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2010 Sep - The Leading Edge

Report: Global Plant Productivity/Net Primary Production = plant life on earth. Plant CO2 take up and release back to the atmosphere. Report: The InterAcademy Council (IAC) has completed it's review of the IPCC and made recommendations to improve effectiveness in process and communication. Report: New study begins in Antarctica to increase understanding of methane release and potentials. Report: Scientists respond to Monckton Congressional Testimony.
2010 Sep - The Leading Edge

Global Plant Productivity

August was so full of climate news that the 'Leading Edge' took a step back from the edge on one critical subject, Net Primary Production (NPP). This is to ensure NPP is highlighted in this September report.

Of the few things that looked advantageous regarding global warming, one of those included longer growing seasons and the ability of plants and crops to grow more in a warmer environment, that was richer in CO2. A new study by NASA shows that the idea that plant productivity would increase, if only temporarily for an extended period of time, with increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), and longer growing seasons, is now at risk. Current data suggests a slight decrease in global plant productivity.

At this early stage of global warming, this news is disturbing because it indicates that we can not rely on increased productivity in the agriculture sector, and the carbon sink will not hold as much CO2, as expected.

This global plant productivity is often referred to as the Net Primary Production (NPP), which is how much CO2 vegetation takes in during photosynthesis minus how much CO2 the plants release during respiration (metabolizing sugars and starches for energy) or decay.

The NPP had been showing increases in the 80's and 90's of around 6%. When researchers decided to update the study, they found something unexpected. A decrease, -1%. This slight decrease reminds us that the earth, as a system of systems, is non-linear and has many dynamic interactions between the related sub and parent systems that are the make-up of our world. However, it is important to note that this change seems to be related to drought and fire 'trends', which are indicted, and expected, to be a product of global warming.

Note: This report apparently includes data into 2009. It will be interesting to see when the 2010 data is added to the assessment. At least from a social perspective, we will see the relationship between the headlines and the NPP drop due to fires, floods and droughts (see Aug 'Leading Edge').

Drought Drives Decade-Long Decline in Plant Growth

Source: NASA - August 19

Earth has done an ecological about-face: Global plant productivity that once flourished under warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline, struck by the stress of drought.
NASA-funded researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running, of the University of Montana in Missoula, discovered the global shift during an analysis of NASA satellite data. Compared with a six-percent increase spanning two earlier decades, the recent ten-year decline is slight -- just one percent. The shift, however, could impact food security, biofuels, and the global carbon cycle.

"We see this as a bit of a surprise, and potentially significant on a policy level because previous interpretations suggested that global warming might actually help plant growth around the world," Running said.

"This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth,"

"These results are extraordinarily significant because they show that the global net effect of climatic warming on the productivity of terrestrial vegetation need not be positive -- as was documented for the 1980’s and 1990’s," said Diane Wickland, of NASA Headquarters and manager of NASA's Terrestrial Ecology research program. Conventional wisdom based on previous research held that land plant productivity was on the rise. A 2003 paper in Science led by then University of Montana scientist Ramakrishna Nemani (now at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.) showed that global terrestrial plant productivity increased as much as six percent between 1982 and 1999. That's because for nearly two decades, temperature, solar radiation and water availability -- influenced by climate change -- were favorable for growth.

Setting out to update that analysis, Zhao and Running expected to see similar results as global average temperatures have continued to climb. Instead, they found that the impact of regional drought overwhelmed the positive influence of a longer growing season, driving down global plant productivity between 2000 and 2009. The team published their findings Aug. 20 in Science.

"This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth," Running said.


InterAcademy Council Completes IPCC Review

Source: InterAcademy Council - August 31

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) is a multinational organization of science academies created to produce reports on scientific, technological, and health issues related to the great global challenges of our time, providing knowledge and advice to national governments and international organizations. Sound scientific, technological, and medical knowledge is fundamental to addressing critical issues facing the world today.

The Committee found that the IPCC assessment process has been successful overall. However, the world has changed considerably since the creation of the IPCC, with major advances in climate science, heated controversy on some climate-related issues, and an increased focus of governments on the impacts and potential responses to changing climate. A wide variety of interests have entered the climate discussion, leading to greater overall scrutiny and demands from stakeholders. The IPCC must continue to adapt to these changing conditions in order to continue serving society well in the future. The Committee’s key recommendations for improving IPCC’s assessment process are given below.

The Panel

Recommendation: The IPCC should establish an Executive Committee to act on its behalf between Plenary sessions. The membership of the Committee should include the IPCC Chair, the Working Group Co-chairs, the senior member of the Secretariat, and 3 independent members, including some from outside of the climate community. Members would be elected by the Plenary and serve until their successors are in place.

The IPCC Chair

Recommendation: The term of the IPCC Chair should be limited to the timeframe of one assessment.

The IPCC Bureau

Recommendation: The IPCC should develop and adopt formal qualifications and formally articulate the roles and responsibilities for all Bureau members, including the IPCC Chair, to ensure that they have both the highest scholarly qualifications and proven leadership skills.

Recommendation: The terms of the Working Group Co-chairs should be limited to the timeframe of one assessment.

The Secretariat

Recommendation: The IPCC should redefine the responsibilities of key Secretariat positions both to improve efficiency and to allow for any future senior appointments.

Recommendation: The IPCC should elect an Executive Director to lead the Secretariat and handle day-to-day operations of the organization. The term of this senior scientist should be limited to the timeframe of one assessment.


Recommendation: The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports, including senior IPCC leadership (IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), authors with responsibilities for report content (i.e., Working Group Co-chairs, Coordinating Lead Authors, and Lead Authors), Review Editors, and technical staff directly involved in report preparation (e.g., staff of Technical Support Units and the IPCC Secretariat).


Recommendation: The IPCC should complete and implement a communications strategy that emphasizes transparency, rapid and thoughtful responses, and relevance to stakeholders, and which includes guidelines about who can speak on behalf of IPCC and how to represent the organization appropriately.


IPCC’s management and governance structure is not as effective as necessary to manage a larger and more complex assessment and to respond to a larger and more demanding group of stakeholders. The modified structure proposed for the IPCC by the Committee retains the decentralized structure, which is a key to IPCC’s continued vitality and authority, but adds flexibility and strength to its administrative support function.

Because the individuals involved in the IPCC assessment process carry the burden and responsibility of maintaining the public’s trust, it is important for all involved to act with transparency and integrity and to abide by appropriate codes of conduct. Public trust in science also depends on effective communication, and there are many opportunities to enhance the usefulness of IPCC assessments as tools for informing policymaking and public discourse.


Relevant News and Event Highlights

What lies beneath Antarctic ice

Source: Nature - by Ana Belluscio - September 03

Methane is often discussed when examining mass extinction events in earths history. Understanding methane in the context of our current human induced climate change will help us understand potential consequences from our current radiative forcing.

Rodolfo del Valle and his team are heading to the Southern Ocean to conduct a three year study of a notable region where methane release is now observed.The three year study of methane release in the Erebus and Terror Gulf, a remote spot off the Antarctic Peninsula, will help increase understanding regarding methane release as global warming advances.

crabeater seals

Methane could be implicated in deaths of crabeater seals in the area.

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Annual Minimum Extent

Source: NSIDC September 10, 2010

Overview of conditions

On September 10, 2010 sea ice extent dropped to 4.76 million square kilometers (1.84 million square miles). This appears to have been the lowest extent of the year; sea ice has now begun its annual cycle of growth.

The 2010 minimum ice extent is the third-lowest recorded since 1979. The 2010 minimum extent is 240,000 square kilometers (93,000 square miles) above 2008 and 630,000 square kilometers (240,000 square miles) above the record low in 2007. This is 340,000 square kilometers (130,000 square miles) below 2009. The 2010 minimum is 1.95 million square kilometers (753,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum and 1.62 million square kilometers (625,000 square miles) below the thirty-one-year 1979 to 2009 average minimum.

map from space showing sea ice extent, continents

Figure 1. Daily Arctic sea ice extent on September 10, 2010 was 4.76 million square kilometers (1.84 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. About the data.

—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Climate Scientists Respond to Lord Moncktons Congressional Testimony

Scientists have responded to Moncktons testimony given in May of 2010. The result is that Moncktons claims are scientifically unsound and unsupported by the evidence. To characterize this properly in the context of Moncktons claims, here is a list of refutations addressing various points. 

Excerpts from the report "Climate Scientists Respond" Sep. 2010 PDF:

Monckton Assertion 1: High CO2 levels co-existed with equatorial glaciers, disproving the efficacy of warming from high CO2 levels.

  • "Monckton is mixing the two different intervals in time, using a theory that relies on CO2 as a greenhouse gas to argue that it proves the opposite." - Dr. David Archer
  • "The statements concerning deep-time climates, CO2 levels, and life are misleading" - Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl
  • "One cannot characterize the Neoproterozoic Era with a single atmospheric CO2 level." - Dr. Lee Kump

Monckton Assertion 2: Corals came into being during eras of high CO2, therefore high CO2 is not damaging.

  • "...both of Monckton’s arguments are flawed." - Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl
  • "It is not possible for me to make any sense of Mr. Monckton’s assertions as they are not based on any scientific data or views that have ever been published. " - Dr. John Veron
  • "This paragraph completely ignores the fact that the seawater chemistry and the buffering capacity of seawater were very different during the times described from what they are today" - Dr. Nancy Knowlton
  • "One must carefully distinguish between conditions that were acquired and sustained over millions of years such as these, and abrupt events such as fossil-fuel burning that disturb these longer-term equilibria." - Dr. Lee Kump

Monckton Assertion 3: A high CO2 concentration is beneficial.

  • "...anyone with... an elementary understanding of geochemical cycles should understand that rates of CO2 change are more important than amounts of CO2 change." - Dr. Ken Caldeira
  • "...when rates of change were fast, life (and the rest of the Earth system) was unable to adjust in time; climates shifted quickly, the physical and chemical environment for life changed abruptly, and life suffered." - Dr. Lee Kump
  • "Quantitative analyses and syntheses of those experiments indicate that the direct effects of elevated CO2 will increase crop yields by 13% (on average for those with the C3 photosynthetic pathway, such as wheat, soybeans, rice) or 0% (on average for those with the C4 photosynthetic pathway, such as corn, sugar cane, and sorghum); not the 40% Lord Moncton suggests." - Dr. Peter Reich
  • "Monckton’s discussion of the impacts of a continued rise in the level of CO2, which he limits to the possible increase in the yield of some crops, is extremely superficial." - Dr. Michael MacCracken

Monckton Assertion 4: If ocean acidification is occurring, it is not due to increasing CO2.

  • "Monckton’s point about the added CO2 being a small part of total carbon ... is largely irrelevant." - Dr. Ken Caldeira
  • "CO2 is the only possible culprit. There are not enough emissions of anything else that could cause the observed acidification." - Dr. Pieter Tans
  • "There is no question of “if ”. Changes in pH have already been observed in many different parts of the ocean, and the chemistry driving short-term acidification is elementary and unavoidable." - Dr. Nancy Knowlton
  • "The submission from Monckton concerning the interaction between atmospheric carbon dioxide and the carbonate chemistry of seawater is profoundly wrong." - Dr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Monckton Assertion 5: Global temperatures have varied due to natural causes in the past and there is nothing unusual about the recent rise.

  • "Monckton’s premise that current concern rests on the supposedly unprecedented current temperatures is simply false." - Dr. Gavin Schmidt
  • "It is very likely current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years, and that the rates of increase have been five times faster over the past 40 years than over any other comparable period the past 2,000 years." - Dr. James Hurrell

Monckton Assertion 6: The Earth is now cooling and the previous decades of warming have stopped.

  • "Global warming on decadal time scales is continuing without letup..." - Dr. James Hansen and Dr. Reto Ruedy
  • "The fact that the globally averaged surface air temperature has shown no trend or even slight cooling over the last 7 years is meaningless in regards to climate change due to increasing CO2. In addition to CO2 forced warming, the climate system also has natural variability, which is why one year’s temperature is different from the next. This natural variability also can result in the climate having short periods of cooling or no trend even with strong overall warming due to increasing CO2." - Dr. David Easterling
  • "...Monckton spoke of the lack of warming since 1998, but failed to mention the role of natural variability." - Dr. James Hurrell

Monckton Assertion 7: Recent decades of warming were due to global brightening, not CO2.

  • "Over the past century, we have observed large and coherent changes in many different aspects of the Earth’s climate. The oceans and land surface have warmed. Atmospheric moisture has increased. Glaciers have retreated over most of the globe. Sea level has risen. Snow and sea-ice extent have decreased in the Northern Hemisphere. The stratosphere has cooled, there are now reliable indications that the troposphere has warmed. The height of the tropopause has increased. Individually, all of these changes are consistent with our scientific understanding of how the climate system should be responding to anthropogenic forcing. Collectively, this behavior is inconsistent with the changes that we would expect to occur due to natural variability alone." - Dr. Benjamin Santer
  • "We conclude that Lord Monckton’s conclusions cannot be supported by climate physics, nor is it supported by more accurate versions of the data he used." - Dr. Bruce Wielicki
  • "With regard to Mr. Monckton’s use of the work of Pinker et al., (2005) he is totally misinterpreting the physics." - Dr. Norman Loeb
  • "Monckton has not given an appropriate description of the temperature record. ... Regarding ‘global brightening’, there is a side bar commentary on global dimming and brightening in Chapter 3 of IPCC. The station network showing these changes is confined to land and near urban areas. There is no evidence that such changes occurred over the oceans (70% of the Earth), indeed the evidence is otherwise. Again there is a tendency to cherry pick low and high points in some record that are not representative of the bigger picture. Any brightening ignores the dimming beforehand, for instance. ... There is no basis for Monckton’s Pinker claims at all." - Dr. Kevin Trenberth

Monckton Assertion 8: The temperature response to radiative forcing (i.e. climate sensitivity) is very small and was over-estimated by a factor of 4 by the IPCC.

  • "1) The LC09 results are not robust. ... 2) LC09 misinterpret air-sea interactions in the tropics. ... 3) More robust methods show no discrepancies between models and observations. ... 4) LC09 have compared observations to models prescribed with incomplete forcings. ... 5) LC09 incorrectly compute the climate sensitivity." - Dr. Kevin Trenberth
  • "In addition to exposing the errors in the Lindzen-Choi work on climate sensitivity by Trenberth et al (2010) and Murphy (2010), noted by others, it is possible to obtain empirical estimates of climate sensitivity based on observed responses to various forcings. An analysis combining several of these estimates (Annan & Hargreaves 2006) shows that climate sensitivity is constrained with high probability between 2 and 4.5 oC, with the most likely value around 3 oC, in agreement with previous estimates. A value as low as that claimed by Monckton (~ 0.75 oC) has a vanishingly small probability of being correct." - Dr. James Annan
  • "The analysis of Lindzen & Choi (2009)...[hereafter...LC09]... erroneously applies global concepts to a limited region." - Dr. Daniel Murphy
  • "Global average temperature has risen about 0.8 oC since preindustrial times while the CO2 concentration has risen less than 40%, so for Monckton’s value of the climate sensitivity to be correct, the further 60% rise in CO2 concentration to reach a doubling would have to have no warming effect on the climate. In addition, the 0.8 oC rise to date is not the full response to the change in atmospheric concentration because the ocean’s heat capacity spreads the response to the warming over several decades—accounting for this would increase the warming to about 1.3 oC for the 40% rise in the CO2 concentration were CO2 the only factor acting—but it is not: see my discussion in Assertion 9)." - Dr. Michael MacCracken

Monckton Assertion 9: Climate change is a non-problem. Even if the higher estimates of climate sensitivity were correct, there is no hurry to take any action.

  • "...the conclusions Monckton draws from his thought experiment do not logically follow." - Dr. Gavin Schmidt
  • "The urgent need to act cannot be overstated. Anthropogenic climate change is already affecting our lives and livelihoods through extreme storms, unusual floods and droughts, intense heat waves, rising seas, and many changes in biological systems. Uncertainties do remain, but they concern things like the rate of melting of major ice sheets or the specific impacts of climate change on particular regions, not the broader issue of whether the climate is changing. The biggest questions are what choices we and our children will make about energy use. Economists have analyzed the costs of various policy responses and they tell us that the most cost-effective emission trajectories involve starting now to control emissions. Further delay will be costly." - Dr. James Hurrell
  • "We have shown that this assumption is incorrect for carbon dioxide because of [its] longevity...future carbon dioxide emissions would imply further irreversible effects on the planet." - Dr. Susan Solomon et al.
  • "...his [Monckton's] argument is not only seriously in error, it is profoundly misleading and irresponsible." - Dr. Michael MacCracken
  • "A decision to delay action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not a decision “to do nothing”. It is a decision to continue emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by increasing amounts, committing the world to higher levels of global warming and more sea-level rise, with associated adverse impacts." - Dr. David Karoly

Moncktons response as reported in the UK Guardian (21 September, 2010):

"In a lengthy letter to Congress some months ago, in which I addressed questions from Congressmen about my testimony before the global warming committee, I had already refuted in detail the points now belatedly raised again by the scientists who have written to Congress. The scientists were unaware of my letter to Congress because they did not have the good sense or courtesy to contact me - or even to contact the vast majority of the scientists whose conclusions I had cited - before circulating to friendly news media their prolix, turgid, repetitive, erroneous and inadequate response to my testimony. From their calculatedly furtive approach, it is legitimate to infer that their exercise was motivated more by politics than by science. One of the lead authors is currently under criminal investigation for alleged fabrication of results: another has been caught out in repeated lies: a third admits to suffering a mental disability: and many of the scientists whom these lead authors invited to contribute are among the long-discredited clique of Climategate emailers. Accordingly, it is unlikely that Congress will pay much attention to their political rant, which displays a lamentable absence of quantitative detail and a pathetic reliance on fashionable but questionable forecasting techniques that have long been compellingly contradicted by hard data.
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley"


MONCKTON resorts to ad hominem styled/inferred attacks by employing red herring diversions in what seems to be a desperate attempt to show his opinion is somehow superior to the scientific understanding, evidence, observations, physics and mathematics that support the scientific consensus that shows that humans are in fact influencing the climate and causing global warming.

The overall effect is simply that Monckton is further revealing that he does not have the science on his side. By attacking the scientists rather than the science he further proves that he does not have any relevant argument.

Monckton arguments are proven false, by the evidence presented in the scientific response, and his arguments stand as unequivocally wrong in his assertions based said scientific evidence.

Source File: Climate Scientists Respond - 21 Sep., 2010

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