Sunday, November 15, 2009

More about ‘Scientific Consensus’

By S. Fred Singer

According to the UK Met Office, the core climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was written by 152 scientists from more than 30 countries and contributed to and/or reviewed by some 600 experts. Not mentioned, however, is the fact that many of the reviewers disagreed with the IPCC conclusion that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is “very likely” (>90% sure) due to the observed increase in man-made greenhouse gas concentrations.

Also unmentioned is the fact that most of the science of the IPCC report is not controversial. The only crucial chapter is Chapter 9 (on “Attribution”), in which the IPCC attempts to show that 20th century warming was anthropogenic. It was written by only 9 scientists and is dominated by a tightly controlled clique whose members referee each others' papers and consider ‘attribution studies’ as their private fiefdom.

The NIPCC was set up to break down this monopoly. The NIPCC Summary (2008) and full report (2009) demonstrate that there is no real evidence backing the IPCC conclusion

The following letter, signed by senior physicists, was sent to all 100 U.S. senators on October 29, 2009:

You have recently received a letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), purporting to convey a “consensus” of the scientific community that immediate and drastic action is needed to avert a climatic catastrophe.

We do not seek to make the scientific arguments here (we did that in an earlier letter, sent a couple of months ago), but simply note that the claim of consensus is fake, designed to stampede you into actions that will cripple our economy, and which you will regret for many years. There is no consensus, and even if there were, consensus is not the test of scientific validity. Theories that disagree with the facts are wrong, consensus or no.

We know of no evidence that any of the “leaders” of the scientific community who signed the [AAAS] letter to you ever asked their memberships for their opinions, before claiming to represent them on this important matter.

We also note that the American Physical Society (APS, and we are physicists) did not sign the letter, though the scientific issues at stake are fundamentally matters of applied physics. You can do physics without climatology, but you can't do climatology without physics.

The APS is at this moment reviewing its stance on so-called global warming, having received a petition from its membership to do so. That petition was signed by 160 [by now well over 200] distinguished members and fellows of the Society, including one Nobelist and 12 members of the National Academies. Indeed a score of the signers are Members and Fellows of the AAAS, none of whom were consulted before the AAAS letter to you.

SEPP Science Editorial #36-2009 (11/14/09)

NOTE: Fred Singer is headed for Europe at the moment -- for lectures/briefs/debates. He invites you to come by if you are close. Get detailed schedule and contacts from but here is the outline: Brussels (EU Parliament) Nov 18-19. London (IEA) Nov 20-24. Zurich Nov 25. Stuttgart (DLR) Nov 26. Heidelberg, Mainz Nov 27-28. Brussels Nov 30-Dec 2. Berlin Dec 4. CPH Dec 6 –11.

"No fixed target" for emissions say Asian leaders

ASIA-Pacific leaders will drop a fixed target for halving greenhouse gas emissions in a final summit statement, a Chinese official said, ahead of a breakfast meeting on climate issues organised by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "On the 50 per cent reduction target (from 1990 levels) by 2050, yes, it did appear in the draft," said Yi Xianliang, a Chinese foreign ministry official who is part of the country's negotiating team at world climate talks. "However, it is a very controversial issue in the world community... if we put it in this (final) statement, I think it would disrupt the negotiation process," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Leaders from 21 APEC members including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are in Singapore for an annual summit ending today. The meeting is one of the last international gatherings ahead of world climate change talks opening in Copenhagen on December 7.

Chinese officials said Mr Hu would attend a breakfast meeting called by Mr Rudd dedicated to the climate change issue, and would give a speech outlining steps China has taken to battle global warming. Mr Obama is also expected to attend Mr Rudd's climate breakfast, other officials said.

A rift has widened between rich nations such as the United States and developing ones like China over who should bear the most responsibility for reducing the emissions blamed for global warming. The United States wants China to commit to aggressive steps to curb its rapidly rising emissions. China, however, says the West bears historical responsibility for the build-up of carbon levels in the atmosphere and must shoulder most of the burden for cutting emissions. The United States and China are the two largest sources of such emissions.

Mr Yi declined to comment on which nations pushed for the removal of the emission cut target from the draft APEC statement, which was obtained by AFP last week. "We believe that global emissions will need to peak over the next few years, and be reduced to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, recognising that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries," it had said.

The Chinese official said the excision of the 50 per cent target was a "collective decision" by the APEC members. Mr Yi added that rich nations were increasingly showing a tendency to back away from tough action on climate change. "It is fair to say that the biggest obstacle to climate change negotiations is the bloc of developed nations," he said.


Propaganda failure: Global warming is not our fault, say most British voters

Less than half the population believes that human activity is to blame for global warming, according to an exclusive poll for The Times.

The revelation that ministers have failed in their campaign to persuade the public that the greenhouse effect is a serious threat requiring urgent action will make uncomfortable reading for the Government as it prepares for next month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Only 41 per cent accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made. Almost a third (32 per cent) believe that the link is not yet proved; 8 per cent say that it is environmentalist propaganda to blame man and 15 per cent say that the world is not warming.

Tory voters are more likely to doubt the scientific evidence that man is to blame. Only 38 per cent accept it, compared with 45 per cent of Labour supporters and 47 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters.

The high level of scepticism underlines the difficulty the Government will have in persuading the public to accept higher green taxes to help to meet Britain’s legally binding targets to cut carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

The recession appears to have made tackling climate change less of a priority for many people. Only just over a quarter (28 per cent) think that it is happening and is “far and away the most serious problem we face as a country and internationally”, while just over half (51 per cent) think it is “a serious problem, but other problems are more serious”.

Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said that growing awareness of the scale of the problem appeared to be resulting in people taking refuge in denial. “Being confronted with the possibility of higher energy bills, wind farms down the road and new nuclear power stations encourages people to question everything about climate change,” she said. “There is a resistance to change and some people see the problem being used as an excuse to charge them more taxes.”

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “The overwhelming body of scientific information is stacked up against the deniers and shows us that climate change is man-made and is happening now. We know that we still have a way to go in informing people about climate change and that is why we make no apologies about pushing forward with our new Act on CO2 campaign.”


Beach alarmism comes unglued

Hawaii's famed white sandy beaches are shrinking so the "global warming" shriek arose -- but some pesky Prof. stymied that by pointing out that sea levels have been rising for over a century. It's not a recent rise, as the Warmists would have you believe. And there are still untold miles of beautiful deserted sandy beaches in Northern Australia so the sea level has got a ways to go yet. If you get on a flight to Cairns International airport in Australia, you will have ready access to beaches that you can only dream of in Hawaii

Jenn Boneza remembers when the white sandy beach near the boat ramp in her hometown was wide enough for people to build sand castles. "It really used to be a beautiful beach," said the 35-year-old mother of two. "And now when you look at it, it's gone."

What's happening to portions of the beach in Kailua — a sunny coastal suburb of Honolulu where President Barack Obama spent his last two family vacations in the islands — is being repeated around the Hawaiian Islands. Geologists say more than 70 percent of Kauai's beaches are eroding while Oahu has lost a quarter of its sandy shoreline. They warn the problem is only likely to get significantly worse in coming decades as global warming causes sea levels to rise more rapidly. "It will probably have occurred to a scale that we will have only been able to save a few places and maintain beaches, and the rest are kind of a write-off," said Dolan Eversole, a coastal geologist with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant program.

The loss of so many beaches is an alarming prospect for Hawaii on many levels. Many tourists come to Hawaii precisely because they want to lounge on and walk along its soft sandy shoreline. These visitors spend some $11.4 billion each year, making tourism the state's largest employer.

Disappearing sands would also wreak havoc on the environment as many animals and plants would lose important habitats. The Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, gives birth and nurses pups on beaches. The green sea turtle, a threatened species, lays eggs in the sand.

Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii geology professor, says scientists in Hawaii haven't yet observed an accelerated rate of sea level rise due to global warming. Instead, the erosion the islands are experiencing now is caused by several factors including a steady historical climb in sea levels that likely dates back to the 19th century. Other causes include storms and human actions like the construction of seawalls, jetties, and the dredging of stream mouths. Each of these human actions disrupts the natural flow of sand.

But a more rapid rise in sea levels, caused by global warming, is expected to contribute to erosion in Hawaii within decades. In 100 years, sea levels are likely to be at least 1 meter, or 3.3 feet, higher than they are now, pushing the ocean inland along coastal areas. Fletcher says between 60 to 80 percent of the nation's shoreline is chronically eroding. But the problem is felt particularly acutely in Hawaii because the economy and lifestyle are so dependent on healthy beaches.

The state is doing everything it can to keep the sand in Waikiki, for example, joining with hotels in the state's tourist hub on a plan to spend between $2 million and $3 million pumping in sand from offshore.

Sam Lemmo, administrator of the state's Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, says the state would need a variety of adaptation strategies for different beaches. It would likely have to abandon hope for beaches in posh Lanikai and suburban Ewa Beach on Oahu because they're already lined with seawalls and are badly eroded. The same probably goes for shoreline next to highways or other critical public infrastructure, where seawalls already exist or may have to be built. Seawalls protect individual properties from encroaching waters but they exacerbate erosion nearby by preventing waves from reaching the sand needed to replenish the beach.

For undeveloped shoreline, the state wants to make sure these areas stay pristine. This happened recently when a Florida-based developer announced plans to build luxury homes on sand dunes in Kahuku on Oahu's North Shore. "We just kind of went nuts, pulled out all the guns on that one, basically got them to back off," Lemmo said. "We're working pretty hard to keep any new development away from these areas."


Corn Ethanol: A "Slow-Motion Train Wreck"

On Monday, Pavel Molchanov, a Houston-based analyst with Raymond James & Associates issued a report that should be required reading for every member of Congress. The first few lines of Molchanov’s report, “Corn Ethanol’s Slow-Motion Train Wreck: What Will Follow In Its Wake?” are classic examples of both sharp thinking and razor-sharp writing: “Finito. Kaputt. Sayonara. However you say it, we think there is no denying the fact that America’s corn ethanol industry is finished… the industry is finished in the sense of no longer being seen as a ‘game-changing,’ long-term solution to the structural imbalance between oil supply and demand.”

Molchanov goes on, saying that as other alternative fuels, like compressed natural gas get more political support, “it is likely that corn ethanol will be increasingly relegated to the big grain elevator in the sky.”

This kind of plain talking from a Wall Street analyst like Molchanov about the corn ethanol scam is long overdue. The ongoing robbery of US taxpayers via the corn ethanol mandates has achieved the one thing that the ethanol boosters promised. Specifically, it has not resulted in a reduction in US oil imports. For more on that, read Robert Rapier’s killer analysis which we published last month. Or, also see my piece, published in Slate, in November 2008 on the same subject.

Despite the facts about the corn ethanol, Congress continues to give political cover to the corn ethanol scammers, a point that Molchanov makes very clearly:
Notwithstanding all the controversies surrounding ethanol in recent years – its impact on global food prices, to name just one – Washington continues to provide Midwestern farmers (many of whom live, amazingly enough, in electoral swing states) with lots of goodies. The three big ones are the blenders’ tax credit, the ethanol import tariff (helping keep out Brazilian sugar ethanol), and most importantly, a guaranteed floor for demand via the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Originally enacted in 2005, the RFA was upsized in the December 2007 energy bill by a Democratic Congress and a Republican president – showing that if there is one thing the parties can agree on, it’s pandering to farmers.

Ah yes, pandering to farmers – one of the oldest of the Washington professions. For a classic example of that pandering, recall that the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill which passed the House in June included a provision – which was reportedly inserted at the behest of Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson -- that exempts the corn ethanol scam from any oversight by the EPA on its total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s important because a number of studies have shown that when compared with conventional gasoline, corn ethanol is actually worse in terms of greenhouse gases. In 2008, a study led by Princeton academic Tim Searchinger found that corn ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse gases over a 30-year time period. Another study by Searchinger, published last month in Science, also underscored the need for more rigorous accounting when it comes to biofuels and their total greenhouse gas emissions. (See here for an interview I did with Searchinger in March 2008.)

The US now has 202 ethanol distilleries with a total nameplate capacity of 13.1 billion gallons per year (about 850,000 barrels per day). But according to Ethanol Producer magazine, 23 of those distilleries – with a total capacity of 1.27 billion gallons of alcohol – are now sitting idle. In other words, nearly 10% of total US corn ethanol production capacity is now sitting idle because the economics of the business are lousy. The investors who rushed to build new production capacity back in 2007 now are wondering what to do with their expensive machinery. Of course, the industry has rebounded somewhat in recent months. Back in February, about 16% of total US ethanol production capacity was idle.

But looking forward, Molchanov doesn’t see much relief for the corn ethanol scam. He points out that investment capital is scarce and that the industry may not have enough capacity by 2015 to meet the Congressional mandates, which require US motor fuel suppliers to be blending at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline supplies by 2015. “Even if the EPA allows ethanol blending at 12% or 15% rather than 10% – as the industry is aggressively lobbying for – the industry’s poor economics,” will still hamper any new investment in additional distilleries.

And what about cellulosic ethanol, that wonder fuel that everyone talks about but no one ever sees? Here’s Molchanov’s take: As the pitfalls of corn ethanol have become increasingly apparent, cellulosic ethanol developers will have an opportunity to provide a better alternative, but it’s still years away from commerciality, with significant financing and execution risks in the meantime.” Now there’s an understatement. Despite decades of hype from various media darlings including Amory Lovins, cellulosic ethanol still has not achieved anything close to commercial levels of production. And it’s doubtful that it will achieve commerciality at any time over the next few decades.

What does that mean? Well, it means that Congress is going to have to rethink the rules that it laid out in the 2007 energy bill which require fuel suppliers to be blending 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the US fuel supply by 2022.

Molchanov’s look the ethanol train wreck is a welcome bit of truth amid an energy debate that is increasingly detached from any semblance of reality.


Australia: Prime Minister Rudd buys off the farmers. He wants a climate deal at any price

Agriculture now to be exempt from Warmist laws but that blows a huge hole in any effect the laws might have. Rudd is showing his Chinese influences: He is now just trying to save face. He cares about global warming about as much as I do

In a shock move, the Federal Government has decided to exempt all agriculture from its proposed emissions trading scheme, turning up the heat on Malcolm Turnbull's Opposition leadership. The Coalition has been calling for the exemption – and the Government's surprise move dramatically raises the stakes for Mr Turnbull to close a deal with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to pass the ETS in the next two weeks of Parliament.

Yet sections of the Opposition Leader's Liberal Party and the Nationals are likely to remain opposed to any such deal regardless, leaving Mr Turnbull's authority in shreds.

The surprise concession by the Government will be announced by Senator Wong today ahead of the resumption of Parliament this week. The initiative will also isolate the Nationals, who have been using the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed scheme by 2015 to spearhead its opposition to the package.

Senator Wong's announcement is likely to get backing for the scheme from key Nationals constituencies such as the National Farmers Federation, which has been lobbying heavily for such a decision. In another concession, Senator Wong will also announce the Government will develop plans to give farmers carbon credits for any efforts to capture and store carbon as part of their farm practices.

Opposition climate change spokesman Ian Macfarlane has been locked in talks with Senator Wong trying to negotiate a deal to get the scheme through the Senate. By announcing the exemption of agriculture, the Government will be able to say it has made major concessions and Mr Turnbull should now secure the backing of his party room to pass the scheme.

But Mr Turnbull is still likely to face a revolt. A number of Liberals, including Senate Leader Nick Minchin and senators Cory Bernardi and Julian McGauran, along with WA backbenchers Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, remain sceptical of the idea of man-made global warming and the Nationals are continuing to oppose the ETS outright. A refusal by the joint party room to back a compromise that includes the exemption of agriculture could make Mr Turnbull's leadership untenable. He has previously said he does not want to lead a party that does not embrace the idea of climate change.

The exclusion of agriculture had been presented by Mr Macfarlane as a "deal-breaker" in the ongoing talks. The move by the Government means farmers now will not have to buy permits for their carbon emissions, substantially reducing farm costs.

The exemption is likely to be attacked by economists, who argue that to be effective a carbon emissions system must be broadly based to share the huge costs. If one sector is exempted it increases costs on other sectors, such as energy-producing industries.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has estimated Australia has the potential to store up to a billion tonnes of carbon a year for the next 40 years through improved pasture management and farm practices. The group says if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of this capacity, it would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of our current annual greenhouse emissions over that period. Under the new concessions farmers will be compensated for such carbon offsets, opening up new sources of income.



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