Monday, March 15, 2010

British government adverts banned for overstating climate change

TWO government advertisements that use nursery rhymes to warn people of the dangers of climate change have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for exaggerating the potential harm. The adverts, commissioned by Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, used the rhymes to suggest that Britain faces an inevitable increase in storms, floods and heat waves unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control.

The ASA has ruled that the claims made in the newspaper adverts were not supported by solid science and has told the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that they should not be published again. It has also referred a television commercial to the broadcast regulator, Ofcom, for potentially breaching a prohibition on political advertising.

The rulings will be an embarrassment for Miliband, who has tried to portray his policies as firmly science-based. He had commissioned two posters, four press advertisements and a short film for television and cinema, which started appearing in October last year in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate talks. They attracted 939 complaints — more than the ASA received for any advertisement last year. The deluge posed problems for the ASA, which is not a scientific body, so it decided to compare the text of Miliband’s adverts with the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Based on that comparison, it ruled that two of the DECC’s adverts had broken the advertising code on three counts: substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims. Of the two banned adverts, one depicted three men floating in a bathtub over a flooded British landscape, and the text read: “Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub — a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.” It then explained: “Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different.”

The second showed two children peering into a stone well amid an arid, post-climate-change landscape. It read: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.” It then added: “Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.”

It was these additional claims, rather than the nursery rhymes or illustrations, that fell foul of the ASA, which ruled it was not scientifically possible to make such definitive statements about Britain’s future climate. The ASA said: “All statements about future climate were based on modelled predictions, which the IPCC report itself stated still involved uncertainties in the magnitude and timing, as well as regional details, of predicted climate change.” It added that both predictions should have been phrased more tentatively.

The ASA did, however, reject other complaints, including one suggesting the DECC adverts were misleading because they presented human-induced climate change as a fact.

Miliband said: “On the one issue where the ASA did not find in our favour, around one word in our print advertising, the science tells us that it is more than 90% likely that there will be more extreme weather events if we don’t act.”

Greg Barker, shadow minister for climate change, said: “It is so unnecessary to exaggerate the risks of global warming, and also counterproductive.”


Fixing climate change shouldn't cost the Earth

By Bjorn Lomborg

FOR the better part of a decade, I have upset many climate activists by pointing out that there are far better ways to stop global warming than trying to persuade governments to force or bribe citizens into slashing their reliance on fuels that emit carbon dioxide.

What especially bugs my critics is the idea that cutting carbon would cost far more than the problem it is meant to solve.

"How can that be true?" they ask. "We are talking about the end of the world. What could be worse or more costly than that?"

They have a point. If we actually face, as Al Gore recently put it, "an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale preventative measures to protect human civilisation as we know it", then no price would be too high to stop global warming. But are the stakes really that high?

The answer is no. Even the worst-case scenarios proposed by mainstream climate scientists, scenarios that go far beyond what the consensus climate models predict, are not as bad as Gore would have us believe. For example, a sea-level rise of 5m - more than eight times what the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects, and more than twice what is probably physically possible - would not deluge all or even most of mankind.

Of course, such a rise would not be a trivial problem. It would affect about 400 million people, force the relocation of 15 million, and imply costly protection of the rest. But it would certainly not mean the end of the world. Estimates show the cost in terms of adaptation would be less than 1 per cent of global GDP. The price of unchecked global warming may be high, but it is not infinite.

According to the best global-warming economic models, every tonne of CO2 we put into the atmosphere will do about $7 worth of damage to the environment. What this means is that we should be prepared to pay an awful lot to stop global warming, but anything more than $7 a tonne would be economically indefensible.

This idea is hard for many to accept. If we have a solution to a serious problem such as global warming, they argue, how can we possibly say that it is too expensive to implement? Well, we do exactly that all the time. There are many potential solutions to serious problems that we do not implement, or that we implement only partially, because the costs associated with them are greater than the benefits.

For example, traffic accidents claim an estimated 1.2 million lives every year. We have the ability to solve this problem, eliminating half a trillion dollars in damages and sparing untold anguish. All we have to do is lower the speed limit everywhere to 5km/h.

Obviously, we will not do this. The benefits of driving moderately fast vastly outweigh the costs. For a variety of reasons, a world moving at only 5km/h would be utterly unacceptable to most of us.

Consider, too, homeland security. On the one hand, the more we spend on anti-terrorism measures (and the more inconvenience we are willing to tolerate), the safer we feel. On the other, even though everyone agrees that a successful terrorist attack is unacceptable, there is a limit to how much we are willing to spend to keep ourselves safe.

Why are we willing to calculate costs and benefits when it comes to traffic safety and terrorism, but not when devising policies to deal with global warming? Perhaps it is because we experience the downside of excessive traffic regulation or security measures every day, while the downside of bad climate policy is more of an abstraction. It shouldn't be, for the risks posed by bad climate policy deserve as much attention as the risks of worse-than-expected climate impacts - maybe more.

Remember how biofuel requirements were supposed to help reduce carbon emissions? In fact, the artificially inflated demand for ethanol and for the corn to manufacture it wound up driving up food prices (which pushed about 30 million poor people into the ranks of the malnourished). It ate up more arable land, which led to the destruction of rainforests and created a situation that will result in more CO2 emissions over the next 100 years.

The biofuel lesson is salutary. If we panic and make the wrong choices in response to global warming, we risk leaving the world's most vulnerable people even worse off. If we are to have a constructive dialogue about the smartest policy responses to global warming, we need to replace our fixation on far-fetched Armageddon scenarios with realism about the true costs of this challenge.


Australia: Establishment scientists accuse climate change sceptics of 'smokescreen of denial'

More assertions -- but "models" instead of facts. You can't model anything as complex as climate. We would have accurate weather forecasts if you could

AUSTRALIA'S leading scientists have hit back at climate change sceptics, accusing them of creating a "smokescreen of denial". The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will today release a State of the Climate document, a snapshot of Australia's climate data and trend predictions.

The apolitical science organisations have weighed into the debate as they believe Australians are not being told the correct information about temperatures, rainfall, ocean levels and changes to atmospheric conditions.

The State of the Climate report offers Australians an easy-to-understand snapshot of data. "Modelling results show that it is extremely unlikely that the observed warming is due to natural causes alone," it states. "Evidence of human influence has been detected in ocean warming, sea-level rise, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns."

CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark said both organisations felt it was time "to give Australians the facts and information they are looking for and to do so in a way that is very transparent and available". "We are seeing a real thirst for knowledge from many Australians and we are responding to that huge public demand. There is a lot of noise out there and a lot of reference to other countries and people want to know what's happening in this country."

Dr Clark said the CSIRO had been observing the impacts of human-induced climate change for many years and had moved on from debate about it happening to planning for the changes to come.


Australia: Families in fear of 'fuel poverty' as energy costs pushed up by Greenie nonsense

SOARING electricity prices will force more working families into "fuel poverty" where they simply cannot afford to pay for power. That is the grim prediction from an energy ombudswoman, who revealed that the number of people fearing they will have their electricity disconnected had surged by a third. In New South Wales alone more than 18,000 households had their power cut off last financial year and, with about $200 added to the average bill last July, that number is only expected to grow.

But the worst pain is expected from increases of up to 62 per cent over the next three years.

The largest retailer, Energy Australia, has an extra 36,000 customers on bill extension or payment plans - 30 per cent more than last year. The second-largest retailer, Integral Energy, has 19,000 more customers in assistance schemes - up 10 per cent.

But the real concern is that more big increases will be too much for many of these households to bear. Clare Petre, NSW Energy and Water Ombudswoman, said yesterday: "We are already receiving complaints from people who can pay now but are worried about their capacity to pay in the future."

Pricing regulator IPART proposed rises of 44-62 per cent over three years to pay for a backlog of network maintenance and the Federal Government's proposed ETS. Ms Petre said these increases could cause "fuel poverty". "It may well, that's our concern, particularly if the [ETS] comes in," she said.

Fuel poverty - a household spending more than 10 per cent of income for an adequate 21C warmth - contributed to nearly 37,000 English and Welsh deaths in 2008-09. In Australia, it isn't the cold, it's the heat. High temperatures were linked to 374 deaths in Victoria last year. IPART said a single aged pensioner would spend 7-12 per cent of income on electricity after the ETS and an average household up to 6 per cent more.

Port Macquarie mum Cassandra O'Meara said she was looking for ways to cut use after her family's power bill went from $500 to $1700 thanks to a new pool and plasma TV. "It's just ridiculous," Mrs O'Meara said of the cost jump yesterday.



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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