Monday, March 09, 2009

The ocean acidity scare revs up

Big article from "The Times" below. Not the slightest mention of the element of self-contradiction in it, however. Warmed water gives off CO2. Try opening a bottle of warm Coca Cola if you doubt it. The CO2 will rush out in a spurt of foam and the drink will be "flat" thereafter, quite unlike what happens when you open it cold. So if global warming does happen, it will make the ocean LESS prone to absorb CO2 and hence be LESS acidic, not more. There are also more complex objections to the scare e.g. here. And, as ever, facts trump theory. a recent paper shows that phytoplankton in fact thrive under increasing oceanic CO2 concentrations

They are calling it "the other CO2 problem". Its victim is not the polar bear spectacularly marooned on a melting ice floe, or an eagle driven out of its range, nor even a French pensioner dying of heatstroke. What we have to mourn are tiny marine organisms dissolving in acidified water.

In fact we need to do rather more than just mourn them. We need to dive in and save them. Suffering plankton may not have quite the same cachet as a 700-kilo seal-eating mammal, but their message is no less apocalyptic. What they tell us is that the chemistry of the oceans is changing, and that, unless we act decisively, the limitless abundance of the sea within a very few decades will degrade into a useless tidal desert.

In every way - economically, environmentally, socially - the effects of ocean acidification are as dangerous as climate change, and even harder to resist.

It has been a slow dawning. Until recently, marine scientists have had little luck in engaging the public or political mind. The species most directly at risk - plankton, corals, sea snails, barnacles and other stuff that most people have never heard of - seemed as remote from our lives as cosmic dust. But now at last "the other CO2 problem" may have found a mascot of its own - the tiny but colourful clownfish, winsome star of the Disney classic Finding Nemo. In the film, Nemo gets lost. Now it turns out that real clownfish might lose their way too.

In early February, the American academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) carried a paper titled "Ocean acidification impairs olfactory discrimination and homing ability of a marine fish". The sombre language concealed a stark message. What the researchers had found was that clownfish larvae in acidified water were unable to detect the odours from adult fish that led them to their breeding sites. The implications were obvious. If the fish don't breed, the species will not survive, and what is true for one species must be true for others. In time, the world's fishing fleets will be less a food resource than a disposal problem.

What's happening is this: the oceans absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. As most climate scientists and governments now agree, human activity - most importantly, burning fossil fuels - has intensified CO2 in the atmosphere, causing long-term climate change. The good thing is that the seas have absorbed a lot of the gas and so have slowed the pace of atmospheric warming. The bad thing is that CO2 reacts with sea water to make carbonic acid.

Since 1800, humans have generated 240 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, half of which has been absorbed by the sea. On average, each person on Earth contributes a tonne of carbon to the oceans every year. The result is a rapid rise in acidity - or a reduction in pH, as the scientists prefer to express it - which, as it intensifies, will mean that marine animals will be unable to grow shells, and that many sea plants will not survive. With these crucial links removed, and the ecological balance fatally disrupted, death could flow all the way up the food chain, through tuna and cod to marine mammals and Homo sapiens. As more than half the world's population depends on food from the sea for its survival, this is no exaggeration.

This is why 155 marine scientists from 26 countries recently signed the Monaco Declaration, identifying the twin threats of global warming and ocean acidification as "the challenge of the century". It is, nevertheless, a challenge they have taken up only recently.

"The whole scientific community was caught with its pants down," says Jason Hall-Spencer, research lecturer at Plymouth University, who was one of the signatories. The term "ocean acidification" was coined only in 2003 - by odd coincidence the same year Finding Nemo was released and 35,000 people died in the European summer heat wave - though, unlike global warming, it has not had to face the opposition of truth-deniers. Verging on panic in 2005, the Royal Society published a 68-page report in which it calculated that acidification had increased by 30% in 200 years. If we went on as we were, it said, this would rise to 300% by 2100, making the seas more corrosive than they had been at any time for hundreds of millennia. In every practicable sense, the damage was irreversible. "It will take tens of thousands of years for ocean chemistry to return to a condition similar to that occurring at pre-industrial times," the Royal Society said.

It is a truism that might have been minted for the Darwin bicentenary. A species once lost is gone for ever. You can't rewind evolution, or reinvent fish. We are not talking about dispossessing our children, or even our grandchildren's grandchildren. We are talking so many generations into the fog of geological time that we might not even be talking about the same species. We are certainly not talking about low-lying countries protected by coral reefs, such as the Maldives. In future they will not be studying the marine environment: they will be part of it.

Doomy stuff like this, of course, is nothing new. The "warmists", as the deniers like to call them, have been telling us for years that our rate of consumption is unsustainable and that future generations will pay a terrible price for our carelessness. If you don't want to believe in climate change, you can argue that forecasts created by computer modelling are "theoretical". Or you can confuse the long-term graph of "climate" with the short-term spikes of "weather". Look, there's a snowflake! Global warming can't be happening!

But acidification permits no such equivocation. It is demonstrable, visible and measurable, and there is nothing theoretical about how it is caused or what it does. All the same, until now there has been one significant shortcoming.

As with the clownfish, it has been easy enough under laboratory conditions to see how individual species respond to acidity. What is much less easy is to observe the effects on entire ecosystems.

This problem has now been cracked by a team from Plymouth led by Jason Hall-Spencer, who scanned the world for a location where the sea conditions expected in future were already happening naturally. They found it in the Bay of Naples, just off the holiday island of Ischia.

The sea bed here is chalk. Deep geological activity converts some of this into carbon dioxide and forces it up through volcanic vents into the water. In and around the neighbourhood of these vents, the result is a perfect "gradient" of pH levels from the normal 8.1 all the way down to 7.4 (remember: the lower the pH, the higher the acidity). To non-scientists, the giving or taking of a few decimal points can look undramatic. To experts they mark the difference between life and death. The 30% increase in acidity during the industrial age is reflected by a drop in pH of just 0.1. On current trends, it will plummet by another 0.4 points to hit an unprecedented low of 7.7 by 2100. By 2300 it could be down to 7.3.

Few species living in the sea have experienced conditions like these at any time throughout their entire life on Earth. With pH as low as this, it is at least questionable that land creatures emerging from the primal swamp could have evolved into the bony specimens that roam the Earth today. And it is certain that the pace of environmental change is far too fast for evolution to keep in step. As a recipe for life on Earth, it is about as efficacious as nuclear war. Experiments have shown that the tipping point at which shell growth ceases comes at a pH of 7.8. This is the level which, on current trends, will be the global norm before the end of the century, and it is the level at which the Plymouth team has focused its attention.

Given all the dire warnings, the first visual impression at Ischia is something of a surprise. There are plenty of fish. Is it, then, a false alarm? Could the world's scientists have got their statistical knickers in a twist and jumped to a false conclusion? Will life just go on as normal? Alas, no. The acidified water is a small zone in a wider sea. There is no barrier. The fish are just visitors. They come to feed on the soft-bodied algae that survive in the altered conditions, then they swim away again. What they don't do is breed - which is exactly what the Nemo research predicts.

"Fish breed naturally at a pH of 8.1," says Hall-Spencer. He believes the sensory loss observed in clownfish is only one part of the story. "Losing the sense of smell," he says, "is not likely to be the only effect. It's much more likely to be one impairment among many. Eggs in these conditions cannot develop normally."

Shelled creatures in the Ischian waters are visibly suffering. Sea urchins thin out and disappear as the acidity increases; so do corals, limpets and barnacles. Sea snails straying into the zone have thin, weak shells, and produce no young. There is another important absentee, too - the coralline algae (seaweed with a chalk skeleton) that glues coral reefs together. Without it, reefs become weakened and fall apart.

In just a few decades, if the output of carbon dioxide does not abate, this will be the condition of all the world's oceans. Many if not all commercially fished species, including shellfish, will suffer. So, too, will coral reefs, whose disintegration will leave low-lying coasts in the tropics unprotected from the rising seas and fiercer storms that climate change will unleash. By some calculations reefs will have vanished by 2065, and nobody expects them to survive into the 22nd century.


More Warmist censorship of pesky findings

We have gone through a cold spell in Britain, with heavy snowfalls in many parts of the country. I knew, then, that it was coming and it did come - right on the first day: a newspaper article reassuring us that these fluctuations in weather conditions are no more than noise and do not affect the well-established existence of man-made global warming.

I will not discuss this or similar articles because it is evident that a local short-term temperature change is meaningless against the long-term pattern. I am, though, interested in the predictability of the appearance of these stories in the media. The campaign on global warming is on and it has to be more explicit in moments like this when our subconscious may make us waver just so faintly. Lest we forget.

The article in the Daily Telegraph said that this spell of bad weather was not simply irrelevant, but was yet another confirmation of global warming. Curiously, it is a feature of man-made global warming that every fact confirms it: rising temperatures or decreasing temperatures, drought or torrential rain, tornadoes and hurricanes or changes in the habits of migratory birds. No matter what the weather, some model of global warming offers a watertight explanation.

From global warming to climate change

For a scientist like me, this sounds fishy. I imagine that there are a good number of models, each with different assumptions and results, but we are never given a general view of these models, what data they use, how their results compare and where and when their predictions apply. The impression is that science popularisers cherry-pick whichever happens to provide the results that match the news of the day.

One very useful tool in this respect has been the conceptual change from global warming to the more adaptable one of climate change. The bigger the target, the easier to hit it. Somebody should take care that the target is not so big that it becomes impossible to miss.

I was away for my Christmas holidays in Spain recently, and there I had more first-hand evidence of the campaign. I met a fellow scientist whom I had not seen in many years. I knew he had been working on carbon accumulation in soils. When he began this work at the end of the 1980s, global warming was starting to make the news. He naturally thought that this was a study of great potential interest. He carried on for years, during which the political situation around the issue changed.

The conclusion of his investigation is that, globally, the ability of soil to accumulate carbon is 100 percent greater than the current estimation. Here is a piece of science of great relevance to the hottest issue of the moment and one that deserves to be looked into in detail, as it affects our predictions substantially.

Ethics a central issue

The response of the research institution in which my colleague works was to refuse to publish his results.

There was no peer-review of the methods or science in the work. My colleague's track record shows that he is a competent scientist with numerous papers published in highly-regarded international journals. The quality of his research was not the issue. The decision was political. His laboratory is directly dependent on the regional government in that part of Spain, and in this government's agenda global warming features prominently. My colleague's results were seen as possibly undermining the strength of their case.

This is not an isolated case. Research institutions have issued statements positioning themselves in the matter. They want to be in with the media, in with public acceptance, in with Government policies, in with those who allocate funds.

Ethics is a central issue in the global warming debate, which is all about protecting future human generations. But ethical considerations also prescribe that research institutions should not manoeuvre to make the best of their opportunities at the cost of coercing researchers. Science's goal is truth about nature and this can only be found in a climate of intellectual freedom.

A powerful political tool

Global warming has become a powerful political tool. One can see the reasons. Proving it wrong (if wrong it is) is sufficiently difficult to allow using it for quite a long time. There is an element of personal guilt, as we all contribute to global warming, but not too much. Basically it is the rich multinationals which are responsible. Thus we are called both to a cathartic personal conversion and to a noble struggle against the evil polluters of our fragile planet. All this helps to suppress the dissatisfaction of what otherwise could be a life empty of worthwhile goals. Global warming is therefore an immensely appealing cause.


Natural Global Warmings Have Become More Moderate

By Dennis Avery

This week, at the 2nd international conference of man-made warming skeptics sponsored by the Heartland Institute in New York, I'll predict the earth's warming/cooling trends for the 21st century.

I will be among splendid company such as John Coleman, founder of the weather channel, Ross McKitrick, who debunked the "hockey stick" study, physicist Willie Soon, and many other presenters with brilliant credentials. A thousand scientists, economists, and skeptics from every walk of life will meet to discuss the current climate indicators.

I'll use physical evidence of the more than 500 warmings in the past million years, which are found worldwide in ice cores, seabed sediments, fossil pollen and cave stalagmites. At least 700 scientists have published evidence on these solar-driven Dansgaared-Oeschger cycles. The good news is that the D-O cycle's warmings have been getting somewhat cooler for the past 10,000 years-and there is no evidence that human-emitted CO2 will make them much warmer.

This means that the Modern Warming will probably remain cooler than the Medieval Warming (950-1300). It was 0.3 degrees warmer than the 20th century based on Craig Loehle's study of 2000 years of temperature proxies. Willi Dansgaard's 10,000-year reconstruction from ice cores shows the Roman Warming as warmer than the Medieval-but the two Holocene Warmings centered on 4,000 and 7,000 years ago were lots warmer than either.

The IPCC rejects the cycle evidence. They have concluded that the variability of the sun is "too small" to account for the earth's recent warming 1976-98. They want us to sacrifice trillions of dollars to displace fossil fuels based on computers that couldn't even predict the current cooling.

In contrast, I'll predict a cooling planet for the next 25-30 years, because of the D-O cycle's solar linkage. The sunspots began predicting cooling back in 2000, and it arrived a bit early, in 2007. CO2's correlation with our temperatures over the past 150 years is only 22 percent. The correlation with sunspots is 79 percent-What does the UN think caused the 500 previous D-O cycles in the ice cores and seabed records?

There's more. NASA, bless their hearts, reported last April that their Jason satellite confirms a cooling shift in the Pacific, our biggest heat sink. Roseanne D'Arrigo's tree ring and rainfall proxies from around the Pacific Rim tell us that the earth's temperatures have mirrored the Pacific's cyclical shifts-in 25-40 year spurts-for at least the past 400 years.

I predict that after the current Pacific cooling is over, the earth will resume getting slowly and erratically warmer. But not much warmer. That's because the D-O cycles are typically abrupt, delivering about half their temperature increase in the first few decades. Remember, we've had no significant net warming since 1940.

If the moderating trend in the global warming cycles persists, then we will get less than 0.5 degree C more warming over the next two centuries. If the Greenhouse Theory has any validity, we might get a bit more than 0.5 degree more warming-but not much. We tend to forget that the climate forcing power of CO2 unquestionably declines logarithmically, so the earth has probably already gotten three-fourths of the total.

As the earth cools, the U.S. will use our new natural gas surplus instead of biofuels, carbon taxes will die and the deliberate disruption of the economy will be stifled. Further warming 40 years from now will be too mild and erratic to renew public panic. Environmental assessments will become more realistic-and useful.


Scientists to issue stark warning over dramatic new sea level projections

What to do about the fact that sea-level rises have levelled off in the last couple of years? Why, more "projections" of course. Theory trumps reality for Warmists every time

Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels, triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated. Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, Florida, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding, while, in Britain, large areas of the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary are likely to disappear by 2100. In addition, cities including London, Hull and Portsmouth will need new flood defences. "It is now clear that there are going to be massive flooding disasters around the globe," said Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey. "Populations are shifting to the coast, which means that more and more people are going to be threatened by sea-level rises."

The issue is set to dominate the opening sessions of the international climate change conference in Copenhagen this week, when scientists will outline their latest findings on a host of issues concerning global warming. The meeting has been organised to set the agenda for this December's international climate talks (also to be held in Copenhagen), which will draw up a treaty to replace the current Kyoto protocol for limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

And key to these deliberations will be the issue of ice-sheet melting. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - when it presented its most up-to-date report on the likely impact of global warming in 2007 - concluded that sea-level rises of between 20 and 60 centimetres would occur by 2100. These figures were derived from estimates of how much the sea will increase in volume as it heats up, a process called thermal expansion, and from projected increases in run-off water from melting glaciers in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. But the report contained an important caveat: that its sea-level rise estimate contained very little input from melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. The IPCC forecast therefore tended to underestimate forthcoming changes.

"The IPCC felt the whole dynamics of polar ice-sheet melting were too poorly understood," added Vaughan. "However, we are now getting a much better idea of what is going on in Greenland and Antarctica and can make much more accurate forecasts about ice-sheet melting and its contribution to sea-level rises."

From studying satellite images, scientists have watched the sea ice that hugs the Greenland and Antarctic shores dwindle and disappear. Sea-ice melting on its own does not cause ocean levels to rise, but its disappearance has a major impact on land ice sheets. Without sea ice to prop them up, the land sheets tip into the water and disintegrate at increasing rates, a phenomenon that is now being studied in detail by researchers.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent from our studies of Greenland and Antarctica that changes to sea ice are being transmitted into the hearts of the land-ice sheets in a remarkably short time," added Vaughan. As a result, those land sheets are breaking up faster and far more melt water is being added to the oceans than was previously expected. These revisions suggest sea-level rises could easily top a metre by 2100 - a figure that is backed by the US Geological Survey, which this year warned that they could reach as much as 1.5 metres.

In addition, in September, a team led by Tad Pfeffer at the University of Colorado at Boulder published calculations using conservative, medium and extreme glaciological assumptions for sea-level rise expected from Greenland, Antarctica and the world's smaller glaciers and ice caps. They concluded that the most plausible scenario, when factoring in thermal expansion due to warming waters, will lead to a total sea level rise of one to two metres by 2100.

Similarly, a commission of 20 international experts, called on by the Dutch government to help plan its coastal defences, recently gave a range of 55cm to 1.1 metres for sea-level rises by 2100. "Equally important, this commission has highlighted the fact that sea-level rise will not stop in the year 2100," said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "By 2200, they estimate a rise of 1.5 to 3.5m unless we stop the warming. This would spell the end of many of our coastal cities."

This point was backed by Dr Jason Lowe of the Hadley Centre, the UK's foremost climate change research centre. "It is still not clear exactly how much the sea will rise by the end of this century, but it is certain that rises will continue for hundreds of years beyond that - even if we do manage to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions and halt the rise in atmospheric temperature. The sea will continue to heat up and expand. In addition, the Greenland ice sheets will continue to melt," he said.

This latter effect could, ultimately, have a particularly destructive impact. Scientists have calculated that if industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases eventually produce a global temperature increase of around 4C, there is a risk that Greenland's ice covering could melt completely. This could take several hundred years or it might require a couple of thousand. The end result is not in doubt, however. It would add around seven metres to the planet's sea levels. The consequence would be utter devastation.


Global Warming "Bait-and-Switch"

Fred Schwindel's TV City ad promises 40" flat screen televisions for $200. You rush to his store, to learn he's "fresh out" - but has some 42" models for $1000. That's "bait-and-switch," and Fred could be prosecuted for consumer fraud.

In the political arena, however, bait-and-switch is often rewarded, not punished - especially in the case of global warming alarmism. Instead of fines or jail time, politicos get committee chairs, presidencies, speaking fees and Nobel Prizes. Scientists and bureaucrats receive paychecks, research grants and travel stipends for Bali. Activists get secretive government payments for "public education" campaigns. Companies get government contracts, subsidies and seats at the bargaining table. And all are lionized or canonized for supporting Climageddon theories and policies.

Global warming bait-and-switch starts with simple statements that few would contest - then shifts seamlessly to claims that are hotly disputed and supported by little or no evidence.

The bait: Global warming is real. The switch: Global warming is intensifying and threatens agriculture, human civilization and the fabric of life everywhere on earth.

Bait: 99% of scientists agree on the presence of human-caused global warming. Switch: The debate is over. Humans are the primary cause of temperature increases.

Bait: Atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activities is increasing. Switch: CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas and is reaching unprecedented and dangerous levels.

Bait: Earth warmed during the twentieth century, as CO2 levels increased. Switch: Runaway warming is increasing hurricanes, melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels and causing species extinction.

Bait: Even little things like reducing personal energy consumption help the environment. Switch: We can stop climate change by switching to wind and solar energy.

The perpetrators of these B/S schemes may never be chastened or prosecuted. However, as in the case of consumer fraud, an informed public is less likely to get fleeced.

President Obama and congressional Democrats support a $650 billion carbon cap-and-trade tax on every household, business and factory in America. If they introduce legislation amid this recession, voters, energy consumers and more responsible legislators should keep important facts in mind.

Global warming (aka climate change) has been "real" since time began. Witness the Ice Ages, interglacial periods, Medieval Warm Period (950-1350), Little Ice Age (1400-1850), Anesazi drought, Dust Bowl, and conversion of verdant river valleys into the Sahara Desert some 4,000 years ago.

No one yet knows what solar energy fluctuations, planetary orbit shifts, recurrent oscillations in ocean currents, cloud cover variation and other natural forces combined to cause these potent climatic changes. But there is no evidence that they have suddenly been displaced by human CO2 emissions.

Growing numbers of scientists say the climate change debate is far from over, and global warming was never a crisis. Over 650 certified meteorologists and climate scientists are on a US Senate compilation of climate cataclysm skeptics - and 32,000 scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, saying they dispute claims that humans are causing climate change, and the changes will be disastrous.

Many of them are meeting in New York March 8-10, at the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. They may not drive the final nails into the coffin of climate hysteria, but their findings and analyses underscore the lack of evidence for scary "forecasts" that are routinely generated by woefully inadequate computer models and self-interested researchers, activists and politicians. They will point out that planetary temperatures are no longer rising, hurricanes are not increasing in number or intensity, ice caps are not disappearing, and moderate temperature and CO2 increases benefit plant growth.

The UN's Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change claims to be the world's "most authoritative body" on the subject. However, only "something on the order of 20%" of the panel's scientists "have some dealing with climate," admits a senior member. Even the IPCC chairman is an economist, not a scientist.

Worse, says atmospheric scientist Dr. Roy Spencer, the IPCC insists that human carbon dioxide emissions drive global warming. It has "never seriously investigated" the possibility that climate change might be natural. The IPCC sees only what it is looking for; it sees nothing it is not looking for.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may have "soared" from 280 ppm to 385 ppm over the last century. But this represents an almost trivial rise from 0.03% of the atmosphere to 0.04% - the equivalent of an increase from 3 cents to 4 out of $100, or from 1.08 inches to 1.44 inches on a football field. The dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor, which nature controls via evaporation and precipitation.

Planetary temperatures may have increased during the last century, as CO2 levels increased. But not in a straight line. They rose 1900-1940 (1934 was the century's warmest year), fell 1940-1975, rose again 1975-1998, then stabilized and even declined slightly from 1998 to 2008.

New York, Holland and Bangladesh might be inundated by a 49-foot rise in sea level, if the entire West Antarctic ice sheet melted. But that would require a global temperature spike far greater than even Al Gore has prophesied. The average temperature for the peninsula's two-month summer is barely 36 F; in the winter, temperatures are below minus 50.

Unplugging unused appliances and switching to CFL bulbs may help jet-setting Hollywood celebrities feel better. But they will not stabilize Earth's climate. Even grounding Al Gore and John Travolta's private jets, scrapping every US automobile, mothballing America's coal-fired power plants, and slashing US CO2 emissions by 80% (back to 1905 levels), as President Obama wants to do, will have little effect.

Even the IPCC recognizes that perfect compliance with the Kyoto Protocol by every country would reduce global temperature increases by only 0.2 degrees by 2050 (assuming CO2 does drive global warming). But Europe has put its greenhouse gas reduction programs on hold. Australia is poised to reject cap-and-trade plans. China and India are building new coal-fired power plants every week.

Nearly 85% of US energy is hydrocarbon based, whereas wind turbines currently provide 0.5% and generate electricity only 25% of the time. Even absent the deepening recession, taxing and penalizing hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions will drive up energy costs and extinguish far more jobs than can possibly be created via government-subsidized renewable energy and green-collar job initiatives. The impacts on poor families, economic civil rights, living standards and civil liberties would be severe.

Not surprisingly, the more people understand these facts, the worse the hysteria gets. Al Gore: Soaring global temperatures will "bring human civilization to a screeching halt." Energy Secretary Stephen Chu: "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California." NOAA scientist Susan Solomon: "In ten years the oceans will be toxic, and all life in them will die." NASA astronomer James Hansen: "Death trains" are carrying poisonous fuel to "coal-fired factories of death." Hollywood horror movie writers couldn't possibly top this stuff.

So when Congress and the President call for more economic pain through energy restrictions and cap-and-trade bills, demand solid evidence for catastrophic warming and human causation. Don't accept worthless computer models and worst-case scenarios. And don't be conned by bait-and-switch tactics.


Obama's Global Warming Straddle: Lord, make me carbon neutral . . . but not yet

In his February 24 address to Congress, President Obama asked for "legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution." But don't assume that this administration, in contrast to its predecessor, is overly concerned about the threat to humanity from global warming.

When the president unveiled his budget later that week, it became clear that even if so-called cap-and-trade legislation is passed this year, the administration has no plans to start taxing emissions until 2012. A president who warned of catastrophe should Congress delay implementing his economic agenda seems in no particular rush to cut down on greenhouse emissions. No doubt he has been quietly briefed on just how devastating his cap-and-trade regime would be to a fragile economy.

So it's a hollow victory for climate alarmists. As it happens, besides being an election year, 2012 is also supposed to be the point of no return for action on climate change. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-recipient with Al Gore of the Nobel Peace Prize, warned after collecting his prize in Norway that "if there's no action before 2012, that's too late."

Last year Gore himself opined 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." Such warnings have become routine--20 years ago, in 1989, the head of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Program, Noel Brown, issued the same dire prediction, claiming that there was a "10-year window of opportunity" to stop the runaway train of global warming.

After two decades in which environmentalists have urged immediate government action or else, a unified Democratic government has finally made such action possible--but it is, thankfully, not imminent or assured. The timing of any legislation will be determined by the political climate in Washington, and not the temperature in the Arctic.

Whatever else it accomplishes, cap and trade will be a huge tax on the productive sectors of the economy. The "cap" is a government-imposed limit on total emissions; companies then buy permits from the government to emit pollutants up to the amount of the cap, and can then trade these permits with each other. The process of issuing and pricing the permits will be an invitation to astonishing amounts of lobbying and favor-seeking. Cap and trade, in the words of MIT's Richard Lindzen, will be "a bureaucrat's dream."

According to a recently released study by the George C. Marshall Institute, the cost of cap and trade to the overall economy--depending on the size and scope of the legislation--is anywhere from a 0.3 percent to 3 percent drop in GDP in 2015 below what it would otherwise be. The report, as noted by the National Center for Policy Analysis, estimated that Americans would see their "electricity prices jumping 5-15 percent by 2015, natural gas prices up 12-50 percent by 2015, and gasoline prices up 9-145 percent by 2015." The numbers are staggering, which is why the Obama administration plans to divert some of the permit revenues to its "making work pay" tax credit, reimbursing low-income individuals up to $400 a year and $800 for couples. It won't be enough.



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