Thursday, July 15, 2010
New Peer Reviewed Paper on Climate Science and the Culture of Withholding Information
Accessing environmental information relating to climate change: a case study under UK freedom of information legislation’
by JOHN ABBOT and JENNIFER MAROHASY,
The United Kingdom’s Freedom ofInformation Act (FoIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) are intended to provide a mechanism whereby information held by public authorities can be accessed by the public. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently considered the disclosure of information from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and concluded that emails revealed scientists encouraged colleagues to resist disclosure and delete emails, apparently to prevent disclosure through FoI requests.
The case study presented here focuses on requests under FoI legislation to obtain climate information from the Met Office, particularly relating to assessments of global warming and causal relationships with greenhouse gas emissions.
Evidence suggests both the CRU and the Met Office are part of a culture where institutional climate scientists are antagonistic towards disclosure of information. This has serious implications for both the effective operation of FoI legislation and the openness and transparency of climate change assessments.
Environmental Law and Management, ISSUE 1 VOLUME 22 
Missing News: Nothing "unprecedented" in melting ice
[Australia's] ABC are fond of using photos of melting ice packs to accompany reports of alarming man made global warming, perhaps to emphasise how "unprecedented" this appears to be.
However a recent article titled "Reduced ice extent on the western Antarctic Peninsula at 700-970 cal. yr B.P." published in the prestigious journal "Geology" reports that melting ice in the Antarctic, particularly in the West Antarctica peninsula, is not unprecedented at all, but is quite a common natural occurrence happening regardless of human influence.
The abstract reads:
"Rapid warming and consequent ice-shelf collapse have focused attention on the glacial record of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here, we present the first record of terrestrial organic material exposed by recently retreating ice that bears on past glacier extent and climate in this sensitive region. Radiocarbon dates show that ice on Anvers Island was at or behind its present position at 700–970 cal. yr B.P., coincident with ice reduction elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Moreover, the data indicate that present reduced ice extent on the western Antarctic Peninsula is not unprecedented and is similar to that experienced during at least three periods in the last 5600 yr."
Perhaps the ABC will firstly report on this important new study, and secondly, perhaps it will now find more appropriate imagery to accompany articles on Dangerous Man Made Global Warming.
SOURCE (See the original for links etc.)
Cap-and-trade is a bait-and-switch
With opinion polls showing the U.S. public strongly opposes the imposition of expensive cap-and-trade restrictions on greenhouse gases in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is attempting to pull off a deceitful bait-and-switch scam that would make the most ruthless used-car dealer blush.
A Cap by Any Other Name . . .
The primary effect of Reid’s plan—forcing an expensive and substantial reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions—remains the same as before, though the language of his plan has been scrubbed of all references to global warming or cap-and-trade.
But an expensive cap on carbon dioxide emissions, by any other name, is still an expensive cap on carbon dioxide emissions.
Until now, global warming activists have been upfront about their desire to force a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, seeking to pass a law requiring an 83 percent cut. U.S. consumers would have no choice but to purchase much more expensive renewable energy.
But polls show the American public is already angry about persistent unemployment, a looming federal debt crisis, and an expensive and unwanted Obamacare health insurance mandate. The public realizes cap-and-trade would add to the nation’s economic burdens, and polls show voters will harshly punish politicians who try to impose such a mandate.
The answer to this political dilemma, Reid figures, is simple: Scrub any references to global warming or cap-and-trade from his desired legislation, while still forcing people to switch to expensive renewable energy sources.
Back-Door Carbon Cap
Reid’s new plan is to pass a drastic renewable power mandate that would directly force American consumers to purchase the same amount of expensive renewable power that a cap-and-trade bill would require in a less direct manner.
Instead of legislation saying, “You must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 83 percent,” with the only possible means being purchasing expensive renewable power instead of inexpensive conventional power, Reid is pushing for legislation saying, “You must purchase most of your power from renewable sources,” which accomplishes the same thing just as surely, and just as expensively, as cap-and-trade would.
Reid also is considering an alternative strategy that would retain explicit cap-and-trade language but initially impose restrictions on the utility industry alone. Those behind that scheme believe it will be easier to divide and conquer individual sectors of the U.S. economy than to hit them all at once.
The plan is to sell cap-and-trade restrictions on the utility industry alone as a “compromise” global warming bill—and then go after the rest of the economy once their foot is in the door and the utilities are under the government’s thumb.
Proponents of this divide-and-conquer strategy argue utilities will then throw their weight behind efforts to cap other sectors of the economy, to level the playing field—albeit at a much higher altitude.
Such a “compromise” bill addressing the utility sector alone would be an attempt to pit various sectors of the economy against each other and ultimately clear the path for universal CO2 restrictions.
Thwarting Voters’ Will
Either approach means the same thing: Reid is baiting the American public by saying he is not proposing a cap-and-trade bill, but he is planning the most deceitful of switches by imposing mandates and restrictions that accomplish the exact same thing at the exact same cost.
Just as troubling, with wavering Democrats concerned that supporting either plan could spell doom for them in the November elections, Reid is considering waiting until after the November elections to present his schemes to a lame-duck Congress that will not have to fear voter backlash for at least another two years and could include many members who have already been voted out of office.
All that Harry Reid is missing in his dishonest used car salesman playbook is a rolled-back odometer and bubble gum holding the car doors in place. One thing’s clear: The U.S. economy will be a wreck if any of these schemes becomes reality.
The Big Green Lie Exposed
The Big Green Lie is falling apart. And it’s not about Climategate and Glaciergate. It’s not about the science. It’s not even about public confidence in the integrity of the green movement — although this confidence is unlikely to regain the levels of 2009. Humpty Dumpty has fallen from the walls, and all the establishment commissions and investigations in Europe cannot glue him together again....
The greens, it is increasingly clear, bet the ranch on the Copenhagen process. That horrible meltdown, perhaps the biggest and most chaotic public embarrassment in the history of multilateral summits, turned climate change from global poster boy to global pariah. The green activists who advised their bosses to go to that summit and make large public commitments about global warming are in the doghouse now. Success is sometimes the most cruel and definitive form of failure: the Copenhagen Summit was exactly that kind of success for the climate change movement. They got all the world leaders together, got every television camera on the planet to focus in — and let everybody see just how confused and utopian their plans really were.
As the greens struggle to figure out how a cause so righteous, so necessary has gone so far off course, the Kool-Aide drinkers among them have frenetically concocted and endlessly repeated a narrative that casts all blame on the vileness and the stupidity of their opponents. Those awful climate deniers and their nefarious Big Oil paymasters are the vicious super villains who stopped this glorious social movement dead in its tracks. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and other evil quacks manufactured the appearance of scandal — the East Anglia emails, the ‘glaciergate’ charge and so forth. Aided by a clueless media, and pushed by evil carbon emitters, these non-stories took on a macabre life of their own.
But now, natter the cluelessly chirpy greens, all that is over. Limbaugh’s Big Lie has been conclusively disproved! The independent panels have reviewed the evidence in a dispassionate and thorough way, and both climate science and climate scientists have been cleared.
So presumably we will all be going back to Copenhagen soon, this time ready to sign up for that treaty?
Well, no. For one thing, the ‘vindication’ is less sweeping and thorough than the green cheerleaders acknowledge. As climate skeptic Pat Michaels argues in the Wall Street Journal, some of the investigators had significant links to the targets of the investigation and many of the most important questions were not addressed. A suspicious and skeptical public will not be convinced without a significantly more transparent process; the story isn’t over yet. Not until commissions that include prominent climate skeptics and genuinely independent figures ask all the relevant questions will this story die down.
Worse, even the very partial and incomplete results now emerging are in some ways a damaging indictment of the impartiality and trustworthiness of some climate scientists and environmental leaders. The greens were found innocent of inventing the science, but guilty of systematically hyping their case. The serious media are distancing themselves from the green leadership at this point more than nuzzling back into their arms. The New York Times report on the Dutch and British reports investigating the East Anglia CRU and the IPCC was widely hailed by infatuated green outlets as evidence that the whole scandal was a fraud; the actual Times story is considerably more cautious (and the text is more cautious than the headline). Andrew Revkin, whose coverage on his Times Dot Earth blog has often been considerably sharper and more far-sighted than what appears in the Grey Lady’s printed pages and has made him no friends among the environmentalist hard core, is making some very solid points.
The influential Economist, which has long been one of the most respected establishment voices urging fast action on climate change, is now voicing important qualifications and doubts about the green case. Perhaps even more than the Times, the Economist takes a sober view of recent events, noting that there is a pattern of exaggeration and hype in the IPCC documents reflecting some serious management and culture problems — and suggesting that Rajendra Pachauri is not the man to set things right. More, the Economist is putting out some extraordinary journalism on the complexity of the climate change problem and the difficulties that result when one tries to leap from science to policy. What the Economist is reporting is that excitable greens have oversold a wide variety of worst case scenarios — and underestimated the complex nature of the relationship between climate change and world politics.
In sum, the mainstream press seems to be swinging around toward the views expressed on this blog: that the scandals may not discredit or even really affect the underlying scientific arguments about climate change but they do cast doubt on the perspicacity of the movement’s leadership — and that a fundamental rethink is called for.
Greens who feared and climate skeptics who hoped that the rash of investigations following Climategate and Glaciergate and all the other problems would reveal some gaping obvious flaws in the science of climate change were watching the wrong thing. The Big Green Lie (or Delusion, to be charitable) isn’t so much that climate change is happening and that it is very likely caused or at least exacerbated by human activity. The Big Lie is that the green movement is a source of coherent or responsible counsel about what to do.
The greens claim to be diagnosticians and therapists: that they can both name the disease and heal it. They are wrong. The attitudes and political vision of a group of NGO pressure groups may work when it comes to harassing Japanese whale ships in the Antarctic; this vision and these people come up short when set against the challenge of moderating the impact of human industrial activity on the earth’s climate system. Many leaders of today’s environmental movement are like the anti-alcohol activists before Prohibition who convinced Americans that the problem of alcohol abuse was real, destructive, and likely to get worse unless addressed. These farsighted activists were absolutely correct: with the introduction of the motorcar alcohol was more destructive than ever; with more than 500,000 alcohol related highway deaths between 1982 and 2008, more Americans have been killed on our roads as a result of drunk driving since 1915 than have died in our wars.
The problem is that the remedy proposed, Prohibition, not only failed to solve the problem — it made the problem of alcohol abuse worse, and it also reduced respect for the law and led to the rise of organized crime in the United States on an unprecedented scale.
The Prohibitionists were brilliantly, scientifically correct about the problem: they were foolishly and destructively blind about how to deal with it.
The green movement’s strategic failure is also reminiscent of the Peace Movement of the 1920s. Chuckleheaded do-gooders correctly recognized the problem of war. In the conditions of the twentieth century, great power wars like World War One were radically unacceptable. Unless war could be stopped, scores of millions might brutally die. Whole nations would be devastated; millions of children would starve. Given the rise of aircraft, great cultural monuments would be destroyed as the world’s greatest cities were razed to the ground. New and more terrible weapons would be developed under wartime conditions, weapons that potentially could lead to the destruction of all human civilization or even of life on earth.
Again, the Peace Movement of the 1920s was completely right about this — we know to our sorrow today just how right they were. Yet the strategies they proposed — a treaty to ‘outlaw war’ in the 1920s, and appeasement of dictators and revisionist powers in the 193os — were utter disasters and made World War Two inevitable. The Nuclear Freeze movement in the 1980s repeated the mistake: confusing the identification of a problem (nuclear weapons) with a workable policy solution (a unilateral western freeze on nuclear weapons deployment that would have given the Soviets superiority in Europe). There are fewer nuclear weapons today than would have existed had the Nuclear Freeze people had their way; there almost certainly would have been fewer wars and fewer war deaths if the policy recommendations of the pre-World War Two peace movements had been greeted with the obloquy and contempt they deserved.
You can diagnose a disease but have no clue how to treat it. You can be an excellent climate scientist and a wretched social engineer. You can want to do good and end up furthering exactly the evils you most deplore.
That is where most of the organized green groups stand today.
The real and lasting damage that the green movement sustained in the last eight months has been the revelation that it is strategically and politically incompetent. It adopted a foolish grand strategy (a global treaty by unanimous consent) and attempted to stampede the world to agreement by hyping the science and whooping the treaty through. That was never going to work; the green movement today is living with the bitter consequences of its strategic blindness....
At best, the green movement might be compared to an alarm clock: jangling shrilly to wake up the world. That is fair enough; they have turned our attention to a problem that needs to be carefully examined and dealt with. But the first thing you do when you wake up is to turn the alarm clock off; otherwise that shrill beeping noise will distract you from the problems of the day.
The alarm clock will never understand this; making shrill and irrational noise is what alarm clocks do and is all they understand. But sensible and thoughtful people who want humanity to live fuller, richer lives in a cleaner and more sustainable world need to get past the naive and crude policy ideas that currently dominate green thinking and start giving these questions the serious attention and careful thought they deserve.
An Environmentalist Perspective on Wind Energy
A lawsuit hopes to stop the construction of an off-shore wind farm in Massachusetts. A couple of plaintiffs on the suit are environmental organizations.
Ironic? Not really. One of the plaintiffs, CAlifornians for Renewable Energy (CARE), is against industrial wind farms altogether. Michael Boyd, president of the Board of Directors for CARE, says the amount of wilderness damage done by wind farms far outweighs the benefits.
But that has not slowed investors or the federal government down. As investors reap the benefits of government subsidies for the construction of wind farms, large turbines continue to rise all over the nation. This begs the question, as a renewable energy source, are wind farms really as beneficial as the government says they are?
“Whenever the government picks winner and losers by its choosing to fund various programs, in this case wind farms, taxpayers’ money ends up wasted and more harm is done than good,” says Bill Wilson, president for Americans for Limited Government (ALG).
Environmental organizations look at the impact wind farms have on wildlife and endangered or protected species. For example, the Altamont Pass wind farm in California was ruled a complete disaster by environmentalists because protected bird species, like eagles and hawks, were getting killed by the propellers of the turbines.
Some turbines can reach 400 feet tall and turn at speeds of 200 mph in peak times. Walter Kittelberger, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Lower Laguna Madre Foundation (LLMF), a Texas-based conservation and preservation organization that is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the wind farm in Massachusetts, is concerned that with so many new wind farms being constructed, bird’s migratory flight patterns are going to get caught in the crosshairs of these turbines.
Though some instances of birds or bats getting caught in the propellers may not be preventable, before each wind farm is built, a developer has to get a series of permits and leases before construction can begin. Investors have to follow the federal regulations before starting a wind farm project. Some projects draw more attention than others and an outside organization will want to conduct its own research as well.
Mass Audubon works to protect the lands in Massachusetts and conducted its own study of the off-shore wind farm in Massachusetts, which Boyd and Kittelberger both oppose. Mass Audubon found that the planned wind farm off the coast “doesn’t propose any harm” to any protected species, says Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon.
Boyd and Kittelberger don’t believe it. “Many locations of these land and off-shore wind farms are on well documented migratory pathways for birds,” Kittelberger says.
Then why are wind farms still being constructed? Boyd thinks that when a developer creates a wind farm, they are after something else beside renewable energy.
“They want to build wind farms not because they want to produce green energy, but because they want green money,” he says. “Wind power has the lowest capacity factor during peak demand because its highest production occurs in the early morning, late evening and the middle of the night. Industrial wind technology is a meretricious commodity, attractive in a superficial way but without real value.”
Kittelberger recognizes that by the government offering incentives to build wind farms, it is creating a misconception about energy needs.
“Lighting up a home uses less than 1 percent of imported oil,” he says. “Most homes use natural gas, nuclear or hydro, with a small amount using solar or wind. There is no shortage of electricity in America; we just lack an efficient way to distribute it.”
Kittelberger thinks the government’s talk of ridding America’s use of foreign oil has blurred a line, linking transportation energy and electric energy by its offering of subsidies for electric energy.
Since they don’t believe there is a need to produce more electricity, both Boyd and Kittelberger don’t believe the cost to the environment is worth the small amount of electricity produced by wind farms.
Wind energy also takes a toll on the environment because of the vast amount of space needed to construct a wind farm.
Kittelberger uses this example to explain how much space is needed for a wind farm. For a 1,900 megawatt facility you would need about 500 acres if the facility were a coal or nuclear energy plant. For a wind farm to produce that same amount of energy, he says you would need between 50,000 and 60,000 acres because the turbines need enough space so they aren’t stealing wind from each other.
Needing so much space, many wind farms are built far away from city life where the electricity is needed. Not only does this create additional costs if more transmission wires are needed to transport the electricity, but it also reduces the amount of electricity received by its end source. Kittelberger says that only about one-third of the electricity conducted makes it to the end user.
Wilson, Boyd and Kittelberger do not think wind energy is sustainable, nor do they believe it will last past the government’s handout of subsidies.
“Wind is intermittent. It is not what we need,” Kittelberger says. ALG’s Wilson agrees, and adds, “Using energy independence as an excuse to fund unsustainable green energy programs hurts America and taxpayers can no longer afford it.”
EU 'clears the way to fast-track GM crops'
A small breakthrough against Greenie superstition
Brussels is planning to allow each member state to decide whether to grow GM foods or to ban them.
The European Commission today published proposals that it said were designed to give countries more freedom and flexibility over the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
But opponents of 'Frankenstein foods' warned that the changes would speed up the approval regime for the controversial crops and ensure that efforts by some states to block them will be side-stepped.
At present, EU countries vote together on whether to allow applications to grow new GM crops.
In future, once scientists working for the commission approve a new crop or food as safe, any of the 27 member states will be allowed to grow it or put in on shop shelves.
Other countries, which in the past might have blocked approval, will be able to implement their own boycott.
The commission said the new regime, which must still be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament, 'seeks to achieve the right balance between maintaining an EU authorisation system and the freedom for member states to decide on GM cultivation in their territory'.
Health and consumer policy commissioner John Dalli said: 'Experience with GM organisms so far shows that member states need more flexibility to organise the co- existence of GM and other types of crops such as conventional and organic crops.
'A very thorough safety assessment and a reinforced monitoring system are priorities in GM cultivation and are therefore being pursued vigorously.'
But there are concerns that Britain's Conservative-Lib Dem Government will follow the same pro-GM agenda adopted by the last Labour government.
Despite massive opposition from British shoppers, successive administrations have been pressing for the acceptance of GM farming across Europe.
This support has been maintained-despite concerns for human health and evidence from the U.S. of the emergence of GM superweeds such as pigweed that are choking some farms.
Caroline Spelman, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, has a history of supporting genetically modified crops through her links to the farming industry.
And the Food Standards Agency is facing accusations that it is trying to push GM on to dinner plates through a planned £500,000 consultation exercise.
The American agro-chemical giants behind GM farming see the move by the EU as a vital step towards getting consumers on this side of the Atlantic to accept their crops.
Previously, the U.S. government has complained to the World Trade Organisation that attempts to block GM by European governments are an illegal restraint of free trade.
Mute Schimpf, Friends of the Earth Europe's food campaigner, said: 'While the commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality the proposal aims to do the opposite - opening Europe's fields to GM crops.
'The commission continues to fail to protect Europe's food and feed from contamination by GM crops, and we urge countries to reject this deal as it stands.'
GM Freeze, a coalition of community groups and green campaigners, said: 'The proposals have been produced to try to overcome member state opposition to the commercial cultivation approval of GM crops.
'Many member states are not happy with the safety assessments of GM crops for cultivation on health and environmental grounds and have demanded a tougher approach.'
One concern is that the plans do not offer safeguards and compensation to organic and conventional farmers whose crops are contaminated by GM pollen.
GM Freeze director Pete Riley added: 'Member states need to ensure that in the short and long-term they will be able to ban a GM crop without ending up in court or with a WTO dispute.'
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Posted by JR at 5:28 PM