Sunday, July 27, 2008

Round and round the merry-go-round on hurricanes

M.I.T. Scientists: Warming Will Actually REDUCE the Number of Hurricanes

After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, global warming alarmists claimed greenhouse gas emissions had led to a season that had 22 named tropical storms. Recent reports raise strong doubts about those claims.

"Former Hurricane Center head Max Mayfield is among experts who believe we're in a cyclical pattern of more violent tropical storms, while others say global warming may be the culprit," ABC's Sam Champion said on the Sept. 4, 2007 "Good Morning America." Earlier this year, a UN backed panel of scientists linked more powerful and frequent hurricanes to global warming and projected even more intense hurricanes in the future.

But according to two recently published reports - hurricane activity may actually decrease due to the effects of global warming. That is a conclusion from a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kerry Emanuel, published in the March 2008 issue of the "Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society."

"A new technique for deriving hurricane climatologies from global data, applied to climate models, indicates that global warming should reduce the global frequency of hurricanes, though their intensity may increase in some locations," the study by Emanuel, Ragoth Sundararajan and John Williams said.

Emanuel pointed out to the Business & Media Institute that he isn't denying a relationship exists between global warming and hurricanes. "I am certainly not saying that there is no link between hurricanes and global warming," Emanuel said. "There indeed appears to be a close relationship between ocean temperature and hurricane power. My most recent study shows that this relationship is not much in evidence in climate models, pointing to a possible problem with climate models"

Another study by meteorologist Tom Knutson makes a similar conclusion. According to a study authored by Knutson, Joseph Sirutis, Stephen Garner, Gabriel Vecchi and Isaac Held, published in the May 18 issue of Nature Geoscience, climate models show the amount of Atlantic tropical activity will decrease by 18 percent by the end of the century.

"Here we assess, in our model system, the changes in large-scale climate that are projected to occur by the end of the twenty-first century by an ensemble of global climate models, and find that Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm frequencies are reduced," the study's abstract said.


They've got that global warming thing down cold

Review of a TV comedy program by Penn & Teller. They recently turned their talents at mockery onto global warming

When Thursday's episode on environmentalism opened with a morose-looking Penn Jillette waving a magazine as he recited one ecotastrophe after another -- drought in Africa, flooding in Pakistan and Japan, snowless winters in New England and Northern Europe -- I snapped to attention. ''It says right here in Time magazine -- the weather's gone nuts and we humans are to blame!" Teller wailed. "We have bleeped up the environment and now we're going to pay for it!"

Yeah, that global warming is pretty bad. You know, Al Gore says -- oops, never mind. Turns out Penn's not reading from the infamous Time cover story of 2006 on global warming, the one headlined BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED. No, this Time is from 1974, and the headline is, ANOTHER ICE AGE? And all those violent paroxysms of nature are the pernicious work of global cooling.

Yes, back in the days of disco, the news media echoed with predictions of the world's imminent demise from ice rather than fire. Newsweek warned that temperatures had already dropped ''a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.'' By 1985, Life declared, ``air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half.''

A MAJOR COOLING WIDELY ACCEPTED TO BE INEVITABLE, agreed The New York Times, adding in an editorial: ''Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.'' To be fair, this was nothing new at The Times. It had been predicting the world was on the verge of turning into a Popsicle since at least 1895 -- GEOLOGISTS THINK THE WORLD MAY BE FROZEN UP AGAIN, a headline said back then. Perhaps the editors figured that if they printed the story often enough, they were bound to get it right, if only because of the law of averages.

I sometimes find myself longing for the good old days of the Ice Age scare, because at least back then, dissent was possible. When Newsweek in 1975 proposed fighting off those inexorable glaciers by "melting the arctic cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers," it had the grace to concede that some scientists worried just a teensy bit that these solutions "might create problems far greater than they resolve."

These days, deviating from the orthodoxy on global warming -- not just questioning whether it exists, but how much of it is due to human activity, or if the results might be a little less ruinous than the Climate Cassandras predict -- is almost enough to get you thrown in jail. And I mean that literally. James Hansen, the former Gore science advisor who's been one of the foremost doomsayers on global warming, recently said that oil company executives who argue against him ``should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.''

Consider it a certainty that the Climate Police will lock up Penn & Teller after Thursday's show. Not only does it feature interviews with some scientists who aren't totally sold on the idea that the Earth is toast, it whispers an even more inconvenient truth: A lot of the scariest global-warming tales are told by people who stand to make a buck by scaring you.

At one end of the scale is a Santa Fe therapist who treats patients for what she calls ''eco-anxiety'' by giving them what she calls ''river rocks'' -- actually, it's gravel picked up from her driveway -- to remind them that "you do come from Earth and you are connected." (The most scandalous thing about this ''treatment'' is that it works: ''Whenever I'm by a rock, holding it, I feel grounded," explains one grateful patient.)

At the other is Al Gore, who's made a post-political career out of warning that we're on the brink of ''epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves.'' A couple of years ago, Gore suffered some minor embarrassment when a Tennessee think-tank revealed that his 20-room Nashville mansion uses 17 times the electricity of the average American home. Unabashed, Gore explained that he was ''offsetting'' his electric gluttony by buying carbon credits -- that it, putting money into green projects, would save as much energy as his home wasted.

Looking a little more closely into it, Bull----! points out that Gore was actually purchasing those carbon credits from . . . himself. He did it by investing money in his own company Generation Investment Management, which buys stocks in companies that make green technology -- technology that Gore is constantly lobbying governments to adopt or mandate. ''So Al makes money when people buy carbon credits through his company,'' says a Gore critic. It's not only good to be green, but profitable, too.

I'm not surprised if you're surprised that Gore might have a financial interest in screaming about the end of the world. Reporters who fall asleep chanting the mantra follow the money have been heinously lax in practicing it on the global warming story.

Last November, when NBC insisted that every single program on the network that week would have a green theme, nobody seemed to notice that the network was in effect running a massive product-placement ad for its corporate parent General Electric. GE has invested massive amounts of money in solar panels, wind power and other so-called clean-energy technologies for which there will be virtually no consumer demand unless Congress passes laws requiring them.

But practically no reporters were interested in that story -- certainly not those at NBC News, which also participated in Green Week by inserting stories into its shows. When I asked network anchor Brian Williams if this wasn't corporate manipulation of his newscast, he shook his head vigorously. ''Not at all,'' he insisted. ''I've got no problems with it. It's not any different than The New York Times editorial board sitting down and saying the newspaper is going to do a series of stories on some particular subject.'' Maybe, if The New York Times were owned by, say, Halliburton, and the board of directors ordered up a series on, say, the need to invade Iraq. But I don't have time to argue about it right now. I'm pretty sure I hear the Climate Police at my door.



Here's some good news for anyone sick of being force-fed a relentless diet of pernicious environmentalist hogwash: Last week, The New York Times noted that the advertising industry is pulling back from green-themed marketing, having "grasped the public's growing skepticism over ads with environmental messages.

And advertisers' concerns are buttressed by the recent sales figures for magazines that have published a "Green Issue" this year. Time's Earth Day issue was the newsweekly's third-lowest-selling issue of 2008 so far, according to ABC Rapid Report. A typical issue of Time sells 93,000 or so copies on the newsstand; the April 28 installment, which substituted green for red in the magazine's trademarked cover design, sold only 72,000. (As usual, The Onion nailed it.)

Elle's May issue sold a mere 275,000 copies, versus the title's year-to-date average of 328,500. The last issue of Elle to sell that badly was in May 2008 - another green issue, probably not coincidentally. Discover also published a green issue this year, and also took a hit for it, selling 86,000 newsstand copies, compared to an average of 117,000 in the first half of 2007.

Look for politicians to figure out sometime around 2012 that everyone stopped listening to bogus global warming sermons in 2008.


Virginia Is Sitting on the Energy Mother Lode

Amid the rolling hills and verdant pastures of south central Virginia an unlikely new front in the battle over nuclear energy is opening up. How it is decided will tell us a lot about whether this country is willing to get serious about addressing its energy needs.

In Pittsylvania County, just north of the North Carolina border, the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the United States -- and the seventh largest in the world, according to industry monitor UX Consulting -- sits on land owned by neighbors Henry Bowen and Walter Coles. Large uranium deposits close to the surface are virtually unknown in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. And that may be the problem.

Virginia is one of just four states that ban uranium mining. The ban was put in place in 1984, to calm fears that had been sparked by the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island outside of Harrisburg, Pa. in 1979.

Messrs. Bowen and Coles, who last year formed a company called Virginia Uranium, are asking the state to determine whether mining uranium really is a hazard and, if not, to lift the ban. But they've run into a brick wall of environmental activists who raise the specter of nuclear contamination and who are determined to prevent scientific studies of the issue.

The Piedmont Environmental Council is one of the leading opponents. It warns of the "enormous quantities of radioactive waste" produced by uranium mining.

Jack Dunavant, head of the Southside Concerned Citizens in nearby Halifax County, is another outspoken critic. He paints a picture of environmental apocalypse. "There will be a dead zone within a 30 mile radius of the mine," he says with a courtly drawl. "Nothing will grow. Animals will die. The radiation genetically alters tissue. Animals will not be able to reproduce. We'll see malformed fetuses."

Yet it is not as if we have no experience with uranium mining, which is in fact relatively harmless. Handled properly, the yellowcake that is extracted is no more hazardous than regular household chemicals (and unlike coal, it won't smolder and combust).

James Kelly, who directed the nuclear engineering program at the University of Virginia for many years, says that fears about uranium mining are wildly overblown. "It's an aesthetic nightmare, but otherwise safe in terms of releasing any significant radioactivity or pollution," he told me. "It would be ugly to look at, but from the perspective of any hazard I wouldn't mind if they mined across the street from me."

The situation is rich with irony as well as uranium. While you can't mine yellowcake, it is perfectly legal in Virginia to process enriched uranium into usable nuclear fuel, which is somewhat dangerous to handle. A subsidiary of the French nuclear giant Areva operates a fuel fabrication facility in Lynchburg 50 miles from Chatham. It has been praised by Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, as a good corporate citizen. The state is also home to four commercial nuclear reactors, which provide Virginians with 35% of their electricity. And, of course, the U.S. Navy operates nuclear ships out of Norfolk, Va.

Across the country, there are 104 commercial nuclear reactors. They consume 67 million pounds of uranium annually, the vast majority of which is imported from Australia, Canada and former Soviet republics. The 200-acre Coles Hill deposit (Mr. Coles's family has lived on the spot since 1785) is thought to contain nearly twice that amount. For Messrs. Bowen and Coles, with the long-term price of uranium near $80 per pound, that means they are sitting on about $10 billion worth of ore. But for the rest of us, it means they are sitting on an opportunity to make the U.S. more energy self-sufficient.

Since Virginia is already a nuclear-friendly state that properly manages the risks of nuclear power, what sense does it make for the state to ban the safest step in the nuclear fuel cycle?

Gov. Kaine supports allowing the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether mining could be done safely. So does virtually every elected official in heavily Republican Pittsylvania County. Earlier this year the narrowly Democratic state Senate voted 34-6 to authorize the study. But the measure was killed in committee in the House under pressure from environmental groups. If it was allowed to come up for a vote in the full House, which is controlled by Republicans, opponents concede it would have passed.

The governor's chief energy adviser, Steve Walz, says the Kaine administration has taken no position on whether reversing the ban makes sense. "That's why we wanted to see the results of the study, to help us make a determination."

Mr. Dunavant doesn't believe the governor has an open mind on the issue. He calls Mr. Kaine, "our 'supposed green' governor" and says that the "only thing green about him is his love of money." Coles Hill "is all about greed," he says. "It's criminal activity as far as I'm concerned."

For his part, Mr. Coles can't understand the hostility. "I tell these groups that my concerns are your concerns. I have been protecting the environment here for decades, long before any of them became interested in this land." He's received offers to buy his land for sums that would make him incredibly wealthy, but has turned them down. "We love the land. My family has lived here for over 200 years. We're going to continue to live here. That's the reason we decided to keep it, as opposed to selling out." He says Virginia Uranium will continue to push for the independent study.

If the U.S. is to expand nuclear power's role in a time of energy insecurity and climate change worries, we will have to confront the hysterical antinuclear pronouncements that have been the currency of environmentalists for nearly 30 years. The Old Dominion could be a good place for a new start.


The Grand Exaggerator

What is it with Al Gore? Why is he compelled to exaggerate climate change (excuse me, "the climate crisis"), and then to propose impossible policy responses? It's like he's inventing the Internet all over again!

OK, it's pretty much standard rhetoric in Washington to say that if you don't do as I say, there will be massive consequences. But to say, as Gore recently did: "The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk;" and: "The future of human civilization is at stake" - that's a bit much, even for the most faded and jaded political junkie.

Here's how Gore works. He'll cite one scientific finding that shows what he wants, and then ignore other work that provides important context. Here's a list of his climate exaggerations from his well-publicized July 17 rant, along with a few sobering facts.

Gore: "Scientists . . . have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire [North Polar] ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months."

Fact: The Arctic Ocean was much warmer than it is now for several millennia after the end of the last ice age. We know this because there are trees buried in the tundra along what is now the arctic shore. Those trees can be dated using standard analytical techniques that have been around for decades. According to Glen MacDonald of UCLA, the trees show that July temperatures could have been 5-13øF warmer from 9,000 to about 3,000 years ago than they were in the mid-20th century. The arctic ice cap had to have disappeared in most summers, and yet the polar bear survived!

Gore: "Our weather sure is getting strange, isn't it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory. . . ."

Fact: The reason there "seems" to be more tornadoes is because of national coverage by Doppler radar, which can detect storms that were previously missed (not to mention that every backyard tornado winds up on YouTube nowadays). Naturally, the additions are weak ones that might, if lucky, tip over a cow. If there were a true increase in tornadoes, then we would see a definite upswing in severe ones, too. If anything, the historical record indicates a slight negative trend in the frequency of major tornadoes, based upon death statistics.

Gore: " . . . longer droughts . . . "

Hogwash. The U.S. drought history, given by the Palmer Drought Severity Index, is readily available and extends back to 1895. There's not a shred of evidence for "longer droughts" in recent decades. The longest ones were in the 1930s and 1950s, decades before "global warming" became "the climate crisis."

Gore: " . . . bigger downpours and record floods . . . "

It's true, U.S. annual rainfall has increased about 10 percent (three inches) in the last 100 years. But it's equally true that this is a net benefit. Temperatures haven't warmed nearly enough to increase the annual surface evaporation by the same amount, so what has resulted is a wetter country during the growing season. Farmers love this, because most of the nation runs a moisture deficit during the hot summer growing season. Increasing rain cuts that deficit.

Gore: "The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis."

This is likely James Hansen of NASA, Gore's climate guru. He has written and given sworn testimony that twenty feet of sea-level rise, caused by the rapid shedding of Greenland's ice, could happen by 2100. Why didn't Gore defer instead to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization with at least a few hundred bona fide climate scientists? Its 2007 compendium estimates that the contribution of Greenland's ice to sea level during this century will be around two inches. Gore also forgot the embarrassing truth that there has been no net change in the planetary surface temperature, as measured both by thermometers and satellites, for the last ten years.

It would be easy to go on, particularly about the preposterousness of Gore's "solution," which is to produce all of our electricity from solar, wind and geothermal sources within ten years. I'll leave that for the energy economists to tear apart.



Labour faces being kicked out of office by angry motorists if it continues to 'unfairly demonise' the car, a top Government adviser warned today. Families are 'rebelling' against unfair car taxes, restrictions on their freedoms, and attacks on 4X4s and luxury cars by politicians and campaigners driven by 'ideological dogma' rather than hard-facts, Richard Parry-Jones claimed.

Mr Parry-Jones was appointed by the government to look at how technology can be used to cut pollution. But the former Ford Motor Company executive turned on his new employers yesterday urging them to stop the war on the motorist. Unfair motoring taxes and attacks of family runarounds were the result of 'muddled thinking' based on prejudice and dogma rather than hard scientific facts, he said. 'If you price consumers out of their cars, they will probably throw you out at the next election,' he said.

He added that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his ministers must 're-assess the political bias against cars'. He accepted that cars did have some impact on climate change - but pointed out that they represented only 8per cent of the problem while appearing to get 100 per cent of the blame. Tax raised from motorists and motoring was 'disproportionately high', he said.

Mr Parry-Jones is a world-renowned motor industry expert who has just been appointed as a ministerial adviser to John Hutton's Department for Business. He is chairing Mr Hutton's Automotive Industry Growth Team, looking at how to create 'greener' cars and cut costs. His speech follows a visit this week by Mr Brown, Mr Hutton, and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to the British International Motor Show in London's Docklands where the PM met motor industry bosses to discuss 'green' cars. Mr Parry-Jones recently retired as chief technical officer and head of research at Ford.

He said politicians must carry the confidence of Britain's 30 million voting motorists if they want achieve or maintain office:''If politicians go too fast, ultimately they get detached from the electorate and get thrown out.' He noted: 'What on Earth are we doing allowing our elected representatives to decide for us what we should be allowed or encouraged to drive, or what should be banned or penalised in the name of climate change.'



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