Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Love global warming

When talk turns to global warming, there are only three socially acceptable opinions that may be expressed. It's going to be bad, terrible or catastrophic. As our leading alarmist, former Vice President Al Gore, makes clear in his book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth, "the negative impact of climate change vastly outweighs any local benefits."

Researchers have warned us that a temperature rise of a few degrees will bring about plagues of jellyfish on our shores, more poison ivy in our gardens, maple syrup shortages, drowning polar bears, invasions by hordes of smaller and smaller ants, and a proliferation of new types of crime (at least in Australia). Dry areas will become deserts, wet places malarial swamps. Sea levels will rise faster and, worst of all, the effects will fall hardest on women, minorities, children and the poorest people in the poorest countries.

Yes, rising sea levels, if they happen, would be bad for a lot of people. But a warming trend would be good for other people. At the risk of committing heresy, I'd like to suggest that the debate about climate change include, for once, a fair assessment of the benefits alongside the declamations of harm.

For example, cold winter storms kill a lot of people. More people die from blizzards and cold spells than from heat waves. Increased death rates usually persist for weeks after the unusually cold temperatures have passed, which suggests that the cold is killing people who would otherwise live into another season at least. Mortality rates during heat waves are just the reverse. The increase ends and often the rate drops below normal as soon as temperatures cool, which suggests that the higher temperatures are killing people who are likely to die soon anyway. It is true that mortality rates from both cold and hot weather have been declining in rich countries for a long time. That's because wealthier societies can adapt and protect themselves better from temperature extremes. But it also appears that deaths from hot weather have been declining more rapidly than those from cold.

So modest climatic improvement would be to have fewer and less severe big winter storms. Amazingly, that's exactly what we should get if global warming theory turns out to be true. The models say that much of the warming will occur in the upper latitudes and in the winter. At the risk of further ridicule in kooky blogs in England, where global warming alarmism is now a religion, that sounds pretty good to me. Fewer people will die from the cold.

And once you think about it, there are likely to be other beneficial consequences as well. Life in many places would become more pleasant. Instead of 20 below zero in January in Saskatoon, it might be only 10 below. And I don't think too many people would complain if winters in Minneapolis became more like winters in Kansas City.

In fact, there is no question that most people prefer less severe winters. North Dakota and Maine haven't been gaining much in population. Every census since 1960 shows rapid population growth in Florida, California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada. For the elderly and infirm, warmer weather is definitely healthier as well as more pleasant.

This promising scenario of milder winters in northern regions, which would become reality in the unlikely event that global warming turns out to be as considerable as predicted, comes with a catch, however. Air-conditioning is now considered a necessity, not only in Houston and Washington, D.C., but even in some northern climes where no matter how hot it gets during the day, it still cools down at night. Air-conditioning takes a lot of energy. But to stop global warming, we're supposed to use much less energy. Given our obvious preference for living in warmer climates as long as we have air-conditioning, I doubt that we're going to go on the energy diet that the global warming doomsters urge us to undertake.



Without mosquitoes, epidemics of dengue fever and malaria could not plague this planet. The skin-piercing insects infect one person after another while dining on a favorite meal: human blood. Eliminating the pests appears impossible. But scientists are attempting to re-engineer them so they cannot carry disease. If they manage that, they must create enough mutants to mate with wild insects and one day to outnumber them.

Researchers chasing this dream, including an N.C. State University entomologist, know they may court controversy. Genetically modified crop plants such as soybeans and corn have become common in the United States, but an altered organism on wings would be a first.

Critics of bio-engineering, especially in Europe, view some genetic alterations as unnatural, even monstrous. People fearful of so-called Frankenfood could sound similar alarms over Frankenbugs.

But with advances in molecular biology and millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this quest may be within reach. And its promise is huge, the scientists say.

"We're looking at a timeline. But this is coming," said Fred Gould, the NCSU insect expert.

Gould is working on the project with scientists on four continents. They landed $19.7 million under a Grand Challenges in Global Health grant offered by the Gates philanthropy and a National Institutes of Health foundation. The funders selected researchers ready to collaborate rather than compete on risky research aimed at solving massive health threats in poor places.



In one of his final initiatives as governor, Jeb Bush on Monday announced the creation of the Interamerican Ethanol Commission to promote the use of the alternative fuel throughout the Americas and slowly wean the region off gasoline. Bush said his support for ethanol was shaped by watching the suffering of Floridians through eight hurricanes in the past two years, and the resulting damage caused by a temporary loss of fuel supply. "Wouldn't it be nice to have alternative sources of fuel as we prepare for hurricanes?" he said.

Also launching the commission was Luis Alberto Moreno, head of the Interamerican Development Bank, and former Brazilian agriculture minister Roberto Rodrigues, who now heads the country's agribusiness council. "For the last 35 years, I have been thinking how stupid has been humankind to build a whole civilization over oil, which is something that is going to finish one day," an emotional Rodrigues told a crowd of more than 100 mostly business leaders at the Biltmore Hotel.

Rodrigues said in the coming months the group will begin presenting "road shows" on ethanol throughout Latin America. Bush leaves office in January. He said increased ethanol consumption will reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, help improve the environment and provide a catalyst for poor nations to "grow their own energy."

But some experts have questioned whether a sufficient amount of ethanol could be produced to make a significant dent in oil consumption. Brazil meets nearly half its fuel demand for passenger motor vehicles with ethanol, almost all of it made from sugar cane. It is also Florida's top trading partner, with $10.9 billion in trade last year.

Bush acknowledged that broadening an international ethanol push in other parts of the United States is a tough sell, especially in the Midwest, which receives billions of dollars in federal subsidies for corn production, a major source of ethanol.

Earlier this year his brother, President Bush, opposed an extension of the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol, but Congress passed the measure Dec. 8. "You can see how agriculture producers in our country worry about ideas that take away some of their protection," he said, joking that the unpopularity of his stance in the Midwest was "living proof that I'm not running [for president]."

But he added that expanding the worldwide consumption of ethanol will create plenty of opportunities for U.S. producers. "There's no possible way that Brazil by itself or the United States by itself could expand capacity that quick. So a level of cooperation, I don't think, is threatening for American agriculture," he said. "In fact I think it will yield lowering of cost and expansion of markets."



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 generally 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

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