Monday, January 28, 2008

THE SHEER EMPTINESS OF GREEN/LEFT "ARGUMENT"

Below is what passes for high-powered intellect among Australian Leftists. It is from the blog of the "Lowy Institute for International Policy" which seems to have high pretensions.

No mention of scientific facts is made but "feel" is given prominent mention. Once again it is nothing but ad hominem argument and abuse -- which is totally disreputable intellectually. I suspect in fact that our poor old Leftist did not have a clue about how to address the scientific issues involved and thought he could get away with bluff. I think that Frank Lowy, the magnate who founded the Lowy Institute, should be looking for more high-powered employees.

I follow the spurt of superciliousness below with a reply that DOES address the facts. I suppose it is something that they published the reply. The reply is by Alex Avery, son of skeptical author Dennis Avery, mentioned below. Alex is Director of Research at the Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute. He hits the poor old Lowy lamebrains with an actual journal abstract -- almost unfair to such simpletons -- who probably would not even know which way up to hold an abstract, let alone being able to make anything out of it!
Climate skeptics tilting at windfarms

A few weeks ago I, along with most of my colleagues on the staff and the board of the Lowy Institute, received a complimentary copy of a book called 'Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1,500 Years', by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. When I arrived at work there was an enormous pile of these tomes sitting at the Institute's reception.

The book appears to be a fairly standard example of the `climate change skeptic' genre. Contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus captured in the most recent report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the authors argue that most global warming is not caused by human activities but by a natural 1500-year climate cycle, and that it is not nearly as dangerous as the Al Gores of this world make out.

I regret to say that this book does not have an authoritative feeling about it, starting with the spelling error in the publisher's name on the title page. A search of the authors' names by my colleague Kate Mason took us to the far-right reaches of the Internet, including links to research questioning the link between passive smoking and lung cancer, jeremiads against organic food, and the websites of various American think tanks with the word `freedom' in their title.

Anyway, people can write whatever nonsense they like; I'm more interested in the fact that someone, somewhere is sending out thousands of copies of this book to anyone they can think of who may be in a position to influence the public debate. The book's Preface states that: `A public relations campaign of staggering dimensions is being carried forward to convince us that global warming is man-made and a crisis.' It looks like an expensive campaign is being run against those propositions, too.

I doubt whether it is a very effective campaign, though. The sheer oddness of the whole exercise - both the message and the means of communicating it - leaves the distinct impression that history has passed these people by.

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A climate sceptic replies

Your comments about my father's book are lacking in any substance whatsoever. Spelling errors and perceived lack of 'authoritative feeling' aside, where is any mention of the reams of cited peer-reviewed research indicating exactly what the title of the book states: global temperatures today are not historically unusual in comparison to relatively recent times (i.e. most recently the Medieval Warm Period) and the existence of a natural, roughly-1,500-year climate cycle?

By all means, let's ignore any and all substance and impugn motives instead. How noble. How enlightened. How . . . sad.

Just so you're not completely in the dark: Dr. Singer's most recent peer-reviewed scientific paper on climate change was published last month (Dec. 2007) in the International Journal of Climatology published by the Royal Meteorological Society. Does that lack an 'authoritative feeling' as well?

As the abstract of the paper states, the authors examined 'tropospheric temperature trends of 67 runs from 22 "Climate of the 20th Century" model simulations and try to reconcile them with the best available updated observations (in the tropics during the satellite era). Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modeled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modeled and observed trends have opposite signs. These conclusions contrast strongly with those of recent publications based on essentially the same data.'

Oh, and here is the latest peer-reviewed scientific paper supporting the argument that current temperatures are not alarming and not unusual:

Loehle, C. 2007. A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-tree-ring proxies. Energy & Environment 18(7-8): 1049-1058.

Abstract:

Historical data provide a baseline for judging how anomalous recent temperature changes are and for assessing the degree to which organisms are likely to be adversely affected by current or future warming. Climate histories are commonly reconstructed from a variety of sources, including ice cores, tree rings, and sediment. Tree-ring data, being the most abundant for recent centuries, tend to dominate reconstructions. There are reasons to believe that tree ring data may not properly capture long-term climate changes. In this study, eighteen 2000-year-long series were obtained that were not based on tree ring data. Data in each series were smoothed with a 30-year running mean. All data were then converted to anomalies by subtracting the mean of each series from that series. The overall mean series was then computed by simple averaging. The mean time series shows quite coherent structure. The mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3øC warmer than 20th century values at these eighteen sites.

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Isn't all this talk of an apocalypse getting a bit boring?

This year is the 40th anniversary of Paul Ehrlich's influential The Population Bomb, a book that predicted an apocalyptic overpopulation crisis in the 1970s and '80s. Ehrlich's book provides a lesson we still haven't learnt. His prophecy that the starvation of millions of people in the developed world was imminent was spectacularly wrong - humanity survived without any of the forced sterilisation that Ehrlich believed was necessary. It's easy to predict environmental collapse, but it never actually seems to happen.

The anniversary of The Population Bomb should put contemporary apocalyptic predictions in their proper context. If anything, our world - and the environment - just keeps getting better. Ehrlich was at the forefront of a wave of pessimistic doomsayers in the late 1960s and early '70s. And these doomsayers weren't just cranks - or, if they were cranks, they were cranks with university tenure.

Despite what should be a humiliating failure for his theory of overpopulation, Ehrlich is still employed as a professor of population studies by Stanford University. Similarly, when George Wald predicted in a 1970 speech that civilisation was likely to end within 15 or 30 years, his audience was reminded that he was a Nobel Prize-winning biologist.

These predictions were picked up by people eager to push their own agendas. And a subgenre of films arose to deal with the "inevitable" environment and population crisis. Soylent Green (1973) depicted a world where all food was chemically produced, and other films imagined dystopias where amoral bureaucrats strictly controlled the population - just the sort of things advocated in The Population Bomb.

In retrospect, these fears seem a little bit silly. The green revolution that was brought about by advances in agricultural biotechnology came pretty close to eliminating the problem of food scarcity. Nor did the alarmists expect the large changes in demography and fertility rates that have occurred during the past few decades.

Nevertheless, for people in the 1970s, predictions of apocalypse through overpopulation and famine were just as real as the predictions of an apocalypse caused by climate change are today. And, just like today, environmental activists and their friends in politics were lining up to propose dramatic changes to avert the crisis. For instance, the vice-president of the Australian Conservation Foundation wrote just last week in The Age that we needed to imagine global suffering before we can tackle climate change through "nation-building" - whatever that is.

But there are substantial grounds for optimism - on almost every measure, the state of the world is improving. Pollution is no longer the threat it was seen to be in the 1970s, at least in the developed world. Changes in technology, combined with our greater demand for a clean environment, have virtually eliminated concerns about pungent waterways and dirty forests. Legislation played some role in this, but as Indur Goklany points out in his recent study, The Improving State of the World, the environment started getting better long before such laws were passed.

Goklany reveals that strong economies, not environment ministers, are the most effective enforcers of cleanliness in our air and water. Indeed, the world's 10 most polluted places are in countries where strong economic growth has historically been absent - Russia, China, India and Kyrgyzstan have not really been known for their thriving consumer capitalism.

Other indices, too, show that humanity's future is likely to be bright. Infant mortality has dramatically declined, as has malnutrition, illiteracy, and even global poverty. And there are good grounds for hope that we can adapt to changing climates as well. History has shown just how capable we are of inventing and adapting our way out of any sticky situation - and how we can do it without crippling our economies or imposing brutal social controls.

Environmental alarmists have become more and more like those apocalyptic preachers common in the 19th century - always expecting the Rapture on this date and, when it doesn't come, quickly revising their calculations. Optimism is in too short supply in discussions about the environment. But four decades after The Population Bomb, if we remember just how wrong visions of the apocalypse have been in the past, perhaps we will look to the future more cheerfully.

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Leftist climate skeptic getting a barrage of abuse and attempts to silence him

Yes. There ARE some Leftists who are not taken in by speculation that the future will be catastorphic. And Alexander Cockburn is probably chief among them. He says that for his troubles he has been punished by a tsunami of self-righteous fury. It is time for a free and open `battle of ideas', he says below:

While the world's climate is on a warming trend, there is zero evidence that the rise in CO2 levels has anthropogenic origins. For daring to say this I have been treated as if I have committed intellectual blasphemy. In magazine articles and essays I have described in fairly considerable detail, with input from the scientist Martin Hertzberg, that you can account for the current warming by a number of well-known factors - to do with the elliptical course of the Earth in its relationship to the sun, the axis of the Earth in the current period, and possibly the influence of solar flares. There have been similar warming cycles in the past, such as the medieval warming period, when the warming levels were considerably higher than they are now.

Yet from left to right, the warming that is occurring today is taken as being man-made, and many have made it into the central plank of their political campaigns. For reasons I find very hard to fathom, the environmental left movement has bought very heavily into the fantasy about anthropogenic global warming and the fantasy that humans can prevent or turn back the warming cycle.

This turn to climate catastrophism is tied into the decline of the left, and the decline of the left's optimistic vision of altering the economic nature of things through a political programme. The left has bought into environmental catastrophism because it thinks that if it can persuade the world that there is indeed a catastrophe, then somehow the emergency response will lead to positive developments in terms of social and environmental justice.

This is a fantasy. In truth, environmental catastrophism will, in fact it already has, play into the hands of sinister-as-always corporate interests. The nuclear industry is benefiting immeasurably from the current catastrophism. Last year, for example, the American nuclear regulatory commission speeded up its process of licensing; there is an imminent wave of nuclear plant building. Many in the nuclear industry see in the story about CO2 causing climate change an opportunity to recover from the adverse publicity of Chernobyl.

More generally, climate catastrophism is leading to a re-emphasis of the powers of the advanced industrial world, through its various trade mechanisms, to penalise Third World countries. For example, the Indians have just produced an extremely cheap car called the Tata Nano, which will enable poorer Indians to get about more easily without having to load their entire family on to a bicycle. Greens have already attacked the car, and it won't take long for the WTO and the advanced powers to start punishing India with a lot of missionary-style nonsense about its carbon emissions and so on.

The politics of climate change also has potential impacts on farmers. Third World farmers who don't use seed strains or agricultural procedures that are sanctioned by the international AG corporations and major multilateral institutions and banks controlled by the Western powers will be sabotaged by attacks on their `excessive carbon footprint'. The environmental catastrophism peddled by many who claim to be progressive is strengthening the hand of corporate interests over ordinary people.

Here in the West, the so-called `war on global warming' is reminiscent of medieval madness. You can now buy Indulgences to offset your carbon guilt. If you fly, you give an extra 10 quid to British Airways; BA hands it on to some non-profit carbon-offsetting company which sticks the money in its pocket and goes off for lunch. This kind of behaviour is demented.

What is sinister about environmental catastrophism is that it diverts attention from hundreds and hundreds of serious environmental concerns that can be dealt with - starting, perhaps, with the emission of nitrous oxides from power plants. Here, in California, if you drive upstate you can see the pollution all up the Central Valley from Los Angeles, a lot of it caused, ironically, by the sulphuric acid droplets from catalytic converters! The problem is that 20 or 30 years ago, the politicians didn't want to take on the power companies, so they fixed their sights on penalising motorists who are less able to fight back. Decade after decade, power plants have been given a pass on the emissions from their smoke stacks while measures to force citizens to change their behaviour are brought in.

Emissions from power plants are something that could be dealt with now. You don't need to have a world programme called `Kyoto' to fix something like that. The Kyoto Accord must be one of the most reactionary political manifestos in the history of the world; it represents a horrible privileging of the advanced industrial powers over developing nations.

The marriage of environmental catastrophism and corporate interests is best captured in the figure of Al Gore. As a politician, he came to public light as a shill for two immense power schemes in the state of Tennessee: the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oak Ridge Nuclear Laboratory. Gore is not, as he claims, a non-partisan green; he is influenced very much by his background. His arguments, many of which are based on grotesque science and shrill predictions, seem to me to be part of a political and corporate outlook.

In today's political climate, it has become fairly dangerous for a young scientist or professor to step up and say: `This is all nonsense.' It is increasingly difficult to challenge the global warming consensus, on either a scientific or a political level. Academies can be incredibly cowardly institutions, and if one of their employees was to question the discussion of climate change he or she would be pulled to one side and told: `You're threatening our funding and reputation - do you really want to do that?' I don't think we should underestimate the impact that kind of informal pressure can have on people's willingness to think thoroughly and speak openly.

One way in which critics are silenced is through the accusation that they are ignoring `peer-reviewed science'. Yet oftentimes, peer review is a nonsense. As anyone who has ever put his nose inside a university will know, peer review is usually a mode of excluding the unexpected, the unpredictable and the unrespectable, and forming a mutually back-scratching circle. [Hear here! As someone who fought through all that to become a much-published academic, I know all about the frailties of peer review -- JR] The history of peer review and how it developed is not a pretty sight. Through the process of peer review, of certain papers being nodded through by experts and other papers being given a red cross, the controllers of the major scientific journals can include what they like and exclude what they don't like. Peer review is frequently a way of controlling debate, even curtailing it. Many people who fall back on peer-reviewed science seem afraid to have out the intellectual argument.

Since I started writing essays challenging the global warming consensus, and seeking to put forward critical alternative arguments, I have felt almost witch-hunted. There has been an hysterical reaction. One individual, who was once on the board of the Sierra Club, has suggested I should be criminally prosecuted. I wrote a series of articles on climate change issues for the Nation, which elicited a level of hysterical outrage and affront that I found to be astounding - and I have a fairly thick skin, having been in the business of making unpopular arguments for many, many years.

There was a shocking intensity to their self-righteous fury, as if I had transgressed a moral as well as an intellectual boundary and committed blasphemy. I sometimes think to myself, `Boy, I'm glad I didn't live in the 1450s', because I would be out in the main square with a pile of wood around my ankles. I really feel that; it is remarkable how quickly the hysterical reaction takes hold and rains down upon those who question the consensus.

This experience has given me an understanding of what it must have been like in darker periods to be accused of being a blasphemer; of the summary and unpleasant consequences that can bring. There is a witch-hunting element in climate catastrophism. That is clear in the use of the word `denier' to label those who question claims about anthropogenic climate change. `Climate change denier' is, of course, meant to evoke the figure of the Holocaust denier. This was contrived to demonise sceptics. The past few years show clearly how mass moral panics and intellectual panics become engendered.

In my forthcoming book, A Short History of Fear, I explore the link between fearmongering and climate catastrophism. For example, alarmism about population explosion is being revisited through the climate issue. Population alarmism goes back as far as Malthus, of course; and in the environmental movement there has always been a very sinister strain of Malthusianism. This is particularly the case in the US where there has never been as great a socialist challenge as there was in Europe. I suspect, however, that even in Europe, what remains of socialism has itself turned into a degraded Malthusian outlook. It seems clear to me that climate catastrophism represents a new form of the politics of fear.

I think people have had enough of peer-reviewed science and experts telling them what they can and cannot think and say about climate change. Climate catastrophism, the impact it is having on people's lives and on debate, can only really be challenged through rigorous open discussion and through a `battle of ideas', as the conference I spoke at in London last year described it. I hope my book is a salvo in that battle.

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British road hump panic!

In the end, NOTHING suits the Greenies

They damage cars and give drivers a nasty jolt, but now speed bumps have been found guilty of an even worse crime - they are helping to destroy the planet. The traffic-calming measures double the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption by forcing drivers to brake and accelerate repeatedly, according to a study commissioned by the AA. A car that achieves 58.15 miles per gallon travelling at a steady 30mph will deliver only 30.85mpg when going over humps.

The AA employed an independent engineer who used a fuel flow meter to test the consumption of a small and a medium-sized car at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. The results, calculated by averaging the performances of the two cars, also showed that reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph resulted in 10 per cent higher emissions. This is because car engines are designed to be most efficient at speeds above 30mph. A motorist who observed the speed limit on one mile of 20mph road during a daily journey would produce an extra tonne of CO2 in a year compared with driving at 30mph on the same stretch.

In an unusual move for a motoring organisation, the AA called for the introduction of cameras that detect average speeds to replace humps. Edmund King, the AA's president, said: "Humps are a crude, uncomfortable and noisy way of slowing people down and this research has shown they are also environmentally damaging. We accept that traffic speed needs to be controlled in residential areas where there is a problem with accidents and children are playing. We think motorists are more likely to accept average speed cameras than humps."

But he added that drivers would not support a proposal in London by the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, to make 20mph the default speed limit on all residential roads. "The AA accepts that targeted 20mph speed limits in residential areas are popular and improve safety. However, a 30mph limit on local distributor roads may be more environmentally friendly."

Previous research by the Transport Research Laboratory found that air pollution rose significantly on roads with humps. Carbon monoxide emissions increased by 82 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 37 per cent. The London Ambulance Service has claimed that the 30,000 humps on the capital's roads cause up to 500 deaths a year because its crews suffer delays in reaching victims of cardiac arrest.

Mr King said: "Humps tend to breed more humps. If one street has humps installed, the adjacent street calls for humps and eventually you find no clear roads for movement of emergency service vehicles."

Transport for London has been helping to test average-speed cameras on residential roads in Camden, North London. No tickets are being issued yet, but the mere presence of the cameras has resulted in the proportion of drivers complying with the limit increasing by a third. The new cameras are not linked but have synchronised clocks and each separately transmits information to a processing centre. This allows several cameras to work together without the need to dig up the road between them to lay cables. In urban areas this can halve the cost of installing the system. Putting in 50 standard humps on three or four connecting residential streets costs about 150,000 pounds. A set of eight average-speed cameras covering the same area would cost 250,000.

The Home Office has been monitoring trials of average-speed cameras for almost three years but has yet to approve them. The camera suppliers believe that the delay is due to a lack of staff to complete the approval process. Rob Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "If we remove road humps, the clear alternative method for enforcing lower speeds is through average speed cameras. These will smooth out traffic flow and be fairer to car drivers." Mr Gifford said that research had shown that 10 per cent of pedestrians would die when hit by a car at 20mph compared with 50 per cent at 30mph.

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Courts Confront Climate Change

Late last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must consider the "risks of global warming" when setting gas-mileage standards for light trucks, minivans and SUVs. Central to the court's ruling was the claim that NHTSA, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, had ignored the benefits of reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Whatever their legal acumen, Justice Betty Fletcher and her colleagues on the bench demonstrated they have little expertise in climate science. Tighter restrictions on CO2 emissions cannot produce the imagined benefits. Greenhouse gas emissions occur globally: The court's mandate will not measurably curb CO2 levels or global warming. The court also assumed that human activity is the main cause of global warming. This has yet to be demonstrated by hard evidence.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points to glacial melting, shrinking sea ice, and other consequences of global warming. But such "evidence" doesn't tell us whether the causes are natural or manmade. Other evidence, such as the claimed correlation between temperature and CO2, is circumstantial; during much of the 20th century the climate was cooling while CO2 levels were rising.

A forthcoming report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), of which I am the editor, may provide needed balance. An independent organization, not sponsored by the United Nations, national governments, or industry, NIPCC-which includes many IPCC authors and expert reviewers-was created to provide a second opinion on the IPCC's official findings, much as a physician's diagnosis may warrant a second opinion.

Drawing on peer-reviewed publications in major scientific journals, NIPCC examined the data used in IPCC's May 2007 climate-change assessment, as well as research ignored in the IPCC report or published subsequent to its release. NIPCC concludes that "evidence" to support public hysteria about human-caused greenhouse warming does not hold up to scrutiny. Among the findings, expected to be published early this spring:

* Human activities-such as transportation and industrial production-contribute little to global warming. The claim that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for rising global temperatures is based on computer models. But as NIPCC confirms, key temperature readings contradict the models. For example, while all greenhouse models show temperature trends rising with altitude in the tropical troposphere-the lowest portion of the Earth's atmosphere-weather balloon data show the opposite: a cooling trend. The models are wrong.

* Greenhouse warming has been significantly overestimated. NIPCC has found that the models exaggerate the warming effect of greenhouse gases by ignoring "negative feedback" from-that is, the possible cooling effects of-clouds and water vapor. Taking this into account, greenhouse warming might amount to no more than one-half of 1 degree Celsius by 2100, well within the climate's normal range of ups and downs.

* The leading cause of observed climate warming appears to be variability of solar emissions and solar magnetic fields. The U.N. panel ignored substantial recent research on the effects of solar activity on climate change. This evidence suggests climate changes are essentially unstoppable and cannot be influenced by controlling CO2 emissions.

* Government efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will have little effect on the environment. The requirements of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2007 Bali Climate Declaration cannot influence the natural factors controlling the climate. Similarly, massive government efforts to replace fossil fuels with ethanol, biodiesel, and wind and solar power will little effect the climate. Besides, they are uneconomic and require large subsidies.

In view of these findings, the Justice Department should appeal the 9th Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court. Doing so would also provide an opportunity for the high court to revisit its April 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA-in which it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. This time around, the White House should be better prepared to argue its case. Science is on its side.

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1 comment:

Bob Feal-martinez said...

Mr Rays whole argument falls very early on when he uses the analogy relating to Passive Smoking and lung cancer.
'I regret to say that this book does not have an authoritative feeling about it, starting with the spelling error in the publisher's name on the title page. A search of the authors' names by my colleague Kate Mason took us to the far-right reaches of the Internet, including links to research questioning the link between passive smoking and lung cancer, jeremiads against organic food, and the websites of various American think tanks with the word `freedom' in their title.'
It is now an accepted reality that the link between Passive Smoking and Lung is not and can never be proved. Even the great and good at organisations like the WHO, ASH etal acknowledge this. So when the science doesn't exist the 'social engineering' collective get together to propagate the illusion anyway. It is easy to take the view that because the establish as a whole says something it must be true. It was that many centuries agao that the perceived truth was the world was flat, to say otherwise in the scientific world branded you a 'nutter'. If global warming and climate change is indeed cyclical, then all man can possible do is marginally slow it down, but at what overall cost to the environment.