Thursday, April 30, 2009


An email from Will Alexander [] in South Africa

I read all those reports on the solar linkage with climate with a mixture of amusement and amazement. I was particularly amazed by David Whitehouse's conclusion that for now all scientists can do, along with the rest of us, is to watch and wait. This is nonsense. I was amused because the linkage was first reported in the South African literature more than a hundred years ago. I also reported it in 1978, again in 1995, and on a number of occasions since then.

Let me take your readers through the issue in simple steps. The analyses consist of simple school level arithmetic and standard serial correlation analyses. The data were not manipulated in any way before, during or after the analyses.

STEP 1. The following data are from website information distributed by the World Data Centre for the Sunspot Index (2005). There were eight complete cycles during the past century. These commenced with the sunspot minimum that occurred in June1913, and ended with the sunspot minimum that occurred in March 1996. The lengths of the cycles were 10, 10, 11, 10, 10, 12, 10 and 10 years, with a mean of 10.4 years. These values are within a narrow range of between 10 (minimum) and 12 (maximum) years. A corresponding increase in solar activity during the past century is reflected in the increase in the numbers of sunspots per cycle, commencing with the cycle that started in 1913. Alternating cycles are identified by negative values. The sunspot numbers per cycle were +442, -410, +605, -757, +950, -705, +829 and -785. The maximum was more than twice that of the minimum that occurred only three cycles earlier.

The lengths of the corresponding double sunspot cycles were 20, 21, 22 and 20 years with a mean of 20.8 years, a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 22 years. The average numbers of sunspots in the alternating cycles that made up the double cycles were +706 and -664, demonstrating a meaningful difference in sunspot activity in the alternating cycles.

STEP 2. There are very clear and unambiguous reversals in the South African hydrometeorological data. The periods commenced with sudden changes from sequences of drought years that were suddenly broken by floods that persisted in the following years. The years in which the reversals occurred in South Africa's major river are as follows with the corresponding sunspot minima in parentheses. They were 1932/33 (1933), 1941/42 (1944), 1953/54 (1954), 1965/66 (1964), 1972/73 (1975), 1986/87 (1986), 1995/96 (1996), and 2005/06 (2006?).

The annual flows during the three years preceding the reversals averaged 60% of the record average annual flows and the subsequent three years averaged 156% of the average annual flows. The average sunspot numbers in the three years before and after the sunspot minima were 17 and 100 respectively. It is very clear that the sudden changes in river flow are closely linked with corresponding changes in sunspot numbers, and are not random events. This relationship exists despite the long and complex energy path starting at the sun and ending with the potential energy of the water in the river, which is a function of its elevation above sea level.

STEP 3. Records were long enough to detect 21-year periodicity in the data at the 95% level of statistical significance using standard serial correlation analyses. Serial correlation analyses showed a statistically significant, 95 percent level, 21-year serial correlation in many records BUT NO 11-YEAR SERIAL CORRELATIONS. The analyses demonstrated very clearly that the relationship between solar activity and river flow was synchronously related to the double sunspot cycles and not the single sunspot cycles.

STEP 4. The hydrological analyses showed a clear and unambiguous, slow but steady increase in open water surface evaporation during the 70 years of available records. Received solar radiation and not air temperature controls the evaporation process. This was confirmed by evaporation suppression experiments.

STEP 5. There was a similar, steady increase in rainfall during the past century. This is directly contrary to claims by climate alarmists that climate change will result in most of South Africa becoming warmer and drier.


There is a clear and unambiguous synchronous relationship between sunspot activity and river flow in South Africa. The increases in evaporation and rainfall coincided with increases in sunspot activity during the past century. Why were these linkages not detected in the milder climates of the northern hemisphere?

STEP 6. There are two reasons for this. First, most of the solar energy received in the high latitudes is transported from the tropics via the atmospheric and oceanic systems. The subtle signals of variations in received solar energy are subdued in the process.

STEP 7. Another factor is that the average annual rainfall in South Africa is only 500 mm compared with the world average of more than 800 mm. As a consequence our rainfall and river flows are strongly seasonal. There is very little carryover from one year to the next. The annual values are discrete events and the signals are much clearer.


For the past four years I have warned that South Africa, and possibly the rest of the world, are about to enter a drought cycle. There is about a 20% probability that the drought sequences will be as severe as those of the early 1930s. This was called the Great Depression Drought here in South Africa as it coincided with the worldwide economic depression. In the USA it was called the Dustbowl Drought.

My personal concern has increased greatly in recent months. If a severe drought occurs and it coincides with the present economic recession that seems to be heading towards a depression, there will be chaos in this country and elsewhere. I do not know how the prolonged quietness of the Sun will influence my prediction. The reports in CCNet of 27 April were not very helpful. Waiting for events to unfold is not an option.

ARIMA representation for daily solar irradiance and surface air temperature time series

(The scientific paper below shows that the earth's temperature closely tracks changes in the sun)

By Olavi Karner


Autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) models are used to compare long-range temporal variability of the total solar irradiance (TSI) at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and surface air temperature series. The comparison shows that one and the same type of the model is applicable to represent the TSI and air temperature series. In terms of the model type surface air temperature imitates closely that for the TSI. This may mean that currently no other forcing to the climate system is capable to change the random walk type variability established by the varying activity of the rotating sun. The result should inspire more detailed examination of the dependence of various climate series on short-range fluctuations of TSI.

Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (In press)


The research aircraft "Polar 5" today concluded its Arctic expedition in Canada. During the flight, researchers measured the current ice thickness at the North Pole and in areas that have never before been surveyed. The result: The sea-ice in the surveyed areas is apparently thicker than scientists had suspected.

Normally, newly formed ice measures some two meters in thickness after two years. "Here, we measured ice thickness up to four meters," said a spokesperson for Bremerhaven's Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present, this result contradicts the warming of the sea water, according to the scientists.

Apart from measuring ice thickness, the composition of arctic air was also investigated. With the help of a laser, the researchers studied the level of pollution of the atmosphere by emissions from industrialized countries. In the next few weeks the results will be evaluated. Some 20 scientists from the U.S., Canada, Italy and Germany took part in the expedition.

SOURCE [In German. transl. BJP]


Can we solve climate change? No we can't, according to a leading climate change professor. Mike Hulme professor of Climate Change at East Anglia University reckons we are heading up a "dead end" by putting climate change science at the top of the political agenda. In fact he thinks we are pretty arrogant to think we can control the climate.

Mike, who has spent the last 25 years researching climate change, has just written a book Why we disagree about climate change where he questions why climate change has become "the mother of all issues." "Why is it that climate change has taken this premier position as the issue that humanity's future is at stake if we don't attend to climate change?"

Mike reckons "climate change" is unsolvable. People round the world are too different, with different needs, to come together. Since the "landmark" Kyoto agreement ten years ago emissions have accelerated. Instead we should treat climate change as an idea like democracy or justice motivating us to live better so that we can act locally and regionally to get cleaner air, or power or eradicate poverty.

"We shouldn't be framing climate change as the problem that we have to solve above all others. If we do that we have constructed an unsolvable dilemma because of the multiple reasons why we disagree about climate change. We will never converge on a set of solutions.

"Rather than putting climate change at the pinnacle and if we fail on climate change everything else fails. Humanity is doomed, we've only got seven more years, the clock is ticking... what I'm suggesting is that we turn this whole thing around and think of climate change as an imaginative idea like democracy or nationality or justice. It's an idea that can be used but you cannot solve an idea. You can use an idea you can manipulate it, you can exploit it but you can't solve it.

"Let's be very clear about this I'm not denying climate change. I'm not questioning the fundamental science here. Humans are altering the climate around the world in my mind there's no doubt about that. And climate has an effect on eco systems around the world. "What I am questioning is that we can solve it in the way that we have it currently framed. We have reached this paralysis mode"

Mike says the way we are tackling climate change could even lead to reactionary and authoritarian policies such as sending mirrors into space or spraying aerosols in the atmosphere. "My basic thesis is that we should turn climate change around. It's localising issues. "We don't have to get global agreements to attend to fuel poverty in Britain or air pollution in China's cities.

"If by 2050 we have managed to limit global warming to 2 degrees will that world actually be a better world? Will it have attended to these other issues, nationally and globally? I'm not sure it will. "Physical climate is being changed by human societies. Human societies are having to grapple with what that means and just trying to deal with this in terms of science is a dead end, I think." "A more powerful way into these issues to localise them. We can improve the local environment in our cities by changing our transport systems we can buy local food. "They don't all have to tick the climate change box to be morally or ethically desirable. There are more games in town than simply climate change.

"I am not saying we don't want radical change. I am saying we should take the spotlight away from climate change at the top of the pile. "It is rather hubristic to think we can actually control climate. Climate change is the new human condition we have to live with. Let's accept this is the new reality. "Don't construct the problem in a way which means we cannot have a solution which is the way I think we have got it constructed at the moment."



Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne who is most famous for talking to plants, has signed a deal to make a movie and write a book about climate change. The project will be called "Harmony," because, in Charles's words, humankind must "rediscover that sense of harmony, that sense of being a part of, rather apart from, nature." His film will educate the unruly masses - with their fast cars, fridges, and other planet-destroying luxuries - that human beings "have a sacred duty of stewardship of the natural order of things."

The thought of being lectured about living more meekly by a taxpayer-subsidized prince who has never done a proper day's work in his life - and who is currently flying around Europe on a private jet with a master suite and plush bathroom that will spew a whopping 53 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the course of his five-day, $116,000 charter - is of course eye-swivellingly irritating. But this is something we're getting used to in Britain - because here, environmentalism looks very much like the Revenge of the Aristocrats. The British green lobby is stuffed with the sons and daughters of privilege, for whom environmentalism provides a perfect, scientifically tinged gloss for expressing in a new way their old foul prejudices against mass, modern society.

Many of the major players in British environmentalism are posh, rich, and hectoring. One of Charles's top advisers is Jonathon Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth and a patron of the creepy Malthusian outfit, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT). Porritt is a graduate of Eton, Britain's school of choice for the rich and well-connected, and is the son of Lord Porritt, the 11th Governor General of New Zealand. The increasingly influential OPT also counts Sir Crispin Tickell (who is as posh as his name suggests) and Lady Kulukundis, the wife of a Greek shipping magnate, among its patrons.



One of the oldest and most efficient wind farm in Britain is to be dismantled and replaced by a nuclear power station under plans drawn up by the German-owned power group RWE.

The site at Kirksanton in Cumbria - home to the Haverigg turbines - has just been approved by the government for potential atomic newbuild in a move that has infuriated the wind power industry.

Colin Palmer, founder of the Windcluster company, which owns part of the Haverigg wind farm, said he was horrified that such a plan could be considered at a time when Britain risks missing its green energy targets and after reassurance from ministers that nuclear and renewables were not incompatible.



So much for "Green jobs"

One of the biggest renewable energy manufacturers in Britain announced on Tuesday it is to cut more than half its UK jobs - blaming the government for failing to support the sector.

In a grave blow to the government's ambitions to create a "green" export industry, Vestas, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, will axe about 600 of its 1,100 UK employees, probably closing its factory in the Isle of Wight and cutting jobs elsewhere in the UK.

Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas, told the Financial Times: "We had been planning additional investment in the UK [because of government targets to increase renewables]. But the UK is probably one of the most difficult places in the world to get permission [for wind projects]. We can't afford to keep on this capacity."

The blow comes less than a week after Alistair Darling trumpeted the role of low-carbon industries in job creation, announcing new funding for renewables in his Budget.



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.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

British court rules that environmentalism is a religion

A former executive of a top property company has been told he can claim at a tribunal that he was sacked because of his "philosophical belief in climate change".

In the landmark ruling Tim Nicholson was told he could use employment law to argue that he was discriminated against because of his views on the environment. The head of the tribunal ruled that those views amounted to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, 2003. The case is the first of its kind and could open the way for hundreds of future claims to be made in the same fashion, the newspaper reported.

Mr Nicholson, 41, was made redundant while head of sustainability at Grainger plc, Britain's biggest residential property investment company, in July last year. He is now suing his former employers for unfair dismissal, arguing that his beliefs on the environment prompted clashes with other senior executives at the firm, and led to his sacking.

Mr Nicholson told the tribunal that he clashed with other executives over the way it adopted its policies on the environment and corporate social responsibility. He said he tried to get the company to act in a more environmentally responsible way, but was obstructed by senior company executives. Mr Nicholson said that his frustrations were exemplified by an occasion when the company's chief executive, Rupert Dickinson, "showed contempt for the need to cut carbon emissions by flying out a member of the IT staff to Ireland to deliver his BlackBerry that he had left behind in London."

At a pre-hearing review at an employment tribunal in London, tribunal head David Sneath ruled on a point of law that: "In my judgment, his belief goes beyond a mere opinion." The full employment tribunal is now set to take place from June 4. Grainger might consider an appeal against the ruling, the company's lawyer said.


Global warming alarmists out in cold

Comment from Australia by Andrew Bolt

IT'S snowing in April. Ice is spreading in Antarctica. The Great Barrier Reef is as healthy as ever. And that's just the news of the past week. Truly, it never rains but it pours - and all over our global warming alarmists.

Time's up for this absurd scaremongering. The fears are being contradicted by the facts, and more so by the week. Doubt it? Then here's a test.

Name just three clear signs the planet is warming as the alarmists claim it should. Just three. Chances are your "proofs" are in fact on my list of 10 Top Myths about global warming. And if your "proofs" indeed turn out to be false, don't get angry with me. Just ask yourself: Why do you still believe that man is heating the planet to hell? What evidence do you have? So let's see if facts matter more to you than faith, and observations more than predictions.


Wrong. It is true the world did warm between 1975 and 1998, but even Professor David Karoly, one of our leading alarmists, admitted this week "temperatures have dropped" since - "both in surface temperatures and in atmospheric temperatures measured from satellites". In fact, the fall in temperatures from just 2002 has already wiped out half the warming our planet experienced last century. (Check data from Britain's Hadley Centre, NASA's Aqua satellite and the US National Climatic Data Centre.)

Some experts, such as Karoly, claim this proves nothing and the world will soon start warming again. Others, such as Professor Ian Plimer of Adelaide University, point out that so many years of cooling already contradict the theory that man's rapidly increasing gases must drive up temperatures ever faster. But that's all theory. The question I've asked is: What signs can you actually see of the man-made warming that the alarmists predicted?


Wrong. The British Antarctic Survey, working with NASA, last week confirmed ice around Antarctica has grown 100,000 sq km each decade for the past 30 years. Long-term monitoring by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the same: southern hemisphere ice has been expanding for decades.

As for the Arctic, wrong again. The Arctic ice cap shrank badly two summers ago after years of steady decline, but has since largely recovered. Satellite data from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre this week shows the Arctic hasn't had this much April ice for at least seven years. Norway's Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre says the ice is now within the standard deviation range for 1979 to 2007.


Wrong. A study released this month by the University of NSW Climate Change Research Centre confirms not only that we've had worse droughts, but this Big Dry is not caused by "global warming", whether man-made or not. As the university's press release says: "The causes of southeastern Australia's longest, most severe and damaging droughts have been discovered, with the surprise finding that they originate far away in the Indian Ocean.

"A team of Australian scientists has detailed for the first time how a phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean Dipole - a variable and irregular cycle of warming and cooling of ocean water - dictates whether moisture-bearing winds are carried across the southern half of Australia."


Wrong. The alleged "record" temperature Melbourne set in January - 46.4 degrees - was in fact topped by the 47.2 degrees the city recorded in 1851. (See the Argus newspaper of February 8, 1851.) And here's another curious thing: Despite all this warming we're alleged to have caused, Victoria's highest temperature on record remains the 50.7 degrees that hit Mildura 103 years ago. South Australia's hottest day is still the 50.7 degrees Oodnadatta suffered 37 years ago. NSW's high is still the 50 degrees recorded 70 years ago.

What's more, not one of the world's seven continents has set a record high temperature since 1974. Europe's high remains the 50 degrees measured in Spain 128 years ago, before the invention of the first true car.


Wrong. If anything, the seas are getting colder. For five years, a network of 3175 automated bathythermographs has been deployed in the oceans by the Argo program, a collaboration between 50 agencies from 26 countries. Warming believer Josh Willis, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reluctantly concluded: "There has been a very slight cooling ..."


Wrong. For almost three years, the seas have stopped rising, according to the Jason-1 satellite mission monitored by the University of Colorado.

That said, the seas have risen steadily and slowly for the past 10,000 years through natural warming, and will almost certainly resume soon. But there is little sign of any accelerated rises, even off Tuvalu or the Maldives, islands often said to be most threatened with drowning.

Professor Nils-Axel Moerner, one of the world's most famous experts on sea levels, has studied the Maldives in particular and concluded there has been no net rise there for 1250 years. Venice is still above water.


Wrong. Ryan Maue of Florida State University recently measured the frequency, intensity and duration of all hurricanes and cyclones to compile an Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index. His findings? The energy index is at its lowest level for more than 30 years.

The World Meteorological Organisation, in its latest statement on cyclones, said it was impossible to say if they were affected by man's gases: "Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point."


Wrong. Yes, in 1999, Professor Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, our leading reef alarmist and administrator of more than $30 million in warming grants, did claim the reef was threatened by warming, and much had turned white. But he then had to admit it had made a "surprising" recovery.

Yes, in 2006 he again warned high temperatures meant "between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef could die within a month". But he later admitted this bleaching had "minimal impact". Yes, in 2007 he again warned that temperature changes of the kind caused by global warming were bleaching the reef. But this month fellow Queensland University researchers admitted in a study that reef coral had once more made a "spectacular recovery", with "abundant corals re-established in a single year". The reef is blooming.


Wrong. Poor snow falls in 2003 set off a rash of headlines predicting warming doom. The CSIRO typically fed the hysteria by claiming global warming would strip resorts of up to a quarter of their snow by 2018. Yet the past two years have been bumper seasons for Victoria's snow resorts, and this year could be just as good, with snow already falling in NSW and Victoria this past week.


Are you insane? Tsunamis are in fact caused by earthquakes. Yet there was World Vision boss Tim Costello last week, claiming that Asia was a "region, thanks to climate change, that has far more cyclones, tsunamis, droughts". Wrong, wrong and wrong, Tim. But what do facts matter now to a warming evangelist when the cause is so just?

And so any disaster is now blamed on man-made warming the way they once were on Satan. See for yourself on the full list, including kidney stones, volcanic eruptions, lousy wine, insomnia, bad tempers, Vampire moths and bubonic plagues. Nothing is too far-fetched to be seized upon by carpetbaggers and wild preachers as signs of a warming we can't actually see.

Not for nothing are polar bears the perfect symbol of this faith - bears said to be threatened by warming, when their numbers have in fact increased.

Bottom line: fewer people now die from extreme weather events, whether cyclones, floods or blinding heatwaves.

Read that in a study by Indur Goklany, who represented the US at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: "There is no signal in the mortality data to indicate increases in the overall frequencies or severities of extreme weather events, despite large increases in the population at risk."

So stop this crazy panic. First step: check again your list of the signs you thought you saw of global warming. How many are true? What do you think, and why do you think it? Yes, the world may resume warming in one year or 100. But it hasn't been warming as the alarmists said it must if man were to blame, and certainly not as the media breathlessly keeps claiming.

Best we all just settle down, then, and wait for the proof -- the real proof. After all, panicking over invisible things is so undignified, don't you think?



In 2004, NASA scientists started looking forward to a new solar minimum. In 2005, it began. At this time most scientists expected the new solar cycle 24 to begin in late 2006 or early 2007 with a following ramp up in solar activity. But 2006 and 2007, according to NASA data, passed without any sign of a new solar cycle. During this time, the sun remained unusually quiet. Then, in early 2008, scientists finally found what they were waiting for -- a single sunspot with a reversed magnetic polarity. As a switch in magnetic polarity usually presages an increase in sunspot activity building up to a new solar maximum, scientists around the world proclaimed the new solar cycle had finally begun.

Now, nearly two months later, NASA observations show the sun is still unusually quiet. Day after day, the sun displays few, if any, sunspots. Even coronal holes are curiously absent. The long solar minimum now stretching into its third year coupled with curiously low solar activity even for a solar minimum is causing some scientists to speculate if the sun is entering a period of anemic activity like the most recent Dalton Minimum.

According to Wikipedia, the Dalton Minimum was a period of low solar activity stretching from 1790 to 1830. Like other long period solar minimums such as the Maunder Minimum and the Sporer Minimum, it resulted in crop failures, lower than average global temperatures, and little ice age conditions in the Northern Hemisphere.

If the sun is entering a new period of very low activity it would presage a 30 year or more drop in global temperatures. Some scientists are already beginning to speculate that just this sort of thing may be occurring now. According to Astronomer David Whitehouse, "It's something we must take seriously because what happened in the 17th century is bound to happen again some time. Recent work studying the periods when our Sun loses its sunspots, along with data on other Sun-like stars that may be behaving in the same way, suggests that our Sun may spend between 10 and 25 per cent of the time in this state. Perhaps the lateness of cycle 24 might even be the start of another Little Ice Age."


Episodes of relative global warming

(The paper below shows that variations in solar activity correlate with temperatures on earth -- funnily enough -- JR)

By C. de Jager and S. Duhau


Solar activity is regulated by the solar dynamo. The dynamo is a non-linear interplay between the equatorial and polar magnetic field components. So far, in Sun-climate studies, only the equatorial component has been considered as a possible driver of tropospheric temperature variations. We show that, next to this, there is a significant contribution of the polar component. Based on direct observations of proxy data for the two main solar magnetic fields components since 1844, we derive an empirical relation between tropospheric temperature variation and those of the solar equatorial and polar activities. When applying that relation to the period 1610-1995, we find some quasi-regular episodes of residual temperature increases and decreases, with semi-amplitudes up to 0.3 °C. The present period of global warming is one of them.

Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Volume 71, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 194-198

Warmism fading in Australia

By William Kininmonth, a former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation. Kininmonth agrees that there is a global warming effect but points out reasons why it has to be trivial. The temperature rise across the 20th century was certainly trivial -- about a half of one degree Celsius. It takes acute imaginitis and a lot of statistical jiggery pokery to extrapolate that to a huge rise in the 21st century

The science of global warming is claimed to be too complex for the public to comprehend and judge. We are continually being told to take and act on the advice of the consensus of IPCC experts; the dissenters are no more than paid mouthpieces of industry or worse. Nevertheless, the public and their representatives are showing innate common sense.

The Australian Senate is poised to reject the "cap and trade" legislation designed by the Rudd Government to implement the Orwellian carbon pollution reduction scheme; it is unlikely the US Senate will ratify similar legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions any time soon, despite the rhetoric of Barack Obama; and the UN's post-Kyoto dreams of global industrial regulation are destined to fail in Copenhagen later this year.

Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims "mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs" (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).

With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer's latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and isinto its third print run in as manyweeks. The public is receptive to an expose of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.

In an interesting slant on logic, Robert Manne, writing in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, takes the position it is not what citizens should believe that is important but who they believe. Needless to say, he favours the UN's IPCC and its so-called consensus over those such as Plimer who question the anthropogenic global warming science.

What is often forgotten is that the UN established the IPCC in 1988 only because of the then raging scientific debate over the veracity of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. The debate has continued because the dire predictions violate fundamental scientific laws and the real science cannot be suppressed.

Recognition of the essential flaw in the dangerous global warming hypothesis predates the IPCC and has been there for the world to see in the title of a paper published in 1966 by CSIRO division of meteorological physics former chief Bill Priestley: "The limitation of temperature in hot climates by evaporation."

Seventy per cent of the Earth's surface is made up of ocean and much of the remaining surface is transpiring vegetation. Evaporation and the exchange of latent energy from the surface is a strong constraint to surface temperature rise. It is not rocket science that water from a canvas bag is cool even on the hottest days.

Furthermore, the surface temperatures of the warmest tropical oceans seldom exceed 30C and for millions of years the underlying cold sub-surface waters have provided a powerful thermal buffer to warming. The suggestion of anthropogenic global warming exceeding a tipping point and leading to runaway or irreversible global warming is a violation of conservation of energy principles.

Computer models are the essential tool for prediction of future climate. Since the IPCC fourth assessment, several independent analyses of the characteristics of the various models have been published in the scientific literature. These analyses reveal serious defects. As the Earth warmed during the 1980s and '90s, it was observed that the convective overturning of the tropics (the Hadley circulation) increased. In contrast, the overturning of the computer models is portrayed to decrease as increasing carbon dioxide generates global warming.

Separately it is found that the computer models underspecify (by a factor of three) the important rate of increase of evaporation with projected temperature rise, meaning that the models underspecify rainfall increase and exaggerate the risk of drought. The same evaporation problem causes an exaggeration of the temperature response to carbon dioxide, but the exaggeration is a model failure and not reality.

The greenhouse effect is real, as is the enhancement due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration. However, the likely extent of global temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is less than 1C. Such warming is well within the envelope of variation experienced during the past 10,000 years and insignificant in the context of glacial cycles during the past million years, when Earth has been predominantly very cold and covered by extensive ice sheets.

Fundamental science has always identified that it is quixotic to attempt regulation of climate through management of carbon dioxide emissions. The pity is that community leaders have been beguiled by the mystery of powerful computers and have failed to critically assess the predictions within the context of Earth's history. Plimer's authoritative book provides the excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals and redress that failure.


Greenies and the supply side of the housing bubble

Environmental activists have blamed every conceivable ill in society on global warming – from the spread of disease to increased risks of forest fires to environmental despoliation and the retreat of glaciers. If you read the "enviro" literature, you'll be hard-pressed to find any problem worldwide that might not be exacerbated by the Earth's changing temperature. I dismiss most such claims, or at least treat them skeptically, given that the goal of the alarmists is obvious: to scare humanity into ceding more of our freedom and our money to the politicians, government administrators and activist groups that promise to save us.

Yet there is one massive and ever-present problem that environmentalists have not yet tied to global warming: the global financial meltdown, which has threatened the world economy much the way supposedly melting polar ice is supposedly shrinking polar bear habitats. This is one crisis, however, that might actually be directly tied to global warming. I exaggerate a bit. Actually, theoretic man-made global warming didn't cause the housing bubble, but land-use policies implemented, in part, to fight global warming, do have a direct link to the housing bubble, the subsequent deflation of that bubble and all the wreckage that has followed.

This is the largely untold story of the ongoing economic crisis. It's not nearly as far-fetched as it sounds. We've all been reading about the main causes of the economic bust. It's elementary economics, really. Science-fiction writer Jerry Pournelle puts it in simple terms: "I've been telling you for years: you can't pump money into the housing market, and keep lowering the interest rates, without creating a bubble; and eventually the bubble will burst." Cheap money and loosened home-lending standards, pushed by politicians who wanted to make homeownership affordable even to people who clearly were not financially ready to buy and maintain a house, created an unnatural demand for housing. Demand went up, and prices soared. All Ponzi schemes come to an end, and now you've got wide choices among Southern California houses that cost not much more than a decent luxury car.

We know that. But let's look more closely at what happened. For example, answer this question: Why did prices go up when demand shot up? That's easy. Demand exceeded supply. Now for the follow-up question: Why didn't supply keep up with demand? It takes awhile to build houses, and government restrictions on land use made it far more difficult for that new supply to be built as demand soared.

In reality, the housing bubble did not get particularly inflated in many parts of the country. The bubble was almost exclusively a feature in big urbanized markets, and not just any big, urbanized markets. The bubble was inflated mainly in those metropolitan areas – i.e., San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, etc. – that embrace Smart Growth, the trendy and widely implemented idea that government should limit suburban growth (sprawl, as it is pejoratively called) and insist that new growth be crammed into urban growth boundaries.

"'Easy money,' by itself, does not explain what caused the unprecedented housing bubble in California," writes Wendell Cox, a former Los Angeles transportation planner and a well-known housing and transportation consultant who battles the Smart Growth folks for Heritage Foundation and other market-oriented think tanks. "If 'easy money' were the sole cause, then similar house price escalation relative to incomes would have occurred throughout the country. Take, for example, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. These are the three fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the developed world … . Since 2000, these metropolitan areas have grown from three to 15 times as fast as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose. … This is where the demand would have been expected to produce the bubble. But it did not. House prices remained at or near historic norms and average house prices rose one-tenth that of the California coastal metropolitan areas."

I heard Cox last week at the American Dream Coalition conference in Bellevue, Wash. (I spoke on local Smart Growth initiatives, and Cox offered a presentation via satellite from Paris). He noted that even economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman agrees that land rationing causes home-price increases. In fact, it's so obvious, I'm surprised a liberal Nobel Prize winner, as Krugman is, would recognize as much.

Don't get caught up in the politics of it, though. Think economically, in terms of any product you choose. Let's say money became available to virtually anyone to buy a new car, but that carmakers weren't able to build many new cars to fulfill the demand. Car prices would go up and up. The same thing would happen with anything. Remember the short-lived bubble for – it's hard to believe, but true – "scarce" Beanie Babies?

I looked at home-price data for some decent-size Midwestern cities over the period of bubble and bust that we experienced in California. The trend line was shocking – prices went up steadily but modestly year after year. In California markets, the prices spiked and then fell. In California, there wasn't enough supply – and it takes too many months to get approvals to fill the demand.

Certainly, some of the California markets that experienced the biggest bust, such as the Central Valley, the Inland Empire and the high desert, are not Smart Growth havens. But, as Randal O'Toole, a land-use expert for the Cato Institute, explained to me, these are markets that served as the blow-off valve for the highly restrictive Bay Area and Southern California urban markets. In other words, average folks couldn't afford homes in restrictive Orange County and Los Angeles, so they moved out to places such as Perris and Moreno Valley. Those are among the communities particularly hard hit by the bust.

California and other progressive states have been pushing tough land-use rules for years and for myriad reasons. But there's no doubt that global warming concerns have provided recent impetus for stringent restrictions. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law last year Senate Bill 375, a "Smart Growth" bill that withholds transportation funds from localities that do not embrace limits on suburban development. That was a follow-up to Assembly Bill 32, designed to battle global-warming-related emissions. In fairness, we shouldn't blame global warming hysteria entirely for these problems, but it deserves a good share of the blame.

Global warming might someday harm the polar bear. But the policies politicians have implemented to deal with this issue have had a good bit to do with the financial suffering Americans are facing today. Next time someone complains about the ill effects of global warming, add this one to the list.



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.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Warmism: A hopeless blend of hot air and hubris

THE ancient Greeks invented the idea of hubris, of human beings having overweening pride and self-esteem that needed to be punished for its excess. There are perhaps those who believe that what is commonly called climate change is a punishment for hubris, for human beings having gone beyond their place in the scheme of things.

However, an equally good case can be made that the call for human beings to make far-reaching changes to their way of life in response to climate change is itself a form of hubris. To begin, it is based on the belief that human endeavours, in the shape of industrial development, have had such an impact on the Earth that they threaten to disrupt its environment on an enormous scale. Not only have humans made such an impact on the planet, they are also capable, through an act of will, of reversing that impact and setting things right.

According to this scenario, human beings are the most important players in the history of the planet; they are the lords and masters who can destroy things as well as set them right. This belief in the capacity of humans to control the environment is very old. In some ancient civilisations the ruler was supposed to have the power to create a beneficial climate. If there were a prolonged drought, then the ruler sometimes was expected to make the ultimate sacrifice to propitiate the gods. During the depths of the Little Ice Age in Europe, some communities asked God for forgiveness of their sins so that a better climate might return.

Today, however, we look to the state to return us to the path of righteousness. Government can undo the wrongs that we have inflicted on the planet.

Think how much worse it would be for us if it could be demonstrated that the process of global warming were outside of human hands and unable to be manipulated by human efforts. The most we could do would be to adapt to the changes that are occurring. It would be a huge blow to humanity's ego.

Human beings do not want to feel helpless in the face of such changes. They want to feel in control. Believing in climate change creates the illusion that they are in control, that they can do something to make a difference. If they have already affected the planet in such a profound way, surely they can do itagain.

If human beings did not have climate change they might find themselves reduced to being mere spectators in a cosmos over which they had fairly limited control. They would feel that their stature had been diminished. Put simply, they need climate change.

Yet, reading Ian Plimer's excellent Heaven and Earth, what impresses one about his extraordinary account of the Earth's history and its climate is the many forces of nature that are beyond human control. These range from cosmic radiation to the movement of continents and the force of volcanoes. In so many ways we are just spectators, pilgrims who spend a short time on Earth.

That so many people need climate change in the face of the immense forces of nature can be put down to human hubris. They want the illusion of control, and the tool that they use to further that illusion is no longer religion but the state.

The same impulse that leads individuals to look to the state to control climate change also leads them to want to use the state to control economic matters. This is not to say that there is no role for the state in providing the framework in which economic activities take place. It is merely to point out that there are times when it is better for it not to interfere and to allow things to work themselves out.

There is a very important law in politics and economics known as the law of unintended consequences. When governments intervene in matters about which they have limited knowledge, and this is basically everything, they can take steps that make things worse rather than better.

The same law applies to the natural world. Plimer describes a universe so complex that it is simply not feasible that any computer model devised by a human being could capture its complexity.

State action based on such limited knowledge invariably will have unforeseen consequences that may well prove quite harmful.

Humility can be seen as the antidote to hubris. Human beings should be humble in the face of the immense forces of nature and recognise that their power to manipulate and change the world is very limited. They can do this only if they recognise that adherence to climate change is the ultimate expression of hubris. There are times when the best thing for the state to do is nothing.


Bogus Models Used To Justify Anti-CO2 Push

Few things are more appealing in politics than something for nothing. As Congress begins considering anti-global-warming legislation, environmentalists hold out precisely that tantalizing prospect: We can conquer global warming at virtually no cost. Here's a typical claim from the Environmental Defense Fund: "For about a dime a day (per person), we can solve climate change, invest in a clean energy future and save billions in imported oil."

This sounds too good to be true, because it is. About four-fifths of the world's and America's energy comes from fossil fuels — oil, coal, natural gas — which are also the largest source of man-made carbon dioxide, the alleged main greenhouse gas. The goal is to eliminate fossil fuels or suppress their CO2. The bill now being considered in the House would mandate a 42% decline in greenhouse emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels and an 83% drop by 2050.

Re-engineering the world energy system seems an almost impossible undertaking. Just consider America's energy needs in 2030, as estimated by the Energy Information Administration. Compared with 2007, the U.S. is projected to have almost 25% more people (375 million), an economy about 70% larger ($20 trillion) and 27% more light-duty vehicles (294 million). Energy demand will be strong.

But the EIA also assumes greater conservation and use of renewables. From 2007 to 2030, solar power grows 18 times, wind six times. New cars and light trucks get 50% better gas mileage. Light bulbs and washing machines become more efficient. Higher energy prices discourage use; by 2030, oil is $130 a barrel in today's dollars.

For all that, U.S. CO2 emissions in 2030 are projected at 6.2 billion metric tons, 4% higher than in 2007. As an example, solar and wind together would still supply only about 5% of electricity, because they expand from a tiny base.

To comply with the House bill, CO2 emissions would have to be about 3.5 billion tons. The claims of the EDF and other environmentalists that this reduction can occur cheaply rely on economic simulations by "general equilibrium" models.

An Environmental Protection Agency study put the cost as low as $98 per household a year, because high energy prices are partly offset by government rebates. With 2.5 people in the average household, that's roughly 11 cents a day per person. The trouble is that these models embody wildly unrealistic assumptions: there are no business cycles; the economy is always at "full employment"; strong growth is assumed, based on past growth rates; the economy automatically accommodates major changes — if fossil fuel prices rise (as they would under anti-global warming laws), consumers quickly use less and new supplies of "clean energy" magically materialize.

There's no problem and costs are low, because the models say so. But the real world, of course, is different. Half the nation's electricity comes from coal. The costs of "carbon capture and sequestration" — storing CO2 underground — are uncertain, and if the technology can't be commercialized, coal plants will continue to emit or might need to be replaced by nuclear plants. Will Americans support a doubling or tripling of nuclear power? Could technical and construction obstacles be overcome in a timely way? Paralysis might lead to power brownouts or blackouts, which would penalize economic growth.

Countless practical difficulties would arise in trying to wean the U.S. economy from today's fossil fuels. One estimate done by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that meeting most transportation needs in 2050 with locally produced biofuels would require "500 million acres of U.S. land . . . more than the total of current U.S. cropland." America would have to become a net food importer.

In truth, models have a dismal record of predicting major economic upheavals or their consequences. They didn't anticipate the present economic crisis. Earlier, they didn't predict the run-up in oil prices to almost $150 a barrel last year. In the 1970s, they didn't foresee runaway inflation. "General equilibrium" models can help evaluate different policy proposals by comparing them against a common baseline. But these models can't tell us how the economy will look in 10 or 20 years, because so much is assumed or ignored — growth rates; financial and geopolitical crises; major bottlenecks; crippling inflation or unemployment.

The selling of the green economy involves much economic make-believe. Environmentalists not only maximize the dangers of global warming — from rising sea levels to advancing tropical diseases. They also minimize the costs of dealing with it. Actually, no one involved in this debate really knows what the consequences or costs might be. All are inferred from models of uncertain reliability. Great schemes of economic and social engineering are proposed on shaky foundations of knowledge. Candor and common sense are in scarce supply.



Our lab has just published a new paper in PLoS ONE, detailing the interactions of coral and algae on the Great Barrier Reef, and uncovered just how resilient some reefs can be following coral bleaching events. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef was exposed to extended periods of high sea surface temperatures in the end of 2006, resulting in extensive coral bleaching across the Keppel Islands throughout January 2006. Following the bleaching event, a single species of fleshy macro-algae (Lobophora) overgrew the coral skeletons, causing high rates of mortality throughout the second half of 2006. But, by February 2007, corals were rapidly recovering due to an unusual seasonal dieback of the macro-algae, and astonishing regenerative capabilities of the dominant branching Acroporid corals - almost twice the rate of offshore corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.

What is unusual about the Keppel Islands story is threefold: first, that corals recovered within months to years (reversal of macro-algae dominated reefs often takes decades), second, recovery of the corals occurred in the absence of herbivory (traditionally assumed to be the 'driving factor' in macro-algal phase shifts), and third, that corals recovered through asexual (regenerative) capacities rather than reseeding of reefs by larval recruitment. Understanding the processes that drive recovery following disturbances is critical for management of coral reefs, and the Keppel Islands example shows that managing local stressors (overfishing and water quality) helps reefs bounce back from global stressors such as coral bleaching events. PLoS One is an open-access journal, so the article is free to read - click on the link below, and feel free to rate and comments on the paper. Congratulations Guillermo et al!

Guillermo Diaz-Pulido et al. (2009) Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239


NOTE: Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg), Australia's no.1 coral doomster, was among the joint authors of the paper. I wonder will this slow him down any?

Pesky! Plants Absorb More Carbon Dioxide Under Polluted Hazy Skies

Plants absorbed carbon dioxide more efficiently under the polluted skies of recent decades than they would have done in a cleaner atmosphere, according to new findings published this week in Nature.

The results of the study have important implications for efforts to combat future climate change which are likely to take place alongside attempts to lower air pollution levels.

The research team included scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Met Office Hadley Centre, ETH Zurich and the University of Exeter.

Lead author Dr Lina Mercado, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, "Surprisingly, the effects of atmospheric pollution seem to have enhanced global plant productivity by as much as a quarter from 1960 to 1999. This resulted in a net 10% increase in the amount of carbon stored by the land once other effects were taken into account."

An increase in microscopic particles released into the atmosphere (known as aerosols), by human activities and changes in cloud cover, caused a decline in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface from the 1950s up to the 1980s (a phenomenon known as 'global dimming').

Although reductions in sunlight reduce photosynthesis, clouds and atmospheric particles scatter light so that the surface receives light from multiple directions (diffuse radiation) rather than coming straight from the sun. Plants are then able to convert more of the available sunlight into growth because fewer leaves are in the shade.

Scientists have known for a long time that aerosols cool climate by reflecting sunlight and making clouds brighter, but the new study is the first to use a global model to estimate the net effects on plant carbon uptake resulting from this type of atmospheric pollution.

Co-author Dr Stephen Sitch from the Met Office Hadley Centre (now at the University of Leeds) said, "Although many people believe that well-watered plants grow best on a bright sunny day, the reverse is true. Plants often thrive in hazy conditions such as those that exist during periods of increased atmospheric pollution."

The research team also considered the implications of these findings for efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. Under an environmentally friendly scenario in which sulphate aerosols decline rapidly in the 21st century, they found that by cleaning up the atmosphere even steeper cuts in global carbon dioxide emissions would be required to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations below 450 parts per million by volume.

Co-author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter summed up the consequences of the study, "As we continue to clean up the air in the lower atmosphere, which we must do for the sake of human health, the challenge of avoiding dangerous climate change through reductions in CO2 emissions will be even harder. Different climate changing pollutants have very different direct effects on plants, and these need to be taken into account if we are to make good decisions about how to deal with climate change."

Journal reference:

1. Lina M. Mercado, Nicolas Bellouin, Stephen Sitch, Olivier Boucher, Chris Huntingford, Martin Wild & Peter M. Cox. Impact of changes in diffuse radiation on the global land carbon sink. Nature, 2009; 458 (7241): 1014 DOI: 10.1038/nature07949


A big climbdown from Britain's Greenest newspaper

The missing sunspots: Is this the big chill? Scientists are baffled by what they’re seeing on the Sun’s surface – nothing at all. And this lack of activity could have a major impact on global warming. David Whitehouse investigates:

The disappearance of sunspots happens every few years, but this time it's gone on far longer than anyone expected - and there is no sign of the Sun waking. Could the Sun play a greater role in recent climate change than has been believed? Climatologists had dismissed the idea and some solar scientists have been reticent about it because of its connections with those who those who deny climate change. But now the speculation has grown louder because of what is happening to our Sun. No living scientist has seen it behave this way. There are no sunspots.

“This is the lowest we’ve ever seen. We thought we’d be out of it by now, but we’re not,” says Marc Hairston of the University of Texas. And it’s not just the sunspots that are causing concern. There is also the so-called solar wind – streams of particles the Sun pours out – that is at its weakest since records began. In addition, the Sun’s magnetic axis is tilted to an unusual degree. “This is the quietest Sun we’ve seen in almost a century,” says NASA solar scientist David Hathaway. But this is not just a scientific curiosity. It could affect everyone on Earth and force what for many is the unthinkable: a reappraisal of the science behind recent global warming.

Our Sun is the primary force of the Earth’s climate system, driving atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. It lies behind every aspect of the Earth’s climate and is, of course, a key component of the greenhouse effect. But there is another factor to be considered. When the Sun has gone quiet like this before, it coincided with the earth cooling slightly and there is speculation that a similar thing could happen now. If so, it could alter all our predictions of climate change, and show that our understanding of climate change might not be anywhere near as good as we thought.

Sunspots are dark, cooler patches on the Sun’s surface that come and go in a roughly 11-year cycle, first noticed in 1843. They have gone away before. They were absent in the 17th century – a period called the “Maunder Minimum” after the scientist who spotted it. Crucially, it has been observed that the periods when the Sun’s activity is high and low are related to warm and cool climatic periods. The weak Sun in the 17th century coincided with the so-called Little Ice Age. The Sun took a dip between 1790 and 1830 and the earth also cooled a little. It was weak during the cold Iron Age, and active during the warm Bronze Age. Recent research suggests that in the past 12,000 years there have been 27 grand minima and 19 grand maxima.

Throughout the 20th century the Sun was unusually active, peaking in the 1950s and the late 1980s. Dean Pensell of NASA, says that, “since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high. Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years.” The Sun became increasingly active at the same time that the Earth warmed. But according to the scientific consensus, the Sun has had only a minor recent effect on climate change.

Many scientists believe that the Sun was the major player on the Earth’s climate until the past few decades, when the greenhouse effect from increasing levels of carbon dioxide overwhelmed it. Computer models suggest that of the 0.5C increase in global average temperatures over the past 30 years, only 10-20 per cent of the temperature variations observed were down to the Sun, although some said it was 50 per cent.

But around the turn of the century things started to change. Within a few years of the Sun’s activity starting to decline, the rise in the Earth’s temperature began to slow and has now been constant since the turn of the century. This was at the same time that the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide carried on rising. So, is the Sun’s quietness responsible for the tail-off in global warming and if not, what is?

There are some clues as to what’s going on. Although at solar maxima there are more sunspots on the Sun’s surface, their dimming effect is more than offset by the appearance of bright patches on the Sun’s disc called faculae – Italian for “little torches”. Overall, during an 11-year solar cycle the Sun’s output changes by only 0.1 per cent, an amount considered by many to be too small a variation to change much on earth. But there is another way of looking it. While this 0.1 per cent variation is small as a percentage, in terms of absolute energy levels it is enormous, amounting to a highly significant 1.3 Watts of energy per square metre at the Earth. This means that during the solar cycle’s rising phase from solar minima to maxima, the Sun’s increasing brightness has the same climate-forcing effect as that from increasing atmospheric greenhouse gasses. There is recent research suggesting that solar variability can have a very strong regional climatic influence on Earth – in fact stronger than any man-made greenhouse effect across vast swathes of the Earth. And that could rewrite the rules.

No one knows what will happen or how it will effect our understanding of climate change on Earth. If the Earth cools under a quiet Sun, then it may be an indication that the increase in the Sun’s activity since the Little Ice Age has been the dominant factor in global temperature rises. That would also mean that we have overestimated the sensitivity of the Earth’s atmosphere to an increase of carbon dioxide from the pre-industrial three parts per 10,000 by volume to today’s four parts per 10,000. Or the sun could compete with global warming, holding it back for a while. For now, all scientists can do, along with the rest of us, is to watch and wait.


MSNBC climate fakery

MSNBC is running a four-part series entitled Future Earth. On their website they say you can “find out why Earth’s climate machine — the North Pole — is melting alarmingly fast. Learn about our planet’s future, and how you can stop its decline.”

First, the North Pole is not “Earth’s Climate Machine”. There is far more heat and area in the Tropics than at the North Pole.

Second, YOU can’t stop its decline (assuming it’s declining)! Nature is big - you personally are insignificant compared to nature. Don’t you wish you had the power to control icecaps! If you don’t mind some profanity, check out George Carlin’s take on “Saving the Planet”.

Third, MSNBC does not know “our planet’s future”. The scenario they portray in this piece is about as remote a possibility in the near future (and more than likely the very far future) as the Lions going 16-0 next season.

The Antarctic icecap (which is much bigger than the Arctic icecap) has been growing. In Sept. 1979 (first year of satellite data) the Antarctic icecap was 18.4 million sq. km. In Sept. 2008, the Antarctic icecap was at 19.2 million sq. km. That’s a 30-year trend. By comparison, Michigan is 151,586 sq. km, so that’s an increase in icecover of over five times the area of Michigan.

MSNBC could instead be doing a story on the trend of cooling in Antarctica and possible falling sea levels due to ice accumulation in Antarctica. Keep in mind that if the Polar icecap (without Greenland) melted…it would hardly cause sea level to rise, because the icecap is currently displacing water in the Arctic Ocean. The Antarctic icecap is over a land continent, not floating over an ocean. Significant ice accumulation over the land of Antarctica would cause sea level to fall. The Arctic icecap did decrease significantly (yes, very significantly) from 1979 to 2007.

To do a fair piece on Arctic ice…MSNBC or anyone would have to note this. However, to also be fair…they should also tell what’s been going on in the Arctic since 2007. Please, CHECK OUT THIS GRAPH from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Note that the current icecap has grown significantly and is now much closer to the 1979-2000 average than it is to the low level of 2007.

There are meteorological reasons for this increase (PDO - Pacific Decadal Oscillation going negative, etc.) that have nothing to do with CO2. Some scientists predicted there would be no icecap this summer. It’ll actually be bigger than last summer. Al Gore predicted last year that “the icecap will be gone in five years!”.

I would be willing to not only bet Al Gore but also give him 100 to one odds that there will still be a polar ice cap in 2013. One last point, MSNBC is owned by General Electric. GE is already making money off the issue with their Carbon Credit Master Card (link from “Treehugger”, no less). Here’s CNN’s story on the new credit card.

Interesting note: In the fourth quarter of 2008 as GE/NBC stock fell 30 percent, GE spent $4.26 million on lobbying — that’s $46,304 each day, including weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2008, the company spent a grand total of $18.66 million on lobbying.” Reviewing their lobbying filings, GE’s specific lobbying issues included the “Climate Stewardship Act,” “Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act,” “Global Warming Reduction Act,” “Federal Government Greenhouse Gas Registry Act,” “Low Carbon Economy Act,” and “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.”

Do you think this “big business” is just concerned about the environment? Well, check out this column from the Politico, which says: “Several of the companies would gain a commercial advantage after a cap and trade was established. General Electric has an “ecoimagination” line of green appliances and equipment. Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard University, said a cap and trade program would be fantastic for GE and other companies that sell products that consume power. He said that if energy costs go up as a result of the regulation — something he believes is likely — a wide array of products from appliances to power plants would become prematurely obsolete and need to be replaced with greener models.” That would mean big money for GE (parent company of NBC and MSNBC).

Take a moment and read my previous post on polar ice…check out the graphs and charts…they speak for themselves.



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.


Monday, April 27, 2009


An email from Mark Lawson [] of the Australian Financial Review about the Salonius effusion

I wish to respond to the post by Peter Salonius that takes the green alarmism to new extremes. For he suggests that the only way to save the planet is to go back to hunter-gathering lifestyles, and have no children. Anti-population groups (the best collective term I can think of for them) are common in Australia and I recently annoyed them by pointing to the obvious from official statistics - there is just no hint of any limit, anywhere.

There are many facets to the argument but let us briefly discuss one aspect - agricultural productivity. Salonius is fond of quoting Jared Diamond. In one book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Prof Diamond makes the valuable point that the Australian state of Western Australia is akin to a gigantic flower pot. The soil has few nutrients of its own so what farmers put in the way of fertiliser is what they get out in crops. If the fertiliser stops coming then no crops. Salonius says that phosphate will eventually stop coming, pointing to research suggesting a "phosphate peak" [This was a great scare in the 1970s but was rather defused by the discovery (now apparently forgotten) of vast phosphate deposits in the Western Sahara -- JR]

I groaned when I saw this. Arguing over forecasts of peak oil is bad enough, with all the immense complications of no standardisation in the way reserves are reported, and the interplay between price, demand, supply, oil exploration and technology. Then there are different types of oil (oil sands and shales) and substitutes (LNG or even coal if the price is right). But at least we understand a great deal about the most traded commodity as it is the subject of intense research. Trying to work out what phosphate production might be in, say, 50 years when far less is known about reserves and substitutes would be a waste of time. A dozen highly-paid analysts could examine the issue intensively for five years and come up with a forecast that could still be completely wrong.

When it comes to making forecasts Prof Diamond and his fellow travellers are likely to be no better than the rest of us. Although the chapter quoted above makes some valuable points, there are also howlers. Prof Diamond somehow manages to give the impression that Australia can barely feed itself, without actually saying so. In fact its agricultural surpluses are so large farmers have to make special efforts to find markets. He also manages to confuse the West Australian State Constitution (which is arranged to favour the agricultural sector) with the Federal Constitution (which isn't).

While on the question of productivity publications from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) show that total factor productivity was increasing, in Australia at least, until perhaps 10 years ago. No one seems to know what this pause is due to, but the delay in bio-engineered crops may be an explanation. The increase in productivity is, in turn, only just keeping Australian farmers ahead of generally declining terms of trade (increase in prices for farm inputs, and general decline in real prices for agricultural commodities). It doesn't look like we will run out of food any time soon.


A new study on global streamflows has just been announced via press release by NCAR. Here is how the press release opens:

"Rivers in some of the world's most populous regions are losing water, according to a new comprehensive study of global stream flow. The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), suggests that in many cases the reduced flows are associated with climate change. The process could potentially threaten future supplies of food and water."

Here is what the paper actually says:

"We emphasize, however, that the actual streamflow and discharge examined here likely include changes induced by human activities, such as withdrawal of stream water and building dams, and thus they are not readily suitable for quantifying the effects of global warming on streamflow."

Lets see how many news stories follow the press release rather than the paper.


Note: The Guardian does not disappoint. It always chooses the alarmist path.


Philip Stott

The Sun isn't playing ball with the 'global warmers'. Indeed, I expect one of our more rabid Labour ministers to come out any day now fatuously accusing the fading star of 'global warming' denial on a par with denying the effects of smoking or the link between HIV and AIDS. But one has to laugh. The sun is currently so inactive that even our 'global warming'-obsessed media has been forced, through heavily rose-tinted sunglasses, to admit the phenomenon, rushing to add, of course, that this doesn't mean that 'global warming' has halted, or that we must stop mending our evil ways.

'Global Warming' In Trouble

Yet, the truth is that 'global warming' [not, let's be clear, climate change] is possibly in trouble. The whole point is that climate is the most complex of systems, and that it is impossible - madness even - to try to predict future climates with respect to one variable, and a variable working at the margins to boot.

So what precisely is all the fuss about that very big other variable, the Sun? Put simply, a thing called 'Solar Cycle 24' is long overdue; it just can't seem to get going. Solar-cycle intensity is measured by the maximum number of sunspots. Sunspots are dark blotches on the Sun that mark areas of heightened magnetic activity. The more sunspots, the more likely it is that major solar storms will occur. The next 11-year cycle of solar storms (i.e. 'Solar Cycle 24') was predicted to begin in Autumn, 2006, but it appears to have been seriously delayed.

This is what Paul Stanko of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reported as saying about this on the wonderful Watts Up With That web site: "My running mean of the International Sunspot Number [ISN} for 2009 just dipped below 1.00. For anything comparable you now need to go back before 1913 (which scored a 1.43) which could mean we're now competing directly with the Dalton Minimum.

Just in case you'd like another tidbit, here is something that puts our 20 to 30 day spotless runs in perspective... the mother of all spotless runs (in the heart of the Maunder Minimum, of course!) was from October 15, 1661 to August 2, 1671. It totaled 3,579 consecutive spotless days, all of which had obs[ervations]."

So Why Do Sunspots Concern Us Here On Planet Earth?

But why does a spotless sun matter to you and me? The reason is simple: there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climates. During an active solar period, violent eruptions occur more often on the Sun. Solar flares and vast explosions, called coronal mass ejections, shoot energetic photons and highly-charged matter towards Earth, affecting the planet's ionosphere and geomagnetic field, potentially disrupting power grids, critical communications, satellites, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and even threatening astronauts with harmful radiation. These storms also illuminate night skies with brilliant sheets of red and green, called auroras or aurorae - the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and the Southern Lights (aurora australis).

However, sunspot numbers also affect the temperature of the Earth. A famous student of solar cycles was Edward Walter Maunder (1851-1928). Maunder was an English astronomer who identified an historical climate period, dating from 1645 to 1715, which is now named after him as the 'Maunder Minimum' [see the graph right: reproduced under the GNU Free Documentation Licence Version 1.2. Original by the excellent 'Global Warming Art' website].

This was a period in the Little Ice Age when sunspots became very rare, as noted by observers of the era. During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers recorded only about 50 sunspots. Although a simplistic correlation is rightly contested, the Maunder Minimum thus appears to coincide with the middle - and the severest part - of the Little Ice Age.

Moreover, a second time a cycle was delayed like our current Solar Cycle 24 occurred during the so-called Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790. Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.

Thus, what currently is happening to the average temperature of the Earth's surface? Since at least 2001, it has been falling, and dramatically so during the last two years.

Nobody Knows

Will this lead to a new mini Little Ice Age? I don't know, and nor does anybody else, anymore, I might add, than the global warmers know 'the truth' about climate. What it does remind us, however, is that climate remains entirely beyond human control and management, and that there will be no predictable outcomes to managing CO2 emissions at the margins.

The question we should be asking every Minister who comes out blathering that we must 'fix' climate is: "What climate precisely are you going to conjure up for us?"

Political Madness: 'Global warming' is a quite extraordinary political madness. In the immortal words of Bruno Latour: "Nous n'avons jamais été modernes".


False prophet rewarded at the NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Last year we had the forecast from NSIDC’s Dr. Mark Serreze of an “ice free north pole”. As we know, that didn’t even come close to being true. Summer 2008 had more arctic ice than summer 2007, and summer 2007 was not “ice free” by any measure.

In spite of the spectacular failure of Dr. Serreze’s widely quoted prediction, there were no retractions, no apologies for misleading the public, no admissions of error, and inaccurate stories like the one above are still in place. So what could possibly be worse news from NSIDC?

The very man who made that ridiculous statement of “an ice free north pole in 2008″ is set to become the “incoming director” of NSIDC. Apparently alarmism pays, especially if you get press.



Departing ambassadors give valedictory addresses, most of which are stunningly dull. Not so the US special envoy to the EU, the exotically named C Boyden Gray, who had a stark warning for Europe and a dig at Britain as he shut the door behind him.

C Boyden was scathing about the European plan for a 20% drop in greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2020, which would allow 50% of the "savings" to be achieved via "offsets" in developing countries.

With one eye clearly on UK plans to build Kingsnorth and up to seven other coal power stations, he pointed out that European countries could hardly claim to be world leaders on climate change if they were going to increase coal consumption and get everyone else to make the cuts. How much more ethical was the US, planning to cut emissions just as deeply but to make all except 15% of the cuts at home!

The ears of the British diplomats in the audience burned, seeing as they were the chief cheerleaders of the EU's offset arrangements.


Cancelled: 'Snow and freezing winds' puts Edmonton's Earth Day on ice

Mother Nature upstaged Mother Earth in Edmonton this weekend. Earth Day celebrations in the Albertan capital that were planned for Sunday have been postponed because of the cold weather.

Organizer Janice Boudreau said exhibitors and entertainers had been pulling out all week as forecasts announced snow and freezing winds. "They did it last year, but they didn't want to do it again," she said. "This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience for everyone." The organizing team will meet Monday to pick a new date, hopefully one during May or June.

Boudreau made the decision to put the event on hold on Saturday. "Our philosophy is any day is Earth Day," she said. "This was not an easy decision to make."

April 22 was International Earth Day.



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.


Sunday, April 26, 2009


Last weeks' top Antarctic AGW story was: Antarctic ice melting faster than expected

due to CO2, of course. This week the #1 story is: Antarctic ice spreading

but the increase in size is due to "stratospheric ozone depletion" which is of course also caused by man-made gases.

So Antarctic ice is disappearing faster than expected due to man, and it is also expanding in size due to man. Meanwhile, the early autumn temperature in Vostok, Antarctica is a toasty -95F, a nice warm up from the -104F temperatures earlier this week.

Oh, and one minor problem with the ozone hole theory "The ozone hole occurs during the Antarctic spring, from September to early December" - but the positive ice anomaly occurred during the autumn and winter (March through July) as represented by the red line below. And while the ozone hole was present, ice was normal. So the ice excess probably has nothing to do with the ozone hole.



For the next 24 hours, the media will assault us with tales of imminent disaster that always accompany the annual Earth Day Doom & Gloom Extravaganza. Ignore them. They'll be wrong. We're confident in saying that because they've always been wrong. And always will be. Need proof? Here are some of the hilarious, spectacularly wrong predictions made on the occasion of Earth Day 1970.

"We have about five more years at the outside to do something." -Kenneth Watt, ecologist

"Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." -George Wald, Harvard Biologist

"We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation." -Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

"Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction." -New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." -Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist




The climate change of our planet, which can be observed more frequently in recent years, has become alarming for the public opinion. Various methods to remedy the situation are elaborated on the international level by decision makers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (operating since 1988) and different ecologic organisations.

Having a part in this significant debate, the Geologic Science Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences wishes to turn to 10 fundamental aspects of the problem closely related to the functioning of geosystem - the complex interdependence of processes occurring in the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. The knowledge of these factors should be the foundation for any rational and careful decisions, which could interfere in the geosystem.

1. The climate of the Earth depends on the interaction between the surface and the atmosphere, both of which are heated by solar radiation characterized by a cyclical, variable intensity. The climate is influenced by the Earth's yearly revolution around the Sun, thermics, changes in ocean waters flow, air mass movement, mountain massif position, their uplift and erosion in time perspective as well as changes in the continents' position as a result of their permanent wandering.

2. Geologic research proves irrefutably that the permanent change is the fundamental characteristic of the Earth's climate as throughout its entire history, and the changes occur in cycles of varied length - from several thousand to just a few years. Longer climate cycles are provoked by the extraterrestrial factors of astronomic character as well as by the changes of the Earth's orbital parameters, in brief - by regional and local factors. Not all reasons for climate change or their phenomena are fully known yet.

3. Although in the history of the Earth, a considerably warmer climate than today had dominated, there had been repeated occurrences when the Earth experienced massive global cooling which always resulted in vast ice sheets that sometimes even reached the subtropics. Therefore, reliable forecasts of changes in the Earth's climate (not to mentioned efforts to prevent, shape, or act against them) must take into account the results of its research of the Earth's geological history - a time when humanity (and the industry) were not on our planet.

4. Since twelve thousand years ago, the Earth is in the another phase of cyclical warming and is near the maximum of its intensively. Just in the last 2.5 million years, periods of warming have on several occasions intertwined with ice ages, which have already been well identified.

5. The current warming is accompanied by an increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: water vapour is dominant among them, and in smaller quantities there are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and ozone. This has always happened because it is an occurrence that accompanies cyclical warming and cooling. The periodic increase in the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, sometimes a value even several times larger than at present, has accompanied previous warming even before man inhabited the Earth.

6. Over the past 400 thousand years - even without human intervention - the level of CO2 in the air, based on the Antarctic ice cores, has already been similar 4 times, and even higher than the current value. At the end of the last ice age, within a time of a few hundred years, the average annual temperature changed over the globe several times, in total, it has gone up by almost 10 °C in the northern hemisphere, therefore the changes mentioned above were incomparably more dramatic than the changes reported today.

7. After a warm period in the past millennium, by the end of the thirteenth century, a cold period had begun and it lasted up to the mid-nineteenth century, and then a warm period in which we are living had begun. The phenomenon observed today, in particular the temporary rise of global temperature, are the result of the natural rhythm of climate change. Warmer and warmer oceans have a smaller ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and reducing the area of the long term permafrost leads to more rapid decomposition of organic compounds in the soil, and thus to increased emissions of greenhouse gases. For billions of years, Earth's volcanic activity along the lines of lithosphere plate boundaries, hidden mainly beneath the surface of the oceans, has been constantly providing the atmosphere with CO2 with various levels of intensively.

In the geo-system gas is removed from the atmosphere to the biosphere and from the lithosphere through the process of photosynthesis that is bound in the living organisms - including the shell carbonate marine organisms and after their death it is stored in the huge limestone on the bottom of the seas and the oceans, while on land it is bound in various organic sediments.

8. A detailed monitoring of climate parameters has been carried out for slightly over 200 years; it only regards parts of continents, which constitute only 28% of the world. Some of the older measuring stations established - as a result of progressive urbanization, in the peripheries of the cities, are now within them. This factor, among other things, is the reason for the rise of the measured values of temperature. The research of the vast areas of the oceans has only been launched 40 years ago. Measurements taken for this kind of short periods of time can not be considered as a firm basis for creating fully reliable models of thermal changes on the surface of the Earth, and their accuracy is difficult to verify. That is why far-reaching restraint needs to be kept regarding blaming, or even giving the biggest credit to man for the increased level of emissions of greenhouse gases, for such a theory has not been proven.

9. There is no doubt that a certain part of the rise of the level of greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, is associated with human activity therefore, steps should be taken to reduce the amount on the basis of the principles of sustainable development, a cease of extensive deforestation, particularly in tropical regions. It is equally important to take up and pursuit appropriate adapting actions that will mitigate the effects of the current warming trend.

10. Experiments in natural science show that one-sided observations, those that take no account of the multiplicity of factors determining certain processes in the geo-system, lead to unwarranted simplifications and wrong conclusions when trying to explain natural phenomena. Thus, politicians who rely on incomplete data may take wrong decisions. It makes room for politically correct lobbying, especially on the side of business marketing of exceptionally expensive, so called eco-friendly, energy technologies or those offering CO2 storage (sequestration) in exploited deposits. It has little to do with what is objective in nature. Taking radical and expensive economic measures aiming at implementing the emission only of few greenhouse gases, with no multi-sided research into climate change, may turn out counterproductive.

The PAN Committee of Geological Sciences believes it necessary to start an interdisciplinary research based on comprehensive monitoring and modelling of the impact of other factors -not just the level of CO2 - on the climate. Only this kind of approach will bring us closer to identifying the causes of climate change

Geological Science Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences

NOTE: The original document (in Polish) is available here


Emissions trading will burden German energy companies considerably while its competition in France will be able to attract industrial consumers with lower energy prices as a result of rules adopted by the EU. The relocation of German industries could be the result. This is the result of calculations by the consulting firm Energy Environment Forecast Analysis (EEFA).

At the end of last year, the EU member states agreed on the rules for emissions trading from 2013 to 2020. One of the benchmarks agreed: from 2013 onwards, the operators of CO2-emitting power plants will be forced to buy all their emission allowances through auctions. Exceptions from this rule only apply to nine eastern European member states.

From the start, German electricity producers had warned about the consequences of this decision and calculated billion-dollar benefits for competing countries. The consultant firm EEFA has now quantified these benefits. "By 2020, French energy suppliers will rake in additional profits of 9.5 billion euros as a direct result of the auctioning of carbon allowances," said EEFA's Elmar Hillebrand. Among EU countries, there are clear winners and losers of the new emissions trading rules. "Countries with a high proportion of nuclear power or hydroelectric power, such as France and Sweden, are among the winners. Germany, because of the structure of its power generation, is among the losers, also because of the exit from nuclear energy, "says Hillebrand.

Hillebrand expects serious consequences for industrial production in Germany. So far, the issue at the centre at the debate has been whether German industry, due to the ETS's effects on the price of electricity, would have to relocate outside the EU. What has been ignored, however, is the effect of the emissions trading scheme on competition within Europe. "This aspect should not be underestimated. It might be of interest for energy-intensive businesses to relocate their production from Germany to France," Hillebrand warned. This could mean that "the wealth creation chain in Germany would be disrupted." [transl. BJP]

More HERE (in German)

$8 gas and the green agenda

by Jeff Jacoby

TESTIFYING BEFORE the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu was asked about something he said in September. "Somehow," the Nobel laureate had told The Wall Street Journal, "we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." At the time, gasoline in Europe was going for around $8 a gallon. Did the secretary, Florida Representative Cliff Stearns inquired, still want to see US gas prices rise that high?

"In today's economic climate," Chu quickly replied, "it would be completely unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline. And so we are looking forward to reducing the price of transportation in the American family . . . by encouraging fuel-efficient cars (and) developing alternative forms of fuel." The congressman couldn't resist giving the knife a twist. "Your statement, 'Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe' -- doesn't that sound a little bit silly in retrospect?" Stearns asked.

Chu: "Yes."

Stearns didn't ask why Chu had stopped being "silly," but it doesn't take a Ph.D. in political science to know that a craving for higher gas prices is one of those things you quit talking about after you join a presidential administration -- assuming you want the president to be reelected.

Yet Chu is hardly the first person to have called for making gasoline more expensive. As far back as his first US Senate campaign in 1984, for example, John Kerry advocated a 50-cent-per-gallon increase in gas taxes. Many environmental activists, climate alarmists, and mass-transit fetishists want to see fuel costs rise -- even as high as, yes, $8 a gallon. The steeper the price at the pump, they reason, the fewer miles Americans will drive, the less petroleum they will consume, and the greener their lifestyles will become.

"I hope gas prices go as high as they have to go to get the rest of these morons off the road in these big Hummers," CNN's Jack Cafferty has said, while Freakonomics author Steven Levitt wrote in 2007 -- in an essay headlined "Hurray for High Gas Prices!" -- that "rather than bemoaning the high price of gas, we should be celebrating it." Last year, The New York Times's Thomas Friedman sang the praises of $4-a-gallon gasoline, and wished "Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level." Even Barack Obama, asked on the campaign trail whether sky-high gas prices might actually be a good thing, objected only to the speed with which they had climbed. "I think I would have preferred a gradual adjustment," he told CNBC.

Those are fringe opinions, of course. Most Americans don't regard automobiles as a blight and don't blame human activity for global warming, so it goes without saying that most of them don't want fuel prices to rise. For those who do believe that cars are a curse and climate change is caused by people, however, it makes perfect sense to call for more expensive gasoline.

Raise the price of something high enough and you invariably lower the demand for it. That's why last year's sharp spike in gas prices resulted in fewer cars on the highways and a plunge in miles driven. If your goal is fewer SUVs, less solo driving, and lower carbon-dioxide emissions, inflicting European-level gasoline prices on American motorists is a pretty good strategy. Conversely, it is hypocritical -- or at least illogical -- "to say you care deeply about global warming and advocate for the price of gas to go down," as AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson told Newsweek last year. "Those are mutually exclusive concepts."

And yet advocating for the price of gas to go down is essentially what environmentalists are doing when they clamor for higher-mileage cars. All other things being equal, raising fuel efficiency lowers the cost of driving. As Secretary Chu correctly told the House committee last week, "encouraging fuel-efficient cars" is one means of "reducing the price of transportation." But cheaper driving means more driving, and more driving means more energy use, more cars on the road, more demand for highways, more drilling for oil -- all things environmentalists abhor.

If greens and global-warmists really want the US automotive fleet to use less energy, they should be clamoring for cars that get lower mileage. Crazy, you say? Surely no crazier than $8-a-gallon gas.


Pressure to censor global warming skepticism

In a series of articles on climate change the villain is gradually being identified as, you should have guessed it, freedom of thought! One Jon Gertner of The New York Times Magazine wrote the other day that

"What makes CRED's work [the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions] especially relevant ... is that various human attitudes and responses--How can there be global warming when we had a frigid January? What's in it for me if I change the way I live?--can make the climate problem worse by leaving it unacknowledged or unaddressed. Apathetic and hostile responses to climate change, in other words, produce a feedback loop and reinforce the process of global warming"

The idea that thought and speech are major obstacles to doing what is right isn't new at all. As recently as the 1980s the one liberty that liberal statists could be counted on defending, at least in the United States of America, is the one spelled out in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Alas, this was challenged some time ago by Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon of the University of Michigan school of law, in her short but prominently published book, Only Words (Harvard University Press, 1983). In it the good professor argued that words do not deserve the legal protection afforded them by the Constitution since insults and put downs, including jokes, can injure people good and hard. And such injuries should not be protected. The victims would have to pay too high a price for the fact that the law treats such injuries as "only words."

We have heard a good deal lately about how President Barack Obama is a pragmatist, how he eschews ideology. The most sensible rendition of this sound bite is that he refuses to be bound by principles and when it comes to something as vital as containing climate change, why not toss the First Amendment and censor those who show skepticism?

Professor MacKinnon wasn't recommending tossing the principle underlying the First Amendment, only suggesting that we should not be ideological about our embrace of it. Maybe the same should be expected from President Obama when it comes to a central elements of his political agenda, namely, to contain pollution.

This pragmatism isn't across the board for Mr. Obama, of course. As with all loyal pragmatists he, too, is willing to stick to a select few principles and refuse to give them up even in times of emergency. Consider, for example, that according the Obama & Co. there is never any excuse for using torture!

I will not speculate on why in that instance pragmatism is inadequate--various suggestions present themselves and some of them aren't pretty at all. Suffice it to note that Mr. Obama seems to be perfectly willing to toss jettison the principles of the free market--the right to private property, the right to enter into binding contracts, the right to due process.

And here we have evidence that like minded folks, too, appear not to be very worried about banning certain kinds of inconvenient conduct such as speaking out against the doctrine--the ideology?--of climate change. We should be prepared, I believe, for some movement in this direction. Apathy toward climate change isn't tolerable, nor is skepticism. Leaving the climate problem unacknowledged or unaddressed would also count as something we ought not to tolerate--so if I speak out against recycling, for example, maybe I ought to be muzzled since not doing so will "produce a feedback loop and reinforce the process of global warming."

Just as Professor MacKinnon's abandoning of the First Amendment seemed to her fully justified, given how that Amendment made it possible to insult and intimidate women, so it should come as no big surprise to anyone that laws will be passed that prohibit global warming skepticism. Such dangerous conduct on the part of citizens must be arrested, or so some of the climate change fanatics could well believe now, quite seriously.



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.