Triple Crunch Log
Nature looks at “the real holes in climate science” and concludes they favour a worse outcome. The science magazine recounts six common myths:
“- Climate models can't provide useful information about the real world. Models can reproduce much of the climate variation over the past millennium, but projections for the future are subject to well-described uncertainties, both in the understanding of climate and in estimates of future economic development. They cannot therefore provide decision-makers with exact information of the rate of future changes, but they can offer useful general information and they unconditionally predict a warmer world.
- Global warming stopped ten years ago. Climate is not weather. The climate is the multi-decade average of the constantly changing state of the atmosphere. Natural variations can cause temperatures to rise and fall from year to year or decade to decade. Although global temperatures did not rise as quickly in the past decade as in previous ones, the most recent decade was the warmest on record.
- Temperatures were higher in pre-industrial times. The consensus of proxy-based reconstructions of pre-industrial climate is that the second half of the twentieth century was probably warmer than any other half-century in more than a millennium. Warmer periods did occur in the more distant past, albeit under different orbital and geological conditions. In any case, warm spells in the past do not disprove human influence on climate today. The cause of any particular climate change needs to be investigated separately.
- Temperature records taken in the lower atmosphere indicate that the globe is not warming. A decade ago, there seemed to be a discrepancy between surface and tropospheric temperatures. But this issue was resolved when long-standing calibration problems with satellite sensors were discovered. Satellite measurements show that the lower atmosphere is warming at a rate consistent with the predictions of climate models.
- A few degrees of warming are not a big deal. In the most recent ice age, the world was only a few degrees cooler on average than it is today. The current rate of warming is in all likelihood unique in the history of humankind. There may be no such thing as an 'optimum' temperature for the planet, but modern human societies are adapted to the weather patterns and sea levels of the past millennia. The rapidity of global warming substantially adds to the problem.
- Measured increases in temperature reflect the growth of cities around weather stations rather than global warming. Climate researchers have taken great care to correct for the impact of urbanization in temperature records by matching data from more-urban stations with data from rural ones. Moreover, some of the largest temperature anomalies on Earth occur in the least populated areas, including around the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. Measurements also show warming of the surface ocean and deeper marine layers.”81
Bill Gates says nuclear is worth pursuing; solar and wind, though good, have limitations. This on his Gates Notes web site, relaying his views about social problems, launched today. Gates has invested in a Seattle-based nuclear company working on reactor design, TerraPower. Solar is “way, way, way out of line” and has storage problems, he says in a podcast.82
21.1.10.Obama prepares for what he calls a “big fight with the banks” with limits on their trading. The day after a shock defeat for the Democrats in the Massachusetts Senatorial by-election, Obama makes a populist move. Proprietary trading operations, where banks use their own corporate funds to gamble in the markets, will now be limited. “We’ve got a financial regulatory system that is completely inadequate to control the excessive risks and irresponsible behaviour of financial players all around the world,” Obama says. “People are angry and they’re frustrated. From their perspective, the only thing that happens is that we bail out the banks... We’re about to get in a big fight with the banks.”83
The new banking regulation will be called “the Volcker Rule,” after its architect in the White House, Paul Volcker, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Carter and Reagan.84 It prohibits any bank holding deposits guaranteed by the government from operating hedge funds, private equity funds, or from proprietary trading. On top of this will come a limit on the size of any bank.85
Goldman Sachs, announcing results, says it is exercising “restraint” in lowering bonus payouts to $16bn, so that the average pay packet is fractionally less than half a million dollars per employee. The proportion of revenue allocated to pay falls from 48% to 35.8%, the lowest proportion since the bank went public in 1999. Its compensation pool is reduced by a $500m donation taken from the pay of Goldman's 400 senior partners and given to a charitable foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives. CFO David Viniar: “We are certainly appreciative of the policies governments around the world put in place to help stabilise the world's financial system. We think they did a really, really good job.”86
UK could follow Obama lead on bank constraints. US officials will come to London to discuss co-ordinated action.87 But Darling has opposed a return to Glass-Steagal-type regulation, whereas the Conservatives say what Obama intends “needs to be done.”88
UK begins a programme to repatriate all radioactive waste from abroad. A cargo set sail for Japan last night, under an agreement that will cut Britain’s high-level waste stockpile by almost 40 per cent over the next ten years. All 925 tonnes of foreign atomic waste from Japan and four other countries will go. 28 steel canisters of waste, each weighing half a tonne but sheathed in 100-tonne steel flasks and under heavy security, are moved by rail from Sellafield, where they have been in temporary storage since the 1990s, to Barrow-in-Furness, there to be loaded on to the Pacific Sandpiper, a custom-built, double-hulled ship. Armed guards will protect the canister on their six to eight-week sea journey. The other countries involved are Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Contracts from the 1970s and 1980s brought the spent nuclear fuel rods to Britain for reprocessing. But problems with the Sellafield plant and commercial disagreements led to lengthy delays. Some 5,000 steel canisters have been held at Sellafield. Direct exposure would kill a human being instantly. Japan will store the first shipment of canisters temporarily at the Rokkasho nuclear facility. It has not yet built a permanent-storage repository.89
22.1.10.FTSE and Dow Jones fall as investors fret over Obama’s move. Banks are the biggest losers of course, but Google’s spat with China isn’t helping.90
Brown to push for a Tobin Tax in wake of Obama’s gear change. But the City Minister Myners says the UK does not to copy the US because we already have a tax and requirement for living wills.91
Barclays elects to defer bonuses for top bosses in face of public pressure. Up to 100% will be deferred for three years.92