Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bob Carter, John Spooner: Taxing Air

Previous related article: Bob Carter's job not renewed

I just received my copy of the paperback edition of cartoonist John Spooner's and geologist Bob Carter's new book, Taxing Air. The Kindle edition may be bought from here (icon on the left side); go to TaxingAir.COM for the book's web page and options to buy it for $30.

The book immediately impressed me by the colorful illustrations on pretty much every page. They're playful, witty, full of colors and life, and they also quickly convey some key ideas.

Perhaps because it seems easier to read a 280-page book whose significant portion is filled with similar pictures, I couldn't resist and immediately started to read the book. Let me say in advance that about one-half of the pictures are jokes, often with alarmists' and (mostly Australian) politicians' faces; the other half are graphs and diagrams that explain serious scientific concepts and the cold hard data.

Now some facts. The book wasn't written "just" by Carter and Spooner. There are four other co-authors, economist Martin Feil and three others, who are co-responsible for the full content of the book. The authorship of individual sections isn't specifically mentioned but the preface explains what the other co-authors may have contributed.

At the very beginning, there is a page "Did you know that?" with some trivia that everyone should know – not only in Australia – except that it's normal for many people who are loud in the climate change debate to be ignorant about these basics of the interdisciplinary discipline.

Some pages with a praise follow, and so does the table of contents. The preface by the authors occupies two pages.

The first substantial chapter-like passage is the Introduction – answering the question how a cartoonist got his idea. We're told that Spooner would also believe various things we used to be told. But a turning point was Martin Durkin's The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary six years ago. Spooner understood that the hysterical reaction by the alarmists – that played a key role in the introduction of words such as "deniers" to the debate – had to have a reason. Spooner understood that the scientific consensus was being referred to by the activists exactly because the actual scientific evidence didn't work and doesn't work for them. He spends some time by analyzing how bad it is to use labels and libels such as "deniers", analyzes ClimateGate, and other important events, with some special emphasis on what it meant for the material inspiring a cartoonist such as Spooner.

After this point, you may be looking forward to 12 nicely written chapters about (the wording below is mine):
  • Basics of the weather and the climate (changes at all possible time scales, what drives them, who studies and understands them etc.)
  • Inner structure of the alarmist movement (sky-is-falling quotes since the 19th century, history of the IPCC, movies, tricks and abuse of language and science by the advocates etc., is consensus science and does it exist, what scientists agree about)
  • Historical weather and climate data (methods to reconstruct the past, proxies, and drivers of variation – Milankovitch cycles, ocean cycles, and others; temperature trends, cyclone energy non-trends, and so on)
  • The greenhouse effect (the energy budget, lots of flows, greenhouse gases also cool, decelerating log dependence on concentration, misinterpretations in the media, temperature changes before CO2 on seasonal through geological timescales, estimates of sensitivity, six falsifications of the dominant-CO2 hypothesis, recent relative CO2 starvation, methane ozone as small players)
  • Computer models (brief history, what they're based upon, deterministic vs empirical-statistical, haven't been validated against independent datasets so projections aren't real predictions, systematically overestimated warming rates, some graphs of GCMs and better and milder Scafetta's model, predicted human fingerprints aren't unique and are often absent in the measured data)
  • Ocean's role in the climate (details on sea level rise measurements, global just for 20 years, no worrying trends, local vs global level, local is important for coastal planning, level affected by geoid, tectonics, sediments, ancient Roman port is 2 miles inland today, big capacity of oceans, exchange with the atmosphere matters, currents that survive, El Niño starts by less mixing in surface ocean, acidification won't occur – oceans won't ever be acidic)
  • Other climate drivers (geothermal fluxes negligible, 10,000 times below Sun, except for near volcanoes, volcano ashes' temporary effect, a nice summary of Svensmark cosmic rays, Soon and others solar influences, why the small irradiance variations don't exclude the concept; ocean cycles from ENSO, Indian Ocean Dipole, and Pacific Decadal Oscillation, with maps, diagrams, and discussion of impact on weather, global and Australian)
  • Specific climate questions in Australia (the continent's extreme temperature, changing climate with continental drift, why Australia is drier than others, cyclones in Northern Australia went down, no disturbing trend in water storage and flows in the Murray-Darling basin, in number or strength of floods, in temperatures; good water management requires a good understanding of the natural conditions before people got in charge, Great Barrier Reef is doing fine, something got better, something worse, everything consistent with multidecadal oscillations, global warming would probably bring a decrease of the dangerous weather events via Lindzen's argument)
  • Economics of carbon dioxide taxation (a definition of economics, interactions between politics, economics, science; carbon tax is useless and inefficient, convoluted, hard-to-define, unsustainable, creating inconsistencies and special interests; carbon trading adds gaming, corruption, and big price swings; no benefits; Australians will pay up to $100 billion before 2020 and already now $1,000 per person and year; Australia is not following but leading the world in this insanity)
  • Influence of such policies on the climate (percentage of CO2 emissions from Australia ambiguous and hard to quantify due to errors and different schemes what to count, cooling for those hundreds of billions between microkelvins and 0.015 deg C, the latter if Australia stops carbon in its economy completely, it will be hard to repeal the tax because it has grown through the economy as a tumor, but it's still cheaper and more ethical to do so)
  • What alternative energy doesn't do ("dirty energy" is an emotional label because electrons are clean; coal and nuclear energy are cheap and OK for environment; wind, solar, biofuel, tidal etc. energy are expensive, killing birds, need backup power plants to beat interruption, backup plants burn less efficiently than full-fledged plant, detailed numbers on costs, prices, output, what form of energy they use etc.; fortunately, Australia and NZ won't need nuclear so their irrational anti-nuclear sentiment won't hurt)
  • Risk management in general (instead of feel-good campaigns, precautionary principle, and other emotional manipulative things, nations need evidence-based, scientific cost-benefit analysis; it's right to be prepared for real natural hazards that have mostly nothing to do with CO2; in Australia, it's almost only climatic ones such as drought, bushfires, floods – no earthquakes and volcanoes in the middle of a plate; coming cooling is also possible, due to the silent Sun etc., and would be worse than warming; how you can help: get educated about the real facts, inform folks around you)
At the end, you find a glossary, acronyms, index, and – for you not to be distracted in the bulk of the text – the list of figures and their sources, recommended literature, and the information about the authors.

I haven't read the whole book yet but what I have already read is enough to recommend you the book wholeheartedly. See a review in the Australian [free copy] to see another man's reasons to love the book. This blog entry may be updated later.


  1. Thank you for the alert, Dr. Motl! The book seems irresistible.

  2. This looks really good, Lubos - thanks for the quick review. Wish I could get my neighbors to read it.

  3. Ann, why don't you move next door to New Hampshire? I had a job in Boston moving furniture. Worst customers were the fairies, excuse my language, in the Back Bay and Jamaica Plain, glass coffee tables and fragile knick knacks by the ton, always hovering and looking over our shoulders; the snotty rich in Weston and Newton (lousy tippers!) not far behind; somewhat better the hippies in Cambridgeport and Somerville; but the most pleasant were the Frenchies in the small towns alongside the state highways in New Hampshire. By that time I had graduated from household moves to delivering new furniture. So we'd deliver their Sealy mattresses and formica kitchens, downstairs or one flight up, good riddance to fifth-floor walkups. Also not great tippers, but the women would sometimes urge you to try their home cooking. Pretty far away from so-called high culture but refreshingly unsophisticated. Kerouac was from there. I felt one could live there and mostly not be bothered by self-appointed political compliance commissars.

  4. TiredOfProgressiveBiasJul 10, 2013, 8:09:00 PM

    Pardon me for commenting off topic, but does anyone know of any other top scientists or high-IQ individuals that are also conservative? I'm trying to compile a list.

    Dave Gelenter is one. Geoffrey Miller, who was chased off twitter by PC fanatics, seems like one too. I wonder about Donald Knuth possibly.

    Just curious about other non-left-wing scientists out there. Thanks!

  5. New Hampshire is nice - be a long job commute for my SO though. 10 minute drive for him now.

  6. It seems terrific, but what many of us hope is a compendium of the vision of Lubos on Climate Change and alarmist trickery embodied in one book. We don't even need cartoons, just Physics ;-)

  7. Spooner's conversion reminded me of my own becoming aware of the green corruption. Until the early 90s I believed that there might be some truth to anthropogenic global warming but figured, being from Canada, that it could probably only benefit me. Didn't really have any strong opinions about it.

    Then I was in NJ on a business trip when the day suddenly ended about 3 pm and I found myself back in my hotel. Should I go to the pool? Should I go running? Instead I turned on the TV. There on PBS was some knob from the National Resources Defense Council yelling at Eric Lindzen because de didn't run "cutting edge climate models". Lindzen said he didn't run models at all. He was just looking at the temperature data and it didn't show significant warming since the start of the 20th century. The NRDC guy just kept ranting that he wasn't a credible climate scientist because he didn't run models.

    I knew right then it was a scam and that all the longest established and most respected environmental organizations had been corrupted and were involved in it. Twenty years later they rival the mafia for corruption. Inclidentally, it was very shortly after that that we started to see all the strange and poorly-documented temperature data adjustments.

    My PhD supervisor was a highly respected experimental physicist with an international reputation. I could just imagine what he would have said to me if I'd told him that my model output trumped the data.

  8. 0bama and Billy Ayers formed the Chicago Climate Exchange with Al Gore/Maurice Strong and Richard Sandor to sell phony carbon credits.. On 9/11/2001 1152 people (44%) of the people killed on 9/11 were in Direct competition with the CCX.. Carlton Bartels who invented CO2 carbon calculator computer program was killed ..and the patent was given to Franklin Raines of FM/FM..s really would like someone to research this and expose 0bama and his global warming/climate change Carbon credit trading scheme before he totally destroys out country..