Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mythical acceleration in sea-level rise

An email from Cliff Ollier []

Kurt Lambeck presented a ‘review’ of Ian Plimer’s book on Australia's ABC radio, which was basically an attempted character assassination with little factual content. Here is an extract from his talk, with the only thing approaching a clear statement of (disputable) fact.

Extract from Lambeck: “There is in fact a quite remarkable convergence of the interpretation of the observational evidence of what has been happening to sea level in the past 100 or so years. This points to an increase in the globally averaged rates by a factor of about 2, and this is consistent with what is expected from the climate models that include both natural and anthropogenic forcing”

Lambeck’s assertion can be contrasted with a recent statement from Holland. Holland is very low and would be particularly vulnerable to any large rise of sea level. It is also a world leader in coastal study and engineering, and they are not alarmed. In a piece in the December 11, 2008, issue of NRC/Handelsblad (Rotterdam’s counterpart to the New York Times) Wilco Hazeleger, a senior scientist in the global climate research group at KNMI (the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) wrote:

Extract from Hazeleger: “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimetres. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise. It is my opinion that there is no need for drastic measures. Fortunately, the time rate of climate change is slow compared to the life span of the defense structures along our coast. There is enough time for adaptation.”


Japan, a major emitter of greenhouse gases and a key player in the global warming debate, set a new target on Wednesday that would reduce emissions 15 percent by 2020 from 2005 — a goal quickly called inadequate by environmentalists. But Japan’s 15 percent mid-term target reduction, announced by Prime Minister Taro Aso [above] in a televised news conference on Wednesday, comes to just 8 percent below Tokyo’s emissions levels in 1990. That’s not much more, environmentalists say, than the 6 percent cut by 2012 that Tokyo committed to under the Kyoto Protocol, which the country has struggled to meet.

Still, Mr. Aso called Japan’s new target “ambitious,” one that would require sacrifices from Japanese companies and public. Raising fuel efficiency to achieve the new target could ultimately help Japan, he said. “We are all responsible for stopping climate change,” Mr. Aso said. “We must ask the Japanese people to make sacrifices. That is the cost of saving our planet.”

The European Union has promised to cut emissions by 20 percent from levels in 1990, and by 30 percent if other rich nations follow suit. In the United States, which did not sign the 1990 Kyoto pact, a bill that would reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels recently cleared a congressional panel.

“Japan’s target is not nearly enough to stop the effects of global warming,” said Naoyuki Yamagishi, the head of the climate change program at the environmental advocacy group, WWF Japan. “Japan has failed to step up to its international responsibilities,” he said.

Japanese businesses argue that their factories are already among the world’s most energy-efficient, and the country will struggle to cut greenhouse gas emissions further. Since the oils shocks of the 1970s, Japanese companies have actively pursued energy-saving technologies, a drive that has made the country a leader in “green” cars and alternative energy.

In 2006, Japan emitted 0.24 kilograms of carbon dioxide per U.S. dollar in gross domestic product, less than half the level in the United States and a tenth of that in China. Though Japan has the world’s second-largest economy, it ranks fifth in global emissions rankings, behind the United States, China, Russia and India.

Industry leaders also warn that stringent emissions reduction targets will hurt Japan’s frail economy. The country is in its worst recession since World War II, amid a collapse in global demand for its mainstay exports. Last month, industry groups took out a full-page advertisement in Japan’s largest daily paper warning deep emissions targets could hurt economic growth.

“The mid-term targets need to be fair to all countries, realistic, and place equal burden on a country’s citizens,” the Keidanren, Japan’s largest business lobby, said in a statement Tuesday. The lobby had backed a target that would have allowed for a 4 percent increase in emissions from 1990, or a 4 percent decrease compared to 2005.

The government had been considering a range of targets, from the industry-backed 4 percent increase from 1990 to one backed by environmentalist groups that would cut emissions by 25 percent. Mr. Aso was quick to point out that unlike targets set under the Kyoto Protocol, which allowed countries to use emissions offsets and other schemes, the 15 percent decrease will come from real cuts. The government recently introduced subsidies that spur the use of solar power in Japanese homes, as well as incentives on low-emission cars. The 15 percent target, Mr. Aso stressed, was a compromise he had reached after consulting extensively with scientists and economists, as well as with members of the public.

To meet the targets, Japan will pursue breakthroughs in environmental technology, as well as expand the use of nuclear energy. Mr. Aso has said Tokyo aims to expand solar output by a factor of 20 and put more “green” cars on Japanese roads. He said he believed Japanese companies could boost efficiency even further.


And here's the reason behind Japan's decision:

Prime Minister Taro Aso held a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office with representatives of labor union and industrial organizations to discuss a mid-term target for addressing global warming.

The Prime Minister first met with Mr. Tsuyoshi Takagi, President of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO), and then with Mr. Junro Naito, President of the Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers' Unions, and Mr. Hiroyuki Nagumo, President of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker's Unions of Japan (Denryoku Soren), which was followed by a meeting with Mr. Fujio Mitarai, Chairman of the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Mr. Tadashi Okamura, Chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), Mr. Tsunehisa Katsumata, Chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and Mr. Akio Mimura, Representative Director and Chairman of Nippon Steel Corporation. The Prime Minister exchanged views with them on a 2020 mid-term reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions.



Japan has announced a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15% over the next 11 years - a figure derided by environmentalists as "appalling". The target equates to a cut of about 8% from 1990 levels, the commonly used baseline. By comparison, the EU plans a 20% reduction over the same period.

The announcement comes in the middle of talks on the UN climate treaty in Bonn.

Some observers say Japan's goal is not enough to persuade developing countries to cut their own emissions. "The target is not strong enough to convince developing nations to sign up for a new climate change pact," said Hidefumi Kurasaka, professor of environmental policies at Japan's Chiba University.

Announcing the target, Prime Minister Taro Aso argued it was as strong as the EU's because it does not include "flexible mechanisms" such as international carbon trading.

But Kim Carstensen, leader of the global climate initiative at environment group WWF, said the 8% target represented virtually no advance from the 6% cut that Japan had pledged, under the Kyoto Protocol, to achieve by 2012. "Prime Minister Aso's plan is appalling," he said. "[It] would mean that Japan effectively gives dirty industries the freedom to pollute without limits for eight years."

Japan's annual emissions are currently about 6% above 1990 levels, despite its Kyoto Protocol pledge to make cuts.



"China launches green power revolution to catch up on west" [sic] shrieks the front page headline in today's Guardian. It's a nonsense, of course. Modern China cares about as much about "anthropogenic global warming" as Chairman Mao did about providing his population with five-course steak dinners. AGW's only use, as far as the Chinese are concerned, is as an ingenious device to suck up money and power from the gullible west.

And this isn't meant to be an insult to the Chinese, by the way. I mean it wholly as a compliment to their far-sightedness, shrewdness and pragmatism. Over the last ten days, delegation after US delegation has gone to China in a vain bid to persuade its leadership to believe in - or at least pay lipservice to - the mythical beast they call ManBearPig.

How has China responded? Why, with exactly the mix of incredulity, scorn and cynicism you'd expect of a hungry, fast-industrialising nation whose priority is economic growth rather than, say, assuaging breast-beating liberal guilt about how we've sinned against Mother Gaia and must now flagellate ourselves for our sins with swingeing new eco taxes and punitive regulation.

Here is what Li Gao, China's chief climate change negotiator has to say on the subject: "Developed countries have neither enough active responses to proposals from developing countries about emission-cut target by 2020, nor interests in providing funds and technologies to help developing countries adapt to climate change."

This is diplomatic hardball speak for: "If you in the West wish us to play your silly carbon emissions cutting game, you must not only bribe us with large sums of money but you must also place your industries at an even greater competitive disadvantage by crippling them with CO2 legislation from which we, in developing countries like China, Brazil and India, shall remain happily exempt."

To anyone who understands China, this is all so obvious as scarcely to be worth stating. As one of my contacts, a Shanghai-based US industrialist put it at the time of Nancy Pelosi's cap-in-hand begging mission to Beijing: "The idea of looking to China for any sort of environmental leadership or effective environmental cooperation is simply preposterous. China currently appears to be operating under a triad of very basic principles:

1) No policies shall be enacted which would interfere with China's economic growth

2) China shall increase its energy production and security by any and all means possible, as quickly as possible.

3) Int'l agreements shall transfer massive amounts of capital, industry, & technology from the West to fund China's energy development."

What beggars belief is that the whole of the current US administration thinks that China is in fact gullible and pliable. First, came the deeply humiliating visit by Nancy "Waterboarding? What waterboarding?" Pelosi, in which she determinedly avoided mentioning China's human rights record, the better to sell America's interests down the river on green issues.

So desperate was Pelosi to secure a climate change deal that, somewhat chillingly, she even appeared ready to treat Americans in future not unlike citizens of communist China, saying: "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory ... of how we are taking responsibility."

This week it has been the turn of Todd D Stern, Hillary Clinton's envoy on climate change to have the Chinese flip him the bird in Beijing. Reports the Washington Post: "On Monday, Vice Premier Li Keqiang told Stern that China would 'actively' participate in climate talks but only on the basis of a 'common but differentiated responsibility' to reduce emissions, according to a transcript of his comments published on the official Web site of China's State Council." ie - "Sell us your souls and, er, hey, how does 'zilch' sound as a reasonable trade-off?"

All this is, of course, absolutely disastrous news for the environmentalist extremists who play such a large and terrifying role in the Obama administration. But for anyone in the West, in the US especially, who cares about liberty, the state of the economy, or the free citizen's inalienable right not to have his every hard-earned cent sucked into the gaping maw of eco tax and eco regulation in order to solve a problem that doesn't even exist, China's hard-headed realism may well be our only hope of salvation.


Plan to Combat Global Warming? Pie in the Sky

by Jonah Goldberg

Whenever you hear a politician start a sentence with, "If we can put a man on the moon ... ," grab your wallet. For years, Democrats, enthralled by the cargo cult of the Kennedy presidency, have used the moon landing as proof that no big government ambition is beyond our reach. The latest example of anthropogenic-lunar empowerment is global warming. Al Gore and Barack Obama routinely cite the Apollo program as proof that we can make good on the president's messianic campaign pledge to stem the rising ocean tides and hasten the healing of the planet.

The problem with the "if we can put a man on the moon, we can certainly spend trillions on this or that" formulation is that it sees political and scientific accomplishments as interchangeable. The moon landing was a daunting but nonetheless discrete challenge. Throw in enough brainiacs and blank checks -- and heroes willing to risk their lives -- and it was almost foreordained that someone would make that small step for man and that giant leap for mankind.

But politicians see things through a political lens -- every great accomplishment looks like a political accomplishment. Kennedy cultists seem to think that JFK's pledge succeeded in part because he was eloquent and inspiring and popular. No doubt all that helped. But if Kennedy had promised that by the end of the decade America would have a fully functioning perpetual motion machine, his grand challenge would be remembered as a joke.

Recall that Kennedy's successor, with far more political capital than Kennedy had, promised to defeat poverty. Historian Steven Hayward notes that in 1966, Lyndon Johnson's commander in the War on Poverty, Sargent Shriver, told Congress that the White House believed poverty in America would be eliminated within 10 years. "Why," Hayward wryly asks, "should social science be more difficult than rocket science?"

I don't know that one is more difficult than the other, but I do know that they are not interchangeable. Physics is good at figuring out how to split atoms. Sociology, not so much.

Obama seems to be on both sides of the lesson. The president says he wants to invest massively in scientific research, eventually spending 3 percent of gross domestic product on scientific R&D, with a big chunk devoted to energy research. Who knows? That might work. But at the same time, the Democrats are pushing their cap-and-trade scheme -- the Waxman-Markey climate bill -- through Congress, and it surely won't work.

The Apollo engineers' motto was "Waste anything but time." Waxman-Markey seems to do that one better, promising to waste everything, including time. It's a legislative blunderbuss that fails any remotely honest cost-benefit analysis, as Jim Manzi painstakingly demonstrates in the current issue of National Review. Under the bill, the government would sell or give away waivers -- call them ration cards -- for carbon emissions, worth tens of billions of dollars. The system is destined to become politicized. Waivers will be granted to favored industries and donors in states with political clout.

If everything worked exactly according to plan, it would cost the economy trillions of dollars over the coming decades. Meanwhile, climatologist Chip Knappenberger -- administrator of the World Climate Report, an avowedly global-warming-skeptical blog -- uses standard climate models to show that the payoff would be to reduce global temperatures by about 0.1 degree Celsius by 2100. Sponsors of the legislation haven't offered a competing analysis.

"The costs would be more than 10 times the benefits," writes Manzi, "even under extremely unrealistic assumptions of low costs and high benefits." All the while, China, India and other countries are simply scoffing at the suggestion they curtail their carbon emissions.

Now, I am more skeptical about the threat of global warming than Manzi is, never mind the Al Gore chorus. But let us assume the chorus is right and it is the moral equivalent of a war for our very survival as a civilization. The question remains: Why? Why this approach? Why see global warming as an excuse to expand government regulation and taxation rather than invest in problem-solving?

The U.S. government could spend trillions on research into scrubbing carbon from the air, bioengineering organisms to eat greenhouse gases or crafting substances to reflect more heat back into space. We could establish prizes for development of long-life batteries or clean coal technologies. And if any of these investments paid off, decades from now the benefits would still dwarf Waxman-Markey at a fraction of the cost. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to see that.


The EPA’s protection racket

The Environmental Protection Agency is making “significant strides” on issues such as “protecting children’s health” and “confronting climate change,” says a memo from EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Not surprisingly, the agency has requested a 37 percent budget increase for fiscal year 2010.

Politically speaking, the new Obama EPA may indeed be making some strides. But what concrete public-health benefits can Jackson — or any EPA administrator — realistically claim to have achieved?

The EPA’s public-health mission is misleading, because it is charged with addressing risks that are too small to measure or be regulated away. The agency’s current risk-assessment practices compound the problem, harming both public health and our economic well-being. The agency issues extremely high benefit estimates for its regulations. But these estimates are out of touch with reality.

For example, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reported in 2004 that over a ten-year period, most of the benefits from significant federal regulations resulted from just four EPA Clean Air Act rules. The OIRA noted that the uncertainty related to EPA estimates was “large.” A better description would be to say that the estimates are “highly implausible.”

Retired scientist Michael Gough, formerly with the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, has demonstrated that the total number of cancers that the EPA could feasibly regulate away is small. Gough came to this result by analyzing the data found in Sir Richard Doll and Richard Peto’s landmark 1981 study on the causes of cancer, along with risks estimates in the 1989 EPA study Reducing Risk.

Reducing Risk was an internal EPA research project designed to assess whether the agency was on the right track. It determined that the EPA had set the wrong priorities, devoting substantial resources to low-tier risks. This report remains relevant today, as do Gough’s findings.

Using data from Reducing Risk and the Doll-Peto study, Gough found that no more than 3 percent of all cancers can be associated with environmental pollution. “If the EPA risk assessment techniques are accurate,” he wrote, “and all identified carcinogens amenable to EPA regulations were completely controlled,” which is impossible, “about 6,400 cancer deaths annually (about 1.3% of the current annual total of 435,000 cancer deaths) would be prevented. When cancer risks are estimated using a method like that employed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the number of regulatable cancers is smaller, about 1,400 (about 0.25%).”

It is worth emphasizing that the widely accepted Doll-Peto study shows that the overwhelming majority of cancers result from sources outside EPA control. That is why the World Health Organization has suggested in its World Cancer Report (2003) that cancer-prevention efforts should focus on three factors: tobacco use, diet, and infections — which together, the WHO notes, account for 75 percent of all cancer cases worldwide.

The EPA’s mission involves spending considerable amounts of tax dollars to regulate risks that are in most cases too insignificant to be scientifically demonstrated. The agency has compounded this problem by employing highly questionable scientific assumptions when assessing risks — such as emphasizing high-dose rodent studies.

The environmentalists like animal tests and the uncertainty of their results. These studies give the EPA an excuse to rely on the precautionary principle — the notion that, without full knowledge of the risks, it is “better to be safe than sorry,” and thus better to regulate even more tightly.

Reliance on animal studies also allows regulators to choose from a wide range of animals when extrapolating to humans. A certain chemical doesn’t cause cancer in rats? Try it on mice. Or monkeys. Then say that humans are just like whichever animal eventually got cancer after being given a very high dose — and add that humans (particularly children) may be even more sensitive. Regulations end up having layer after layer of extra precaution.

No wonder activists feigned outrage when the EPA considered a study to assess the effects of common household chemicals and pesticides on toddlers. The study wouldn’t have exposed kids to additional chemicals — only observed kids whose families already used existing, EPA-approved products sold on the market. The National Academy of Sciences approved the ethics of such an approach, but activists quashed it — knowing that the EPA would be left relying on vaguer animal studies when crafting regulations.

Further faulty studies and misguided regulations do more than hinder the economy. They also lead to bans on valuable products that otherwise could be saving lives, such as chemicals that fight disease-carrying insects, retard the spread of fires, and help grow healthy fruits and vegetables (one of the few dietary factors shown to combat cancer).

Ironically, contracting the EPA’s budget would do more for public health than increasing it. Congress should keep this in mind. Until the EPA refocuses its scientific assumptions to target genuine risk, lawmakers should not boost its funding.



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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