Charlie, Carbon, and the Carrots

Prince Charles’s footprint has hit the headlines again. He is now officially ‘carbon neutral’.

Among the first to congratulate the next in line to the throne was Friends of the Earth Director, Tony Juniper:

The fact he reduced his carbon emissions by 9% in the last year alone highlights the potential for making rapid cuts in the nation’s contribution to climate change. 

Tony has obviously been eating too many of Charlie’s rotten carrots and failed to read the small print:

The household’s carbon footprint was calculated at 3,425 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006-2007. 

Charles’s carbon footprint weighs more than most people’s houses. In fact, it weighs more than a small street. Tony should realise that the only reason Charlie is able to make these gestures is because he receives income from a vast estate of land, property and shares, and is extraordinarily well connected. Very few other farms or businesses in the country are in this position. All this says about the ‘potential for making rapid cuts in the nation’s contribution to climate change’ is that it’s only easy if you’re going to be king.

Fairford vs Oxford

There’s another letter in the TLS today – from Lord Leach of Fairford – criticising (Lord) Bob May (of Oxford)’s Respect the Facts piece:

Sir, – As a non-scientist I cannot have read one-hundredth of the number of scientific articles read by Robert May, yet I am familiar with at least a score (each citing a score more) questioning key parts of the theory that there is a threat of catastrophic man-made global warming. So when Lord May claims (April 6) that “not one” respected scientist is unconvinced, far from persuading me he only makes me doubtful of his other claims.

Moreover, by applying the term “denial” (with all its loaded undertones) to sceptical scientists; by referring to them inaccurately as “well funded” by the oil industry; and by likening those who stress the uncertainties of climate science to unprincipled lobbyists for tobacco companies, Lord May enters on the field of personal vilification – not a suitable place for a distinguished former President of the Royal Society.

There is a great deal more money and acceptability available to consensus scientists than to dissenters. This suggests that the work of the doubters should be taken very seriously, since it brings with it problems both of funding and of exclusion from the friendly embrace of the Establishment. I admire such people, much as I have admired other dissidents like Solzhenitsyn, Pastor Bonhoeffer – oh, and Galileo and Darwin.

Third time lucky?

A while ago now, we mentioned that the Royal Society had dropped from its website all reference to ‘on the word of no one’, the traditional translation of its motto Nullius in Verba, and that its former president, Bob May, had re-translated it as ‘respect the facts’. Well, the RS has since come up with a third possibility, which it has now added to its web page about the motto:

The Royal Society’s motto ‘Nullius in verba’, roughly translated as ‘Nothing in words’, dates back to 1663…

Nothing in words. Indeed.

All Over the Place

More apologies. We are still busier than ever, which makes blogging difficult. We will be back up to speed in about three weeks. Meanwhile, here are a few things to check out.

Alexander Cockburn and George Monbiot have been battling it out for a while now over at Znet, and there’s a cameo from Micheal Mann, the creator of the ‘Hockey Stick‘, in there as well. And very entertaining it all is, too. It’s refreshing to see a figure from the left arguing with such passion against global warming orthodoxy.

It’s pitched as a debate, but it ends up as an eloquent slanging match, in which each side competes to prove that the other’s sources are more corrupt than their own. Monbiot’s efforts to distinguish between good and bad science by fishing around for links on the Internet that hint at conspiracies between energy companies, right wing think tanks and fundamentalist Christians are by far the most desperate.

Elsewhere, following some detective work by Anthony Watts, Steve McIntyre and Roger Pielke Sr have been doing some quality control on weather station data. It turns out that many climate monitoring installations are situated in the middle of car parks, next to buildings, heat-generating appliances such as air-conditioners, and even a barbecue – none of which were there when the stations were installed. The problem is that development around the devices since their installation can significantly alter the temperature – as anyone who has walked in the late evening from a non built up to a built up area during summertime will know. This rather fundamental problem throws into some doubt the instrument record of the northern hemisphere – the basis for arguments that humans are influencing the climate. To paraphrase a comment that we can’t find just now in one of those posts, it could turn out that the recorded temperature rise since the 1980s is even more anthropogenic than anyone suspected.

Finally, Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator has said that he’s not sure that global warming is a problem. Critics are already suggesting that Griffin was installed because of his views on global warming by the Bush administration. That may well be true. But this kind of argument – like George Monbiot’s – cuts both ways. If we want scientists to make statements to support political causes, we should not be upset when they don’t say what we want them to say.