Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Green" cars

Sea Level Rise Gored

Latest models show only a tiny rise compared with the Al Gore scenario

Nature Geoscience has a new review paper out on sea level rise. Based on a review of the literature, it concludes that global average sea level rise is unlikely to exceed one meter by 2100:
As the present warming trend is expected to continue, global mean sea level will continue to rise. Here we review recent insights into past sea-level changes on decadal to millennial timescales and how they may help constrain future changes. We find that most studies constrain global mean sea-level rise to less than one metre over the twenty-first century, but departures from this global mean could reach several decimetres in many areas.

A search of Google News for the lead author's name -- Glenn Milne -- shows no news stories on the article. [Funnily enough!]


Heresy from HuffPo below

If the lack of climate "consensus" can be acknowledged on HuffPo, can the rest of the Green/Left be far behind?

Energy prices have been going higher again. With the price of crude oil closing Friday at $72 a barrel, roughly double its level in January, talk of energy independence is again prevalent.

But energy independence is not a desirable goal for the country (and it may not be doable, either). Lower energy prices raise real wages for all Americans. Paying more for energy in order to get it from wind or solar sources lowers productivity and destroys wealth, and will actually be adversarial for long term economic growth.....

The other argument for energy independence, the ecological desire to "save the planet", is equally dubious. Someone has to take the unpopular stand and say it: We had record cold temperatures in many American cities last winter, and many well-respected scientists doubt the thesis behind global warming. Even if global warming is happening, there is no clear evidence mankind is the cause. And even if mankind was causing the globe's temperatures to rise, it isn't clear that would be calamitous for us and what's more, the solutions offered by the proponents of global warming may be worse than the problem itself.

Take cap and trade for example. In the midst of a deep recession, cap and trade would substantially raise the cost of energy and shut down U.S. factories, shipping jobs to China. The only beneficiaries will be government bureaucrats who, in running the oversight and enforcement of the new environmental rules, will see their power soar and authority expand at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Lyndon Johnson once said "being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but stand there and take it." Sometimes a President has to internalize that lesson.


A more pragmatic Greenie

Seems rather confused to me -- JR

If Adam Werbach, 36, former environmentalist prodigy and lapsed vegetarian, doesn't seem like your typical green activist, it's because he's adamantly not one. Dressed in the simple, casual corporate attire popularised by Silicon Valley's finest, the Californian candidly informs me that environmentalists make for terrible dinner conversation.

He is in the employ of several of America's most nefarious executives, and declares with a detached shrug that it would be "a good thing" if the current green bubble burst. He lambasts the Federal Government for failing to save the US auto industry whilst revelling in its "death spasms" - they are "exciting", apparently.

Only the odd university campus throwback expression about "the strange microcosm of George Bush America" prevents me from thinking I've stumbled into an interview with a Wall Street banker rather than the bright young thing elected to presidency of the Sierra Club, America's oldest and most venerable environmental organisation, at the alarmingly tender age of 23.

It is paradoxes such as these which explain how, when Werbach sits down to write a latest offering on sustainability issues that is not a green bible but rather a corporate business manifesto, his converted fellow "post-environmentalists" have long since ceased to be surprised.

Strategy for Sustainability, Werbach's new book, concerns itself with organising the great uninitiated. It doesn't stop with corporate executives, but rather represents one facet of the ambitious strategy of Saatchi & Saatchi's sustainability-oriented "S" brand, of which he is global president, to create a billion-person movement.

Just as his apathy towards the very notion of a left/right political spectrum leads him to dismiss (albeit nostalgically) any environmentalist movement not apolitical in its composition, Werbach sees no need to choose between grassroots and top-down proselytising. In practical terms, with nearly one-third of all Americans entering Wal-Mart's doors every week while he briefs the men and women managing the shelves, the boundaries rapidly blur.

"Wal-Mart's a lot less controversial than it used to be" he declares, in softly-spoken rebuke to those former colleagues who accused him of selling out when he signed up his consultancy's biggest client in 2006. It has managed to dramatically introduce sustainability right at its business core in mid-course, he tells me, and on a scale so large that it ended up "writing standards that the government should have been writing". And after all, why not employ its considerable resources for the planet's good? Werbach's research has uncovered that reuniting corporations with their most inherent raison d'être - to make money - tends to lead them in this direction anyhow.

Ironically, in his 1997 book Act Now, Apologise Later, Werbach referred to Warren Buffet's corporation, the world's largest publicly-listed company, as a "new breed of toxin." But he has long since eschewed such conventional thinking, following instead the divergent path signalled by his 2004 "Is Environmentalism Dead?" speech to the California's Commonwealth Club.

The broad idea is that environmentalism has traditionally been more concerned with ideology than outcome, and thus has unduly elevated certain companies, products or outcomes only good in a single, narrow element. Contrarily it has tended to denigrate certain parties via a similarly blinkered logic.

Sustainability consultants are often accused of trying to have their cake and eat it in pursuit of an unrealistic panacea. That such paeans to moral and prudent profitability should appeal during our financially-straitened times is hardly surprising; how much happier to view General Motors' ignominious bankruptcy as an opportunity for proactive sustainable development than as the long overdue coup de grace for an industry brought to its knees by financially unviable times.

The assumption that mandatory efficiency standards such as the Obama administration's newly instated 35.5 miles to the gallon for all new cars by 2016 are not punitive coffin nails delivered by new bully owners, but the very salvation of the US$1.5 billion sector, entices far beyond environmentalist circles.

As do all good consultants', Werbach's calculations proudly exude a strong sense of pragmatism, made perhaps more ostensible through his attacks on green idealism. Impassioned bloggers' declarations that Wal-Mart is inherently "awful" and "needs to have its corporate charter revoked and then be shut down" on San Francisco Bay Guardian's website involuntarily cast Werbach's assertion, that small improvements in such places go a long way, as such.

Inevitably the reality is rather more muddled, as revealed by a closer inspection of economic principles which seem neoclassical in their confidence in the free market to ultimately demand sustainable strategy, yet positively Keynesian in their belief that regulatory action (though self-imposed) can and should aim to render companies "bubble-proof".

On the matter of the global recession, "the good thing about the credit crisis is that it forces re-evaluation of strategy", but simultaneously "companies have pulled back on those innovation investments in a capital-constrained world".

Inevitably the question remains: might not halting investment in such abominable polluters as the oil industry be the solution to environmental woes after all? It is possible to perceive in Werbach's demeanour a steady willingness for compromise that has surely shaken off the trappings of youthful anti-establishment indulgence. But it would also be disservice to mistake this recalculation for ambivalence:

Do companies which aren't based on sustainable business models, I ask, have a role to play? "Yeah - they have to die!", and there's a twinkle in the veteran activist's eye here. Not only that, but "Their role is to become carcasses that will feed the rest".

Werbach has always seemed slightly embarrassed by journalists' wilful efforts to paint him as the maverick of environmentalism, as emphasised by the self-effacing shrug I meet when I try to address his alleged air of controversy.

And to his credit, he does try to push his principles further than most. "I was with Novo Nordisk yesterday, the largest maker of diabetes medicine", he explains. "And we were talking about how to tie climate change to diabetes prevention... What we have seen is that when people are pre-diabetic and are exposed to information about global warming, they're better at beginning behaviours that will slow the chances of them getting diabetes."

So it seems it will not just be our bank accounts and the ozone layer which benefit from that trip to the recycling depot, but our bodily well-being itself. Such expansive logic, to which Werbach's strategy seems prone, is surely boosted by the short-term volatility embodied by the credit crisis: "With the complete failure of the industry, it's a pretty good time to be born actually."


Climate change nonsense

British taxes on airline flights have already been doubled for "Green" reasons. Not enough, apparently. Yet another tax on airline flights proposed for Britain

An awful lot of nonsense about climate change is spouted, as we know. I think the thing that bugs me the most though is that people don't seem to be understanding the very reports they rely upon for their logic and calls to action. You know, things like various greenies insisting that we should revert to local and regional economies....when the very IPCC report they rely upon for predictions of climate change states that this would make things worse, not better. Today's example comes from the private sector:

Airline passengers should pay a global tax on carbon and accept an increase in the cost of flying for the sake of the environment, the chief executive of British Airways has told The Times. The airline is the first in the world to propose that all airline passengers should pay an additional sum which would be likely to rise steadily over time.

BA is proposing that the tax should raise at least $5 billion (£3 billion) a year to be used to combat tropical deforestation and help developing companies to adapt to climate change.

That there should be a price for carbon emissions, as there should be for other externalities, I have no problem with, indeed welcome. And as the Stern Review pointed out, we can do this either by Pigou taxation or by cap and trade. We'll leave aside the bit where that report points out that it doesn't matter what you spend the taxes on, it's simply the addition into market prices of those costs that does the work.

But what I would like Bill Walsh (for it is he suggesting this) to understand is that the very same report/review which provides logical support for this position also gives us what that price should be. And as a result of that suggestion, Gordon Brown has doubled Air Passenger Duty. As far as Stern is concerned, as far as both the price and logic of the argument are concerned, the external costs of aviation are already included in the market prices people pay to fly from or to the UK.

It's already been done, no more taxes are needed. It would be fine to call for a different system, but not to call for an additional one.



Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.

There was midsummer snow not just in Norway and the Cairngorms, but even in Saudi Arabia. At least in the southern hemisphere it is winter, but snowfalls in New Zealand and Australia have been abnormal. There have been frosts in Brazil, elsewhere in South America they have had prolonged droughts, while in China they have had to cope with abnormal rain and freak hailstorms, which in one province killed 20 people.

None of this has given much cheer to farmers. In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya - used in animal feed and in many processed foods - are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

In China, the world's largest wheat grower, they have been battling against the atrocious weather to bring in the harvest. (In one province they even fired chemical shells into the clouds to turn freezing hailstones into rain.) In north-west China drought has devastated crops with a plague of pests and blight. In countries such as Argentina and Brazil droughts have caused such havoc that a veteran US grain expert said last week: "In 43 years I've never seen anything like the decline we're looking at in South America."

In Europe, the weather has been a factor in well-below average predicted crop yields in eastern Europe and Ukraine. In Britain this year's oilseed rape crop is likely to be 30 per cent below its 2008 level. And although it may be too early to predict a repeat of last year's food shortage, which provoked riots from west Africa to Egypt and Yemen, it seems possible that world food stocks may next year again be under severe strain, threatening to repeat the steep rises which, in 2008, saw prices double what they had been two years before.

There are obviously various reasons for this concern as to whether the world can continue to feed itself, but one of them is undoubtedly the downturn in world temperatures, which has brought more cold and snow since 2007 than we have known for decades.

Three factors are vital to crops: the light and warmth of the sun, adequate rainfall and the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. As we are constantly reminded, we still have plenty of that nasty, polluting CO2, which the politicians are so keen to get rid of. But there is not much they can do about the sunshine or the rainfall.

It is now more than 200 years since the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century. One of our biggest worries is that our politicians are so fixated on the idea that CO2 is causing global warming that most of them haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, with all the implications that has for whether we get enough to eat.

It is appropriate that another contributory factor to the world's food shortage should be the millions of acres of farmland now being switched from food crops to biofuels, to stop the world warming, Last year even the experts of the European Commission admitted that, to meet the EU's biofuel targets, we will eventually need almost all the food-growing land in Europe. But that didn't persuade them to change their policy. They would rather we starved than did that. And the EU, we must always remember, is now our government - the one most of us didn't vote for last week.



No chance of cutbacks from India or China

As another set of climate talks wrap up with little outward sign of progress, are the chances of a new global deal to combat the threat of global warming slipping out of reach? Even battle-hardened green campaigners saw few reasons for optimism this week in Bonn. One group was considering whether to simply reissue the same press release about the state of negotiations they sent out last year, partly as a protest at the impasse, but partly because the picture has simply not changed since.

The deadlock extends further back than last year. Since the messy compromise that was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, climate change has always been more about the politics than the science. And while the message from the scientists has hardened over the last decade, the politics has remained largely the same.

In one corner sit the rich countries: made wealthy by development fuelled by the burning of coal, oil and gas. And in the other corner sit the poorer nations, many of them eager to follow the same track. Kyoto crudely divided the fight against climate change along similar lines, with only the rich nations handed binding targets to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution. That was fair, the reasoning went, because rich countries were largely responsible for the problem, and had the resources to develop cleaner technology. Poorer nations would be allowed to carry on as they wished, with a tacit understanding that the burden would be shared more widely in future.

Fast-forward a decade, and the neat division of Kyoto has blurred. Large developing nations such as China and India sit at or near the top of the emission charts. Meanwhile global warming threatens a plague on both Kyoto's houses - rich and poor alike. The cuts in carbon that scientists say are needed to avert catastrophic damage cannot be achieved by the developed world alone.

To make a meaningful difference, a new treaty must address the soaring emissions from the developing world, as well as make room for the US, which rejected the Kyoto process because it resented the economic advantage it would hand to China.

This is where the science and politics of climate change clash head-on. And, so far, the politics is winning. For all the talk of economic opportunities of the green economy, bringing down greenhouse gas emissions on the scale required is likely to prove very expensive, especially in the near-term. And for all the talk of international cooperation, nations are determined to protect their own self-interest. And so the macabre climate dance continues: the developed world still wants to take on some kind of targets, while the poorer nations point out that richer countries have failed to honour past pledges, both on emission cuts and to hand over money to help them.



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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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