Friday, January 05, 2007


In his global warming scare-you-mentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth" (AIT), which was recently released on DVD, former Vice President Al Gore declares global warming is a "moral issue." It is, but for very different reasons than Mr. Gore professes. Mr. Gore considers it immoral to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, energy taxes or other coercive schemes to curb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions linked to global warming. My meaning is quite different: It is immoral to put an energy-starved world on an energy diet.

Carbon dioxide emissions derive from energy use, which derives from, and fuels, economic activity. Controlling atmospheric CO2 levels is not remotely possible unless China, India and other high-growth developing countries restrict use of carbon-based energy. But demand for fossil energy is growing, especially in developing countries. For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects global energy consumption will rise by 71 percent between 2003 and 2030, with three-quarters of that growth in developing countries. Fossil fuels account for the lion's share of the increase in consumption.

The real inconvenient truth is that nobody knows how to meet current, much less future, global energy needs with low- and non-emitting technologies. Indeed, the only proven "method" for making deep emission cuts is that of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: economic collapse.

Energy poverty is a scourge, shortening the lives and impairing the health of untold millions of people around the globe. An estimated 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity, and some 2.4 billion people still rely on biomass -- wood, crop waste and dung -- for cooking and heating. Daily indoor air pollution in energy-poor countries is much dirtier than outdoor air in the world's most polluted cities, and kills about 2.8 million people a year, most of them women and children. Reliance on biomass also takes a heavy toll on forests and wildlife habitat.

There is no known way to meet the developing world's energy needs without increasing use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels. Forcing developing countries to go on an energy diet would condemn them to decades of continuing poverty, backwardness and misery.

"But Lewis," Al Gore might object, "the Kyoto Protocol exempts developing countries from binding emission limitations. It only restricts energy use in rich countries, like the United States." That is correct -- for now. But the developing-country exemption is a classic bait-and-switch ploy. Developing countries would not have ratified Kyoto unless it exempted them from carbon controls during the first compliance period (2008-2012). But Kyoto is doomed unless the exemption is repealed, and every insider knows it.

Kyoto supporters consider the treaty just a first step in a series of carbon-suppression agreements, each more stringent and inclusive than its predecessor. Even under favorable scientific assumptions, Kyoto would avert only 7/100ths of 1 degree Celsius of global warming by 2050 -- too little for scientists to detect. Taking the first step makes sense only if you are prepared to restrict energy use globally.

More critically, most European countries are not on track to meet their current Kyoto targets. They will surely miss the much tougher targets proposed for the second, post-2012 period unless they can buy large quantities of cheap emission permits from outside the European Union. China and India could provide these permits -- but only if they first agree to limit their carbon emissions. Expect increased European pressure on developing countries -- via trade penalties and foreign aid bribes -- to limit their emissions.

Even in the United States, high energy prices inflict hardship on low-income households. Millions of families already feel pinched by the high cost of gasoline, natural gas, and home heating oil. A Kyoto-style system would push energy prices even higher. Does the new Congress really want to take credit for pushing U.S. gasoline prices to record highs?

Many members of Congress professed to outrage in late 2005 when gasoline prices spiked above $3 a gallon. Many European consumers pay twice as much for gasoline, due to high motor fuel taxes. Yet, despite higher fuel prices, European Union transport sector CO2 emissions increased almost 26 percent during 1990-2004 and are projected under current policies to be 35 percent above 1990 levels in 2010. How much higher than European-level gasoline prices does Al Gore think Americans should have to pay?

The perils of global warming are speculative. Those of energy poverty are all too real. Global warming is indeed a moral issue, because global-warming policies have enormous potential to harm poor people. This is a critical aspect of the global warming debate that "An Inconvenient Truth" conveniently ignores.



Since the Indian Ocean tsunami two years ago today that killed more than 200,000 people, governments, donors and experts have embraced the idea that healthy mangrove forests and coral reefs could reduce the death toll from a giant wave. Former President Bill Clinton, in his role as the United Nations special envoy for tsunami recovery, recently endorsed a program that will allocate $62 million to preserve such natural barriers in 12 Asian and African countries.

But the $62 million question is, will these barriers work? Research suggests that the level of protection offered by greenbelts has been exaggerated. And by diverting resources from more effective measures like education campaigns and evacuation plans to well-meaning but misguided reforestation, we may even contribute to a greater loss of life in future tsunamis.

There have been few scientific studies about the protective role of coastal vegetation. And while one study did suggest that a shield of mangrove forest managed to reduce tsunami damage in three villages in Tamil Nadu State in India, the forest was not the only difference between these coastal villages and those nearby that suffered major destruction. Indeed, when my colleagues and I re-analyzed the data, we found no relationship between the death toll in each village and the area of forest in front of each one. What actually saved these villages was being further from the coast or built on relatively high land. It was only a coincidence that they also had more forest between themselves and the ocean (of course, the further a village is from the coast, the greater potential area of forest).

Indeed, a recent paper in the journal Natural Hazards that surveyed more than 50 sites in affected regions found that coastal vegetation did not reduce tsunami damage, and that damage was actually greater in areas fronted by coral reefs. Similarly, my colleagues and I, working in Aceh, Indonesia, found that neither reefs nor coastal forest reduced the damage caused by the tsunami. The distance the tsunami traveled inland was largely determined by the height of the tsunami and the slope of the land. In other words, where the tsunami was 30 feet high, it flooded all land lower than 30 feet above sea level, whether this reached 200 yards inland, or two miles.

Mangrove forests are, to be fair, very effective at dissipating the energy of storm waves, but a tsunami is a very different beast. Tsunamis, produced by earthquakes, have wavelengths of miles, compared to that of a few yards for typical wind-generated waves. The tsunami, for instance, that hit the Acehnese coast was eight miles thick; this wall of water rolled in for nearly an hour.

Of course, coastal forests at some point do begin to reduce tsunami damage, but we can't expect them to offer meaningful protection against the sheer amount of energy involved in a tsunami. In 2004, the energy released by the Indian Ocean earthquake is estimated to have been the equivalent of 23,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs: that's nearly three Hiroshimas for every mile of affected coastline. Another significant concern is the enforcement of buffer zones in the name of tsunami protection. Buffer zones, to have any real effect, would need to be many miles wide and thus impossible to institute without prohibitively high social and economic costs.

Perhaps it is unsurprising then that local governments have begun to regulate these barriers in a way that is not only insufficient, but grossly unfair: luxury hotels escape enforcement while tens of thousands of impoverished fishing families in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand are prevented, in the name of tsunami protection, from rebuilding their homes in areas that have been designated buffer zones.

A more recent tsunami, on July 17, demonstrated the tragic consequences of inadequate planning. More than 18 months after the 2004 catastrophe, the Indonesian government had yet to deploy an early warning system on the island of Java. Tremors from a major earthquake were felt and the tsunami was preceded by a telltale withdrawal of the sea - yet amazingly, people did not know to seek high ground. Government officials failed to act despite precise warnings, and more than 600 people died. Clearly, education efforts in Indonesia have been inadequate.

But we can take heart in the example set by Japan. On Nov. 15, an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 set off that nation's tsunami early warning system. Thousands were evacuated. While the resulting tsunami was luckily too small to cause damage, Japan's sophisticated early warning system, intensive education campaigns, annual evacuation drills and loudspeakers for nearly every kilometer of coastline might have saved thousands of lives if the tsunami had been larger. Similarly effective measures in the Indian Ocean have yet to be developed, in part because efforts and resources remain focused on these questionable schemes to build mangrove barriers.

Certainly, coastal vegetation can provide communities with many valuable resources, and the rehabilitation of these ecosystems should be encouraged. But if the aim is to protect people from tsunamis, the science indicates that money would better be spent on early warning systems, education and evacuation planning.


New Zealand had coldest December for 78 years

Global cooling?

Wellington- Defying talk of global warming, New Zealanders shivered in December, with the capital Wellington recording its coldest start to the southern hemisphere summer for 78 years, according to official figures released Wednesday. The National Climate Centre said that Wellington's average temperature was 12.9 Celsius, 2.4 degrees below normal and the lowest since records began in 1928.

Even Kaitaia, the country's northernmost town, suffered a 2.5- degree drop in the average December temperature to 15.6 Celsius, the lowest since records were first taken there in 1948.

The chill has continued into the new year as most New Zealanders are taking their summer vacations.

Snow fell this week on Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano and the North Island's highest peak at 2,797-metres, and the temperature in Wellington hovered Tuesday around 11 Celsius, about the same as European cities now in the depths of winter.


Global cooling continues in Queensland, Australia

I live in Southern Queensland and I can testify from personal experience that we have indeed had a long spell of amazingly cool summer weather here. In Britain it is not uncommon for people in some years to say: "We didn't have a summer this year". That is almost true of Southern Queensland lately

Has the weather gone crazy? It should be the time of year that Queenslanders are decked out in thongs and boardshorts, sweltering under the state's famous sun. Instead this summer is turning out to be more like those Christmases usually only suffered by southerners. The "Mexicans", meanwhile, are lapping up an unseasonal burst of Queensland-style weather.

While Brisbane's rainy skies yesterday meant the temperature struggled to reach 25C, almost five degrees below the long-term average for January, in Melbourne the mercury soared to 33C - seven degrees above normal.

To make matters worse, the 37mm of rain which fell on Brisbane's central business district yesterday (and up to 50mm at Caboolture and on Bribie Island) failed to make any difference to the region's record-low dam levels. Despite the rain bringing fresh hope for some farmers in the state's west, the city's dam catchments missed out again yesterday. Just 5mm fell at Somerset Dam and just 1mm at Wivenhoe. The only dams in the state topped up in recent days were the Fairbairn Dam near Emerald (up from 12 per cent capacity to 14 per cent) and the Kinchant Dam near Mackay (up from 76 per cent to 80 per cent).

SEQ Water operations manager Rob Drury said 50mm of solid rain in the catchment was required to start any significant inflows to the southeast's dams, with a further 100mm then required immediately to lift their combined levels by just 10 per cent. That level was at just 23.7 per cent yesterday. The only good news is that yesterday's falls are likely to cut consumption as gardens would not need to be watered for a couple of weeks, particularly with more rain forecast over coming days. "Even smaller falls of between 10-20mm will add welcomed extensions to our current supplies," Mr Drury said.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Vikash Prasad said there was a chance the "dam areas" would receive some showers and storms early next week. But he said the long-term outlook remained bleak. "The rainfall is likely to be below average in southeast Queensland (for the next three months), mainly due to the El Nino weather pattern we have had so far," Mr Prasad said.


For any humour-deficient Greenie who may read this, I should point out that the heading on the article immediately above is sarcastic


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

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


No comments: