Spaceship One and White Knight in flight. Rokits XPrize gallery /

[Desdemona admits to being very disappointed in Burt Rutan. Des was raised on Golden Age science fiction (“R is for Rocket”), and has nursed the romantic illusion that space exploration might somehow prevent humans from destroying Earth – maybe by moving industry off-world and mining asteroids, or something. But here we have an accomplished aerospace engineer, who should know better, throwing in with 15 other climate-science denialists on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Another tragic victim of the dread Dunning-Kruger effect.]

[Update: 38 scientists have replied to the WSJ letter: Setting the record straight on climate change: experts respond to Wall Street Journal editorial.]

By Brian Angliss
27 January 2012

Dear Mr. Rutan,

Ever since you won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 you’ve been a minor hero of mine. I’ve felt that the development of private human spaceflight was the critical next step toward moving humanity off our small blue marble since I was in high school, and SpaceShipOne was the first major step in that direction. The commercialization of space travel is a large part of why I work in aerospace myself designing satellite and space vehicle electronics.

Book cover of 'R is for Rocket', by Ray Bradbury. wikipedia.orgThis is why I was disappointed to find that you had co-signed a Wall Street Journal commentary regarding human-caused climate disruption along with 15 other scientists and engineers. The commentary was replete with incorrect and misleading information. So much so, in fact, that I was surprised that you, as an engineer, would attach your name to it.

You may not be aware of this, but greenhouse crops are very productive because farmers take great care to ensure that the crops have optimal nutrition. The farmers ensure that the crops in the greenhouses have enough water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients in addition to higher carbon dioxide. Without increasing all of these nutrients merely increasing carbon dioxide in the greenhouse’s air will not produce fast growing, nutritious crops. This is why the greenhouse claim made in the Journal commentary was incomplete and misleading – higher atmospheric carbon dioxide only leads to greater productivity when all other nutrients are also more available. It’s not a foregone conclusion that, outside of greenhouses, the other nutrients plants need to flourish will be more available. In fact, a great deal of research over the last few years suggests the opposite, that usable precipitation and fixed nitrogen will actually become rarer, counteracting most if not all of the improvements in crop yields and overall carbon sequestration by plants worldwide. […]

An open letter to Burt Rutan, regarding his WSJ commentary on human-caused climate disruption

December temperature (in blue) and May temperature (in red), 1880-2010. Both have increased over the last century and more.

By Tamino
29 January 2012

One of the signatories to the letter about global warming recently published in the Wall Street Journal is aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. A recent post on WUWT features his exchange with Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues. According to the post Rutan, in an email to Anthony Watts, stated “I usually ignore these diatribes.” If you read the post he refers to, it’s abundantly clear that it’s not a “diatribe.”

Rutan also states:

You can easily tell if someone is a true environmentalist, i.e. an advocate for a healthy planet – he is one who is happy to hear the news that the arctic ice content has stabilized.

My main question is about a graph which Rutan presents, but before we get to that, Mr. Rutan, I have to ask because we’re all so eager to know: on what basis do you claim that arctic ice content has stabilized? I’ll happily point you to my basis for claiming that it has not, that in fact arctic ice content has destabilized. Do tell us, Mr. Rutan — we’re all ears.

But what really piqued my curiosity was Rutan’s “research” on global warming. It strikes me as a “gish gallop” of the worst global warming arguments. Perhaps Mr. Rutan and I can discuss them some day, but at the moment what I’m most curious about is this graph on page pg. 35 of his pdf report: […]

Some Questions for Rutan



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