I am always happy to put up guest posts here at the Sandpit, being a humble man I like to share the tiny corner of that net that is may own with anyone who asks nicely or who writes something that I think worthy, Well today I offer to our readers an open letter to Jo Chandler from Peter Ravenscroft who contacted me a little while ago trying to get in touch with the lady herself, but it seems that the Age email address that I offered to Peter no longer works and that she is not contactable. So without further adieu here is Peter’s letter:
c/o Melbourne University Press.
I am reading your book, ta for that, much appreciated. I note the unease, but have some good news for you. What follows immediately is a little tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely …
(I see this got very long, so skip it, if not of interest. But I will send it anyway)
First, carbonism is a classic millenialist movement. It sells fear and angst, as they all do, and it is as difficult for the devotees to see as part of a continuum, as ever. But, this time it is different, don’t you see? The Catholic church, with which you may be familiar, has sold little else for 2,000 years. It is a good business model. Then they sell indulgences. Now the new folk sell panic tastefully relieved with carbon credits. To cleanse the soul. I suggest, of course you got a trip to Antarctica. You are a very valued part of the sales team. I have read what you write. Stirring stuff. It stirs up the grant money. The heroic hermit priest, braving the elements, wrestling with the demonic forces implicit in the knowledge of the imminence of Doomsday.
Pull the other one Jo, it has an Angora goat tied to it. You clearly do not believe that anthropogenic CO2 is wrecking the future or you would immediately stop flying about in giant carbon dioxide-belching aluminium cans, to conferences and to the Antarctic, to sample assorted cocktails. And, you would definitely have told your son not to dream of making a career of piloting such canisters. When I believed that, we stopped Concorde overflying Africa. We did some hopeless minor protests, but the boss of FOE in South Africa told the Nigerians their cows would abort – very effective, that was. Instead, Concorde aborted and had no further offspring.
I am not as sensible as you, so when I first heard CO2 was a problem, in ’74, and was setting up environmental groups across South Africa at (white English –our union had lost the rest) universities, I hitched all round the country. The secret policeman I had temporarily displaced from the job declined to do so and flew instead. Sensible man. By the way, I have also had moments of existential wonder in Maputo. My brother and I where there when it became Maputo, just as the Portuguese were winding up their empire. Our great contribution was helping a lady anthropologist pack her Austrian bentwood chair, and then being formally welcomed to liberated Mocambique by the leader of Frelimo in the slums, and drinking a toast to that with the last bottle of fizzy drink left in the community. While Chissano (sp?) headed straight for the Polana Hotel, and somehow never got around to meeting his local commander. So, we share some cynicisms.
Like you, now, I am a warmist. But not a carbonist. Like you, I wonder what makes both the planet and society tick. I have been at geology for 40 years now so am just a beginner, geological time being what it is, and am just learning how to get everything wrong and what a wry sense of humour Murphy has. I did some anthropology after getting to be a field geologist, under a delightful and exquisitely-credentialed elderly lady, and so have been studying the fascinating new religion – in which I am some kind of marginal cleric – namely “Science,” for forty odd years also. I have now had the luxury of five years to assess the climate science data, with no boss other than myself to pester. So, I read everything I could find.
Being an unrepentant member of the radical green left, an active prospector and an ex- and unrepentant director of FOE, I am now perhaps the most awkward person in the climate debate – anathema to the carbonists and a leper to the sceptics. I live in rural splendour on our organic subsistence farm and a fleet of old exploration caravans, best friend, after Denise, a donkey called Wills, who is much amused at the climate fuss, as are all the ant and bird people here. I am as green as ever, but just more than a little uneasy about the environmental movement being hijacked by the carbonists, who have all the answers and denigrate those who do not with extraordinary ferocity. The extremists call for jail terms for sceptics. And equally uneasy about the radical right monopolizing, and exciting to violence from the other side. The extremists call for jail terms for carbonists.
I have been patiently (huh!, ask Denise about the steam coming periodically from the ears) explaining, as friends drift away, just as you have found, that the heat that is changing the surface planetary temperatures, starting with the oceans, is coming from the core-mantle boundary, either as the result of, or as the cause of, the shifts in the z or vertical component of the geomagnetic field at that depth. There is the Holy Grail, very simple, found purely by chance, no great privation in the Namib Desert required (been there, done that, quite useless) but unfortunately invisible, even in broad daylight, to those who are not blessed with contour map vision, preferably with both first and second derivative insight also. They used to hand it out in the Boy Scouts, at least in the basic form, but now, it is very rare.
The maps of where the surface temperature is changing most and most consistently – Eastern Siberia north of Lake Baikal, the Antarctic Peninsula, the coast of Angola, and the region around the Caspian Sea, and the north magnetic pole – all match, to near perfection, the now extremely well-plotted shifts in the secular shifts in radial, or z or vertical, component of the magnetic field at the core-mantle boundary – 3,000 kms directly below your left foot. The surface warming regions never match, ever, the regions of high mid-troposphere CO2, and just for added fun, those never, ever, match where we generate CO2 in our industrial cities either, unless you fake the data. And just in case you want confirmation, the seismic velocity anomaly maps of the lower mantle match the first two sets very neatly. Keep in mind, seismic velocity anomalies track heat (sort of), not magnetic field shifts. So, the confirmation is independent, and all from Royal Society p-r papers, long there for all to read.
Once the basics of the carbonist case unravels, it all unravels. Some years back, I started with the Vostok core, noticed the mainly negative slope between peak CO2 and peak temperatures (it is not simply 800 years, it swings out to 3,000 and is, at occasional times the other way, unless we have stratigraphic core loss, which is highly likely). Then applied some of the basic tenet of core-logging (extreme scepticism about the writing of vast historical novels based on small pieces of inscrutable drillcore) and the physics of ice in continental glaciers – always moving – and of ice cores coming to surface un-pressurized. Coming up, from the phase diagram of CO2, the deepest cores go through two phase shifts, probably explosively, so Petit et al are slightly in dreamworld, I think, in thinking we can possibly know the nueric value of ancient CO2 peaks.
And, some 50 million centrifugal pumps are doing sterling work lowering water tables , with a very neat match in the volumes, after isostatic rebound is allowed roughly of the order of 1,000 cubic kilometres per year. That pretty much explains the enigmatic rise in sea levels – I did once work in eustatics, once had an irrigation business, and have run centrifugal pumps on my subsistence farm for decades now. Etc., etc. I have a 500-page book on all that, with lots of pretty maps and graphs. Never read, far as I know, by anyone.
But, surprise, surprise, Nobody on both sides of this fraught debate, or the public, or the science establishment, or the publishing world, wants to know even the one-liner. Which is where what would otherwise be depressing, in fact all gets interesting, from the anthropology point of view.
Deduction: The science establishment promotes stories, just as you do, but is not quite so honest about it. The editor of the Royal Society’s journal, for instance, found she could not, in a blue fit, pass on my email explaining, to Paul Nurse, the president of her own society, whose grasp of geophysics is not exactly up to speed. As one of the spin-offs of seeing that the heat is from below is being able to see the heat build-up before earthquakes, on the NOAA sea surface temperature maps and it works – I have got about seven in advance now (though with a lot of false positives), and Geonet in NZ said ta and is on the lookout for the patterns, and NASA also said ta, – , one might have thought the Royal Society for the Advancement of Knowledge would at least have been prepared to read the essay and attached maps.
Hansen at GISS said all enquiries re the AQUA satellite data were to go to him, then declined to answer the awkward questions, as to why he disappeared all the AQUA satellite CO2 maps, without any explanation. Briffa and Jones of EAU do not reply. The “Nature trick” email was significant, because Briffa’s Yamil hockey stick, refuted by the Russians who did the original fieldwork – they published a dead flat one from the same data – is the only graphical support in the literature for the Mann hockey stick, a point all commentators have missed. Since time-series contour maps, even though they contain two orders of magnitude more data than a line graph, are not in favour in this debate, faking the Yamil graph with the spliced on blade, was in fact scientifically serious distortion.
CSIRO likewise does not reply coherently. Flannery keeps mum. Monckton for the blue team thought the 50 million centrifugal pumps story, see below, was the only new thing in the debate in a decade – nice of him to say so – but did not like me suggesting he stop railing about it all being a commie plot, if he was coming to Oz, and so changed to hinting it may be a Nazi one. And then he quite forgot to ask his geophysicist friend to check the basics of what I had sent.
Geomagnetics? That some version of geomancy? The ABC is stone deaf, at about six different programs, the BBC ditto, and the eyes glaze over, on commercial radio, at about the second sentence, if not the second part of the first word. They have to carefully explain to listeners what a magnet is, as they do not use them in Footy. And in science the truth is, very few scientists are game to say, “I do not even know the units used, in the field you are talking about or which end of a proton precession magnetometer goes in your ear.” We are very pompous shamans.
Power, to contradict that bizarre man Chairman Mao rather emphatically, is largely about the ownership of the currently fashionable stories, and nowhere more so than in science. Scientists depend for a living on telling simplistic stories, reality being far too complex for all us rainforest monkeys, even the smartest Ph.D.s. Infinite number of variable, one arrow of time, link any three and you have a fine PhD. Or, an infinite possible series of them. We in science have no magic formula for finding the truth, we just sell fairy stories. First to ourselves, then to friendly journos, then to taxi drivers.
If you come from a successful and long-undisturbed culture like Australia, one inevitably ends up with a low skill-level in questioning the establishment and its stories. I had the curious privilege of growing up under a system most of us hated, to wit apartheid, so deep scepticism was endemic and rather popular. Also, we had many local cultures loathing the system from several inspired angles. Everything the political establishment told us was suss, so, slowly, we learned to be sceptical of our own culture also; that in my case being the tattered remnants of British imperialism. And, of determinist science.
I have had a go at trying to persuade all sorts of folk to simply look at the satellite temperature anomaly and geomagnetic anomaly maps with the brain in gear. They are free on the Internet. If you can read a contour map and are able to compare two, it is not difficult to see that carbonism is utterly untenable.
It may be worth keeping in mind that the interested reading public (the one that ever needs to be educated by the informed establishment) was sold on evolution for decades before the establishment stopped backing the legend of the homicidal sky fairy they called God being in charge of geology and species design on the basis of personal itches and insane rages. Buck House debated evolution in 1844, at a garden party given by H. M., around Chambers’ Vestiges of Creation . Read Wells (1812), Matthew (1831) for even earlier stuff, and the reviews of the day on those. And read Darwin himself in the third edition of the Origin, where he very honestly listed 33 prior claimants to evolution, several of them invoking natural selection. But the Darwin industry wound itself to fever pitch again, recently, with the same old silly mantra as to his precedence.
The fashion parade in kindergarten science marches on. Arrhenius, on no sane grounds whatever, discounted the heat from below – read the 1898 original – the evasion is pathetic – it is that heat going below during the day will be lost during the night. An indoor chemist, he obviously never saw basalt lava. The temperature at the cmb is about 4,000 degrees C. Liquid metal, maybe nickel iron, maybe ultra-high-pressure silicates acting as metals, flows erratically down there and generates vast electrical currents and vast heat flows. Those flows can be and have been mapped. Basalt, as you will know, needs to be at 900 degrees C, minimum, to get to the surface as lava. The planet wobbles, as you noted, and so the temperatures deep down fluctuate hugely on decadal and centennial and every other scale, as the geomagnetic field forever wobbles towards and away from the occasional full flip. The temperature in space is just a little colder than that in the emantle. So, who said the crust is a perfect insulator? Same bloke as said continental glacial ice is a perfect leak-proof trap for CO2, over three-quarters of a million years, maybe? We are petrified that the climate has shifted a few degrees in a century? Given how it is down below, does that sound remotely sane?
The obsession with carbon driving the ice ages and the present shifts is, it seems to me, simply a function of the consensus-majority of the climate community never having done Geology 101. Or, with the few who did, not being game to speak up. My best mate at uni, now head of an august department never mind where, one day said Pete, you may be right, but we are in the very competitive business of getting funding, so I cannot possibly say so publicly. I said, the consensus of the privileged is not always quite the same as the consensus of the informed. We had a good chuckle.
Your taxi driver is not a field anthropologist you want to dismiss too lightly. The science establishment has to toe the going line, as above. But the thousands of folk the taxi driver talks to have to decide whether to go look for work in Mackay, plant potatoes this year, invest in an inner city unit or a farm or gold, or have another kid. They – we – have no real insurance – the compulsory pension funds having been invested in fairy floss – other than observing reality, as best we can. We do not get to faraway cocktail parties to either back or oppose fashion statements. And so, the collective wisdom of a couple of billion ordinary observers is a little more trustworthy, often, that that of the paid priestly establishment. Lots of geos, by the way, are really just cabbies in disguise, as the field used to be popular, too many of us were trained and got tickets, and there is not often enough work to go around. As we get older, we get tired of the heavy labouring standbys. Then we yap away and bore the other cabbies to tears, but it does get into the brain. Also, when billions of people look at an argument, and say that, well, if it was in my field, I would not buy it, so I am sceptical, just maybe, collectively, they are not as stupid as the media and the paid priesthood assumes. It does not matter if the folk wash hospital sheets or sell mortgages or fix diesel motors or raise cows for a living, a lot of people are into complex logic, just to survive. Not all sell stories with salaries or grants attached.
So, I do not wish to disturb your religious beliefs, but if you would like to contribute something new to this debate, have a read of Why Carbon is Innocent or at least skim the pretty pictures, and then, if so inclined, get back. You could cause quite a stir, rather than simply running the old mantras, sprinkled with well-adjectives about heroic scientists. When I was a kid, I was also brought up on the culture of heroic expeditioning, hence the field geology, the truck expeditions, the hitching here and there, the kayaking, etc. Then, though, the mythology was about Johnny-come-lately geographic and cultural exploration. We did not see ourselves as angst marketeers.
I do not claim my case re climate is correct, it would be quite bizarre if I had something so complex all correct, or perhaps even partly so. Geologists have been at this ice age problem for 200 years, in the present run, and since Outzi, in reality. But what is disturbing is this. From both sides, everybody goes to ground, claiming that all sorts of experts, over there somewhere, none of whom know very much, if anything, about mantle geophysics, geomagnetics, remote sensing data, geochemistry, physical oceanography or the vagaries of priestly cultures, knows perfectly well what is driving climate change. Since no-one on this planet is up to speed in those fields – least of all me – one would expect some doubts to be expressed by the devotees of carbonism.
But. Not one human has ever got back with detailed questions, except for one string of queries, that wanted to know who was paying me (no-one), and what I had published in the anonymously-censored-by-the-in-group, profit–and-copyright-for-large-corporations peer review system. The answer to the second is also zero, as I publish in ordinary English, on the net, in the public domain. I may still own www.publicdomain.com, but it is defunct as no-one a decade back chose to contribute. Google and the surname will find some of the other climate change wreckage, among all the antiwar stuff.
The big hole in the carbon-sceptics case has been the lack of an alternative model with real data to back it, but they are obsessed with external solar changes. So they also flatly refuse to look at the vast body of hard geophysics data, against the satellite temperature data, and their really ever-so-simple and clear maps. No-one will look at the AQUA satellite AIRS CO2 anomaly maps (280 of them) with the brain in gear and some memory of where our industrial cities are located, either. Those cities are not actually in the western Sahara, where the deep sedimentary basins naturally put out huge volumes of CO2 annually. You can fit a lot of blue-green bacteria etc,. in the cool and delightful environs of the biggest sandpile on the planet, just a couple of metres below the solar-heated roof. The CO2 comes from there, and from warming and de-pressurizing (upwelling) seawater. Or, so say those heretical satellite maps. Not a lot of big factories where the Humboldt and Benguela currents surface, either.
Real concerns? We are a species overrunning its resource base on many fronts, not least the metals sector. Peak copper? Peak zinc? Peak iron? Peak lithium? Peak iridium? Peak aluminium? Peak phosphorus? Only the last has surfaced so far. We have mined out, in 200 years, all the high-grade metals it took 4 billion to accumulate, so there is no way back to the Bronze Age. All the high-grade ore is gone, so we are locked into gigantism, as surely as the dinosaur was. How do I cope with the depression? Easy – species, as species, never survive, but we live now and life overall goes on. Specieism is like nationalism. Virginity is curable, but those two are brain diseases. Me, I am cheering for the ant and mosquito people, who are much better at prospecting and mining than we are and have lesser metals footprints. Meanwhile, fly with a clear conscience. We have coal for 20,000 years, believe me, checking that that is part of my professional game. South African Airways, though you may know, is already flying on avgas from SASOL coal. There is enough of the black muck to get rid of this poisonous oxygen atmosphere and get back our long-lost methane one. I cannot say anything coherent about oil, or non-coal seam gas, not my field.
There is no such thing as free insurance, so the precautionary principle being invoked by carbonists may yet sink us as a species. The numbers of individuals of any species – plant, bacterium or animal, are a direct function of the cost of energy to the individual. So, push up energy costs rapidly and numbers go down. With humans, that usually means war. So, we are playing with fire.
Me, I have made my own solar shower out of scrap and have made and sold one electric bike at a very fine profit, and grow enough food – just – to get by. So if it all goes pear-shaped and the supermarkets stop supplying food, I will be perfectly all right – for the two days it will take the urban hungry to remember our orchards. My Dad was a heavy machine-gunner in the Western Desert and an Uncle ran a heavy battery on the Somme, but I am simply too lazy for all that so we will not be able to explain properly, why hungry folk should go away empty-handed. Not entirely academic as two years back, my father-in-law got himself murdered by the irate citizenry, when in hospital and almost on his death bed, back in the good ole RSA. I think every member of Denise’s family has been attacked at least once, by folk feeling understandably a bit aggrieved about the resource distribution system in general. So here, we do not now explain it all with any vigour to the channel-billed cuckoos, ten other bird species, the water dragons and the fruit bats, so we now get few mulberries, where we used to freeze huge crops. We are in training.
We cannot collectively change what is happening at the cmb, and we best know it. Half of humanity, in the mouse traps called cities, is a very high-risk strategy – Stalin sent townies out to a few kulacks, and even that did not work overly well. And if you now look closely, you will see that exactly where the uproar is in N. Africa and the Middle East is where the ground temperature is up, crops have been failing, and where, deep below, the magnetic anomalies at the cmb are changing most. Allah Akbar? I would have merely said he was on leave or mischievous. We cannot change cmb magnetic shifts – the devil down there is just that little bit beyond our reach and is laughing at our hubris. We best know it, so we can attend to food security and stop jet-jumping to meaningless feel-bad conferences, in exotic locations.
Get back, if so minded. If you come to think I may have the odd thing right, it could give you a very different journalistic career – and a lot of flak to catch.
I have pretty much run out of interest in the topic, so I am not fussed either way. I do value your concern, but.
Best, either which way,
How’s them apples Comrades?