Thursday, December 11, 2008

No independent minds in official Britain

An email from David Henderson [] to Benny Peiser

See the text that I used as the basis for a recent invited lecture in Edinburgh at Heriot-Watt University. Most of the ideas are in earlier publications of mine, but the following excerpts are new thoughts (for me)

" ... economists, here as elsewhere, are not agreed. Some of our differences on climate change relate to already familiar issues which arise in other areas of policy: a leading instance, and an important one in this context where distant possibilities are in question, is the choice of an appropriate rate of interest for discounting projected future costs and benefits. But the dividing line between upholders and dissenters in economics falls outside the accepted bounds of our subject. It concerns the choice of a point of departure; and this choice depends on a judgement as to what conclusions it is appropriate to draw from arguments and evidence that are scientific rather than economic. Received opinion among economists takes as given what it sees as firm scientific conclusions. Thus the Stern Review says at the start that 'The scientific evidence that climate change is a serious and urgent issue is now compelling', while the Garnaut Report take a similar line. For me, such unqualified assertions presume too much."

"Where so much remains uncertain, unsettled or unknown, policies should be evolutionary and adaptive, rather than presumptive; and their evolution should be linked to a process of inquiry and review which is more thorough, balanced, open and objective than is now the case.

As things are, there is little or no chance that such a new framework could emerge in Britain. Policy and research alike are almost entirely in the hands of institutions that appear as firmly committed to currently received opinion. The list of those involved in the advisory and policy process, and spending public money accordingly, includes the new Department of Energy and Climate Change and the relevant segments of some other departments of state, the Office of Climate Change, the Committee on Climate Change, the Hadley Centre, the Tyndall Centre, the National Environment Research Council, the Energy Research Centre, the Carbon Trust, the Environment Agency, and the Sustainable Development Commission.

I do not offer the above list as exclusive; and indeed, sad to say, Her Majesty's Treasury has to be added to it. When I started work on climate change issues, I argued that it was high time for the Treasury to become seriously involved with them. Subsequent events, including the Stern Review, have brought home to me the old adage, 'Be careful what you wish for'.

In all these official bodies, as also in the growing number of non-governmental research centres that have been set up in Britain to work on issues relating to climate change, a common way of thinking prevails. I doubt whether among them there is today, or could ever be as things now are, a single professional staff member who could be identified as even a mild dissenter or non-subscriber: there is no place for such minority thoughts, and no point in voicing them. Her Majesty's Government, with a good deal of unofficial backing, have created and financed a dominant culture of conformity. Other OECD member governments, and the European Commission, have taken much the same path.


An email from David Whitehouse [] to Benny Peiser

I speculated on Dec 1 about the ways that some in the media would react to the forthcoming data that will likely show that 2008 will be the coldest year since 2001. One would have thought that any dispassionate and scientifically rigorous look at the general temperature standstill since 2001, and now a slight fall in the average annual global temperature record would provide pause for thought about what is really going on, and, whatever side of the fence you sit, perhaps a humble appreciation that we do not by any means know as much about the complexities of the climate as some say we do.

And so it happened. The headline in the Guardian said:
"2008 will be coolest year of the decade; Global average for 2008 should come in close to 14.3C, but cooler temperature is not evidence that global warming is slowing, say climate scientists"

If I may quote from the article;
"Prof Myles Allen at Oxford University who runs the website, said he feared climate sceptics would overinterpret the figure. 'You can bet your life there will be a lot of fuss about what a cold year it is. Actually no, its not been that cold a year, but the human memory is not very long, we are used to warm years,' he said, 'Even in the 80s [this year] would have felt like a warm year.'

And 2008 would have been a scorcher in Charles Dickens's time - without human-induced warming there would have been a one in a hundred chance of getting a year this hot. 'For Dickens this would have been an extremely warm year,' he said. On the flip side, in the current climate there is a roughly one in 10 chance of having a year this cool."

Overinterpret? Is that a new way of saying don't look at all the relevant data because it might be inconvenient?

As I pointed out, this is not telling the whole story, nor even putting it into a proper context. The important point evaded is not that 2008 would have been hot for Dickens but how hot is it with respect to the current warming spell. Nobody is arguing that the past decade is not warmer than previous ones and that the world1s glaciers and ecosystems are not reacting to it. If 2008 is the coldest year since 2001 and the global average temperature didn't change at all between 2001 - 2007 one should ask why! Talking about 2008 on its own and comparing it to Victorian times is misleading.

Then a few days later in the Guardian the environmental campaigner George Monbiot wrote, in response to the first article that "In the physical world global warming appears to be spilling over into runaway feedback."

Really? What a load of nonsense. It's statements like these that make me wonder if I am either living in the same physical world and if we need real world data at all?

It is said in that article that it's all right because the Met Office predicted that 2008 would be cool because of the la Nina effect. What it didn't say is that the previous year was predicted by the Met Office to be the warmest ever and it wasn't. la Ninas come along regularly and it's no great scientific achievement to say that when one occurs the world will cool. A failed prediction of warming however is highly significant especially given the faith put in computer modelling.

Also this supposed explanation is not in itself adequate. If the predicted cooling by la Nina had not occurred then 2008 would probably have been the same temperature (given the uncertainties) as every year since 2001 and that in itself would require explanation.

Later on in the Monbiot article we have, as I predicted, the tired old cliche about "professional deniers employed by fossil fuel companies." Where I wonder are their counterparts, the professional campaigners whose vested interests make them see a runaway warming world despite what the real world the data says?

I am broadly in favour of the global warming -CO2 hypothesis but I know it is just that, a hypothesis - and that needs testing against real observations in the physical world. If it isn't, then it's not science.


Despite "significant steps" taken to soften the impact of the EU's climate change goals on its industry, Italy yesterday (8 December) continued to maintain a tough negotiating line ahead of a decisive EU summit on 11-12 December.

During separate meetings of foreign affairs and energy ministers in Brussels, the Italian government firmly restated its intention to obtain exemptions from the package for its energy-intensive industrial sectors such as paper, glass, steel and brick industries. "It is one of our red lines," stressed Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, formerly vice-president of the European Commission.

Under the draft package to be discussed by EU heads of state and government this week, energy-intensive industries will be asked, as of 2013, to gradually pay for the right to emit CO2. But Italy, Germany and other Eastern European countries claim the rules, if applied too strictly, will force energy-intensive sectors to close down factories and move abroad, leading to job losses and rising CO2 emissions outside Europe ('carbon leakage').

Most EU countries seem ready to make concessions to those industries and the diplomatic battle is now focusing on how to measure the actual risk for individual sectors which claim to be more exposed than others to international competition. Diplomats will gather in Brussels on 10 December to attempt striking a deal ahead of meeting of EU leaders at the end of the week, where decisions on the package will have to be taken by unanimity.

As one of its "red lines", Rome is pushing for the inclusion of a general revision clause for the entire package after a UN conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, which will aim to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Italy wants to link the implementation of the EU climate package to the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, namely in the form of a commitment from the US and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. China and the US currently have no binding commitment to reduce their emissions and getting them onboard is one of the EU's main objectives in the negotiation.

EU energy minister made more concessions to Italy by introducing a mid-term review clause (in 2014) to a proposal aimed at boosting the share of renewable energies to 20% of the EU's energy mix by 2020 (see Links Dossier). "The compromise makes clear that the mid-term targets will be only indicative and not binding as we requested," the Italian minister for economic development Claudio Scajola told journalists after the Energy Council on Monday (8 December).

However, the revision clause will not put into question the 20% target by 2020, stressed Jean-Louis Borloo, French Energy minister, who was chairing the meeting. The European Parliament will now be asked to give its green light to the deal in a vote scheduled on 17 December.


Comment from Benny Peiser: I expect that the EU summit at the weekend will come up with a very similar fudge - as usual. I also expect that the green media and climate activists are likely to hail it as a 'historic' breakthrough - as usual. But let's not beat around the bush: whatever the EU summit may or may not decide at the weekend, you can be absolutely sure that it will not be legally binding targets. This original plan has now been abandoned - full stop. Without binding targets, however, the EU will signal unambiguously that it is waiting for the rest of the world to move - before it will make *any* binding commitments. And that, we know, could take for ever.


Below, Benny Peiser has translated excerpts from an interview in "Die Welt" with Professor Carl Christian von Weizsaecker of the Max Planck Institute, one of Germany's most eminent economists. He says that whether the IPCC is right or not, present environmental policies are irrational

Carl Christian von Weizsaecker: Is the IPCC right or not? On both sides of the argument there are reputable scientists. But I am not the expert. I put myself in the shoes of those who say that there is this climate effect. This is the more pessimistic version. The precautionary principle makes me say: as long as we do not know, we should rather take the bleaker version. I am quite skeptical of what the mainstream says. But I'm not a natural scientist, and I cannot adequately assess the question. That's why I say: If the IPCC is right, then I think, as an economist who does understand something about economics, that a rational climate policy must be different to the one we now operate.

For example, with regards to renewable energy. The belief in these sources bears even religious forms. Here, dogmatic beliefs that are financially well underpinned are propagated by means of lobbying interests. In previous ages it was said: "The church has a good stomach." Religion has always managed to make people pay.

Die Welt: What would happen if we focused not on prevention of but on adaptation to climate change?

Von Weizsaecker: The furore caused by the Stern Report was based on his conclusion that the costs of climate change would be an order of magnitude greater than the costs of its avoidance. Now all the costs of climate change that Stern lists are adjustment costs. In other words, unique investments that we must make to adapt to new circumstances. If sea levels rise, you need to build new dams. once we have adapted to a changed climate, these costs are no longer there. In sum, calculated over a millennium, it may even be that the benefits of a warmer climate outweigh the disadvantages.

More here. (in German)


More big effects we did not know previously and which are NOT therefore in the models

The latest image of sea-surface height measurements from the U.S./French Jason-1 oceanography satellite shows the Pacific Ocean remains locked in a strong, cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large, long-lived pattern of climate variability in the Pacific associated with a general cooling of Pacific waters. The image also confirms that El Nino and La Nina remain absent from the tropical Pacific. The new image is available online here

The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Nov. 15, 2008, compared to the long-term average of observations from 1993 through 2008. In the image, places where the Pacific sea-surface height is higher (warmer) than normal are yellow and red, and places where the sea surface is lower (cooler) than normal are blue and purple. Green shows where conditions are near normal. Sea-surface height is an indicator of the heat content of the upper ocean.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a long-term fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean that waxes and wanes between cool and warm phases approximately every five to 20 years. In the present cool phase, higher-than-normal sea-surface heights caused by warm water form a horseshoe pattern that connects the north, west and southern Pacific. This is in contrast to a cool wedge of lower-than-normal sea-surface heights spreading from the Americas into the eastern equatorial Pacific. During most of the 1980s and 1990s, the Pacific was locked in the oscillation's warm phase, during which these warm and cool regions are reversed. For an explanation of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and its present state, see here and here

Sea-surface temperature satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mirror Jason sea-surface height measurements, clearly showing a cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation pattern, as seen here.

"This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation 'cool' trend can cause La Nina-like impacts around the Pacific basin," said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The present cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation will have significant implications for shifts in marine ecosystems, and for land temperature and rainfall patterns around the Pacific basin."

According to Nathan Mantua of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, Seattle, whose research contributed to the early understanding of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, "Even with the strong La Ni¤a event fading in the tropics last spring, the North Pacific's sea surface temperature anomaly pattern has remained strongly negative since last fall. This cool phase will likely persist this winter and, perhaps, beyond. Historically, this situation has been associated with favorable ocean conditions for the return of U.S. west coast Coho and Chinook salmon, but it translates to low odds for abundant winter/spring precipitation in the southwest (including Southern California)."

Jason's follow-on mission, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2, was successfully launched this past June and will extend to two decades the continuous data record of sea surface heights begun by Topex/Poseidon in 1992. The new mission has produced excellent data, which have recently been certified for operational use. Fully calibrated and validated data for science use will be released next spring.


There's nothing new under the sun

The crack automobile designers in Congress want the big 3 to make Greener cars in return for the "loan" the big 3 want. But it has all been tried before -- by Ford. But a big reality got in the way: COST. Excerpts below from a Greenie magazine

On july 27, 2000, Jacques Nasser, then president and ceo of the Ford Motor Company, stood before a packed audience at the National Press Club and made a surprising declaration. Ford, he pledged, would boost the fuel economy of its suvs by 25 percent within five years. Reporters scribbled furiously as Nasser spoke; this was not the sort of thing anyone in Detroit went around promising, least of all America's most iconic automaker, flush with profits from its big trucks and suvs and a recent victory putting the kibosh on tougher federal mileage standards.

Then again, no other company had a chairman quite like William Clay Ford Jr. A self-described environmentalist, Bill Ford was fighting a dramatic battle to transform his great-grandfather's company into a model of sustainability. (Full disclosure: I was a Ford media liaison for six months in 2000.) Unlike other auto execs, he acknowledged the problem of global climate change and his industry's role in it. He drove an electric Ford Ranger truck and successfully launched a $2 billion renovation that made the company's Rouge assembly plant one of the industry's greenest. He talked up fuel efficiency and promised to expand hybrid production. "There is a rising tide of environmental awareness and activism among consumers that is going to swell to undreamed-of heights in the 21st century," Ford told Automotive News after being named chairman-elect in September 1998. "Smart companies will get ahead of that wave, and ride it to success and prosperity. Those that don't are headed for a wipeout."

But if outsiders were impressed with Nasser's "25 by 5" announcement, many within the company saw the project as doa. Jim Schroer, then Ford's global marketing chief, had first heard about it two months earlier at an executive test-drive of a prototype tricked out for fuel efficiency. "I'm sitting there, and I think, 'Oh boy, that's not going to happen,'" he recalls. Sure, Ford knew what it would take --- the necessary technologies, such as ultralight carbon-fiber parts and advanced electronics, had all been tested by its labs -- but adding those features would cost more, and Schroer didn't think American consumers would put up with that. "By anybody's financial present-value calculation, you'd be crazy to do it," he says....

In theory, the gangbuster sales should have given executives leeway to experiment. Bill Ford also had Nasser, a president and ceo 10 years his senior with the clout to implement his vision. Former company executives say there's a reason Nasser, not Ford, announced the fuel-economy initiative: "Nobody dared defy him," one of them recalls. "Nobody was afraid of Bill Ford."

Indeed, nearly everyone I spoke with -- from auto executives and industry analysts to environmentalists and activist shareholders -- agreed that no matter his personal convictions, Bill Ford had neither the operational skills nor the management talent to make his green aspirations a reality. Instead, the chairman tried to tack environmental changes onto a business model focused obsessively on bigger, badder trucks -- Built Ford Tough. "Bill is a very idealistic guy, very principled," says David Cole, chair of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a longtime informal adviser to Ford and other automakers. "But he was relatively young and he had never been in the trenches. Now all of a sudden he is captain of a ship and he hadn't been in the engine room...Ultimately, that kept his wish from being fulfilled."

Bill Ford's -- indeed, the company's -- greatest environmental accomplishment has been the Rouge factory overhaul. The rebuilt plant has one of the world's largest living roofs, plus solar cells and skylights to reduce lighting costs. Rouge now serves as a benchmark for Ford's other factories; overall the automaker has reduced energy use by 30 percent and trimmed emissions from its manufacturing facilities by 39 percent since 2000, boasts John Viera, the company's director of sustainable business strategies. However, as Jennifer Krill of the Rainforest Action Network points out, "They are still building F-150s under that green roof."

Indeed, on the product end, top executives viewed their chairman's vision as a "nice thing to do," according to one insider -- not as a must-have for the company's future. "The premise of what Bill Ford did, and it tends to be the premise that a lot of corporate environmentalists take, comes from a kind of noblesse oblige approach. It's about what we will deign to do," says John DeCicco, a senior fellow with the Environmental Defense Fund who has long been involved with automotive issues. "The '25 by 5' pledge is a very instructive story because it really points out the inability of the individual corporate actor to go in a different direction from where the competitive marketplace wants to go."

In fact, when Nasser announced Ford's fuel-economy plan, environmentalists wondered whether the company had even considered how it would pull it off. "What they always said to me is, 'Look, we chose a goal somewhat arbitrarily in order to please people like you,'" says Dan Becker, former director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, who attended Nasser's National Press Club speech. "Bottom line," says Viera, who back then was a chief engineer on Ford's Ranger pickup, "the cost of the technologies at that point wasn't aligned with the price the customer was willing to pay. So we didn't have any business case at all."

Lacking clear direction, Ford usa reverted to what it knew best: making and selling powerful trucks, which made the company profitable for a couple more years. But the writing was on the wall. Ford's Escape Hybrid suv didn't hit the market until 2004, five years after Honda's Insight first appeared on US dealers' lots. And while Toyota has been selling hybrid cars in the US for almost a decade, Ford won't have its first one on the market until 2009. Ford didn't even have much of a conventional small-car business to fall back on when US consumers pulled a U-turn.

Publicly, Bill Ford pinned his failure on consumer behavior. The market had demanded bigger and bigger vehicles despite his warnings, so that's what Ford provided. "Gasoline prices were cheap," he recently told a columnist for Business Week, "and customers were buying many more of our big F-150s than they were of our Escape hybrids. Now everyone's aligned behind this [fuel-efficiency] vision."

Mulally has given sustainability top billing in the Ford hierarchy, promoting a senior vice president to oversee it, and Viera leads a four-person corporate sustainability team. That Ford plucked him, a truck guy, to handle the new push, Viera says, shows that the company is getting serious. "My previous 22-plus years were all on the product-development side, from trucks [to] large suvs," he says. "I've had a lot of experience driving concepts into production and into reality." He's also well aware of the pitfalls.

Ford's most recent sustainability report lays out a blueprint for reducing its new cars' CO2 emissions by 30 percent in Europe and the US by 2020. This will require increasing fuel economy by 40 percent to 35 mpg, a target identical to the one Congress mandated last year. Viera insists that Ford set its goals before the bill was passed. "Climate stabilization: That is how we set our target," he says. Environmentalists, burned by Ford's past broken promises, remain skeptical. "Why should we believe anything Ford tells us?" asks Becker, summarizing the attitude of green groups in the wake of the "25 by 5" debacle.


Australia: Bankrupt advice on carbon emissions

By Paul Howes (Paul Howes is the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union. The AWU is a big union but not as Leftist as most. Its skeptical voice will certainly be heard loud and clear by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd)

The hypocrisy of big banks such as Westpac and National Australia Bank that signed up to a corporate communique on climate change calling for aggressive unilateral targets needs to be exposed. Having participated in what can be described only as a global stuff-up of our financial system, they now are trying to tell Australian corporations that operate in the real economy, and generate real wealth and real jobs, how to behave on climate change.

It's time their dishonest motivation was exposed. Now that the huge profits made out of shoring up risky mortgage markets and fancy financial products have unwound - devastating the lives of countless millions of ordinary citizens - the banks are looking to create a new source of revenue from carbon-trading markets.

I wonder how responsive they will be, safely wrapped in the cocoon of a government guarantee, when Australia's coal-fired power generators come knocking on the door for debt refinancing to help them cope with the new carbon-trading world.

The ANZ bank already has announced hundreds of job cuts, said to be more than 2per cent of its workforce. Employees at Westpac and elsewhere are steeling themselves for cuts. These bank workers, and the families they support, are the ones who will pay for the irresponsible management of financial regulation and poor loan practices of the past several years. Now the same people responsible for that debacle want to kill jobs in the real economy by calling for action far in excess of what Australia can realistically achieve without a comprehensive global agreement.

The Australian Workers Union has been active in the climate change debate because the future of our members depends on the design and implementation of a fair and balanced emissions trading scheme in Australia. Ross Garnaut rightly calls for abandoning differentiation of effort between developed and developing countries as a flawed model that will fail the world beyond the Kyoto Protocol. He is also right to call for a per capita-based reduction target that would deliver fair burden-sharing arrangements. Any successor agreement that does not include burden-sharing commitments by significant emitter countries, particularly China and India, will be harmful to the national economy and the global environment.

Leakage of investment and jobs to unregulated jurisdictions would be the direct consequence of any policy that sees Australia going it alone in the absence of global agreements. Growing energy intensity and dependence on coal in big developing nations - especially China - will render useless the efforts of developed countries to reduce emissions on their own, no matter how deep the cuts. Garnaut has called such an approach delusional because it denies reality on the causes of and solutions to increased CO2 emissions.

Industries in which my members work make things with their enterprise and skills. Paper-shuffling is not what my members are good at. Establishing an emissions trading scheme will guarantee a lot of paper shuffling and work for consultants, especially in the finance sector.

But adopting a longer term view shows that losing industries from Australia is not good for business and that making the transition to a lower carbon economy cannot and should not occur overnight. We are making progress on sectoral agreements and we should be trying to use these as one way towards an internationally binding future agreement. The industries I represent, in mineral and metal processing including steel, alumina, aluminium, manganese, zinc, ceramics, cement, pulp and paper, plastics, oil refining, petrochemicals and liquefied natural gas, are valuable Australian assets accounting for a huge 65 per cent of Australia's total exports, and $550 billion worth of avoided imports a year.

My members and their wives, husbands and children are getting pretty tired of being told their jobs are dirty and polluting, particularly by bankers relentlessly pocketing their money and frittering away superannuation. They work for sophisticated companies that are at the leading edge of efficient technology, environmental management and workplace safety. They are proud of what they do, how they do it and the products they produce that help the rest of the world reduce their carbon footprint.

Industries such as LNG mean cleaner energy in Japan and China; aluminium can provide lighter cars. All of these jobs should be seen as part of a real green jobs solution for Australia's economy. Our members are at the core of a new green deal. I support Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong taking forward an inclusive and comprehensive new green deal.

While carbon trading may well assist in establishing new industries and opportunities, it is not necessary to lay waste to our existing world-class industries to achieve this. Policies that deny costs or view traditional industries as the problem are bound to create costs for us all. A sensible transition to carbon trading will see traditional industries becoming sustainable and growing stronger during the long term. The world will use more aluminium, steel, cement, coal, gas, timber and paper, plastics and chemicals - not less - and more transport.

If policy settings are balanced and fair, Australia's trade exposed, energy-intensive sector also will be part of the climate change solution by applying best practice know-how and leading the world by example as part of a joint global action plan.



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


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