Saturday, May 10, 2008

Alarmists lament growing skepticism! "The deniers are winning"

An amusing little rant by Joseph Romm below. Note his very vague usage: "The science". He means "The models" but that does not sound nearly as good. And it does not do much for his image as an intellectual that he cannot spell "colossal".

The science is clear about the reality of global warming and the fact that humans are the dominant cause (see "Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly"). But, sadly, that isn't clear to most Republicans.

Anybody who thinks the public debate is over - anybody who thinks the Big Lie doesn't work - should look at the latest poll results from the Pew Research Center (here):The proportion of Americans who say that the earth is getting warmer has decreased modestly since January 2007, mostly because of a decline among Republicans. Only 49% of Republican now even believe that the earth is warming! Thank you so much deniers, delayers, and mainstream media (see "Media enable denier spin 1: A (sort of) cold January doesn't mean climate stopped warming" and other links at the end).

Even more worrisome is just how many people don't believe humans are the cause of warming: Roughly half of Americans (47%) say the earth is warming because of human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels [and only 27% of Republicans]. But nearly as many people (45%) say that rising global temperatures are either mostly caused by natural environmental patterns (18%), say they do not know the cause of warming (6%), or say that no solid evidence of warming exists (21%).

I'd like to thank the media, especially NBC news, for contributing to this core talking point of the disinformers (See Dateline NBC: "Whatever the cause . global warming is a reality").


According to the United States Office of Strategic Services, Hitler's strategy was based on the view:. people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. In fact, Hitler himself defined the term "Big Lie," in his autobiography Mein Kempf, as a lie so "collosal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

I don't think this useful term should be a banned from public use just because Hitler defined it first. I certainly apologize to anybody who is upset by the analogy - I'm not trying to compare deniers with Nazis - there is no such comparison possible - nor does it apply to all of the people who advocate one of the 5 myths below. No, the "Big Lie" refers mostly to the strategy of the professional class of those who spread disinformation for a living. I do think the term gets to a fundamental reason why global warming denial is so effective.

The science makes unequivocally clear that the health and well-being of billions of people (and most species) are at grave risk from continued unrestricted human emissions of greenhouse gases (See "Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 0: The alternative is humanity's self-destruction" and "Must Read Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists").

But who could possibly believe that so many credible-sounding people, including major public leaders in the conservative movement, would so strongly argue that 1. The earth is not warming and/or 2. Humans are not a major cause of whatever warming is occurring and/or 3. The problem is not an urgent one because the impacts are distant and tolerable and/or 4. The solution is painful if not impossible with existing technologies anyway and/or 5. Adaptation is a better strategy than mitigation.

It is hard to believe - indeed it is almost impossible to believe.And it has proven almost impossible for the traditional media to deal with (see "Media enable denier spin 2: What if the MSM simply can't cover humanity's self-destruction?").

I don't have any easy answers to offer in this post. Shaming the traditional media doesn't seem to work because they are mostly shameless - indeed the vast majority of journalists wear it as a badge of honor that they are criticized equally by "both sides." I suppose the only answer is vigilance. The cost of losing is simply too high.


British region sees longest cold spell since 1892

WEATHER experts say this April has been the wettest in Coventry and Warwickshire since 2004. Staff at Bablake Weather station in Coventry reported the city had nearly 70mm of rain in April, the third month out of four this year with above-average rainfall. They also recorded three days with sleet or snowfall last month in Coventry, which is the highest incidence of April snowfall since 1998.

There was nearly 100 hours less sunshine than during April last year and with an average monthly temperature of 8.2C, this has been the coldest April in the city since 2001. And, according to the station, the region as a whole has been cooler over the past year. A spokesperson from Bablake Weather station said: "It looks like global warming has plateaued out in our region over the past 12 months. "Every month since May 2007 has been cooler than its counterpart 12 months previously in Coventry, and April 2008 has now continued that trend for a twelfth consecutive month."

He added: "Looking at the records, this is the longest such spell locally since our records began in 1892 - the previous record stood at eight months in both 1897 and 1934." The warmest April recorded by the station was in 2007, with temperatures averaging 11.7C, and the coldest in 1917 and 1922 at 5.8C.



The once-green Sahara turned to desert over thousands of years rather than in an abrupt shift as previously believed, according to a study on Thursday that may help understanding of future climate changes. And there are now signs of a tiny shift back towards greener conditions in parts of the Sahara, apparently because of global warming, said the lead author of the report about the desert's history published in the journal Science.

The study of ancient pollen, spores and aquatic organisms in sediments in Lake Yoa in northern Chad showed the region gradually shifted from savannah 6,000 years ago towards the arid conditions that took over about 2,700 years ago. The findings, about one of the biggest environmental shifts of the past 10,000 years, challenge past belief based on evidence in marine sediments that a far quicker change created the world's biggest hot desert. "The hypothesis (of a sudden shift) was astonishing but it was still taken up," said Stefan Kropelin of the University of Cologne in Germany, lead author of the study with scientists in Belgium, Canada, the United States, Sweden and France.

The scientists, studying the remote 3.5 sq km (1.4 sq mile) Lake Yoa, found the region had once had grasses and scattered acacia trees, ferns and herbs. The salty lake is renewed by groundwater welling up from beneath the desert. A gradual drying, blamed on shifts in monsoon rains linked to shifts in the power of the sun, meant large amounts of dust started blowing in the region about 4,300 years ago. The Sahara now covers an area the size of the United States.


Kropelin told Reuters that improved understanding of the formation of the Sahara might help climate modellers improve forecasts of what is in store from global warming, blamed by the U.N. Climate Panel on human emissions of greenhouse gases. The panel says that some areas will be more vulnerable to drought, others to more storms or floods.

The Sahara got greener when temperatures rose around the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. Warmer air can absorb more moisture from the oceans and it fell as rain far inland. "Today I think we have the same thing going on, a global warming," he said. And he said there were already greener signs in a huge area with almost no reliable weather records.

"I see a clear trend to a new greening of the Sahara, a very slow one," he said, based on visits to some of the remotest and uninhabited parts of the desert over the past two decades. "You go to unoccupied areas over a long time and you know there was pure sand there without a single snake or scorpion. Now you see tens of kilometers covered by grass," he said.

In Darfur in Sudan, where U.N. officials say 300,000 people may have died in five years of revolt, slightly higher rainfall was more than offset by a rise in the human population to 7 million from 1 million half a century ago. People and their animals quickly eradicated any greenery.



They know they will be out of government soon if they do not

The British government has shelved plans to get people to reduce their carbon footprint by allowing them to trade personal emissions permits because it would be too expensive and ambitious. After studying ways of encouraging individuals to cut their CO2 emissions so they could sell their excess permits to those who exceed their carbon quota, the environment ministry has concluded it is not yet practical. "Personal carbon trading has potential to engage individuals in taking action to combat climate change, but is essentially ahead of its time and expected costs for implementation are high," the ministry said Thursday.

The idea for personal CO2 trading is taken from the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which forces big industrial emitters of the gas that causes global warming to clean up their act or buy permits from companies that have. The ETS makes being green profitable and polluting more costly for business but does nothing to encourage more than 60 million people living in Britain to do anything about it, despite being responsible for a large chunk of Britain's total emissions.



The author below, Bernard Ingham is a journalist best known as Margaret Thatcher's press secretary

My text this week is taken from Corinthians I: "Behold, I shew you a mystery." In the election for London's Mayor, the Greens got just over three per cent of the vote. Leaving aside such misguided places as Norwich, where the Green Party gained three seats, they struggled elsewhere to poll anywhere near that. In my native Calderdale, with its strong "Green" lobby, they managed only just over one per cent - less than the BNP, English Democrats and Independents, the other small groups that fought the election there.

Yet Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Nationalists dance slavishly to the Green tune. To hear him talk, the dear, departed Ken Livingstone was as Green as grass. Gordon Brown would carpet Britain, onshore and offshore, with wind "farms". David Cameron sails under the "Vote Blue, Go Green" banner. The Liberal Democrats are mostly eco-nuts. And the European Union goes berserk at the very mention of carbon dioxide.

Which brings me to the mystery. What ails them? Have they lost their powers of reason? I ask because their pre-occupation with combating something that may or may not exist - that is, man-made global warming - is responsible for part of the growing burden of costs with which every household is now saddled. How much this energy/environmental burden contributed to Gordon Brown's Merrie May Day - otherwise known as Black Thursday - is far from clear, partly because consumers are unaware of what they are paying.

If they knew, all our politicians would belatedly bring some cost/benefit analysis to their environmentalism. It has been distressingly absent so far. Would the Prime Minister have had solar panels and Cameron a wind turbine installed on their houses had they known they would never get their money back on the "investment"? There are good and bad "buys", but they don't come much worse than waiting for decades, even half a century, for any return on your capital. It doesn't say much for their business acumen.

Belatedly, Labour MPs are pressing Gordon Brown to ditch some of his so-called green taxes since their environmentalism is only as strong as the economy or their political skins. So, how much is the Government forcing us to shell out to try to make them appear greenly virtuous? There's the rub. Governments are not in the habit of dishing out research grants to academics to show how stupidly they use our money, so all I can offer you are pointers.

Let's forget the so-called climate change levy (CCL), which has as marginal an effect on domestic consumers' bills as it does on CO2 reduction. Instead, the real damage is done by Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) designed to encourage the development of wind, wave, tidal, solar and other "renewable" forms of electricity. These are as idiotically conceived as the CCL, since nuclear and large-scale hydro-electricity, which emit next to no greenhouse gases, are excluded from both.

ROCs latterly have provided a 100 per cent subsidy substantially to wind power - so far the only major renewable source of electricity - and earlier this year, the Business Department forecast they would cost 23bn pounds by 2020, or, nearly 1,000 pounds per household. And for that we would optimistically get only 14 per cent of our electricity - and then only when the wind was blowing.

Unfortunately, that figure was out of date when it was calculated because Tony Blair had signed up to a battily impractical EU requirement to produce 20 per cent of our energy - and not just electricity - by 2020 from renewables. If we are to offset the massive use of oil and gas for transport and domestic heating with renewables, we shall, as things stand, have to generate up to 45 per cent of our power with wind. So that will treble the eventual cost to 3,000 per household - without providing a reliable power supply.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, says that eight per cent - or 80 pounds - of the current average current gas and electricity bill can be attributed to environmental charges and this is only going to rise with the billions required to link remote and largely useless wind farms to the grid.

This is not to mention more generally the costs of the carbon trading and offsetting rackets, the Treasury's punitive tax revenue from petrol and diesel, Gordon Brown's new "green levy" doubling car tax revenue to 4bn while, on the Treasury's own admission, reducing carbon emissions by less than one per cent, and taxes on rubbish. Why do we put up with this "green" extortion to so little purpose? That's the real mystery.



You may have wondered why there has been no Congressional effort to actually legislate the "global warming" policies that will supposedly save the planet from itself. For six years, the Democratic minority indulged in often nasty rhetoric, with the gist being: We know the problem. We know the solution. Your hearings are a delaying tactic. We. Must. Act. Now!

After winning the majority, Dems muttered for a while about how that mean George Bush would just veto their legi-salvation anyway: Why bother? We'll just work for a bigger majority - and the White House. Though, as I have noted on Planet Gore before, Bush had threatened no veto - and on those occasions since January 2007 when he did threaten a veto, in other policy contexts, the Dems typically took it as a challenge to pass something. So there seemed to be something missing from their political calculation, or at least their public rhetoric.

Today's E&E Daily (subscription required) has a hilarious apologia, "Sponsors lower expectations for Lieberman-Warner bill," offering a walk-through of the phenomenon afflicting our crusaders. Here as in pretty much every country in the world (posturing notwithstanding), global warming is such a grave threat that other people need to "do something." Given the inescapable price tag, lawmakers looked and discovered that anything they propose would actually be doing nothing - besides harming state economies. And if forced to choose, it seems they would prefer it be other states' economies that are harmed.

"The Lieberman-Warner-Boxer camp is facing increasing demands from all corners of the Senate to change the bill that would establish a cap-and-trade system with midcentury emission limits of 70 percent below 2005 levels.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer this week he was holding out in his support for the Lieberman-Warner bill because it did not do enough to protect his home state's manufacturing jobs while still stimulating investments in alternative energy. "I have serious concerns about any climate-change bill that doesn't take into account energy-intensive industries like we have in Ohio - glass and chemicals and steel and aluminum and foundries," Brown said.

"He's concerned," Brown spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler explained yesterday. "He's leaning toward a no."

Sen. Maria Cantwell [NB: Democrat] of Washington said in an interview that she is also pushing for changes in the Lieberman-Warner bill to benefit her home state's abundant supplies of hydropower. "We want to make sure people who are already good at reducing CO2 emissions will continue to do that and not be penalized," she said. Cantwell explained that she has not joined the bill as a cosponsor because she wants to keep working on it.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he wants a more beneficial emission allocation system for his state's rural energy producers." Obviously, I represent a state that's a significant power producer," Conrad said. "Most people don't think of North Dakota that way. But we produce electricity for nine states. We have the largest coal gasification plant in the country. We have very large reserves of lignite coal." [Meanwhile], Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) maintained that he is a long way from backing the Lieberman-Warner bill. Instead, he is taking a close look at an alternative climate bill circulated from Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) that opens with tax incentives for new energy technologies but falls back on cap and trade if the other ideas have not worked by 2030."

That mean George Bush and those nasty filibustering Republicans are blocking a climate bailout. Or, maybe not so much. As my CEI colleague Myron Ebell characterizes this: thieves fall out when it comes time to split up the loot.



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