13 December 2008

Deep fusion, deep oil, deep nonsense

The incredible paper about evidence for nuclear fusion in the deep Earth coming from some of my old papers spurred my curiosity about its background. The theory of geo-fusion seems to go back to a certain Steven Jones. He even published a Nature paper about it in 1989, in the heydays of the cold-fusion mania. But it has not been confirmed, as the search for magmatic tritium was not successful. The new paper by Jiang et al. seems to change that, but it does not convince even a tiny little bit.

It rather seems to me that this geo-fusion theory is of about the same quality as the theory of deep, abiogenic oil, of which I have already written. Alas, no deep oil or deep fusion will save us from what appears to be a serious energy crisis. Would be nice, but these theories are nonsense.

Interestingly, Steven Jones seems to like nonsensical theories. As his Wikipedia entry reveals, he is a strong proponent of the theory that the the World Trade Center was destroyed by controlled demolition during the September 11 attacks, rather than by the airplanes crashing into it. I don't have a high opinion of such conspiracy theories, as I mentioned before. It seems that Prof. Jones, as great a physicist as he may be, is due for a reality check.

Physicists (I am one!) tend to think that they are very intelligent. Sometimes, this leads them to venture into areas of which they do not know very much. I also do this, but I try to be careful. Others are sometimes overly self-confident. Such as the German physicists who tried to reject the greenhouse warming theory as contradicting basic physics. Somewhere along the way they lost track and started to produce deep nonsense. Too bad.

07 December 2008

Natural Nuclear Fusion in the Earth’s Interior?

Here comes the promised funny story about real junk science. Recently, the following article was published in the Journal of Fusion Energy:
Jiang et al., 2008. Tritium Released from Mantle Source: Implications for Natural Nuclear Fusion in the Earth’s Interior. J. Fusion Energ. 27:346–354. DOI 10.1007/s10894-008-9149-y.
As usual, the entire article is not freely available, but you can get at least a free preview of the first page here.

What's so funny about this article? Well, first of all, the hypothesis that nuclear fusion takes place in the deep Earth (geo-fusion) is quite unusual, but more on that later. The point that raised my interest (after being tipped-off by a colleague, thanks Rainer!) is that this article cites no less than 5 papers which I have (co-)authored. Ok, on three occasions my name is misspelled in the citation, but still they must mean those papers. Up to now, I did not know I was into fusion research. How come I get cited in the Journal of Fusion Energy?

I have been involved in some research on tritium and He isotopes in volcanic lakes, together with my former Swiss colleagues from Eawag. The authors of the current article heavily rely on our papers dealing with Lake Nemrut (Turkey) and Laacher See (Germany). There we found clear evidence for the presence of gases (He) from the Earth's mantle, which is not too surprising in volcanic areas. The lake water also contains some tritium (3H, radioactive hydrogen). Tritium is a product of fusion reactions, but other sources are prominent in the environment. The proponents of geo-fusion now look for evidence of tritium fluxes from the deep Earth to support their idea. And Jiang and co-authors think they found it in our old papers! Gee, if these guys win the Nobel Prize with this discovery, they owe me something!

Have we been stupid not to see the signs of geo-fusion in our data? I don't think so. I rather think that the claims made by Jiang et al. are pure fantasy. They interpret small increases of tritium concentrations with depth in these lakes as evidence for a flux of tritium from the lake bottom. But there are much simpler explanations, most importantly that the surface water is being diluted by the recent input of low-tritium water. The data are from the 1990s, when tritium in precipitation was clearly decreasing with time, so many lakes would show such "reversed" tritium profiles. And the one volcanic crater lake where there is an isolated deep water that shows the signature of the subsurface input, Lac Pavin in France, actually shows very low tritium in that deep water. Jiang et al. even cite one of our papers on Lac Pavin, but they do not mention the low tritium there, as it does not fit their theory.

I do not want to write a review of the Jiang paper here. It would be devastating. I wonder, however, how such a controversial paper can be published apparently without proper review. The entire argument is based on data of our papers. It would be natural to invite one of us as a reviewer. I am quite sure this did not happen, as none of us would have accepted this manuscript. Obviously the authors have no expertise on lake physics and tritium in the environment. Otherwise, it would be clear that the presented evidence is extremely spurious, at best.

So, once again, my confidence in the quality of the scientific literature is shattered. This case is probably less severe (and certainly of lesser political importance) than that of the papers by Chilingar and colleagues, but is shows the same failure of the review system. So, yes, there is enough junk science out there to be debunked. But unfortunately, the one website that claims to do this in reality attacks serious science and only produces more junk.

I do my best to uncover some of the junk that falls along my way. But its a gigantic Sisyphus task. If this is the state of confusion humanity is into, then good night...

06 December 2008

Finally: News on Twin Papers

I started this blog after Eli Rabett had pointed out to me that the reply to my rebuttal of a climate-sceptic paper had been published in duplicate in two journals. This highly unusual and suspicious event triggered me to blog about strange things going on at the fringe of science.

As a more direct response, I asked the editors of the involved journals (Environmental Geology and Energy Sources) if they were aware of the twin papers and what they intended to do about it. After a long wait, I finally got an answer.

The editorial office of Environmental Geology explained that their Editor in Chief had been informed about the second publication and had approved it. So there is no plagiarism, everything was officially sanctioned. The core of the explanation in detail:

"Due to the backlog of manuscripts, printing of the paper copy of Chilingar's comments was delayed for several months. In the interim, Dr. Chilingar contacted Dr. LaMoreaux and asked permission to "reprint" parts of his comments in the journal Energy Sources, where he serves on the editorial board. Dr. LaMoreaux gave Dr. Chilinger permission to quote from his comments to your rebuttal originally published in Environmental Geology."

Great. I am relieved. I will not stop this blog, though, as there are still enough questionable things going on within and around the scientific literature. A really funny example will follow soon...

03 December 2008

Living in the Anthropocene

I recently gave a presentation at the University of Augsburg in Germany about climate change, in which I argued that we are living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Of course, the term is not new, it was coined in 2000 by Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen. I think it is a nice concept and useful to present modern environmental and climatic changes in the context of geological history.

Those among my readers who can read German may want to download my presentation here (others may still enjoy the graphics...). I included a final section about dubious climate sceptic literature and organisations, citing the Exxon Report of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I figured that few people here in Germany would now about the background of the propaganda machinery that is active in the US.

29 November 2008

World Oil Crunch Looming?

This is the title of a recent news article in "Science", which comments on the IEA World Energy Outlook 2008. So in writing about this report, I am in good company. The tenor of the article by Science's news writer Richard Kerr is clear: Slowly the reality of limitations to the world's oil supply is sinking in. As far as I can tell, most scientists are still largely unaware that there is a huge problem approaching fast, so maybe this news piece will have some alarming effect. Of course, the experts have been playing the issue down for a long time, but recently the tone seems to be changing. Some excerpts from the article:

“It’s getting harder and harder to find an optimist” on the outlook for the world oil supply, says Beijing-based petroleum analyst Michael Rodgers of PFC Energy, a consulting company. Indeed, the IEA report as well as one coming from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA, confusingly enough) see hints that the world’s oil production could plateau sometime about 2030 if the demand for oil continues to rise. Unless oil-consuming countries enact crash programs to slash demand, analysts say, 2030 could bring on a permanent global oil crunch that will make the recent squeeze look like a picnic. [...]
“Non-OPEC conventional production is definitely at a peak or plateau,” says Rodgers. “That’s starting to make people nervous. It’s not what even pessimistic people anticipated.” Three years ago, analysts in and out of the industry predicted that projects under way or planned would dramatically boost world production during the second half of the decade, sending prices back down (Science, 18 November 2005, p. 1106). Only in the 2010s would non-OPEC producers—who had boosted their output 35% in 25 years—falter and level off their production, analysts thought. That predicted plateau may be here already. “Despite all the work,” says Rodgers, “we can’t grow non-OPEC.”

So the view of the issue has changed over the past three years, and the pessimists proved to be right. The IEA's new perspective is less optimistic than before, but what if the true pessimists are still right? Then, in fact, things may be a lot worse. The old, 2005, Science article ended with the following words: "The downside of the optimists being wrong is dire". It seems this is exactly where we are heading...

The final sentence of the recent article is also interesting, where an American energy analyst is cited saying "I just hope the Obama Administration doesn’t look at the [current] price of oil and shove the problem to the back burner." Very appropriate, as I find it hard to see any sign of the crash programs to slash demand that seem to be so urgently needed (unless crashing the economy was meant to be such a program).

Oh, by the way, crash programs are also needed to curb CO2 emissions. If properly planned, one may be able to tackle two big problems at the same time (incidentally, Climate Progress just has a nice outline of how to do that). If not, the looming oil crisis will force us into using more coal, which is a sure recipe for climate disaster.

15 November 2008

IEA Calls for Energy Revolution

I have unfortunately no time to comment in any depth, but I think the newly released World Energy Outlook 2008 by the International Energy Agency (IEA) is a very significant and important document. It is unfortunate that the media hardly notice the substantial recent changes in viewpoint of these official "energy watchdogs" of the world. Because what they have to say is of enourmous importance for our future. Just a few citations from the executive summary:

"The world’s energy system is at a crossroads. Current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable — environmentally, economically, socially."

"It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of human prosperity depends on how successfully we tackle the two central energy challenges facing us today: securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy; and effecting a rapid transformation to a low-carbon, efficient and environmentally benign system of energy supply. What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution."

"Oil is the world’s vital source of energy and will remain so for many years to come [...]. But the sources of oil to meet rising demand, the cost of producing it and the prices that consumers will need to pay for it are extremely uncertain, perhaps more than ever."

"Preventing catastrophic and irreversible damage to the global climate ultimately requires a major decarbonisation of the world energy sources."

"The consequences for the global climate of policy inaction are shocking."

08 November 2008

No Peak of Abiogenic Oil

I have already written a bit about the peak oil issue in the context of James Kunstler's prediction of the financial crisis. And I said I will return to it.

Right now, when oil prices have plunged from record highs, peak oil may not seem to be a big issue. But the price swings may be deceptive. The present downturn is obviously not due to increased production but rather to the expectation of a global recession and hence reduced demand. If advance stories on the World Energy Outlook 2008, due to be released by the International Energy Agency next week, are correct, even the previously optimistic IEA warns of a return of high oil prices and supply problems. Ironically, the current crisis leading to low oil prices may worsen the problem in the future. A UK industry taskforce also seems to be concerned.

However, there is still debate whether peak oil is a real threat. Somehow this reminds me of the debate about the reality of the climate change threat. I have written about some bogus arguments against climate change. Today I'd like to look at such an argument against the possibility of a peak in oil production.

The argument, which links to a previous post, is that oil in fact is not of biogenic origin and therefore severely limited, but rather of abiogenic, deep origin, and therefore present in vast quantities that we only need to tap. Does this argument stand up to a reality check?

Hardly. The foremost western proponent of the abiogenic oil theory is Jack Kenney, who indeed posts several anti-peak-oil articles on his website. I have already written about my weird experience with Kenney, based on which I certainly don't trust him. But his theory is also thoroughly refuted by many experts in the field.

Interestingly, the economic papers published on Kenney's website, which all refute the notion of limited oil supplies, mostly do not seem to refer to the abiogenic petroleum theory. They are authored by M. C. Lynch and P. Odell, which appear to be quite well-informed experts in the oil business. I wonder if these authors are aware of the fact that their articles are promoted on a rather dubious webpage. It certainly does not increase their credibility...

05 November 2008

Good Morning America

and good luck to Barack Obama, who faces a daunting task...

02 November 2008

Economics Needs a Reality Check

Apart from the editorial recommending Obama for President, the last issue of Nature also featured an interesting essay entitled "Economics needs a scientific revolution" by a certain Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, apparently a physicist with close links to research in finance. Bouchaud makes some really interesting statements, at least for a physicist like me who is slightly disturbed by recent events in the world of finance. Most important is probably his critique of the fact that economists seem to belief in some assumptions without even caring about empirical verification. As I can't add anything substantial, I just present some clippings from the essay:

"Classical economics is built on very strong assumptions that quickly become axioms: the rationality of economic agents (the premise that every economic agent, be that a person or a company, acts to maximize his profits), the 'invisible hand' (that agents, in the pursuit of their own profit, are led to do what is best for society as a whole) and market efficiency (that market prices faithfully reflect all known information about assets), for example. An economist once told me, to my bewilderment: "These concepts are so strong that they supersede any empirical observation." As economist Robert Nelson argued in his book, Economics as Religion (Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2002), the marketplace has been deified.
The supposed omniscience and perfect efficacy of a free market stems from economic work done in the 1950s and 1960s, which with hindsight looks more like propaganda against communism than plausible science. In reality, markets are not efficient, humans tend to be over-focused in the short-term and blind in the long-term, and errors get amplified, ultimately leading to collective irrationality, panic and crashes. Free markets are wild markets.
Crucially, the mindset of those working in economics and financial engineering needs to change. Economics curricula need to include more natural science. The prerequisites for more stability in the long run are the development of a more pragmatic and realistic representation of what is going on in financial markets, and to focus on data, which should always supersede perfect equations and aesthetic axioms."

All in all, I think the scientific revolution that Bouchaud calls for is nothing else than a reality check. And I agree that economics (plus the banking and finance sector) really seems to need it!

01 November 2008

The World is Blue - and Nature too

With the US elections coming very close, it is time to comment on the way that we, the non-US rest of the world, view it. I remember polls conducted in European countries 4 or even 8 years ago, according to which George W. Bush would never have been elected here. Now, after 8 years of a Bush administration that had quite some (hmmm, let's say not always positive) effect on the rest of the world, how would the world decide?

Some youngsters in Iceland asked this question as well and came up with a world-wide poll on the internet. You can look up the results here. The result is overwhelming: 86.8 % for Obama! The world map that they plot is deep blue - meaning Democratic.

It is interesting to note that McCain has a chance only in some rather peculiar countries: Macedonia, Albania, Venezuela, Iraq (amazing - but with only 13 votes hardly representative), Georgia and so on. Are these people hoping that McCain could bring them freedom and democracy? Anyway, in the large western democracies, from where thousands of votes have been cast, Obama wins dramatically. For example Germany: More than 11'000 votes, 93.4 % for Obama.

So, dear Americans, be assured that the world is watching you. And it has a clear opinion. Of course it does not count, but consider this: A president Obama would have an entirely new chance to change the world's view of the US. McCain might be able to repair the worst damage that Bush has inflicted on America's reputation, but hardly more than that.

I am sure that my American colleagues, environmental scientists as they are, will just as overwhelmingly vote for Obama as the rest of the world would, if it could. But I also know that the voice of science is not always heard in America. Nevertheless, the most prestigious scientific journal, Nature, also felt obliged to give its recommendation in an editorial this week. Here is what they say (Eli has also commented on it):

"This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama."

29 October 2008

King Anand

Viswanathan "Vishy" Anand confirms his status as Chess World Champion. Congratulations to the master from a little Patzer!

How the times are changing: 13 years ago I watched a game of the match between Kasparov and Anand on the top floor of one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. It was a terrific game, match, and venue. Kasparov, arguably the greatest players of all times, won a beautiful attacking game (game 10) with a prepared line and from there on dominated the match. And now? The towers aren't there anymore, Kasparov withdrew from tournament chess, and Anand is the champion. And he defeated Kramnik - the one who finally beat Kasparov - quite easily and with great opening preparation.

This could be the beginning of a new golden era for chess. The confusing times with two world champions seem definitely over. And new parts of the world enter the stage: Anand's win will further boost chess in India, China is also coming on strongly, and the magnificient Magnus Carlsen promises excitement for European chess fans. Some sponsors would be needed, though. There were times when Swiss banks such as Credit Suisse sponsored our great strategy game. Lately, they seemed to prefer gambling. Maybe times are changing in this respect as well...

26 October 2008

Watch Heat

Following the recommendation of Michael Tobis, I watched the PBS broadcast "Heat" online. It really was good, and I can only recommend it to anyone interested in the climate change issue. This is indeed an excellent piece of journalism. It's amazing how good the public media in the US often are, compared to the crap that the private stations are producing most of the time. It reminds me of my time in New York, when I used to listen to National Public Radio in my car. It was the only station that had good information and no advertising - I loved it.

Maybe the best piece of "Heat" for me was part 4, about coal, or "clean coal" as the industry likes to call it today. I particularly liked a statement of Jeffrey Ball from the Wall Street Journal: "I think there is a reality check going on about carbon capture and storage right now." Yes indeed, some of the potential solutions to the climate problem do need a good reality check. If I find the time, I'd like to come back to such issues again...

21 October 2008

India Flying High

Climate change, peak oil, financial meltdown, US elections - all interesting topics, but the eyes of the chess fan these days are directed to Bonn, Germany, where the Indian world champion Anand defends his title against the former Russian world champion Kramnik.

Yesterday, Anand won for the second time with the black pieces in a sharp line of the Queen's Gambit - an amazing performance. So Anand is on a good way to win the match and end the Russian dominance in chess. And India is flying high not only with their scheduled moon mission ...

19 October 2008

Viscount Monckton's Rebuttal of my Rebuttal

The 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is a well known and entertaining figure in the climate change blogsphere. For example, Deltoid has an entire category on this self-proclaimed climate expert. Obviously, the Viscount has published a lot of controversial texts (NOT scientific, peer-reviewed papers, though) on the climate change issue. The one that I am most interested in is of course his rebuttal of my rebuttal of the Khilyuk and Chilingar piece in Environmental Geology, published on the SPPI website.

As Deltoid has rightfully pointed out, defending Khilyuk and Chilingar is not exactly a proof of being a true climate expert. But of course, Christopher Monckton has other credentials, such as being an aristocrat and having served as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Baroness herself. Quite impressive, indeed. Ok, as a Swiss I have to admit that I have no real sense for the British love of such titles, as in our country we happily got rid of foreign lords some 700 years ago. But that's another story...

So did the honorable Viscount provide a convincing rejection of my arguments? Not really, it seems to me. In his rebuttal, he shows an amazing unwillingness to discuss the issues in any detail or with any precision. He rather adds to the confusion that Khilyuk and Chilingar have initiated. Some examples:

When I tried to explain that Khilyuk and Chilingar's statement about the insignificant (less than 0.1 °C) warming caused by humanity's energy production was misleading, because the warming is not due to direct heating by energy use but to the indirect effect of CO2, Monckton just claims that the 0.1 °C are not that far from the scientific consensus, completely missing the point.

By the way, there recently was an interesting paper in AGU's journal Eos, where the direct warming resulting from releasing the energy of fossil fuels and other non-renewables was extrapolated into the future to show that it represents an ultimate limit to our ever-growing energy use. Of course, it is more than questionable whether such an enormous growth of fossil fuel use is at all possible, but it is an interesting conclusion nevertheless. Even if there was no peak oil and no greenhouse effect, the simple energy balance will eventually put an ultimate limit to growth. Unfortunately, we will see the other limits closing in much earlier, I suppose.

But back to Monckton. He also challenges my statement about the very small global mean insolation changes due to variations of Earth's orbital parameters, by asking how then the large glacial - interglacial temperature changes could be explained. Of course, it is the point of the Milankovitch theory that changes in the latitudinal distribution of insolation can drive glacial cycles even in the absence of changes in the total mean irradiation, but this argument seems to be too subtle for Monckton as well as Khilyuk and Chilingar.

Next, Monckton suggests that the indeed surprising current pause in the rise of methane in the atmosphere is linked to a recent stabilization of tectonic activity - apparently backing Khilyuk and Chilingar's claim that volcanism rather than human emissions is the cause of the rise in greenhouse gases. Interesting point, but where is the evidence that tectonic activity has changed over the past centuries or even just decades? Is there any scientific reference for this?

Monckton also does not like my argument that it may be misleading to compare the total CO2 degassing over Earth's history with the anthropogenic release over the past 250 years or so. Again, the argument that the time scale matters seems too subtle.

Similarly, Monckton just stirs up the confusion about the role of the ocean's warming in causing the atmospheric CO2 increase. Of course, Henry's law requires that a warming ocean release CO2. However, if at the same time the CO2 partial pressure in the atmosphere (due to fossil fuel combustion) increases even more strongly than that in the water (due to warming), the net effect is still an uptake of CO2 by the ocean, as has been observed for the 20th century.

Monckton seems to like simple arguments, even if they are demonstrably wrong. He also prefers the simplistic temperature history of the past 1000 years shown by Khilyuk and Chilingar over the much more detailed records of other authors (not only the much criticized hockey stick of Mann et al., by the way).

Unfortunately, reality is not always simple. And sometimes not the way we would like it to be. Even a Viscount of Brenchley cannot change this.

15 October 2008

No News on Twin Papers

I was motivated to start this blog by my outrage about the duplicate publication of a nonsensical climate skeptical paper, which in one version was disguised as a response to a rebuttal of mine on an earlier, similarly strange paper. As I mentioned back then, I took what I think are appropriate steps: I informed the editors of the two involved journals about this rather obvious scientific misconduct (if not the nonsense in the paper, then definitely its recycling).

So what has happened? Nothing! Apparently the editors of the two involved journals (Energy Sources and Environmental Geology) are not interested in the case, or at least not inclined to inform me about any steps they may take. Well, I somehow expected this, because, as I pointed out before, the editorial boards of these journals do not seem to be impartial on the issue. I'm just wondering what to do next....

04 October 2008

Politicizing Climate Science

I got the news about Richard Lindzen's new, hmm, let's call it pamphlet on the state of climate science via Lubos Motl and Michael Tobis. Interesting indeed.

One of the main messages of the treatise is that climate science has been politicized and hence is not able to provide answers anymore. Well, surely Lindzen's pamphlet does its best in politicizing climate science. Another thread of the paper is that skeptical opinions are systematically suppressed in the literature. As I have pointed out in my last post, this claim is typical for bogus science. But ok, it surely is difficult to publish something that contradicts established theory. So the claim may in some cases be founded, but if it grows into some large scale conspiracy theory, it becomes suspicious. As a general rule, I am very skeptical about conspiracy theories.

Michael Tobis criticized one gross misstatement in what he calls the Lindzen Diatribe, but suggested that others may find more grotesque mischaracterizations. Well, I think I found a number of points that are worth discussing.

One point in Lindzen's text that I found distorted was his account of the "correction" of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) paleotemperatures. I have a quite different memory of the story, in which I was to some extent involved by determining noble gas temperatures (NGTs) from groundwater that played a certain role. It is true that there was some conflicting evidence, but it was more of a problem between different paleotemperature proxies (oceanic foraminifera versus continental snowline, NGTs, etc.) than between model and data. The data available in the 1990s indicated that tropical LGM sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were about as warm as today (the CLIMAP result), but continents and high elevations were some 5 °C colder. Could that be? That's where the models came in and - hardly surprising - they said no, it was not possible. So it was essentially inconsistent data and some of the proxies had to be wrong. It seems that new evaluations of the oceanic proxies come up with cooler LGM SSTs, which more or less solves the problem. This is normal scientific progress and in no way needed to save the greenhouse paradigm.

A basic theory put forward by Lindzen is that science fosters fear to secure funding. Well, politicians on all sides, including environmental activisists, certainly use this tactics sometimes to gain votes. But scientists? I know of many examples where science actually tries to fight exaggerated public fears, e.g. nuclear energy, genetic engineering, or the recent LHC-micro-black-holes panic. The argument that fear is the basis for funding science simply does not convince me at all.

Another critique of Lindzen is that science has deteriorated by moving from theory to simulation and modeling. I completely disagree: Numerical solution of complex equations is simply the logical way forward once your basic theory is known (which is the case in atmospheric and ocean dynamics) but you want actual solutions of the equations. The reason that modeling has become so large is simply that ever better computers have made this possible, a tool that was not available to scientists in the good old times conjured by Lindzen. An example of the power of numerical modeling is weather prediction, where models using the same core physics as climate models have achieved tremendous progress. Just remind yourself of how the tracks of this year's hurricanes have been predicted accurately many days in advance. This would not have been possible by theory alone, without numerically solving the equations.

Professional scientific societies are all politicized and infiltrated by environmentalists, according to Lindzen. This is why they require impressive presences in Washington. But what about the many non-US scientific societies which all support the global warming theory (see Coby's list, for example)? Are they all affected by the same virus? Global conspiracy in science, I suppose. See my remark above about conspiracy theories.

A funny detail is how Lindzen uses a workshop invitation by an IPCC organizing committee as a proof for political bias. I may be completely blinded, but I can't see anything suspicious in the document, which Lindzen adds as appendix 1. What's wrong with listing some of the topics that should be discussed at the workshop? I don't get it.

27 September 2008

Junk Science 2

There is another interesting link between some climate skeptics and my old friend Jack Kenney, the heroic advocate of the abiogenic petroleum theory: Both like the term "junk science". I have already written about the "junkman" Steven Milloy, who seems to think that much of the health and environmental science and especially climate change science is junk. This is pretty bold, as he takes on large areas of mainstream science that are well established and usually would seem to be examples of "sound science", the term that Milloy and others use as a counterpart to "junk science".

Kenney's definition of junk science is a bit more sophisticated: In his paper "Science and Junk-science", he lists several examples of junk science that probably most educated people would readily agree with. Examples that he mentions are alchemy, astrology, phrenology, and yes, "creation science". I fully agree so far (especially with the latest, which cannot be stressed too much these days as a creationist is aspiring for highest powers in the US...). Then Kenney adds some more controversial examples: Freudian psychology, Marxist economics, feminist gender studies, and so on. Surely Kenney leaves the realm of natural sciences here, so I dare not comment too much. Whether one likes these theories or not seems to be more of a question of political views than of scientific rigor. Anyway, this is all just a prelude to Kenney's real attack.

Other than Milloy who takes on various branches of science, Kenney attacks only one established scientific theory: That of a biological origin of petroleum, for which he invents the nice acronym "BOOP". According to him, BOOP is a dogma, held and defended by the British/American "geo-phrenologists". It should be replaced by what he likes to call the "modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origin".

Based on my direct scientific experience I feel less competent to dismiss Kenney's claims than those about climate change made by Milloy. There are many arguments against abiogenic petroleum, but the only one on which I have direct expertise is the He isotope story. Yet it seems to be a robust and strong argument against a deep origin of hydrocarbons in many (but not all) cases. Quite possibly there are indeed some abiogenic hydrocarbons out there (at least methane), but almost certainly most of the petroleum is biogenic, despite Kenney's claims that a biological origin is impossible.

Other than knowing about He isotopes (and other technical issues) and having experienced how willingly Kenney twists the most clear-cut scientific evidence, how could one figure out if Kenney is trustworthy? In his case it is not obvious that he is being paid for what he says, quite in contrast to Milloy. His debate is a conflict between petroleum geologists, both sides obviously being somehow involved in this big business. So how then can the claims be verified? One indication is that Kenney's papers aren't published in the most reputable journals, which they should be if his revolutionary theory were deemed to deserve serious attention. But of course he would say that this is just because followers of the BOOP dogma suppress any non-conformist views. Such a claim is in itself an indication for bogus science.

But I think there is yet another indication: The style in which Kenney's papers are written, which in several points violates usual scientific standards. A typical example is the way he attacks the mainstream theory ("BOOP"). One of his papers is entitled "Dismissal of the claims of a biological connection for natural petroleum". He is not satisfied with describing and supporting his own theory, he spends much time on dismissing and deriding the opposite view, often in a rather pejorative style. Opposing claims are shown to be "without merit", "insupportable", or even "intellectual fraud". Very well established methods such as carbon isotopes are called "obscure", other evidence is called "spurious", and so on. Many terms used in the literature are given only in quotes, not to indicate a quotation as I use it here, but with a pejorative connotation. Important statements are highlighted by bold face or italics and are repeated over and over again, without, however, ever providing real detailed arguments and evidence in their favor.

This style reminds me quite a bit of Khilyuk and Chilingar, and it is a sure indication of "junk science". No scientific journal in its right mind would ever allow such botch to be published. No conspiracy of BOOP-activists is needed to detect this flaw in Kenney's papers and hence prevent them from being published. If you want to be heard as a scientist, you need not only to come up with real evidence for your arguments, but also to follow certain basic rules of conduct, both of which Kenney does not. Just as a chess player refusing to shake hands risks to lose his reputation, a scientist unable to keep the debate to a factual level becomes untrustworthy.

23 September 2008

Amazing Predictive Skill

One last post related to the financial crisis for the time being...

A question that comes up as one sees the highly praised (and paid) financial experts wrecking their ships: Could it have been avoided? Could it have been foreseen that those suprime mortgages eventually would backfire? Well, in hindsight it is easy, but was there anyone who did anticipate it?

I've heard Swiss and German bankers and politicians say (with regard to banks over here being affected by the American virus) that no one could have possibly foreseen this crisis. It came out of the blue...

Well, CNN has a page where they show eight experts who did smell that something was starting to burn, and eight others who didn't. But much more impressive to me are the predictive abilities of the American author James Howard Kunstler. In his really interesting book "The Long Emergency", which was published in 2005, he did indeed foresee that the housing bubble would not last too long. Ok, it lasted longer than the thought, but in the end he passed the reality check. Much better than many so-called financial experts, anyway. Here are a few sentences from the book:

James Howard Kunstler: The Long Emergency
Chapter six: Running on Fumes (The Hallucinated Economy)
Section: Home: The last refuge of value

By the time you read this, it is very likely that the housing bubble will have begun to come to grief. [....]

The economic wreckage is liable to be impressive. If large numbers of house owners cannot make their mortgage payments, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and by extension the federal government, would be the big losers. [...] It could easily bring on cascading failures that might jeopardize global finance. This time, the American public would feel the pain.

Does this sound strangely familiar? It was written in 2004, and although Kunstler probably did not think that it would take another four years to become reality, eventually it did. At least I am impressed by Kunstler's future-telling abilities.

Interestingly, the main topic of "The Long Emergency" is peak oil, another hotly debated issue. Many energy experts, economists for the most part, don't think that oil production might peak anytime soon (if ever). Kunstler expects otherwise, an he is not alone. His view is backed by ASPO, The Oil Drum, Matthew Simmons, and the EnergyWatchGroup, to mention just a few. Could Kunstler be right in this case as well?

Certainly, some of the opinions put forward in the peak oil debate deserve a closer look under the title of a reality check. I will come back to this topic.

22 September 2008

Competitive Pressure

As a follow-up to my previous post, this Times article about the "fate" of some top managers of the bankrupt Lehman Brothers may be of interest. A few excerpts:

"Barclays has identified eight individuals out of the New York staff of 10,000 who are vital to make the deal succeed and a further 200 who are identified as “key”. It is thought that these eight directors will be locked into two-year contracts worth between $10m and $25m a year. [...] Barclays said there is no obligation to pay it out but analysts say the competitive pressure to keep key staff means he will have to. "

I don't accept this "competitive pressure" argument. CEOs of the biggest Swiss bank UBS also use it all the time, even after these "key" people led the bank into its biggest losses ever. If this "competitive pressure" really forces them to pay insane salaries to few while laying off many, it has to be stopped. See my last post...

21 September 2008

The Big Bailout

So the US government is going to bail the banks out of the mess they created, and the taxpayer is going to pay. Well, maybe this is the only way to solve the current financial crisis. Obviously, the laissez-faire capitalism of the Bush-era has crashed and the bank CEOs and fund managers happily accept the help of the government, now that their risky strategies didn't work out. As long as they worked, of course, they thought the gains belong all to themselves and the state should not take anything away in the form of taxes.

I'm wondering: Will we learn something from this costly adventure? Will we just let the banks, hedge funds, stock markets, and their big-buck managers and traders continue as they did before? Or should something be changed to prevent more of these bubble - collapse cycles? And if so, what?

I think there is one basic thing that should be changed. I don't understand why anyone should earn millions, no matter how good the business goes that he or she happens to be doing. Crazy salaries let people lose their sense of reality. Those who earn that much, and even more those who think that anyone could possibly "deserve" to earn as much as hundreds of average workers are in desperate need of a reality check.

So, as in the end tax money is always going to pay the damage, why don't we make sure that we get the money from those who earn these insane salaries before the next crisis will force us all to pay for them?

My proposal: Take the salary of the US president (400,000$ per year) as a cap of what anyone can reasonably earn. There is hardly another job that carries more power and responsibility (even if the present incumbent is not quite up to the task). If things get really tough, multi-millionaire bankers are happy if a comparatively lousy paid president helps them out. So they should show a bit of humility in their pay checks.

How about taxing everything above the president's income level by 100 %? If this would be done worldwide, maybe the folly could be stopped...

20 September 2008

Natural and Anthropogenic Climate Change

I just saw an interesting new paper by Lean and Rind in Geophysical Research Letters . These authors performed a multiple regression analysis to determine the influence of natural (solar activity, volcanoes, ENSO) and anthropogenic (greenhouse gases plus aerosols) factors on the temperature record of the past 100+ years. Looks like a good piece of work.

The "solar activity" and "natural cycles" skeptics will not like the conclusions, though. None of the natural factors comes close to explain the overall warming trend. A citation from the paper:

"None of the natural processes can account for the overall warming trend in global surface temperatures. In the 100 years from 1905 to 2005, the temperature trends produced by all three natural influences are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the observed surface temperature trend reported by IPCC [2007]. According to this analysis, solar forcing contributed negligible long-term warming in the past 25 years and 10% of the warming in the past 100years, not 69% as claimed by Scafetta and West [2008]..."

17 September 2008

A new Chess Queen

Alexandra Kosteniuk just won the (too short) final match for the Women's World Chess Champion title against the incredible 14-year old Chinese prodigy Hou Yifan.

Congratulations to Alexandra, who may have the charm to promote women's chess quite a bit!

Sea Ice Update

Just seen on the "ill considered" blog: NSIDC and NASA have announced that the Arctic sea ice has reached its minimum extent for this year, which is the second lowest after last year's record. The announcement may be a bit early but probably it's ok. Anyway the conclusion was already clear for a while: The rapidly declining trend is confirmed.

In my opinion (though I am not really an expert on this), the decline of the Arctic sea ice is not only a visible sign of climate change but possibly the most important example of an amplifying feedback that is kicking in and may be impossible to reverse. So it's worthwile to follow the development.

Junk Science 1

Here comes another little spin-off of the "Khilyuk and Chilingar" story. In their 2006 paper, these fellows had an interesting reference. In their conclusion they wrote: "Estimates show (http://www.JunkScience.com) that since its inception in February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol has cost about $50 billion ... ". The point here is not the old contrarian argument that Kyoto costs a lot and has little effect, but the JunkScience link. Quite obviously not the usual scientific reference...

Probably most of you will already know JunkScience.com. If not, it is really worthwile to take a look, as a test for your sense of reality. The site supposedly teaches you how to distinguish "junk science" from real science. Kind of like what I am trying to do here, except that the outcome is completely different. According to the site, many health-related concerns (e.g., that secondhand smoke or asbestos cause cancer) are junk, as well as of course global warming and other environmental issues such as the ozone hole. To me, the statements on this site are junk, just as the papers of Chilingar and friends who cite them. But how do I know? And how could you know?

I have an advantage over most readers in judging this site: I happen to be an environmental scientist. I have seen the progress of research on issues like climate change and ozone depletion from an insider's perspective for about 20 years. I know that this is serious science, where mistakes happen but tend to be corrected as knowledge grows and data and models improve. It is simply an infamy to call "junk science" what hundreds if not thousands of researchers have documented in tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in the most prestigious journals. If all of this is junk, and a few amateur climatologists can do better, we better ought to abolish science at all.

But, of course, as an environmental scientist I am one of those "junk scientists" and thus you cannot trust me. So is there something you could do to find out who is right? Well, yes, there is. As I recommended before, check the sources. You'll have to check me out yourself, but I am going to help a bit about JunkScience.com. The site is run by Steven J. Milloy, on whom both Wikipedia and Sourcewatch have quite extensive and revealing entries, and who also features prominently in the UCS's Exxon report. These (and other) sources show that he is intricately linked to the tobacco (Philip Morris) and oil (ExxonMobil) industries, who sponsor the various "institutions" he has worked for. Despite official-sounding names such as "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition/Center" or "Global Climate Science Team", these groups seem to do much more lobbying than science. Or more junk than science.

It seems that for Milloy "junk science" is just about every scientific study that potentially could interfere with the business interests of his sponsors. What I never understand in such cases: Is he really convinced of what he says or is he just taking the money? Of course he thinks (or says) that we environmental scientists are exaggerating things just to get jobs and research funding. Could it be that he is suspecting us to do what he is doing all the time (lying for money)? Well, it's up to you to decide whether bending the truth is more typical and useful for lobbyists or for scientists.

13 September 2008

Chess Reality

I have to intersperse my first chess-related post today. The Chess Masters tournament in Bilbao has just ended, with a great success for the Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov. This tournament may be compared to the upcoming Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, where I will put my hopes on my fellow countryman Roger Federer.

Congratulations to Topalov, although I had rather hoped for Vassily Ivanchuk to win the decisive last-round game. And of course, as everyone else, I was curiously following the results of the possibly most amazing chess prodigy ever, the 17-year old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen was leading the tournament and the inofficial live world rankings sometime during the tournament, but then fell back a bit. Well, he is young and will have many more chances to seize the number 1 position.

As it turned out, Topalov will probably be the new number 1 in the official rankings as of October 2008. He surely is one of the best active players, but unfortunately he also falls into the category of chess players that sometimes seem to lose their sense of reality. This happened to Topalov during the 2006 world championship match agains the great Russian player Vladimir Kramnik. Topalov, or rather his manager Danailov, accused Kramnik of cheating by using computer assistance on the toilet, leading to the horrible "bathroom controversy". An ugly story indeed. But unfortunately not the first time that psychological warfare was used in chess world championship matches .

As often in such controversies, it is difficult to be sure who is right and who is wrong. One indication that I tend to consider is how the parties behave. Are they still open for a fair discussion and rational arguments? Do they treat the other side with respect? A telling incident with regard to the latter happened early this year: The "handshake controversy". Ivan Cheparinov, another Bulgarian grandmaster managed by Danailov, refused to shake hands with English GM Nigel Short. Whatever the background, this is not a decent behavior of a sportsman. It shed a dim light on the Bulgarian chess elite.

12 September 2008

An old story

Having gotten in the muddy waters of the petroleum business, I am reminded of an old story. In fact, this was probably the first time I was exposed to questionable and irrational behavior in science. The first time I needed a reality check.

It must have been 15 years ago, when I was a PhD student at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. We received a request for helium isotope analyses in groundwaters of Flanders, Belgium, by a certain Jack F. Kenney, head of Gas Resources Corporation in Houston. That came in quite handy, because the money we earned for analyzing a dozen or so samples helped to finance the last few months of my thesis. So I went to Belgium, where Kenney and I did the sampling.

Kenney told me about his ideas on the origin of oil. According to him, oil was not derived from biological matter, it was abiogenically formed in the deep Earth at high pressures and temperatures. I did not know very much about oil at that time (and I still am no expert), but I knew that this abiogenic theory of petroleum origin, made popular by Thomas Gold, was highly controversial. I wasn’t convinced, but I couldn’t really be sure. Only a bit later, when I had the samples analyzed and reported the results, I got a better idea of what kind of person this Jack Kenney was.

But first, a crash course in helium geochemistry (of which I am an expert) is needed. Helium in the air has a certain 3He/4He ratio (about 1 to a million). Compared to that standard, the isotope ratio in helium from the Earth’s mantle is about 10 times higher, whereas that in helium coming from the Earth’s crust is nearly 100 times lower. Thus, deep mantle helium and shallow crustal helium are easily and very clearly distinguished. Because Kenney thinks hydrocarbons come from very deep layers, he reckons that helium isotopes could help pinpoint oil reservoirs. In Flanders, he was looking for the high 3He/4He isotope ratios that are indicative of fluids derived from the Earth’s mantle. He wanted to sell the local government the idea to drill for oil there.

I understood that Kenney had hoped to find mantle helium. What we had measured, however, where very low 3He/4He ratios, perfectly typical for crustal fluids. There was not the slightest indication of mantle gases. This was what I wrote to him. But he did not accept that. He did not doubt the data, but he argued that even the slightest little bit of 3He that was present in the samples would be an indication of deep origin, and hence would justify to look for deep hydrocarbon sources in the area. We sent mails back and forth, but he wouldn’t give in. Well, we got paid and it was none of my business, after all, what he did with the data. I hope he couldn’t convince anyone to waste money on a multiply flawed and fake theory: First of all, there is probably no deep abiogenic oil, and secondly, even if it existed, the data did not give the slightest hint that it was to be found at that particular place.

So, I got my first taste of rather questionable theories paired with a willingness to commit outright fraud by an exponent of the petroleum business. Quite a shock, but I thought he would be an exception, for otherwise we wouldn’t ever have found any oil, I suppose. I don’t know if people like Chilingar and Gerhard also believe in Gold’s deep oil theory. Probably not. But their behavior with regard to climate change strikingly reminds me of Kenney's.

There is another strange connection. Gold’s theory is possibly a case of plagiarism, as Soviet scientists had come up with the idea much earlier, only Gold had made it known in the west. Kenney, now the foremost western proponent of the theory, publishes with Russian colleagues and cites old Soviet literature. The Chilingar-gang obviously also has Soviet roots and likes to cite Russian literature that is hard to check for western readers. Not that Russian science is not good – there have been some real Russian pioneers in the He isotope field for instance. Just a remarkable coincidence that some Russian scientists seem to hold very questionable ideas on both the origin of oil and global warming. And some American colleagues seem to agree.

So, my advice with regard to a reality check: Beware of Russian and American petroleum scientists, especially if they agree!

11 September 2008

Revival of the "Hockey Stick"

Surely everyone interested in the climate change debate is well aware of the "hockey stick controversy". There is a new twist to the story: Michael Mann and colleagues just published a new temperature reconstruction in PNAS, confirming that the recent warmth is anomalous for the past 1300 years in the northern hemisphere.
The important point: This holds even if tree rings are not used as climate proxies. One of the more serious concerns about the old hockey stick was that tree rings may not correctly reflect long-term trends but dominated the combined record. The new reconstruction indeed more clearly shows the medieval warm period, but it does not come out as warm as today.
I look forward to a storm in the climate skeptics scene!

10 September 2008

Checking the links

Let's continue a little bit on the "Khilyuk and Chilingar" story. First of all, I do not plan to go into debunking all the errors in their papers. This would be endless. My rebuttal did a bit, and Eli Rabett a good bit more. The fact that these guys do such fraudulent things as multiple publication is sufficient proof that they are not to be taken seriously. By the way, I wrote an e-mail to the editors-in-chief of Environmental Geology and Energy Sources, informing them about the twin papers. I'm waiting for a reaction...

What I was wondering most when I saw the 2004 and 2006 papers by Khilyuk and Chilingar was how such weird papers could ever be published in a reviewed journal. Someone must have made sure that no competent reviewer ever gets to see them. The ones who could do this best are the people on the editorial boards of the journals in question. So who are they?

As lurker pointed out, the well-known climate skeptic Fred Singer is in the board of Environ. Geol. Seems like a good explanation, but he claimed not to have reviewed the manuscript. And I tend to believe him. For there is another suspect among the editors: Lee C. Gerhard, a climate-skeptical paper of whom Khilyuk and Chilingar like to cite in their papers (Gerhard, L. C., 2004. Climate change: Conflict of observational science, theory, and politics. Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull. 88:1211–1220).

And what about the journal Energy Sciences, Part A? Their editorial advisory board reveals it quickly: There is a fellow named G. V. Chilingarian. Chilingar or Chilingarian, this is of course no one else than the first author of the twin papers. Now, there is nothing wrong with being on the editorial board of a journal and at the same time being an author in that journal. Except that, if you wish to place a bogus duplicate of another paper, there may be a slight conflict of interest.

What do Gerhard and Chilingar have in common? As they both publish on climate change, you might think they are both climate scientists? Well, not exactly. The journal in which Gerhard published his piece tells it all: American Association of Petroleum Geologists. They are both petroleum geologists. Well, nothing wrong with that, we sure need some clever guys finding the last drops of oil these days, don’t we? Just maybe they would better focus on that task rather than writing amateurish papers about climate change.

Anyway, it surely comes as no surprise that people related to the oil business are amongst the most vocal climate skeptics. If you need more proof of this connection, read the Exxon Report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. I don’t know whether these oil people just fight against losing some business or whether they don’t want to be blamed for ruining the climate – in any case they definitely are not impartial on that matter. They fight with all means, and as aaron correctly points out, these are professional means. Although, the recycling fraud of Chilingar does not leave a very professional impression …

So, my advice with regard to a reality check: Always check the links and sources, and don’t trust climate skeptics that smell of petroleum!

07 September 2008

Khilyuk and Chilingar

This is about the weird experience that motivated this blog. The main story is quickly told, but there are lots of interesting spin-offs, that I will address in later posts.

In 2006, Khilyuk and Chilingar published a climate change sceptical paper in Environmental Geology (Khilyuk, L.F. and Chilingar, G.V., 2006. On global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate. Are humans involved? Environ. Geol., 50: 899-910). I found this article, because Environmental Geology (EG) sometimes has papers about groundwater that may be useful for me. As I read it, I was shocked about the complete nonsense that it contained - at least in my humble opinion. EG is not a top journal, but supposedly a serious, reviewed, scientific journal. How could they publish an article full of - at best - extremely unconventional theories?

I thought that such a questionable publication on an important issue in the reviewed literature could not go undisputed. As I figured that the top climate scientists would hardly note this paper in a journal that is not known for climate science, I felt compelled to write a comment (or rebuttal, as they call it in EG) myself. This was published in print in 2007 (Aeschbach-Hertig, W., 2007. Rebuttal of "On global forces of nature driving the Earth's climate. Are humans involved?" by L. F. Khilyuk and G. V. Chilingar, Environ. Geol. 52: 1007-1009). A bit to my surprise, no reply to my comment was published at that time. Judged by how quickly my manuscript got published online, it seems that the authors of the original article had not been invited to write a reply, or had declined to do so.

Even so, I received quite a bit of response to my article in the form of e-mails and reprint requests (much more than I usually get for more important papers). Perhaps most noticeable was a reprint request by the famous climate sceptic Fred Singer. The whole debate was also noticed by a few people in the blogsphere. Nexus 6 pointed out that the climate sceptics scene had happily adopted the paper of Khilyuk and Chilingar as further proof of their case, and presented my rebuttal to show that they were misled. Deltoid also cited my paper as a "devastating rebuttal". The rebuttal is mentioned in the Real Climate Wiki. And even the climate sceptic blogger Lubos Motl had to admit: "Unfortunately, I would agree with many points of the rebuttal...". So far, so good.

A few weeks ago I noticed that a reply to my rebuttal had finally been published in EG (Chilingar, G. V., O. G. Sorokhtin, L. F. Khilyuk, 2008. Response to W. Aeschbach-Hertig rebuttal of ‘‘On global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate. Are humans involved?’’ by L. F. Khilyuk and G. V. Chilingar. Environ. Geol. 54:1567–1572). Of course, I read it with great interest. It turned out that it wasn't really a response to my critique, except for a few sentences bashing me as holding a sacred climate belief and so on. Most of it was just another presentation of their funny "adiabatic theory of greenhouse effect". More nonsense, it seemed to me, but I was not inclined to write another rebuttal.

Not until I received an e-mail by the blogger Eli Rabett, pointing out the new paper and asking if I planned to respond. I checked out his Rabett Run blog, and found that he already had a nice critique of the new Chilingar paper. So no need for me to add anything. But, following the links in the blog, I was amazed to learn that Chilingar and colleagues had actually published the same questionable paper already before in Energy Sources (Chilingar, G.V., L.F. Khilyuk and O.G. Sorokhtin, 2008. Cooling of atmosphere due to CO2 emission, Energy Sources Part A 30: 1-9). Thanks to Eli Rabett for pointing out this recycling fraud!

Too much is too much! This little twist really was the last straw that prompted me to start this blog. I will research the issue more thoroughly, and I plan to take appropriate steps. I will let you know what happens...

06 September 2008


Why should I write a blog? Do I have to tell anything of interest to you out there?

Until now I did not think there was sufficient reason. But as I increasingly experience weird things, I thought it may be time to share some of my thoughts and findings with you. I have studied physics and become a scientist because I am interested in understanding how our world really works. I am convinced that there is some reality out there, some indisputable truth, and we are able to get at least a glimpse of it from time to time. So it disturbs me deeply if I see irrationality pop up all the time, not only in political or philosophical discussions, but also in science.

What I want to offer is a reality check on some of the opinions put forward in some hotly debated issues. The one topic that prompted me to start this blog and that I am most knowledgeable about is climate change. There is so much noise out there about this important issue. Maybe I am just adding a little bit more ...

I will try to avoid pointless discussions and just post some hard facts that may help you to figure out who is providing serious information and who is just making noise or even spreading outright nonsense.

There are many topics other than climate change that catch my interest: Environmental issues, energy policy, peak oil, and so on. I will post on these if I think I have some credible information.

Finally, the word "check" in the blog's title also alludes to my favorite hobby: Chess. Playing chess is a fabulous reality check: If you lose your sense of reality, your opponent will quickly show you the truth - check and mate! So, excuse me if I may post some news about chess from time to time, even if it may appear somewhat unrelated to the rest.

So, this is the plan. Let's see if I can make it come real!