TRANSCRIPT  from the Radio Ecoshock Show November 19, 2010.


Alex Smith (host)


As you've heard, there are big changes in the Arctic.  The temperature is going up rapidly, sea ice and glaciers are melting.  The Permafrost is giving way.  The Arctic is in a Death Spiral.


That's why I was excited to get out and record the latest, in a speech called "Drivers Of Environmental Change: The Case Of The Arctic."  The speaker was a Polar veteran, Marie-Françoise André of the University of Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France.  I welcomed the opportunity for a European perspective, known for climate science leadership.


As I listened, my head began to quietly explode.  The latest science was missing, the old refrains of denial emerged, and another roomful of College students was mid-led about climate science.


How could this happen, again?  I didn't see any brochures for oil companies lying about.  The lecture series appears to be funded by the Liu Institute for Global Issues, which is relatively progressive. 



I believe this lecture represents yet another current of discontent among scientists whose work has been overshadowed by the spotlight on climate change.  We'll give it a few minutes, for others who run into this strange twist, and those influenced by it.  You can recognize the symptoms.


Over her career, Dr. Andre has made 19 field expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.  How could she deny the major changes there, obvious to the naked eye?  She does not.  A good part of this lecture, given October 28th, 2010 - consisted of slides showing massive changes in ice fields, sea ice, and glaciers.  The warming is obvious.  Andre is not a climate denier.  She questions whether the changes are consistent with human-induced climate change.  And whether we will really see significant impacts, such as rising seas.


I learned from Dr. Andre.  For example, I did not realize the huge extent of frozen ice under the Northern Continents holds so much of the world's water.  Let's hear about the Permafrost.


[Clip 1 permafrost]


"You have on the right, the hidden ice, I mean the Permafrost ice, the ground ice which covers much space in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.  Permafrost occupies 50 percent of Canada, 60 percent of Russia, and 85 of Alaska."


Amazing.  With rapid Arctic warming, all this land ice will eventually thaw, releasing vast amounts of water vapor into the atmophere, where it is a global warming gas.  And massive runoff into the rivers and oceans, adding to rising sea levels.  Most of the structures, pipelines, and forests will be destablized as this underground ocean of ground ice melts.  Dr. Andre did not discuss this.


We learn that there are human-caused changes in the Arctic - even though only 4 millon people live within the Arctic Circle.  She tells us about the localized impacts of settlements, especially the old Russian factory cities.  And the growing impact of Arctic tourism on the delicate plant life.  I cannot seriously equate these with the vast melting of the Polar worlds - but it gives us a clue to Andre's motivations, in my opinion.


Dr. Marie-Françoise André is not a climatologist.  Like the host for this series, and her co-author in a book, the Canadian scientist Olav Slaymaker - Marie-Francois is a Geomorphologist. 


According to Wikipedia, quote:


"Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms, and the processes that shape them, and more broadly, the evolution of processes controlling the topography of any planet. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, to understand landform history and dynamics, and to predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling."


Geomorphology is often placed within Geography.  It seemed evident, to me at least, that Dr. Andre is one of several disciplines who see more media, research money and equipment going to climate science, while their important contributions are passed by. 


We do know, from the work of Canadian scientists, that climate events, such as the major sea ice melt and heating of 2007, can radically reshape the geomorphology of the Arctic.  On one Canadian island, old rivers were blocked as landscapes slipped down hillsides, over melting ice below.  These big changes likely happened across the Canadian North, in that one season alone.


That is large-scale change from Arctic warming, which cannot be compared to the foot-traffic on Svalbaard, trampling plants.  These lesser influences, championed by Dr. Andre, should not be ignored.  The Arctic is fragile, and we need to protect that environment, as she says.


But Andre is critical of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  As it sounded to me, she suggests the IPCC has been taken over by something like a cult.  In particular, she laments the loss of the Medieval Warm Period, as show on a graph presented by the IPCC in 1990.  That assessment was later replaced by the famous hockey-stick graph, produced by Dr. Michael Mann.


Dr. Andre tells the students, quote:


"That finally, the Medieval Optimum, the fact that the Middle Ages climate was a bit warmer than ours, is again admitted... The debate continues.... So you can see the problem.  Some people say, 'Well, if the climate was warmer in the Middle Ages, probably it was not because we pollute the atmosphere, that the present climate warming exists.'  So you can see the implications."


As Joe Romm often says in his blog - you have to put your head in a vice to continue with this.  Contrary to the impression given by Andre, Dr. Mann did not use just tree ring data to construct his graph.  Studies from all over the world, including such things as coral and ice cores, show the European warming around the year 1,000 was a local event, possibly caused by a change of ocean currents.  It was not a globally experienced warming.  The Medieval globe was not warmer than today.


The American National Academy of Sciences was asked by Congress to investigate Mann's work.  They found the new IPCC map of climate over time, was accurate.  The Hockey stick graph, which shows the present is much, much hotter than the Medieval warm period, stands.  It has been cross-checked over by Academies of Science world-wide. 


Wikipedia has a whole page on this Medieval Warming debate  - with the correct science!



You must see Peter Sinclair's Climate Denier Crock of the Week - Medieval Warming on You tube.




The French Academy of Science stands behind it, as Marie-Francois knows well.  After puckishly suggesting the world might be cooling, and showing us a graph supposedly showing cooling over the past ten years, Dr. Andre admitted, under my questioning, that nobody in France talks about global cooling anymore.  Why does she tell students it is a possibility?  In the face of NASA data showing the first years of this century to be among the hottest ever recorded, year after year?  After 30,000 French people died in the massive heat wave of 2003?


Dr. Andre uses Peter Ward's new book "The Flooded Earth" literally as a poster-boy for alarmists.  Against all the recent findings by top European and American institutes, which warn of a minimum five foot sea level rise this Century, Andre doubts sea level rise will amount to much.


She explains this is because more snow is piling up on Greenland, and even more on Eastern Antarctica.  This extra snow will absorb both the expansion of the oceans, and the melting ice.  She does not tell students that hard data from the American Grace satellites refutes this theory.  The Satellites measure changes in gravity, showing a big loss of ice mass on both Greenland, and surprisingly, even in the coldest parts of Antarctica.


Just for a starting point, launch yourself from this collection of Arctic science links from Joe Romm at  THAT'S what the students needed to hear!


Andre said nothing about recent Polar science from NASA, NOAA, MIT, the National Academy, or the Geophysical Union.  The data presented stopped at 2007.  She plainly prefered the chart from the 1990 IPCC report.


All through, we heard "some say," and veiled accusations that climate critics had to hide carefully behind their words. It felt like we were at a secret meeting of Apostates.


I wanted to demand half an hour to refute, a chance to explain to the students that a boat-load of expert science contradicted Andre's views of the Arctic.  But I was just a guest, allowed to record a speech.  Only two questions were asked, and then people filed out of the room, turning on their IPODs and IPhones.


This series at St. John's College, part of the University of British Columbia, is designed to explore  uncertainty about climate change.  It ends next Spring with Canada's own science doubter, Dr. Vaclav Smil.  He told Andrew Revkin of the New York Times, there has been no global warming in the past 10 years.  He must have been away during the last decade, on some other planet.


Bring your own head-vice for that one.  I won't be there.


I'm Alex Smith


Radio Ecoshock