Monday, September 18, 2006

Gristle detected in Bolt burger #4.

UPDATE: With respect to Bolt Burger #4 an alert reader has pointed out that:

"The Nature paper Andrew refers to in 2004 didn't actually come out that year. It appeared in 2003. It is not a science paper, but rather an account of plans to put a big white tarpaulin over the remaining ice cap to preserve it from melt.

It contained no research about deforestation. The link to deforestation is based on the views of a Euan Nisbet of the University of London which have no support in the paper and which have no references. In short its use is a scam."

If I search google on "Euan Nisbet of the University of London deforestation mt kilimanjaro" I get 16 entries. Not much search-engine impact for such ground-breaking science. Only six entries relate to our Euan Nisbet, the remaining entries look like spam-farms. Half of the six are media reports about a proposal of Nisbet's to wrap-up the glacier edge to slow melting, the rest use the same report to engage in global-warming bashing, people like Greenie-Watch. Clearly there was no uptake of the attention-grabbing mountain-wrapping idea but, like a trojan meme virus, the media articles all slipped in the deforestation story.

From: New York Times

Although it is tempting to blame global warming, the most likely culprit is deforestation. Forests at the base of the mountain, which once exhaled moisture that replenished and protected the ice fields, have largely disappeared, leaving the glaciers to the mercy of hot, dry winds that erode and melt the high cliffs that form their edges. Experts say the glaciers could disappear within a decade or two, taking with them a frozen record of East Africa's climate over the ages.

Enter Professor Nisbet, who suggests that huge white tarpaulins be draped over the edges to retard wind erosion and reflect the sunlight, much as the artist Christo adorns the countryside with miles of white fabric. The goal is to slow the melting long enough to replant the forests.

Tellingly, there are no references to research or scientific studies that could be duplicated by Nisbet's peers in order to test the hypothesis that the culprit is deforestation. Just the "most likely" assertion. The CNNTraveller uses the same wobbly approach to their report, but have changed the emphasis:

One likely culprit is global warming, but local deforestation could also be to blame.

It's good that both reports use cautious language, but why even publish anything that is not verifiable if making scientific claims? It's not even news.

As for Bolt... Bolt don't do nuance; you can't grind an axe on qualifiers:

And Mt Kilimanjaro was losing its snows more than a century ago, not because of global warming, but, says a 2004 study in Nature, largely because deforestation has cut the moisture in the air.

Not being able to find that 2004 study in Nature (as my alert reader warned) I did find a reference to a 2003 study in RealClimate, where the resident climate geeks demolish fossil-fuel media fraud with regularity. Suddenly Bolt appears to be just another dumb relay for a piece of propaganda from The Heartland Institute, whose other tacky anti-global warming shills include such scientific respectables as Michael Crichton, author of State of Fear:

The Heartland Institute's propagation of the notion that the Kilimanjaro glacier retreat has been proved to be due to deforestation is even more egregious. They quote "an article published in Nature" by Betsy Mason ("African ice under wraps," Nature, 24 November, 2003) which contains the statement "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit." Elsewhere, Heartland refers to this as a "study." The "study" is in reality no scientific study at all, but a news piece devoted almost entirely to Euan Nesbit's proposal to save the Kilimanjaro glacier by wrapping it in a giant tarp. The article never says who the "experts" are, nor does it quote any scientific studies supporting the claim. The Mason news article is what Crichton quotes as "peer reviewed research" proving that it is deforestation, not global warming, which is causing the Kilimanjaro glaciers to retreat. (George Monbiot's article in The Guardian documents a similar case of systematic misrepresentation of glacier data by skeptics.)

So what would the agenda of the Heartland Institute be? Sometimes can give up real nuggets when you want to know who you are dealing with in the fossil-fuel lobby:

Founded in the early 1990s, Heartland Institute claims to apply "cutting-edge research to state and local public policy issues." Additionally, Heartland bills itself as "the marketing arm of the free-market movement."

The Heartland Institute sponsors, a web page ostensibly dedicated to objective research on global warming, but at the same time presenting heavily biased research by organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute as an FAQ section. The Heartland Institute networks heavily with other conservative policy organizations, and is part of the State Policy Network, a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition (as of 4/04), and co-sponsored the 2001 Fly In for Freedom with the Wise Use umbrella group, Alliance for America. Heartland also co-sponsored a New York state Conference on Property Rights, hosted by the Property Rights Foundation of America. The Institute puts out several publications, including "Environment & Climate News" which frequently features anti-environmentalist and climate skeptic writing. They also published "Earth Day '96," a compilation of articles on environmental topics. The publication, distributed on college campuses, featured "Adventures in the Ozone Layer" by S. Fred Singer, and "the Cold Facts on Global Warming" by Sallie Baliunas. The articles denied the serious nature of ozone depletion and global warming.Walter F. Buchholtz, an ExxonMobil executive, sits on Heartland's Board of Directors. (4/04)

It's not enough that ExxonMobil sits on the Board of Directors of a lobby group that passes manufactured denial off as climate science, the Heatland Institute earns a nice little crust in the caper.

Total funding to Heartland Institute from Exxon corporations since 1998: $US 561,500

Perhaps Heatland is the source for all of Bolt's research. Thanks for the tip.

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