Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spending billions on a non-existent problem

“From error to error one discovers the entire truth.” Sigmund Freud.

The Issue
The US Congress is currently discussing the Obama climate change strategy and Cap and Trade. One part of the plan says, “Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.”

The term “greenhouse gas emissions” is either deliberately misleading or indicates complete ignorance of the science, or both. What they really mean is CO2, yet it is less than 4% of greenhouse gases and the human portion a fraction of that. Why do they want it reduced? It is not a pollutant and not causing global warming or climate change. Reducing it is completely unnecessary and harmful for the plants and will cost trillions. They propose energy alternatives that are potentially more dangerous because they don’t work and can replace only a fraction of existing energy sources. This pattern of identifying the wrong agent of change, blaming humans, and proposing inadequate replacements at great cost is not new. We saw very similar events and sequences with claims that Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) was destroying the ozone layer.

The Pattern

Many cite the Montreal Protocol as a template for dealing with global warming because it supposedly resolved the ozone crisis. It didn’t! It’s a template not because it worked but because it was completely unnecessary, cost a lot of money and created other problems. It is also a template for understanding the deception that human CO2 is causing global warming. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) were blamed for atmospheric ozone destruction without evidence and natural processes were ignored.

They said CFCs would remain in the atmosphere for up to 100 years. Recovery of the ozone would take a very long time. They were wrong!

Today the failed predictions are essentially ignored although some scientists continue to seek the truth. Recently, University of Waterloo physics and astronomy professor, Qing-Bin Lu published a paper showing that cosmic rays are a major factor in the extent of the so-called ozone hole.

The issue has faded and only lingers in the massive sales of sun blockers. When I ask people what happened to the ozone issue, they invariably pause for a moment and say, “Yes, whatever happened to that?” The answer is there was no problem and the variations in ozone were perfectly natural.

A major tenet of the environmental paradigm is that almost all change is due to human activity. Once a change is determined it triggers a search for the human cause without consideration of natural change.

Measurements of ozone in Antarctica by the British Antarctic survey team in the early 1980s determined levels were lower than measures taken in 1957. I recall the press reports on this event and James Lovelock, the British scientist who proposed the Gaia hypothesis, warning against overreaction, but he was ignored.

Later they said he was wrong. In fact, he was right but it didn’t matter. It was an issue that fit environmental hysteria and was quickly deemed an unnatural change and the search for a human cause began. In 1974, Sherwood and Molina provided what they were looking for. In lab experiments they determined chlorine as the active ingredient in chlorofluorocarbon that destroys ozone. An unproven hypothesis became a fact and science was sidelined. As Richard Lindzen said about global warming and CO2, the consensus was reached before the research had even begun.
The Facts

There are no holes in the ozone, there were none when it became a political issue in the 1990s and there are none today. This is not an issue of semantics, but an important fact in the relationship between scientific accuracy and the public perception and political reaction. The amount of ozone in the ozone layer varies considerably in different regions, at different altitudes and over time. The so-called “ozone hole” is a region in the ozone layer generally located over Antarctica in which the ozone level is the lowest during the Southern Hemisphere winter. Even at this time the thickness of the ozone layer is approximately 1/3 of the global average. It is an area of thinning due to natural causes.

Ozone is produced when portions of ultraviolet light (UV) strike free atmospheric oxygen. This splits the oxygen (O2) into single oxygen (O) molecules that combine in threes to create ozone (O3). This occurs in the ozone layer from approximately 40 km down to 15 km. Height and depth of the layer varies with latitude and season. Ozone amounts vary at different altitudes, but only decreases were reported in the media particularly those over Antarctica. The system is self-correcting because as more ultraviolet penetrates deeper into the atmosphere it confronts more free oxygen. By 15 km above the surface over 95% of the UV has been expended in the creation of ozone.

A major cause of changes in the size and extent of the Antarctic ozone hole are the intense wind patterns and circulations associated with the extensive Antarctic high-pressure zone and the surrounding wind pattern known as the Circumpolar Vortex. A second factor is Polar Stratospheric Cloud (PSC) that forms when gases including water vapor sublimate directly to crystals because of the intensely low temperatures (-70°C and below) and pressures over the South Pole. But just as evidence against CO2 is ignored the environmentalists and politicians pushed ahead while deriding and demeaning those who wanted all the facts on the table.

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