Thursday, September 06, 2007


Developing nations led by China are set for a bruising battle here with the United States and Australia on climate change, a senior official at a summit of Asia Pacific nations said on Monday. The veteran Southeast Asian foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named, said talks to craft a separate leaders' statement on climate change are expected to be "bloody".

Ranged against developed nations such as APEC summit host Australia and the United States are China and a group of developing countries gravitating around Beijing's position, he said. "There's going to be a very big debate," the official told AFP. "The debates will just accentuate the differences."

Leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum are expected to issue a statement on climate change at the end of the September 8-9 leaders' meeting, but there have been differences on the content. The source said China felt Australia and the United States - the only two countries to have refused to ratify the Kyoto accord on curbing global warming - were trying to change the treaty's rules.

An Australian proposal for APEC to set a goal of reducing "energy intensity" across the region by 25 percent by 2030 would change commitments under Kyoto, the official said. His comments came after Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who made climate change a focus of the summit, admitted it would not set binding targets on reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases which are blamed for global warming.


Give Up Your SUV -- And Other Nauseating Hypocrisy

You can't make this stuff up, folks. Last week, during a speech to a labor group in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told the crowd: "One of the things [Americans] should be asked to do is drive more fuel-efficient vehicles." Asked if by saying that he was specifically telling Americans to give up their SUVs, Edwards replied, "Yes."

Edwards mansion

It's a wonder we Americans haven't choked to death on all the hypocrisy we've been force-fed of late. Naturally, Edwards owns and drives an SUV himself -- several, in fact. In Washington D.C. he often pilots his Cadillac SRX, while at his North Carolina spread -- a 28,000-square-foot manse more than ten times the size of the average American home -- one can easily spot several more those-aren't-Priuses (click to enlarge accompanying photo). Asked at the labor-group speech how he can reconcile asking other Americans to sacrifice while he's living so large, Edwards replied: "I have no apologies whatsoever for what I've done with my life. My entire life has been about the same cause, which is making sure wherever you come from, whatever your family is, whatever the color of your skin, you get a real chance to do something great in this country."

Translation: "I get to do something I call great (make millions off class-action lawsuits, buy a leviathan house and big cars for my family, and pamper my hair), but your 'real chance' ends with buying a transportation device that I've decided may affect the future of my precious spawn."

Edwards hair

This is not a politically biased rant; today's nauseating two-facedness crosses party lines (i.e., our own Republican governor Mr. Schwarzenegger, who touts the environmental wonders of a "hydrogen highway" while his leased private jet etches thick carbon trails up and down the California coast). It's much more of an "us versus them" confrontation, "us" being any rich politico looking to protect his or her unfettered access to privilege and luxury, "them" being the suckers (you and me) being asked to sacrifice for the good of our noble caretakers (I must admit, though: Democrats do have a particular gift for projecting the green-bohemian persona while simultaneously snacking high on the food chain).

The ridiculousness of it all apparently knows no bounds. John Kerry recently appeared on Jon Stewart's show to promote his new green, "do as I say" bible, "This Moment on Earth" (co-written with his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, who ekes out her ascetic, earth-conscious existence in five gigantic mansions worth a combined $30 million). "We're running out of time," said Kerry, perhaps referring to a delay in refueling the couple's $1 million yacht or their $35 million Gulfstream jet. But, he noted, by reading his book "the little people can you can develop a sustainable way by which to live." Kerry, by the way, sustains himself on the road thusly (answering a 2004 query by the Detroit News): "Well, we have a couple of Chrysler minivans. We have a Jeep . . . and a PT Cruiser up in Boston . . . and we have some SUVs . . . and an old Dodge 600 that I keep in the Senate . . . and I also have a Chevy. A big Suburban."

Feinstein and Schwarzenegger

Our own senator Dianne Feinstein wants us Californians to carpool and only run our dishwashers when they're full (both reasonable suggestions). But her motivation for our frugality isn't saving the earth -- it's to offset her many trips on her husband's Gulfstream IV. Aviation experts say that just one cross-country round trip on a GIV churns out between 83,000 to 90,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Meantime, while the eco-moralizing Kerrys and Feinsteins are choking the clouds with private coast-to-coast jaunts, the average earth-raping American, on a per-capita basis, produces just 50,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from all activities (including driving those shameful SUVs) in an entire year. Let them eat carbon cake, John.

Indeed, the mere business of being green (or at least appearing to be) takes a nauseating toll. Of late, actor Leonardo DiCaprio has become a leading, high-profile spokesperson for the green movement because . . . well, he's pretty. Which is precisely why Vanity Fair, for its so-called "Green Issue" (printed on high-quality, non-recycled paper, by the way) flew Leo, photographer Annie Leibovtiz, and an untold number of assistants, makeup artists, and assorted hangers-on to Iceland to produce an earth-saving photograph of the Green Idol on a glacier alongside the polar bear cub Knut (who in fact was Photoshopped in from Berlin). Puffed VF: "Now three and a half months old, little Knut has become a powerful (if not controversial) symbol of what this planet has to lose to global warming. Such ecological concerns are familiar to actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, so it seemed natural to pair these two handsome boys on Annie Leibovitz's cover for this year's Green Issue."


You can almost hear the exchange at the Vanity Fair editorial meeting. Junior art director: "What if we really make a green statement, and just drive Leo and Annie down to the San Diego Zoo in a Prius and take a polar-bear shot there?" Editorial green director: "What? No way! We need to fly the entire crew halfway around the world and back and spend at least a few days hacking around on that precious ice to get the perfect green shot I want! Now, call my secretary and get a limo; I'm late for my lunch at the Four Seasons."

I doubt the Vanity Fair team even realized the irony of photographing their handsome eco poster boy in front of a Cessna Citation private jet (but, hey, it is a great shot).

Which finally gets around to my point: Our leaders and media pundits aren't panicking about global warming and touting the bliss of going green because they're actually worried about the future of the planet. They're making a fuss because they think global warming is going to affect them. Why, if New York City turns into Venice and LA dries up and Aspen melts, where are we going to host our gala save-the-earth benefit dinners? Why, I could even lose two or three of my six homes!

How do I know this is true? Because, thus far at least, global warming is -- as Al Gore actually gets right -- inconvenient, not a true problem. Sure, it's been a hot summer. Maybe hotter than usual. It might get a little worse, or it might not. We live on a geologically and atmospherically active planet; temperature variations are the norm. Sorry, Boomers: It's not always going to be 75 and sunny the way it was that glorious day at Woodstock. Meantime, turn up the air con a bit, or go for a swim. You're not going to die.

The thing is, while the hysterics are fretting about the "horrors" of global warming and the plight of poor little Knut, more than one million people (most of them women and children) are dying every single year -- today, right now -- of malaria. That's a problem we can fix, easily, inexpensively. A few strategic squirts of DDT, some smartly dispensed prophylactic medicines, and we could save the lives of more than one million people every single year almost overnight.

Does anybody care? Are they making movies and books about the malaria crisis? No, malaria is over there, not here. Right now, we've all got to focus on getting green and making everybody give up their SUVs so we don't burn up our planet. After all, it's a pretty long walk from the bullet-proof Suburban to the GIV. And I hate to sweat.


CA: Commuters not flocking to public transit -- even when it is free

Why expose yourself to problem people and extra travelling time when you don't have to?

Hot weather has prompted another Spare the Air alert for Thursday, giving Bay Area residents another opportunity to take advantage of free transit rides. Today was the first such smog alert of the year. Yet the lure of free travel didn't seem to create a huge surge of extra riders on the Bay Area's trains, buses and ferries.

Some agencies are offering the free rides all day, but others - such as BART, Caltrain, the ferries and the Altamont Commuter Express trains - are only offering free morning rides. The same fare procedures will be in effect Thursday. The free-transit program kicks in on days when air quality officials predict particularly poor air quality that can lead to health problems. The goal is to lure people out of their cars to reduce smog. Vehicles are the top source of smog pollution, which worsens on hot days. Bay Area officials have paid for up to four such days of free transit this year. The smog season runs through Oct. 12.

Potentially record-breaking temperatures are expected today across the state. Heat advisories are in effect for Los Angeles and much of the Central Valley and power officials issued new calls today asking people to conserve. The California Independent System Operator, the agency in charge of the state's power grid, issued a Stage One alert and predicted that supplies will be short on Thursday as well. Last year there were three State One alerts, which are issued when the state's reserve power supplies falls below 7 percent.

Some transit systems saw modest ridership increases during the Spare the Air day. The Golden Gate ferries running from Larkspur to San Francisco carried 3,213 passengers this morning, almost 500 more than last Wednesday's morning commute, said spokeswoman Mary Currie. San Francisco Muni officials said that anecdotal evidence showed buses and streetcars were more crowded this morning. Drivers, station agents and passengers on BART, Caltrain, SamTrans and AC Transit said that if there were more passengers, the bump didn't seem to be significant.

BART's decision to add extra cars to the trains could have deflated the sense of crowding if there were a lot more people taking advantage of the free rides. Agency spokeswoman Linton Johnson said the ridership numbers won't be available until Thursday.

For Stuart Lee, 48, of Piedmont, it was just another day on an AC Transit bus, which he rides to work at the Oakland Police Department. "It was great because it was free," Lee said. The bus, however, was no more crowded than usual, he said. "It should have been."

One person who did take advantage of this morning's free rides was Rebecca Eisenhart, who took BART from Oakland to her job in San Francisco's Financial District. Eisenhart said she usually drives to work because her employer pays for half her parking. Today's trip was "hassle-free," said Eisenhart, adding she wanted to do her part to keep her car off the road. She acknowledged, however, that she expects to get behind the wheel again Thursday. "Honestly, when I'm in my car, it's one of the few times all day that I have all by myself, even if there are thousands of other cars around me," Eisenhart said.....

Officials decided to limit the hours on the trains and ferries after the systems' regular riders complained that their commutes were ruined by rowdy teens and others in search of a no-cost adventure. The incidence of petty crimes spiked on BART, for example, and crowds squeezed onto the ferries and Caltrain trains, making it uncomfortable for the regulars.

More here


European power companies are making billions of euros in excess profits in the European Union's battle to beat global warming by cutting emissions of carbon gases, and consumers are paying for it, economists say. The electricity generators are given, free of charge, permits to emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide which are currently worth around 20 euros a tonne, but are then charging consumers as if they had been made to pay for the permits. Michael Grubb, Chief Economist at the Carbon Trust and Director of Climate Strategies, calculates that this practice which he says is economically justifiable gives the industry windfall profits of some 20 billion euros (US$27.14 billion) a year. "It is free money," he told Reuters. "It's how you'd expect companies to behave, but politically and morally it is going to be hard to justify making so much money out of a scheme designed to reduce emissions -- with consumers footing the bill."



Nearly two-thirds of the public believe ministers are using environmental fears as an excuse to raise tax revenue, according to a poll. And research suggests their cynicism is justified - with green taxes raking in œ10 billion more for the Treasury than it would cost to offset the entire UK's carbon footprint. The figures are contained in a dossier compiled by pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA). The document is likely to provide grim reading for politicians of all colours - including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron - who are committed to making individuals pay for habits which damage the environment. A survey carried out by YouGov for the TPA found that only a fifth of people thought politicians were genuinely trying to change behaviours using the tax system. In contrast, 63% believed they were using the issue as an excuse to pull in more cash. ... Using previous international research into climate change, the report estimated that covering the social cost of carbon emissions would have cost œ11.7 billion in 2005. But receipts from green taxes such as fuel duty, road tax and the Climate Change Levy totalled œ21.9 billion. On average every household in the UK paid œ400 more in levies than it cost to cover their own footprint, the TPA claimed.



The Lockwood paper was designed to rebut Durkin's "Great Global Warming Swindle" film. It is a rather confused paper -- acknowledging yet failing to account fully for the damping effect of the oceans, for instance -- but it is nonetheless valuable to climate atheists. The concession from a Greenie source that fluctuations in the output of the sun have driven climate change for all but the last 20 years (See the first sentence of the paper) really is invaluable. And the basic fact presented in the paper -- that solar output has in general been on the downturn in recent years -- is also amusing to see. Surely even a crazed Greenie mind must see that the sun's influence has not stopped and that reduced solar output will soon start COOLING the earth! Unprecedented July 2007 cold weather throughout the Southern hemisphere might even be the first sign that the cooling is happening. And the fact that warming plateaued in 1998 is also a good sign that we are moving into a cooling phase. As is so often the case, the Greenies have got the danger exactly backwards. See my post of 7.14.07 and a very detailed critique here for more on the Lockwood paper

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