At least this time it is academic rather than journalistic nonsense, I suppose. I will not attempt any detailed critique but will simply repeat some remarks on the same subject that I made recently: We have been hearing about the impending doom of coral reefs for decades -- since long before the global warming scare. In Australia, which has a huge coral reef, they used to blame it on farming! Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been there through many climate changes in the past and it will still be there when all of the current crop of doomsters are dead. The scares are nothing more than childish attention-seeking behaviour. I get tired of reiterating it but the reef already thrives through a very large temperature range and it in fact flourishes most where the climate is warmest. Corals even thrive after A DIRECT ATOMIC HIT, in fact
The conservation status of coral reefs can be monitored by assessing the area covered by coral species over time. Carpenter et al. (p. 560, published online 10 July) have estimated that more than a third of the major reef-building coral species are at risk of dying out to the point at which reef viability is lost. The causes of this dismaying decline stem from local insults from physical damage, overfishing, pollution, and sedimentation. These factors, added to the physiological harm done to coral organisms and their symbionts by elevated sea surface temperature rise and water acidification induced by atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation, can mean that a reef loses viability and quickly turns into a mound of rubble.
The journal abstract:
One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts
By Kent E. Carpenter and about a hundred others
The conservation status of 845 zooxanthellate reef-building coral species was assessed by using International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Criteria. Of the 704 species that could be assigned conservation status, 32.8% are in categories with elevated risk of extinction. Declines in abundance are associated with bleaching and diseases driven by elevated sea surface temperatures, with extinction risk further exacerbated by local-scale anthropogenic disturbances. The proportion of corals threatened with extinction has increased dramatically in recent decades and exceeds that of most terrestrial groups. The Caribbean has the largest proportion of corals in high extinction risk categories, whereas the Coral Triangle (western Pacific) has the highest proportion of species in all categories of elevated extinction risk. Our results emphasize the widespread plight of coral reefs and the urgent need to enact conservation measures.
Science 25 July 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5888, pp. 560 - 563
Fact-checking Barack Obama on climate change
Among many curious moments in Barack Obama's speech in Berlin on Thursday, this line takes Gorean liberties with the facts:
As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.
"As we speak"? You have to love the royal "we." In any case, as we write, Barack Obama is just wrong. Sea levels have been declining, not rising, for the last two years.
What about drought to farms in Kansas "as we speak"? Again, not so much. With the exception of one "moderately dry" area in the southwest, this year (at least) Kansas has been normal to "exceptionally moist," depending on the part of the state you are talking about.
You don't suppose there is any chance the press will check his facts "as it reports"?
The Latest Bogus Climate Change Study
It's official! Real scientists - not those global warming skeptic scientists - have studied the impact of climate change on eight states and, boy, are they bally-hooing the results that they've released today. The real scientists say in their news release:
Climate change will carry a price tag of billions of dollars for a number of U.S. states, says a new series of reports from the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER). The researchers conclude that the costs have already begun to accrue and are likely to endure.
Combining existing data with new analysis, the eight studies project the long term economic impact of climate change on Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Ohio. Studies on additional states are in the works.
"We don't have a crystal ball and can't predict specific bottom lines, but the trend is very clear for these eight states and the nation as a whole: climate change will cost billions in the long run and the bottom line will be red," says Matthias Ruth, who coordinated the research and directs the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland. "Inaction or delayed action will make the ink run redder."
And here's what they've got on their eight states:
Colorado: More than $1 billion in losses due to impacts on tourism, forestry, water resources and human health from a predicted drier, warmer climate.
Georgia: Multi-million dollar losses from predicted higher seas along Georgia's coast.
Kansas: Losses exceeding $1 billion from impact on agriculture of predicted warmer temperatures and reduced water supply in much of the state.
Illinois: Billions of dollars in losses from impact on shipping, trade and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.
Michigan: Billions of dollars in losses from damage to the state's shipping and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.
Nevada: Billions of dollars in losses from a much drier climate and pressure on scarce water resources. Water limitations could affect tourism, real estate, development and human health. Many western states may confront similar challenges.
New Jersey: Billions of dollars in losses from higher sea levels and the impact on tourism, transportation, real estate and human health.
Ohio: Billions of dollars in losses from warmer temperatures and lower water levels and the resulting impact on shipping and water supplies.
First, these are not real scientists. Matthias Ruth has a PhD in geography and is now working as an economist. He doesn't have a clue about what causes climate change (or doesn't), what its extent and duration will be, or what its probable impacts are - heck, he's even using the much-discredited hockey stick model as the core data for each of the studies' identical primers on climate change.
In short, he's just a paid lackey who's merely accepting other people's models as true and running them through his own economic models and asking us to believe him because he works for a university think tank for hire. His colleagues on the study? Graduate assistants.
And who are those other people who are providing the modeled data for Ruth's review? That hired his think tank for hire? Here's a clue you might want to pursue for your answer: Buried at the bottom of the study's on-line title page is this: "Support for this research was provided by the Environmental Defense Fund." Do you think that just might be a biased group . more biased even than an oil company? Here's Peter Goldmark, the EDF's climate program director, answering why EDF works on climate:
"Nothing has more potential to alter forever the world our children inherit."
So he's got a biased view - it's bad, we caused it, and an expensive cap-and-trade system is the best way to address it - and he hired a bunch of non-scientists to dress up a pile of rigamrole and present it as a scientific study.
EDF's position in support of cap-and-trade takes me to my second point. Speaking out against the concept when it came before the Senate as the Lieberman-Warner "America's Climate Security Act," Sen. James Inhofe said:
"The Lieberman-Warner bill will burden American families with additional energy costs and significantly harm the United States economy. Senators are going to be asking the American people to pay more for home energy and pay higher prices at the gas pump for no climate benefit. This bill will simply result in real economic pain, for no climate gain. MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen correctly summed up these types of efforts in March when he said, `Controlling carbon is a bureaucrat's dream. If you control carbon, you control life.' .
"The American people are being asked to pay significantly more for energy just so lawmakers in Washington can say they did `something' about global warming. And just what will cap-and-trade legislation actually do? Cap-and-trade policies have been tried in Europe and they have proven to be an utter disaster. European emissions continue to climb while our current policies have resulted in emissions tailing off in the U.S. If we were going to impose enormous costs to our economy, a carbon tax would be a much more efficient and transparent approach.
"[A]n MIT study earlier this year found [the cap and trade approach] would cost $3500 per family of four. According to an EPA analysis, Lieberman-McCain would impose a price increase for oil of 20% and for natural gas of 23%.
Now those guys at MIT might just be real scientists, so let's look at that $3,500 per family of four. The estimated 2006 population of the eight states CIER studied was 57.8 million, or 14.5 million families of four. Lieberman-Warner would have raised their annual cost of living by $3,500 each, or $50.6 billion.
Now let's go back to the impacts of the states, which I assume are permanent, not annual, but what the heck, let's just go ahead and call them annual so we can compare the data conservatively. Oh, wait. The real scientists actually never presented a single projected total cost of climate change for any of the eight states they studied. All we have is the news releases summary of two states with "more than a billion," one with "multi-million" and five with "billions." Write that out and it's five multi-billions, two billion pluses, one multi-millions. A nice, tight, scientific number.
Is it more or less than the $50.6 billion price tag of EDF's proposed cap-and-trade system? My hunch, based just on proportional population, is that it's less . a lot less, somewhere about $15 to $20 billion.
So, boil it all down, strip out the hysteria and the puff, and you get this: An environmental group is advocating that you spend $50.6 billion to avoid an economic impact of $15 to $20 billion. But when this story breaks in the MSM tonight and tomorrow, you won't read that, will you?
Gloomy summer for Alaska
Anchorage could hit 65 degrees for fewest days on record
(Pic shows fresh snow two days ago outside a town called Palmer about 50 miles north of Anchorage. The mountains around Anchorage had similar snow. The snow is about 8-10 weeks early)
The coldest summer ever? You might be looking at it, weather folks say. Right now the so-called summer of '08 is on pace to produce the fewest days ever recorded in which the temperature in Anchorage managed to reach 65 degrees. That unhappy record was set in 1970, when we only made it to the 65-degree mark, which many Alaskans consider a nice temperature, 16 days out of 365. This year, however -- with the summer more than half over -- there have been only seven 65-degree days so far. And that's with just a month of potential "balmy" days remaining and the forecast looking gloomy.
National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Albanese, a storm warning coordinator for Alaska, says the outlook is for Anchorage to remain cool and cloudy through the rest of July. "There's no real warm feature moving in," Albanese said. "And that's just been the pattern we've been stuck in for a couple weeks now."
In the Matanuska Valley on Wednesday snow dusted the Chugach. On the Kenai Peninsula, rain was raising Six-Mile River to flood levels and rafting trips had to be canceled. So if the cold and drizzle are going to continue anyway, why not shoot for a record? The mark is well within reach, Albanese said: "It's probably going to go down as the summer with the least number of 65-degree days."
In terms of "coldest summer ever," however, a better measure might be the number of days Anchorage fails to even reach 60. There too, 2008 is a contender, having so far notched only 35 such days -- far below the summer-long average of 88. Unless we get 10 more days of 60-degree or warmer temperatures, we're going to break the dismal 1971 record of only 46 such days, a possibility too awful to contemplate.
`The only certain thing is the science is uncertain'
Lord Lawson on the difficulty of publishing a contrarian book on global warming and why huge cuts in CO2 emissions would be `madness'
`This is my fourth book. I've never had any difficulty getting a publisher. In fact, I've got the contracts before the books were written. But this one - I couldn't get a publisher anywhere in this country. it shows the unhelpful and unhealthy climate, in a different sense, there is over this issue.'
Nigel Lawson, former UK chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary in the 1980s Conservative government, has become a high-profile critic of current orthodoxies on climate change. In a week when the legitimacy of criticising the mainstream view has been called into question following the UK television regulator's censuring of the Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, a debate featuring Lawson looked likely to be lively. And so it proved.
Lawson was speaking on Tuesday evening at the latest Bookshop Barnie, a series of rowdy discussions organised by the Future Cities Project at the Waterstones store next to the London School of Economics (LSE). It's not exactly one of those Borders monsters, over four floors with a Starbucks in the middle. The LSE store is a much smaller affair, with the walls lined with serious tomes about economics and social science. But it does make an excellent and intimate venue if you want to have a well-informed row - which is what followed.
The subject of the discussion was Lawson's book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. In a cheeky introduction, the chairman of the discussion, Austin Williams, told the audience: `Nigel Lawson, Lord Lawson of Blaby, speaks from a position of eminent authority on the issue of carbon reduction. He was responsible for the biggest reduction in carbon emissions in this country when he presided over the slashing of the coal mining industry.' Apart from raising laughter, the introduction was a pointed nod to the fact that the old lines of left and right in society have disappeared today, replaced by new divisions over climate change and the environment more broadly.
As a former finance minister, Lawson does not pretend to be an expert on the details of atmospheric physics. But, as he pointed out, many scientists and noisy commentators on the subject have no special expertise in the particular disciplines required to understand climate, either. More importantly, the politicians charged with making the big policy decisions on the subject must do so on the basis of limited knowledge, too.
`The one thing that is absolutely clear about the science is that it isn't certain, far from it', began Lawson. That is not to say that there isn't plenty of common ground between sceptics and mainstream views of the science, as Lawson pointed out. `Most people would agree there have been huge increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere'; `there is no real argument that the major contributor to that has been man, through the burning of carbon'; and `there is no doubt there is such a thing as the greenhouse effect or that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas'.
For Lawson, the real uncertainty is around how big the effect of carbon dioxide will be on temperatures. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that most of the warming over the past 100 years has been due to human activity, Lawson argued that the consensus isn't as complete as is usually suggested. He pointed to a survey conducted by the German climate scientist, Hans von Storch - someone who has supported the mainstream view of the science while being critical of much of the presentation of it in the media. The survey asked 500 climate scientists, under strict promise of anonymity, for their view on the debate. Of those surveyed, 70 per cent supported the view that global warming was mostly caused by humans; 30 per cent did not. While science should never be `conducted by a head count', said Lawson, it is clear that the much-vaunted unanimity is absent.
But Lawson's real beef is with the other aspects of the IPCC's report. Moving on to the effects of climate change, Lawson noted that in many respects, the IPCC's forecasts are not that scary. `Even if you look at the IPCC's own estimates you find, both in the particular and the general, it really is much less alarming than the flesh-creeping things that are written in the Independent newspaper or by the people who run the IPCC, as opposed to the scientists and economists who produce the reports.'
Lawson pointed out that `there are many benefits as well as harms from global warming. So, what is the net effect?' On health, the only thing that the IPCC is `virtually certain' of, said Lawson, is that there will be fewer deaths from cold-related diseases if the planet gets warmer; a rise in temperatures of up to 2.8 degrees would, says the IPCC, be beneficial for food production. These net benefits are declared despite what Lawson called the IPCC's `very curious treatment of adaptation' - in other words, the assumption that people would behave pretty much as they do now as temperatures rise, rather than changing the way they live and the crops they grow to suit climatic conditions.
The bottom line for Lawson, drawing out the IPCC's own conclusions, is that even at the worst end of the projections the IPCC posits as reasonably likely, those who might suffer the most - people in the developing world - would be 8.5 times better off than they are now rather than 9.5 times better off if warming were more limited. There were, concluded Lawson with understatement, worse catastrophes imaginable. .....
The Australian climate charade
It's just more of Kevin Rudd's renowned tokenism
The conjunction of the launches of ABC television's The Hollowmen and the Federal Government's response to climate change is spooky. The latter is starting to look a lot like the former, a "bold" response that will produce much activity but do little to address the problem or offend anyone too much. In public relations terms, this will make it a considerable success.
A few weeks ago, I suggested that the sort of prescriptions advocated by Ross Garnaut's draft report might harm the economy. But with the subsequent release of the Government's green paper by Senator Penny Wong, all of us - citizens and businesses - can sleep easy. There will be an emissions trading scheme, but, as some environmentalists have convincingly shown, it now looks like it will do little to reduce Australia's carbon emissions. The proposed measures are too modest, the exclusions and compensations too generous.
That's not to say there won't be a lot of talk and argument over the details: there will be enough marginal winners and losers for that. Indeed, the whole thing is a feast for the media and business lobbyists and parts of the legal and finance industries. But this activity should not be confused with reducing carbon emissions. The Government's policy is clear: do as much as is necessary to create the illusion of progress, but no more.
Not the least interesting thing about this is the shifting role of Professor Garnaut. He was brought onto the carbon train before the election to demonstrate Kevin Rudd's passionate commitment to fighting greenhouse emissions. But now Rudd is in government and Garnaut is pushing major action that might upset industry and voters, the professor is starting to look like an extremist. Before long, the Prime Minister will be able to position himself as the moderate and talk about saving us, not from climate change, but from Garnaut. It's a beautiful sidestep, in a technical sense, and one hopes the writers of The Hollowmen are paying close attention.
If the above seems a little cynical, consider two large pieces of circumstantial evidence for the insincerity of the Government's professed high concern for climate change. Kevin Rudd prides himself, perhaps above all else, on his respect for process in policy development. But in this case, good process is being ignored. Public discussion of the green paper will effectively stop in September, when submissions have to be lodged. Yet two of the key inputs into that discussion will not be available until October: Treasury's and Garnaut's calculations of the economics of climate change reduction. Professor Jeff Bennett, an economist at the Australian National University, has noted, "What that means is that the permit policy [already announced by the Government] is, at least to date, completely unjustified by any economic consideration of its benefits and costs." That doesn't sound like a Government genuinely committed to a logical and effective policy response.
Nor does the huge contradiction that exists between the Government's positions on climate change and immigration. Writing in the latest issue of People And Place, the demographer Bob Birrell points out that population is the factor over which government has by far the most control if it wants to slow down the increase in greenhouse emissions. The politics of reducing energy use significantly (for example, by making voters pay more for petrol) will generally defeat any government, but reducing immigration would be much easier. And yet net immigration is running at 180,000 a year, at which rate the population will rise to 31.6 million in 2050. The implications of this for Australia's carbon footprint are enormous, yet almost never discussed. Australians produce more greenhouse gases than any other nationality. Therefore on average, every immigrant, no matter where they come from, will increase their emissions by moving to Australia. Birrell notes there is a "dissociation between government aspiration and action", and he's not wrong.
We've seen this dissociation before. John Howard's government often used high rhetoric to proclaim its belief in the need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the war in Iraq, a conflict of global importance. But our actual commitment to the great cause was (without any disrespect to those who did fight) embarrassingly slight. A reminder occurred this week with the publication of Running The War In Iraq (HarperCollins), a memoir by Australia's General Jim Molan, who spent a year as chief of operations of the allied forces in that unhappy country. At one point he reminds us there were 411 Australians out of a force of 160,000. At another he notes that the Americans have suffered about 4000 military fatalities. (Australia has suffered none.)
Molan told The 7.30 Report this week: "The Americans used to say [of Australia's modest involvement], 'if you're not here in Iraq to fight, what are you here for?"' The rules of engagement for our troops were, he said, "designed to minimise what the force did, the consequence of which was to keep the casualties down. And government makes that decision". In his book, Molan writes, "We in Australia luxuriate in what I describe as wars of choice and choice within wars: we choose the wars we will fight in, we choose the timing of our participation, . we choose the kind of operations we will conduct, and we choose when we come home."
The way things are unfolding, the war on carbon will be another war of choice. And it's the hollow men who make those choices.
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