Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Warmist foghorn George Monbiot admits that Warmism is really about changing people

It is just another variation on the old and arrogant Leftist aim of creating "a new Soviet man". Warmists and Leftists both hate the world they live in -- particularly its people. They are misanthropes. Monbiot's own headline on the article below reads: "This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity"

It's hard for a species used to ever-expanding frontiers, but survival depends on accepting we live within limits. This is the moment at which we turn and face ourselves. Here, in the plastic corridors and crowded stalls, among impenetrable texts and withering procedures, humankind decides what it is and what it will become. It chooses whether to continue living as it has done, until it must make a wasteland of its home, or to stop and redefine itself. This is about much more than climate change. This is about us.

The meeting at Copenhagen confronts us with our primal tragedy. We are the universal ape, equipped with the ingenuity and aggression to bring down prey much larger than itself, break into new lands, roar its defiance of natural constraints. Now we find ourselves hedged in by the consequences of our nature, living meekly on this crowded planet for fear of provoking or damaging others. We have the hearts of lions and live the lives of clerks.

The summit's premise is that the age of heroism is over. We have entered the age of accommodation. No longer may we live without restraint. No longer may we swing our fists regardless of whose nose might be in the way. In everything we do we must now be mindful of the lives of others, cautious, constrained, meticulous. We may no longer live in the moment, as if there were no tomorrow.

This is a meeting about chemicals: the greenhouse gases insulating the atmosphere. But it is also a battle between two world views. The angry men who seek to derail this agreement, and all such limits on their self-fulfilment, have understood this better than we have. A new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere, demands to trample on the lives of others as if this were a human right. It will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially by environmental restraints. It knows that fossil fuels have granted the universal ape amplification beyond its Palaeolithic dreams. For a moment, a marvellous, frontier moment, they allowed us to live in blissful mindlessness.

The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings.

I fear this chorus of bullies, but I also sympathise. I lead a mostly peaceful life, but my dreams are haunted by giant aurochs. All those of us whose blood still races are forced to sublimate, to fantasise. In daydreams and video games we find the lives that ecological limits and other people's interests forbid us to live.

Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and progressives, though both sides are informed by the older politics. Today the battle lines are drawn between expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits. The vicious battles we have seen so far between greens and climate change deniers, road safety campaigners and speed freaks, real grassroots groups and corporate-sponsored astroturfers are just the beginning. This war will become much uglier as people kick against the limits that decency demands.

So here we are, in the land of Beowulf's heroics, lost in a fog of acronyms and euphemisms, parentheses and exemptions, the deathly diplomacy required to accommodate everyone's demands. There is no space for heroism here; all passion and power breaks against the needs of others. This is how it should be, though every neurone revolts against it.

Although the delegates are waking up to the scale of their responsibility, I still believe they will sell us out. Everyone wants his last adventure. Hardly anyone among the official parties can accept the implications of living within our means, of living with tomorrow in mind. There will, they tell themselves, always be another frontier, another means to escape our constraints, to dump our dissatisfactions on other places and other people. Hanging over everything discussed here is the theme that dare not speak its name, always present but never mentioned. Economic growth is the magic formula which allows our conflicts to remain unresolved.

While economies grow, social justice is unnecessary, as lives can be improved without redistribution. While economies grow, people need not confront their elites. While economies grow, we can keep buying our way out of trouble. But, like the bankers, we stave off trouble today only by multiplying it tomorrow. Through economic growth we are borrowing time at punitive rates of interest. It ensures that any cuts agreed at Copenhagen will eventually be outstripped. Even if we manage to prevent climate breakdown, growth means that it's only a matter of time before we hit a new constraint, which demands a new global response: oil, water, phosphate, soil. We will lurch from crisis to existential crisis unless we address the underlying cause: perpetual growth cannot be accommodated on a finite planet.

For all their earnest self-restraint, the negotiators in the plastic city are still not serious, even about climate change. There's another great unmentionable here: supply. Most of the nation states tussling at Copenhagen have two fossil fuel policies. One is to minimise demand, by encouraging us to reduce our consumption. The other is to maximise supply, by encouraging companies to extract as much from the ground as they can.

We know, from the papers published in Nature in April, that we can use a maximum of 60% of current reserves of coal, oil and gas if the average global temperature is not to rise by more than two degrees. We can burn much less if, as many poorer countries now insist, we seek to prevent the temperature from rising by more than 1.5C. We know that capture and storage will dispose of just a small fraction of the carbon in these fuels. There are two obvious conclusions: governments must decide which existing reserves of fossil fuel are to be left in the ground, and they must introduce a global moratorium on prospecting for new reserves. Neither of these proposals has even been mooted for discussion.

But somehow this first great global battle between expanders and restrainers must be won and then the battles that lie beyond it – rising consumption, corporate power, economic growth – must begin. If governments don't show some resolve on climate change, the expanders will seize on the restrainers' weakness. They will attack – using the same tactics of denial, obfuscation and appeals to self-interest – the other measures that protect people from each other, or which prevent the world's ecosystems from being destroyed. There is no end to this fight, no line these people will not cross. They too are aware that this a battle to redefine humanity, and they wish to redefine it as a species even more rapacious than it is today.


Democrats pose threat to President Obama’s cap-and-trade climate Bill

Less than ten days after claiming a breakthrough on climate change in Copenhagen President Obama is facing a mutiny from senior Democrats who are imploring him to postpone or even abandon his cap-and-trade Bill.

Democratic Senators, fearful of a drubbing in the mid-term elections next year, are lining up to argue for alternatives to the scheme that is the centrepiece of the carbon reduction proposals that Mr Obama hopes to sign into law. With the Congressional battles over Mr Obama’s healthcare reforms fresh in their memory senior Democrats are asking the Administration to postpone the next big climate change push until at least 2011.

Senators from Louisiana, Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota, some with powerful energy companies among their constituents, are falling out of love with the idea of a large-scale cap-and-trade scheme — which seeks to allocate tradeable permits to major polluters — in favour of less ambitious proposals that put jobs and the economy first.

Each of their Senate votes is vital for any climate change Bill to have a chance of being passed, and a firm American commitment to cap and trade is essential for similar carbon reduction mechanisms to be effective on a global scale.

Asked if she has urged the White House to abandon cap and trade — at least until after the mid-terms — Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana told the Politico website yesterday: “I am communicating that in every way I know how.”

At least five other high-ranking Democrats have lobbied the Administration in similar terms. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota said that winning passage of climate change legislation in an election year had “very poor prospects”, and Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said that he would “just as soon see [climate change] set aside until we work through the economy”.

Even more significant — as indicators of the majority party’s resolve to pass climate change legislation in the face of almost unanimous Republican opposition — were remarks from Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, and John Kerry, the Massachusetts Senator who is in the process of drafting a climate change Bill favoured by the White House.

“At this point, I’d like to see a complete Bill but we have to be realistic,” Senator Durbin said. Senator Kerry, speaking at the Copenhagen climate conference this month, said: “I can’t tell you the method or the means by which we might price carbon. We haven’t resolved that issue yet.”

Proponents of cap and trade argue that allowing polluters to trade carbon permits gives them a powerful incentive to emit less than the maximum imposed by the cap — and ensures that these emission reductions are achieved by the most cost-effective means available, whether by investing in new, clean technology at home, or in offsetting schemes in developing economies where greater reductions can be achieved per dollar spent.

Critics of the system point to teething problems in the European pilot scheme, begun under the auspices of the Kyoto Protocol, when the price of carbon collapsed because of excessive free allocations of carbon permits to big, politically connected polluters such as the power generation industry.

Mr Obama has been a personal convert to cap and trade since witnessing the success of a scheme limited to the control of sulphur dioxide emissions in the 1990s. The creation of a market in tradeable sulphur dioxide permits cut emissions of the gas so swiftly that the acid rain it produces has disappeared from the Midwest as a serious environmental issue.

Congress will return from its winter break with healthcare reform unfinished, Democrats wary of any new proposals that can be presented as a further burden on the economy and Republicans eager to depict cap and trade as just such a burden.

The official position of the White House remains that “a cap-and-trade mechanism is the best way to achieve the most cost-effective reductions” — but it is not yet embedded firmly in the Senate Bill being drafted by Senators Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman.

That Bill is one of nine competing proposals before the Senate and while most Democrats can be relied on to support it, a half-dozen defectors would leave the party short of the 60-vote majority that they need to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Senator Graham, a Republican, has said that he believes others from his party can be won over. If so, they have gone to ground.

Senator John McCain, once a vocal supporter of cap and trade, now wants huge federal backing for the nuclear industry in return for his vote. Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska has called the scheme “a death sentence” for farming.

Mr Obama put his political prestige on the line in Copenhagen to reach agreement on a pact to curb carbon emissions while trying to shore up his domestic flank amid rising scepticism about a new climate Bill in the US.

He declined to offer new sweeteners to get a deal, rebuked China’s reluctance to allow outside scrutiny of action on greenhouse-gas emissions and warned developing states that they could forget aid that had no strings attached.


Who's in denial now?

By Kenneth P. Green (Former IPCC reviewer Kenneth P. Green, has his doctorate in environmental science and engineering)

Responses to "Climategate"--the leaked e-mails from Britain's University of East Anglia and its Climatic Research Unit -- remind me of the line "Are your feet wet? Can you see the pyramids? That's because you're in denial."

Climate catastrophists like Al Gore and the UN's Rajendra Pachauri are downplaying Climategate: it's only a few intemperate scientists; there's no real evidence of wrongdoing; now let's persecute the whistleblower. In Calgary, the latest fellow trying to use the Monty Python "nothing to see here, move along" routine is Prof. David Mayne Reid, who penned a column last week denying the importance of Climategate.

Unfortunately for Reid, old saws won't work in the Internet age: Climategate has blazed across the Internet, blogosphere, and social networking sites. Even environmentalist and writer George Monbiot has recognized that the public's perception of climate science will be damaged extensively, calling for one of the Climategate ringleaders to resign.

What's catastrophic about Climategate is that it reveals a science as broken as Michael Mann's hockey stick, which despite Reid's protestations, has been shown to be a misleading chart that erases a 400-year stretch of warm temperatures (called the Medieval Warm Period), and a more recent little ice-age that ended in the mid-1800s. No amount of hand-waving will restore the credibility of climate science while holding onto rubbish like that.

Climategate reveals skulduggery the general public can understand: that a tightly-linked clique of scientists were behaving as crusaders. Their letters reveal they were working in what they repeatedly labelled a "cause" to promote a political agenda.

That's not science, that's a crusade. When you cherry-pick, discard, nip, tuck, and tape disparate bits of data into the most alarming portrayal you can in the name of a "cause," you're not engaged in science, but in the production of propaganda. And this clique tried to subvert the peer-review process as well. They attempted to prevent others from getting into peer reviewed journals -- thus letting them claim skeptic research wasn't peer-reviewed -- a convenient circular (and dishonest) way to discredit skeptics.

Finally, people know that a fish rots from its head. The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was considered the top climate research community. It was the source of a vast swath of the information then that was funnelled into the supposedly "authoritative" reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If scientific objectivity is corrupt at the top, there's every reason to think that the rot spreads through the entire body. And evidence suggests it has. A Russian think-tank recently revealed the climate temperature record compiled by the Climatic Research Unit cherry-picked data from only 25 per cent of Russia's climate monitoring sites, the sites closest to urban areas, biased by the urban heat island effect. The stations excluded data from 40 per cent of Russia's total land mass, which is 12.5 per cent of all the Earth's land mass.

Reid's indignation about Climategate is beyond ludicrous. "It is wrong," intones Reid, "to castigate people for things said in private, and often taken out of context." He equates the response to Climategate with a "lynch mob." Funny, the professor seems to have highly selective indignation; he is apparently unaware of the unremitting attacks on people skeptical of climate science or policy by climate scientists and politicians.

People skeptical of any aspect of climate change have long been called "deniers," an odious linkage with Holocaust denial, and various luminaries have called for them to be drowned, jailed, and tried for crimes against humanity. One prominent columnist called skepticism treason against the very Earth itself.

As for indignation about the release of private correspondence, where was Reid's indignation when Greenpeace, looking for something to spin into an incriminating picture, stole skeptic Chris Horner's trash? Where was his indignation a few years ago when scientist Steve Schroeder showed a routine letter of mine to another climate scientist (Andrew Dessler), who posted it to the Internet where it was spun into the scurrilous accusation that I was trying to bribe UN scientists? Reid's indignation is the chutzpah of a man who kills his family then wants pity because he's an orphan.

The Climategate scandal, like others in biology and medicine erodes the credibility of both the scientists involved, and the institution of scientific research. And it should: it has become evident that there is a lot of rot going on in the body of science, and too little effort made to fix it.

A start could be made. They should start by practicing the scientific method: release all data, and release all assumptions and methods used to process the data at the time of publication. Make it available to researchers (even lay researchers) who are outside the clique so the work can be checked. Had the researchers involved in Climategate done this from the beginning, instead of circling their wagons and refusing to allow outsiders to check their work, they would have taken less hectoring. As a bonus for them, Climategate would never have happened.


Get the U.N. Out of the Climate Business

The political theater in Copenhagen shows that we need realistic answers that don't require economic suicide to the challenge of rising global temperatures


In the aftermath of the Copenhagen Climate conference, it is clear that the United Nations-driven process is a bust, and that any similar process requiring economic suicide and massive wealth transfers will go nowhere. It is long since time to drop this charade, take the question of climate change out of the hands of the U.N., and implement more reasonable policies.

Fostering the resilience of societies around the world in case climate disaster strikes would be a start. Central to this process is for governments to stop making things worse, as they do when they subsidize risk-taking.

One reason that predicted damages from rising sea-levels and more powerful storms are so high is because of the popularity of coastal locales for high-density business and upscale residential development. As a result, damages from extreme coastal weather events have been fantastically expensive. The damages from Hurricane Katrina for example, reached over $150 billion. The question, however, is why there was so much value that was so badly protected against completely predictable events? Why were levees and sea-walls so under-designed? Why were so many houses and businesses uninsured? As Charles Perrow observes in "The Next Catastrophe," "Even in areas known to be hazardous, only about 20% of homeowners purchase flood insurance, and less than 50% of businesses purchase flood and earthquake insurance in risky areas."

In many cases, the answer is that governments stand as insurance stop-gaps, allowing the uninsured to depend on grants to rebuild in vulnerable areas should disaster strike, or otherwise cushioning the real costs of exposure to extreme weather.

Researchers at the Wharton Risk Center observed in a 2007 paper: "Highly subsidized premiums or premiums artificially compressed by regulations, without clear communication on the actual risk facing individuals and businesses, encourage development of hazard-prone areas in ways that are costly to both the individuals who locate there (when the disaster strikes) as well as others who are likely to incur some of the costs of bailing out victims following the next disaster (either at a state level through ex post residual market assessments or through federal taxes in the case of federal relief or tax breaks).

Stripping government measures from the risk market would help reveal the real costs of building in disaster-prone areas, and likely encourage development in more stable locales.

Another near-term option is privatization of infrastructure. Governments are quite good at building infrastructure. After all, what politician doesn't enjoy a ribbon-cutting ceremony for some new element of name-bearing infrastructure? But governments are dismal at maintaining infrastructure. They rarely establish revenue streams to keep up with repairs, nor do they set up systems to provide feedback on whether a particular road should be raised, or power-capability increased, or a water-treatment facility expanded. Roadways, electricity infrastructure, water-treatment infrastructure, and flood-control infrastructure would all benefit from such systems—the kind that private owners have an incentive to develop, since ensuring that future changes in climate do not disrupt their long-run cash flow is critical to their current financial performance.

Over the mid-term, we should consider the proposal of Ross McKitrick, a Canadian economist, who has suggested what he calls a Tropical Tropospheric Temperature (T3) tax—that is, taxing carbon dioxide emissions based on changes in the global average temperature. Ideally, this would be a revenue-neutral tax with all revenues rebated to the public in the form of reduced distortionary taxes, such as income tax.

A T3 tax has the advantage that should be attractive to both global warming skeptics and those who fear Climageddon: If temperatures remain low, as skeptics believe, the tax will stay low. If temperatures rise sharply, the tax will rise also, and incentives will grow to decarbonize energy systems around the world. Carbon taxes are a vastly superior policy option when compared either to cap-and-trade, or command-and-control regulation. Indexing the tax to the temperature of the atmosphere that shows anthropogenic change most clearly is only common sense. Mr. McKitrick suggests starting out small with something politically innocuous, on the order of 10 to15 cents per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

In the long term, we should trust in resilience and a carbon price, but tie up our camel. We should insure against the possibility that temperatures rise toward the higher-end scenarios of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by speeding the development of a robust geoengineering tool box, with multiple techniques that have been tested long before they might be needed. Such research should be accelerated now, to give us an insurance policy against the calamity predictions. There is at least one well-known mechanism by which Mother Nature cools the planet, and that is when volcanic eruptions launch sulfur dioxide high into the atmosphere, brightening clouds, and increasing their reflectivity. Some scientists have estimated that this could be done extremely inexpensively without harmful environmental impacts.

What went on in Copenhagen was more political theater than an effort to think about realistic approaches to managing the risk of climate change, whether man-made or natural. The world would be better off with a fresh start and a process that isn't run by U.N. bureaucrats for whom every problem is an excuse to expand their power.


The New Climate Litigation

How about if we sue you for breathing?

Fresh from the fiasco in Copenhagen and with a failure in the U.S. Senate looming this coming year, the climate-change lobby is already shifting to Plan B, or is it already Plan D? Meet the carbon tort. Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that's not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under "nuisance" laws.

A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

What unites these cases is the creativity of their legal chain of causation and their naked attempts at political intimidation. "My hope is that the court case will provide a powerful incentive for polluters to be reasonable and come to the table and seek affordable and reasonable reductions," Mr. Blumenthal told the trade publication Carbon Control News. "We're trying to compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature."

Mull over that one for a moment. Mr. Blumenthal isn't suing to right a wrong. He admits that he's suing to coerce a change in policy no matter what the public's elected representatives choose.

Cap and trade or a global treaty like the one that collapsed in Copenhagen would be destructive—but at least either would need the assent of a politically accountable Congress. The Obama Administration's antidemocratic decision to impose carbon regulation via the Environmental Protection Agency would be even more destructive—but at least it would be grounded in an existing law, the 1977 Clean Air Act, however misinterpreted. The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.

And now that you mention it, the U.S. appeals courts seem more than ready to arrogate to themselves this power. In September, the Second Circuit allowed Mr. Blumenthal's suit to proceed, while a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court's dismissal of the Katrina case in October. An en banc hearing is now under consideration.

But global warming is, well, global: It doesn't matter whether ubiquitous CO2 emissions come from American Electric Power or Exxon—or China. "There is no logical reason to draw the line at 30 defendants as opposed to 150, or 500, or even 10,000 defendants," says David Rivkin, an attorney at Baker Hostetler and a contributor to our pages, in an amicus brief in the Katrina case. "These plaintiffs—and any others alleging injury by climatic phenomena—would have standing to assert a damages claim against virtually every entity and individual on the planet, since each 'contributes' to global concentrations of carbon dioxide."

In other words, the courts would become a venue for a carbon war of all against all. Not only might businesses sue to shackle their competitors—could we sue the New York Times for deforestation?—but judges would decide the remedies against specific defendants. In practice this would mean ad hoc command-and-control regulation against any industries that happen to catch the green lobby's eye.

Carbon litigation without legislation is one more way to harm the economy, and the rule of law. We hope the Fifth Circuit will have the good sense to deflect this damaging legal theory before it crash-lands at the Supreme Court.



Three current articles below:

Man dying because of Warmist laws

As his health begins to fail, protesting farmer Peter Spencer swore yesterday he would die before giving in to a Federal Government decision to make his farm a carbon sink. That vow came as his four children and newborn grandchild arrived in Canberra from the US to support the 58-year-old on day 37 of the protest, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Spencer, who is chained to a wind tower more than 20m above ground, claims the government declared his property in Shannons Flat, north of Cooma, a carbon sink without offering any compensation. He says the move has left him unable to earn a living because he cannot clear land and redevelop the farm, and he is demanding a personal meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss the issue.

Aaron, Emma, Kahn and Sarah Spencer, who were all raised on the property, arrived home on Christmas Day and intend to stay until January 8. Sarah, 30, a registered nurse in her adopted home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, planned to examine her father yesterday after introducing him to her four-month-old son Saxon. "I've got my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff so I want to assess him," the farmer's daughter said. "I want to listen to his lungs, check his blood pressure and look at the swelling on his ankles. The problem is even if I tell him that I think he's coming down with pneumonia or that his kidneys are weakening ... he won't come down.

"It's heartbreaking ... but he's still very much with it mentally and is the same father we've always known. I just don't know how quickly he'll deteriorate. We're going to support him. He will come down if [Mr Rudd] makes an agreement or he'll die waiting." Aaron and Kahn climbed the tower to give their father warm clothes and helped set up a tent to protect him from heavy rainfall.

A spokesperson for Mr Rudd yesterday said the Government had "urged" Mr Spencer to stop the protest. "The Agriculture Minister responded to Mr Spencer's letter on the Prime Minister's behalf, however the Government believes this matter should be settled through the legal system and urges Mr Spencer in the strongest possible terms to end his protest and seek medical attention," the spokesperson said. "The Government sets policy in the national interest. This policy will not be changed by threats of violence or self-harm."


More evidence that CO2 is not the culprit for warming

By Michael Asten (Michael Asten is a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences at Monash University, Melbourne)

THE Copenhagen climate change summit closed two weeks ago in confusion, disagreement and, for some, disillusionment. When the political process shows such a lack of unanimity, it is pertinent to ask whether the science behind the politics is as settled as some participants maintain.

Earlier this month (The Australian, December 9) I commented on recently published results showing huge swings in atmospheric carbon dioxide, both up and down, at a time of global cooling 33.6 million years ago.

Paul Pearson and co-authors in a letter (The Weekend Australian, December 11) took exception to my use of their data and claimed I misrepresented their research, a claim I reject since I quoted their data (the veracity of which they do not contest) but offered an alternative hypothesis, namely that the present global warming theory (which was not the subject of their study) is inconsistent with the CO2-temperature variations of a past age.

Some senior scientists, who are adherents of orthodox global warming theory, do not like authors publishing data that can be used to argue against orthodoxy, a point made by unrelated authors with startling clarity in the Climategate leaked emails from the University of East Anglia.

In the scientific method, however, re-examination of data and formulation of alternative hypotheses is the essence of scientific debate. In any case, the debate on the link between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature will continue since it is not dependent on a single result.

Another example is a study by Richard Zeebe and colleagues, published in Nature Geoscience, of a release of CO2 and an increase in temperature 55 million years ago. At this time there was an increase in global temperature of between 5C and 9C, from a temperature regime slightly warmer than today's (that I will call moderate Earth) to greenhouse temperatures. It can be argued this example may have a message for humanity because the rate of release of CO2 into the atmosphere at the time of this warming was of a similar order to the rate of anthropogenic release today.

However, the analogy turns out to be incomplete when the data is compared with present estimates of climate sensitivity to atmospheric CO2, and Zeebe and his colleagues conclude that the large temperature increase cannot be explained by our existing understanding of CO2 temperature linkage. Indeed, they write, "our results imply a fundamental gap in our understanding of the amplitude of global warming associated with large and abrupt climate perturbations. This gap needs to be filled to confidently predict future climate change."

I argue there are at least two possible hypotheses to explain the data in this study: either the link between atmospheric CO2 content and global temperature increase is significantly greater (that is, more dangerous) than the existing models show or some mechanism other than atmospheric CO2 is a significant or the main factor influencing global temperature.

The first hypothesis is consistent with climate change orthodoxy. Recent writings on climate sensitivity by James Hansen are consistent with it, as was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its pre-Copenhagen update, The Copenhagen Diagnosis.

Indeed, the 26 authors of the IPCC update went a step further, and encouraged the 46,000 Copenhagen participants with the warning: "A rapid carbon release, not unlike what humans are causing today, has also occurred at least once in climate history, as sediment data from 55 million years ago show. This `Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum' brought a major global warming of 5C, a detrimental ocean acidification and a mass extinction event. It serves as a stark warning to us today."

We have to treat such a warning cautiously because, as Pearson and his colleagues pointed out in their letter two weeks ago, "We caution against any attempt to derive a simple narrative linking CO2 and climate on these large time scales. This is because many other factors come into play, including other greenhouse gases, moving continents, shifting ocean currents, dramatic changes in ocean chemistry, vegetation, ice cover, sea level and variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun."

Sound science also requires us to consider the second of the above two hypotheses. Otherwise, if we attempt to reconcile Zeebe's observation by inferring climate sensitivity to CO2 is greater than that used for current models, how do we explain Pearson's observation of huge swings in atmospheric CO2, both up and down, which appear poorly correlated with temperatures cooling from greenhouse Earth to moderate Earth?

The two geological results discussed both show some discrepancies between observation and model predictions. Such discrepancies do not in any sense reduce the merit of the respective authors' work; rather they illustrate a healthy and continuing process of scientific discovery.

In addition, unrelated satellite data analyses published in the past two years by physicist David Douglass and distinguished atmospheric scientist John Christy in two journals, International Journal of Climatology and Earth and Environment, provide observational evidence that climate sensitivity associated with CO2 is less than that used in present climate modelling, by a factor of about three.

Thus we have two geological examples and two satellite data studies pointing towards a lesser role of CO2 in global warming. This argument does not discount the reality of global warming during the past century or the potential consequences should it continue at the same rate, but it does suggest we need a broader framework in considering our response.

The Copenhagen summit exposed intense political differences in proposals to manage global warming. Scientists are also not unanimous in claiming to understand the complex processes driving climate change and, more important, scientific studies do not unambiguously point to a single solution. Copenhagen will indeed prove to be a historic meeting if it ushers in more open-minded debate.


Warmist bribes will cost the country dearly

It is no surprise that the government doesn't count on the altruism of the Australian voter in framing policies. Rather, it relies on providing favours to powerful constituencies to buy support. Nowhere is this clearer than in its proposed emissions trading scheme, with the government strenuously proclaiming that 70 per cent of households will be "more than compensated" for any adverse effects. Generous compensation also will be provided to business.

Far from the "hard reform" the Prime Minister keeps announcing, what is promised is therefore a painless warm glow. That promise is, of course, too good to be true. In fact, the compensation, far from offsetting the harm, will add to it. This flows from some basic properties of taxes on "bads", such as pollution.

In theory, these are the most efficient taxes, for they raise revenue not by distorting market choices but by correcting them. However, these taxes typically raise a great deal of revenue relative to the change they purport to make. This is because while the tax is collected on every unit, the overall fall in output of the bad is small. In the case of the ETS, each emission requires the purchase of a permit, but each year total emissions fall by only a few per cent. As a result, how a tax on a bad affects efficiency depends to a large extent on what is done with the revenues. When those revenues are wasted or used to distort markets, society is worse off, even if the harm done by the bad is reduced.

In the proposed ETS, there is the Swiss cheese of payments to polluters, aimed at buying the acquiescence of a business community that, for more than a century, has more than made up in rent-seeking prowess for all it lacks in insight and backbone. These payments will distort economic activity for decades to come. For example, firms that obtain free permits cannot sell them on exit from the industry. This encourages them to continue to operate even if their output could be more cheaply supplied by others.

The compensation to households is even worse. Those payments will be income-based, phasing out as income rises. This will increase marginal tax rates that are already high, with the lost compensation meaning that each additional dollar in pre-tax earning could translate into less than 60c of take-home pay. Combined with the increase in prices relative to wages caused by the ETS itself, the effect will be to reduce the incentive to work. If this departs from self-interest, it is not out of altruism but folly.

How great are the resulting costs? Unfortunately, none of the distortions arising from the compensation package are captured in the published Treasury modelling. As a result, that modelling provides little guidance as to the efficiency effects of the ETS.

This is not to suggest that a pure ETS, pristine in its underlying economic intent, is politically possible. What it does mean is that the comparison to be made is not between a textbook ETS and less perfect alternatives. Rather, it is between an ETS mired in sordid deals and other options that may be better or worse.

Were altruism to break out, goals such as reducing emissions might be achieved without give-aways and concessions. We know tragically little about how to produce some of life's most important goods, such as mutual respect, tolerance and a genuine interest in the welfare of others. Until that secret is unlocked, government interventions will be shaped by rent-seeking and will often impose costs far greater than its benefits.

Business's search for handouts has long been a primary factor in this respect. Environmental fundamentalism adds dangerous impetus to the pressures. As the ETS shows, our political system, under the guise of public beneficence, panders all too readily to these single-issue voters, while shifting costs around, including on to future generations, in ways that are as opaque and inequitable as they are inefficient.



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 are mirrors of this site here and here



Anonymous said...

Moonbat: "Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals."

Yes, it is.


david xavier said...

"George Monbiot admits that Warmism is really about changing people"

And as such , it doesnt matter if AGW is a lie. They will never admit it , for it is the means to the end.