"Constant Californian" writes to respond to my piece on the global cooling of 2008:
"You may be aware of Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish scientist who was long skeptical of global warming," he writes. "He is not anymore. His complaint is with what he perceives as hysteria, and unsound policy. I wonder if your line of reasoning has more to do with ideology and your view of (proposed) policy, than a considered look at the science at work. The mechanism of global warming is well-established. ...
"You write: 'It's getting colder. 2008 was the coolest year in a decade.' That leaves the other nine years to account for. If the last nine years were consecutively cooler, you would have a cooling trend. The trend is in the other direction. "The glaciers, Greenland and the polar ice cap are melting. Plants and species are migrating northward to areas where they have not been seen in recorded history. "And, according to The Washington Post (Jan. 12, 2008): 'Data collected from around the globe indicate that 2007 ranks as the second-warmest year on record, according to a new analysis from climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. ... Seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.'
"There are a number of good books on this topic. The one that convinced me was 'Field Notes from a Catastrophe: A Frontline Report on Climate Change,' by Elizabeth Kolbert, Bloomsbury, 2007.
"I admire your courage in often taking the unpopular view. But a view may be popular because it is accurate, not because people are being deluded or misled, and that is the case here. ... "I wonder if your time might be better spent -- and the public better served -- if you were to critique policy as regards energy and conservation rather than the problems (and global warming is only the most worrisome) that stem from long-term profligate and inefficient energy use."
I replied: Of course it would be more convenient for the Luddites if I were to accept their underlying assumptions and limit myself to "critiquing policy as regards energy and conservation." Just as, in 1500, it would have been judged much safer to study how best to discover and destroy witches rather than to challenge whether the old crones had any demonic powers in the first place. As a matter of fact, challenging the existence of the supernatural powers of witches was prima facie proof that the challenger was himself a witch ("warlock," whatever), which was likely to get you burned. Amazingly, under those circumstances, publicly expressed opinion -- holding that the demonic powers of witches was real -- was nearly unanimous! Ain't sealed systems grand?
Yes, the mechanism of global warming is well-established. It's primarily solar, and has nothing to do with the tiny amount of "greenhouse gas" mankind produces. Or were there too many cars and coal-fired generating plants 10,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age spontaneously melted away? (See the nice charts at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_glaciation.)
What's not well-established is any ability to predict whether the globe will be warmer or cooler in three years, let alone 30 or 300. When major green groups charted "greenhouse gas" emissions for 1991 (they sent me a lovely colorful graph, showing America as the "worst offender," of course) they listed the Philippines as a quite small producer, way "down the curve." This is because the Philippines are a "good" country, you understand, where people "know their place" and have properly resigned themselves to living in poverty, mostly doing without private motorcars or air conditioners, fertilizing their rice fields with human feces, etc.
I called the authors of the chart to ask how the Philippines could possibly have produced a tiny mount of greenhouse gases that year, since that's the year Mount Pinatubo erupted. They pointed me to a footnote that said "from man-made sources." If you're only going to measure greenhouses gases from man-made sources, you're only going to show greenhouse gases from man-made sources, making America's 1991 atmospheric contribution appear larger that the Philippines', which is absurd. Shouldn't we be asking how much is actually up there, and where it actually came from?
If water vapor and CO2 are both greenhouse gases, and there's 100 times more water vapor than CO2 in the atmosphere, what effect would it have on the level of total greenhouse gases to double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?
Look up the Newsweek cover of April 28, 1975, on "The Cooling World." You'll find many of this same gang urging the same brand of government "energy policy" takeovers to halt the dangerous trend of "global cooling." As well they might, since the next Ice Age will be a real problem.
It's all about seizing control of (and eviscerating) the economic advantages of the Western nations, which is why the greens show no interest in merely launching some reflective gravel into orbit, which would probably lower global temperature by a couple of degrees. (Look up 1816, the "Year Without Summer.") After all, if the alleged problem were simply and cheaply solved, how could they get any traction for their real Luddite agenda? Why do you suppose they sue to block virtually any project that might advance human welfare, citing the safety of weeds and bugs so obscure the litigants probably wouldn't recognize one if you plopped it on their dinner plate?
China and India aren't about to stop churning out all the carbon smoke they deem necessary to catch and overtake any Western nations moronic enough to cripple their own economies out of some bizarre feeling of guilt that they "use too much energy."
Energy use per capita is a pretty good measure of how far you're advancing from the Stone Age, when life expectancy was under 40. There is no energy shortage. We use less than 1 percent of the solar energy that streams past us. We need to start using a lot more of it. If some of us get rich in the process (without "taxpayer subsidies,") so much the better. That's what humankind is good at.
Solar, windmills and geothermal are vastly more expensive (poverty-inducing) and environmentally hazardous (when you consider the backup battery farms and transmission lines they'll require) than anything we've got now. They're tax-devouring make-work scams.
Julian Simon proved Paul Ehrlich and the "Population Bomb" folks wrong about their predictions re "running out of" whatever you care to name so many times they stopped accepting Mr. Simon's wagers.
Only collectivists consider they have any moral right to criticize the "profligacy" of those who create enough wealth to use whatever they can buy on the free market, in any way they choose, whether it be "energy," land or long underwear. Collectivists are would-be thieves. They simply lack the courage to pull out a gun and deprive the "profligate fat cats" of their wealth directly -- they prefer to hire bully-boys in government uniforms to do the job for them, under the sanctified cloak of "shared sacrifice." The Greens don't want to see "energy efficiency." They want to artificially make energy so expensive that we're forced to accept "reduced expectations" for our lifestyles and life expectancies.
If the greens choose to use less energy, God bless them. Let them go squat around some jungle fire in loincloths, eating half-cooked monkey meat. But somehow, this prospect does not appear to please them. Somehow, they will be happy only if they can impose energy-deficient poverty on me.
Are the glaciers melting? Is that a good measure of climate change? See www.nationalcenter.org/NPA235.html.
Trees Causing Global Warming - Again
From those hysterical worshippers of Gaia at the Chicago Tribune:
As relentlessly bad as the news about global warming seems to be, with ice at the poles melting faster than scientists had predicted and world temperatures rising higher than expected, there was at least a reservoir of hope stored here in Canada's vast forests. The country's 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.
But not anymore. In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada's precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering. Worse yet, the experts predict that Canada's forests will remain net carbon sources, as opposed to carbon storage "sinks," until at least 2022, and possibly much longer.
So serious is the problem that Canada's federal government effectively wrote off the nation's forests in 2007 as officials submitted their plans to abide by the international Kyoto Protocol, which obligates participating governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto agreement, governments are permitted to count forest lands as credits, or offsets, when calculating their national carbon emissions. But Canadian officials, aware of the scientific studies showing that their forests actually are emitting excess carbon, quietly omitted the forest lands from their Kyoto compliance calculations.
"The forecast analysis prepared for the government . indicates there is a probability that forests would constitute a net source of greenhouse gas emissions," a Canadian Environment Ministry spokesman told the Montreal Gazette.
Canadian officials say global warming is causing the crisis in their forests. Inexorably rising temperatures are slowly drying out forest lands, leaving trees more susceptible to fires, which release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Higher temperatures also are accelerating the spread of a deadly pest known as the mountain pine beetle, which has devastated pine forests across British Columbia and is threatening vital timber in the neighboring province of Alberta. More than 50,000 square miles of British Columbia's pine forest have been stricken so far with the telltale markers of death: needles that turn bright red before falling off the tree.
Bitter cold Canadian winters used to kill off much of the pine beetle population each year, naturally keeping it in check. But the milder winters of recent years have allowed the insect to proliferate. That grim reality is stoking a new debate over commercial logging, one of Canada's biggest industries.
Environmentalists contend that the extreme stresses on Canada's forests, particularly the old-growth northern forest, mean that logging ought to be sharply curtailed to preserve the remaining trees-and the carbon stored within them-for as long as possible. Moreover, they argue that the disruptive process of logging releases even more carbon stored in the forest peat, threatening to set off what they describe as a virtual "carbon bomb"-the estimated 186 billion tons of carbon stored in Canada's forests, which is equivalent to 27 years worth of global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Weirdly enough this isn't the first time that "eco-scientists" have suggested that we need to do away with the Canadian forests. Trees worsens global warming because they absorb sunlight which would otherwise be reflected by snow, according to the National Academy of Scientists - don't you know. A problem the beetles seem to be solving for us. And yet they still complain.
Moreover, these same "scientists" want to ban logging. It's too bad that the Chicago Tribune will soon stop helping us to control this menace by using so much paper. But, alas, they are going out of out of business. Undoubtedly, also due to global warming.
Algae to the rescue
Melting icebergs, so long the iconic image of global warming, are triggering a natural process that could delay or even end climate change, British scientists have found. A team working on board the Royal Navy's HMS Endurance off the coast of Antarctica have discovered tiny particles of iron are released into the sea as the ice melts. The iron feeds algae, which blooms and sucks up damaging carbon dioxide (CO2), then sinks, locking away the harmful greenhouse gas for hundreds of years.
The team think the process could hold the key to staving off globally rising temperatures. Lead researcher Professor Rob Raiswell, from Leeds University, said: `The Earth itself seems to want to save us.'
As a result of the findings, a ground-breaking experiment will be held this month off the British island of South Georgia, 800 miles south east of the Falklands. It will see if the phenomenon could be harnessed to contain rising carbon emissions. Researchers will use several tons of iron sulphate to create an artificial bloom of algae. The patch will be so large it will be visible from space.
Scientists already knew that releasing iron into the sea stimulates the growth of algae. But environmentalists had warned that to do so artificially might damage the planet's fragile ecosystem. Last year, the UN banned iron fertilisation in the Great Southern Ocean.
However, the new findings show the mechanism has actually been operating naturally for millions of years within the isolated southern waters. And it has led to the researchers being granted permission by the UN to move ahead with the experiment. The scientist who will lead the next stage of the study, Professor Victor Smetacek, said: `The gas is sure to be out of the Earth's atmosphere for several hundred years.'
The aim is to discover whether artificially fertilising the area will create more algae in the Great Southern Ocean. That ocean is an untapped resource for soaking up CO2 because it doesn't have much iron, unlike other seas. It covers 20million square miles, and scientists say that if this could all be treated with iron, the resulting algae would remove three-and-a-half gigatons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to one eighth of all emissions annually created by burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. It would also be equal to removing all carbon dioxide emitted from every power plant, chimney and car exhaust in the rapidly expanding industries of India and Japan. However, the experts warn it is too early to say whether it will work.
The team from ice patrol ship HMS Endurance used sledgehammers to chip deep into the interior of a 33ft-long mass of polar ice from half-a-dozen house-sized icebergs that had blown ashore in Antarctica. Once back in the UK, they used a special microscope to analyse the samples, which revealed what they had been looking for - tiny iron particles, only a few millionths of a millimetre wide, embedded deep within the ice. Until now, it was thought that the only source of iron in the Southern Ocean was wind blowing in metal compounds from the deserts of nearby continents like Australia. But the research has disproved this. Prof Raiswell said: `These particles measure only a fraction of a millimetre, but they have great importance for the global climate.'
Rising global temperatures, particularly over the past 50 years, have increased the rate at which polar ice melts, causing sea levels to rise. Ten of the warmest years on record have been since 1991, with experts predicting that 2009 could be the hottest year yet. The climate-change effect is set to substantially increase over the coming decades, as developing industrial nations pump out more CO2. Temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula alone have increased by 2.5C over the past 50 years.
But for every percentage point increase in the amount of ice that breaks off, Prof Raiswell calculates that a further 26million tons of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. Polar expert Professor Smetacek and a 49-strong German research team is due to set sail from Cape Town in the icebreaker Polarstern in the next few days to conduct their groundbreaking experiment. Crucially, the scientists want to know how much algae will sink to the bottom of the ocean where the CO2 will be safely trapped. Algae that falls a couple of miles below the surface will remain there for hundreds of years; algae that remains only a few hundred metres from the surface releases carbon back into the atmosphere.
Dr Phil Williamson, scientific co-ordinator of the Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere study, funded by the UK's National Environment Research Council, called the research `exciting'. `We have images from satellites which show the ocean stays green for weeks afterwards but the key will be whether it stays that way,' said Dr Williamson.
Schemes to fertilise the seas with iron have in the past been driven by commercial interests. This is the biggest ever scientific attempt. Last May, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called a halt to fertilisation around the Antarctic until there was more detailed scientific data. But the British findings led to the go-ahead for Professor Smetacek's team from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.
Nonetheless, even Prof Raiswell has called the project `highly controversial'. He said: `Oceans aren't isolated boxes and it would affect the surrounding areas as well. `We don't know what effect that would have. The ecosystems are very complicated. If the iceberg iron is useful, then it will just buy us more time. `The Earth might have fightback mechanisms but we must still try to reduce our CO2 emissions.'
Prof Smetacek said the issue is too complex not to be explored by scientists. He warned: `Objections will be swept away when our powerlessness in the face of climate change becomes apparent.'
EU denounces British socialite's carbon offset project
A PIONEERING climate change project in Africa run by Robin Birley, the socialite, has been accused by the European commission, its main donor, of making unsubstantiated claims about its environmental impact. The project has received more than 1m pounds in public grants and money from celebrities in the music and film business. They include Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Brad Pitt, the actor. The project attempts to offset an individual's carbon footprint by paying poor farmers in Mozambique to plant trees, which absorb CO2, and to protect existing forests.
The commission's criticism comes amid increased concern about the worth of these fashionable but largely unregulated carbon offset schemes. Critics say it is almost impossible to guarantee that the trees will survive the length of time needed to offset any significant carbon emissions.
Birley, the stepbrother of Zac Goldsmith, the environmentalist, set up the N'hambita Community Carbon project five years ago in partnership with Edinburgh University. His company, Envirotrade, manages it and sells "carbon credits" to the public, while the university monitors the emission levels and the deforestation rates. The project, based on the edge of the Gorongosa national park, had promised to bring "enormous and positive social, economic and environmental change to the developing world".
However, The Sunday Times has obtained a highly critical report from the European commission that says "the quality of the technical work . [is] far below what could reasonably be expected of a pilot project managed by a university". Written last May, just before the five-year funding period came to an end, the report noted that the project "continued to make positive claims about its impact that could not be substantiated". The commission also warned that the money flowing into the Gorongosa area had attracted hundreds of poor farmers who were now cutting down trees, contrary to the project's intention.
An official source said: "We also asked for disclosure about carbon trades in the interest of transparency. None of this information was forthcoming. [Envirotrade] are selling products that are not delivering what was promised and the public needs to know."
The commission, which has so far donated Euros 1.13m to the project, does not suggest there has been any dishonesty. However, it felt that the scientific concerns raised with the project since May 2006 remained unaddressed. Consequently, in October 2007 it suspended payment of the last instalment of the grant, worth Euros 453,000. Both the company and Edinburgh University say they will respond to all the criticism in a report they are writing for the commission. In a statement, Birley said that all the money raised so far from selling carbon credits - 750,000 pounds - has gone back into the project and he has also invested his own money. He added that the project's "well intentioned shortcomings" were to be expected with such a challenging idea and Envirotrade had been transparent with all its clients.
However, one of the commission's main concerns was about the way carbon credits are being sold when it is difficult to verify the amount of emissions actually saved. Despite this, Envirotrade has sold a further 100,000 worth of carbon credits since it received the report....
British eco-town proposals receive fresh blow
The Government's flagship eco-town strategy has suffered another damaging blow after an independent report said one of the proposed towns was "unworkable". The Pennbury plan for a 12,000 home development near Leicester is one of 12 shortlisted by ministers as part of their plans to build a string of environmentally sustainable new towns across the country. But a leading consultancy on urban design and planning has damned the Pennbury scheme, submitted by the Co-operative supermarket and property group, as economically "unsustainable", "ambiguous" and "fundamentally weak".
The Halcrow Group, which was commissioned by four local authorities covering Leicester and the surrounding towns and villages to assess the Co-op's plans, said the new town was likely to produce fewer jobs than envisaged, would suffer from poor transport links and would be out of keeping in what is currently a rural setting. The report's findings are another major setback for the Government's eco-town proposals, which have already been widely condemned by opponents as threatening the green field character of many sites for little if any environmental or economic benefit.
The strategy has been beset by problems since it was placed at the heart of Labour's policy agenda by Gordon Brown at his first party conference as leader in September 2007. A shortlist of 15 was cut to 12 after developers dropped out and schemes were reconsidered. The final list of 10 is expected to be announced shortly. The schemes will then go through the normal planning process. But there are growing doubts over the viability of several of the schemes in the wake of the worsening housing crash.
Eco-towns, which will contain between 5,000 and 20,000 homes, are intended to be carbon neutral and act as an "exemplar" for environmentally-friendly development. Each must contain at least 30 per cent "affordable" housing, while properties must be on average only a 10-minute walk away from public transport and local services, such as doctors' surgeries and primary schools. At least one person in each household should be able to get to work without a car.
However, the Government admitted in November that only one of the 12 sites being considered is officially ranked as "generally suitable" for an eco-town. Rackheath, in Norfolk, was judged to be Grade A because it was near Norwich and a working railway line. The vast majority of the schemes, including Pennbury, were judged to be Grade B - which meant they "might be a suitable location subject to meeting specific planning and design objectives".
But the new report on Pennbury casts doubt on this. It states: "The Co-op have at this stage in the planning process provided insufficient information to support the Pennbury proposal at this moment. We have serious reservations at this stage that neither the required transport infrastructure, nor the level of jobs required can actually be delivered. "Both the economic strategy and transport proposals should therefore be substantially revised, as these are fundamental to the overall sustainability of the concept."
Dr Kevin Feltham, a Leicestershire county councillor and a campaigner against the scheme, said: "This report has left the Co-op's plans for Pennbury in tatters. The time is now ripe for them to withdraw their bid in the face of overwhelming evidence that the plans are unworkable."
The report's findings are a particular blow to the Pennbury scheme because Halcrow's consultants said it could have brought potential benefits to the region "in terms of new jobs, homes, community facilities and infrastructure, as well as pioneering new approaches to zero carbon living". But it said the plans "are not matched by sufficiently detailed commitments and proposals to ensure that these objectives can actually be delivered." It found:
* The Co-op had produced no convincing evidence to support the assumption that 60 per cent of residents would be able to work in the town.
* The planned location has poor transport links, making it unattractive for potential employers and businesses.
* It is unclear from population projections whether there is in fact a need for so many new homes in the area.
* There has been no survey of local environmental features such as ecology, landscape and cultural heritage.
However, the Co-operative Group defended its proposals, claiming the Halcrow report recognised the potential benefits of the Pennbury eco-town. Ruairidh Jackson, its head of planning and property strategy, said: "We are in close discussions with Leicester Regeneration Company about the benefits our proposals offer and to improve the regeneration potential of the city as a whole. This story goes far wider than simply employment. It's about education and skills, about helping regeneration sites to come forward, about housing in the city, about unlocking public transport investment and, not least, about helping Leicester to market and promote itself to additional sources of investment. "Our proposals are fully complementary to these objectives and we believe that we can help Leicester to be an even stronger and more successful city."
The four councils who commissioned the report - Harborough District, Oadby & Wigston Borough, Leicestershire County and Leicester City - are themselves split on the question of the eco-town. Leicestershire County opposes the scheme and has accused Leicester City, which backs it, of being "too easily bought" by the promise of 5 million pounds from the Co-op to carry out a feasibility study into running a tram from Pennbury into Leicester city centre. Harborough and Oadby have yet to decide whether they support the plans.
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