Wednesday, June 24, 2009


This sure shows that the bill is about political power -- not the climate

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming, but President Obama's plan to fight climate change would result in the nation burning more coal a decade from now than it does today. The administration's plan, the centerpiece of a 700-page legislative package, proposes strict limits on emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

But to attract vital support from congressional Democrats representing heavily coal-dependent areas, authors of the legislation, including Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), have made a series of concessions that substantially soften its effect on coal -- at least over the next decade or so. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency projects that even if the emissions limits go into effect, the U.S. would use more carbon-dioxide-heavy coal in 2020 than it did in 2005.

That's because the bill gives utilities a financial incentive to keep burning coal by joining the cap-and-trade system -- a kind of marketplace where polluters could reduce their emissions on paper by buying pollution reductions created by others. These so-called offsets, for example, could be created and sold by farmers who planted trees, which filter carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Environmental groups also say the bill could set off a boom in the construction of new coal plants because of provisions that would restrict legal efforts to block such projects.

Leading Democrats -- and some major conservation groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council -- say the moves have helped attract coal-district Democrats to support the bill without undermining the plan's environmental goals. "We've ensured a role for coal" in the nation's energy future, said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), one of the leading coal champions in the House.

But some environmentalists remain skeptical that offsets can reduce greenhouse gases to avoid catastrophic warming of the atmosphere. "This is greens making a deal with the devil," said Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmentalist think tank that recently completed a detailed critique of the bill's coal provisions.

Obama and House leaders "gave the coal guys everything they wanted," said Michael Shellenberger, the institute's president. "The result is legislation that, when all is said and done, will increase coal generation and make it harder to move away from it."

The EPA projects Obama's plan would slow the growth in coal over what would have occurred in the absence of emission limits. Emissions from coal would grow at roughly the same rate as overall coal use, until "clean coal" technology becomes commercially viable.


Some concentrated skepticism from Britain

Melting ice caps,global warming,our favourite foods giving us cancer. The doom-mongers love to tell uswe're all going to hell in a handcart. But don't panic! A new book uncovers some inconvenient truths that give the pessimists pause for thought ...

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that we are all going to hell in a handcart. Climate change - the inexorable warming of Earth's atmosphere caused by mankind's addiction to fossil fuels - is to blame for what we are told will be a parched and inhospitable future. The polar ice caps will melt, causing sea levels to rise. Vast swathes of the world will flood, drowning some of our greatest cities - and a great many polar bears.

It gets worse: we also face a plague of obesity, heart disease and diabetes as we consume a growing mountain of fatty fast food. And if that weren't enough, increasing amounts of chemicals and radiation in our environment are causing an epidemic of cancer. This is the consensus view and to question it is, at best, to be labelled naive and, at worst, a heretic.

But a stubborn band of thinkers persists in questioning this grim, accepted view, pointing to inconvenient truths which do not fit the doom-and-gloom narrative. Indeed, this group of prominent scientists is picking holes in the doomsday consensus. Many of these theories now appear in a new book by Stanley Feldman, a professor of anaesthetics at London University, and Vincent Marks, a former professor of clinical biochemistry and dean of medicine at the University of Surrey.

Here are some of their more awkward discoveries, which may yet give the pessimists pause for thought...


The consensus view is that man-made CO2 is causing the lion's share of global warming. But natural changes in the Sun's power may be as much to blame.

There is good evidence that the cause of at least some of global warming is an increase in the intensity of the Sun's heat. Indeed, global temperatures appear to be more closely related to solar activity, which is constantly changing, than to levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

After all, the Earth warmed up more during medieval times than during the 20th century, and it cooled down considerably during the Little Ice Age of the 16th and 17th centuries - without any manmade event that would have affected CO2 output. Temperatures also dipped between 1940 and 1975 - a period of intense industrial activity.

Meanwhile, data from between 1880 and 2000 shows a close correlation between increased solar activity and higher average temperatures on Earth. So couldn't it be that the Sun is responsible for heating us up after all?


It has become a key part of the climate change mantra that some of the world's most beautiful islands are at risk of sinking below the waves, thanks to sea level rises caused by global warming.

But so confident are property owners in the Maldives that the sea is receding, they are building a flurry of lavish seafront hotels. Meanwhile, Tuvalu in the Pacific - also cited as being most at risk - has actually seen a fall in sea levels.


Today, about 0.038 per cent of the atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide, the main man-made climate change gas. This figure has certainly risen over the past 200 years or so - the 'pre-industrial' level of CO2 was closer to 0.02 per cent.

But what is often ignored is that in the Earth's past, carbon dioxide levels have often been as much as ten times higher than they are today.

For example, during the Cretaceous era, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, CO2 levels were five to ten times what they are today. The planet was certainly warmer then, but life thrived and there was no runaway greenhouse catastrophe of the sort that the doom-mongers insist we face if we let levels rise further. They also, it should be noted, came down again naturally.


The doom-mongers love showing us images of polar bears in peril, floating on isolated ice rafts. But most populations are doing very well, thank you. Despite the (limited) melting seen in the Arctic ice cap over the past 50 years, polar bear numbers have more than doubled since 1950 - and that's despite the fact that 50 to 100 bears are now shot every year.

Indeed, polar bears aren't bothered by the odd stretch of open water - they are very capable swimmers. In fact, it is not even clear that the Arctic ice is melting. The summer of 2008 was the coldest in Anchorage, Alaska, for 40 years.


And it's a similar story at the South Pole. Although some Antarctic penguin colonies, especially those near human bases, have decreased in size, overall, penguin numbers are steady or increasing.


Some scientists have warned that if the Arctic ice cap melts, the resulting flood of cold water in the Atlantic could push the Gulf Stream - the warm current which keeps Britain relatively balmy - further south. If this happens, they have made dire predictions that northern Europe could become a frozen wasteland.

Unfortunately for them, there is no evidence to support this view. In fact, the Gulf Stream is as strong as ever - and is getting warmer, not colder. Nor is it changing direction.


A warmer climate and an increase in CO2 will be a boon for farming and agriculture in general. One can even envisage returning to the warmer landscape of Roman times, when vineyards were common in England.

With less severe winters, it will also be possible to grow many crops that, because they are susceptible to the occasional frost, cannot be grown at present.



Access to green technology is becoming a growing stumbling block in global efforts to fight climate change, with US lawmakers bristling at what they see as China's attempt to "steal" US know-how. China and India have led calls for developed nations to share technology to help them battle global warming as the clock ticks to a December meeting in Copenhagen meant to seal a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The US House of Representatives this month unanimously voted to make it US policy to prevent the Copenhagen treaty from "weakening" US intellectual property rights on a wind, solar and other eco-friendly technologies. Congressman Rick Larsen, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party who authored the measure, said the United States was caught between concern both over the climate and its soaring trade deficit with China.

"The US can be part of China's solution for the problems that they admittedly have with energy efficiency and emissions. And I think legitimately we want to be part of that solution -- we're the two largest emitters of C02 in the world," Larsen said. "But we need to couple being part of that solution with making it part of the solution on the trade deficit as well," he said ahead of the measure's approval.

Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican who joined Larsen on a recent trip to China, said that climate change was the most contentious issue during talks with Chinese leaders. Kirk said the Chinese essentially were seeking "the stealing of all intellectual property" related to energy efficiency and climate change. Kirk warned that China's position could change the political dynamics in Washington, where promoters of a bill to force emission cuts say the United States stands to create millions of jobs in a new green economy. "Right now a number of green industries like the climate change bill coming out. But if an international treaty sanctions the theft of their intellectual property, then there will be hardly any green jobs built in the United States," Kirk said.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation to reject the Kyoto Protocol, with former president George W. Bush saying it was unfair by making no demands of fast-growing developing nations such as China and India. Despite a recession, President Barack Obama has vowed to work to halt the planet's warming, which UN scientists warn will threaten severe weather and the extinction of plant and animal species later this century if unchecked.

More than 180 countries promised at a December 2007 meeting in Bali, Indonesia to take part in the next global treaty with a "common but differentiated responsibility" for developed and developing economies. But 12 days of talks this month in Bonn came up with no visible progress, with top Chinese negotiator Li Gao accusing rich nations of reneging on sharing technology and watering down commitments to cut emissions. "There is an attempt to obliterate the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibility' and to split up the developing countries," Li told China's state Xinhua news agency. Shyam Saran, India's envoy on climate change, also criticized rich nations, which he said bore the historic responsibility for climate change. India has proposed setting up global "innovation centers" to work on green technology.

A report last month by experts for the UN climate body called for a "balanced" approach, stressing the importance of intellectual property rights but saying all nations needed to accept the terms. Technology transfer "is certainly a big and important question that might be a roadblock" in global negotiations, said Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace. The environmental group has called for public and private funds on climate change to be pooled into an independent global body, funded to the tune of at least 140 billion dollars a year. But such funding may prove hard to come by. The European Union, champion of the Kyoto Protocol, has come under fire from environmentalists for declining to put a figure on climate aid, saying it is waiting to see other nations' proposals.



President Obama, in close discussions with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is to give the green light for US consumption of oil sand oil, or rather the import of fuels considered among the "dirtiest" in the fuel market. In a meeting last week, President Obama decided that the Canada's oil sands represented an important part of national security supplies for petroleum in America's near future.

The move is not without immediate precedent, as Francois Cardinal at notes, both Hillary Clinton had offered support for oil sands at a recent conference on energy security, and Obama's national Security adviser General Jim Jones was similarly adamant that the US would be foolish to reject the possibility of a stable source from a close partner in Canada.

The move will disappoint many in the green movement, given Obama has previously been less supportive of oil sands, noting that the Us needed to ween itself off dirty and dangerous oil supplies.



It's a beautiful day outside; clear blue sky, scarcely the whisper of a breeze, temperature hovering around a gently cossetting 20C, greenfinch wheezing away nearby. This is good news for me because as soon as I finish this article I intend to spend the rest of the day under the horse chestnut tree with a pitcher of neat alcohol. But it is also good news for Britain and the rest of the world.

Last Thursday we were all frightened out of our wits by a new report from the Met Office about what life in Britain would be like in 2080: scorching African sun, all the crops dying, plagues of locusts and mosquitos. Cows collapsing in the fields because they had not worn enough Factor 30; half of Yorkshire and Norfolk washed away by the sea, middle England flooded by swollen rivers, Essex a lifeless arid desert (no change there, then); impeccably well-mannered middle-class people on their knees sucking the last molecules of moisture from dusty, exhausted standpipes in Notting Hill; famine, pestilence and death flapping its wings over our heads like a big black bat, cackling to itself.

This was the UK Climate Projections 2009, as envisaged by the Met Office and presented by a dutifully grave Hilary Benn, who insisted that we all had a responsibility to do something, anything, to stave off this apocalypse. So I did. I checked out the Met Office forecast for my village for the next 48 hours. Cloudy, it said. Bit of rain. Temperature of 17C, wind gusting at a remarkably precise 31mph, it said. Short of predicting 6ft snowdrifts, ball lightning and gallons of newts falling from the sky, how much more wrong could it be?

And if it is that wrong over a forecast for the next 48 hours, how much faith should we have when it tells us, with a sort of smug and overweening confidence, what's going to happen in 70 years' time? How about none whatsoever?

Something terrible has happened to our weathermen since that evening in October 1987 when Michael Fish, with a patronising smirk, assured us we need not worry our silly heads about any of this hurricane nonsense - about five hours before Britain was flattened.

I think it is a case of Met Office overcompensation. These days they have hair-trigger reactions and are given to biblical pronouncements. Last weekend, for example, we were assured that by Monday we would all be drowned, with vast swathes of the country submerged by floods. It did not happen, anywhere. Thank the Lord the Met Office wasn't around in Noah's day with its comprehensive five-day forecast for the Ararat region or that dove would never have been released.


Global warming: The science is not settled

By J. Winston Porter (J. Winston Porter is president of Environmental Strategies in Leesburg, Va., and was formerly an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency)

Will Rogers once quipped that it's "what we know that ain't so" that gets us in trouble. This might well apply to global warming , where the "science is settled" side is rapidly pushing massive plans in Congress to reduce carbon dioxide. But the science is not settled. If it were, we would have great confidence in all these statements: 1) the world is getting warmer, 2) that's more bad than good, 3) humans are causing the warming, and 4) we know how to fix the problem.

If either of the first two statements is wrong, then warming is not a crisis. If either of the last two is not correct, we can't fix it. What are the chances that all four are true?

To find out, we must multiply the four individual probabilities by each other. For example, if each statement has a 70 percent chance of being correct, the overall probability is just 24 percent that all are true. Let's now look at these four issues.

The world is getting warmer. Complex and controversial computer models are used to predict future temperatures. But all we really "know" is based on actual measurements. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has warmed about 0.8 degrees centigrade since 1880.

Early in this period, ocean temperatures were measured by dropping a bucket overboard and sticking a thermometer in it. Techniques evolved over time, leading to the use of satellites over the past 30 years.

Scientists have spent years massaging these data, but it's hard to compare buckets and satellites, particularly with such small temperature changes. To further complicate things, over the last decade, global temperatures have cooled. Also, it now seems that the hottest years of the last century were in the 1930s, not the 1990s, as we had been told earlier. So, how confident are we of even measured temperatures, not to mention ones predicted by computer simulations of the entire world's climate?

Warming is more bad than good. Any temperature changes, up or down, will have both positive and negative impacts. Extreme cold conditions lead to more deaths than hot ones. Warming conditions cause ocean levels to rise, but also allow forests and crops to grow faster. Effects can also be regional; there is some ice melting in the Arctic, but ice is increasing in the larger Antarctic. Are we really sure that the world is at just the right temperature, and any increases will be catastrophic?

Humans are causing the warming. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased over the last century or so. But water vapor still provides over 95 percent of greenhouse gas influences. So, how likely is it that the very small percent of carbon dioxide produced by humans is causing warming?

The IPCC's 2007 science report lists seven global warming indicators. For two of these indicators, it is said to be "likely" (at least 66 percent chance) that mankind is a contributor, and for the other five, human contributions are deemed "more likely than not" (at least 51 percent chance). Hardly a ringing endorsement of human-caused global warming !

We know how to fix global warming. Congress and the administration think so, as they steam ahead with "cap and trade" or other costly schemes to control carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, scientists are still studying fixes ranging from focusing more on other greenhouse gases to reducing deforestation to shooting particulates into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight. Others suggest that we simply adapt, if necessary, to possible warming impacts, such as slow increases in ocean water levels.

The bottom line: We don't know enough to spend megabucks on speculative solutions to what may be a nonproblem. Instead, let's move ahead on two common-sense fronts.

First, we should expand measures which make sense from several angles, including possible warming. Improved energy efficiencies, cleaner coal technologies and more nuclear power all make sense. Wind and solar can also play a role.

Second, we need serious scientific debate of the four issues I raised. But this time, let's listen carefully to both believers and skeptics. That's the way science is supposed to work.



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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