Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Feather-brained climate reporting in the Financial Times

An email below from Chris Horner [], who has just caught up with a choice piece of Greenie nonsense. I commented on the nonsense concerned myself on 16th.

Imagine my surprise to read Fiona Harvey's absurd -- even for this context -- reportage of a NASA study that she purports found an association between human activity and observed climate change (ok, "proved", for all intents and purposes). Fiona is a lovely lady and I am sorry to have to say this, but this is an utterly incredible example of how little beat-journalists care for and/or grap the relevant substance, or simply how deep in the tank they are for the agenda.

She writes, "Scientists have been able to say with virtual certainty for the first time that the climate change observed over the past four decades is man made and not the result of natural phenomena....[raising] the likelihood of 'unnatural' causes of global warming to near certainty.'" Oh, dear.

In truth the study "found" no such thing, but instead assumed that observed changes were largely man-made; it then identified changes which it found "consistent with warming" - which, again, they assumed for these purposes...and certainly didn't *find*...was man-made - and said they're quite confident then that man caused the climate change-induced changes. This was facially apparent: "Given the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely to be due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, and furthermore that it is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change is having a significant impact on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents."

Further, in the words of a scientist-colleague, "It's a meta analysis and is purely associational. There is no data on causality of the temperature variation whatever. The bottom line is that causality of temperature increases is never put at issue. They assume all temperature variation is due exclusively to greenhouse gases. They don't factor in ENSO or PDO, much less variations in solar radiation."

Patrick Moore finds feather-brained reporting in "Discover" magazine

His unpublished letter to the editor below. His email:

Re: Sliced: Leaves at Work, page 17, April 2008, by Jocelyn Rice

As soon as I read this article I knew it was wrong. I have no idea how Jocelyn Rice came up with the idea of a "stomata effect" in which she claims, with reference to the UK Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, that increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere are resulting in reduced CO2 uptake by plants due to the stomata closing because the plants are "full" of CO2. (Stomata are the openings in the leaves of plants that allow CO2 into the interior of the leaf where it is converted into sugars by photosynthesis).

She also claims that this has resulted in a "3 percent increase in river runoff seen over the past century". Are we to believe that anyone has figures so accurate for global river runoff over the past century that a 3 percent change could be detected? This was my first clue that something was seriously amiss with this article. No citation is given to back up the 3 percent claim.

Then Ms. Rice goes on to report that "runoff within the next 100 years could increase by as much as 24 percent above preindustrial levels."

Contrary to these claims it is a known fact that increases in CO2 above present atmospheric levels greatly increases CO2 uptake, water uptake, and plant growth. CO2 is presently about 380 ppm in the global atmosphere. Controlled experiments have demonstrated conclusively that the optimum CO2 level for plant growth is between 1500 - 1800 ppm, more than four times the present level. Increases in growth of up to 40 percent are not uncommon.

This is why greenhouse growers routinely inject the exhaust gases from their fossil-fuel or wood-fired heaters into the greenhouse to enhance growth. This is a widely known fact and flies in the face of the so-called "stomata effect". Many papers have been written on the "fertilizer effect" of increasing CO2 concentrations.

It is not surprising that plants prefer higher CO2 levels than the present levels. CO2 has been much higher for most of the history of life than it is today. See the following graph of global temperature and CO2 levels for the past 600 million years. Note that during the Cambrian, when large life-forms first evolved, CO2 was at 7,000 ppm, nearly 20 times present levels.

Here are a few websites obtained by Googling "Optimum CO2 level for plant growth"

It troubles me that such an erroneous piece of reporting could get past the editors at a popular science magazine. I hope you will correct this serious piece of misinformation by publishing this letter or publishing an article on the true relationship between CO2 levels and plant growth.


The centre-left's influence is falling as it abandons progressive optimism for environmental zealousness

A series of disastrous election defeats have plunged Britain's Labour government into disarray. As Prime Minister Gordon Brown fights for survival, a political drama with momentous consequences is unfolding before our eyes. One of the last centre-left governments in Europe looks set to fall.

Many analysts of Labour's disintegration attribute the collapse of support to the current economic downturn, a perfect storm of global credit crunch combined with falling house and rising oil prices. In reality, the defeats Labour has suffered in recent elections mirror the deepening crisis now affecting almost every social democratic party in Europe. New Labour's pledge to evade the burden of high taxation has been broken.

In recent years, almost all of Europe's social democratic parties have lost in national elections. The collapse of support for Gordon Brown and his policies reveals a general decline of Europe's social democracy as a whole.

There are many good reasons for the deterioration of the centre-left's political influence and power. But perhaps one of the most crucial is the abandonment of their traditional core value of progressive optimism. After all, the left used to derive large amounts of its popular appeal from a firm belief in social and technological advancement, a political philosophy of societal optimism and hope. During the last couple of decades, however, it has eagerly adopted a green ideology that has replaced its confidence in future progress with the ever more intimidating prediction of climate catastrophe and environmental disaster, culminating in calls for economic sacrifices and collective belt-tightening.

In short, Britain's Labour Party has discarded its "progressive" principles for environmental fear-mongering and salvationist rhetoric in the expectation that voters would accept that only government control, central planning and higher taxes could prevent global disaster.

At the core of Labour's environmental philosophy and polity-making stands the notion that people in Britain and other industrialized countries consume too much energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels. For many years, Labour has chanted the green mantra that in order to prevent disastrous climate change caused by excessive energy consumption, Britons must make personal sacrifices in their lifestyle and behaviour. No other government in the world has employed the spectre of climate catastrophe as forcefully as Britain; no other administration has saddled taxpayers with a heavier burden of green taxation.

Eighteen months ago, Labour's David Miliband proposed the introduction of carbon "credit cards" that would be issued as part of a nationwide carbon rationing scheme. He suggested the allocation of an annual allowance for basic needs such as travel, energy or food. Two days after Labour's disastrous defeat in the local elections, the whole scheme was hastily abandoned.

Motorists in the UK are paying the highest fuel taxes in Europe, an average of almost œ900 annually. In the name of climate change mitigation, the government has progressively increased fuel, road and car taxes. It has burdened companies with a so-called Climate Change Levy and introduced an emissions trading scheme - costly policies that have had damaging effects on British competitiveness, energy prices and living standards. As a direct result, a record number of people, particularly Britain's poorest, oldest and most vulnerable, are increasingly falling on hard times. As many as five million households, more than 20% of the UK's population, are today living in "fuel poverty."

It is estimated that the economic burden of green taxes in Britain accounts for more than œ20-billion annually. British companies have lost one million manufacturing jobs since the levy was introduced in 2001. And a recent government report has warned that any attempt to meet Britain's renewable energy targets would cost taxpayers some œ75-billion, a price tag that would mean extra costs of more than œ3,000 for every family in the UK.

Fundamental to the multi-billion government subsidies for solar and wind energy companies is a direct transfer of wealth and money from the poor to the well-off. By subsidizing green companies and their uncompetitive products, ordinary taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for green gadgets that have little if any effect on the climate but are making green businessmen richer at the expense of ordinary families.

Labour's foolhardy policies are shaped by the conviction that, in the words of Miliband, tackling climate change is "the mass mobilizing movement of our age." The principles of fairness and equality used to stand at the heart of centre-left governments. Protecting the interests of poor and disadvantaged members of society was essential to the popular appeal of left and labour parties. Those parties have substituted these ideals with an environmental program in which saving the planet for the generations of the future has taken priority over the principle of liberating the underprivileged and disadvantaged from poverty and restitution today.

In effect, the Labour Party is gradually pricing the working and lower-middle classes out of their comfort zone. With these core voters counting the rising cost of green taxes, tariffs and restrictions, the Labour Party's chances of re-election are dwindling.

Labour's fundamental miscalculation has been to bank on the strength of the environmental movement and climate change anxiety in an attempt to "modernize" its agenda. Labour's climate policy, however, is now backfiring, turning into one of its biggest political liabilities. A recent survey suggests that more than 70% of British voters are no longer willing to pay higher taxes to fund climate change initiatives. In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed believe that the green agenda has been exploited in order to increase taxes.

Britain's Labour government may believe that its climate policies are saving the planet. But in the process they are destroying the foundations of the party.



Comment from Mick Hume in Britain

Get out your gas masks and tin hats. We are under attack from a noxious army of doom-troopers demanding that we treat climate change as a rerun of the Second World War. In the latest move to militarise everyday life, the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs has seriously proposed energy rationing, aka "personal carbon credits".

What next? Little (green) Hitlers patrolling the streets yelling "Put that high-energy light out!"? Or a campaign to bring back rickets? Everybody from the Prince of Wales to liberal newspapers and former Labour ministers now compares climate change to the war. Baroness Young of Old Scone, head of the Environment Agency, says this is "World War Three". If it's not breaking the Official Secrets Act, could somebody explain what on earth they are on about? The notion of a "war on carbon" makes even less sense than the glorious "wars" on terror/drugs/crime/whatever.

No, these evocations of the past appear political rather than practical. The aim is to create an ersatz Blitz Spirit that could bring people together behind a phoney war on global warming. Governments desperate for a unifying cause are naturally sympathetic. But they are also aware that hard-up Brits who see few bombs falling are unlikely to be too keen on making wartime sacrifices. Thus new Labour, which previously admitted it might "need to go back to rationing", has retreated from the carbon credits proposal, fearful of further voter desertions.

What solution do the doom-troopers propose to the problem of public resistance? Let's suspend democracy, like we did in the good old days! While one leading liberal writer insists that all the main parties must include identical austerity measures in their manifestos (not much change there then), another feminist veteran, Rosie Boycott, demands that they dump party politics altogether and form a national coalition based on Churchill's wartime Government. Altogether now: "We will fight them in the recycling bins..."

The most depressing thing for me is that the Left is leading this retreat into wartime bunkers with relish, claiming that sharing out the misery is "progressive". Whatever happened to raising people's living standards and tackling serious social problems by moving forwards rather than back? That's why it was called "progress". And if you do want a lesson from history, note that the US economy met the challenge of the Second World War by doubling its output.

When the misery of rationing finally ended in 1954, people held ceremonies to celebrate and the power minister publicly burnt a big replica ration book. No doubt today he would be dragged over the coals for the war crime of carbon emission.



The global warming debate arrives in the Senate next week, and it's about time. Finally, the Members will have to vote on something real, as opposed to their buck-passing to courts and regulators, and their easy trashing of President Bush. The vehicle is a bill that principal sponsors Joe Lieberman and John Warner are calling "landmark legislation." They're too modest. Warner-Lieberman would impose the most extensive government reorganization of the American economy since the 1930s.

Thankfully, the American system makes it hard for colossal tax and regulatory burdens to foxtrot into law without scrutiny. So we hope our politicians will take responsibility for the global-warming policies they say they favor. Or even begin to understand what they say they favor. For a bill as grandly ambitious as Warner-Lieberman, very few staff, much less Senators, even know what's in it. The press corps mainly cheerleads this political fad, without examining how it would work or what it would cost. So allow us to fill in some of the details.

Almost all economic activity requires energy, and about 85% of U.S. energy generates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. For centuries, these emissions were considered the natural byproduct of combustion. As recently as the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, they were consciously not even described as a "pollutant." But now that the politicians want to decrease those emissions, the government must create a new commodity - the right to create CO2 - and put a price on it. This is an unprecedented tax that would profoundly touch every corner of American life.

The policy preferred by the environmental lobby is called cap and trade. The government would set a limit on emissions that declines every year. The goal of Warner-Lieberman is to return to 2005 levels by 2012, and to reduce that by 30% by 2030.

"Allowances" for emissions would be distributed to covered businesses - power, oil, gas, heavy industry, manufacturing, etc. If they produced less than their allotment, the companies could sell the allowances, or trade them. Cap and trade limits on energy are thus sometimes misleadingly described as a "free market" policy that would create the flexibility for CO2 reductions how and where they are least expensive. But the limits are still a huge tax.

And for the most part, the politicians favor cap and trade because it is an indirect tax. A direct tax - say, on gasoline - would be far more transparent, but it would also be unpopular. Cap and trade is a tax imposed on business, disguising the true costs and thus making it more politically palatable. In reality, firms will merely pass on these costs to customers, and ultimately down the energy chain to all Americans. Higher prices are what are supposed to motivate the investments and behavioral changes required to use less carbon.

The other reason politicians like cap and trade is because it gives them a cut of the action and the ability to pick winners and losers. Some of the allowances would be given away, at least at the start, while the rest would be auctioned off, with the share of auctions increasing over time. This is a giant revenue grab. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these auctions would net $304 billion by 2013 and $1.19 trillion over the next decade. Since the government controls the number and distribution of allowances, it is also handing itself the political right to influence the price of every good and service in the economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this meddling would cause a cumulative reduction in the growth of GDP by between 0.9% and 3.8% by 2030. Add 20 years, and the reduction is between 2.4% and 6.9% - that is, from $1 trillion to $2.8 trillion.

These estimates assume that electricity prices will increase by 44% above what they would otherwise be by 2030. They also assume that existing coal-fired power plants, which currently provide about 50% of U.S. electric power, will be shut down - to be replaced with at least 150% growth in new nuclear facilities, plus other "alternatives." Yet there are only 104 current U.S. nuclear plants, and the industry itself says it's optimistic to think even 30 more can be built by 2020.

In fact, it is pointless to project so far out over multiple decades, since no one knows how markets and consumers would respond, whether the rules would remain constant, or what new technologies might come along. While moralizing about America, most of Europe has failed to meet its mandatory cap and trade goals under the Kyoto Protocol. But the U.S. isn't Italy; we will enforce our laws. So our guess is that these cost estimates are invariably far too low.

In a bow to this reality, California Democrat Barbara Boxer last week introduced 157 pages of amendments to Warner-Lieberman. Most notably, she sets aside at least $800 billion through 2050 for consumer tax relief. So while imposing a huge new tax on all Americans, she vouchsafes to return some of the money to some people. Needless to say, the Senator will be the judge of who receives her dispensation.

Ms. Boxer's amendment shows that cap and trade is also a massive wealth redistribution scheme - all mediated by her and her fellow Platonic rulers. Oh, and she also includes an "emergency off-ramp," should costs prove too onerous. This is really a political "off-ramp" to make Warner-Lieberman seem less dangerous, but you can imagine her reaction if some future Republican President decided to take it.

The upshot is that trillions in assets and millions of jobs would be at the mercy of Congress and the bureaucracy, all for greenhouse gas reductions that would have a meaningless impact on global carbon emissions if China and India don't participate. And only somewhat less meaningless if they do.

Warner-Lieberman has no chance of becoming law this year with President Bush in the White House. But the goal of this Senate exercise is political - to get Members on the record early, preferably before the burdens of cap and trade become more widely understood; to give Democrats a campaign issue; and to pour the legislative foundation that the next Administration could cite as it attempts to regulate carbon limits while waiting for Congress to act.

So by all means let's have this debate amid $4 gasoline, and not only on C-Span. If Americans are going to cede this much power to the political class, they at least ought to do it knowing the price they will pay.


Australia's public broadcaster lets its Greenie contempt for ordinary people show a little more clearly than usual

The average Australian is said to be a "pig". The fact that most Australians watch commercial channels most of the time must rile these elitists

An ABC website has been accused of portraying farmers and forestry workers as evil, and telling kids how much carbon they can produce before they die. The Planet Slayer website, which can be accessed via the science section on the ABC home page, also demonises people who eat meat and those involved in the nuclear industry, a Senate estimates committee heard.

The site has several features including a cartoon series, Adventures of Greena, and a tool called Prof Schpinkee's Greenhouse Calculator to help kids work out their carbon footprint. The calculator lets users compare their own carbon output to the "average Aussie greenhouse pig" and estimates at what age a person should die so they don't use more than their fair share of the Earth's resources. Too much carbon production causes a cartoon pig to explode, leaving behind a pool of blood.

Victorian Liberal senator Mitch Fifield today questioned the accuracy and appropriateness of some of the imagery and content on the website. "I know there's a little bit of goth in all of us, but this might be taking it just a little too far," Senator Fifield said of the quasi life-expectancy calculator. "Do you think it's appropriate that the ABC portray the average Australian as a pig and is it appropriate for a website obviously geared towards kids to depict people who are average Australians as massive overweight ugly pigs, oozing slime from their mouths, and then to have these pigs blow up in a mass of blood and guts?"

Senator Fifield said the Adventures of Greena cartoon series, which follows the exploits of a young female activist, also raised questions. He said episode two of the 12-part series, Fistful of Woodchips, portrayed a logger as "rough and evil". "I don't think that it's a particularly helpful way of depicting hard-working Australians who are trying to go about making an honest living, as though they're these rough and evil dudes out to do bad."

Senator Fifield said other episodes in the series portrayed people who eat meat, those involved in the nuclear industry and farmers who grow GM crops as evil. "I'm not sure if it's helpful to portray struggling farmers who are looking at GM technology to help them improve their yield in a period of drought as some sort of evil promoters of (these) products."

ABC managing director Mark Scott said the site was not designed to offend certain quarters of the community but to engage children in environmental issues. "The site has been developed to appeal to children and its been done in an irreverent way ... to make it engaging," Mr Scott said. "It's not an attempt to write public policy ... it's an attempt to educate school students on the impact of the modern Western lifestyle on carbon emissions and the whole issue that we are dealing with." Mr Scott said the ABC would review the content on the site.



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


1 comment:

Woody said...

The "kids show" telling kids "when they should die" once they used up their carbon quotas is pretty sick. However, when I brought it to the attention of another blogger on the subject of climate change, she wrote back, "I think it is just too silly to post on." I disagree. It's one thing to scare adults with false claims. It's another thing to tell kids when they should die. Global warming fanatics have no moral compass.

BTW, you may find this funny. "An Inconvenient Truth" is being made into an opera. Isn't opera boring enough without bringing Al Gore into it?