Wednesday, November 30, 2005


From The Times

The United Nations conference that began yesterday in Montreal and will stretch on for nearly two weeks will fail in its aim: to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. That does not matter; in fact, it is the best outcome. Kyoto has been an extraordinary piece of work. A treaty that its most important signatories have found impossible to meet, and which has changed behaviour very little, has still become a resonant global symbol.

The best way forward now is not a "successor" to Kyoto, which covers the years until 2012. Another treaty that attempted to set fixed targets for cutting emisssions could be economically very damaging - in the unlikely event that countries ever reached agreement. The better answer is in the plethora of bargains between a handful of rich and poor countries, which some are already exploring. It is also in the development of new technology to combat global warming, and in deals to spread these quickly to poorer countries.

Some of these new suggestions for life after Kyoto have come from the US, China and India, which all found Kyoto unpalatable. For just that reason, they are more valuable than son-of-Kyoto would be. It is no surprise that European Union countries became so enamoured of the Kyoto Protocol, which finally came into force in February this year. They have found its targets fortuitously easy to meet. For them, the treaty coincided with a revolution in energy supply.

Kyoto set the EU a target of cutting "greenhouse gases" by 8 per cent from 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012. Members divided up the reductions between themselves; some could see that they would find big cuts easier than others. They are slightly off course, but not by so much that they think they have surrendered the moral high ground.

The figures tell the political story. In 2003 Britain's emission of greenhouse gases was 13 per cent down on 1990 levels, slightly ahead of its EU-appointed target of 12.5 per cent.

Of course, emissions are likely to rise between now and 2008. Britain is also missing the Government's own target of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010. All the same, these drops have been made possible by the shift from coal-fired power stations to gas in the early 1990s.

Germany, similarly, is almost in line with its Kyoto targets, with an 18 per cent drop in 2003, on its target of 21 per cent. France is down by nearly 2 per cent, ahead of its target of no change. True, many smaller EU countries are not doing so well. But many of the new eastern members show sharp drops well ahead of target, because of the closure of old industries.

Those "achievements" of the EU have made Kyoto an irresistible tool with which to berate others, notably the US. But extending Kyoto would be difficult for the EU too. The EU would be well advised to look more sympathetically on the new proposals coming out of the US, Britain and the conference hosts, Canada. These include "intensity targets" - cuts in emissions per dollar of economic output. They are more attractive than Kyoto to poor countries as well as to the US. So are proposals for rich countries to invest in technology to filter out emissions and to share it with developing countries. Other suggestions include sector targets, which would set emissions standards for some of the biggest industries, such as steel and cars.

Under most of these systems of new, flexible targets, it might still be possible to set up markets in pollution, in which countries or industries could trade the right to release emissions. Any agreement to curb greenhouse gases is worth little if the US, China and India do not sign up. Kyoto failed in that basic requirement. For all the rhetorical mileage which some European countries have found in Kyoto, at the US's expense, their own "success" - such as it is - is due to a quirk of history rather than to self-discipline or the powers of their leaders. That gloating is no basis on which to move forward.


The view from The BBC

The European Union is likely to miss its greenhouse gas targets by a wide margin, according to an official assessment of the Union's environment. The European Environment Agency says that the 15 longest-standing members of the EU are likely to cut emissions to just 2.5% below 1990 levels. This falls well short of their target 8% cut. Growth in the transport sector is partly to blame, with increased air travel offsetting gains made elsewhere.

The European Union is at the heart of the Kyoto process, and is committed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But real performance is poor according to the new report on Europe's environmental health - emissions have in fact been rising since the year 2000. Improvements in industrial efficiency and reductions in methane emissions from waste tips have given the most dramatic gains. But elsewhere the story is one of reverses. Longer car journeys have more than eaten into any gains in engine performance, and ship and airline journeys are also increasing fast.

Environmentalists will be disappointed that the share of renewable sources of electricity has increased by only 0.5% since 1990. Renewables like wind and biomass being seen as the key to any low-carbon economy. On the other hand, the report does include a glimmer of hope - that if measures that have been promised are implemented, the Kyoto target will be more than met. The trouble is that reality and promise don't seem to be matched at the moment.

More on Environmentalists & Peak Oil

Post lifted from The Commons

Many environmentalists have embraced the "peak oil" hypothesis that world oil production has already peaked and will inexorably decline. Many Greens seem to believe that convincing the world that we are running out of oil will spur the adoption of government-mandated conservation and subsidies for alternatuive energy sources. Yet, as Dave Roberts notes, there is no reason to assume that the public reaction to a "peak oil" consensus will be so "green."

Environmentalists seem to have a somewhat naive faith that once the concept of peak oil sinks in, people will move -- as though by the force of tides -- to support renewable, decentralized energy.

But why should that be true? A much more natural, predictable reaction would be to push like mad for more drilling and for more coal gasification. Both more drilling and more coal-to-liquid-fuel production would fit better with our existing infrastructure and practices, however environmentally malign they may be.

The economics of peak oil will scare and motivate people, but there's no particular reason the environmental aspects of it will grip them.

Of course, there is a larger problem: The peak oil hypothesis is still a fringe theory about which there is much dispute. And, even if it were true, the market reaction to impending oil shortages would be far more effective than any government policy the Greens (or anyone else) would think up.


Looking over the record of industrialized countries in controlling their greenhouse-gas emissions is to see cases of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Among the countries judged to be good are Germany and Britain. They're undisputed leaders in showing the way for countries to curb their releases of planet-warming gases. Unfortunately, Canada is listed among the ugly.

In preparation for this week's international climate summit in Montreal, the UN's climate change secretariat has released a report on the progress, or lack thereof, made by the 40 developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent. Federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion attributes Canada's rise partly to robust economic growth. The economy has grown by 43 per cent since 1990. Canada is also being saddled with emissions from the booming energy industry, which is exporting record amounts of oil and gas to the United States. Mr. Dion said Canada is committed to meeting its Kyoto target and he predicted it would soon start to show more progress. "At the end of the day in 2012, we'll have far less emissions and also much more economic efficiency," he said.

Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada said some federal officials were so nervous about the optics of Canada's record that they were initially reluctant to agree to act as host to the UN climate conference for fear environmentalists would use it to embarrass Ottawa. "We're just going to give the [non-governmental organizations] a chance to treat us like a pinata right before the world comes to Canada," Ms. May said about the fears of some in the government.

Federal officials dispute Ms. May's account, but nonetheless, it's unlikely that anyone will be mentioning Canada's record at the conference. Conservation activists say they will be pulling their punches to help Mr. Dion work on the most important item at the conference: starting talks on a new climate regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Ms. May said environmentalists will not be "beating up on our government. What we're concerned about is getting real reductions globally before the Western Antarctic ice sheet falls into the ocean."

Other countries are expected to cut Canada slack because it didn't follow the United States and Australia out of Kyoto, and has remained committed to meeting the protocol. At first reading, the UN figures indicate that the industrialized world has made considerable progress in fighting global warming. By the end of 2003, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases fell an average of 5.9 per cent below their 1990 levels. That is more than Kyoto's requirement for an average cut of 5.2 per cent.

But the report also shows that national performances are all over the map when it comes to controlling planet-warming gases, mostly carbon dioxide and methane, spewed from the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities. The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.

But since the early 1990s, most countries in the East and West have muddled along, making little headway in weaning themselves from their fossil-fuel dependency. Excluding the former East Bloc, emissions among industrialized countries actually rose 9.2 per cent between 1990 and 2003...

One surprise in the figures is that Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is "actually ahead of Canada in just about every area" of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states "is far ahead of any province in Canada."

More here


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.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I go into hospital for a rather large surgical procedure today. It is however day surgery so I hope to be back home by the evening and blogging away as usual. If that proves too optimistic, however, this blog may not be updated for a day or so.


"The great game of the 21st century is being played out before our eyes, but few seem to notice. Last week, Tony Blair hinted that he was prepared to go ahead with a new generation of nuclear reactors at an as yet unknown cost. In Iraq, an American-inspired deal to hand over development of oil reserves, the third largest in the world, to US and British companies is being rushed through by the oil minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi before next month's election. In Russia, President Putin has ruthlessly constructed a monopoly of oil and gas production which controls some 90 per cent of the country's reserves. On the way, he imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, stripping his oil giant, Yukos, of its assets and, in a separate deal, paid off Khodorkovsky's fellow oligarch, Roman Abramovich, with US $13 billion for his stake in the oil producer Sibneft.

The link is the supply of energy to the high-consuming, wasteful Western democracies. With about 50 years of oil reserves left and maybe 85 years of gas, the struggle for control of the world's energy resources will increasingly dictate events. It will impact on each of us and there will be almost no area of domestic or foreign policy unaffected by this desperate scramble. Lest people think that the invasion of Iraq was undertaken to establish democracy and eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, rather than to secure Iraq's oil reserves, then last Monday's revelations about Chalabi's 30-year binding contracts should give them pause.

If you imagine that Tony Blair's musing on the nuclear option popped out of the blue, just remember Putin's visit to Britain in October and the conversation the two leaders had on the sidelines of the Russia-EU summit. Believe me, they were talking about gas, not chatting about democratic reform in Russia. Having consolidated Russia's state monopoly, Putin came to Europe with his power greatly enhanced. More than 25 per cent of Europe's natural gas is supplied by Russia: By 2020, that figure will be nudging 40 per cent. The former KGB officer has got his hand resting on Europe's throat and with rising gas prices, it cannot be anything but sensible for Blair to look at other options.

These events and the cold assessment of what lies ahead are way above an average individual's understanding or awareness. We are so used to having all the energy we require that we are barely conscious of our needs and do not trouble ourselves with realities of the world as it is and, more seriously, as it will be....

What we need is true enlightenment in the liberal classes, not the naivety that shudders at the idea of nuclear power, or places undue faith in renewables, or runs an SUV that uses four times the fuel of an ordinary car, or maintain homes haemorrhaging energy.

The other day, I flew into Britain on one of those cold, clear evenings when everything is pin-sharp. It's a spectacular sight if you forget that the carpet of light is one of the reasons why we're heading for such trouble. Half the people producing all that light below were probably against the war in 2002. The same proportion have doubts about nuclear power and fret about global warming. But all were spewing energy and carbon into the atmosphere, apparently unaware that these things are related. (I am far from guiltless in this respect. For one thing, I was on a transatlantic flight, typically calculated to release about one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger.)

Nuclear power appears to be a solution because it is held to occupy a position where the requirements for clean electricity and for independence from suppliers like Vladimir Putin overlap. I am tempted, but have yet to be convinced. No sensible debate has yet taken place and I am certain it would be disastrous if Tony Blair briskly commits us to this course without one. We need to know the costs and estimate the risks of nuclear power and see how they compare with other combinations of power generation, including renewables. More important, this debate has to take place in a context of a settlement between government and the people about the immediate need for energy conservation, which is why David Cameron's idea of cross-party group dedicated to the environment is a good one.

This is no longer a matter for party politics. The urgency is great. Those who read the scientific press or attend conferences on climate change know of the profound threat. Equally, they can see the disconnect between what society accepts intellectually and how people continue to behave. We have to understand that the crises of energy and global warming will intersect soon and that this will change the course of history in a most terrifying manner. Governments can do much to help - creating a dedicated ministry that links energy to the environment would be a start....

We can no longer expect the government to get fossil fuels for us to burn because, quite apart from anything else, they ain't going to be there for much longer".

More here

What happened to the positive case for nuclear power?

Once again the debate over nuclear power is heating up in the UK - but it hasn't yet reached a sufficient temperature to generate anything useful.

The greens are upset by reports that the case for nuclear is gaining ground in government. Jonathon Porritt, government-appointed chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, has warned that a revival of nuclear power would be 'foolish' and 'a very serious own goal'. Former environment minister Michael Meacher has talked of a 'conspiracy', led by chief scientific adviser Sir David King, to bring back nuclear.

Kate Hudson, chair of CND, is also worried. 'Government spin doctors and the nuclear industry myth-makers are working overtime to repackage nuclear power as the green solution to climate change', she said. Friends of the Earth has issued a press release headed 'Blair must not back new nuclear power plants'.

So what are these reports? Perhaps Blair has made a statement supportive of nuclear power? Well, not quite. Asked by the House of Commons Liaison Committee about nuclear power and climate change, he replied: 'With some of the issues to do with climate change - and you can see it with the debate about nuclear power - there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions government has got to take.' So no actual decisions about nuclear power, then. But Blair does understand a decision must be taken, which is nice to know. Indeed some people seem as worried at the prospect that Blair may have already 'made up his mind' as by the actual decision.

In fact, decisions have been deferred until after (yet another) review, due to report next year. Energy minister Malcom Wicks says: 'I happen to be nuclear-neutral and so is Alan Johnson [trade and industry secretary]. I think that's helpful.' The prime minister's official view remains that 'we need to look at all the options'. If there is an orchestrated campaign to make the case for nuclear energy, it looks well hidden.

One reason why the case for nuclear power is gaining ground is practical. Blair told MPs that new nuclear power stations must be considered a real option because 'the facts have changed over the last couple of years'. One key fact that is changing is that the proportion of electricity derived from nuclear power is falling. It now stands at 21 per cent, but is set to fall rapidly to four per cent as all but one of Britain's nuclear power stations close by 2023. Much non-nuclear electricity generation has also suffered from underinvestment - 52 per cent of non-nuclear capacity is more than 30 years old.

Faith in wind power, in which the government has more publicly invested its hopes, is a short-term perspective. If wind does expand at maximum capacity it may cover the growth of up to a few per cent per year in electricity demand, although after a few years of such growth the intermittency of wind will become an increasing problem. Wind cannot begin to replace older nuclear and coal capacity. As Downing Street tactfully put it, renewables are 'not 100 per cent effective'.

It should be an elementary point, but the argument made by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the GMB Union that the country needs an effective energy supply to function, must be taken seriously. With each passing year the prospect of an energy shortage becomes a little more plausible.

Instead, nuclear advocates have fixed upon the argument that because nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide it is an essential weapon against climate change. Indeed this point has become so firmly established (although it is contested by environmentalists) that we are in danger of forgetting why we build power stations in the first place. After all, if the aim was just to minimise waste and pollution the simplest solution would be not to build anything at all.

It may seem peculiar to suggest that anybody, aside from a few environmentalist extremists, seriously thinks that we should live without a modern energy supply. But in an age of uncertainty, when none of the old moral, political or religious truths seems to stand, few people confidently assert that the greens are wrong.

It is the sense of moral disorientation that environmentalist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot appeals to when he writes about the consequences of climate change: 'Everything we thought was good turns out also to be bad. It is an act of kindness to travel to your cousin's wedding. Now it is also an act of cruelty. It is a good thing to light the streets at night. Climate change tells us it kills more people than it saves. We are killing people by the most innocent means: turning on the lights, taking a bath, driving to work, going on holiday. Climate change demands a reversal of our moral compass, for which we are plainly unprepared.'

So, were the consequences of electrification good or bad? Did the spread of electrical consumer goods in the 1950s help to liberate women from housework, or did it fuel our addiction to consumption? Did the electrification of rural communities free them from the capricious tyranny of nature, or did it alienate them from the land? For many, these are not clear-cut questions. When all our past achievements are called into question it is important to remember that we have not just survived problems such as climate change and pollution, but that life has improved. Few people would really choose to live in the past.

It is our uncertainty that has turned climate change into an insuperable problem. The problem with putting climate change at the centre of decision-making is illustrated by the 2005 advertising campaign run by the Carbon Trust. 'I am become the destroyer of worlds', it ran. This is a quote from Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, on seeing the detonation of the first atomic bomb. He was quoting in turn from the Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture, and the message was clear: technology has become a means of destruction.

In these terms, nuclear technology becomes a source of apocalypse. But in fact we have only just begun creatively to tap the possibilities of nuclear technologies, not just in power generation but in applications from space flight to medicine. By focusing on problems we narrow our horizons, missing out on the possibilities for future developments. If instead we ask about innovations that can satisfy new needs and desires, experience has shown that older problems become more manageable with our expanded capacities. This should govern our approach to the expansion of nuclear power.

The government clings to combating climate change as one of the few unquestioned moral absolutes today. But without a more positive motivation than staving off the effects of man's destructiveness, it seems unlikely that it can throw its weight behind a proper investment in nuclear power.

If this situation continues, we will all suffer the consequences of a decaying energy infrastructure - and will forgo as yet unimagined opportunities.


Nuclear power being examined in Australia too

Probably just talk, however. Australia has huge reserves of coal that are being cheaply dug up on a large scale by open-cut (open cast) mining

The Federal Government is building the case for a nuclear power industry in Australia, planning a high-level academic inquiry into its prospects. Science Minister Brendan Nelson and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane have put a proposal for the inquiry, costed at less than $1 million, to John Howard. The proposal responds to the Prime Minister's call earlier this year for a nuclear power debate.

In a television interview yesterday, Dr Nelson said the inquiry would involve the Academy of Science, together with the academies of social science and humanities. The Technical Science and Engineering Academy is also involved. "I think we owe it to our future to examine all of our options," he said. "We can't responsibly dig 30 per cent of the world's uranium out of the ground, export it overseas and allow some 450 reactors to operate and expand in other parts of the world and not seriously consider this as an option for ourselves." He said the inquiry would examine the geological, environmental, physical and social aspects of a nuclear power industry in Australia.

Although the academies often make submissions individually to Government inquiries, such as reviews of higher education, it is the first time a Government has gone to them with a proposal for a combined inquiry. "The Government certainly had strong support from the academies from the outset, " Academy of Social Science executive director John Beaton said yesterday. "The academies all welcome the opportunity to consider how issues of nuclear power and related topics will affect society," Dr Beaton said. "Nuclear power generation and waste management have come a very long way since Chernobyl and this debate needs to be had in the light of a much better understanding and newer technology, but it also must respond to concerns of the Australians."

The Government is still refining the terms of reference for the inquiry, which is expected to take a year to complete. The Government's objective is to have a set of facts that can be marshalled against opponents of nuclear power.

Although there has been discussion within the Labor Party about its policies on uranium and nuclear power, it remains opposed to an expansion of the industry. Labor spokeswoman for education and research Jenny Macklin said yesterday that no matter which organisations Dr Nelson got to do the study, it wouldn't address the concerns of Australians about nuclear power. "Australia is as far into the nuclear cycle as the Australian public wants to be. It's absurd that Brendan Nelson is running this issue of nuclear energy when he can't even get consensus or public support to locate a dump for existing low-level waste," Ms Macklin said.

Dr Nelson said the Government was determined to build a low and intermediate level nuclear waste repository for waste from medical and industrial uses in the Northern Territory. He noted there was already 16 cubic metres of nuclear waste stored at Darwin Hospital and at Mt Todd, 40km from Katherine. "We owe it to ourselves. I mean, every Australian will benefit from a nuclear-sourced medical procedure," he said. Dr Nelson said that "under no circumstances" would the proposed repository be used for storing high-level nuclear waste from any eventual nuclear power industry in Australia.


Further musings on Jared Diamond's Collapse

Review lifted from The Commons

Julian Morris and I recently co-edited an edition of the interdisciplinary journal Energy and Environment, in which we commissioned a series of reviews of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Several of these reviews have now been posted on the contributors' websites.

One broad problem with the book is that Diamond distinctly fails to discuss how institutions such as property rights have enabled (and continue to enable) individuals to address the 'tragedy of the commons'. Another problem is that the facts simply do not support many of his claims.

Julian Morris wrote an introduction to the series of papers - "Confuse: How Jared Diamond Fails to Convince" -- which highlights some of the specific problems with Diamond's analysis.

The institutional economist Wolfgang Kasper contributed a review which focused specifically on Diamond's lack of attention to how institutions (or their absence) underpin human decision-making - what Kasper calls the "software of economic development". Overview available here, PDF version available here

Social anthropologist Benny Peiser analysed Diamond's portrayal of Easter Island (PDF available here).

Australian biologist Jennifer Marohasy analysed Diamond's portrayal of modern Australia and found that his facts were generally lacking.

Jane Shaw writes about why Diamond has made such pessimistic claims about the future.

My own article analyzes Diamond's chapter about modern Montana. There were several blatant errors in this chapter - such as a claim that Montana has 20,000 abandoned mineral mines, which Diamond believes are contaminating Montana's water supply. By all accounts, this figure is a huge exaggeration. My article is available at the SSRN.


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.


Monday, November 28, 2005


Britain's coal industry could enjoy a resurgence with new mines created and existing pits re-opened in an effort to tackle the country's deepening energy crisis. A return to coal mining on a large scale has been put forward as a way of responding to Britain's growing demand for power and the soaring price of natural gas. The country's precarious energy provisions have been thrown into sharp relief this winter with fears that gas supply will not meet demand. And a greater reliance on coal is already being considered by the Government, which has pumped money into "clean coal" technologies to find ways of reducing pollution when coal is burnt.

Yesterday, Andrew Davies, the economic development minister for the Welsh Assembly, claimed the idea could mean a new era for Britain's mines. He said: "We have very limited stocks of oil and gas yet we have hundreds of years' worth of known coal reserves right on our doorstep. "Now that the value of coal has risen it's becoming a viable option again," Mr Davies added. "If it continues, then in five or 10 years we could have old mines reopened and new ones, too."

Currently, a third of all electricity generated in the country is obtained from coal-fired power stations, which burn 50 million tons each year. Twenty million tons are mined from eight deep mines in England and Wales plus a handful of smaller, open-cast operations. The remainder is imported. At the start of the 1980s, 219 mines were operational in Britain. By 1984, with cheaper imported coal available, the National Coal Board announced the closure of 20 pits it considered uneconomical. The closures prompted a bitter and protracted miners' strike and was followed by further wholesale pit closures.

But now a new mine could soon open at Margam in South Wales, where rising fuel prices have forced the steel giant Corus to consider extracting coking coal for use at its plant at Port Talbot. A spokesman for Corus said: "We are looking into the viability of opening a mine at Margam because our import costs have been going up. Coal prices have increased by 100 per cent in the last year." If the initiative goes ahead, Margam will be the first new pit to open in Britain since Asfordby, in Leicestershire, which opened in 1995 but closed two years later because of problems excavating the coal made it uneconomical to run.

The cost of opening a new mine could be up to œ500 million and the investment needed to bring a closed mine back into production would be almost as high. An announcement about the Government's future energy plans is expected this week yet already there are indications that a return to coal could be given the go-ahead. The Government has recently invested œ25 million in "clean coal" technologies, including plans to store carbon dioxide, which is produced when coal is burnt, under the North Sea.

Nigel Yaxley, the marketing director for UK Coal, Britain's biggest pit owner, said: "The price of coal has doubled in the last year so coal mined here is now competitive with imported coal, but the stumbling block is investment." A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said yesterday: "We are keen on cleaner use of fossil fuels and have invested in that sort of technology. "We have invested in the coal industry where there has been commercially viable proposals."



Is having a child -- even one -- environmentally destructive? Let's hope lots of Greenies think so. It would do no harm for all such simplistic thinkers to die out -- while the rest of us continue to have ever-better lives

"We can't be breeding right now," says Les Knight. "It's obvious that the intentional creation of another [human being] by anyone anywhere can't be justified today." Knight is the founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, an informal network of people dedicated to phasing out the human race in the interest of the health of the Earth. Knight, whose convictions led him to get a vasectomy in the 1970s, when he was 25, believes that the human race is inherently dangerous to the planet and inevitably creates an unsustainable situation. "As long as there's one breeding couple," he says cheerfully, "we're in danger of being right back here again. Wherever humans live, not much else lives. It isn't that we're evil and want to kill everything -- it's just how we live."

Knight's position might sound extreme at first blush, but there's an undeniable logic to it: Human activities -- from development to travel, from farming to just turning on the lights at night -- are damaging the biosphere. More people means more damage. So if fewer people means less destruction, wouldn't no people at all be the best solution for the planet? I've been thinking about this a lot lately because my wife and I have been talking about having a child. We're the kind of people who reduce, reuse and recycle. We try hard not to needlessly fritter away resources. We think globally and act locally in our day-to-day decisions. So while the biggest quandary of most couples in our shoes might be what color to paint the nursery, we have to ask ourselves, Is the impact of a new person justified?

The problem is stark: The United Nations estimates that the human population, currently at 6.5 billion, is well on its way to 9.1 billion in 2050. Many estimates place a sustainable population in which most of the people on Earth are able to enjoy their lives at between one and two billion. By nearly every measure -- pollution, carbon emissions, forest loss, fishery depletion, soil fertility, water availability and others -- the growing population is wreaking havoc on the Earth's systems. And it's setting our civilization up for a big, hard fall.

As it is, even with my vegan diet, avid bicycling, recycling and energy-conservation measures, if everyone on the planet lived the way I do, we'd need three more Earths. As far as I know, they aren't making any more of these. Meanwhile, almost 16,000 humans are born each hour. Regardless of the merits of reducing the population to nil -- as Knight advocates -- it's pretty clear that the world could do without any additional people.

Certainly without more Americans. In 1994, Charles Hall, an ecologist at SUNY Syracuse, performed a life- cycle analysis of the average American (PDF file) by determining each person's lifetime share of the nation's total consumption of various resources. It's the kind of study usually undertaken for assessing the impacts of a new product or policy, and the results are unsettling. Hall and his colleagues found that a single new American born in the 1990s will be responsible, over his or her life, for 22 million pounds of liquid waste and 2.2 million pounds each of solid waste and atmospheric waste. He or she will have a lifetime consumption of 4,000 barrels of oil, 1.5 million pounds of minerals and 62,000 pounds of animal products that will entail the slaughter of 2,000 animals. "In terms of energy usage alone, [which is] a convenient measure of environmental impact," Knight says, "the average Ethiopian uses one 310th of what we use. So when an American couple stops at two kids it's like an Ethiopian couple stopping at 620."

According to Knight, there are other ways people can have kids in their lives. "Adoption, foster-parenting, step-parenting -- there are a lot of opportunities for people who really do want to get involved with children." Knight himself is a substitute high school teacher in Portland, as befits his patient but forcefully clear demeanor. Knight takes care to point out that VHEMT isn't anti- child. Many of its members are parents. Some of its members are children. In many ways, the idea of reducing the world's population is as much about human quality of life as it is about the health of the planet. "May we live long and die out," says Naomi Thompson, quoting the VHEMT slogan. Thompson, who is in her late 20s and works as an analyst for Wells Fargo in San Francisco, has also concluded that childbearing is irresponsible. "It's not about wanting to kill people, but it's selfish to have a kid at this point when so many aren't getting the love and attention that they deserve." "I really do love kids," she continues. (Thompson and Knight say they were raised in large, happy families.) "I know it might seem odd for someone who really likes kids to have this stance on breeding -- women are mothering, nurturing people, and I definitely have that in me. But women in this society feel a lot of pressure to have babies, and I would like to see more people expressing that by adopting instead."

The question of having children gets to the heart of some of our most basic drives, a place where rationality can take us only so far. Though I can picture myself as a father, I just can't see myself adopting. I'm more like Mary and Mike Brune. The Alameda couple are longtime environmentalists. Mike Brune is executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, so he spends his entire workday thinking in excruciating detail about just how much trouble the planet is in. Like most environmentalists -- even most Americans - - the Brunes have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact. "We certainly do as much as we can to limit our consumption," says Mike Brune. "We made sure we live near mass transit. We have one of the new Priuses. We buy organic food almost exclusively. We feel that it's very important to connect our personal values to all aspects of how we live: where we work, what we eat, what we buy."

But when, after six and a half years of marriage, it came time for the couple to consider a child, those strong personal values came up against an even stronger drive. "I understand rationally the argument for not having children -- I can see the point," says Mary Brune, a technical writer and, since becoming a mother, co- founder of Making Our Milk Safe, an organization that monitors industrial toxins in human milk (watch this space for more on that issue). "I've talked to friends who have made certain that they can't have children so they don't bring another person into the world," she continues. "But for us there's a real primal need to have a child. For me, personally, I had a desire to bear my own child." So they went for it: Their daughter Olivia is now 15 months old.

At RAN, Mike Brune works to transform some of the most powerful elements of our society, going after oil companies and banks to change the way they do business. He says that for him this kind of big-picture environmentalism doesn't translate to the personal decision of whether to have a child. "The goal here isn't for Safeway to have one aisle of organic food -- it's to get to a point where all food is produced in a healthy way," he says. "The same would be true of hybrid cars: We don't want Ford Motor Co. to just have a few hybrid vehicles, we want to have every vehicle nonpolluting." For Mike Brune, the choice to have a child is a personal, emotional one that sits apart from the systemic change he's working for.

But does approaching the issue as an emotional question hinder our ability to address population problems? VHEMT's Knight says there's a taboo against talking about population control in what he calls our "natalist" culture -- a barrier that has resulted in many environmental groups either not addressing population or doing so inadequately. "Nobody will come right out and say that this is unsustainable, you can't do this," says Knight. "If you really are serious about the environment and your impact, zero is the optimal number of offspring that we should be producing." But the Brunes are sanguine. "We brought a new person into the world," says Mary Brune, "and we hope that she'll be one more soldier on the front lines who's going to fight for the Earth when she grows up."

Knight says even if little Olivia becomes the "firecracker radical activist" her father hopes, it's going to be extremely difficult for her to overcome the environmental original sin she embodies. "I do think that if you added up a whole lifetime of one person, even living lightly," he says, "reproducing would bump you up into the Hummer-driver category." Rather than focus on raising new people in a certain way, says Knight, "if you instead help other people become the people that you think we all should be, you can have far more impact." "In light of the number of species going extinct because of our increase, and the tens of thousands of children dying every day from preventable causes, there's just no good reason to have a child," adds Knight. "We have to ignore all those children to create another one. It's like saying, 'Well, they just don't matter.' But they do matter: They're all children in the human family." But breeding is anything but rational, which is why I'm having such a hard time figuring out what to do. I'm a pessimistic optimist, or maybe an optimistic pessimist. But that kind of nuance doesn't wash when it comes to raising a kid -- either you do it or you don't. Nothing could be more hardwired: Every single one of our ancestors, dating back billions of years, has successfully reproduced -- it's the essence of what living things do. It really comes down to whether you are an optimist about human nature. Having a kid is an implicit endorsement of the idea that it's possible to have a sustainable ecosystem that includes humans -- that it's possible to find a way out of the mess we've created. Knight doesn't think people can do it.

"Other than a few examples of tribal societies, we never have lived sustainably," he says. "We're so dangerously clever that we can become very civilized and industrialized and separate ourselves from nature. Most of the people who do live close to nature are just a hand ax and a shotgun away from starting on the slippery slope that leads to driving around and talking on cell phones." In many ways, it's an apples-and-oranges situation: The reasons not to breed -- stacked up next to the deep-seated biological and cultural satisfaction of having offspring -- can only illuminate the gulf between reason and emotion. It can't tell us which side of the gulf we'll spend the rest of our lives on -- only that we can't have it both ways. I still have no idea what we're going to do. At least by thinking about it and entering into it consciously or not at all, we're rising above mere biology and taking a real step toward overcoming the animal drives that are consuming the planet -- a step both Knight and the Brunes agree is important in the evolution of the human animal. "There's no end to the guilt you can feel as a parent, about everything as a person alive today," says Mary Brune. "But I'm grateful every day for being a mom and glad that she's here in our lives." But, she adds, maybe one is enough: "It is something to question if we should have another child. Adopting a child instead is definitely something to consider." Even Knight, in his oddly cheery brand of pessimism, thinks that the drive to breed may be insurmountable. "It's not too likely that the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is going to succeed," he told me. "I don't think any of us are so naive as to think that 6.5 billion people are going to say, 'Yeah, let's stop breeding, this is great.' But it's still the right thing to do."



You could have fooled me! Calculating dubious savings into the distant future is no way to help get the poor into their own housing

City officials and others are recognizing that energy-efficient buildings, while they may cost a bit more to build, are far more affordable than traditional housing in the truest sense of the word. They cost less to operate and live in, and they provide tenants with a healthier atmosphere that can save on healthcare costs.

This fall, when reviewing certain grant proposals, New York City will start giving developers who want to build affordable housing "extra points" if builders pledge to incorporate green building principles. At the same time, Chicago is offering housing developers and apartment-building owners incentives if they build "green roofs," which are essentially roof gardens that help both insulate buildings better and improve overall air quality. And in Los Angeles, city officials have incorporated green standards into parts of the city's building code.

In the past year, the Enterprise Foundation, a leading provider of capital and expertise for the development of affordable housing, has helped start 77 green developments in 21 states, which will create more than 4,300 environmentally efficient homes for low-income families.

"If you just take the 4,300 homes in the pipeline right now, each year we will have $1.5 million of energy savings in those homes, more than 5,000 tons of reduced greenhouse-gas emissions per year, and 30 million gallons of reduced water use a year," says Bart Harvey, CEO of the Enterprise Foundation. "Those are remarkable savings, and they really reflect that the country needs to think and work in a different way: Green and affordable need to become synonymous."

The notion of green building is often associated with counterculture, leftist environmentalists of the 1960s and '70s. But during the past decade, green building principles have become increasingly incorporated into commercial buildings by corporations conscious of the bottom line. To encourage that trend, the US Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a group that trains and certifies architects, builders, and designers.

More here

Activists Blocked New Orleans Levee Plan

A massive levee system, approved by President Lyndon Johnson and supported by the Army Corps of Engineers during the Carter administration, would have held back the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina and saved the city of New Orleans, scientists and engineers have concluded. The proposed levee system was abandoned after environmental activist groups sued to stop construction of the project.

The proposed levee system gained bipartisan support after Hurricane Betsy, a Category 2 hurricane, barreled into the Louisiana coast in 1965. Congress passed legislation authorizing the project, and Johnson signed the bill into law. In 1977, while the law was being implemented by the Carter administration, environmental activist groups obtained a court injunction to stop construction, arguing the levees would impede the flow of ocean water into Lake Pontchartrain and distress the lake's shrimp population. "If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded," Joseph Towers, retired chief counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district, told the September 9 Los Angeles Times.

J. Bennett Johnston, a Democratic U.S. senator from Louisiana when the levee was approved by Congress and Johnson, agreed with Towers' assessment. "It would have prevented the huge storm tide that came into Lake Pontchartrain," Johnston told the Times. "My feeling was that saving human lives was more important than saving a percentage of shrimp and crab in Lake Pontchartrain," Towers told the Times. "I told my staff at the time that this judge had condemned the city. Some people said I was being a little dramatic."

Johannes Westerink, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame, ran computer simulations of the Katrina storm surge, this time with the scuttled levee system in place, and concluded "it would have stopped that," according to the Times.

Save Our Wetlands (SOWL) led the opposition to the levee project. The activist group, which still raises significant money in pursuit of an extremist agenda, proudly proclaims on its Web site its role in scuttling the needed levees: "While politicians talk, SOWL sues! SOWL has been involved in countless lawsuits involving Lake Ponchartrain on every subject," including "New Orleans Mosquito Control Drainage schemes in wetlands of New Orleans East" and "Corps of Engineers Hurricane Barrier Project" ( "SOWL has always fought bitterly against the United States Army Corps of Engineers," the group's Web site boasts.

More here


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.


Sunday, November 27, 2005


(From France)


Below is an amusing email from Andrew Nimmo (Space Development Council secretary -- to Benny Peiser in which he also advances reasons to be skeptical about the "fossil" origin of oil:


If Jerome Corsi or anyone else is really interested in the "fountain of youth" as far as oil is concerned, I can tell you exactly where it is. Right above your heads in the sky. There's oil galore up there! A number of asteroids are what is called 'carbonaceous chondrites' and back in the 70s as I recall, a number of these were spectro-analysed. Virtually all of them turned out to be partially made up of what was called "oil-like sludge". On average, 10% of every carbonaceous chondrite appeared to be made up of this - and the vast majority of all of the thousands of relatively large asteroids so far discovered are carbonaceous chondrites. Should our planet really ever run short of oil, I guess the oil companies could probably afford to go up there and import some, but it would almost certainly turn out to be very politically incorrect to do so. Do the 'fossil-fuel' folk really think our asteroids once teemed with life? Personally I don't, but I do very much suspect the oil off Mexico's shore probably came down with the dinosaur-killer itself. No wonder there were world-wide fires!


Below is the summary from Science of one of their latest articles:

"Assessing the likely affects of global climate change remains a high priority for all nations. Schroeter et al. (p. 1333, published online 27 October) show how the pattern of Europe's vulnerability to global changes is likely to change in the 21st century caused by the decreased supply of ecosystem services such as plant growth, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water, and soil fertility. They apply four climate models to Europe and combine them with socioeconomic scenarios to project the evolution of a range of ecosystem services for the coming century, ranging from carbon sequestration to freshwater provisioning and biodiversity. The loss of these services is likely to be accentuated particularly in the Mediterranean and in mountainous regions.


Again I await expert comment on this study but to assume that plant growth is going to be less, that carbon sequestration is going to be less, that significant biodiversity is going to be less, that water will be scarcer and soil fertility is going to be less must be just about the biggest string of dubious assumptions I have ever encountered. It sounds more like the Apostles Creed than science. I won't endeavour to refute each assumption in detail but just two notes:

CO2 is the major plant food so if CO2 concentrations DO increase, that should FERTILIZE plants and lead to MORE plant growth, not less. And the modern-day availablity of "artificial" fertilizers should ensure that we can have whatever level of soil fertilty we wish. In the Western world, we no longer rely on shit for fertilizer.


This blog is mainly a collection of articles from other people about environmental issues rather than a venue in which I offer original analyses of anything so my comments on the Times article yesterday (see immediately below) were just a few preliminary thoughts. I am sure that far more expert critiques than mine will eventually emerge and I am pretty sure that I will hear of them when they do. Given the great skepticism about environmental journalism that past experience engenders, however, I have taken a very brief glance at the sources on which the Times article relied. I have not read the original journal articles in full but the summary of them offered in the journal where they were published suggests that the Greenies are being as dishonest in this matter as they are in so many others.

What I reproduce below are three summaries. The first is the summary of the articles on atmospheric composition by Siegenthaler et al and by Spahni et al. I then present the summary of a "Perspective" on those articles by Brook. And it is that "Perspective" which mostly seems to have guided the science journalist in The Times. Thirdly, I present the summary of the article about sea-levels by Miller et al. which The Times also referred to. As far as I can see at the moment, there seems to be a large mismatch between the original scientific reports and what has been said about them:

"Air trapped in glacial ice contains the only reliable direct record of atmospheric composition before scientific sampling began in the 18th century. Since 1997, the oldest ice available for analysis was that from the Vostok, Antarctica, ice core, which extends back to 420,000 years ago and covers four complete glacial cycles. A new ice core from the EPICA Dome C site in Antarctica now extends back to an age of 740,000 years or more. Two reports present data on the composition of the atmosphere between 400,000 and 650,000 years ago, an interval soon after glacial cycles switched from a dominantly 41,000-year period to the dominantly 100,000-year period that occurs today (see the Perspective by Brook). Siegenthaler et al. (p. 1313) present measurements of the atmospheric concentration of CO2, the most important trace greenhouse gas, and show how its concentration varied during a much more narrow range than it did during the past 400,000 years. Spahni et al. (p. 1317; see the cover) present parallel measurements for two other important trace greenhouse gases, CH4 and N2O. As is the case for CO2, CH4 varied between much more narrow bounds during that time, although N2O varied just as much as it did in the nearly half-million years since then. These data will be keys to understanding how the carbon cycle has operated since the middle of the Pleistocene epoch".


"Our knowledge of long-term human effects on greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere comes from air trapped in ice cores taken from polar ice sheets. These ice core samples allow researchers to place modern changes in the context of natural variations over hundreds of thousands of years. In his Perspective, Brook discusses results reported in the same issue by Siegenthaler et al. and by Spahni et al. based on new samples obtained by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA). The new long records of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from EPICA extend the window on greenhouse gas levels to 650,000 years. The results confirm that the modern atmosphere is highly anomalous and reinforce the view that greenhouse gases and climate are intimately related."


"Changes in sea level have exerted a powerful influence on climate, ocean chemistry, the evolution of terrestrial and marine organisms, and the geology of continents and the sea floor. These changes can be caused by the growth and decay of ice sheets, increases and decreases in the volume of water stored in lakes and groundwater, variations in ocean basin volume, and the thermal expansion and contraction of seawater. Miller et al. (p. 1293) review how sea level has changed during the past 543 million years, the Phanerozoic Eon, and concentrate on variations that occur on time scales of tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years. They discuss the mechanisms that were responsible for producing those changes."


So a study of "the composition of the atmosphere between 400,000 and 650,000 years ago" suddenly tells us about "the modern atmosphere"??? And a study that looks at times scales of "tens of thousands" of years suddenly tells us something about the last 200 years??? Go figure!


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.


Saturday, November 26, 2005


I will leave it to the "non-existent" climate scientists who are skeptical of the human role in any global warming to do a full critique of the latest bit of over-interpretation below (from The Times) -- but even as a humble social scientist I see some rather large flaws in the argument. They showed that sea-levels fluctuated wildly during the Cretaceous, long before any human influence, but then go on to conclude that recent sea level changes MUST have been due to human influence! Why? If natural influences can change sea levels in one era why cannot they do the same in another?

I think at that point further comment really becomes rather superfluous but even if we accept that the correlations indicate human influence, there is still the question of WHICH human influence was at work. They rightly point out that both methane and CO2 levels appear to have risen in the last 200 years or so but fail to point out that the big rise has been in methane rather than in CO2 -- and methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than is CO2. So any recent rise in sea levels is much more likely to be due to methane -- which is primarily a result of food production (including rice paddies) -- than to CO2. So cutting down on CO2 output from industry is ignoring the elephant in the bedroom. What we really need to do is to cut methane production -- which would mainly mean stopping all the vastly increased populations of Asia from growing all that rice that they use to feed themselves. I think you can see why they did not pursue the role of methane in global warming!

A third point: It is not at all evident that the slight recent rise in global temperatures that appears in most estimates should have caused sea-levels to rise. Warmer oceans should produce more precipitation (rain and snow) and increased precipitation in areas characterized by permanent sub-zero temperatures -- such as most of the Antarctic and parts of the Arctic -- should have the effect of locking up more water in land-based ice (glaciers, icecaps) -- and recent studies have in fact suggested increased ice depth in central Antarctica and Greenland

"Ocean levels are rising twice as fast as they were 150 years ago, providing further evidence of man-made global warming. A study has shown that world sea levels are rising at a rate of 2mm (0.08 inches) a year; double the speed at which levels rose for 5,000 years before the start of the industrial age. The switch occurred after the mid-19th century, when factories and increased use of coal and later oil started pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Kenneth Miller, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and colleagues produced a new sea level record spanning 100 million years. They took five 500m-deep (1,640ft) core samples from sediments along New Jersey's coastline. A study was then made of the sediment type, the fossils it contained and variations in the atomic forms, or isotopes, of elements. These measurements were correlated with others from around the world, enabling sea levels to be calculated.

Some of the findings, published in the journal Science, were surprising. They showed that during the Late Cretaceous period, at the end of the dinosaurs' reign, sea level frequently fluctuated by tens of metres. Only changes in the size of the ice caps could produce these fluctuations, showing that the Earth was not ice-free at this time in its history, as most experts had thought.

The team found that over the period, sea levels had been steadily rising at about 1mm a year until the Industrial Revolution. Since then, the rise had doubled. Professor Miller said: "The main thing that's changed since the 19th century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases. Our record therefore provides a new and reliable baseline to use in addressing global warming."

A second paper in Science states that the levels of global warming gases such as methane and carbon dioxide have steadily risen. Ed Brook, a professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and colleagues analysed ancient bubbles in Antarctic ice cores. The results add another 210,000 years to knowledge of the make-up of the atmosphere, and confirm that levels of greenhouse gases have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The results, he said, made it clear that the conditions of the past 150 years were unusual. "The levels of primary greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are up dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, at a speed and magnitude that the Earth has not seen in hundreds of thousands of years," he said. "There is now no question this is due to human influence.""



"In the Mesozoic, and later in the Tertiary, the planet was a lot warmer than it is today, by 30 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a green and growing planet, with all kinds of new flora and fauna evolving happily. Then global temperatures crashed. We will be discussing this further in coming posts, but eventually it got so cold the planet nearly froze, or mostly froze, in the Ice Ages. In which we are still involved. We live in a short-timer interstice between 100,000 year episodes of Refrigerator Planet.

Put another way, in the 400 million years since the Lower Devonian, when seaweeds and fish first crawled onto terra firma, it has almost always been warmer than now. The Ice Ages began about 2 mya, so for 99.5 percent of the History of Life on Dry Land, Planet Earth has been warmer than now. It has always been rainier too, except for during the worst of the Ice Ages, again.

About 6,000 to 8,000 years ago our Interstice experienced something called the Climatic Optimum. It may have been 2 to 5 degrees F warmer than now. It was the Golden Age of Agriculture, when scads of plants and animals were domesticated and hybridized. We still eat plants and animals from the Golden Age. There was another mini-Optimum about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, when Civilization really took off. Those were good times, climatically speaking. Mesopotamia, the Levant, and North Africa were green and rich with fields, farms, and forests. The American Southwest had a farmer culture, as did most of the Western Hemisphere. Today, they are all big deserts. Warmer means more rain. Warmer makes deserts bloom. Warmer makes forests spread like wildfire.

If global warming happens, as predicted by so many "scientists", sea levels may rise. I do not know, but I doubt it. Apparently modern sea level is no different than it was 6,000 years ago, during the warmer Optimum. If all the sea ice on the planet melted, it wouldn't change the sea level. Try this experiment: put an ice cube in a glass of water. Mark the water level. Cover the glass to prevent evaporation. Wait for the ice to melt. Mark the water level again. There will be no change! It's simple physics, having to do with the relative densities of ice and water.

If all the glaciers on land melted, excluding Greenland and Antarctica, the sea level might go up a few centimeters. Polar landmasses are unlikely to melt, since throughout geologic history there have always been ice caps on polar landmasses. When part of Pangea was over the South Pole, there was an ice cap, even though the rest of the planet was much, much warmer on average than now. About 50 mya, when southern Pangea, Gondwana, broke up and the Antarctic Plate drifted back over the South Pole, the current ice cap formed there. It's not going to melt soon, trust me.

Sea levels have been falling since the Pangean breakup in the Cretaceous Period of the Upper Mesozoic Era, over 100 mya. Sea level relative to continental plates has less to do with land ice and more to do with subsidence of spreading sea floors and the deepening of the abyssal.

If, however, for some inexplicable reason the waters do rise, then some folks may have to move inland or uphill. But the interior will be so much nicer, what with more temperate and lush conditions, that moving a few yards or miles inland will be desirable. The coastal littoral is windy, foggy, salty, stinky, muggy, buggy, and miserable, anyway".

More here


"Heavy wintry showers are expected to arrive in the South East today with the Met Office giving warning that the country is facing the coldest winter in living memory. Blizzards were forecast to move southwards through the West of the country last night with snow expected in London and Manchester later today. The Met Office warned of the dangers of freezing and burst pipes overnight as it issued its second spate of severe weather warnings in as many days. The Highways Agency has had scores of gritting lorries on standby since last night.

The Met Office conducted an unprecedented emergency briefing to its industry clients yesterday on the prospects for this winter. Wayne Elliott, a Met Office forecaster and spokesman, said that the briefing to industry, which was closed to the press, was just a precaution. "In the first event of its kind, the Met Office today met leaders from business and central Government to brief them on the prospects for the coming winter," he said. "Society has changed since the last time we had a cold winter of any magnitude, so this is an effort to get the business energy customers and the Government prepared."

Western parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland were hit by the heavy snow and blizzards yesterday and forecasters confirmed their prediction that this winter is likely to be colder than average. The last time that happened was in the winter of 1995-96, but a spokesman said yesterday that this year could be even colder. The heavy wintry showers were then due to spread into West Wales and North and southwest England by this morning. The blizzards are then expected to move East during the day and into the weekend, according to the Met Office. Mr Elliot said southern parts would be most affected by the departure from normal temperatures, because they are not used to it.

Temperatures in Aberdeen and some of the worst-affected areas approached freezing with a -15C windchill factor yesterday and the average temperature in London dropped by 5C.Mr Elliott said: "This is the first time this year we have experienced weather like this. Very strong winds are coming in from the North and are set to drive down the country overnight. Temperatures are falling and there's the potential for freezing pipes in many areas. It will start to feel very raw as the winds pick up. Anywhere could see snow." The Highways Agency said that more than half a million tonnes of sand has been stockpiled to cope with freezing conditions on roads. Councils have also put their gritting teams on alert.

Four hillwalkers were rescued after they became stranded in blizzards on the plateau of Britain's second-highest mountain. An RAF helicopter and four rescue teams were involved in the operation on Ben Macdui in the Cairngorns. The hillwalkers were in their sleeping bags in a tent on top of the 4,300ft (1,310m) mountain when they raised the alarm"



"The Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD) is calling public attention to the impending Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a secret regulatory regime designed by nine northeastern governors that will significantly raise energy, goods and services prices for regional consumers.

"The RGGI is essentially another hidden [consumer] tax." It was conceived of by New York State Governor George Pataki during 2003, and has since been expanded behind 'closed doors' and without public debate to include eight other states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts. "The RGGI ... is a controversial interstate, and perhaps, international commerce agreement ... [that will] ... cap the ... carbon dioxide ... emitted regionally by businesses. Although it will first target electricity-producing power plants, the RGGI will later cover other industry sectors as well ... "

The ITSSD study finds that the energy efficiency, energy reliability and economic cost modeling assumptions underlying the RGGI are flawed. As a result, northeastern consumers will pay dearly without receiving much, if any, environmental benefit in return. According to co-author Slavi Pachovski, "The high costs of RGGI will be borne in vain by regional consumers and businesses because RGGI will be unable to deliver the environmental, energy reliability and energy security benefits promised."

Furthermore, the ITSSD study reveals that Europe is depending on the RGGI to inspire a state-level insurgency against U.S. federal climate change policy, to prompt Washington's return to the Kyoto Protocol negotiating table. "Hence, it is now apparent that, while Brussels officials and rotating EU Presidents had long occupied the attention of the Bush White House as their experts ruminated about how to collectively address the effects of global warming at an international level, EU member state governments, with the aid of Washington think-tanks, congressman, and northeastern governors, were busy sneaking RGGI in through the 'back door' of U.S. public policy-making."

The ITSSD study concludes that, "[i]f the RGGI is enacted in the near future without public debate", European industry will "benefit ... at the expense of American consumers, American industry, and the American economy." "Were this to occur", admonishes CEO Lawrence Kogan, "these governors, congressman and policy experts will have much to answer for ... "



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.


Friday, November 25, 2005


THE drive for "green energy" in the developed world is having the perverse effect of encouraging the destruction of tropical rainforests. From the orang-utan reserves of Borneo to the Brazilian Amazon, virgin forest is being razed to grow palm oil and soybeans to fuel cars and power stations in Europe and North America. And surging prices are likely to accelerate the destruction

The rush to make energy from vegetable oils is being driven in part by European Union laws requiring conventional fuels to be blended with biofuels, and by subsidies equivalent to 20 pence a litre. Last week, the British government announced a target for biofuels to make up 5 per cent of transport fuels by 2010. The aim is to help meet Kyoto protocol targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Rising demand for green energy has led to a surge in the international price of palm oil, with potentially damaging consequences. "The expansion of palm oil production is one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction in south-east Asia. It is one of the most environmentally damaging commodities on the planet," says Simon Counsell, director of the UK-based Rainforest Foundation. "Once again it appears we are trying to solve our environmental problems by dumping them in developing countries, where they have devastating effects on local people."

The main alternative to palm oil is soybean oil. But soya is the largest single cause of rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon. Supporters of biofuels argue that they can be "carbon neutral" because the CO2 released from burning them is taken up again by the next crop. Interest is greatest for diesel engines, which can run unmodified on vegetable oil, and in Germany bio-diesel production has doubled since 2003. There are also plans for burning palm oil in power stations.

Until recently, Europe's small market in biofuels was dominated by home-grown rapeseed (canola) oil. But surging demand from the food market has raised the price of rapeseed oil too. This has led fuel manufacturers to opt for palm and soya oil instead. Palm oil prices jumped 10 per cent in September alone, and are predicted to rise 20 per cent next year, while global demand for biofuels is now rising at 25 per cent a year.

Roger Higman, of Friends of the Earth UK, which backs biofuels, says: "We need to ensure that the crops used to make the fuel have been grown in a sustainable way or we will have rainforests cleared for palm oil plantations to make bio-diesel."


Australia: Anything rather than build a dam and upset the Greenies

Sydney's desalination plant would cost up to $1.3 billion and would be fully funded by the Government, New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma said today. Mr Iemma said the desalination plant, to be built on the Kurnell peninsula south of Sydney, would be capable of producing 125 megalitres of drinking water a day. It would be funded through Sydney Water's capital works budget, he said. "The plant will give Sydney an extra 125 million litres of water per day - enough to supply 350,000 people," Mr Iemma said. "The delivery of a secure water source is a vital service for the people of this city, so the government has decided that the desalination plant will be publicly owned. "It will be designed, built, operated and maintained by the private sector - but it will remain in public ownership." ...

The Government had set aside $100 million for projects such as tree plantations and wind or gas fired power stations to offset the greenhouse impacts of the desalination plant. The environmental impact assessment report on the plant was due to be made available to the public for comment tomorrow.

The Government estimated households in Sydney and the Illawarra would have to pay about $1.20 per week in higher water bills to pay for the desalination plant. [So it's going to cost around a million dollars per year to run whereas a dam costs virtually nothing to maintain]

More here

Australian research: Corals 'adapt to climate change'

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is of course the biggest coral reef in the world

Scientists believe corals may be able to protect themselves from devastating bleaching events after discovering some can adapt to climate change. The find, described by Dr Ray Berkelmans as "tremendously exciting", comes amid predictions up to 100 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef could be wiped out by the end of the century because of rising water temperatures. Dr Berkelmans, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and CRC Reef Research Centre, said a predicted 1 to 3 degree increase in temperatures could result in between 80 to 100 per cent bleaching. Water temperatures could rise to as high as 32 degrees in some parts of the reef and could take as long as 100 years to recover, he said.

But Dr Berkelmans said his studies had found coral could adapt to climate change by using a particular type of algae to become "thermally tolerant". "Through an extensive transplant experiment and also through laboratory temperature stressing experiments we were able to determine that, at least for the species that we were looking at, under some conditions the corals were able to take on a new type of algae into their system," Dr Berkelmans said. "There are different types of algae that it can associate with and when it associates with a particular type called D, it becomes more thermally tolerant. "That's a tremendously exciting find. Up until recently we weren't sure that corals could adapt at all."

Dr Berkelmans said the most common "zooxanthellae", or algal partners, were type C and D, with type C found in more than 95 per cent of the reef. "We found instances where individual corals change the dominant zooxanthellae type from type C to D after a major stress event," he said. "It's evolution within the lifespan of an individual coral, and that's the exciting part." Dr Berkelmans said the find gave scientists "scope for optimism" that corals could survive future bleaching events.

But he said they were still baffled as to why some changed and under what conditions. "We don't know which species, we don't know where, we don't know why," he said. "We're only just starting on this area but there's a glimmer of hope."



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.


Thursday, November 24, 2005


An early morning arson fire that damaged four unoccupied townhouses could be the work of a group of radical environmentalists, the FBI and the city's fire chief said Monday. An anonymous e-mail sent to news organizations said the fire had been started by the Earth Liberation Front, a loosely organized group that has used economic sabotage -- most often arson -- to further its goal of protecting the environment. The FBI, which is assisting the Hagerstown Fire Department, considers the group one of the country's most dangerous domestic terrorist organizations.

The single-alarm fire early Sunday at the Hagers Crossing development of townhouses and single-family houses destroyed one townhouse and damaged three others, Fire Chief Gary R. Hawbaker said. The fire was contained immediately, and no one was hurt, he added.

The e-mail said that the goal of the arson was "to strike at the bottom line" of Ryan Homes, one of the developers of Hagers Crossing. "We warn all developers that the people of the Earth are prepared to defend what remains of the wild and the green," the e-mail continued.

Hawbaker estimated that the fire caused $300,000 of damage. Hagers Crossing is to contain 940 units, said Shelby Daniels, a sales and marketing representative for Ryan Homes. The townhouse prices start at $250,000. Daniels and Hawbaker said there had been nothing particularly controversial about the project, which opened its first homes in 2003.

Assistant Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven, the department's chief investigator, examined the site Monday as construction continued. The destroyed townhouse was reduced to a heap of charred debris and the faint smell of burnt wood. Metal pipes, still intact, poked out of the ground. Neighboring townhouses in the linked set of four -- one wrapped in Tyvek -- appeared undamaged on the outside. Hawbaker said the department had identified no suspect but had gathered physical evidence from the scene. He would not describe the evidence, saying that could slow the investigation. Also, he would not say how the fires, one in each house, were started. As for the e-mail, "We're looking at this as any other lead we might have," Hawbaker said. "It's just a normal investigation."...

Hawbaker said the department learned about the e-mail from a reporter for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The e-mail was provided to The Washington Post by Christopher Law, a reporter with the National Security News Service. Law said he had received word from ELF saying the group took responsibility for the arson. Law, who said he was not a spokesman for the group and had no involvement with ELF, said he could not be certain the claim was legitimate. Asked why he had forwarded the e-mail, Law said, "I felt people should know why it happened."...

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The latest shot in the dark for the "See what a caring person I am" brigade

Increasing levels of ocean noise generated by military sonar, shipping, and oil and gas exploration are threatening dolphins and whales that rely on sound for mating, finding food and avoiding predators, according to a new report. The report released Monday by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the affects of ocean noise on marine life range from long-term behavioral change to hearing loss to death. The report, a follow-up to a 1999 study, included details from necropsies performed on beached whales suspected of being exposed to Navy sonar.

Scientists who examined more than a dozen whales that beached in the Canary Islands in September 2002 found bleeding around the brain and ears and lesions in the animals' livers and kidneys. "It is a set of symptoms that have never before been seen in marine mammals," said Michael Jasny, the report's principal author. "That physical evidence has led scientists to understand that the sonar is injuring the whales in addition to causing them to strand." Researchers believe that whales are suffering the same type of decompression sickness that is known as "the bends" in humans. The leading theory is that sonar either causes whales to panic and surface too quickly or forces them deeper before they can expel nitrogen, leading to nitrogen bubbles in the blood.

A federal probe into the mass stranding of 17 whales in the Bahamas in March 2000 cited the Navy's use of mid-frequency sonar as a contributing factor. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Navy last month in federal court in Los Angeles in an attempt to curb its use of mid-frequency sonar, which is the most common method of detecting enemy submarines. The environmental group wants limits on sonar during training exercises, not in war. In the new report, the NRDC urged the National Marine Fisheries Service to better enforce the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The service should also require the Navy to obtain permits for its sonar exercises, according to the report. A fisheries service spokeswoman said the agency had not seen the report and could not comment on it.

Jasny said noises from oil and gas exploration have also been linked to lower catch rates of halibut, cod and other species of fish. "It's been shown that some species of fish suffer severe injury to their inner ears, which can seriously compromise their ability to survive," he said.

The NRDC recommended year-round restrictions of excessive ocean noise in critical habitats and seasonal restrictions on migration routes. For example, the group suggested that oil-and-gas companies avoid seismic surveys in the winter off the west coast of Africa when baleen whales are breeding offshore. It also called on the fisheries service to increase oversight of oil and gas surveys, which rely on shooting high-intensity air guns at the ocean's floor. The true impact of ocean noise remains unknown because strandings likely represent just a small portion of marine life effected by excessive noise, Jasny said.



In slow motion, of course. Pic of the varmint below

The UK is unlikely to meet its 2010 target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20%, the government's chief scientific adviser has admitted. Sir David King told the BBC the target was perhaps a "bit optimistic" but said the government had not given up and long-term plans were in place. The "green light" should be given for more nuclear reactors, he added. Environmental groups accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of backtracking on the issue of setting targets.

Sir David told the BBC's Sunday AM programme that the 2010 target on reducing emissions was a "very tough target to hit at the moment". He admitted the UK could miss it but said one reason was that long-term plans took time to pay off. "The longer term targets are actually the critical ones. These things like building a new power station take many, many years to come through. "I think perhaps we were being a bit optimistic, but the government has not given up on its target for 2010."

Sir David said Mr Blair should "give the green light" to a new generation of nuclear reactors. Nuclear power met almost a quarter of Britain's electricity needs in recent years but that will fall to just 4% by 2020 if reactors were not replaced. "All of that is coming from a CO2-free source. I think we need every tool in the bag to tackle this problem," he said.

Mr Blair faces stiff opposition from green groups and some in his Labour Party if he sanctions new reactors. Environment minister Margaret Beckett said there was "nothing extra" nuclear power could do to help meet the Government's target to reduce CO2 by 2010. Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, she said: "There's just no way you could get new nuclear power stations in time to contribute to that." She denied she was anti-nuclear but said there were "lots of concerns" about its use.

Earlier this month, the prime minister caused fury by suggesting that a "child-of-Kyoto" agreement, with firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, could be tricky. "People fear some external force is going to impose some internal target on you which is going to restrict your economic growth," he said. "I think in the world after 2012 we need to find a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem."

Sir David said he believed Mr Blair's comments on targets had been misunderstood and that Mr Blair had been talking about involving China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa in discussions. "I believe what he was discussing was... how do we extend that to include these five countries? Of course we're also concerned about the United States' position. "The US emits 25% of the world's carbon dioxide [And soaks up more than it emits] . How do we bring them on board?"

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After two long, frustrating years of tripping up on Queensland Government red tape, it's a wonder that Steve Lawrie can still find something to grin about. That's how long it's taken for his family to persuade the Department of Natural Resources and Mines to correct the colour on the all-important vegetation maps covering their Central Queensland properties from green to white. It's a battle which has necessitated countless phone calls, meetings, and even a trawl through the family album in a bid to prove that country on Sebastapol, 50km west of Rockhampton, and on another property near Middlemount, had been previously cleared.

But the beef producer from Powlathanga Station, west of Charters Towers, hasn't lost his sense of the ridiculous. "It's pretty scientific, isn't it" he said. "A colour gets incorrectly slapped on a map and it's gospel - then it's hell to get it changed."

The Lawrie family's woes began when they received the maps more than two years ago, with "a couple of thousand" acres of country which had been cleared nearly 20 years ago marked as untouched. When initial complaints proved fruitless, the Lawries dug up old photos, taken when Steve was only 14 years old and showing distinctive landscape features that proved the so-called "green" country and the pulled timber were one and the same. While the department declined their offer to view the photographs, it took until last Friday for Steve's parents Robert and Jenny to finally receive word the Sebastapol maps would be changed. Meanwhile, the Middlemount property has changed from green to pink, despite the family's arguments that the country is plagued with regrowth, not virgin scrub.

"I really don't know where (the department) gets its information from," Mr Lawrie said this week. "It's not just the initial ruling on map colours, it's also the hassles of pursuing changes. We found we could never speak to the same person twice, the rules kept changing and there's such a huge lag time in following up on requests - it took 15 months for NRM to get us aerial pictures and satellite maps, and when they finally arrived, they were for the wrong country. It took 18 months for the department to send someone out to actually physically inspect the area."

While the Lawries can at last sit down to plan development and maintenance on their properties, two years of toing and froing has cost them dearly. "We couldn't begin to put a price on what we've lost in land productivity production, what it's cost in all the trips to Rockhampton and in not getting work done on the properties because we were tied up with NRM. I don't even want to think what the price has been."



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.