By John R. Lott, Jr., writing on Fox News
John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all promise massive new regulations that will cost trillions of dollars to combat global warming. McCain says that it will be his first task if he wins the presidency. After consulting with Al Gore, Obama feels the problem is so imminent that it is not even really possible to wait until he becomes president. Ironically, this political unanimity is occurring as global temperatures have been cooling dramatically over the last decade.
Global temperatures have now largely eliminated most of the one degree Celsius warming that had previously occurred over the last 100 years. Hundreds of climate scientists have warned that there is not significant man-made global warming. A conference in New York on Monday and Tuesday this week will bring 100 scientists together to warn that the there is no man-made global warming crisis. Yet, we just keep on piling on more and more regulations without asking hard questions about whether they are justified.
New mileage per gallon regulations were signed into law last year that will mandate cars get 35 MPG. The rules will make us poorer, forcing people to buy products that aren't otherwise the best suited for them. More people will die because lighter cars are less safe, but we are told this is all worth it largely because of global warming. But much of what gets passed is arbitrary. Was there anything scientific about picking 35 MPG instead of, say, 30 MPG other than the desire to do more? And how do these regulations fit in with all the gasoline taxes we have that are already reducing gas use? To see if all this makes any sense there are really four questions that all have to be answered "yes."
1) Are global temperatures rising? Surely, they were rising from the late 1970s to 1998, but "there has been no net global warming since 1998." Indeed, the more recent numbers show that there is now evidence of significant cooling.
2) But supposing that the answer to the first question is "yes," is mankind responsible for a significant and noticeable portion of an increase in temperatures? Mankind is responsible for just a fraction of one percent of the effect from greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gases are not responsible for most of what causes warming (e.g., the Sun). Over 100 leading climate scientists from around the world signed a letter in December stating: "significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming." In December a list was also released of another 400 scientists who questioned the general notion of significant manmade global warming.
3) If the answer to both preceding questions is "yes," is an increase temperature changes "bad"? That answer is hardly obvious. Even the UN's original draft stated that an increase in temperature of up to two degrees Celsius would be good for many regions of the globe. Higher temperatures could increase ocean levels by between seven inches and two feet over the next 100 years. Although some blame global warming for seemingly everything, according to others higher temperatures will increase the amount of land that we can use to grow food, it will improve people's health, and increase biological diversity.
4) Finally, let's assume that the answer to all three previous questions is "yes." Does that mean we need more regulations and taxes? No, that is still not clear. If we believe that man-made global warming is "bad," we still don't want to eliminate all carbon emissions. Having no cars, no air conditioning, or no electricity would presumably be much worse than anything people are claiming from global warming. You want to pick a tax that just discourages carbon emissions to the point where the cost of global warming is greater than that of cutting emissions. Too little of a tax can be "bad" because we would produce greenhouse gases when their costs were greater than the benefits. But too much of a tax also makes us poorer because we won't be getting the benefits from cars or electricity even when the benefits exceed the costs that they would produce from global warming.
What is often ignored in the debate over global warming is that we already have very substantial taxes on gasoline, averaging 46 cents per gallon in the US. Even if one believes that gasoline use should be restricted to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the question is whether our taxes are already restricting use "too much" or "not enough." But simply saying that carbon dioxide emissions are bad isn't enough.
In fact, William Nordhaus, an economics professor at Yale and former member of President Carter's Council of Economic Advisors, puts the "right" level of gasoline taxes at around 10 cents a gallon today, reaching 16 cents per gallon in 2015. Nordhaus' analysis assumes that the answers to the first three questions are "yes." If anything, while gasoline taxes are partially used for such things as building roads, it seems quite plausible that, even accepting Nordhaus' assumptions, current gasoline taxes are much too high to deal with the harm from global warming.
However good the intentions, the debate over global warming is much more complicated than simply saying that the world is getting warmer. It is too bad that these questions won't be getting a real debate this election. The irony is that those who sell themselves as being so caring aren't careful enough to investigate the impact of their regulations.
A cautious keynote address at NYC anti-warming conference
The Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change kicked off this evening at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan. Joseph Bast, president of the Institute, began by announcing that the meeting of 500 participants had attracted more than 200 scientists, economists, and other policy analysts to address questions that he thinks have been insufficiently scrutinized by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to Bast, those questions include: (1) how reliable are the climate data; (2) how much of global warming is natural and how much is man-made; (3) how reliable are climate computer models; and (4) is reducing greenhouse gas emissions the best or only way to address climate change?
Heartland Institute senior policy analyst, James Taylor, told the participants that the organizers had invited many of the prominent "alarmists" to present their views at the conference. "Not a single one would come to speak," Taylor said.
The keynote speaker after the gala dinner was University of Virginia climatologist and Cato Institute Senior Environmental Fellow, Patrick Michaels. His talk was titled, "Global Warming's Convenient Facts." Michaels began by telling the audience, "Global warming is real and people have something to do with it." He also noted that one should not care a whit about the fact that humans are causing temperatures to increase. Rather, one should care how much the increase is likely to be.
Michaels pointed out that the surface records show average global temperatures increasing at a steady rate of +0.17 degrees centigrade per decade since 1977. He also hastened to put the kibosh on recent assertions that "global warming stopped in 1998." While global average temperatures have been essentially flat since 1998, Michaels argued that natural variations in the climate mask any increases due to greenhouse gases. In particular, cooler waters in the Pacific ("La Nina") and lower solar activity have conspired to drop average global temperatures. When these trends reverse, average global temperatures will rapidly rise to reveal the established long term man-made warming trend of +0.17 degrees centigrade per decade. Michaels warned against succumbing to the temptation to cite current flattened global temperatures as evidence against man-made global warming.
Michaels then turned to various climate change puzzles. Is Antarctica melting, he asked? Exhibit A in the Antarctica warming story is the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula. However, as Michaels showed, the peninsula is a very small area of the southern continent and most of Antarctica shows no warming trend. In fact, the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (4AR), released in 2007, found that "current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting." Michaels sardonically noted that former Vice President Al Gore did not say that sea level would rise by 20 feet in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth; he just showed animations of such a sea-level rise.
What about Greenland? Michaels displayed temperature records showing that Greenland's temperatures had been higher in the earlier part of the 20th century. In particular he cited a 2006 study by Danish researchers who reported, "The warmest year in the extended Greenland temperature record is 1941, while the 1930s and 1940s are the warmest decades." Michaels suggested that Greenland was losing about 25 cubic miles of ice annually. He further noted that there are about 690,000 cubic miles of ice locked up in Greenland's ice cap. At that rate of melting, Greenland's ice cap would shrink by less than 0.4 percent over the next century. According to recent reports, Greenland's ice cap is now losing about 57 cubic miles of ice annually. If that rate were sustained over the next 100 years, a little over 0.8 percent of the ice cap would melt away into the oceans.
Michaels also talked about the recent steep reduction in summer Arctic sea ice. However, he pointed to research by UCLA biological geographer Glen MacDonald and his colleagues who found that the Eurasian tree line reached as far as the shores of the Arctic Ocean 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. Why? Because "the mean July temperatures along the northern coastline of Russia may have been 2.5o to 7.0o celsius warmer than modern [ones]." This implies considerably reduced Arctic sea ice cover lasting for centuries in the past. Michaels noted in passing that polar bears survived that warmer period. Although Michaels did not mention it (one can't throw everything into one talk, after all), expanding boreal forests would darken the earth's surface which could in turn accelerate Arctic warming.
Michaels ended by asking, "How much will it warm?" He suggested that the constant rate of +0.17 degrees centigrade per decade is likely. What does he think we should do about that warming? Michaels worries that regulatory responses that aim to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions now will slow economic growth and technological progress, making future generations poorer and less able to address the challenges of man-made climate change.
All Climate Predictions uncertain: Climate Models Reviled
I spent the second day of the Heartland Institute's International Climate Change Conference listening to presentations in the climatology track. This means that I missed all of the presentations on paleoclimatology, the politics of climate change, the economics of climate change, and the impacts of climate change, not to mention the four different documentaries questioning climate change alarmism.
News flash: Climate skeptics don't agree among themselves about what, if anything, is going on with the world's climate. Occasionally there was something of a camp-meeting atmosphere among participants. It is clear that some feel victimized by those who are promoting the idea that man-made global warming is a big problem requiring immediate action. In any case, the climate skeptics began their day early with well-attended breakfast presentations starting at 7:00 a.m. One of the breakfast presenters was University of Guelph environmental economist Ross McKitrick. McKitrick and statistician Stephen McIntyre are the duo that pointed out the flaws in the famous "hockey stick" reconstruction of historical climate data by climatologist Michael Mann. The "hockey stick" purported to show that the 20th century was the warmest century in 1,000 years. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) featured it as evidence for climate change prominently in its Third Assessment Report.
In 2006, a National Research Council report dealing with controversy concluded that it was "plausible" that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were warmer in the 20th century than for any comparable period in the last 1,000 years. However, McKitrick and Ross were more or less vindicated when the NRC report added tellingly that "substantial uncertainties" in the data undermined confidence in any assessment of temperature changes prior to the year 1600 which just happened to have been near the nadir of the Little Ice Age. Furthermore, the NRC noted, "Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that 'the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium' because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales."
Over breakfast, McKitrick presented recently published work in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) showing that the surface temperature dataset are seriously contaminated by extraneous factors. Basically, climatologists try to take into account effects like urbanization, industrialization, and other land use changes and adjust temperature data accordingly to reveal the actual temperature trends. McKitrick tested the hypothesis that all these surface processes had been correctly filtered out which would imply that their effect on temperature data would be zero. He reported to the audience that this was not so. It turns out that the richer the country, the higher the temperature. McKitrick estimates that properly accounting for these non-climatic socioeconomic effects would cut "the estimated 1980-2002 global average temperature trend over land by about half."
Naturally such a conclusion has not gone unnoticed by those scientists concerned about the dangers of man-made global warming. McKitrick says that he has in fact run further tests to take into account their criticisms and asked to publish his additional results as a reply in the JGR. However, the editor told him that since no one had sent in a critique, there was no reason to publish a reply. McKitrick said that he has asked one of his chief critics to write up his critique and submit it, so that he could reply in the peer-reviewed literature.
So after breakfast, I settled into the room where the climatology track took place. A good bit of the climatology track was devoted to critiquing the general circulation climate models (GCMs) For example, University of Rochester physicist David Douglass presented the results of his recent study that compared the outputs of 22 different climate models with observational temperature data in the tropical troposphere. According to Douglass, the models show that tropical troposphere should warm as much as 3 times faster than surface. However, when this result is checked against observational temperature data from satellites and weather balloons, it turns out the surface and troposphere warm at about the same rate. Thus, Douglass concludes, greenhouse gases must be having only a minor impact on global temperature trends. Naturally, this study is controversial.
One of the more remarkable performances was by Australian entrepreneur David C. Archibald during one of the afternoon panels. Archibald is described in the conference materials as "a scientist operating in the fields of cancer research, climate science, and oil exploration." He also appears to have business interests in some oil fields in Australia. In any case, Archibald made it very clear that he is a big believer in the idea that climate change is primarily driven by the sun. Archibald's basic theory is that when the sun's magnetic field strength drops there are fewer sunspots which reduce the amount of particles ejected as the solar wind. Less solar wind allows more galactic cosmic rays to enter the Earth's atmosphere. Archibald is here relying on studies by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark which find that cosmic rays do produce cloud condensation nuclei which then might create low level clouds that reflect more sunlight back into space thus making the Earth colder.
Archibald predicts that the next solar cycle, Cycle 24, will produce a weak magnetic field which means that more cosmic rays will enter the atmosphere to create clouds and thus cool the earth. Actually, a 2007 NASA scientific panel was evenly split on the strong/weak prediction for Cycle 24. However, many researchers expect that Cycle 25 may be one the weakest in centuries. Archibald ended by boldly predicting that the world will see average temperatures drop by -2.2 degrees centigrade in the coming decade. That's more than three times the amount of warming the world has experienced over the last century. He also predicted as a consequence that the growing seasons in the United States would be shortened by a total of four weeks, dramatically reducing food production.
So as I puzzled over these presentations, it seems to me that we're being offered three different sets of predictions. First, there's the IPCC prediction that the next couple of decades should warm up at a rate of +0.2 degrees centigrade per decade (which is not all that different from climatologist Patrick Michael's rate of +0.17 degrees per decade.) Interestingly, as I've mentioned many times before, the U.K.'s Hadley Centre is predicting that average global temperatures in 2014 will be +0.3 degrees warmer than they were in 2004. Second, there are the climate skeptics who do not believe that warming will continue and expect a bit of cooling. And for those of an apocalyptic frame of mind, they have Archibald's -2.2 degrees of cooling over the next decade.
Finally, one of the more disquieting presentations was by retired TV meteorologist Anthony Watts. Part of Watts' training back when he was getting his degree in 1970s was to construct a Stevenson screen in which to shelter weather instruments. When he was putting it together his hands got covered in whitewash. He complained to his professor and suggested that he paint it with latex paint instead. His professor objected that whitewash had been used since 1892 and new paints would change the way the instruments functioned and possibly bias the data they collected. The U.S. Weather Bureau changed paints in the late 1970s.
With time on his hands, a retired Watts decided to run a back yard test with Stevenson screens using whitewash, white latex paint, unpainted wood and an aspirated temperature shield. He measured for several months, but typical among his results was one day in August when he found that the bare screen registered a maximum daytime temperature of 98.47 degrees, the latex screen was 97.74 degrees, the whitewashed one was 96.94 and the aspirated temperature shield reported 95.03 degrees. Watts decided to check to see how the Stevenson screens housing nearby weather stations that were part of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) had been painted. What Watts discovered was much more disturbing-many USHCN weather stations were deplorably placed near parking lots, air conditioning vents, under shade trees, at sewage treatment plants, and so forth.
Watts then proceeded to show the audience slide after slide of badly, even absurdly, sited weather stations. Watts has now created a website of volunteers who are working to identify and audit the siting of all USHCN weather stations. The results are reported at SurfaceStations.org (regrettably down for maintenance at the moment. But for 50 examples of badly sited stations, go here.) So far Watts' volunteers have reported 502 of the 1221 stations in the U.S., and only 13 percent of the network so far conforms to the National Weather Service's own best practices manual. This is shocking when one considers that these are the same surface stations that climatologists rely upon to detect temperature trends.
NY Climate Conference: Journey to the Center of Warming Sanity
If you rely solely on the mainstream media to keep informed, you may not have heard that the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change concluded in New York City on Tuesday. And if you have heard anything -- this being primarily a forum of skeptics -- it was likely of a last gasp effort by "flat-Earthers" sponsored by right-wingers in the pockets of big-oil to breathe life into their dying warming denial agenda. Well, having just returned from the 3 day event, I'm happy to report that the struggle against the ravages of warming alarmism is not only alive, but healthier than ever.
Granting a long overdue forum to noted dissenting scientists, economists and policy experts from around the world, the Heartland Institute-sponsored symposium at the Marriott Marquis offered welcomed reasoned analysis as alternative to last December's hysterical circus which was Bali. It also served as the perfect launch point for a long-awaited un-IPCC report -- Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.
Compiling the work of over 20 prominent fellow researchers, editor Fred Singer's NIPCC report distinguishes itself from the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment (AR4) and its predecessors in that it was not pre-programmed to "support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming (AGW) and the control of greenhouse gases." Instead, the nearly 50 page document is a non-political authoritative rebuttal to the multi-government controlled IPCC's "errors and outright falsehoods" regarding warming's measurement, likely drivers, and overall impact.
And its ultimate conclusion of "natural causes and a moderate warming trend with beneficial effects for humanity and wildlife" set the perfect framework for speakers and panelists - many of whom contributed to the NIPCC -- to elaborate on the summit's "Global warming is not a crisis" theme.
While Mainstream Media Ignored, Alarmist Propaganda Machine Attacked
Even before the first mention was made of activists and media misrepresenting current climate science while completely ignoring the serious inaccuracies in virtually all IPCC documents at Sunday's opening dinner, alarmist groups were busy marginalizing the event. Treehugger.com, DeSmogBlog.com and Greenpeace's Kert Davies -- who actually attended -- dubbed it "Denial-a-Palooza," and painted it as a desperate "final battle" in a war that's been long won by their side. Gloating over pending carbon regulations and collaborating GOP politicians, alarm-leader Davies asks:
"Just what do these denial professionals think of the likes of turncoats Walmart, General Electric, GM, Alcoa, Fed-Ex, Coca-Cola, Bank of America to name a few, who have acknowledged the threat, and either endorsed regulatory approaches or and taken measures to shift investment and business practices?"
Perhaps had Davies taken some time off from hijacking press members in the hallway to recycle-to-death his "I'm the skunk at the garden party" line, and actually attended a panel or two, he would have heard Steve Milloy's unsurprising response to that question -- Follow the MONEY. That's right, during a Monday afternoon political session, the founder of junkscience.com explained GE's double-dipping ability to manufacture and sell windmills while receiving government subsidies for doing so. And how, under proposed cap-and-trade plans, companies like Alcoa and DOW will be eligible for retroactive carbon credits for emission abatements they've accomplished in the past. Oh, and who do you suppose owns the exchange where these carbon credits will be traded? Can you spell Goldman Sachs?
Fuel refined from what these greenies don't understand about business could cleanly power the planet for years. As usual, our friends in the mainstream dutifully dispensed their duties as well. Covering the event for the New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin writes:
"One challenge they faced was that even within their own ranks, the group - among them government and university scientists, antiregulatory campaigners and Congressional staff members -- displayed a dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate."
Challenge, Andrew? Hearing cogent discussion and widely diverse idea-exchanges in contrast to the monotonous "settled science" IPCC-composed group-speak -- the compulsory soundtrack of previous climate conferences -- far from being a challenge, quickly reaffirmed which side wanted at the truth. As panel member Michael R Fox wrote back in 2006:
"When Michael Crichton said that `Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled,' he was right. When it comes to the natural sciences consensus is not science, and science is not consensus."
Revkin closed his attempted hatchet-job with an amazingly low-rent observation:
"The meeting was largely framed around science, but after the luncheon, when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so."
This was a gratuitous attempt to suggest that few of the participants were actually men of science. Of course, had he opened a program or even journeyed to a few of Monday's 20 panels he would realized that there were, in fact, over 100 in attendance, specializing in everything from climatology to geology to meteorology to physics. In fact, on the final day over 60 scientists found the time to come forward for the commemorative photo. Nice try.
Besides, the conference didn't focus exclusively on rebuking the junk science of AGW. While tracks one and two featured experts in paleoclimatology and climatology, respectively, the remaining three explored the impacts, economics and politics of warming itself and, moreover, the left's hysterical response to it.
Let's Get One Thing Settled -- The Science is NOT
There were a total of 32 discussions between the opening shredding of temperature records and biased recording mechanisms offered by Prof. Robert Balling and Ross McKitrick and the closing session's critique of media bias by ABC News correspondent John Stossel. Of those, 11 were purely devoted to science and another 8 studied impacts, which were often scientifically inclusive.
If I have any complaint at all about the conference it is only that with 5 sessions running concurrently, one was constantly forced to make the difficult decision of which to attend. That said, moving about as best I could landed me in the midst of many fascinating forums.
I heard Christopher Monckton recall the consequences of Hitler's eugenics programs, Stalin's lyceum movement, Mao's "great leap backward," and the World Health Organization's DDT ban to conclude that it "kills people if you get the science wrong." And he attributed the current AGW scare story to the "same people" arguably responsible for 40 million children dying from malaria by demagoguing DDT:
"It's the international left, it's the media wanting another scare story, it's teachers wanting to seem relevant ... who sense that they can advance their causes, collectively, together, by getting behind this nonsense."
Lord Mockton feels that the public will eventually become aware that the activists do, indeed, have the science all wrong and that "once the penny drops -- that will be the end of this scare too." The former policy advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher predicts we're not far from that point. I wonder.
Moving up two floors I found Dennis Avery pleading that we "don't burn food" by mandating biofuels in a misguided and futile effort to control atmospheric CO2 levels. Singer, Avery's coauthor of the fabulous Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, then spoke briefly about the NIPCC report which he would officially debut in his address to that day's plenary lunch session. Next, J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School discussed the impracticalities and pitfalls of warming-induced polar bear population fluctuation forecasts, particularly as they relate to green attempts to have the bears declared an endangered species. More on that later.
In the next session, astrophysicist and geoscientist Willie Soon made an extremely compelling argument that "CO2 is not in charge of all things weather and climate." And Professor Howard Hayden managed a big laugh when he lambasted IPCC reliance on computer models with the words "Garbage in - Gospel out."
Afterwards, Craig Loehle stepped up to the podium to discuss his recently well-received research into non-tree ring proxies. Computing mean temperature anomaly history from eighteen 2000 year-long data sets of 6 different types, Loehle constructed a graph which suggests that mean temperatures between 800 and 1300 A.D (a.k.a the Medieval Warm Period) were approximately 0.3øC warmer than 20th century values. This, of course, stands in complete incongruity to the already discredited hockey stick graph (MBH98 -- Michael Mann et al.) highlighted in Al Gore's movie and prominently featured in the UN's alarming 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report.
Loehle also demonstrated how his reconstruction fit quite nicely into the 1500 year cycle proposed by Singer and Avery and then elicited a few laughs by adding, "Fred Singer is helping me with this and that should guarantee that I never get it published." Funny, yes -- but sadder yet.
Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, I only managed to catch the tail end of meteorologist Anthony Watts' presentation. The founder of surfacestations.org has been reporting irregularities in the housings and locations of USHCN weather stations - from which virtually all agencies derive their data -- for quite some time. As I entered, the screen snapped continuous slides of stations placed near AC vents, parking lots, under shady trees, atop sun-soaked asphalt -- you name it. While some were actually funny - all were deeply disturbing.
My final climatology lesson came Tuesday morning from energy expert Richard S. Courtney who presenting a rather passionate analysis of the carbon cycle - specifically its "natural sequestration process [which] can easily cope with human emitted CO2."
Other science presenters time didn't allow me hear were CO2 expert Craig Idso, marine geologist Bob Carter, climate scientist David Archibald, Dr. Timothy Ball, professor Tim Patterson, meteorological researcher William Gray, climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer and too many more to possibly list. But I'd certainly heard more than enough to understand that minds much greater than those from which the words "the debate is over" sloppily spout know well that it is not.
Green Policy Future -- I fear you more than any science I have seen
I apologize to Dickens for the section heading, but given November's very possible Washington realignment, settling the science may be the least of our worries.
My foray into the conference's politics track began with David Henderson discussing how once UN pressured governments signed on to the IPCC CO2 hysteria, "received opinion" swayed the public to believe that the science was settled; AGW was, indeed, a threat; and that immediate action must be taken. The academic economist stressed that people drafting IPCC reports"are not policy neutral, they're not meant to be -- they're policy makers." And those running the IPCC "are those already convinced so they can't imagine any other conclusion."
Shifting to insanity of a more local nature, former EDF member John Charles told fascinating tales of the business extortive and often ludicrous means by which Portland, OR has attempted to earn the title "America's greenest city." Then came Steve Milloy, whose eye-opening greed-based explanation of just how we find ourselves at the apex of declaring CO2 a toxic chemical in spite of the concept of it driving climate change being "hogwash" I've already acknowledged.
Next, director of Climate Strategies Watch Paul Chesser gave a dizzying presentation on the shady relationship between the Center for Climate Strategies, a self-proclaimed technical advisory service organization claiming no specific policy advocacy, and the environmental advocacy group Pennsylvania Environment Council. Mystery fans curious about how alarmist money is driving legislation are encouraged to visit Paul's fascinating site and delve into this Chandleresque web of eco-deception and policy peddling intrigue.
Benny Peiser, social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University and editor of the excellent CCnet, addressed an impacts session following an interesting but time overrunning Hurricanes and Global Warming presentation by expert Stan Goldenberg. In his abbreviated podium appearance, Peiser addressed the human condition aspects of the debate. Granted, he says, probability is not on the side of recent Nobel laureate Gore -- who, by the way declined an invitation to speak at the conference.
Nonetheless, let's not minimize or ridicule the public anxiety caused by the headlines from alarmists who constantly declare an absolutely worst case scenario as likelihood. After all, asks Peiser, what if, as CO2 continues to rise, temperatures follow? Or, current foretelling of a possible new Little Ice Age -- the last one caused mass starvation in Europe -- should prove to be right? Listening to his real concerns about these anthropological impacts and the tripling of energy needs should China and India reach a modern lifestyle in the next 40 years certainly moves one's mind nearer the center of the debate. That is, until you're reminded of what the alarmists are planning.
Which I quickly was at Tuesday morning's final political forum. For openers, CEI senior fellow Marlo Lewis painted a harrowing picture of an America in which CO2 had been declared a pollutant by the EPA. He warned of an extension of Clean Air Act section 165 (preventing significant deterioration of air quality) to limit building and expansion permits for hotels, restaurants or any structure using natural gas for heating or cooking. He then coined the phrase "policy terrorism" to describe potential EPA extortion -- accept cap and trade or we'll blow up your economy. Nice.
Dr. Michael R. Fox then pointed out how lessons learned by the nuclear industry -- after its assault at the hands of "energy illiterate" activists -- must be appreciated in dealing with the current attack by "climate illiterates."
Finally, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works communications director took the helm. While the Bush Administration likely will not, last year's wrongly decided Supreme Court opinion has given future (read that Democrat) EPAs the power to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, warns Marc Morano. Furthermore, the decision was likely based on the AR4 SPM, which was written by not thousands, but rather 52 hand-selected scientists. Morano wonders whether knowledge of the "over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called `consensus' on man-made global warming" might have swayed the court's majority opinion in another direction. As do I. He then reminded us of the global Carbon tax urged by a panel of UN experts at Bali. And of the words of MIT climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen:
"Controlling Carbon is a bureaucrat's dream. If you control carbon you control life."
As an example of just how scary green policy may soon become -- remember Scott Armstrong's polar bear concerns? Here are Morano's:
"If polar bears are listed under the Endangered Species Act, then someone running a lawnmower in Miami could, theoretically, be cited for endangering the polar bear."
Earlier that morning, the president of the Czech Republic, Hon. Vaclav Klaus, received a standing ovation when he declared Europe's emission reduction goals impossible to meet without lowering populations or creating widespread poverty.
So, they're wrong on the science. They're wrong on the solutions. And, implementing their wrong solutions will impede freedom, retard growth and, ultimately, destroy economies. All while changing global mean temperatures not one single degree. Not one. As I hopped on the train headed for home, it struck me -- I may well have just left the only place on Earth where walked, however briefly, more sane-thinkers on the subject than not. The chill the thought sent up my spine is not completely gone.
Plastic bag bans absurd
Comment from Miranda Devine in Australia
Plastic bags are under siege, pilloried globally as a menace to the environment and a symbol of man's conspicuous consumption, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Without plastic bags we would all buy less, goes the thinking. But, of course, we won't. Hence you have the ludicrous situation at Bunnings where a customer buys a small, but nonetheless unwieldy bag of potting mix (in dirty plastic wrapping), a tape measure, a paint-sample pot, marker pens, pest oil and a bottle of Thrive, and is expected to carry it all out of the store in her arms, thus making filthy her white shirt, because Bunnings is a good environmental citizen and no longer provides plastic bags, or only reluctantly and for 10 cents a piece.
Australia's chief bag-slayer is our Environment Minister, the lantern-jawed former rock god Peter Garrett, who has little of substance left in his portfolio after the meaty bits were handed to Penny Wong. But his caged activist persona is just perfect for the kind of empty symbolism which has marked the Rudd Government's first 100 days. When it comes to evil Japanese whalers and plastic bags, Pete's your man. His first big act in office has been to declare bags would be banned or taxed into oblivion by year's end, and he has convened a summit of the nation's environment ministers next month to achieve that end. Jumping the queue on Sunday was South Australia's Premier, Mike Rann, who announced a ban on bags from next year. "I am urging all states to follow this important step in ridding our environment of these bags that contribute to greenhouse gases, clog up landfill, litter our streets and streams as well as kill sea life."
All very virtuous-sounding, except none of it is based on fact. The Productivity Commission did a cost-benefit analysis in 2006 on the merits or otherwise of plastic bags, and found they comprise just 2 per cent of litter and it was not certain if they damaged animals. The commission claimed plastic bags may be eco-friendly in solid landfill, because of their "stabilising qualities, leachate minimisation and minimising [of] greenhouse-gas emissions". Three-quarters of us recycle the bags as bin-liners, pooper-scoopers or carry bags, thus confining stuff that might otherwise become litter.
But, as usual, green hysteria obscures the truth. For instance, Planet Ark's founder, Jon Dee, was quoted in 2006 saying he had been "inundated" with calls from farmers whose calves had died after swallowing plastic bags. But the National Farmers Federation has never heard of such a thing, a spokesman said yesterday. Nor has the Cattle Council of Australia had a single report.
A 2002 Newfoundland study of 100,000 marine animals killed each year, which is widely cited by green groups as proof of the evils of plastic bags, turns out to have been wildly misquoted. The deaths were actually attributed to fishing nets. So ban fishing nets. And since cigarette butts comprise almost half of Clean Up Australia's rubbish collections, why not ban cigarettes instead of plastic bags? Unlike bags, fags are not useful, and there would be the long-term benefit of improved health.
In an attempt to fend off draconian bans, retailers have been getting stingy with plastic bags and making bucketloads on green imported Chinese faux-enviro-bags. We can live with that, but what is intolerable is the fact that so many plastic bags have become so flimsy they are next to useless for anything heavier than a Paddlepop. At my local shop an irate women recently marched in to demand a new bottle of soft drink after the one she had just bought fell through a hole in the bag and smashed all over the floor of the fish-and-chips store two doors up. Whose fault is it that the bag was a disaster, what was the customer's duty of care, and who should compensate the poor fish-and-chips shop owner for his sticky floor? Such are the great questions thrown up by the looming ban on plastic bags.
There is nothing about banning plastic bags that makes sense, yet it is a global craze, latched onto by lazy governments desperate to appear green. The tragedy is that while the ban will do little for the environment, it will ruin Australian businesses which make and recycle the bags. The largest manufacturer, Melbourne's Detmark Poly Bags, makes almost all the Australian checkout bags used by retailers, including Woolworths. Detmark, a 25-year-old private, Australian-owned company worth $15 million to $20 million, with about 30 workers, will be "just wiped out" if the Government's plastic bag ban is enforced, its managing director, Malcolm Davidson, said yesterday.
He points out the ethylene gas which is turned into ethylene pellets from which he makes his bags, is a byproduct of natural gas from the Bass Strait, piped to a processing plant in Melbourne. "If we didn't use the gas they'd have to burn it off", hardly a Gaia-friendly solution. Repeat Plastics Australia (Replas) is another successful Australian-owned company that will be hurt by the ban, since the fewer plastic bags available for recycling, the higher the price of the raw product. It turns plastic bags into everything from horse feeders to jetty planks, park benches to bollards.
"The plastic bag is a perfect product," said the company's national marketing manager, Mark Jacobsen. "It's 100 per cent recoverable, 100 per cent recyclable, cheap, practical. It would have to be one of the best products ever invented . The public is being hoodwinked into thinking plastic bags are bad . when the problem is [some people] are not disposing of them properly."
There is now such a shortage of waste plastic for recycling, he says prices have doubled in the past 18 months. "We are crying out for plastic," he says. "This has put the recycling industry back 50 years. How illogical can you get?"
As for the thick green so-called eco bag, which Garrett has described as "canvas", it also is a plastic bag, made of polypropylene. Each is the equivalent of 1000 of the original polyethylene bags, Jacobsen says. And "no one wants to recycle them," as the plastic requires a higher temperature to melt. The bags rip and soil like any other bag, despite the hype, and at some point they must be disposed of. They might not do much for marine animals, but someone is making a lot of money out of them.
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