Wednesday, June 04, 2008

U.S. Army says Sun, Not Man, Is Causing Climate Change

The Army is weighing in on the global warming debate, claiming that climate change is not man-made. Instead, Dr. Bruce West, with the Army Research Office, argues that "changes in the earth's average surface temperature are directly linked to ... the short-term statistical fluctuations in the Sun's irradiance and the longer-term solar cycles."

In an advisory to bloggers entitled "Global Warming: Fact of Fiction [sic]," an Army public affairs official promoted a conference call with West about "the causes of global warming, and how it may not be caused by the common indicates [sic] some scientists and the media are indicating."

In the March, 2008 issue of Physics Today, West, the chief scientist of the Army Research Office's mathematical and information science directorate, wrote that "the Sun's turbulent dynamics" are linked with the Earth's complex ecosystem. These connections are what is heating up the planet. "The Sun could account for as much as 69 percent of the increase in Earth's average temperature," West noted.

It's a position that puts West at odds with nearly every major scientific organization on the planet. "The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling," Science magazine observes. So has the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, for their work on global warming.

West acknowledges that the IPCC and other scientific groups have "conclude[d] that the contribution of solar variability to global warming is negligible." He argues that these groups have done a poor job modeling the Sun's impact, however, and that's why they have "significantly over-estimated" the "anthropogenic contribution to global warming."

In recent days, the science and politics of climate change have once again taken center stage. NASA's Inspector General just issued a report, acknowledging that political appointees "reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public." Yesterday, the Senate began debating a bill that would cap carbon dioxide emissions -- considered one of the leading causes of man-made global warming.



The big day's here. Months of anticipation about a U.S. policy switch on global warming will culminate in today's Senate debate over the Lieberman-Warner bill, which would impose a cap on U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions starting in 2012. Culminate is too strong a word, since virtually no one expects Congress to pass any climate legislation this year. Still, the political theater, due to start late this afternoon, will make interesting watching - and there's no Monday Night Football tonight anyway. So here are a few things to keep in mind as the show begins:

This fight is brown vs. green, not red vs. blue. "Where you stand depends on where you sit," goes an old saw about politics. That's particularly true about the politics of energy and the environment, where allegiances are less about party affiliation and more about regional fuel supplies. So, expect coal-state senators, whether Democrat or Republican, to push to ensure that no climate bill hits their constituents too hard. And expect senators from states with cleaner electricity mixes - say, California's Barbara Boxer- to push for constraints that would benefit their natural-gas-fired hometown teams.

Everyone at the table wants a bigger slice of the pie. That this bill will affect essentially everyone in the economy is clear from its list of whom it will give handouts - federal emission "allowances." Everyone from power companies to oil companies to hybrid-truck operators to Native American tribes is inscribed in the bill as a recipient of these permits to pollute, which they can either use or sell. Each is gunning to boost his or her take.

The tradeoff: the economy or the environment? There's no free lunch. A bigger emissions cut will cost more than a smaller cut. It will raise energy prices more, it will require more-expensive technology, it will deepen concerns about U.S. economic competitiveness against developing countries, like China, that haven't committed to emission caps. There are myriad studies about how much all this will cost the economy, but fundamentally the debate here is over where to draw this line. Should the bill err on the side of giving companies carbon-price certainty, as carbon-tax proponents want, or on the side of slashing emissions hard, as environmental groups want? Complex price-control mechanisms in the Boxer amendment to the bill attempt to strike a balance. Expect big pressure to shift it.

Nothing much will happen. With gasoline prices nearing $4 a gallon as the summer driving season approaches, and with a presidential election five months away, essentially nobody expects the Senate now to actually pass climate legislation, because doing so would push up the energy prices that voters pay. This week's fight on the Hill is about establishing talking points for the election - and battle lines for the real policy fight expected in 2009 or 2010. There will be lots of atmospherics this week, but they'll probably have little effect on the atmosphere.



A year after pitting herself against the world's leaders over climate change, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed down and gone silent on key environmental policies. It seems that the one opponent she can't bear confronting is the German voter.

This is the so-called "climate chancellor?" This woman who, at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, spoke enthusiastically about the nearby air freight hub, economic growth and the transport of goods? Who suddenly seems awkward and at a loss for words when it comes time to talk about climate protection? Who has stopped offering answers on the subject and only asks questions, like: Does it make sense to subsidize electricity from renewable sources? Is it fair to expect the owners of older cars with high CO2 emissions to pay higher taxes?

This is the same "climate chancellor" who opposes a speed limit on German autobahns and wants the European Union to exempt large, German-made sedans from its emissions restrictions. In fact, Angela Merkel has even stopped talking about the German goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020. Instead, she mentions values of 20 or 30 percent.

What is happening here? This cannot possibly be the same Merkel who pressured European leaders in Brussels to agree to mandatory climate protection goals, who managed to squeeze a small concession (more...) on climate protection out of US President George W. Bush at the 2007 G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, and who was behind a decision reached at the government guesthouse in Meseberg outside Berlin to implement a comprehensive government climate protection program. Brussels, Heiligendamm and Meseberg: Three places where Merkel gained the reputation of being hell-bent on saving the world in 2007.

That was only last year, and yet it was a completely different era -- and Merkel a completely different chancellor. At the time, newly released figures on global warming were still fresh in people's minds. Nowadays, citizens are paying more attention to the drastic rise in energy prices.

More here


It now says that we should tackle climate change through research and adaptation instead of trying to transform human behaviour:

Remember that global warming thingy? The idea was that we're wrecking the climate by pumping out greenhouse gases, and that we've jolly well got to change our wicked ways. Virtually the entire political, academic and media establishment threw its might behind this notion. Huge quantities of hot air were pumped out in its name, and many tonnes of pollutants expelled by planes carrying concerned dignitaries to global conferences.

There was, however, a problem: people didn't seem too keen to abandon driving, flying, meat eating, patio heating or even buying tungsten lightbulbs. Governments were understandably wary of trying to force them. Then, hey presto! Magically, the market seemed to have solved the problem, simply by pushing up the price of fuel. Yet what's been the response of our rulers? A panicky drive to keep the carbon bonfire fuelled by digging out yet more oil and abandoning proposed taxes on emissions.

We should hardly be surprised. We live in a democracy (sort of), and those seeking to retain or attain power must take some note of the will of the people. It turns out that, although we of course care about future generations and the people of low-lying Pacific islands, most of us don't care all that much. We're prepared to make sanctimonious gestures and attend the occasional concert of clapped-out superstars' appalling music. But we're not apparently prepared to sacrifice our welfare or our lifestyles, and we've been letting our rulers know.

Our commitment to other great altruistic causes has proved similar in character. Poverty has not been made history, and the aged remain pretty much unhelped. Of course, there have always been those among us, from Roundheads and Spanish inquisitors to the Khmer Rouge and Mary Whitehouse, whose commitment to social transformation in the name of virtue has been rather more serious.

Often, as now, their programmes have depended on the co-option of an unwilling majority. Unfortunately, gulags, purges and the rack remain out of reach of our current climate puritans, though some of them seem to regret this. George Monbiot, to be sure, happily beseeches a brutal despot for assistance in this dark hour for him and his ilk.

Perhaps, it's time to get real. Climate change activists should come to appreciate what religious reformers, communist revolutionaries and other utopian visionaries have learned before them. You can't change human behaviour in the interests of the supposed greater good.

Nonetheless, warming hasn't gone away, even if its character is less clear-cut than has been suggested by those urging us to make obeisance to it. What should we do about it?

The answer is surely to switch our efforts away from trying to change human behaviour towards other approaches to the problem. The most obvious is technological research into methods of alleviating warming. Up until now, mentioning this route has been considered a sinful attempt to divert attention from the hairshirt remedies on which the prophets of doom have insisted. Perhaps partly as a result, such research is proving surprisingly skimpy.

The sun can provide us with far more energy than fossil fuels, yet efforts to crack the technological problems involved in turning the Sahara into the world's power station are less intense than you might imagine. Or, to take the opposite approach, we know that seeding the atmosphere with particles could reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth, since our own particulate pollution used to achieve just this effect. Yet little attempt is being made to find out if efforts in this direction could ever be economic.

Perhaps such ideas will prove fanciful. Since they may, we should be taking proper steps to adapt to future climate change, as well as trying to prevent it. Warming may devastate some parts of the world, but it will enhance the prospects of others. Russia and Canada would benefit by populating their currently frozen expanses with eager would-be farmers displaced from the tropics. Preparing for such transfers would be a long and delicate process. We could be starting it now. Yet, we're hardly even trying to develop new kinds of flood defence or drought-resistant crops. Why should we, while policy-makers assume that we're going to head-off warming by reducing our consumption of energy?

It's surely time for a change of tack. Or should we just wring our hands?




With average gas prices across the country approaching $4 a gallon, it may be hard to believe, but the U.S. Senate is considering legislation this week that will further drive up the cost at the pump.

The Senate is debating a global warming bill that will create the largest expansion of the federal government since FDR's New Deal, complete with a brand new, unelected bureaucracy. The Lieberman-Warner bill (America's Climate Security Act) represents the largest tax increase in U.S. history and the biggest pork bill ever contemplated with trillions of dollars in giveaways. Well-heeled lobbyists are already plotting how to divide up the federal largesse. The handouts offered by the sponsors of this bill come straight from the pockets of families and workers in the form of lost jobs, higher gas, power and heating bills, and more expensive consumer goods.

Various analyses show that Lieberman-Warner would result in higher prices at the gas pump, between 41 cents and $1 per gallon by 2030. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says Lieberman-Warner would effectively raise taxes on Americans by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The federal Energy Information Administration says the bill would result in a 9.5% drop in manufacturing output and higher energy costs.

Carbon caps will have an especially harmful impact on low-income Americans and those with fixed incomes. A recent CBO report found: "Most of the cost of meeting a cap on CO2 emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline. Those price increases would be regressive in that poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households."

The poor already face energy costs as a much higher percentage of their income than wealthier Americans. While most Americans spend about 4% of their monthly budget on heating their homes or other energy needs, the poorest fifth of Americans spend 19%. A 2006 survey of Colorado homeless families with children found that high energy bills were cited as one of the two main reasons they became homeless.

Lieberman-Warner will also hinder U.S. competitiveness, transferring American jobs overseas to places where environmental regulations are much more lenient. Instead of working to eliminate trade barriers on clean energy and lower emitting technologies, the bill imposes a "green," tariff-style tax on imported goods. This could provoke international retaliatory actions by our trade partners, threatening our own export markets and further driving up the costs of consumer goods.

My colleague, Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), warned last week that Lieberman-Warner "could result in the most massive bureaucratic intrusion into the lives of Americans since the creation of the Internal Revenue Service." Mandating burdensome new layers of federal bureaucracy is not the solution to America's energy challenges.

This bill is ultimately about certainty. We are certain of the huge negative impact on the economy as detailed by numerous government and private analyses. We are certain of the massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy.

And we are certain the bill will not have a detectable impact on the climate. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's own analysis, by 2050 Lieberman-Warner would only lower global CO2 concentrations by less than 1.4% without additional international action. In fact, this bill, often touted as an "insurance policy" against global warming, is instead all economic pain for no climate gain.

Why are many in Washington proposing a bill that will do so much economic harm? The answer is simple. The American people are being asked to pay significantly more for energy merely so some lawmakers in Washington can say they did something about global warming.

I have been battling global warming alarmism since 2003, when I became chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. It has been a lonely battle at times, but it now appears that many of my colleagues are waking up to the reality of cap-and-trade legislation.

The better way forward is an energy policy that emphasizes technology and includes developing nations such as China and India. Tomorrow's energy mix must include more natural gas, wind and geothermal, but it must also include oil, coal and nuclear power, which is the world's largest source of emission-free energy. Developing and expanding domestic energy sources will translate into energy security and ensure stable supplies and well-paying jobs for Americans.

Let me end with a challenge to my colleagues. Will you dare stand on the Senate floor in these uncertain economic times and vote in favor of significantly increasing the price of gas at the pump, losing millions of American jobs, creating a huge new bureaucracy and raising taxes by record amounts? The American people deserve and expect a full debate on this legislation.



A professor and author at the University of Kent has labelled Gordon Mursell, the Bishop of Stafford, as a 'modern-day demonologist': Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent and author of 'Invitation to Terror', criticises the Bishop of Stafford for comparing climate change sceptics to Josef Fritzl

Gordon Mursell, the Bishop of Stafford in England, is a man of the cloth. He is also a member of a posse of disoriented clerics, who have become so estranged from morally literate theology that they have embraced a new brand of demonology. At a time when moralisers cannot give any real meaning to classical ideas about right and wrong, they try instead to make people feel guilty about their impact on the environment. So instead of targeting those traditional demons - Satan, say, or witchcraft - Gordon Mursell attacks climate change deniers.

In a parish newsletter, the bishop said that people who refuse to join the fight against global warming are like Josef Fritzl, the insane criminal in Austria who locked his daughter and her children in a cellar for 24 years. For Mursell, being sceptical about the conventional wisdom on climate change is akin to the monstrous crime committed by Fritzl. He says: `You could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is.'

Mursell has not called for climate change deniers to be burned at the stake - yet. But the idea that they should be punished is implicit in his message. For some time now, religious and moral entrepreneurs have been searching zealously for demons. Some have argued that AIDS is God's way of punishing immoral sexual behaviour. Big catastrophes such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina have been portrayed as retribution for people's degenerate and sinful behaviour. One Christian writer described Katrina as `the fist of God'.

However, these religious-tinged fantasies tend not to resonate with the public imagination. In contrast, focusing on the current anxieties about the future of the planet seems to be a far more fruitful way of rediscovering Satan. And the linking of the crime of child abuse with scepticism about today's received green wisdom exemplifies the new demonology.

How demonologists work

Demonologists are moral entrepreneurs. They turn the problems faced by our communities into moral threats. One of the most striking illustrations of such demonology was the plague that is frequently referred to as the Black Death. The transformation of a fast-spreading disease into an epidemic of evil continues to excite people's imagination and fears today. According to one study, it was `only after Europeans had experienced this epidemic' that `they were ready to accept witchcraft as a real threat' (1). The moralisation of what is referred to as the `AIDS epidemic' shows that modern plagues are still used to convey a culturally meaningful message about `evil'.

Demonologists are intensely hostile to anyone who questions the way they interpret and talk about threats. As moral entrepreneurs, they regard their opponents, not only as irresponsible, but also as potentially evil. From this standpoint, dissidence comes to be seen as an act of moral subversion. The moralising of hazards serves to shut down discussion. At the very least, anyone who questions claims about the alleged gravity of a threat facing mankind is depicted as the stooge or accomplice of a malevolent agenda.

The act of raising questions about a `warning' is now discussed as an insidious deed of denial. Increasingly, questioning things is seen as the moral equivalent of Holocaust Denial. In recent years, people who have questioned the warnings about climate change have been labelled `deniers'. The allusion to Holocaust Denial is clear. The implication of this moral condemnation of questioners - the denouncement of critics as `deniers' - is that disbelief itself is a sign of moral bankruptcy.

Believing in a statement of warning is considered to be morally principled; disbelieving the statement, or even just questioning it, is stigmatised as morally corrupt. This transformation of disbelief into a sin was also widespread during the witch-hunts that plagued Europe in earlier centuries. In the era of the witch-hunt, anyone who questioned the existence of demonic forces could be denounced as an `associate of Satan'. Such was the power and influence of demonologists that few were prepared to question the existence of witchcraft.

In the 1980s and 90s, American crusaders against Satanic Ritual Abuse adopted a similar approach. A report published by the California Social Services Committee on Child Abuse Prevention described the widespread `denial of the problem of ritualistic abuse' as one of the main barriers to tackling it. Campaigners frequently argued that such denial was the moral equivalent of the depraved act of abuse itself (2). If you questioned the idea that Satanic Ritual Abuse was a real existing threat, you could be charged with complicity in the crimes of child molestation.

The dogmatic demand to `believe' has become a kind of moral imperative. Moral entrepreneurs argue that victims have a `right to be believed'. So crusaders against Satanic Ritual Abuse attempt to disarm sceptics by insisting that the worst thing that can happen to victims of abuse is not to be believed. Patrick Casement, author of Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse, tries to guilt-trip sceptics:

`It may be that some accounts which are reputed to be of "satanic" abuse are delusional, and the narrators may indeed be psychotic in some cases. But we must still face the awful fact that if some of these accounts are true, if we do not have the courage to see the truth that may be there. we may tacitly be allowing these practices to continue under the cover of secrecy, supported also by the almost universal refusal to believe that they could exist.' (3)

In other words, those who refuse to believe accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse are themselves complicit in the act of victimisation. During the outbreak of the satanic abuse panic in Britain in the 1980s and 90s, zealous witch-hunters claimed that an `insidious and dangerous' disease was sweeping the country: that is, incredulity about the existence of ritual abuse. According to one account, `this contagion takes the comforting form of sceptical and rational inquiry, and its message is comforting, too: it is designed to protect "innocent family life" against a new urban myth of the satanic abuse of children.' (4)

Shutting down debate

Through vilifying their opponents, demonologists attempt to close down discussion and debate. Such intolerance towards alternative and dissident opinions betrays the powerful anti-democratic impulse underpinning contemporary demonology, best expressed most recently by the Bishop of Stafford.

This censorious attitude has all the worst features of religious zealotary, and it is strikingly similar to traditional demonology. Demonologists in pre-modern times argued that scepticism about witchcraft was a form of heresy that had to be punished. The Malleus Maleficarum, one of the most influential manuals for witch-hunters, noted that `the question arises whether people who hold that witches do not exist are to be regarded as notorious heretics, or whether they are to be regarded as gravely suspect of holding heretical opinions'. It then says: `The first opinion is the correct one' (5). This depiction of scepticism as a form of moral transgression is still around today.

Scepticism towards the received wisdom on global warming, or public health issues such as AIDS, is described as `denial' - and today, `denial' has been transformed into a generic evil. The denial phenomenon has become a kind of free-floating blasphemy, which can attach itself to a variety of issues and problems. One environmentalist writer argues that the `language of "climate change", "global warming", "human impacts" and "adaptation" are themselves a form of denial familiar from other forms of human rights abuse' (6).

The charge of denial has become a secular form of blasphemy. Recently, a book written by someone who is sceptical of today's prevailing environmentalist wisdom was dismissed with the following words: `The text employs the strategy of those who, for example, argue that gay men aren't dying of AIDS, that Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis for extermination, and so on.' (7) This forced association of three highly charged issues - pollution, AIDS and the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews - shows how denial has become an all-purpose form of blasphemy.

Once denial has been stigmatised, there are demands for it to be censored. Consider the current attempts to stifle anyone who questions the predictions of catastrophic climate change. Some advocate a policy of zero tolerance towards climate change deniers. `I have very limited patience with those who deny human responsibility for upper-atmosphere pollution and ozone depletion', says one moral crusader, then declaring: `There is no intellectual difference between the Lomborgians [those who adhere to the arguments of the `skeptical environmentalist', Bjorn Lomborg] who steadfastly refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence of human-caused global warming from scientists of unquestioned reputation, and the neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers.' (8)

Increasingly, the heretic is condemned because he has dared to question an authority that must never be questioned. Here, `overwhelming evidence' serves as the equivalent of revealed religious truth, and those who question `scientists of unquestioned reputation' - that is, the new priestly caste - are guilty of blasphemy.

Heresy-hunters who charge their opponents with `ecological denial' also warn that the `time for reason and reasonableness is running short' (9). Crusaders against denial don't only wish to silence their opponents. In the true tradition of heresy-hunting they also want to inflict punishment on those who deny the true faith. David Roberts, a journalist for the online magazine Grist, would like to see global warming deniers prosecuted like Nazi war criminals. In a vitriolic tone characteristic of dogmatic inquisitors, he argued: `We should have war crimes trials for these bastards. some sort of climate Nuremberg.' (10) At the very least, it seems, these `criminals' should be castigated as the moral equivalents of Josef Fritzl.

Thankfully, a demonologist like the Bishop of Strafford lacks the power to impose the kind of punishments that were dished out by earlier generations of heresy-hunters. But if it is not challenged, his denunciation of `deniers' will contribute to the consolidation of a censorious mood and climate of anxiety. History shows that crusades against heretics and demons have a nasty habit of disorienting society, and undermining civilised and humanist behaviour.



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.


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