Saturday, February 07, 2009

Global warming will save people's lives

By Andrew Bolt, writing from Australia

More than 30 Victorians died in last week's heat in one of the great scandals of green politics. About 20 more people died in South Australia, but neither state government is telling yet how precisely the victims died, saying they are awaiting coroners' reports. But already warming extremists such as Prof Clive Hamilton are excusing these same governments -- which almost certainly contributed to at least some of these deaths. "Australians are already dying from climate change," shouted this professor of public ethics at the Australian National University, and author of Scorcher. But Hamilton is utterly wrong. Fact: Cold, not heat, is what really kills people, as we see now in Britain. Fact: A warming world would save countless lives, not cost them. And fact: Those who died last week were in less danger from global warming than from the deadly incompetence of green governments trying to "stop" it.

You think that sounds extreme? Then consult the unambiguous evidence that damns the governments of both Victoria and South Australia. We already know a heatwave can kill the very frail, if they aren't protected. In 1939, for instance, 438 people died in the Black Friday heat, not including the 71 Victorians killed by the fires. The temperatures back then were higher than those in Victoria and South Australia last week, but the heat this time hung around for longer. Yet despite our much greater population today, no more than 50 people died from heat, a fraction of the 1939 toll.

What changed? Mostly our ability now to stay cool - most obviously through airconditioning. Airconditioning saves not just sweat, but lives. But what do we now see? South Australia's Government actually asked people to avoid using airconditioners last week, citing environmental reasons. In Victoria, Deputy Premier Rob Hulls had earlier asked people to likewise avoid using airconditioners unless necessary. The Age even campaigned against them, asking readers to toughen up.

But far deadlier than this jihad against airconditioners was that the power in both states last week crashed. On the first day of Melbourne's heat wave, tens of thousands of homes - some with sick people - lost power because our grid cannot cope with cities grown so big and rich that many of us use airconditioners. And the next day 500,000 more homes went black when the cable carrying extra power from Tasmania was switched off. Sure, it had been designed to operate until temperatures reached 45C in Melbourne, but not (for some reason) if they reached just 35C in Tasmania. And so, click.

Who knows how many people then died? In Victoria, the coroner will say only that deaths last week were double the norm. The South Australian coroner said he'd had "more sudden deaths than is usual". Police and ambulance sources suggest tp to 50 extra deaths, possibly from heat.

Of course, Hamilton might argue that this is simply the mounting death toll we must expect when 20th century cities meet 21st century warming. Let's ignore the obvious reply - that in fact the globe has cooled since 2002, although, true, it may soon warm again. Let's look instead at Britain, now having its coldest winter in 13 years. So vulnerable are the elderly to cold that a World Health Organisation report last year estimated that 40,000 Britons died every winter, and these "excess winter deaths are related to poor housing conditions - insufficient insulation, ineffective heating systems and fuel poverty". That's right: 40,000 Britons die each year in the cold, often because they're too poor for warming. Compare that to the just 50 Australians who may have died in the worst heatwave in a century.

The British Facility of Public Health even says it expects 8000 Britons to die for each degree that the cold dips below the winter average. And this winter is so severe that the National Pensioners Convention has warned that one in 12 old people may perish. What's true of England is true everywhere. The British Medical Journal in 2000 reported a study by scientists in Britain, Italy, Holland and France who found that "all regions showed more annual cold-related mortality than heat-related mortality". They concluded: "Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short-term declines in cold related mortalities."

Understand, Clive? Rising temperatures will actually save lives. Indeed, University of London researchers calculated in the Southern Medical Journal that in Britain, at least, a big warming over the next 50 years "would increase heat-related deaths in Britain by about 2000 but reduce cold-related deaths by about 20,000".

So let's agree on the evidence: cold is the real killer, and airconditioning saves us in summer, just as central heating can save the frail in winter. So how mad are our governments? The Rudd Government will next year impose an emissions trading scheme that will "save" the planet by making power for your heaters and coolers more expensive. Victoria is even trialing a smart-meter so it can cut power use on hot days by making your electricity so expensive that you'd have to pay $170 a day to run ducted airconditioning. And all this to "save" a planet from a warming that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

We're "dying from climate change", Clive? Dying for it, more likely.


Who Pays the Bill for 'Controlling' Climate Change?

So, You Thought $4-a-Gallon Gas Was Expensive? Wait Until You See What Your Power Bill Will Look Like

If you, I and everybody else who pays for electricity, gas or any other kind of energy are about to see our bills go through the stratosphere to pay for someone else's faith-based initiative, we shouldn't take it quietly. So I won't. Billions are going to be vacuumed out of consumers' wallets by "cap-and-trade" measures like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that Maine and other Northeastern states have implemented, and by a bill in Congress that would impose a similar carbon- trading scheme nationwide.

Want evidence? The New York Times reported last week that a New York state energy firm, Indeck Energy Services Inc., is suing that state over joining RGGI. The suit claims Indeck "will lose millions of dollars that other power generators won't (because) while most power plants will be able to eventually pass those carbon costs on to customers, Indeck says it will not able to do so because they are locked in a long-term fixed-price contract" for one of their plants.

If one company is complaining about RGGI because it can't recoup millions of dollars from its customers based on power production at one plant, how many millions - or billions - of dollars in extra costs will be passed on to us based on all the plants in all the states that participate in RGGI?

If these measures were aimed solely at reducing pollution, their expenses could be subjected to a rational cost-benefit analysis. However, their real target is not truly noxious gases or particulates, but carbon dioxide, which is increasing in the atmosphere - though not to anywhere near the levels that have often pertained in the Earth's past.

And while the costs of RGGI are clear, its benefits remain highly theoretical. For example, European nations are discovering that the carbon- trading schemes they have already implemented have enriched some companies while not yielding any appreciable decrease in CO2 levels. So, opposition to more climate-control measures is mounting across the Continent.

Meanwhile, Al Gore told us in "An Inconvenient Truth" that the more CO2 there is, the warmer the Earth will get. However, what has happened as CO2 levels rose is global cooling. Global temperatures basically flattened off in 1998 and remained level for about six years, before starting to decline four years ago. Thus, 2008 was the coolest year in the past decade. Scientists writing in Nature magazine now say that cooler is the way we're going for at least the next 10 to 15 years.

And that's not even counting the fact that the sun's been much less active recently, leading some solar experts to wonder if we might not soon enter a freezing-cold period like the "Little Ice Age" that ended about 150 years ago.

You might be interested to know that the past decade's cooling was not predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose famous report said that a warmer climate was inevitable, based on their computer-generated climate model forecasts. Yet, the response of Gore and his allies is on the order of, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Yes, weather is not climate. But that would mean more if Gorean advocates did not pounce on every chance weather phenomenon that they could say supported their theory. However, the public is beginning to catch on to all the hype. In a Pew Research Institute poll last month, respondents listed global warming as dead last - 23rd out of 23 issues polled - as a concern. The economy was first, of course, which leads one to wonder just how voters will react when they discover how adversely their economic well-being will be affected by the legislation now in Congress.

We are told all reputable scientists agree with NASA climatologist James Hansen, whose views are commonly cited in the media. For example, Hansen said recently that CO2 growth "for just another decade" would produce "catastrophic effects" that would last "until the end of time." But hundreds of scientists disagree. One very prominent one is Hansen's former boss at NASA, John Theon, who was responsible for all weather and climate research there. He recently wrote that Hansen has "embarassed NASA" by passing off his personal views as those of the agency.

Tellingly, he adds, "My own belief concerning anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit. Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. "Thus, there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy."

But majorities here and in Washington are using them to push expensive, economy-stalling nostrums. Shouldn't we be wary when politicians who want more control over all of society push a suspect theory giving them substantially more control over all of society? And then send us the bill?


The Hidden Costs of Capping Emissions

"Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for `emissions trading', `carbon capture', building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to `biofuels' are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess."

-By Christopher Booker, "2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved," December 29th, 2008.

If 2008 was the year global warming was disproved, 2009 may be the year that the agenda of radical environmentalism is laid to waste. As ALG News has reported, the scientific "consensus" around man-made global warming has unraveled like an old ribbon. And now, the economic "consensus" around it may be starting to unwind as well. With the economy in a clear downturn, the people are questioning the costs of going green. Suddenly it is not so fashionable to save the planet. It may become more important to restore economic growth than to strangle energy output.

It's simple, really. If financial capital was the lifeblood of the economy, energy is its food. And without it, or if it costs too much, nations the world over would be unable to sustain their peoples. The American people were given a powerful lesson on what energy price shocks can feel like this past summer, and they will not be eager to pay that price again.

By constraining the use not for conservation but out of ideological imperative, the economic consequences are negative: an additional price is attached to the use of energy. That additional cost is not the product of a supply shortage, but of regulation that constrains the use of that supply. And it is a cost that the economy simply cannot afford right now.

Carbon cap-and-trade, or other like restrictions on emissions, could cost the global economy trillions in excessive taxes, increased prices and restrictions. These costs are deliberate, the product of a policy that is designed to change people's behavior to use less carbon-based energy. That is the basic argument in favor of reducing carbon emissions: By increasing costs, the consumer will only be able to consume less.

But it's more like a dirty secret that advocates of reducing carbon emissions do not wish to be emphasized. And it is one that opponents of capping carbon emissions who wish to save the energy industries must point out: The costs of wasting precious capital in the midst of a global economic meltdown are unbearable.

In the end, there is a cap on how much the greens will be able to accomplish, and that will be directly proportional to how well the opponents of radical environmentalism capitalize upon the fissures in the scientific "consensus" on "man-made" climate change, and how well they promote the true costs of capping carbon emissions to the American people.


Unconventional professor led away in handcuffs

I would have disapproved of his methods too but this shows how weak tenure protections are. The fact that he is also a climate skeptic is not mentioned below but may well have been the last straw

On the first day of his fourth-year physics class, University of Ottawa professor Denis Rancourt announced to his students that he had already decided their marks: Everybody was getting an A+. It was not his job, as he explained later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace the test, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned. But by abandoning traditional marks, Prof. Rancourt apparently sealed his own failing grade: In December, the senior physicist was suspended from teaching, locked out of his laboratory and told that the university administration was recommending his dismissal and banning him from campus.

Firing a tenured professor is rare in itself, but two weeks ago the university took an even more extreme step: When Prof. Rancourt went on campus to host a regular meeting of his documentary film society, he was led away in handcuffs by police and charged with trespassing. With his suspension raising questions of academic freedom, the Canadian Association of University Teachers has started an independent inquiry into the matter. “Universities are to be places that not only tolerate, but welcome, vigorous debate,” said executive director James Turk. “There would have to be some very serious misdeeds by Dr. Rancourt to justify this action.”

A university spokesperson refused to comment specifically on the trespassing incident or give reasons for the disciplinary action, saying that the decision was “very serious” and “not made lightly.”

Prof. Rancourt's suspension is the most serious step in a long series of grievances and conflicts with the university dating back to 2005, when, after researching new teaching methods, he first experimented with eliminating letter grades. He also altered course curriculum with student input – although not the approval of the university – an approach he calls “academic squatting.”

A well-published and politically outspoken scientist who revels in hashing out theories on napkins at conferences, Prof. Rancourt's unconventional teaching style has generated both an ardent following among a core group of students, and the rancour of many of his fellow faculty members, one-third of whom signed a petition of complaint against him in the fall of 2007. In the letter, which he provided, the complaints stem largely from a series of critical e-mails he distributed about their “paternalistic” teaching methods – a criticism he still expresses, with little restraint, today.

But he also has some high-profile support from an award-winning psychology professor at the university, Claude Lamontagne, who wrote in an e-mail that faculty members need to fight for the freedom to teach how and when they want, lest their independence be “pressed out of our souls like juice from an orange.”

Building on his science and society lectures, the self-described “anarchist” developed a popular course on activism at Ottawa U, which was cancelled by the university the following year, and started an alternative film society focused on social justice.

He made headlines after 10-year-old twins registered for his course with their mother – and he supported the filing of a human-rights complaint claiming ageism when the university said they couldn't stay. His research can be equally alternative: He has called global warming, for instance, a myth. He has also been an outspoken critic of “Israeli military aggression” and is not shy about expressing those views with students.

And while the university may be keeping quiet, Prof. Rancourt has freely disseminated his side of the story: correspondence with university officials and a video of his arrest has been posted on the Internet. “I have nothing to hide,” he says.

Sean Kelly, a master's student who had Prof. Rancourt as his thesis supervisor until his suspension, said some students complained in class when the professor allowed debates to wander off-topic – or refused to set deadlines for homework. Some people, Mr. Kelly admitted, took advantage of the free A, but many others put more energy into the class. Comparing Prof. Rancourt to other professors who practically give students the questions that will be on exams in advance, the 27-year-old said, “He really pushes you to think more for yourself.”

For now, Prof. Rancourt, 51, is meeting his graduate students in caf├ęs, continuing to advise them unofficially on their thesis projects. He is still receiving his salary while awaiting a final decision from the university. The independent board of inquiry appointed by the Canadian Association of University Teachers may take many months to release a report. But the professor is undeterred about those A-pluses: “Grades poison the educational environment,” he insists. “We're training students to be obedient, and to try to read our minds, rather than being a catalyst for learning.”


Snow plunges Britain back into chaos

FRESH snowstorms plunged parts of Britain back into travel chaos today, after a week which saw the heaviest falls in nearly 20 years paralyse the country. Some 200 cars were stranded in up to 30cm of snow overnight in Devon, southwest England, and the occupants had to be rescued by the army as well as police and others emergency workers. More than 800 schools were closed in the west of the country, where rural areas were virtually cut off from the outside world as minor roads became impassable. Heavy snowfalls were reported in counties north of London, while the capital itself saw flurries for the first time since Monday when it almost ground to a halt.

The two Severn bridges, linking England to south Wales, were closed for "safety reasons in the present weather conditions," a spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said. Flights were suspended at Bristol airport in southwest England while Luton and Stansted airports north of London also saw disruption. Train services were disrupted notably in Wales and Yorkshire, northern England.

The rare heavy snowfalls - which have lasted for five days across the country - have led to shortages of grit to spread on roads, with some local authorities appealing for help from neighbouring areas. "Gritting routes will have to be prioritised," said a county council spokesman in Berkshire, near London. "The district's network of secondary roads will not be re-gritted until further supplies are obtained, and roadside salt bins will not be replenished," he added.

The cold snap has killed at least one person this week. A 16-year-old girl died Tuesday after being badly injured in a sledging accident in Yorkshire, northern England. Two climbers died on Mount Snowdon in Wales on Monday, although it was unclear if their death was due to the snow. The Guardian newspaper reported that two people had been killed in weather-related car accidents.


Sweden going for nukes

Nuclear reactors are to be built in Sweden for the first time in nearly 30 years after the Government decided to abandon a decades-old commitment to phase out the power source. Sweden joins a list of EU countries that have chosen nuclear energy under pressure to diversify from fossil fuels and meet tough climate-change targets for cutting CO2 emissions. The dramatic policy switch showed that even in a country where popular opinion has been against nuclear power previously — and one with extensive hydroelectric resources — atomic generation is seen as part of an emissions-free energy strategy. Swedes voted in a referendum in 1980 to phase out nuclear power by 2010 but the Government became anxious that renewable sources were not being developed quickly enough to decommission the generators.

The proposal to renew the reactors is expected to face a battle to get through parliament, however, and will become a main issue at the general election next year with the main opposition parties firmly against the move. Several European countries are opting for nuclear energy and there is concern about the reliability of Russian-supplied fuel after Moscow's gas dispute with Ukraine last month.

Poland wants its first nuclear plant by 2020 and Britain decided last year to replace its ageing nuclear reactors and create new sites. France has ordered its 61st nuclear generator and Finland is building the largest reactor in the world, which is expected to open in 2011.

Sweden has some of the most ambitious greenhouse-gas targets in the world and plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. It wants to abolish fossil fuels as a heating source by 2020 and use half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. “The nuclear phase-out law will be abolished,” a government spokesman said yesterday. “The ban in the nuclear technology law on new construction will also be abolished.”

The change of policy was also made possible by the election in 2006 of the first right-of-centre Government in Sweden for 12 years. Although the four-party coalition of Fredrik Reinfeldt was split three to one, the dissenting Centre Party said that it would not block the move. “I am doing this for the sake of my children and grandchildren,” said Maud Olofsson, the party leader and Industry Minister.

Martina Kruger of Greenpeace accused the Government of giving into intense industry lobbying. She said: “I think that linking climate change targets to this is just a cheap excuse. If we cannot become entirely renewable [for energy sources] I cannot see who can do it.”

A poll published a year ago showed that 48 per cent of Swedes were in favour of building nuclear power stations and 39 per cent were opposed.


Palin and lawmakers were right to dispute beluga, bear listings

Gov. Sarah Palin and the Legislature were criticized for opposing the Endangered Species Act listings of beluga whales in Cook Inlet and polar bears. Mike Nizich and Gov. Palin eloquently justified the state's positions. Species considered under the Endangered Species Act are not necessarily in danger of extinction. Polar bears have increased worldwide over the last 40 years and most populations have not declined. Numbers of belugas have increased over the last six years. The bears and belugas were listed because of predictive models that a scientist would treat as hypotheses in need of testing, not conclusions.

Some Endangered Species Act species are not even species, because the act includes subspecies and populations (DPS), so almost any population can be listed. The belugas were declared genetically distinct to support the DPS designations but this is scientifically simplistic.

Maintaining belugas in Cook Inlet is one management objective, as are fishing, oil, minerals, marine and air traffic, and forestry. Because Endangered Species Act listings are not definitive and can negatively impact citizens, the governor's opposition is legitimate and I believe reflects her concern for multiple-use management and her responsibility to the state of Alaska.

Scientists who don't support ESA listings have been accused of non-objectivity and bogus science (Daily News, Jan. 15, 2009; May 9, 2008). This smacks of Soviet Lysenkoism, in which science was dictated by government policy and dissent was not allowed. In science, debate and discussion should be encouraged, not prevented.



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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