Saturday, April 24, 2010

Russian scientist says Arctic getting colder

Russians have been routinely navigating parts of the North Eastern passage through the Arctic for over a century so are acutely aware of what the year-to-year variations in it are

A Russian scientist says the Arctic may be getting colder, not warmer, which would hamper the international race to discover new mineral fields.

An Arctic cold snap that began in 1998 could last for years, freezing the northern marine passage and making it impassable without icebreaking ships, said Oleg Pokrovsky of the Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory.

"I think the development of the shelf will face large problems," Pokrovsky said Thursday at a seminar on research in the Polar regions.

Scientists who believe the climate is warming may have been misled by data from U.S. meteorological stations located in urban areas, where dense microclimates creates higher temperatures, RIA Novosti quoted Pokrovsky as saying.

"Politicians who placed their bets on global warming may lose the pot," Pokrovsky said.


Alarmists are not giving up easily

By Richard S. Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

IN November last year a file appeared on the internet containing thousands of emails and other documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

How this file got into the public domain is still uncertain, but the emails, whose authenticity is no longer in question, provided a startling view into the world of climate research.

In what has become known as Climategate, one could see unambiguous evidence of the unethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints, and even data manipulation.

Moreover, the emails showed collusion with other prominent researchers in the US and elsewhere. The CRU supplies many of the authors for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

One might have thought the revelations would discredit the science underlying proposed global warming policy. Indeed, the revelations may have played some role in the failure of last December's Copenhagen climate conference to agree on new carbon emissions limits.

But with the political momentum behind policy proposals and billions in research funding at stake, the effect of the emails appears to have been small.

The general approach of the scientific community (at least in the US and Britain) has been to see whether people will bother to look at the files in detail (they mostly have not) and to wait until time diffuses the initial impressions to reassert the original message of a climate catastrophe that must be fought with widespread carbon control. This reassertion, however, continues to be suffused by illogic, nastiness and outright dishonesty.

There were, of course, the inevitable investigations of individuals such as Penn State University's Michael Mann (who manipulated data to create the famous "hockey stick" climate graph) and Phil Jones (director of the CRU).

The investigations were brief, lacked depth and were conducted mainly by individuals already publicly committed to the popular view of climate alarm. The results were whitewashes that are incredible given the data.

In addition, numerous professional societies, including the American Society of Agronomy, the American Society of Plant Biologists and the Natural Science Collections Alliance, most of which have no expertise in climate, endorse essentially the following opinion: that the climate is warming; the warming is due to man's emissions of carbon dioxide; and continued emissions will lead to catastrophe.

We may reasonably wonder why they feel compelled to endorse this view. The IPCC's position in its Summary for Policymakers from its Fourth Assessment (2007) is weaker, and simply points out that most warming of the past 50 years or so is due to man's emissions.

It is sometimes claimed that the IPCC is 90 per cent confident of this claim, but there is no known statistical basis for this claim; it's purely subjective. The IPCC also claims that observations of globally averaged temperature anomaly are also consistent with computer model predictions of warming.

There are, however, some things left unmentioned about the IPCC claims. For example, the observations are consistent with models only if emissions include arbitrary amounts of reflective aerosols or particles (arising, for example, from industrial sulfates) that are used to cancel much of the warming predicted by the models. Without such adjustments, the observations are consistent with there being sufficiently little warming as to constitute a problem not worth worrying about much.

It appears the public is becoming increasingly aware that something other than science is going on with regard to climate change and that the proposed policies are likely to cause severe problems for the world economy.

Climategate may thus have had an effect after all.

But it is unwise to assume that those who have carved out agendas to exploit the issue will simply let go without a battle. One can only hope the climate alarmists will lose so we can go back to dealing with real science and real environmental problems such as assuring clean air and water.


Capitalism: The Anti-Pollutant

Here’s a letter sent this morning to USA Today (By economist Donald J. Boudreaux)

On this Earth Day, Bjorn Lomborg scrubs with facts the noxious notions and emotions that pollute public discourse about the environment (“Earth Day: Smile, don’t shudder,” April 21). Especially useful is his point that the world’s number one environmental killer remains the indoor air pollution suffered by persons in poor countries who burn wood, waste, and dung to cook their meals and to heat their homes.

As the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay reminded us, it wasn’t until Europeans industrialized – or, as we say today, enlarged their ‘carbon footprint’ – that they were saved from that same filthy fate. Here’s Macaulay’s description of the dwelling of a typical 17th-century Scottish highlander:

“His lodging would sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred noisome exhalations…. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch.”*

We in today’s developed economies are indeed lucky to be able to worry about dangers as distant and as nebulous as global warming.


Hell of a lot of money to be made on carbon offsets

Carbon offsets are facing criticism from those who say they do more harm than good

Today marks the fortieth annual Earth Day, an international celebration of environmental awareness and eco-activism established by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. Earth Day is the culmination of Earth Week, which is itself the culmination of Earth Month, a time when millions of Americans renew their commitments to environmental sustainability.

Many of them will consider carbon offsetting, the deceptively complicated practice in which individuals typically spend money to reduce carbon emissions or increase energy efficiency to compensate for their own carbon footprint.

But the message from leading environmentalists and even the government is simple: Those who don’t carefully consider the process may end up doing more harm than good. And even those that do carefully consider it may end up doing nothing at all.

Some have taken extreme measures to raise the alarm. Late last year, a Greenpeace Web editor, Mike Gaworecki, warned in a blog post that “offsets could totally undermine our efforts to combat global warming” by permitting corporations to outsource their emissions obligations to companies that aren’t well-regulated.

He accompanied the post with a satirical video depicting a spokesman from the fictional Carbon Regulatory Offset Committee. In a profanity-laced rant, the spokesman claims to be redeeming his ‘carbon offset points’ as he destroys a forest, detonates mountaintops, and even appears to incinerate a rabbit.

Also last year, the U.S. House of Representatives scrapped its grand plan to become carbon-neutral after spending almost $90,000 on carbon offsets. Many of the projects the House funded with that money were already completed when it paid for them, the Washington Post found. (D.C. finally got its first carbon neutral House earlier this year, but it can only fit six prima donnas instead of 435.)

As recently as late last week, ForestEthics, an environmental nonprofit that focuses on preserving endangered forests, joined eight other environmental groups in strongly condemning a carbon offset plan endorsed by the Pacific Carbon Trust. The Trust, established by the government of British Columbia, requested millions for forestation projects in the hopes of making BC carbon-neutral.

The $700 million international market in carbon offsetting encompasses a wide range of activities, some of them more objectionable to environmental groups than others. Popular offsets fund reforestation projects, prevent deforestation, and finance systems that promote energy efficiency.

Although many prominent organizations that sell offsets, such as, are careful to gain third-party certifications to assure customers that their offsets are going where they think they are, they haven’t assuaged concerns that they’re promising more than they can deliver.

Rolf Skar, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace who has spent years working on environmental issues, took aim particularly at offsets designed to prevent deforestation. “In general, we don’t support forest or even agriculture offsets,” Skar said, adding that deforestation is often caused by “a complicated bastion of drivers” that offsets cannot always reverse., one of the most respected offset vendors, has partnered with big names like the Academy Awards and Dell Computer, but Skar said more and more companies are abandoning offsets because of concerns about their reliability.

Two months ago, reports surfaced that Nike had opted to eschew what it called “increasingly controversial” offsets in favor of improving energy efficiency.

Among the key principles that says are key to the reliability of its offsets are those of “additionality” and “permanence.” Additonality means that offsets are going to projects that would not have occurred without their funding. Permanence means that the offsets won’t fund a forest that corporations chop down within the next few decades.

But neither of those principles is particularly easy to guarantee in practice. “What we’re seeing, is basic questions like whether the forest would have ever been destroyed [without the offset],” Skar said. “Those questions are very difficult to answer.”


'Failure' to pass Warmist bill Would Have Many Benefits

“What’s the cost if Congress fails” to enact a cap-and-trade or carbon tax bill?

The “cost” is actually a multitude of benefits:

-- The U.S. economy won’t be hit by virtual or outright energy taxes in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, improving prospects for a recovery.

-- Congress will not declare political warfare on coal, continuing America’s access to abundant, affordable base-load power.

-- Congress will not adopt carbon tariffs, avoiding an era of trade warfare between the United States and emerging industrial powerhouses such as China and India.

· The U.S. Government will lack a bully pulpit for pressuring poor countries to ban coal-based power, allowing them to escape from energy poverty.

This week’s question asserts that “the companies and nations that are the most energy efficient will prosper the most.”

Energy efficiency can sometimes contribute to economic efficiency, but it is not a magic elixir for job and GDP growth. U.S. energy intensity (the amount of energy consumed per dollar) has declined by 1.9% annually since 1992, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

That translates into a hefty 42% improvement over the past 19 years. Yet the U.S. economy is in a recession. California has the most energy-efficient economy of any state in the Union, yet the Golden State is tottering into bankruptcy.

The EIA projects that under current policies, U.S. energy intensity will decline by another 40% from 2008 to 2035. This will occur whether Congress “fails” or not. Why then the angst about the state of America’s energy efficiency?

Energy secretary Steven Chu and others warn that if we do not put a price on carbon and drive investment into “clean technologies,” China will “eat our lunch.” But one reason China has emerged as a leading manufacturer of solar voltaic panels and wind turbines is that Beijing refuses to put a price on carbon. Chinese manufacturers, including “clean tech” manufacturers, gain a competitive advantage from their uncapped access to low-cost, coal-based power.

This week’s question seems to assume that energy efficiency always more than pays for itself and thus is a bargain at almost any price. But improving energy efficiency is only one possible investment that might improve a firm’s bottom line.

Whether investing in energy efficiency represents the highest and best use of scarce resources depends on each firm’s particular circumstances. Outsiders – politicians, NGOs, and academic experts – are uniquely unqualified to make such particularized judgments.

The question also seems to equate greener with more efficient. Not so. Waxman-Markey includes incentives for carbon capture and storage (CCS), but the main reason CCS is uneconomical is that it makes coal-fired power plants less energy efficient.

Boulder, Colorado is considering a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of the city’s housing stock. Critics point out that the program could cost landlords and tenants anywhere from $400 to $800 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) reduced. Such heroic sacrifices may be green, but they are not efficient.

Germany’s feeder tariff program is widely hailed as green. It subsidizes solar power at a rate of 59¢ per kWh, “more than eight times higher than the wholesale electricity price at the power exchange,” the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut (RWI) reported last year.

Between 2000 and 2010, the program will transfer an estimated $73.2 billion to solar power producers. What do German consumers get in return? Despite the whopping subsidy, solar generates only 0.6% of the country’s electricity. That works out to carbon abatement cost of $1,050 for every ton of CO2 avoided, RWI calculates. That’s not efficient, to put it mildly.

One benefit if Congress “fails” to enact cap-and-trade is that Congress will be less likely to adopt tougher measures with even worse economic impacts. A recent Harvard University study finds that Waxman-Markey won’t wring enough carbon out of the transport sector and advises policymakers to supplement the economy-wide cap with new motor fuel taxes. Congress, the researchers contend, should raise gasoline prices to $7-$9 a gallon.

This would indeed spur efforts to improve energy efficiency, but it would also cripple every small business that uses trucks for hauling, pickup, and delivery. Even if phased in over several years, $7-$9 gasoline might make the oil shocks of the ‘70s seem tame by comparison.

If politicians don’t raise energy prices today, America will face a “future where energy and resources will be still more expensive,” this week’s question warns. That’s a little like saying we should shoot ourselves in the foot now because somebody else may shoot us in the foot later.

Waxman-Markey would raise fossil energy prices not just today but over the next 40 years. Would that not also bid up the price of alternative energies that compete with fossil? If the goal is to avoid a future of resource and energy scarcity, then politicians should not cap and tax the most affordable energies in today’s marketplace.


Last in Class: Critics Give U.N. Climate Researchers an 'F'

A group of 40 auditors from across the globe have released a shocking report card that flunks the U.N.'s landmark climate-change research report. It may be time for the United Nations' climate-studies scientists to go back to school.

A group of 40 auditors -- including scientists and public policy experts from across the globe -- have released a shocking report card on the U.N.'s landmark climate-change research report. And they gave 21 of the report's 44 chapters a grade of "F."

The team, recruited by the climate-change skeptics behind the website, found that 5,600 of the 18,500 sources in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Nobel Prize-winning 2007 report were not peer reviewed.

"We've been told this report is the gold standard," said Canadian global-warming skeptic Donna Laframboise, who runs the site and who organized the online effort to examine the U.N.'s references in the report, commonly known as the AR4.

The cover of the IPCC's fourth assessment report to the U.N., "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report," more frequently referred to as AR4. "We've been told it's 100 percent peer-reviewed science. But thousands of sources cited by this report have been nowhere near a scientific journal."

Based on the grading system used in American schools, 21 chapters in the IPCC report received an F for citing peer-reviewed sources less than 60 percent of the time. Four chapters received a D, and six received a C.

The report also got eight A's and five B's from the auditors, who included Bob Ashworth, a member of the American Geophysical Union, and Dr. Darko Butina, a director of Chemomine Consultancy Ltd.

According to Lafromboise, much of the scientific research published by the U.N. cited press releases, newspaper and magazine clippings, student theses, newsletters, discussion papers, and literature published by green advocacy groups. Such material is often called "gray literature," she said, and it stands in stark contrast to the U.N.'s claims about the study's sources.

In June 2008, Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC's chairman, said: "People can have confidence in the IPCC's conclusions, given that it is all on the basis of peer-reviewed literature. "We don't pick up a newspaper article and, based on that, come up with our findings," he told a group at the Commonwealth Club.

The U.N. is not commenting in depth on the audit, but it has acknowledged its existence. Isabel Garcia-Gill, a spokeswoman for the IPCC in Geneva, told that the U.N. knows of what she terms the "Laframboise report." She declined to answer further questions, and she asked that queries be sent by e-mail; she did not respond to such e-mails.

But not everyone agrees that "gray literature" is bad sourcing for a study. "The category of so-called gray literature includes valuable information that the IPCC -- and we -- shouldn't ignore," argued Peter Frumhoff, chief scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a lead author of the deforestation section of the last IPCC report.

"Handing out negative grades to the IPCC for simply being thorough is wrong," he said, adding that the IPCC should "look at all the information, including peer-reviewed papers as well as gray literature, which includes government reports and other important information sources. By and large, the IPCC process works exceptionally well and the independent review of IPCC procedures now underway will assess opportunities for further strengthening it."

Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association, downplayed the importance of the report, saying that despite a handful of errors, there is still a pressing need for cleaner energy to help combat climate change.

"Regardless of the debate on the science of climate change, the facts are that we still need to reduce pollution, increase renewable energy sources and shift to a clean energy future," she said. "And despite the disappointing climate change event in Copenhagen, many of us in the industry are simply moving forward."

But other policy experts were unsurprised by the report. Dan Miller, a spokesman for the Heartland Institute, a non-profit think tank that is hosting a global warming conference next month in Chicago, said the bad grades given to the U.N. were apt.

"The IPCC deserves every stroke of its 'F' grade," Miller told "Not only is the data used in the report flawed and suspect, but even more egregiously, the IPCC authors -- very few of whom indeed are scientists -- refused to consult with scientists who are skeptical of the IPCC's defining hypothesis: that the Earth faces a crisis from rising global temperatures and that human activity played a significant role."

"The authors' closed minds are a trait typical of propagandists, not scientists," he added.

Roni Bell Sylvester, editor of environmental policy site Land and Water USA, told "Any policy already made that is connected in any way to climate change/global warming/CO2 theories must be rescinded. Any policy in the works that is connected in any way to climate change/global warming/CO2 theories must be aborted."

There are still many who support restrictions on carbon emissions. A spokeswoman for carbon-accounting software firm Hara told that the need for limits "will only get more critical, with climate-change legislation heating up in Cancun this fall." Corporate giants like Coca-Cola, and Safeway, are among Hara's customers, and venture funding is being provided by the firm Kleiner Perkins.

Others are calling for a more cautious approach than spending public or private dollars on discredited scientific research. "The correct policy to address this non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing," said Lord Christopher Monckton, who was a science adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and now is chief policy adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute.



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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