Monday, May 19, 2008

Prince Charles: Eighteen months to stop climate change disaster

What a dummy! The guy lacks even basic caution. He will be a laughing stock in 18 months time. Canny doomsters don't put an exact date on anything -- not unless it is way in the future

In one of his most out-spoken interventions in the climate change debate, he said a 15 billion pound annual programme was required to halt deforestation or the world would have to live with the dire consequences. "We will end up seeing more drought and starvation on a grand scale. Weather patterns will become even more terrifying and there will be less and less rainfall," he said. "We are asking for something pretty dreadful unless we really understand the issues now and [the] urgency of them." The Prince said the rainforests, which provide the "air conditioning system for the entire planet", releasing water vapour and absorbing carbon, were being lost to poor farmers desperate to make a living.

He said that every year, 20 million hectares of forest - equivalent to the area of England, Wales and Scotland - were destroyed and called for a "gigantic partnership" of governments, businesses and consumers to slow it down. "What we have got to do is try to ensure that these forests are more valuable alive than dead. At the moment, there is more value in them being dead," he said.

He estimated that the cost would be about 15 billion a year but said that this should be viewed as an insurance policy for the whole world. "That is roughly just under one per cent of all the insurance premiums paid in the world in any one year. It is an insurance premium to ensure the world has some rainfall and reasonable weather patterns. It is a good deal."

Last month, the Prince had a meeting at St James's Palace with four state governors from Brazil to discuss the best way to allocate the money. One option would be for an organisation such as the World Bank to administer the fund. The Prince made clear yesterday that if nothing was done there was a "severe danger of losing a major part of the battle against climate change".

In an interview on Radio 4's Today programme, the Prince disclosed that he had raised his concerns with the White House, Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and President Sarkozy, of France. He said he had pressed Barclays, Shell, Goldman Sachs and McDonald's to join his campaign. But he also said consumers had to play their part by choosing products that were environmentally sustainable and called for improvements in labelling.

He denied, however, that he was interfering in the political process. "All I am ever trying to do is to provide an enabling facility," he said. He conceded that at times he had been forced to keep his counsel when he would have liked to have spoken out. "You learn as you go along. I am going to be 60 this year. I would be a blinding idiot if I had not learnt a bit by now."


Environmentalism: "frustrated, angry and confused"

Post below excerpted from Climate resistance . See the original for links and more

Over at the Daily Kos, and European Tribune, blogger 'Johnnyrook' attempts to connect 'denialism' with an ideology. The piece itself is an answer to a blog post elsewhere by Joseph Romm, The denialists are winning, especially with the GOP. David Roberts tried this approach on the Nation blog back in February:
Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a '70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That's because -- news flash! -- climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference.

We replied that environmentalism used 'science' as a fig leaf. Environmentalism is an ideological position, whereas scepticism encompasses a range of objections to it, some of which are, in fact, perfectly valid on scientific grounds.

What Johnnyrook writes in Why Climate Denialists are Blind to Facts and Reason: The Role of Ideology is, frankly, unmitigated and unimportant crap. But it does offer some insight into the 'thought processes' of grass-roots Environmentalism. Johnnyrook whines that
Anyone who has tried to discuss Climaticide with a climate change denialist knows just how frustrating it can be. No matter how well informed you are, no matter how many peer-reviewed studies you cite, or how many times you point out the overwhelming agreement based on the evidence that exists among climate scientists that global warming is real and is principally caused by human fossil fuel use, you will get no where. Your adversary will deny the facts, cherry pick the scientific evidence for bits of data that, taken out of context, support his/her denialist view, or drag out long-debunked counter-arguments in the hope that they are unfamiliar to you and that you will not be able to refute them. If you succeed in countering all of his arguments he will most likely reword them and start all over again.

Climaticide? Climaticide? Is it even possible to kill a climate? But moving on, Johnnyrook clearly believes himself to be in possession of a faultless argument. So it must be the rest of the world that's wrong. Who said environmentalism was emotional, arrogant, and infantile?
After a couple of hours of this, you end up frustrated, angry and confused. You give up and storm off vowing to study and learn even more so that next time you will be better prepared and able to convince the denialist of the error of his/her ways.

Our advice to little Johnny is that perhaps his tantrums would be easier to manage if he reflected on why his arguments aren't convincing, rather than sought to find other reasons to explain his failure. But Johnny's tantrums are characteristic of the environmental movement as a whole - a movement that is unable to take responsibility for its own failures.
No, the true climate change denialist is an ideologue. Understanding this fact is key to comprehending the denialist mentality and to knowing how to respond to denialist arguments. Ideologues are adherents of closed, ideological systems, in which all problems are ultimately attributed to a single cause: original sin (Christianity), the accumulation of private property (Communism), restrictions imposed on a superior race by inferior ones (Fascism), the destruction of "freedom" by "Big Government" (Conservative/Libertarian).

And here Johnny gives us some insight into why he fails to make convincing political arguments. First, he doesn't recognise his own perspective as ideological, and that it is, in his own terms, about a 'single cause'. Perhaps we can help him - spell it out for him, in fact - with the aid of some emphasis to illustrate our point:


Environmentalists see society as intrinsically, fundamentally, inextricably linked to 'nature' - manifested as the 'environment'. To the Environmentalist, all moral actions are transmitted through the biosphere. Your wealth, relative to another's poverty is not seen in terms of the political, sociological, or historical background to your circumstances and those of your counterparts. It is instead seen in terms of biological and geological processes. You buy a big car, and the consequence is that it rains too much/doesn't rain at all on the poor, starving child in Africa. So, instead of addressing the poverty of the poor child through developing a critique of the socio-political relations throughout the world in order that we might begin to help, the Environmentalist just wants you to withdraw from your evil lifestyle. This moral framework is unchallengeable, according to the Environmentalist, because the causal chain between your consumer choice and the plight of the child in can be explained in 'scientific' rather than social terms; the car, the combustion, the CO2, the greenhouse effect, the warming, the climate change, the drought. (Forget any sense of proportion between these steps).

This perspective takes poverty as a given. Indeed, it needs poverty. Without poverty to designate a moral absolute, Environmentalism's moral calculations would cease to have meaning. Its objectives are, therefore, not to abolish poverty, but to make it 'less bad'. And, of course, the abolishment of poverty is, according to Johnny's maxim, 'ideological'. Thus, we are prevented from approaching the problem of poverty - or even the effects of climate change - through politics. In other words, poverty is not seen as a political problem. After all, poverty is natural. Just ask Malthus.

Second, Johnny gives us a particularly ignorant description of ideologies. Christianity is all about 'original sin', apparently. But can we comfortably say that Christianity is an ideology? It may well offer us an account of creation, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other ideological ideas. Can a Christian not be committed to free trade, on the one hand, or the abolition of private property on the other? There are interesting moral arguments for both. But why should Jesus be bothered, either way? And isn't that a problem for Christians, rather than political scientists? Communism, apparently, blames all problems on the accumulation of private property. Actually, Marx's contention was that the accumulation of private property is necessary to create a working class in an industrial - rather than feudal - society. In this sense, the accumulation begins to solve many of the problems of oppression and inequality.

And Johnny is very much mistaken with his conception of Fascism, which he confuses with nazism. Nazism is indeed a racialised form of Fascism. But Fascism itself isn't a necessarily a racist ideology, and there is no consensus amongst historians about how fascism can be characterised; it is an issue of much debate, somewhat clouded by the fact that, at the time of fascism and Nazism, ideas about race such as eugenics were mainstream and orthodox - dare we say, the subject of a consensus. Finally, Johnny confuses libertarianism with conservatism. Yet conservatism, as the name suggests, seeks to use the state to preserve social orders, traditions and cultures, while libertarianism is a broader term, in that a libertarian would generally object to the state's intervention in such matters. Johnny's grasp on political ideologies is weak. No wonder then, that he fails to recognise his own.

He continues, oblivious,
Once the initial conclusion is reached (often after a long, complicated chain of deductive reasoning--Marx's Capital, the writings of Ayn Rand, etc.) that factor X is the source of all of society's ills, all debate outside the ideology's framework ends.

Hmm. Hasn't Johnny opened his story by telling us that carbon is the source of society's ills?
One may deduce new positions from the ideology's fundamental principles, but the fundamental principles can not be questioned because such questioning might undermine the entire ideological system and the psychological security that it provides, leaving the true believer in that most urgently to be avoided of states: UNCERTAINTY. Ideology is thus, inevitably, by it's very nature, anti-empirical.

We repeat: ENVIRONMENTalism

Moreover, is it not precisely uncertainty that blights the environmental movement? Isn't it the environmental movement that needs to tell us that 'the science is in'? Wasn't it Johnny who was, just a few paragraphs ago, evincing his own sheer and absolute rightness? Isn't the entire momentum of the environmental movement predicated on a 'scientific consensus'?


With global negotiations for an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol "hardly progressing", the EU is keen to assuage industry concerns about rising emissions costs and prevent plant delocalisation, the Commission said on 15 May.


On 23 January, the Commission proposed a 'package' of legislative proposals designed to reduce EU CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. That figure will be upped to 30% if an international deal on reducing global CO2 emissions can be reached - a condition that was endorsed by EU heads of state during a landmark summit in March 2007.

There is "little if any chance" for the EU to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020 unless a solution to the "problematique" of energy intensive industries is found, according to Mogens Peter Carl, director-general of the Commission's environment service.

While international negotiations received a "boost of vitamins" during a major conference in Bali in December 2007, the talks are "hardly progressing at an impressive speed," Peter Carl said on Thursday (15 May) during an official hearing on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

Moving out

EU energy intensive industries are warning that they would be forced to move operations outside the EU if global talks fail, as industries operating in countries with fewer restrictions on CO2 emissions would have an unfair advantage particularly over EU chemicals, aluminium and steel manufacturers. Plant delocalisation would lead to a situation of 'carbon leakage', whereby EU CO2 emission would not be reduced through cleaner production methods but rather 'leaked' outside the EU's borders.

A proposal to revise and strengthen the EU ETS for the period after 2012, a main part of the 23 January package, is at the heart of the concerns over carbon leakage. The Commission is pushing for a full auctioning of emissions rights following a gradual phasing-out of free allowances. Exceptions to the phase-out, or a border tax on outside competitors, could be agreed as a means to protect select EU sectors. But the Commission has yet to define precisely what kind of mechanism it would implement, and there are disagreements over the precise definition of 'energy intensive'. EU industry groups like BusinessEurope say the situation creates uncertainty and discourages investors.

The leakage debate

Meanwhile, environmental groups and a number of green MEPs in the Parliament say industry concerns are being overstated, and are pushing for a full auctioning of CO2 allowances in order to encourage investments in clean technologies.

And not all experts agree in principle that a tighter EU carbon market would necessarily push industries to relocate. "Environmental policies are only one determinant of plant and production location decisions. Costs imposed by tighter pollution regulation are not a major determinant of trade and location patterns, even for those sectors most likely to be affected by such regulation," according to the 2006 Stern Report on climate change.

The Commission, however, is convinced the problem is real, and says it is "patently absurd" to suggest that Brussels wants to force a relocation of EU industries and jobs, Peter Carl said. But industries remain sceptical and critical, despite the Commission's stated support.

"Carbon leakage is already happening," says Daniel Cloquet, director of Industrial Affairs at BusinessEurope. As EU energy prices rise, the bloc is becoming increasingly less competitive for manufacturers of products like chemicals and aluminium, many of whom are facing stiff competition from firms operating in countries like Saudi Arabia, where access to cheap energy is abundant.

In this context, a tightened EU ETS with mandatory auctioning will make staying competitive much more difficult, he said.


Green Gasbag

If Republicans are going to be stampeded by phony environmental alarms and propose terrible public policies in the name of these scams, what the hell do we need Democrats for?

America is so far gone in the global warming superstition that the Republican candidate for president (the REPUBLICAN!) is proposing a Soviet scheme to take decisions about energy use out of the private sector where they belong and turn them over to politicians and bureaucrats. If there's a quicker way to make America into a Third World nation, pray tell me what it is.

When a politician whoops up a really bad public policy, it's reasonable to ask if said politician is cynical or just stupid. But this one's a real puzzlement. We've seen enough of John McCain to know that he's not stupid -- willful sometimes, erratic for sure, too eager to insult conservatives, and taken to the odd flight of pique or narcissism. But he's not stupid by a long shot. And for all his faults, he's not notably cynical. At least for a politician.

So how account for the execrable cap and trade policy McCain sprung on us from Portland, Oregon, Monday and which he says will save us from the dreaded carbon dioxide? (If you're asking: "Carbon dioxide -- isn't that what makes the flowers grow and what baby's breath is made of?" Answer: yes.) All a cap and trade system (government energy rationing) would bring about is a sharp decline in our standard of living in return for, well, nothing. Sources of energy to replace the carbon-based ones we rely on now just aren't here yet, and we don't know when they will be.

Ignoring this, McCain is promising a terrible policy in the name of preventing warming of the planet, which some scientists and lots of politicians and bureaucrats and enviro-nutters claim will lead to a list of almost Biblical horrors. You've heard the litany -- death and disease from rising sea levels, brain-frying heat, lush land turning to desert, storms so strong as to make Hurricane Katrina seem a summer breeze by comparison, and rampant erectile dysfunction. (OK, I made that last one up -- but the only reason the global warming hysterics haven't claimed this is that they haven't thought of it yet.)

THE ONLY PROBLEM is that the evidence for these almost operatic calamities is, contrary to most of the public clamor, paper thin. Most scientists don't buy into the calamity theory, though various political organizations, like the UN's International Panel on Climate Control, claim they do. Consider just a few things:

* The temperature of the Earth and its atmosphere has been going up and down in long cycles for at least the last million years, and there's no convincing evidence that the slight increase in temperature during the 20th century (there's been hardly any measurable increase so far this century) is anything more or less than the normal variation.

* The Earth's warm periods (during one of which Greenland was named Greenland -- for good reason), many of them warmer than we are now, have been some of the planet's more prosperous times. The horrors that Al Gore and his co-religionists are threatening us with did not occur during the planet's previous warm periods. No reason to believe they will take place now.

* Even during the 20th century when the temperature of the planet went up about .7 of a degree Celsius (we have to say "about" because taking the planet's temperature is difficult, there being no clear place to stick the thermometer), temperature did not vary with the levels of CO2 being produced by Man. Much of the warming took place during the first half of the century before Man became really good at producing greenhouse gasses. Then temperatures actually went down from about 1940 into the seventies, the period of the most rapid industrialization on the planet, before starting up again in the eighties. The evidence tends to show that CO2 levels increase after warming as an effect rather than preceding it as a cause.

* Computer models relied on by scientists to predict future global temperature have been consistently wrong in the predictions they've made for the last decade-plus, vastly overestimating actual global temperatures.

* While global temperatures have not varied with the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, they have varied pretty closely to solar cycles. Which, as our Sun is the source of all heat, makes a good deal of sense. Knowing there has been some melting on the Earth's polar caps is less alarming when we realize polar caps on other planets in our solar system are also showing some melting.

* There's plenty more of this sort that puts the lie to the arguments of the calamitists. But you get the idea. The arguments of the "Repent now, the end is near" crowd dissolve on even half-way close inspection. You don't have to have a Ph.D. in science to see the disconnects between the febrile claims and the sparse evidence.

What seems crystal clear is that what has come to be known as global warming and the horrors that are said to attend it are not scientific questions. They aren't. The issue is political. Period. Paragraph.

FOR THE LEFT'S political agenda of taxes and regulation without end, you couldn't design a better scam than global warming. And a scam is all it is. As someone smart and famous once said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and dazzle the rest of them with statistics and charts." These folks just want as much control over the economy as they now exercise, to our sorrow, over the culture. And global warming is their ticket to ride.

What a dumb lucky break for the lefties that someone hit on this rich vein of nonsense. It would be enough to make some of them think there's a God, if they weren't so sure there isn't. Global warming has everything necessary to fool the marks -- at least those who don't have the time to play close attention, which is almost everyone because most everyone has a life.

The question of what causes climate change -- talk of "tackling climate change" is incoherent because climate is always changing -- is complicated. So almost no one has the time, talent, or inclination to pick through all the assertions (hypotheses) and compare them with the facts (evidence) to determine who's telling the truth. So the cynical activists and the hysterics can make the most preposterous claims, sure in the knowledge that journalists -- most of whom are so poorly educated in science they wouldn't know the scientific method from the rhythm method, and in any case just want something sensational for page one -- won't call them on it.

So why does McCain whoop this nonsense up? If you see him, please ask him. He doesn't return my calls. We've agreed that McCain isn't stupid. But if he's going to go along with leftwing silliness of this sort, he may as well be. If the so-called conservative party makes no attempt to counter left-wing silliness of epic proportions, and proposes policies that put our standard of living at risk, perhaps it's the Republicans we don't need.


A most "flexible" theory

It is, we are told, as inevitable and inexorable as night follows day that, as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, so too does the temperature of the world. Inconveniently for this axiomatic truth, however, while carbon dioxide has continued to increase the temperature of the planet has stayed flat over the past decade and even recently dropped like a stone. Never mind: man-made global warming turns out to be the most obliging of theories because now we are told that this inexorable process of heating is now to take a ten-year pause.

The Telegraph tells us that global warming is to stop
"while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions... This would mean that the 0.3øC global average temperature rise which has been predicted for the next decade by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may not happen, according to the paper published in the scientific journal Nature"

but only until 2015, apparently, when it will start up again.

So let's get this right. More carbon dioxide means more global warming - except when, er, 'natural variations in climate' which are apparently immune to this immutable process (fancy!) get in the way. With a precision of prediction which would have caused medieval sorcerers to strike crystal balls off their wedding present lists, these scientists can foretell precisely when these 'natural climate variations' will subside - even though at the very same time Richard Wood of the Hadley Centre confides:
"...climate predictions for a decade ahead would always be to some extent uncertain..."

Always uncertain, eh? But isn't the prediction that the planet is about to fry so certain that, as the Royal Society so memorably told us, the argument is over? Truly, a most flexible theory indeed. One can only marvel.


Peak Oil Panic

There's plenty of oil for everybody.

THERE ARE MORE MISUNDERSTANDINGS about the oil market than perhaps any other. In America, drivers are fuming and politicians are demanding explanations because gasoline has hit about $3.50 per gallon. That's less than half the price being paid by motorists in most industrialized countries. High to us is low to them. Then there are the oil refiners. Relative to the $120 price of crude, $3.50 for gasoline is so cheap that their margins have virtually disappeared. So "high" in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Oxford, Mississippi is "low" in similarly named cities in the UK, and "high" for motorists is "low" for refiners. It depends where you live, and at which point in the supply chain you find yourself.

But assume that prices are "high", which indeed they are by historic standards. We are mistaken when we think these "high" prices are causing inflation. High oil prices can force consumers to spend more on gasoline and heating oil, at the expense of other purchases. Ask any suffering restaurateur or clothes retailer if you doubt that. But high oil prices can't trigger a rise in the general price level--inflation--unless someone pumps money into the economy so that, to use an oldie but goodie from the economists' lexicon, there is more money chasing the same amount of goods. If you want something to blame for inflation, don't look at oil prices, look at the billions the Federal Reserve Board's monetary policy gurus and their confederates at the U.S. Treasury are pouring into the economic system. The cost to taxpayers of saving the financial services sector from ruin is not only making good any collateral the Fed has accepted that might prove worthless, but the run-up in the rate of inflation.

Another myth: we are running out of oil. According to "majorities in 15 of the 16 nations surveyed around the world think that oil is running out. . . . Only 22 percent on average believe that 'enough oil will be found so that it can remain a primary source of energy for the foreseeable future'." Those majorities who think we are running out of oil include 76 percent of the American citizens polled. Luckily, they are wrong.

Production of oil is being constrained by several forces, none of them due to God's failure to put enough of the black gold under our feet. Several countries that are important sources of supply are in political turmoil, and unable to bring to market the oil they are currently capable of producing. Think Nigeria, where security problems have shut down about 20 percent of the nation's 2.5 million barrels of capacity, and discouraged new investment, and Iraq, where political paralysis and terrorists have kept production at less than half of its potential. Other countries will not develop the reserves of oil known to lie under their territories.

Russia has made it clear that foreigners who invest in its oil industry might be playing a game with Vladimir Putin known as heads I win, tails you lose. Find nothing and you lose your money; find substantial reserves and the state squeezes you until your shareholders' pips squeak. Only companies at least 51 percent owned by Russians--read FOPs, Friends of Putin--are allowed to look for oil in the new, difficult areas in which it is to be found. Little surprise that Russian oil output dropped in the first quarter of this year.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon wants to revive Petroleos de Mexico (Pemex), the world's third-largest oil producer, by contracting with foreign companies to introduce modern methods of extracting more from existing fields and finding new ones. But legislation is stalled by left-wingers who have seized and are sleeping at podiums in both house of congress.

Saudi Arabia's royal family has announced that it will not expand capacity. Abdullah Jum'ah, CEO of the kingdom's oil company, says that high prices don't mean the world needs more oil because such market signals are "imperfect," and Ali Naimi, the kingdom's energy minister, has announced that there are no plans to embark on a new round of expansion. The oil is there, but with current production yielding about $120 per barrel, there is no incentive to find more, especially since new production might drive down prices as demand for oil from the slowing American economy drops.

Venezuela's oil industry can only be described as a mess. President Hugo Ch vez's cronies are inadequate substitutes for the technicians they have replaced, so production is falling, while foreign investors are reluctant to trust hundreds of millions in exploration dollars to a regime that treats contracts as the first step in a negotiation.

Here in America, Congress alternates between calls for "energy independence" and refusals to allow drilling in what it considers environmentally sensitive areas in Alaska and offshore California and Florida. There's more, but you get the idea. There is a lot of oil out there to be found and produced, not even including the vast reserves in Canada's tar sands. We might have reached the age of peak panic about oil supplies, but not of peak oil.

One thing we think we know about the oil business is correct. High oil prices and the greenhouse gasses produced by using oil have important geopolitical consequences. These $100+ prices have led to a massive flow of wealth, and hence power, from consuming to producing countries. If oil were still priced at $20 or even $40 per barrel Russia would not have the wherewithal to revert to its bullying foreign policy, and America's banks would not be going hats-in-hand to Arab capitals in search of new capital. If gasoline prices had not closed in on $4 per gallon in the United States, thousands of SUVs and small trucks would not be sitting, unsold and unloved, on dealers' lots. If oil had not pierced the $100 per barrel level, and was not seen as a pollutant, the current enthusiasm for super-expensive nuclear power would not have reached a fever pitch. And if oil did not produce so-called greenhouse gasses when propelling cars and heating homes, there would be no massive subsidies for ethanol production, acreage would not be diverted from growing food to growing fuel, and the current run-up in food prices would be less steep, and food riots would not be breaking out around the world.

So oil indeed matters. But not in the ways we most often think.



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.


No comments: