Tuesday, May 01, 2007


The German government has in the past issued strong calls to do more to combat climate change, yet the country`s energy companies are planning to build more than 20 new coal-fired power plants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lives in an apartment in what was once the communist part of Berlin, right across from the city`s famous Pergamon Museum. Her workplace, the chancellor`s office, is less than a mile away. Here, Merkel in the past months has often talked about the negative effects of climate change, at the moment her topic of choice. A former environment minister, Merkel has said measures to counter climate change were among the top priorities of her European Union and Group of Eight presidencies in the first half of 2007. And indeed, earlier this year, she managed to convince fellow EU leaders to agree to a binding set of targets aimed at combating climate change: EU states would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, raise the share of renewable energy sources to 20 percent and increase energy efficiency by 20 percent, all by 2020. The EU even proposed a 30 percent cut of CO2 emissions if the world`s biggest polluters, namely the United States and China, followed suit.

Yet while Merkel has gained international praise for her initiatives, things at home look a bit gloomier. In Lichtenberg, a Berlin district just a few minutes away from her apartment, German energy giant Vattenfall plans to build a coal-fired power plant, a major producer of greenhouse gases.

And the Lichtenberg plant, to be completed by 2012, will not remain the only fossil fuel-fired plant to be raised in Germany. Aside from Vattenfall, Germany`s other three energy giants -- Eon, RWE and EnBW -- have plans of their own. All in all, no less than 26 power plants burning either hard (anthracite) coal or brown (lignite) coal will be built in the coming years, German news magazine Der Spiegel said.

Coal-fired plants in German on average emit 1,050 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, compared to 428 grams for gas-fired plants, according to the German environment group BUND. The plants would jointly emit some 150 million tons of CO2 per year, roughly the same amount than Switzerland`s entire energy sector. 'If all of those plants end up being installed, there is no way we can reach our climate protection goals for reducing emissions,' Reinhard Loske, a climate expert for the Green Party parliamentary group, recently told Deutsche Welle Online. 'No one who takes climate change seriously can now accept over 20 coal-fired power plants being built in this country.'

Yet members of the German government have defended the new investments. 'The new plants to be built in Germany are equipped with most modern technologies,' German Economy Minister Michael Glos told mass daily Bild last Sunday. RWE and Vattenfall have said the new coal-fired plants will replace older, dirtier plants that will soon go offline, and vowed to also work on technologies to build the world`s first CO2 free coal-fired plants.

The struggle over the future of coal in Germany is heavily loaded; the country has significant resources, and prices for imported lignites (from South Africa and nearby Poland) are much cheaper compared to oil and gas. Today, more than a quarter of German electricity is generated by burning coal.

Merkel in the past has said clean goal technologies were important for Germany`s future energy mix. Moreover, she knows the 26 new plants (for an estimated $40 billion) will secure domestic jobs, especially as they are built in economically weaker regions such as North Rhine Westphalia. Germany`s Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel (of the Social Democratic Party, or SPD), an advocate of renewable energy sources, would rather see wind, solar and hydro power plants built, but he hasn`t protested so far. Observers say Gabriel knows that abolishing coal would mean a resurrection of nuclear energy, which the Gabriel and the SPD want to phase out by 2021.



Ding-dong the Kyoto witch is dead, killed off by Canadian politicians -- Conservative and Liberal -- who never believed in it anyway. The messy coup de grace was delivered Thursday by Environment Minister John Baird, standing in for the nation's leading, although now undercover, global warming sceptic, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Meanwhile, the predictable festival of indignation marking Kyoto's demise was led by Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberals -- collectively the biggest bunch of hypocrites on Kyoto to ever darken a doorway in Ottawa. Bad enough Harper now pretends to take global warming seriously. The Liberals pretended to do so for almost a decade after they signed Kyoto in 1998, then did nothing to implement it until they were tossed from power last year.

To know how dead Kyoto is, you only had to listen to the reaction of the special interest groups on Thursday, after Baird announced the Tories' "Kyoto-lite" plan, which is actually tougher on pollution than greenhouse gases. Spokespeople for Alberta's oil sands, the auto sector and other big industrial emitters said the regulations were tough, but they could live with them. (Translation? They're relieved.)

As for those groups that believe in Kyoto, let's call them "the Suzuki nation," they were really ticked off. Harper is gambling we Canadians talk a better game on Kyoto than they're willing to play, or, more important, pay. He read the polls showing that while we support implementing Kyoto by a margin of two-to-one, we also, by the same margin, don't want to pay significantly more for fossil fuels to do it.

Thus we've been handed "Kyoto-lite" -- which will cost the average family a few hundred dollars a year once it's up and running, rather than a few thousand. Since the Conservatives will introduce their reforms by regulation, not legislation, they won't become an issue on which they could fall through a non-confidence vote. Still, the next election will come soon enough. Then, Kyoto supporters will be able to punish the Conservatives by voting Liberal, NDP, Bloc or Green. But even if they do, make no mistake. In Canada, Kyoto's dead. Born 1998, died 2007. RIP. And good riddance.


'The IPCC goes looking for bad news'

An Australian academic who worked on the latest IPCC report says it overstates scary weather scenarios and understates man's ability to adapt

Aynsley Kellow, the head of the School of Government at the University of Tasmania who was recently involved in contributing to the latest IPCC report, is checking into a hotel in Melbourne when I call. `Can you give me 10 minutes?' he asks. A few minutes later, a more settled Kellow has established camp in his room. `I'm checked in and room service is on the way. We have a window of opportunity', he chuckles. I'd better make this quick. As an interviewer, you need to be adaptable.

`Adaptability' is a quality underappreciated by others, however. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the latest section of its fourth assessment report in early April. After the release of the summary for policymakers (SPM) in February, which covered the scientific basis of climate change, April's report looked at the possible impacts of warming. It was resolutely gloomy stuff.

Among the highlights, there were claims of: increased risk of flooding and drought; the retreat of glaciers, causing areas supplied by meltwater to struggle for water; damaged ecosystems with increased risk of extinctions; increasing food output at higher latitudes offset by lower output nearer to the equator - meaning increased risk of hunger; adverse effects for aquaculture and fisheries; increased coastal erosion and coastal flooding; and an overall negative effect on industry and society.

Then we get on to the health effects: increasing malnutrition and stunted child growth; increased death and disease through heatwaves, floods, storms, fires and drought; greater diarrhoeal disease; more cardio-respiratory disease due to increased ground-level ozone; altered distribution of infectious disease vectors. In passing, we are told that there will be fewer deaths due to cold in temperate areas, but even this piece of good news will, apparently, be outweighed by the rising number of deaths in warmer areas.

Kellow, who before heading up government studies in Tasmania was Professor of Social Sciences in the Australian School of Environmental Studies at Griffith University, is less than impressed. `They really do emphasise the bad news. They're looking for bad news in all of this. This will be a warmer and wetter world according to the models. But if you look at this report, which is still to be finalised, it would seem that no rain will fall in any form that's at all useful. You'll have droughts, torrential rain, storms.'

According to the scenarios on which the climate models are based, the developing world will go through an enormous economic leap forward over the next century - and apparently this will have many deadly consequences. Kellow is not convinced by such claims: `The IPCC is assuming rates of economic growth that dwarf the nineteenth-century success of the USA, the twentieth century in Japan and so on. The USA experienced, I think, a ninefold increase in GDP per capita; these are making assumptions about 30-fold increases. So you can question their credibility. But if you do that, you're questioning the emissions scenarios that are driving the climate models.'

There seems to be a contradiction in the IPCC's thinking. It believes developing countries will experience potentially enormous growth rates over the next 100 years - yet it treats these countries as being just as vulnerable to droughts, floods and so on as if they were trying to tackle the symptoms of climate change in their present poverty-stricken condition. Either the IPCC has overestimated the growth, in which case climate change is likely to be less severe - or it has got the growth rates right (and certainly a 30-fold increase in output in the Third World would be welcome) and these countries will therefore be more likely to have the resources to cope with climatic change.

Even if the growth rates are overstated, the countries worst-affected, according to this latest report, will still be in a very different position from today. As the policy analyst Indur Goklany notes in a wide-ranging critique of the IPCC's April report, not only will these countries be richer than today; they will also benefit from the cheapening of current technologies and the creation of new ones (1).

There is something almost Malthusian in the IPCC's line that growth-induced climate change will cause more and more problems in the developing world yet the people who live there will be unable to deal with it. Population-panickers have long taken the approach of assuming that while population rises rapidly, development crawls along, so that the ability to provide the growing population with the things it needs (food, water, shelter, healthcare etc) rises much more slowly. This simplistic scare scenario allows them to come up with all sorts of horror stores about starvation, destitution, war and so on. Now, some around the IPCC claim that while economic growth will cause deadly variations in weather, it apparently will not improve societies' ability to deal with change in any meaningful way. Again we have a scary variable (climate) and an inexplicable constant (our inability to come up with solutions); and again this is used to warn of terrible events in the future.

To illustrate how even quite small material differences can be more important than physical conditions, Kellow tells me about research led by Paul Reiter, a tropical disease expert currently working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Reiter's team compared rates of dengue infection in two towns, Laredo in Texas and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, which are separated by a river that marks the US-Mexico border. Climate and the presence of mosquitoes were very similar in both towns, yet rates of dengue in the Mexican town were higher. The differences were caused by different levels of adaptation to heat in the two towns. In the American town, air conditioning was more common and flyscreens were in better repair. Consequently, inhabitants of Laredo, Texas, were more likely to seek cooler conditions indoors and thus avoid exposure to mosquitoes that might carry disease.

Even though he has participated in the IPCC process (he was a referee for Chapter 19 in the IPCC's report, which covers `Key Vulnerabilities and Risk Assessment'), Kellow is exasperated by the way in which critical responses to chapters are dealt with. He has noted elsewhere the criticisms he made to the IPCC about the way in which negative effects are overstated and the ability to adapt is understated. Yet he says: `I'm not holding my breath for this criticism to be taken on board, which underscores a fault in the whole peer review process for the IPCC: there is no chance of a chapter [of the IPCC report] ever being rejected for publication, no matter how flawed it might be.'

Now, even though Kellow has expressed public disagreement with the summary for policymakers, and the chapters that it flows from, he will still be listed as having taken part in the process - with the implication that he agrees with the final reports and is one of those thousands of experts who have apparently shown beyond all doubt that climate change will wreak havoc on the world.

For Kellow, the IPCC process is hopelessly politicised. `The scientists are in there but it is, after all, called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scientists are there at the nomination of governments. Governments fund the exercise and sign-off on it ultimately', he tells me. Kellow sees more mileage in the Asia-Pacific Partnership or AP6 (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States), which takes the approach of developing new technologies rather than adopting the Kyoto approach of emissions reductions.

He says: `The emphasis on CO2 suits largely post-1990 decarbonised European economies worried about justifying high levels of taxation, energy security policies and so on. It doesn't suit those with ample coal supplies at a quarter of the cost of producing coal in Europe - which includes India and China. There's a very European slant to Kyoto.'

There's a knock on his hotel door. His room service has arrived. The `window of opportunity' for our interview has closed. While wishing Kellow `bon appetit' I wonder how much longer the window of opportunity will remain open for a critical approach to the IPCC and its alarmist interpretation of climate change.



The April 21, 2007 issue of "The Economist" had an interesting article entitled "Dengue Fever: A deadly scourge"

The article starts with "Millions at risk as a new outbreak of dengue fever sweeps Latin America" "There is no vaccine. There is also no good way to treat it""just fluids and the hope that the fever will break. At first it seems like a case of severe flu, but then the fever rises, accompanied by headaches, excruciating joint pain, nausea and rashes. In its most serious form, known as dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), it involves internal and external bleeding and can result in death.

Fuelled by climate change, dengue fever is on the rise again throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America. Mexico identified 27,000 cases of dengue fever last year, more than four times the number in 2001. In El Salvador, whose population is not much more than 6% of Mexico's, the number soared to 22,000 last year, a 20-fold increase on five years earlier. Uruguay recently reported its first case in 90 years. In Brazil, 135,000 cases were diagnosed in the first three months of this year, a rise of about a third over the same period last year. Paraguay, the country worst affected in relation to population size, has reported more than 25,000 cases so far this year, six times the total for the whole of last year""and even this is probably an underestimate."

However, buried in this text is the remarkable claim that this disease is "Fuelled by climate change, dengue fever is on the rise again throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America."

What is the scientific evidence for this statement that the dengue fever is "fuelled by climate change"? I value reading the Economist but the insertion of such scientifically unsubstantiated claims detracts significantly from the journalistic integrity and accuracy of this magazine. It makes one wonder if other science articles in the Economist, in areas outside of my expertise, are similarly biased.



(An "own goal" in football means to defeat your own team)

Dubai's position as a global aviation hub could be enhanced if the European Union introduces a carbon-trading scheme for aircraft, the head of the US civil aviation regulator said on Thursday. Marion Blakey, admininistrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said more aircraft could begin using the airport as a hub to avoid the extra cost of the scheme. "Dubai might benefit from the (carbon-trading) policy ...

Air traffic could be diverted to it," she told reporters after meeting aviation officials in Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai has the busiest airport in the Middle East, handling almost 29 million passengers last year. The European Commission has proposed including airlines in an emissions trading system, which currently only applies to power generators and energy-intensive industries. The plan would see airlines landing and taking off in the EU participate in the scheme. The emissions trading system puts a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that energy-intensive companies can emit. If a company overshoots its target, it must buy permits from companies that have undershot their pollution targets.

Dubai airport forecasts that it will handle 33 million passengers this year, rising to 70 million by 2008 through terminal expansion projects. The facility handled a total of 237,258 flights in 2006, according to its website. It is connected to more than 194 destinations through a network of 113 international airlines. Another Dubai airport, which aims to be the world's largest and to handle 120 million passengers a year, is now under construction.



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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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