Saturday, November 19, 2005


Implicitly admitting that carbon emissions are a problem but providing a distraction from worse nonsense

The Bush administration will use a United Nations climate change meeting in Canada to tout a voluntary plan to store heat-trapping gases underground, an Energy Department official said on Wednesday.

Environmental groups said the administration will try to derail any attempt at the Montreal meeting to set mandatory targets to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, when its first phase ends. Kyoto requires developed nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Carbon dioxide is one of several gases blamed for climate change that is melting glaciers and raising sea levels. The United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, shunned the Kyoto pact, saying it would be too costly to the U.S. economy.

The White House prefers a voluntary, multi-national plan to sequester and store carbon dioxide. The plan would include most European Union nations, India and Saudi Arabia. It would encourage nations to separate carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and pipe it into geologic formations or deep beneath the ocean floor for permanent storage, an Energy Department official said.....

Montreal could provide a crucial start of negotiations for a new round of emission cuts, according to environmental groups. But "the United States wants to block this process from starting," said David Doniger, a climate change expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Look for the U.S. to use a variety of strategies to try to veto consensus," Doniger said, such as lining up Middle Eastern OPEC countries and India in favor of voluntary approaches.

A major source of greenhouse gases comes from burning fossil fuels like crude oil and coal. "There's got to be a better and cheaper way to do this" than mandatory cuts envisioned by Kyoto, said John Grasser, an Energy Department spokesman. "That's why sequestration is taking off -- it might be our ace in the hole." Doniger said he is "bullish" on sequestration technology, but it must be accompanied by specific carbon cuts.....

Sequestration projects have been shown to work. Some 5 million tons of carbon dioxide were successfully stored in a oilfield in Canada while doubling the field's crude oil recovery rate in a multinational project...

U.S. lawmakers' attempts to require cuts in American emissions have repeatedly failed in Congress.

More here

Dawkins on GM crops: Don't Turn Your Back On Science

This is science author Richard Dawkins's reply to a lecture that Prince Charles gave in May 2000 about "Sustainable Development"

Your Royal Highness,

Your Reith Lecture saddened me. I have deep sympathy for your aims, and admiration for your sincerity. But your hostility to science will not serve those aims; and your embracing of an ill-assorted jumble of mutually contradictory alternatives will lose you the respect that I think you deserve. I forget who it was who remarked: 'Of course we must be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.' Let's look at some of the alternative philosophies which you seem to prefer over scientific reason. First, intuition, the heart's wisdom 'rustling like a breeze through the leaves'. Unfortunately, it depends whose intuition you choose. Where aims (if not methods) are concerned, your own intuitions coincide with mine. I wholeheartedly share your aim of long-term stewardship of our planet, with its diverse and complex biosphere.

But what about the instinctive wisdom in Saddam Hussein's black heart? What price the Wagnerian wind that rustled Hitler's twisted leaves? The Yorkshire Ripper heard religious voices in his head urging him to kill. How do we decide which intuitive inner voices to heed? This, it is important to say, is not a dilemma that science can solve. My own passionate concern for world stewardship is as emotional as yours. But where I allow feelings to influence my aims, when it comes to deciding the best method of achieving them I'd rather think than feel. And thinking, here, means scientific thinking. No more effective method exists. If it did, science would incorporate it.

Next, Sir, I think you may have an exaggerated idea of the naturalness of 'traditional' or 'organic' agriculture. Agriculture has always been unnatural. Our species began to depart from our natural hunter-gatherer lifestyle as recently as 10,000 years ago - too short to measure on the evolutionary timescale.

Wheat, be it ever so wholemeal and stoneground, is not a natural food for Homo sapiens. Nor is milk, except for children. Almost every morsel of our food is genetically modified - admittedly by artificial selection not artificial mutation, but the end result is the same. A wheat grain is a genetically modified grass seed, just as a pekinese is a genetically modified wolf. Playing God? We've been playing God for centuries!

The large, anonymous crowds in which we now teem began with the agricultural revolution, and without agriculture we could survive in only a tiny fraction of our current numbers. Our high population is an agricultural (and technological and medical) artifact. It is far more unnatural than the population-limiting methods condemned as unnatural by the Pope. Like it or not, we are stuck with agriculture, and agriculture - all agriculture - is unnatural. We sold that pass 10,000 years ago.

Does that mean there's nothing to choose between different kinds of agriculture when it comes to sustainable planetary welfare? Certainly not. Some are much more damaging than others, but it's no use appealing to 'nature', or to 'instinct' in order to decide which ones. You have to study the evidence, soberly and reasonably - scientifically. Slashing and burning (incidentally, no agricultural system is closer to being 'traditional') destroys our ancient forests. Overgrazing (again, widely practised by 'traditional' cultures) causes soil erosion and turns fertile pasture into desert. Moving to our own modern tribe, monoculture, fed by powdered fertilisers and poisons, is bad for the future; indiscriminate use of antibiotics to promote livestock growth is worse.

Incidentally, one worrying aspect of the hysterical opposition to the possible risks from GM crops is that it diverts attention from definite dangers which are already well understood but largely ignored. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria is something that a Darwinian might have foreseen from the day antibiotics were discovered. Unfortunately the warning voices have been rather quiet, and now they are drowned by the baying cacophony: 'GM GM GM GM GM GM!'

Moreover if, as I expect, the dire prophecies of GM doom fail to materialise, the feeling of let-down may spill over into complacency about real risks. Has it occurred to you that our present GM brouhaha may be a terrible case of crying wolf?

Even if agriculture could be natural, and even if we could develop some sort of instinctive rapport with the ways of nature, would nature be a good role model? Here, we must think carefully. There really is a sense in which ecosystems are balanced and harmonious, with some of their constituent species becoming mutually dependent. This is one reason the corporate thuggery that is destroying the rainforests is so criminal.

On the other hand, we must beware of a very common misunderstanding of Darwinism. Tennyson was writing before Darwin but he got it right. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. Much as we might like to believe otherwise, natural selection, working within each species, does not favour long-term stewardship. It favours short-term gain. Loggers, whalers, and other profiteers who squander the future for present greed, are only doing what all wild creatures have done for three billion years.

No wonder T.H. Huxley, Darwin's bulldog, founded his ethics on a repudiation of Darwinism. Not a repudiation of Darwinism as science, of course, for you cannot repudiate truth. But the very fact that Darwinism is true makes it even more important for us to fight against the naturally selfish and exploitative tendencies of nature. We can do it. Probably no other species of animal or plant can. We can do it because our brains (admittedly given to us by natural selection for reasons of short-term Darwinian gain) are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences. Natural selection is like a robot that can only climb uphill, even if this leaves it stuck on top of a measly hillock. There is no mechanism for going downhill, for crossing the valley to the lower slopes of the high mountain on the other side. There is no natural foresight, no mechanism for warning that present selfish gains are leading to species extinction - and indeed, 99 per cent of all species that have ever lived are extinct.

The human brain, probably uniquely in the whole of evolutionary history, can see across the valley and can plot a course away from extinction and towards distant uplands. Long-term planning - and hence the very possibility of stewardship - is something utterly new on the planet, even alien. It exists only in human brains. The future is a new invention in evolution. It is precious. And fragile. We must use all our scientific artifice to protect it.

It may sound paradoxical, but if we want to sustain the planet into the future, the first thing we must do is stop taking advice from nature. Nature is a short-term Darwinian profiteer. Darwin himself said it: 'What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horridly cruel works of nature.' Of course that's bleak, but there's no law saying the truth has to be cheerful; no point shooting the messenger - science - and no sense in preferring an alternative world view just because it feels more comfortable. In any case, science isn't all bleak. Nor, by the way, is science an arrogant know-all. Any scientist worthy of the name will warm to your quotation from Socrates: 'Wisdom is knowing that you don't know.' What else drives us to find out?

What saddens me most, Sir, is how much you will be missing if you turn your back on science. I have tried to write about the poetic wonder of science myself, but may I take the liberty of presenting you with a book by another author? It is The Demon-Haunted World by the lamented Carl Sagan. I'd call your attention especially to the subtitle: Science as a Candle in the Dark .

Thin Green Line Is Bad Science

Comment by Debra Saunders

There is a myth in the American media. It goes like this: The good scientists agree that global warming is human-induced and would be addressed if America ratified the Kyoto global warming pact, while bad, heretical scientists question climate models that predict Armageddon because they are venal and corrupted by oil money.

A Tuesday Open Forum piece in The San Francisco Chronicle, written by a UC Berkeley journalism professor and a UC Berkeley energy professor, provides a perfect example of this odd view that all scientists ascribe to a common gospel: "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N.-sponsored group of more than 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, has concluded that human activity is a key factor in elevated carbon-dioxide levels and rising temperatures and sea levels that could prove catastrophic for tens of millions of people living along Earth's coastlines."

The piece also cited research by "Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at UC San Diego, who reviewed 928 abstracts of peer-reviewed articles on climate change published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 and could not find a single one that challenged the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is real."

The authors then attacked best-selling author Michael Crichton because Crichton accepted an invitation to testify from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., "who is heavily supported by oil and gas interests" and who -- horrors -- dared to ask whether the global-warming scare is a hoax. That is the sort of McCarthyist guilt by association that one would not expect to encounter in the name of science.

Crichton spoke at an Independent Institute event Tuesday night with three apostate scientists. It's odd that Oreskes couldn't find a single article that didn't follow the thin green line on global warming. Panelist and Colorado State University professor of atmospheric science William M. Gray, a hurricane authority, announced that he thinks that the biggest contributor to global warming is the fact that "we're coming out of a little ice age," and that the warming trend will end in six to eight years.

Said Gray, sagely, "Consensus science isn't science." No lie. In fact, it's a bizarre argument. Why do global-warming believers keep pushing this everyone-agrees line when consensus uber alles is so, well, unacademic? The ideal should not be scientists who think in lockstep, but those in the proud mold of the skeptic, who takes a hard look at the data and proves conventional wisdom wrong.

Independent Institute President David Theroux hailed that trait in this year's winner of Nobel Prize for medicine, Barry Marshall, who believed ulcers were caused by bacteria, when the establishment knew that Marshall's theory was "preposterous" -- except that Marshall turned out to be right.

Crichton focused on the many times that fad science has been wrong. Remember Y2K? Ho-hum. The population-bomb scare? Yawn. Then there's Yellowstone, the national park that declined due to rangers' misbegotten (and often fatal for the wildlife) conviction that they knew what was best for the animals -- in this case, they killed wolves and overprotected elk until the whole ecosystem suffered.

On Tuesday, Inhofe issued a statement from Capitol Hill that noted how scientists with independent views don't get on too well with the IPCC. Witness Chris Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who resigned from the IPCC this year because he believed an IPCC top hurricane scientist wrongly linked severe hurricanes to global warming. As a result, he wrote, "the IPCC process has been subverted and compromised, its neutrality lost."

I've seen this when covering failed educational fads: Curriculum boards chase out the free thinkers, then smugly announce that all the experts agree with them -- so they must be right.



Comment from NEW DELHI

"India is unlikely to agree to any emission caps in the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol because of its expanding energy-hungry economy, but analysts say developed nations will continue to pile pressure on the nation.

Asia's third-largest economy and home to about a sixth of humanity has some of the most polluted cities in the world, many of them continually shrouded in eye-stinging smog of noxious fumes from cars and industry. Its growing energy needs are only expected to increase along with pollution levels in the next few decades, despite growing fears that global warming will spare no one.

The Kyoto climate change pact requires developed nations to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The United States and Australia refused to ratify the pact and developing nations, such as China and India are exempt from emissions caps all four countries say threaten economic growth. China's appetite for oil and coal is even greater than India's.

Both are likely to come under pressure to do more to curb emissions growth when they join officials from 150 countries in Montreal for a U.N. climate change summit. The Montreal meeting from November 28 will help shape the Kyoto Protocol after its first phase ends in 2012, but disagreement is rife and hopes of progress slim.

"There is no way that anybody can expect countries like India to cap their emissions for the next 20-25 years," said S.K. Joshi, a senior official in the environment ministry. "We welcome the talks among the parties for the second commitment period strictly in accordance with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. The issue of entitlements has to be addressed and the countries that have agreed to take on commitments under the protocol have to show demonstrable progress.""


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: