Sunday, May 31, 2009

Japan considering an INCREASE in CO2 emissions

The high costs Japan would incur if Tokyo promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 would be hard for the public to accept during the recession, Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Friday. His comments showed there was still no consensus within the government after Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito said earlier this week that setting a mid-term target for cuts in a range of 15 to 25 percent was one option.

Aso has said he would announce Japan's mid-term target by mid-June, so he can set out Japan's views at a July meeting of G8 leaders and a U.N. conference in December that is meant to agree a new global climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Japan, the world's fifth largest emitter, is under great pressure from developing nations to show leadership by opting for deep emissions reductions to ensure a strong outcome in December's gathering in the Danish capital Copenhagen. A panel of experts, professors and industry officials has presented Aso with a choice of six target options relative to 1990 levels. It said that curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by regulations or other measures would boost energy costs, increase job losses and thus have a net negative impact on the economy.

The other five options, ranging from an increase of 4 percent to a cut of 15 percent, all fall short of a 25-40 percent cut required of rich nations by a U.N. panel of scientists to minimise the risk of the worst impacts of global warming. "At a time of deep recession like this, it would be difficult to ignore the (larger) costs for the public to bear," Aso said, when asked about the minus 25 percent option. "To trust their morale only would not be the resolution," Aso told a budget committee in Friday's parliament session.

Aso referred to an assessment by economists of the effect of each option on the economy, which showed under the minus 25 percent target scenario, energy costs in 2020 would be 140,000 yen ($1,453) per household per year more than those under the weakest one. The same estimate also showed annual disposable income per household would be 220,000 yen less than that under the weakest option, in which users are allowed to keep the current pace of buying low-emission goods and facilities, resulting in emissions exceeding by 4 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Aso also told the same committee that he would take into account that the plus 4 percent option attracted the largest number of comments from the public in the past month.

How to gauge voters' views is critical for Aso as public opinion polls put the opposition Democrats ahead of his Liberal Democratic Party in the run-up to an election, which many speculate will be in August and must be held by October.



According to Germany's Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD), there is no chance of the emissions trading scheme being introduced for the EU airlines industry anytime soon. He said: "The Federal Government supports in principle the plans of the EU Commission, but the emissions trading scheme should not be a competitive disadvantage for Europe's leading airlines."

Given current circumstances, this could not be guaranteed as the U.S. and other non-European countries continue to reject the EU emissions trading process for all incoming and outgoing flights.

SOURCE. (In German; Transl. BJP)


An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots. "If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as "weak" or "mild," but that could give the wrong impression. "Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."...

The latest forecast revises an earlier prediction issued in 2007. At that time, a sharply divided panel believed solar minimum would come in March 2008 followed by either a strong solar maximum in 2011 or a weak solar maximum in 2012. Competing models gave different answers, and researchers were eager for the sun to reveal which was correct.

"It turns out that none of our models were totally correct," says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's lead representative on the panel. "The sun is behaving in an unexpected and very interesting way."



It's a surprisingly common phenomenon generally and the way Warmist scientists repeatedly refuse to release their raw data and details of their analytical procedures tells its own story

It's a long-standing and crucial question that, as yet, remains unanswered: just how common is scientific misconduct? In the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh reports the first meta-analysis of surveys questioning scientists about their misbehaviours. The results suggest that altering or making up data is more frequent than previously estimated and might be particularly high in medical research. [That I can believe. Any reader of my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog will know of the low to juvenile standards in medical research]

Recent scandals like Hwang Woo-Suk's fake stem-cell lines or Jon Sudbø's made-up cancer trials have dramatically demonstrated that fraudulent research is very easy to publish, even in the most prestigious journals. The media and many scientists tend to explain away these cases as pathological deviations of a few "bad apples." Common sense and increasing evidence, however, suggest that these could be just the tip of the iceberg, because fraud and other more subtle forms of misconduct might be relatively frequent. The actual numbers, however, are a matter of great controversy.

Estimates based on indirect data (for example, official retractions of scientific papers or random data audits) have produced largely discrepant results. Therefore, many researchers have asked scientists directly, with surveys conducted in different countries and disciplines. However, they have used different methods and asked different questions, so their results also appeared inconclusive.

To make these surveys comparable, the meta-analysis focused on behaviours that actually distort scientific knowledge (excluding data on plagiarism and other kinds of malpractice) and extracted the frequency of scientists who recalled having committed a particular behaviour at least once, or who knew a colleague who did.

On average, across the surveys, around 2% of scientists admitted they had "fabricated" (made up), "falsified" or "altered" data to "improve the outcome" at least once, and up to 34% admitted to other questionable research practices including "failing to present data that contradict one's own previous research" and "dropping observations or data points from analyses based on a gut feeling that they were inaccurate."

In surveys that asked about the behaviour of colleagues, 14% knew someone who had fabricated, falsified or altered data, and up to 72% knew someone who had committed other questionable research practices.

In both kinds of surveys, misconduct was reported most frequently by medical and pharmacological researchers. This suggests that either the latter are more open and honest in their answers, or that frauds and bias are more frequent in their fields. The latter interpretation would support growing fears that industrial sponsorship is severely distorting scientific evidence to promote commercial treatments and drugs.

As in all surveys asking sensitive questions, it is likely that some respondents did not reply honestly, especially when asked about their own behaviour. Therefore, a frequency of 2% is probably a conservative estimate, while it remains unclear how the figure of 14% should be interpreted.

More information: Fanelli D (2009) How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5738



Democrats in the White House and Congress are now making the most serious push ever for legislation to force reductions of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions. The stated purpose is to reduce potential future harm from human-caused climate change, and the vehicle is a climate-and-energy bill commonly referred to as Waxman-Markey. But the reasoning behind this proposal is innumerate, even if we accept the scientific and economic assumptions of its advocates.

According to the authoritative U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), under a reasonable set of assumptions for global economic and population growth, the world should expect to warm by about 2.8°C over the next century. Also according to the IPCC, a global increase in temperature of 4°C should cause the world to lose about 3 percent of its economic output. So if we do not take measures to ameliorate global warming, the world should expect to be about 3 percent poorer sometime in the 22nd century than it otherwise would be. This is very far from the rhetoric of global destruction. Because of its geographical position and mix of economic activities, the United States is expected to experience no net economic costs from such warming through the end of this century, and to begin experiencing net costs only thereafter.

A government program to force emissions reductions to avoid some of these potential future losses would impose a cost of its own: the loss in consumption we would experience if we used less energy, substituted higher-cost sources of energy for fossil fuels, and paid for projects — which are termed “offsets” — to ameliorate the effect of emissions (an example would be planting lots of trees). It’s complicated to estimate the cost of an emissions-reduction program, but the leading economists in this area generally agree that it would be large, and that we should simply let most emissions happen, because it would be more expensive to avoid them than to accept the damage they would cause. This makes sense, if you consider that most such plans (for example, Waxman-Markey) call for eliminating something like 80 percent of carbon emissions within the next 40 years or so. Even if the economy becomes more efficient over this period, such a quick transition away from our primary fossil-fuel sources will be expensive.

If a) the total potential benefit of emissions abatement is about 3 percent of economic output more than 100 years from now, b) we can avoid only some of this damage, and c) it’s expensive to prevent those emissions that we can prevent, the net benefit of emissions reduction will likely be a very small fraction of total economic output. William Nordhaus, who heads the widely respected environmental-economics-modeling group at Yale, estimates the total expected net benefit of an optimally designed, implemented, and enforced global program to be equal to the present value of about 0.2 percent of future global economic consumption. In the real world of domestic politics and geostrategic competition, it is not realistic to expect that we would ever have an optimally designed, implemented, and enforced global system, and the side deals made to put in place even an imperfect system would likely have costs that would dwarf 0.2 percent of global economic consumption. The expected benefits of emissions mitigation do not cover its expected costs. This is the root reason that proposals to mitigate emissions have such a hard time justifying themselves economically.

The mechanism for mitigation proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill is a “cap and trade” plan. The idea is quite simple: The government sets a fixed annual limit to total carbon-dioxide emissions and distributes ration cards for the right to emit a portion of this amount (that’s the “cap”); it also allows those who receive ration cards to sell them (that’s the “trade”). Now, “distributes” is an artfully chosen word: How would the government decide who gets the ration cards? One method is to sell them; another is to give them away, theoretically based on some objective criterion such as historical emissions, but in practice more likely based on campaign contributions. Waxman-Markey doesn’t specify how the distributing is to be accomplished. The Obama administration expects to sell ration cards, bringing the government $80 billion a year in revenue over the next decade. This revenue represents a cost increase for more or less any company that uses lots of fossil-fuel energy in one way or another (i.e., most of the economy). Like all raw-material cost increases, these will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. So in reality this is a backdoor tax on energy that conscripts private companies into being collection agents.

Would these costs be justified by the benefits we could expect Waxman-Markey to create? No, for the reasons outlined above.



We all know that the financial stakes are enormous in the global warming debate — many oil, coal and power companies are at risk should carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases get regulated in a manner that harms their bottom line. The potential losses of an Exxon or a Shell are chump change, however, compared to the fortunes to be made from those very same regulations.

The climate-change industry — the scientists, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists and, most importantly, the multinationals that work behind the scenes to cash in on the riches at stake — has emerged as the world’s largest industry. Virtually every resident in the developed world feels the bite of this industry, often unknowingly, through the hidden surcharges on their food bills, their gas and electricity rates, their gasoline purchases, their automobiles, their garbage collection, their insurance, their computers purchases, their hotels, their purchases of just about every good and service, in fact, and finally, their taxes to governments at all levels.

These extractions do not happen by accident. Every penny that leaves the hands of consumers does so by design, the final step in elaborate and often brilliant orchestrations of public policy, all the more brilliant because the public, for the most part, does not know who is profiteering on climate change, or who is aiding and abetting the profiteers.

Some of the climate-change profiteers are relatively unknown corporations; others are household names with only their behind-the-scenes role in the climate-change industry unknown. Over the next few weeks, in an extended newspaper series, you will become familiar with some of the profiteers, and with their machinations. This series begins with Enron, a pioneer in the climate-change industry.

Almost two decades before President Barack Obama made “cap-and-trade” for carbon dioxide emissions a household term, an obscure company called Enron — a natural-gas pipeline company that had become a big-time trader in energy commodities — had figured out how to make millions in a cap-and-trade program for sulphur dioxide emissions, thanks to changes in the U.S. government’s Clean Air Act. To the delight of shareholders, Enron’s stock price rose rapidly as it became the major trader in the U.S. government’s $20-billion a year emissions commodity market.

Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, keen to engineer an encore, saw his opportunity when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were inaugurated as president and vice-president in 1993. To capitalize on Al Gore’s interest in global warming, Enron immediately embarked on a massive lobbying effort to develop a trading system for carbon dioxide, working both the Clinton administration and Congress. Political contributions and Enron-funded analyses flowed freely, all geared to demonstrating a looming global catastrophe if carbon dioxide emissions weren’t curbed. An Enron-funded study that dismissed the notion that calamity could come of global warming, meanwhile, was quietly buried.

To magnify the leverage of their political lobbying, Enron also worked the environmental groups. Between 1994 and 1996, the Enron Foundation donated $1-million to the Nature Conservancy and its Climate Change Project, a leading force for global warming reform, while Lay and other individuals associated with Enron donated $1.5-million to environmental groups seeking international controls on carbon dioxide.

The intense lobbying paid off. Lay became a member of president Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development, as well as his friend and advisor. In the summer of 1997, prior to global warming meetings in Kyoto, Japan, Clinton sought Lay’s advice in White House discussions. The fruits of Enron’s efforts came soon after, with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

An internal Enron memo, sent from Kyoto by John Palmisano, a former Environmental Protection Agency regulator who had become Enron’s lead lobbyist as senior director for Environmental Policy and Compliance, describes the historic corporate achievement that was Kyoto.

“If implemented this agreement will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural-gas industries in Europe and the United States,” Polisano began. “The potential to add incremental gas sales, and additional demand for renewable technology is enormous.”

The memo, entitled “Implications of the Climate Change Agreement in Kyoto & What Transpired,” summarized the achievements that Enron had accomplished. “I do not think it is possible to overestimate the importance of this year in shaping every aspect of this agreement,” he wrote, citing three issues of specific importance to Enron which would become, as those following the climate-change debate in detail now know, the biggest money plays: the rules governing emissions trading, the rules governing transfers of emission reduction rights between countries, and the rules governing a gargantuan clean energy fund.



As government representatives head for the next round of UN climate talks in Bonn starting Monday, hopes for an agreement that would avert catastrophic climate change are being seriously undermined by the developed world in two key areas: targets for emissions cuts and finance for developing world mitigation and adaption, Greenpeace said today.

Developing countries – such as China - are showing the willingness to take real action, provided that industrialised countries show leadership. However, a small group of rich countries are placing the climate in peril because of their lack of commitment to make dramatic cuts in emissions. Most notable is the US, closely followed by Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“If the US doesn’t strengthen its position significantly, President Obama will put a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen at risk,” said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace International. Kaiser warned, however, that the weak US position should not be used as an excuse for inaction by other developed countries.



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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