Dayamani Barla speaks to the Real News about her work, activism and her hopes for the future indigenous struggles in India

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Municipal Bankruptcies, Pensions, and New Dimensions of Class Struggle in the United States by Carlos Borrero

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/

The news that Detroit has declared bankruptcy, the largest North American city to do so thus far, foreshadows an extension of the social crisis currently afflicting the centers of capitalism.  As some observers have noted, Detroit is just the tip of the iceberg in what is sure to be a procession of indebted municipalities looking to discharge debt through bankruptcy.  The invariable result will be an extension of the undeclared campaign of austerity already forced upon the masses of North American workers.

The particular drama unfolding in Detroit has brought the questions of pension funds and race to the forefront.  In the media, a disingenuous and pernicious ideological offensive is being carried out in which public pensions are being presented as a major contributing factor in the indebtedness of cities like Detroit.  The implication is that the approximately 20,000 retired municipal employees, mostly police and firemen, somehow caused the bankruptcy of a city that from the 1930s until the mid-seventies maintained a population of over 1.5 million.  A simultaneous campaign rooted in racism is being waged to justify the lack of public policy response to the crisis.  What the media outlets will never admit is that the decline of Detroit is rooted in the particular form of capitalist growth, which manifests itself as a dynamic juxtaposition of development and underdevelopment at the international level as well as within a given country.  Under capitalism, the creation of wealth is always accompanied by impoverishment while the economic growth of particular sectors as well as geographic areas, once beyond a certain point, invariably transforms into decay.

The Contradictions of Capitalist Development and Detroit

The enormous accumulation of capital in the automobile industry during the better part of the 20th century resulted in the much-heralded emergence of Detroit as the center of production for US auto companies.  However, it was the very same massive investment in factories, machines, new technologies, etc. by automakers in pursuit of profits that under conditions of increased international competition during the 60s and 70s invariably resulted in a concomitant profit squeeze for these same companies.  As a result, US automakers pursued the only set of survival strategies possible under conditions of generalized commodity production: shift productive investment to lower-wage areas while simultaneously attempting to increase the exploitation of the labor that remained; reorganize factories for efficiency primarily through the introduction of technological innovations; and extract subsidies from the state.  These strategies, though key to the recent reemergence of US automakers, were never intended to safeguard the interest of Detroit’s residents.  Indeed, the history of Detroit’s auto industry over the past hundred years is a case study of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall so masterfully explained by Marx in Volume 3 of Capitalwith all of the accompanying negative social consequences for the residents of the “Motor City.”

Much has been made of Detroit’s overreliance on one industry.  Interestingly, the case of Detroit has remarkable parallels to colonial and neocolonial countries in which imposed economic models rooted in so-called “comparative advantage” resulted in monoculture, leaving whole societies vulnerable to even the slightest variation in world market prices.  For Detroit, there was to be no such comparative advantage.

Indeed, little of the productive apparatus of the US auto industry commonly attributed to Detroit in the popular imagination remains in the city today.  The recent increase in profits that US automakers have seen stems from three decades of restructuring that includes relocating newer assembly plants closer to regional markets and low-wage areas (e.g. Mexico) while extracting more work from the remaining North American labor force through contracts that split workers along generational lines.  In the most recent UAW contract, younger unionized workers were forced to accept a 50% pay reduction ($14 an hour) and reduced benefits as part of a two-tiered system, leaving them unable to lift their families much above the poverty lines without working hundreds of overtime hours annually.  Yet this drastic reduction in wages by US standards still exceeds what is commonly paid in lower-wage areas.  It is also important to highlight that the 2008-2009 bailout of the US auto industry, advertised by many Democrats as necessary to save jobs, was in reality an $80-billion transfer of public funds to the coffers of the Big Three and its affiliates, mediated by the capitalist state, to facilitate an additional reorganization of their operations.  As such, the claim that “Detroit is back” is nothing more than a slick marketing phrase demagogically used to dupe the masses of North Americans.  The profits of US automakers are back as they expand throughout the continent and world in search of more profitable conditions.  But this has no bearing on the everyday realities faced by Detroit’s residents, who are living the consequences of changed investment patterns in the form of a decaying infrastructure, inadequate schools and health facilities, as well as endemic unemployment.

Pensions and Some New Dynamics of Class Struggle

In advanced capitalist countries, the struggle between workers and capitalists takes on a modified form.  In its economic dimensions, this struggle has always consisted of battles over the direct conditions of the labor process (e.g. length of the working day, working conditions, etc.) and wages in the immediate sense.  Wages and working conditions are certainly the focus of labor struggles in less developed countries and continue to be important elements of the conflict between labor and capital even in advanced capitalist countries.  The current strikes among fast-food workers in New York City attest to this.  However, the ruling class in the advanced capitalists countries has historically conceded a portion of surplus profits to important segments of the working class to ensure a relatively higher standard of living.  This should be understood as a result of struggle as well as the need to expand the market in the interest of preserving the system and to attenuate working-class militancy.

The current court proceedings over pensions in Detroit highlight another important dimension of class struggle in advanced capitalist societies.  Pensions are in essence “deferred wages” which ensure that workers are able to maintain themselves and their families once past the age in which they are actively engaged in productive labor.  Pension funds are pools of “deferred wages” that in modern capitalist countries are typically invested in an effort to secure either interest from bonds or dividends from stocks, which in both cases amounts to a share of redistributed surplus value.

A critical question for the working class is who controls these vast sums of money that are combined and for what purpose.  The resolution of this question constitutes an increasingly important indicator of the balance of forces in the class struggle between labor and capital.  As a result, the ideological maturity as well as the militancy of the organized working class is reflected in its attitude to this question.  This is because the struggle over pensions necessarily draws the working class into discussions of long-term planning for society as a whole.  This kind of discussion has serious implications as it opens the real possibility of a working-class vision for the reorganization of society that reflects a different set of priorities than those imposed by capital.

At present, the norm in advanced capitalist countries is that the ruling class controls pension funds through financial institutions.  In the case of both public and private pension schemes, financial institutions administer the funds of workers with the same objectives.  The primary difference between the two consists in the increased oversight of public plans, which are supposed to have a legally sanctioned “defined benefit” as opposed to private plans such as the riskier 401ks that are tied to the ups and downs of the stock market.  While some sectors of the ruling class oppose public pensions on the grounds that state guarantees of a lifetime defined benefit represent a burden on the “public” coffers, from the standpoint of finance capital, there is little difference between the public and private pensions.

For example, in New York State, where the average public-sector retiree receives a pension of about $19,000 annually, there are over $160 billion in assets currently invested from the state’s pension fund.  Literally hundreds of millions of dollars from this fund go to finance capital (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Blackstone Group, etc.) in the form of fees every year.  The sad truth is that finance capital invests the lion’s share of the pension fund in many of the very same companies that exploit workers and sponsor anti-labor public policies.

What emerges is a scenario in which the savings of the working class are appropriated by finance capital.  In addition to the obvious transfer of wealth, this constitutes a powerful ideological weapon used against labor as its future security appears to be tied to the survival of capitalism as a system.  Through these pension funds, workers only appear to assume the role of “investors.”  They obviously hold no real decision-making power with respect to how this capital is invested.  The incredible growth of pension funds, which some calculate to exceed $20 trillion and are considered by many to be the largest institutional investors in the world today, is evidence of the scale of wealth transfer from labor to capital that is taking place.  This wealth, rather than meeting the needs of the vast majority, continues to enrich a minority.

African American Workers Carry the Burden

The racial dimension of the crisis afflicting Detroit cannot go unnoticed.  Approximately 80% of the city’s residents are African American.  The massive migration of blacks from the south to the urban industrial centers of the north, which accelerated in the immediate aftermath of WWII, was met with wide-scale hostility from whites, including significant sectors of the working class.  Segregated neighborhoods and inequalities based on race increasingly characterized Detroit and its growing suburbs.  Racial tensions among white and black members of the working class often resulted in violence, the most noted example of which occurred in 1967 when black youths protesting state repression clashed with police.  The phenomenon of “white flight” created an antagonism between suburban communities and urban centers that has manifested in local politics as an advantage to Republicans at the state level while major cities like Detroit tended to favor Democrats.

Despite these challenges, African Americans came to occupy a critical role in the labor force of one of the most vital industries in the United States.  In some instances, black labor leaders held important positions within the labor movement as a whole that allowed them to move workers beyond internecine racial divisions to increasingly advanced positions with respect to capitalism.  The contributions of socialists like James Boggs are the most outstanding example of this.

Today, the hypocrisy of the political representatives of US capital can be seen at all levels.  Barack Obama, the first African American president of the US, whose two victories in Michigan were due in large part to the electoral support of Detroit’s overwhelmingly black population, declared the crisis faced by the city to be a “local” affair.  Yet, he did not hesitate to extend the policies initiated by Bush, who orchestrated the transfer of at least $17 billion in public money to the Big Three from 2008 to 2009, by handing over an additional $21.6 billion and pardoning at least $14 billion of debt for these now profitable firms.  In a recent article for The Nation, David Zirin, one of the few sports writers with intelligence, points to the hypocrisy of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who approved a plan to use $283 million in public money to subsidize the construction of a sports complex for the Detroit Red Wings, a local hockey team, under the pretext that it represents future economic development.1  Within the realm of local politics, much has been made of the political corruption that has plagued the city, most notably reflected in the forced resignation of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after being convicted for obstruction of justice.  While this kind of corruption is unacceptable under any circumstances, the insinuation that similar acts only occurred after the ascension of African-American politicians to elected offices or that these practices are not endemic throughout the political structures of the US amounts to base hypocrisy and racism.

Why Detroit Matters

There are thousands of municipalities across the US watching the events in Detroit closely.  Yet, the strategy of discharging municipal debt through bankruptcy proceedings does nothing to address structural problems that residents of towns, cities, and counties in circumstances similar to Detroit will continue to face.  Labor in the US must understand that any legally sanctioned attack on pensions is tantamount to an act of class war with far-reaching social consequences.  The North American working class must prepare to answer this class aggression by moving beyond the current arena of struggle, the courts, where no discussion of the structural crises of capitalism or a socialist alternative will take place, to workplaces, schools, and streets.  These are the arenas where responsible, class-conscious representatives must facilitate the education of the mass of workers and from which the transformative potential of the US working class can begin to be realized.

Despite its waning influence throughout the world, the United States remains a powerful country.  US imperialism continues to exert pressure on the rest of the world through a combination of economic and military strength.  However, pressures from international competitors tend to unleash reactionary forces within the United States.  These forces increasingly use the economic and military strength of the US to pursue wars of pillage abroad while they subvert and repress the exploited at home.  The capacity of the North American working class to engage in a principled struggle in Detroit has the potential to initiate a new wave of progressive struggle to counter the wave of reaction in the center while sending a clear signal to its class brethren to continue the fight abroad.

 

1  Dave Zirin, “On Vultures and Red Wings: Millionaire Gets New Sports Arena in Bankrupt Detroit,” The Nation (July 29, 2013).


Carlos Borrero is a writer based in New York, New York.  En español: <www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=171902>

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Another blow to climate ‘skeptics’

Posted on August 7, 2013

American Geophysical Union says ‘ rapid societal responses’ are needed to prevent harmful climate change impacts around the world

It’s just about impossible to find any qualified scientist who denies (or even doubts) that climate change is real and dangerous, that human action is the primary cause, and that it can’t be stopped without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

This week, another major scientific organization issued a firm statement supporting the scientific consensus.

Last year, an official statement on climate change by the American Geophysical Union said it was was real and “tied to energy use.” This week, the the 61,000 member organization revised its position to be “more reflective of the current state of scientific knowledge.” It puts the blame firmly on human action, and calls for “urgent action” including “substantial emissions cuts.”

Here’s the AGU’s official position statement on climate change, published August 5, 2013.


HUMAN-INDUCED CLIMATE CHANGE
REQUIRES URGENT ACTION

Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes.

Human activities are changing Earth’s climate. At the global level, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases have increased sharply since the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuel burning dominates this increase. Human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed global average surface warming of roughly 0.8°C (1.5°F) over the past 140 years. Because natural processes cannot quickly remove some of these gases (notably carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, our past, present, and future emissions will influence the climate system for millennia.

Extensive, independent observations confirm the reality of global warming. These observations show large-scale increases in air and sea temperatures, sea level, and atmospheric water vapor; they document decreases in the extent of mountain glaciers, snow cover, permafrost, and Arctic sea ice. These changes are broadly consistent with long-understood physics and predictions of how the climate system is expected to respond to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases. The changes are inconsistent with explanations of climate change that rely on known natural influences.

Climate models predict that global temperatures will continue to rise, with the amount of warming primarily determined by the level of emissions. Higher emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to larger warming, and greater risks to society and ecosystems. Some additional warming is unavoidable due to past emissions.

Climate change is not expected to be uniform over space or time. Deforestation, urbanization, and particulate pollution can have complex geographical, seasonal, and longer-term effects on temperature, precipitation, and cloud properties. In addition, human-induced climate change may alter atmospheric circulation, dislocating historical patterns of natural variability and storminess.

In the current climate, weather experienced at a given location or region varies from year to year; in a changing climate, both the nature of that variability and the basic patterns of weather experienced can change, sometimes in counterintuitive ways — some areas may experience cooling, for instance. This raises no challenge to the reality of human-induced climate change.

Impacts harmful to society, including increased extremes of heat, precipitation, and coastal high water are currently being experienced, and are projected to increase. Other projected outcomes involve threats to public health, water availability, agricultural productivity (particularly in low-latitude developing countries), and coastal infrastructure, though some benefits may be seen at some times and places. Biodiversity loss is expected to accelerate due to both climate change and acidification of the oceans, which is a direct result of increasing carbon dioxide levels.

While important scientific uncertainties remain as to which particular impacts will be experienced where, no uncertainties are known that could make the impacts of climate change inconsequential. Furthermore, surprise outcomes, such as the unexpectedly rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice, may entail even more dramatic changes than anticipated.

Actions that could diminish the threats posed by climate change to society and ecosystems include substantial emissions cuts to reduce the magnitude of climate change, as well as preparing for changes that are now unavoidable. The community of scientists has responsibilities to improve overall understanding of climate change and its impacts. Improvements will come from pursuing the research needed to understand climate change, working with stakeholders to identify relevant information, and conveying understanding clearly and accurately, both to decision makers and to the general public.


As I’ve said before, the so-called climate change skeptics are really climate science deniers.  Their opinions do not merit consideration in any rational forum, including this one.

—-
Ian

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Climate reports alarm on global warming

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BBC THE TRUTH ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE PART 2

Published on Jul 15, 2013
BBC Documentary about Climate Change

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BBC THE TRUTH ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE PART 1

Published on Jul 16, 2013
BBC Documentary on Climate change

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Why are the bees dying?

Published on Aug 4, 2013
With a third of food production dependent on bees, a new study finds out the reason behind the sharp decline in their population

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Flooding of Alaknanda river : letter from Vishnuprayag Dam calamity affected People’s Group

http://sanhati.com/

August 1, 2013

 

Note received from Matu Jansangthan

Not Natural, but it is due to Vishnuprayag dam
People agitation is going on

On 16-06-2013, the sudden flood on Alaknanda River which washed away Lambagarh, Vinayak Chatti, Pandukeshwar, Govindghat, Pinoli ghat villages was a result of Vishnuprayag Hydro Electric Power Project built and operated by Jayprakash Group (also known as Jaypee Group). In this regard here we are giving below a self explanatory letter written by Vishnuprayag Dam clamity affected People’s Group. After that Matu Jansangthan too reminded the govt. about the issue. We are waiting for the next course of action form the government, after which we will go ahead by using all our fundamental rights.

Vimalbhai, Dinesh Singh Panwar

#############

To
Smt. Jayanti Natarajan
Minister of Environment and Forest, Govt of India, New Delhi

Shri. Jyothiraditya Scindia
Minister of Power, Govt of India, New Delhi

Shri. Harish Rawat
Mininster of Water Resources, Govt of India, New Delhi

Shri. Vijay Bahuguna
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Dehradun

District Magistrate
Gopeshwar – Chamoli District, Uttarakhand

We wish to bring to your kind notice that on 16-06-2013, the sudden flood on Alaknanda River which washed away Lambagarh, Vinayak Chatti, Pandukeshwar, Govindghat, Pinoli ghat villages was a result of Vishnuprayag Hydro Electric Power Project built and operated by Jayprakash Group (also known as Jaypee Group). We, Vishnuprayag Dam Break affected People’s Group are villagers affected by the Jaypee Group’s Vishnuprayag Hydro Electric Power project dam breakage. We live downstream to the dam. On 16-06-2013 and 17-06-2013, the sudden flood which washed away homes, hotels, bridges, agricultural fields, forests etc in the villages of Lambagarh, Pandukeshwar, Govindghat, Vinayak Chatti, Pinola ghat etc is a result of Vishnuprayag Dam built by Jaypee group. Main reason behind the destruction is that the gates of the dam were not opened in time.

How it happened?

On 16 June, 2013 around 5 PM water level rose quite high than everyday increase. Around 10PM on 16-06-2013 the level increased so much that it created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety all around. Again around 11:30 PM when the generator in the Gurudwara at Govindghat on one bank and an electricity transformer on the other bank of the river got flooded, it became dark everywhere. Panic spread immediately. The water level increased to such an extent that it touched bridge near Gurudwara at Govindghat by then. Due to this the parking space got flooded. Land begun eroding and the vehicles parked there started floating in the flood water. At 4:30 AM on 17-06-2013, even the strong bridge built by PWD, which is the link to Hemkund Sahib, Valley of Flowers, Pulna and Bhyundar valley got washed away. Meanwhile water flooded Govindghat market. Land there started eroding and thus houses, hotels, shops, trees, parking place, Gurudwara buildings were found floating and washed away in the flood.

On the other bank towards Hemkund Sahib, Thousands of Pilgrims, local people and more than 1500 horses/ mules and their caretakers got stranded, with lives hanging on life and death line. On 17-06-2013, by 6 AM as the flood water level increased hotel, houses and agricultural fields got washed away due to large scale soil erosion. All these were replaced by large amount of muck and soil brought by the flood.

Vishnuprayag dam is the reason for Calamity:

We all we sat discussing about the sequence of events during the flood. Why did this happen? Never such incident occurred before. On 19 June, when few of our members who arrived after escaping from the flood from Lambagarh, Vinayak Chatti and other villages, they explained us whatever happened was a result of breakage of Jaypee’s Vishnuprayag dam. In order to know the facts, we went to Lambagarh barrage and found out what happened. On 16-06-2013 night the water flow increased then stopped then restarted around 2:30AM to 4:30AM, this time with a heavy flow of water towards Govindghat which brought the destruction.

The fact is that initially when the flood started, Jaypee Company’s staff have opened the gates of the dam and emptied the reservoir before closing them again. But when the flood water continued and started to fill up the reservoir again, they failed to open the gates this time as there was a heavy inflow of sediments and huge boulders which damaged the gate system, resulting in formation of a lake. The huge lake of 1.5km length formed took a ferocious form and starting with the dam broke everything on its way. This makes it clear that the destruction which occurred in our area was due to the bad intention, negligence of Jaypee company. So, our complete loss has to be repaid by Jaypee Company itself.

Our Demands:

We request you to take administrative level action on following demands.

1. The Insurance of Vishnuprayag Dam, according to our knowledge as of now, is under Oriental Insurance Company. We demand that this amount should be blocked immediately. Complete compensation for the damage at the villages of Lambagarh, Pandukeshwar, Pinolaghat, Govindghat, Vinayak Chatti should be first paid by Jaypee group who own the Vishnuprayag dam.

2. The Safety work from Dam to Pinola ghat should be taken up by government according guidelines. The quality supervision should be given to villagers and an honorarium to be paid monthly for the same.

3. Loss of employment due to lack of Tourism should be completely compensated by Jaypee group.

4. No dam should be constructed above these villages from now on.

5. A criminal case should be lodged against Jaypee group for causing the heavy flood caused on 16 – 17 June, 2013

6. Jaypee Company has taken some land from villagers on lease/rent. All this land should be returned to villagers.

7. A high-level inspection and survey committee should visit the affected regions and record our pleadings in their report.

Today, our 25 families have lost everything. About 50 families have lost above 75% of their property. All Pandukeshwar panchayat dwellers have got affected due to loss or damage to Pasture lands, Agricultural fields, grazing grounds, dairy business, mule owners’ transport business, loss of mules’ life and other small businesses.

We request you to take quick action on our demands.

###################

– See more at: http://sanhati.com/articles/7724/#sthash.xAxRsydA.dpuf

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Lu Blames Global Warming on CFCs (Curve Fitting Correlations)

http://www.skepticalscience.com/lu-2013-cfcs.html

Posted on 5 June 2013 by dana1981

A paper just published in an obscure physics journal by the University of Waterloo’s Qing-Bin Lu (2013) has drawn quite a bit of media attention for blaming global warming not on carbon dioxide, but rather on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, which are alsogreenhouse gases).  However, there are numerous fundamental flaws in the paper, which is based almost entirely on correlation (not causation) and curve fitting exercises.

Lu’s hypothesis can be disproven very simply.  He argues that the radiative forcing(global energy imbalance) from CFCs matches global surface temperatures better than that from CO2 over the past decade.  This is because as a result of the Montreal Protocol, CFC emissions (and emissions of other halocarbons) have been flat over the past decade, and global surface air temperatures have also been essentially flat during that short timeframe, while CO2 emissions have continued to rise.

However, a global energy imbalance doesn’t just impact surface temperatures.  In fact, only about 2% of global warming is used in heating the atmosphere, while about 90%heats the oceans.  Over the past decade, ocean and overall global heating have continued to rise rapidly, accumulating the equivalent of about 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second (Figure 1).

Fig 1

Figure 1: Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012).

So while CFCs might match surface temperature changes better than CO2 emissions over the past decade, CO2 emissions better match the relevant metric – overall globalheat accumulation.  Since a global energy imbalance influences global heat content and not just surface temperatures, this by itself is sufficient to falsify Lu’s hypothesis. 

But let’s dig into the details of the paper to see how Lu built his case and where he went wrong.

Unphysical Curve Fitting, Misrepresenting Cited Research, and Circular Logic

Here at Skeptical Science we have previously examined several cases of curve fitting.  This describes the practice of scaling several variables without any sort of realistic physical constraint until the model closely matches the observational data, and then declaring that you’ve proven that those variables caused the changes in the observations.  Loehle and Scafetta used this strategy to blame global warming on astronomical cycles, and Roy Spencer used it to blame global warming on ocean cycles.

In this paper, Lu used curve fitting to blame global warming on a combination of solar activity and CFCs.  First he randomly scaled a total solar irradiance (TSI) reconstructionto match the surface temperature record as closely as possible.  He claimed that this practice was justified by Solanki and Krivova (2003).  Lu says:

“…it can be seen that the global temperature indeed closely followed the TSIvariation up to 1970; the y-axis for TSI can be scaled so that the magnitudes of the temperature and TSI variations are similar during 1850-1970. This was actually shown previously by Hoyt and Schatten50 and Solanki and Krivova52, and an excellent linear correlation with coefficients of 0.83~0.97 between the TSI and the temperature was obtained.52 This implies that theTSI values can be converted into temperatures using the linear correlation.52The observed data indicate that the solar effect played the dominant role inclimate change prior to 1970.”

But Solanki and Krivova didn’t say TSI can be scaled willy nilly to fit the temperature data.  They tried a similar approach in their 2003 paper simply to show that using the most generous possible assumption, solar activity still can’t explain recent warming (emphasis added).

“We have shown that even in the extreme case that solar variability caused all the global climate change prior to 1970, it cannot have been responsible for more than 50% of the strong global temperature rise since 1970 through any of the channels considered here. We believe that even this fraction is too high.”

There is a proportional relationship between changes in TSI and changes in surface temperatures, but it’s a physical relationship.  You can’t just choose whatever proportionality is convenient for your argument.  In fact what Lu has done is assume thatTSI explains most pre-1970 global surface warming, and then claim that he’s proven this is the case.  It’s circular logic, like fixing a card game and then claiming you’re a great card player when you win.

The only reason Lu’s TSI model matches the surface temperature data is because he forced it to match through curve fitting – by refusing to apply any physical constraints to his model.  Then when his unphysical model fits the temperature data reasonably closely, he declares that he’s shown “that the solar effect played the dominant role inclimate change prior to 1970.”  In reality he’s shown no such thing, he’s simply assumed that his conclusion is true.

Lu also uses a solar reconstruction from Hoyt and Schatten (1993) in his curve fitting exercise.  Why use the results of 20-year-old study?  Perhaps because it helps Lu arrive at his end conclusion that global warming isn’t due to CO2.  The Hoyt and Schatten paper claims that the equilibrium climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is a mere 0.19°C – a factor of 15 lower than today’s best estimates.

Perhaps the gold standard of TSI reconstructions comes from Wang, Lean, and Sheeley (2005), updated by Kopp and Lean (2011), whose data are available here.  They estimate that the increase in the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth from 1860 to 1970 was not very large (a radiative forcing of less than 0.2 Watts per square meter, compared to the 1.7 Watts per square meter CO2 forcing from pre-industrial times to Present), and only sufficient to account for approximately 0.07–0.15°C average global surface warming.  Thus TSI can probably only account for less than half of the observed 0.3–0.4°C surface warming during that time, contrary to the 100% solar attribution Lu claims based on his curve fitting exercise.

Yet More Circular Unphysical Arguments, Curve Fitting, and Misrepresentation of Cited Research

Lu faced the conundrum of having to explain how the increased greenhouse effect fromCFCs can cause global warming while the much larger increased greenhouse effectfrom rising CO2 can’t.  To accomplish this, he used what the climate scientists at RealClimate have described as the saturated gassy argument – claiming that increasedCO2 can’t cause more warming because there is already so much in the atmospherethat its greenhouse effect has become saturated.  However, as the climate scientists atRealClimate (and we at Skeptical Science) have explained, that argument is quite clearly wrong – disproven by observational data.

Here Lu is again guilty of circular, unphysical logic.  He doesn’t actually physically demonstrate why he thinks the CO2 greenhouse effect is saturated.  Rather he merely argues that because CFCs seem fit the surface temperature data better than CO2, that means CO2 can’t be causing global warming, which means the CO2 effect must be saturated.  Once again he has merely assumed his conclusion is true rather than actually providing physical evidence for it.

Perhaps worse, Lu claimed that a paper by Anderson et al. (2004) supported his saturated gassy argument, claiming the CO2 absorption band is missing from the observed spectrum data.  On the contrary, Anderson et al. concluded,

“The spectra in Fig. 8a are the result of a superposition of two different effects. First, there is an increase of greenhouse gases from 1970 to 1996 that gives rise to recognizable bands in the observed spectrum…”

And once again, Lu tried to demonstrate that CFCs can account for the recent global surface warming through unphysical curve fitting, multiplying the CFC forcing by whatever value allowed the CFC data to best fit the temperature data.  When using physical constraints, CFCs (included in “halocarbons” in Figure 2) can account for only about 20% as much warming as CO2.

AR4 forcings

Figure 2: Global average radiative forcing (RF) in 2005 (best estimates and 5 to 95%uncertainty ranges) with respect to 1750 for CO2, CH4, N2O and other important agents and mechanisms, together with the typical geographical extent (spatial scale) of the forcing and the assessed level of scientific understanding (LOSU).  From the 2007 IPCC report.

In his Figure 11, Lu also exaggerates the difference between expected CO2-caused warming and observed temperatures by plotting the observational data against the surface warming we expect at equilibrium.  This is wrong because there is a global energy imbalance, which means there is more warming “in the pipeline” for several decades to come before we reach that equilibrium state.  In reality the Earth has warmed as expected from the increased CO2 greenhouse effect.

Why did the Media Cover this Paper?

Frankly this paper should not have passed peer-review, but was perhaps aided by publication in a physics rather than climate journal, and in fact in the physics journal with the lowest impact factor by a wide margin.  The paper was then trumpeted by aUniversity of Waterloo press release and a Science Daily article, both of which used exaggerated language like “Lu’s theory has been confirmed.”  The Science Daily article did not discuss any of the problems with the paper that we have detailed in this post, or ask any climate experts about it.

ABC did a better job, talking to climate scientist David Karoly, who expressed appropriate skepticism about a paper which purports to overturn decades and even centuries of well-established physics and climate science in one fell swoop.  Characteristically, The Australian then criticized ABC for failing to be “fair and balanced” because they interviewed an actual climate expert about the paper.

Frankly, the paper is a non-story.  It may seem like news due to the grandiose claims of overturning the vast body of scientific evidence supporting CO2-caused global warming, but it is very rare for a single paper to accomplish this type of feat.  More often the single paper claiming to overturn the body of established scientific research is wrong.  That is clearly the case for Lu (2013), which is based on assuming rather than proving the hypothesis, unphysical curve fitting, and misrepresenting the cited research.

Moreover, this study isn’t new.  It’s actually the third Lu has published about his CFCwarming hypothesis.  The first two were addressed by RealClimatetwo peer-reviewed published responsesSkeptical Science, and others.  Andrew Gilkson at The ConversationClimate Science Watch and Rabbett Run (here and here) are also good resources for debunking Lu’s latest effort.

As we’ve previously discussed, the media need to be more careful in avoiding single study syndrome, misinforming the public by overhyping a single supposedly game-changing study before it has survived the scrutiny of the scientific community.

Note: this post has been incorporated into the rebuttals to the myth “it’s CFCs”

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Lionfish invade America’s waters

Published on Jul 22, 2013
The Lionfish is an invasive species that gathers around coral reef and preys on the fish in the vicinity, but somehow these underwater creatures made their way into America’s waters and are now disturbing the local eco-systems. Some believe that the fish which is native to the Indian and South Pacific Oceans made its way to the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Andrew. Doctor James Morris a marine ecologist for NOAA has more on the species and explains how he believes the fish traveled such a long distance.

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