Economist watch: still no sops to the denialists

20130810_LDP002_0 Can China clean up fast enough? asks The Economist. In more detail:

If China were simply following the path of rich countries from poverty through pollution to fresh air, there would be little to worry about (unless you lived in one of those hellish cities). But… When Britain’s industrial engine was gaining speed, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were the same as they had been for millennia. Now they are half as high again, and not far off 450 parts per million, which most scientists think is the danger level… If China cannot cut its CO2 emissions substantially, then either other countries will have to reduce theirs by more than they are doing now—which seems unlikely—or the world will need to find other ways to cope. That means exploring the possibilities of geoengineering the atmosphere or investing in ways of adapting to higher temperatures, such as drought-tolerant crops. But getting China to cut back further is not a lost cause. The place is vulnerable to climate change: in absolute terms, more people live at sea level in China, and so are threatened by rising oceans, than in any other country. The leadership therefore knows it needs to come up with a more effective means of changing behaviour. The obvious way is through a carbon tax.

All out of the standard playbook. But pleasingly, still not the slightest sign of a sop to the denialists; not even a token “some scientists say”. That’s good, in general, though it does point out (again) that for all the huff and chatter in the blogosphere, the outside world has moved on. My days are numbered, unless I learn some new tricks. Speaking of which:


The melting north

The Economist has a Special Report on “The melting north” (hopefully that works for you, I have a subscription so I’m not sure if its behind their paywall or not).

And what it says –

A heat map of the world, colour-coded for temperature change, shows the Arctic in sizzling maroon. Since 1951 it has warmed roughly twice as much as the global average. In that period the temperature in Greenland has gone up by 1.5°C, compared with around 0.7°C globally. This disparity is expected to continue. A 2°C increase in global temperatures—which appears inevitable as greenhouse-gas emissions soar—would mean Arctic warming of 3-6°C. Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded. The area of Arctic land covered by snow in early summer has shrunk by almost a fifth since 1966. But it is the Arctic Ocean that is most changed. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s the minimum extent of polar pack ice fell by around 8% per decade. Then, in 2007, the sea ice crashed, melting to a summer minimum of 4.3m sq km (1.7m square miles), close to half the average for the 1960s and 24% below the previous minimum, set in 2005… There is no serious doubt about the basic cause of the warming. It is, in the Arctic as everywhere, the result of an increase in heat-trapping atmospheric gases, mainly carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned

– is not desperately exciting for anyone who has been paying attention. What is interesting is that there isn’t even the smallest sop to the deniers in there. The sea ice record is taken for, well, for exactly what it is. There are no stupid quibbles about the temperature record. No-one wastes their time asking Lindzen or Spencer what they think of the trends, and no-one proposes that “its the sun” or space aliens or whatever.

Of course, the Economist (the clue is in the name) is also interested in other matters, so it looks at the possibilities of shorter shipping routes, and expansion of farmland. But ends with:

Yet how to reconcile the environmental risks of the melting Arctic with the economic opportunities it will present? The shrinkage of the sea ice is no less a result of human hands than the ploughing of the prairies. It might even turn out as lucrative. But the costs will also be huge. Unique ecosystems, and perhaps many species, will be lost in a tide of environmental change. The cause is global pollution, and the risks it carries are likewise global. The Arctic, no longer distant or inviolable, has emerged, almost overnight, as a powerful symbol of the age of man.


* A short walk in the Stubai: day 2: Aperer Turm

Einstein and car batteries: A spark of genius?

Sez the Economist:

For, according to Dr Pyykko’s calculations, relativity explains why tin batteries do not work, but lead ones do.

His chain of reasoning goes like this. Lead, being heavier than tin, has more protons in its nucleus (82, against tin’s 50). That means its nucleus has a stronger positive charge and that, in turn, means the electrons orbiting the nucleus are more attracted to it and travel faster, at roughly 60% of the speed of light, compared with 35% for the electrons orbiting a tin atom…

If the problem isn’t immeadiately obvious to you, pause a moment before proceeding over the fold.
Continue reading “Einstein and car batteries: A spark of genius?”

And the Economist is rubbish too

Since the last of the CRU-email inquiries came in, a whole string of rubbish journo’s have been queuing up to try to explain why, given that the inquires exhonerated the scientists, there was so much kerfuffle over the whole issue. Naturally, given that the journo’s can’t have been wrong, the scientists must have done something wrong, so a whole string of tedious “yes they were exhonerated but still, they could have done better” posts have come and gone.

Pearce was trash. Monbiot was rubbish during the fuss and was rubbish afterwards though JA took the piss out of him better than I did. mt finds somewhat better from the NYT (original here), good for them.

But the one that has wound me up today is the Economist, whose headline Flawed scientists is deeply dishonest and fails the introspection test. They should have written “flawed media”, since the overall failing in this sordid affair was the inability of people like them to produce accurate reporting. Their subhead is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change needs reform. The case for climate action does not ; the second half of this is OK, the first isn’t. the IPCC works. I’m sure it could use some fiddling – JA found it not entirely open about the comment process, though that got fixed – but compared to the beam in the media’s eye, the IPCC has motes.

So we have stuff like

Yet the science of climate change has seemed to be derailed by climategate and the discovery of some errors in IPCC reports, even the gravest of which come far short of undermining its conclusions. Part of the explanation is no doubt a noxious campaign against the credibility of environmental science in general, and climate science in particular; the internet has allowed the doubt thus manufactured to go viral. But the problem also stems from the failings of climate scientists themselves, and the institutions they work in.

and you can peruse the entire article and find not the slightest hint that the lily-white media might even be a tiny bit at fault for being a bunch of gullible fools.

[Update: Amusingly enough, there is now an Economistgate. They defend themselves – apparently they would edit a cover but never an internal picture, they say. I find their examples of other covers edited not quite convincing – the point of this one is that you couldn’t tell it was edited. It would have been more honest for them to have put a note somewhere explaining the edit and linking to the original. Also, is their explanation We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers entirely convincing? I wouldn’t consider it odd to have an unknown woman standing next to the president; indeed, I would find it ordinary. I think it is clear that they removed her because it made a “better” photo, because it made their point, or because somehow it didn’t look right the other way. But to do so silently was wrong.]

[Another way to tell how bad the Economist piece is to note how Eduardo “Jugular” Zorita likes it.]

[More: I’ve just looked at all my Economist comments (I now have 3, having made 2 today). I’m pleased to see that my comments on “Merchants of Doubt” (pointing out how carefully The Economist avoided mentioning GW) is at a recommendation level of 35, way above any others. See comments sorted by recommendation.

[Yet more: I’m not sure when I’ll lose the will to live but Andy Revkin joins the ranks of those still defending the indefensible media coverage (a href=””>ht Gareth). His excuse is that “conflict is story” and who cares about reality (no, he didn’t say that last, it is only implied).]