there do seem to be many questions around the uniformity of the cooling.
So that brings us to the really key question of the causes/drivers. Solar activity is certainly one possibility, although as I’ve indicated the MM certainly couldn’t have started it. It may have made things just a little bit cooler – say 0.2 C – but it wasn’t the cause! Other suggestions have been a slowing of the Gulf Stream (it has slowed significantly in the past. ~11,000 years ago); volcanic activity (a couple of major eruptions followed by some feedbacks); and ‘orbital forcing’. We know that changes in the Earth’s orbit are the drivers of the glacial-interglacial cycle (something one of the authors of the paper in question is clearly ignorant of!), and these drivers don’t stop and start, but are on-going. We probably are heading ever so slowly for the next glacial.
Like most scientists who have made ‘meaningful’ comments, my view is that, if it does happen, it will reduce global warming by ~0.1 C – or delay it by ~10 years. And that delay would only be temporary, and temperature would zoom ahead in the years that followed.

 

Interesting to compare this critical account with a story published in news.com.au (a Murdoch site), in which the ‘coming ice’ age is more or less presented as a fact (“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years’) and rounded up with drawing attention to the present cold front affecting SE Australia:

“Tropical-style thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy snowfalls, roared through the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and towns as far as Orange on Saturday night.”

Full story here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/earth-heading-for-mini-ice-age-within-15-years/story-e6frflp0-1227439329592