Monday, January 01, 2007


This week the Bush administration proposed to list the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. It's a futile gesture that only signals a weakening in the Bush administration's heretofore strong stance against global warming hysteria.

The proposal resulted from a lawsuit settlement the Bush administration reached in February with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In return for these groups dropping their effort to force the Bush administration to grant polar bears "threatened" status under the ESA, the administration agreed to commence a rulemaking to list the bears.

This doesn't sound like much of a "deal" - and it's not. Though the proposal doesn't legally bind the Bush administration to list polar bears as threatened and the proposal will simmer for at least 12 months during which time the administration says it will seek more information and public comment, based on the fanfare accompanying the proposal's roll-out, it seems the listing is all but final.

Rather than issuing the proposal in a tentative and low-key manner, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne issued a media release and reigned over a press teleconference where he and the director of Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) touted the proposal. But they quickly lost control of the affair - not to mention their message. The major issue at the press conference became not whether the polar bear was truly endangered, but whether the rulemaking was a signal that the Bush administration was beginning to melt on global warming.

Before we get to the dominant issue of the press conference, however, let's first answer the key questions raised by the proposal. Are polar bears endangered? What would the proposal accomplish, given that we already protect polar bears under several laws and treaties?

There are no data indicating a downward trend in U.S. or global polar bear populations - that's according to the FWS' own fact sheet for the proposal. There apparently are some reports of lower-weight polar bears and reduced cub survival in certain areas, but there are no firm explanations for these reports and their significance is unknown.

Now here's the kicker: the U.S. government, the same one that now wants to classify the polar bears as "threatened," also sanctions the hunting of polar bears for trophies. In the proposal's media release, the FWS stated in an unconcerned, matter-of-fact fashion that, "[s]ome Native communities in arctic Canada also obtain significant financial benefits from allocating a portion of their overall subsistence quota to trophy hunters from the United States and other nations."

The FWS says that the projected threat to the polar bears is the future loss of their sea-ice habitat - this is the sole legal grounds for the proposed listing. Polar bears spend most of their lives on sea ice and recent data appear to indicate, according to the FWS, that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is decreasing. The FWS even mentioned predictions of an ice-free Arctic Ocean "within the foreseeable future."

But such predictions and the potential consequences to polar bears are highly uncertain. No one knows exactly what's happening with Arctic sea ice, much less what the future holds. The Greenland ice melt, for example, was actually larger in 1991 than in 2005 and the Greenland ice cap is thickening. Data from the Canadian Ice Service indicate there has been no precipitous drop-off in ice cap amount or thickness since 1970.

Let's keep in mind that polar bears have survived much warmer times than we are now experiencing - like 1,000 years ago when the Vikings farmed Greenland during the Medieval Climate Optimum and 5,000-9,000 years ago during the period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum.

But even giving the proposal the benefit of the doubt, will it accomplish anything? When I asked Secretary Kempthorne that question - pointing out that even if the polar bear habit was shrinking because of melting ice there isn't a credible climate scientist in the world that believes anything could be done to stop the ice from melting, and that legalized polar bear harvesting seems to contradict any seriousness concerning threatened species status - the response delivered by the FWS director was not very reassuring.

In a bureaucratic tone that only government functionaries can muster, he said they were just following the law. But even that is debatable since the proposal's origins lie in the dubious deal cut with environmental activist groups.

The reporters at the ill-conceived and poorly-executed press conference were eager to interpret the proposal as a weakening of President Bush's position against global warming regulation. While Secretary Kempthorne and FWS staff repeatedly denied that the proposal was any sort of reflection on President Bush's policy, their denials sounded evasive rather than sincere.

The proposal will, in all likelihood, make it more difficult for the president to maintain his position against global warming regulation. As the Washington Post reported this week, "Identifying polar bears as threatened with extinction could have an enormous political and practical impact. As the world's largest bear and as an object of children's affection as well as Christmastime Coca-Cola commercials, the polar bear occupies an important place in the American psyche." It's distressing that the Bush administration is opening the door for the all-important issue of global warming regulation to be influenced more by our embrace of a soda mascot rather than science.


The Fiery Face of the Arctic Deep

Amid the latest polar bear panic I am reproducing a 2003 article that explains LOTS about the Arctic -- but no Greenie will ever mention it. Read it and I will point out some of the implications below.

Note that my leading post yesterday concerned Arctic ice sitting on land in Canada, Greenland and elsewhere. Today I am looking at sea-based (floating) Arctic ice. To Greenies they are all the same but that is what you expect of simplistic thinkers

Results from a German-American Arctic expedition to the Gakkel Ridge have implications for the understanding of the generation of new seafloor

The Gakkel ridge is a gigantic volcanic mountain chain stretching beneath the Arctic Ocean. With its deep valleys 5,500 meter beneath the sea surface and its 5,000 meter high summits, Gakkel ridge is far mightier than the Alps. This is the site of seafloor spreading that is actively separating Europe from North America, and was the goal of the international expedition AMORE (Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge Expedition) with two research icebreakers, the "USCGC Healy" from USA and the German "PFS Polarstern". Aboard were scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and other international institutions. The scientists had expected that the Gakkel ridge would exhibit "anemic" magmatism. Instead, surprisingly strong magmatic activity in the West and the East of the ridge and one of the strongest hydrothermal activities ever seen at mid-ocean ridges were found. These results require a fundamental rethinking of the mechanisms of seafloor generation at midocean ridges (Nature, January 16 and June 26).

The Gakkel ridge extends about 1800 kilometers beneath the Arctic Ocean from north of Greenland to Siberia. It is the northernmost portion of the mid-ocean ridge system, the global 75,000 kilometer long volcanic chain where the ocean crust is generated by erupting magma. Because of its extremely slow spreading rate of about one centimeter per year, the slowest rate of any mid-ocean ridge and 20 times slower than the better explored East Pacific ridge, Gakkel ridge is of particular interest for scientists. It shows a number of unique phenomena that could give more information about the generation of new oceanic crust.

Current theories of oceanic crustal production predict that volcanic activity deminishes as the spreading rate of the tectonic plates decreases and only little or no hydrothermal activity. Instead, the scientists found high levels of volcanic activity. "We expected the volcanic activity to gradually decrease from West to East as the magmatic systems shut down. Instead, approximately in the middle of the survey area, the magmatism shut down completely, then dramatically increased," says Dr. Jonathan Snow, the leader of the research group from the Max Planck Institute. This group was responsible for the petrological and geochemical investigations.

Hydrothermal hot springs on the seafloor were also far more abundant than predicted. "We expected this to be a hydrothermally dead ridge, and almost every time our water measurement instrument came up, they showed evidence of hydrothermal activity, and once we even 'saw' an active hot spring on the sea floor," noted Jonathan Snow. The biologists on the expedition theorize that Arctic hydrothermal vent communities have been cut off from the rest of the worlds oceans for long periods of time, and may have conserved archaic forms.

The central region without magmatic activity is unique in the worlds mid-ocean ridges, having no volcanic crust whatsoever. Here, scientists can directly sample rocks belonging to the Earths upper mantle, which is covered on every other part of the globe by thousands of meters of crustal rocks. Some of these mantle rocks were unusually well preserved, "I just about fell off my chair the first time I saw them in the microscope," says Jonathan Snow, "some of these samples looked just as if they had been brought right from the upper mantle by magic, not even a trace of alteration by seawater."

The observations made at the Gakkel ridge demonstrate that volcanic activity in certain regions is not only dependant on the spreading rate. Other factors such as the chemical composition and the temperature of the mantle at depth must be taken into account when describing the behavior of mid-oceans ridges.

Source (H/T Ice Age Now)

Note how much the above explains. The sea-borne Arctic ice has undoubtedly been melting in recent years. Yet the land-borne ice in both Greenland and Antarctica has been thickening. There is very little comment about that oddity but the above work explains it: The melting sea ice is melting, not because of global warming, but because of vulcanism -- heat coming up from under it. Greenland and Antarctica are not affected by such vulcanism so they are not melting.

It also would seem to explain why SOME polar bear populations are decreasing. Most bear populations are doing fine or expanding but the ones dependant on sea-ice SHOULD be shrinking as the sea-ice shrinks.

For the benefit of any ignorant Greenie who might read this, I guess I should point out again a basic fact of physics: Even if the WHOLE of the sea-ice melted, it would not affect world sea-levels one iota. In other words, the bit of the Arctic that is melting doesn't matter.


And, by and large, more people mean more knowledge. The population explosion of the 20th century was certainly accompanied by a knowledge explosion

For a long time, economists believed that much of their job was to analyze a world of scarcity, the grim business of harvesting limited resources and distributing too few goods to too many people. And then there was the matter of decreasing returns to additional investment. Such returns were once "a familiar topic in economics," David Warsh tells us in "Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations." After all, "even the richest coal vein plays out."

Decreasing returns and scarcity animated the doomster wing of economics, of which Thomas Malthus was the principal architect. It was he who lamented overpopulation so famously, even ahead of Paul Ehrlich, and predicted bouts of "periodical misery" to adjust human numbers downward, putting them, at least now and then, in equilibrium with the world's limited riches.

Mr. Warsh, a former economics reporter for the Boston Globe, does not intend to mock earlier theories of political economy but to tell the story of their gradual refinement over time--especially as "one system of thought replaces another." He notes, for instance, that anti-Malthusian concepts central to the understanding of modern economic growth--abundance and the notion of "increasing returns"--came to compete with the scarcity school of thought. It is axiomatic to us, not least because of technology's marvelous effects, that "the same amount of work or sacrifice produces an increasing quantity of goods." But it was an idea that required special attention when it was first considered plausible.

The worry at first was that, in theory, increasing returns--where they proved possible--would create monopoly power. In Adam Smith's famous pin factory, division of labor and specialization yielded increasing returns. But why wouldn't the pin factory, or any other enterprise generating increasing returns, increase itself (so to speak) at the expense of every other enterprise of lesser aptitude and slower growth? Monopoly power would then undermine the competition that, in Smith's view, put markets on their virtuous path.

It remained a worry--and a conceptual conundrum--for a long time to come. Fifty years ago, the economist George Stigler framed the problem this way: "Either the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market, and, characteristically, industries are monopolized; or, industries are characteristically competitive." If they are indeed characteristically competitive, then the monopoly-threatening aspect of Adam Smith's view is, as Mr. Stigler noted, either "false or of little significance." Like many modern economists, he sided with the reliably competitive nature of industrial growth, and the fate of modern economies has borne him out.

But what about growth itself--especially the sustained economic growth that we now take for granted (however sluggish it may be at times)? At an informal academic conference in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1988--assembled by Jack Kemp, then a member of the House--the Stanford economist Paul Romer presented a paper that ultimately turned the economic thinking on its ear. In Mr. Romer's work, as Mr. Warsh puts it, "the concept of intellectual property was, if not exactly 'discovered,' then formally characterized for the first time in the context of growth." Mr. Romer saw that knowledge was "both an input and output of production."

Thus instead of land, labor and capital--the traditional inputs of economic theory--it was "people, ideas and things" that mattered, driving technological change and entrepreneurial creativity. "No longer were the advantages of technical superiority to be understood as a case of 'market failure,'" Mr. Warsh writes. "They were part of the rules of the game." Such superiority was by its nature temporary--i.e., nonmonopolistic. New knowledge constantly trumped old, and the law (rightly) gave ideas only limited property-protection.

More and more, economists came to see that it was knowledge that made the difference in modern societies--e.g., in software, drugs, industrial processes, biotechnology and other parts of the economy where the upfront costs were large, the payoffs enormous and the benefits widespread. Economists inevitably turned their attention to the institutions or invisible structures--constitutions, customs, property rights, cultural sentiments (like trust)--that help to generate knowledge and sustain its effects.

In his admirably compelling account of economic thinking over time--from Adam Smith to the present day--Mr. Warsh shows a certain partiality to abstract mathematical theory. He might have given more credit to the thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, the great philosopher of freedom and opponent of central planning; or to historians such as Joel Mokyr, who has chronicled the effects (as the subtitle of one of his books has it) of "technological creativity and economic progress"; or to popularizers such as George Gilder, who has documented (and celebrated) the role of knowledge in economic growth, especially in our computer age.

Mr. Warsh does, though, quote the great British economist Alfred Marshall, who observed as early as 1890 that "knowledge is our most powerful engine of production; it enables us to subdue nature and force her to satisfy our wants." More than a century later, knowledge is still the true wealth of nations.


Australia's Inhofe?

Controversial Liberal backbencher Dennis Jensen has defied John Howard on climate change just months after the Prime Minister personally intervened to prevent him being ousted from his blue-ribbon Perth electorate of Tangney.

The former CSIRO scientist, who alarmed conservatives earlier this year when he said he would be happy to have a nuclear reactor in his electorate, has written to constituents to encourage them to be sceptical about global warming. Dr Jensen insists the argument over climate change is not clear-cut, despite the Prime Minister accepting that global warming is a real issue. Mr Howard has appointed a taskforce to examine the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

"There have been many predictions of dire consequences if global warming is not tackled in time, but what are we tackling and will any initiatives we take have any effect?" Dr Jensen says in a letter posted on his electorate website. The letter and website contain links to a number of articles that question whether global warming is a recent phenomenon, including a savage critique of Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Article above from "The Australian" of December 30, 2006


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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