Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A new retreat from the Warmists

These are getting frequent. Rats deserting a sinking ship again?

There appears to be another chink in the armor of manmade global warming supporters as a top science journal has withdrawn a study on sea level rise tied to global warming, after finding mistakes that undermined the projections.

The study published last year in Nature Geoscience predicted sea levels would rise by between seven and 82 centimeters by the end of the century. That backed up the U.N.'s climate change group.

Now The Guardian reports the scientists involved in the study say there are two separate technical mistakes in their research that led them to realize, "we no longer have confidence in our projections."


New Climate Agency Head Tried to Suppress Data, Critics Charge

The thug himself above

The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department's new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject.

Thomas Karl, 58, was appointed to oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, an ambitious new office that will collect climate change data and disseminate it to businesses and communities. According to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the office will "help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change. In the process, we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs."

Karl, who has played a pivotal role in key climate decisions over the past decade, has kept a low profile as director of National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) since 1998, and he has led all of the NOAA climate services since 2009. His name surfaced numerous times in leaked "climate-gate" e-mails from the University of East Anglia, but there was little in the e-mails that tied him to playing politics with climate data. Mostly, the e-mails show he was in the center of the politics of climate change decisions

According to a school biography published by Northern Illinois University, Karl shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and other leading scientists based on his work at the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he was "one of the 10 most influential researchers of the 1990s who have formed or changed the course of research in a given area."

His appointment was hailed by both the Sierra Club and Duke Energy Company of North Carolina. Sierra Club President Carl Pope said, "As polluters and their allies continue to try to muddy the waters around climate science, the Climate Service will provide easy, direct access to the valuable scientific research undertaken by government scientists and others." And Duke Energy CEO Jin Rogers said the new office, under Karl, will "spark the consensus we need to move forward."

But Roger Pielke Sr., a climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the IPCC's most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.

The IPCC is charged with reviewing scientific data on climate change and providing policy makers and others with an assessment of current knowledge.

Pielke said he agrees that global warming is happening and that man plays a significant role in it, but he said there are many factors in addition to the release of carbon into the atmosphere that need to be studied to fully understand the phenomenon. He said he resigned from the IPCC in August 2005 because his data, and the work of numerous other scientists, were not included in its most recent report.

In his resignation letter, Pielke wrote that he had completed the assessment of current knowledge for his chapter of the report, when Karl abruptly took control of the final draft. He said the chapter he had nearly completed was then rewritten with a too-narrow focus. One of the key areas of dispute, he said, was in describing "recent regional trends in surface and tropospheric temperatures," and the impact of land use on temperatures. It is the interpretation of this data on which the intellectual basis of the idea of global warming hangs.

In an interview, Pielke reiterated that Karl "has actively opposed views different from his own." And on his Web site last week, he said Karl's appointment "assures that policy makers will continue to receive an inappropriately narrow view of our actual knowledge with respect to climate science." He said the people who run the agencies in charge of climate monitoring are too narrowly focused, and he worries that the creation of the new office "would give the same small group of people the chance to speak on the issue and exclude others" whose views might diverge from theirs.

Responding to the criticism, Karl told the Washington Post, "the literature doesn't show [Pielke's] ideas about the importance of land use are correct." Calls to The Commerce Department and to Karl's office went unanswered.

The IPCC in recent weeks has come under severe criticism after e-mails, hacked from a prestigious climate center, revealed some of the political infighting that occurred as its assessments were being put together and called into question its impartiality.

Climate change skeptics, meanwhile, say Karl's appointment was unnecessary and pulls scarce resources from more pressing needs. "The unconstitutional global warming office and its new Web site would be charged with propagandizing Americans with eco-alarmism," wrote Alex Newman of the Liberty Sentinel of Gainesville, Fla.

On the popular skeptic site "Watts Up With That," Anthony Watts called the site a "waste of more taxpayer money" and charged that it is nothing more than a "fast track press release service." He wrote that putting Karl in charge was an issue, because he had fabricated photos of "floods that didn't happen" in an earlier NOAA report.


Green Jobs Obsession Distracts from Real Economy Recovery

The American public has become familiar with many new political phrases since the start of the Obama administration: Jobs saved or created. Bending the cost curve. And, of course, green jobs. As with all political catch-phrase, Americans should be warned: what they think the term means and the actual policies advanced in its name are often very different things.

President Obama has made the creation of green jobs a centerpiece of his economic agenda. Becoming the “world leader in developing the clean energy technologies that will lead to the industries and jobs of tomorrow” is described by the Administration as “critical to the future of our country.” They are investing billions in pursuit of this goal. See here

The 2009 stimulus bill made a massive investment in “green” enterprises: a $6 billion loan guarantee program targeted to green industry, $5 billion for weatherization assistance, $11 billion for “smart grid” technology and modernized high-tech transmission lines, and $500 million to help train workers for green-related careers. The new budget doubles down with similar “green” investments: hundreds of millions for the research and development of new energy technologies, billions of tax breaks for companies investing in clean energy projects, and $74 million for initiatives to “inspire tens of thousands of young Americans to pursue a career in clean energy.”

Just what are American taxpayers getting for this investment? The Administration has struggled to quantify how many jobs were created by last summer's stimulus; identifying government-created “green jobs” is an even more difficult task. Part of the problem is defining exactly what counts as a “green job.” Employment produced by some initiatives--weatherization support and improving buildings' energy-efficiency--are almost indistinguishable from regular construction jobs. Even the money focused on producing “green” energy products, like solar panels and wind turbines, has effects that trickle far outside “green” sectors since the production process requires raw materials and transportation, which cut across the general economy.

Taxpayers should also be warned that creating a “green job” can be expensive. One report examining state and local efforts to encourage the creation of “green jobs” found that the subsidies sometimes exceed $100,000 per job created. Other analysts have pointed out that much of money targeted for “green job” creation is being sent overseas. ABC News reported that nearly 80 percent of the close to $2 billion in the stimulus bill dedicated to wind power went to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines. See here

Yet the bigger question is whether it is sensible for the government to invest so heavily in wind power at all. A report by the minority of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy, entitled “Yellow Light on Green Jobs", revealed that alternative energy sources remain much more costly than traditional power. The report details:

“Comparisons of wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, and coal sources of power coming on line by 2015 show that solar power will be 173% more expensive per unit of energy delivered that traditional coal power, 140% more than nuclear power and natural gas and 92% more expensive than wind power. Wind power is 42% more expensive than coal and 25% more expensive than nuclear and natural gas power.”

The report further explains that even this comparison overstates the total efficiency of wind and solar since they operate at full optimization only a fraction of the time, and require traditional sources of energy as backup when the sun or wind disappears.

American families used to hearing stories about dubious bank bailouts, wasteful earmarks, and new spending bills with hundred billion dollar price tags may shrug their shoulders. Yet these “green” efforts aren't just more inefficient, ineffective uses of federal money which require a few more bucks out of our paychecks. Government's meddling in the energy sector distorts the market process, rewarding some less promising technologies, while discouraging the creation of others that could truly revolutionize how we power the economy. Government has a habit of rewarding today's favored technology--at one time, corn-based ethanol; today, wind and solar. This discourages outside-of-the-box innovators since they know they won't be competing on a level playing field, but instead one that's stacked in favor of the politically connected.

Even more worrisome, policymakers know that direct government spending alone won't usher in a new “clean” economy, so they are also pursuing a more surefire path to “green” job creation-- driving up the costs of traditional energy sources either through regulation or a costly cap-and-trade system that acts as a carbon tax. Average American families will find that these policies cost them thousands of dollars as the price of everything from food to fuel rise. And while it may create additional “green” jobs, it will strangle many more traditional jobs, as businesses have to invest more on their energy costs and have less to spend on expansion and job creation.

The term “green jobs” must poll well, but in reality these costly initiatives steer money toward inefficient technologies, thwarted the market process, and ultimately act as a drag on economic growth. Instead of “green jobs,” the Administration should focus on facilitating private sector job creation by reducing how much the government meddles in the market.


Snow, Science, and Prizes

“The back-to-back snowstorms in the capital were an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore,” cracks The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. The largest snowfall in DC’s recorded history unleashed a blizzard of ridicule of “global warming.” Milbank points out that the storms do not in fact disprove the various dire forecasts. Some theorists of climate change have said that a general trend of warming would be punctuated by extreme weather events, so the likes of what we have experienced this winter may not contradict that. But, as Milbank points out, climate alarmists have themselves leaned so heavily on anecdote—a glacier losing mass here, a species altering its habits there—that they have left themselves open to refutation in kind—in this case, millions upon millions of white, flaky anecdotes piling up beyond endurance all over Washington.

These crystalline messengers were not the only thing chilling climate alarmists this winter. There were also new revelations of errors in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN-sponsored body whose 2007 report was widely heralded as the capstone on the global-warming debate. Now an embarrassed IPCC conceded that some of the sources on which it relied were amateurish and others were from the world of advocacy rather than scholarship. It also confessed to “typos,” notably in its assertion that the glaciers of the Himalayas were melting so fast that they might disappear entirely by 2035, a mere 25 years from now. The year should have read 2350, a not-so-mere 340 years from now, far enough into the future for many other things to intervene. And even this forecast for 2350 turned out to have been borrowed from an earlier UN study, which got it from an admittedly non-scholarly source.

This comedy of errors points to the question of why any entity that is sponsored by the UN should be taken seriously. This is the same UN whose Conference on Trade and Development taught poor nations that to escape poverty they needed to cut themselves off from any trade with or investment from rich nations. (As a result of widespread adoption of this topsy turvy advice, the developing world lost an entire generation to stagnation.) It is the same UN whose Human Rights Council categorically refuses to utter a word of reproach aimed at China or Saudi Arabia or Syria or Libya or any of the world’s most tyrannical regimes. The same UN whose oil-for-food program enabled Saddam Hussein to build new castles, stockpile weapons, and buy influence while hungry Iraqis received only food long past its expiration date. The same UN that invited Bosnian Muslims to take refuge in the “safe haven” of Srebrenica, then disarmed them, and abandoned them to their Serbian predators. The same UN whose peacekeepers in Africa exacted payment in the token of sexual favors from the women and children they were sent to protect. This is the UN on which we will rely for the last word on the fate of the Earth?

These two apotheoses of alarmism—Al Gore and the IPPC—jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. Gore also won two Academy Awards for An Inconvenient Truth, his 2006 film designed, says its director, Davis Guggenheim, to bring “everyone [to] the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message.”

The very title of Gore’s film leads us to the deepest issue here. The chief newspaper of the Soviet state was also called, Pravda (“Truth”). But those who truly seek truth know that they can never be certain they have found it. Gore, in contrast, exemplified the conceit of the alarmists that “the science is settled.” Science, however, is less a body of knowledge than a way of knowing, and one of its principles is that conclusions are always provisional, awaiting further reinforcement, refinement, or contradiction. If it’s settled, it’s not science.

Subjects that can be explored through controlled laboratory experiments tend to lend themselves to more robust conclusions. Other subjects may also be investigated in a scientific spirit, but conclusions usually must be more tentative.

Climate science, which entails the intersection of several areas of inquiries that must be explored outside a laboratory, is unlikely to yield much certainty. If Gore were more devoted to truth, he would have titled his film, A Troubling Hypothesis. This might have won no awards from Oslo or Hollywood. But it would have left him much less susceptible to the ridicule of the heavens.


Climate wars have given science bad name, say leading Australian academics

And they're right about that. Admitting that crooks have corrupted and slid past the peer review process and denouncing those crooks would be the first step to restoring the good name of science but they are not willing to go that far. In fact, by continuing to dignify fraud with the label of science they increase the damage to real science.

In any case, peer review is a very weak defence against deliberate fraud. The fact that both British and American climate researchers hid their raw data for many years was a smoking gun that alerted skeptics to the fact that fraud was going on but there is no mention of that below.

Also missing below is any mention of any scientific fact. Why? Because there ARE no facts showing man-caused global warming -- merely guesses dressed up as "models"

UNIVERSITY leaders are pressing for a public campaign to restore the intellectual and moral authority of Australian science in the wake of the climate wars. Peter Coaldrake [Best known for curbing freedom of speech at his university], chairman of Universities Australia and vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, told the HES yesterday he was "concerned about the way the climate change debate has flowed", and would address the role of science in the formation of public policy at his National Press Club address next week. "It worries me that this tabloid decimation of science comes at a time when we have a major national issue in terms of the number of people taking science at university,"Professor Coaldrake said.

Margaret Sheil, chief executive of the Australian Research Council, said she was deeply concerned about the backlash generated by emails from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, the criticisms of Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, head of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, and poor research on the rate of glacial melting in a 2007 UN report on climate change.

Professor Sheil said she feared that these black marks would spread to a "broader negative public perception" of science. "Anecdotally, we now see tabloids and talkback radio, and even some broadsheet newspapers, perpetuating these criticisms and the notion that `scientists just made stuff up'," she told the HES. "These sort of comments reflect a widespread lack of understanding of the nature of scientists and science more generally."

She urged university leaders to do more to explain the rigour of the scientific processes and peer review. "We also need to learn from the medical community to better engage with the community on these issues," she said. "The National Health and Medical Research Council, for example, has community representatives on a whole range of committees [that] build bridges and trust. Much of our collective science communication efforts are focused on engagement with science at the school level rather than the public at large."

Anna-Maria Arabia, executive director of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, called yesterday for concerted action by the funders, producers, advocates and consumers of science to "restore confidence in the scientific process and profession". Ms Arabia said scientists welcomed public debate and embraced scepticism. "In fact scientists would welcome a debate on current climate change that challenges the science with science. A scientist never regards peer-reviewed research as being beyond criticism. "But unbalanced debates pitching peer-reviewed science against opinion, anecdotal evidence or the loud voice of cashed-up lobby groups is not healthy.

"There needs to be a circuit-breaker. And the circuit-breaker is a deeper awareness of the importance of science as a discipline that is based on a time-honoured process called peer review. "Peer review allows ideas, scientific views to change, to be corrected. It allows experts to spot mistakes and omissions. Peer review allows scientists to rigorously test their ideas. It is the robust nature of this process that has given people confidence to fly in planes and feed their children nutritious food."

Ian Chubb, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said some populists had found it easy to denigrate science because many scientific conclusions in the field of climate change rested on a balance of probability rather than incontestable proof. "What concerns me is when you get people who are purporting to comment on the science and all they're doing is seeking to turn themselves into celebrities." he said. [The chubby one seems to think that ad hominem abuse is scholarly argument] He also scorned critics of the science who were from other disciplines. "The world can't do without science and if we denigrate it and belittle it and besmirch it by inappropriate behaviour we're in trouble," he said.

Professor Coaldrake said he was attempting to broaden the peak body's public role to include issues such as climate, immigration, ageing and open source information. In attempting to "bridge scientific knowledge, research and public policy", he was seeking a bigger public profile for "the thousands of people within our institutions with a contribution to make", he said.


Australian Labor party out on a limb as as ETS fairyland fractures

THE Rudd government stares down the gun barrel of one of the greatest policy and political retreats of the past generation that confounds its election strategy and its policy credibility.

"Cap and trade in America is dead, the idea is completely dead," Chicago-based global economist, David Hale, participant in the Australian American Leadership Dialogue and a long-time personal friend of Kevin Rudd, told The Australian this week. "The Democrats in the coal-burning states have effectively vetoed a cap-and-trade scheme and Republican gains in the mid-term congressional elections will only make it even more improbable. Cap and trade has been totally submerged in America's economic problems and unemployment near 10 per cent."

Hale says the US confronts a dual crisis of economics and governance with climate change relegated to a minority issue. "America seems crippled by the fiscal crisis," he says. "There is no remote sign of a political consensus about where we are going and my fear is that America is becoming ungovernable. The separation of powers in the US system is the real problem. It means we don't really have government policy, the way you do in Australia. We just have outcomes. There is no government control of the legislature to achieve its program. I think we are heading for some dark moments over the next few years."

Australians, unable to comprehend the scale of this sentiment, should refer to the Pew Research Centre report on the US in late January showing global warming rated the lowest priority, the last out of 21 issues, behind even moral decline, immigration, trade and lobbyists.

Only 28 per cent said global warming was a priority for the US compared with the economy, the highest rating, at 83 per cent, followed by jobs at 81 per cent. (While energy rated 49 per cent or the 11th priority in the US, this usually pertains to energy security, not cap-and-trade laws). Describing voter sentiment, the Pew Centre says: "Such a low rating is driven in part by indifference among Republicans: just 11 per cent consider global warming a top priority compared with 43 per cent of Democrats and 25 per cent of independents."

The latest decisive shift in Australian business opinion comes from the Australian Industry Group and its chief executive, Heather Ridout. "I think the political consensus on climate change both domestically and internationally is now fractured," Ridout tells The Australian. "The emissions trading scheme is on life support. Copenhagen fell well short of expectations."

The AI Group national executive meets today and Ridout's comments leave only one conclusion: the responsible path for corporate Australia is to engage with the Rudd government to find an alternative strategy. Frankly, nobody, including the Rudd government, seems cognisant of what this involves. Ridout says: "Importantly, the way forward is not clear. As an organisation we will operate on the principles that we have already outlined. We continue to believe that a market-based approach is essential. Any scheme must take into account the competitiveness of Australian industry and the current international situation only reinforces this argument."

The Rudd government is stranded without any apparent game plan on its most important first-term policy (outside its response to the global financial crisis). It is rare for a national government to face this predicament in its first term. Labor seems unable to abandon its ETS yet unable to champion its ETS; it cannot tolerate the ignominy of policy retreat yet cannot declare it will take its beliefs to a double-dissolution election; it remains pledged to its ETS yet cannot fathom how to make its ETS the law of the land. Such uncertainties are understandable, yet they are dangerously debilitating for any government. In such a rapidly shifting policy and political climate, even fallback positions risk being rendered obsolete. As Ridout says, the way forward is not clear.

In the interim, Labor's response is to launch a furious series of spins, diversions and alternatives. The list is long: it will make health the main election issue; it will be brave enough to seek a double dissolution on the private health insurance rebate; criticism of its $250 million tax break for the television networks was just a Murdoch media conspiracy; and Tony Abbott is off the planet whenever he attacks the government.

Beneath such drum beating is a government whose world view on climate change is in eclipse and whose domestic political assumptions about climate change have been broken.

As a consequence Labor has lowered, dramatically, its ETS policy profile. Its tactic is to deny Abbott's scare by playing down its ETS. Great tactics, but what's the strategy? Where does this lead? Abbott's bite may be diminished, but what happens to Rudd's credibility? For how long does Labor stop talking about the moral challenge of the age? Is the ETS the policy that dare not bear its name?

Ross Garnaut brands the present phase "the waiting game". But "the agony game" better captures Labor's plight. Garnaut calls this "awaiting the international agreement" that "provides a sound basis for international trade in entitlements". But awaiting the global conditions to make an Australian ETS viable looks like a long wait.

In strategic terms Rudd has three options. They come under the brands belief, compromise and retreat.

The belief option is to stand by the ETS and seek its passage via the deadlock provisions of the constitution at a joint sitting after a successful double-dissolution election around August-September, which approximates a full-term parliament. This is strictly for a government that believes in its policy and its powers of persuasion. Such faith is visibly draining away from Rudd Labor.

The compromise option means radical policy surgery to the ETS, such as legislating a two-year fixed carbon price of about $20 a tonne to get the scheme operational, or even a carbon tax. This is one of Garnaut's options. But it presumably requires some deal with the Greens, a fateful political step that would only create a new set of policy and electoral problems for Rudd. The truth is Labor has not recovered from last year's collapse of its parliamentary strategy of joining with the Coalition to implement its policy.

It was Abbott's election as Liberal [Party] leader that ruined Rudd's entire game plan. The retreat option equates to admitting it is too hard to legislate a policy and too dangerous to make the issue an election centrepiece. Yet saying "no, we can't" would constitute a humiliation for Rudd, making it the worst in a series of unpalatable options.



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 are mirrors of this site here and here


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