Thursday, August 26, 2010

Global greenhouse emissions just a fairy story

China, India, Indonesia, Brazil Can’t Estimate Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Latest Figures are From 1994

Even as the Obama administration seeks to negotiate an international treaty to cap manmade greenhouse gas emissions, many of the world’s most egregious producers of greenhouse gasses cannot accurately estimate how much gas they currently emit, according to a recent report from Government Accountability Office.

The GAO examined the greenhouse-gas-emission estimates made by seven developed countries listed as “Annex I” nations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and seven developing countries listed as “non-Annex I” nations (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and South Korea) under the framework. The study found that the lack of accurate data and reporting on greenhouse-gas emissions from non-Annex I nations complicates the efforts for global climate policies.

“High quality and comparable information on national greenhouse gas emissions is critical to designing and implementing international responses to climate change,” said the GAO. “We found that the inventories from seven selected high emitting non-Annex I nations were generally outdated, not comparable, and of lower quality than inventories from Annex I nations. The existing gap in quality and comparability of inventories across developed and developing nations makes it more difficult to establish and monitor international agreements, since actions by both developed and developing nations will be necessary to address climate change under future international agreements.”

Even Great Britain, an Annex I country, can only estimate its greenhouse-gas emissions within a margin of error (or an “uncertainty” estimate, as the report calls it) of 13 percent, said the GAO.

Russia, also an Annex I country, can only estimate its greenhouse gas emissions within a margin of error of 40 percent.

Yet Great Britain and Russia did much better than most of the seven non-Annex I countries whose greenhouse-gas-emission estimates were reviewed by the GAO.

China, a non-Annex I country, has no idea how much greenhouse gas it has emitted in recent years. The only year for which it has ever produced an estimate is 1994, and it did not determine the margin of error for that estimate of 16-year-old gas emissions.

India and Malaysia had likewise only made estimates of their greenhouse gas emissions for 1994 and they did not determine what their margins of error were either.

Indonesia and Brazil have produced estimates for 1990-1994. Indonesia’s margin of error was not determined. But Brazil’s margin of error was 22 percent—considerably better than Russia’s 40 percent but not nearly as good as Great Britain’s 13 percent. South Korea had completed an estimate for its greenhouse-gas emissions for as recently as 2001, but did not include an estimate of its margin of error. Mexico completed an estimate for as recently as 2006 and estimated a margin of error of 7 percent.

The “uncertainty”–or margin of error–in the annual estimates of greenhouse-gas emission made by the U.S. government ranged from 3 percent to 7 percent. Japan was more precise, producing estimates that had an “uncertainty” of only 1 percent

The “uncertainty” in Russia’s estimate was so great it actually was greater than the entirety of Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions for 2007.

“Russia reported overall uncertainty of about plus or minus 40 percent,” said the GAO. “That equates to an uncertainty of 800 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, slightly more than Canada’s total emissions in 2007. Russia’s relatively large uncertainty estimate could stem from several factors, such as less precise national statistics.”

The inability of the non-Annex I nations analyzed by GAO to estimate their greenhouse-gas emissions is significant because these nations are expected to account for much of the future increase in these emissions.

“China, a non-Annex I nation, recently overtook the United States as the world’s largest emitter, according to some estimates,” said GAO. “According to Energy Information Administration projections, non-Annex I nations may contribute nearly all of the growth of global fossil-fuel related emissions through 2030. Because of this expected growth, emissions reductions will be needed from high-emitting nations, including non-Annex I nations, to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, had originally requested that the GAO report on the quality and comparability of nations’ estimates of their greenhouse gas emissions in February of 2009–before the House in July 2009 passed a controversial cap-and-trade bill that would place limits on how much carbon dioxide the United States could emit annually.

Barton said the lack of greenhouse gas emissions from major emitters such as China, Brazil and India was “worrisome.”

“We’re concerned that emissions information from the fastest growing developing countries, including China and India, were 12 years older than what the United States and other developed nations had reported,” said Barton.

“It’s also worrisome that China, Brazil, India and other major developing nations still refuse to match their reporting regimes to those of the developed world even as they rapidly surpass both us and Europe in the amount of greenhouse gases they produce,” said Barton.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who was the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations when the GAO report was requested, suggested it made little sense to move ahead with regulating U.S. emissions when there was not accurate reporting on the emissions of other nations.

“Before the Obama administration and Speaker Pelosi clamp down on American jobs with new global warming regulations, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure we can trust the measuring regimes of other countries?” asked Walden.

“Americans want to do the right thing for the environment,” he said, “but we don’t need to play by one set of rules while our economic competitors play by another.”


New Jersey Business Owners, Activists Seek Repeal of "Cap and Trade" that Could Reverberate Nationally

Business owners have joined forces with free market activists in New Jersey who are calling on state lawmakers to repeal “cap and trade” policies, which are responsible for boosting energy prices. On Thursday, The New Jersey Restaurant Association (NJRA), which represents the state’s largest employment sector, announced its support for a bill that would both revoke “cap and trade” and rescind New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“The opposition that is building up against `cap and trade’ in New Jersey could have national implications since the program here was crafted as a model for what President Obama had in mind,” Steven Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota explained in an interview. “The American people are opposed to these environmental regulations but they are still growing right under our feet at the state level with these regional initiatives. It’s shocking how few people realize New Jersey already has the program.”

Lonegan, who is also a former gubernatorial candidate, is heading up the effort to repeal “cap and trade” in partnership with private citizens and public officials. Legislation (Bill A3147) has been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-24). An accompanying bill is expected to be introduced by Senator Michael Doherty (R-23), and Governor Chris Christie has indicated he would sign the legislation.

Lisa Jackson, who now serves as Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, previously served as the New Jersey environmental commissioner. Prior last year’s “climategate” scandal that exposed how politically-motivated researchers manipulated and exaggerated warming trends, federal lawmakers were eyeing Jackson’s state level program as a foundation for new regulatory schemes modeled after the Kyoto Protocol.

“There are profound economic consequences attached to scientifically unfounded `cap and trade’ programs,” Lonegan said. “Unfortunately, there are still too many state legislators who don’t understand the issue and don’t have the backbone to stand up to groups like the Sierra Club. But the public is behind us and we feel like we have momentum.”


Al Gore's global-warming crusade bogged down

Poor Al Gore. As if an impending divorce and allegations of sexual misconduct from an Oregon masseuse weren't bad enough (he has since been cleared of wrongdoing), the apparent collapse of "cap-and-trade" legislation in the U.S. Senate has driven the former vice president to despair.

As reported by Steve Milloy on his blog Green Hell, Mr. Gore recently admitted to supporters in a conference call, "[T]his [cap-and-trade] battle has not been successful and is pretty much over for this year." Mr. Gore blamed everyone and their monkey for the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation, including his former colleagues: "The U.S. Senate has failed us," he lamented, "the federal government has failed us."

The fortunes of Mr. Gore's global-warming crusade certainly are in decline: A recent Rasmussen poll found that just 34 percent of respondents "feel human activity is the main contributor" to global warming and that the percentage of those who consider global warming a "serious issue" has "trended down slightly since last November."

Mr. Gore himself is to blame for at least some of the public backlash against global-warming orthodoxy: Using bad science to justify bad policy will inevitably rub people the wrong way. And Mr. Gore has not helped his cause by consistently expressing outrageous falsehoods ("the debate is over") and shamelessly trying to shield his assertions from legitimate criticism by claiming "settled science." All the while, he has enriched himself and pushed a left-wing economic agenda.

Take, for example, the infamous "hockey stick" graph, a version of which was featured prominently in Mr. Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." The graph appeared to show global temperatures relatively flat for a millennium and then suddenly spiking upward in the late 20th century - proof, according to Mr. Gore and his acolytes, of man-made global warming caused by industrial carbon emissions.

Temperature records for the past century are based on instrumental data: thermometers, satellites, etc. For prior centuries, however, scientists rely on proxy data; in the case of the original hockey-stick graph, researchers relied on tree rings. But as Roy Spencer, former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, writes in "The Great Global Warming Blunder," "the most recent tree-ring data do not even show the warming that occurred in the second half of the 20th-century, but appear to indicate a cooling instead." Because tree rings do not show the recent warming that we know occurred, it follows that tree rings are not an adequate proxy by which we can accurately gauge past temperatures.

The unreliability of tree-ring data has long been known. Nevertheless, the hockey-stick graph was embraced enthusiastically by Mr. Gore and the global-warming crowd, for it conveniently dispensed with two significant climate events: the Medieval Warm Period (10th to 13th centuries) and the Little Ice Age (14th to 19th centuries). The former saw temperatures in the North Atlantic warm enough that vikings could settle and flourish in a lush Greenland, the latter temperatures so low that people routinely ice-skated on a frozen River Thames. Both of these climate events, for which there are masses of historical evidence, began before the Industrial Revolution and therefore are unattributable to man-made carbon emissions.

That's why the global-warming crowd was so desperate to hide them: If people realize that temperature fluctuations occur naturally and cyclically, they are less likely to embrace the draconian, job-killing energy taxes favored by Mr. Gore and his ilk as punishment for their own carbon sins.

The hockey stick conveniently hid this natural temperature variation - for a while. Fortunately, thanks largely to the tireless work of independent researchers Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, the flaws in the statistical methodology used to create the various hockey-stick graphs have received widespread attention, and the once-iconic symbol of global warming has since been largely marginalized in the climate-change debate.


The New York Times and Lies about 'Acid Rain'

As one who often reads the Newspaper of the Ruling Class, the New York Times, I tend not to be surprised when the "Newspaper of Record" distorts the record. Furthermore, one could do nothing but write comments refuting the various economic fallacies and outright distortions that accompany each edition of the Grey Lady.

However, in a recent editorial, the NYT managed to distort the record so much that I find it hard even to know how to answer, except to say that some of us have not lost our memories of what happened 30 years ago. Entitled "Acid Rain 30 Years On," the editorial starts with the following statement:
Just over 30 years ago, a skeptical Daniel Patrick Moynihan persuaded his Senate colleagues to approve a major study to see whether a relatively unknown phenomenon called acid rain was worth worrying about. The study, completed in 1990, showed that pollution blowing eastward from coal-fired power plants was killing off aquatic life. One-quarter of the Adirondacks’ 3,000 lakes and streams had become too acidic to support fish life, or were headed that way.

Mr. Moynihan became a believer. And the study helped usher in two decades worth of laws and regulations – most important, the 1990 Clean Air Act – requiring major reductions in power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide. Evidence suggests that in the last decade pollution levels have dropped and that streams, lakes and forests have rebounded.

Actually not, and I think I know, given that I had a major article in Reason about this whole affair and also wrote part of my doctoral dissertation on the subject, and published another paper in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology about it. I can say what the NYT says in that editorial is categorically untrue, all the way to Moynihan’s becoming "a believer." If there is an Orwellian Memory Hole, it definitely lives at the "Newspaper of Record."

What actually happened regarding the "major study" and its results, and why were the results so controversial, with the EPA openly attempting to destroy the career of a scientist who had a major role in the report’s conclusions? In fact, why did the New York Times itself openly ignore the report that it now praises?

This goes back to the origins of the Acid Rain scare, which, like Global Warming (or "Climate Change") did not even need Al Gore to hype it. I wrote in my article in Reason:
(In the late 1970s) scientists in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia became alarmed at what they believed was massive environmental degradation caused by sulfur dioxide-laced rain that came from coal-fired power plants. The media followed with hundreds of apocalyptic stories, such as "Scourge from the Skies" (Reader's Digest), "Now, Even the Rain is Dangerous" (International Wildlife), "Acid from the Skies" (Time), and "Rain of Terror" (Field and Stream).

In 1980, the EPA declared that acid rain had acidified lakes in the northeastern United States a hundredfold since 1940, and the National Academy of Sciences predicted an "aquatic silent spring" by 1990, declaring in 1981 that the nation's number of acid-dead lakes would more than double by 1990.

In response to these concerns, Congress in 1980 commissioned an interagency governmental study – NAPAP (National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project) – to document the damage acid rain was causing to lakes, rivers and streams, aquatic life, forests, crops, and buildings.

However, as scientists took measurements and assessed the streams, lakes and forests that supposedly were being ravaged by acid rain, they found out a number of things. First, lake and stream acidity had very little relationship to the pH factor of local rainfall. Instead, the acidity of the vegetation in the watersheds of these aquatic bodies was the significant factor, with the science firmly established by the time that Edward Krug and Charles Frink published a paper in a 1983 edition of Science. (More on that later.)

Second, as is the case with most environmental scares, so-called acid rain was not having much of an effect on anything, from what scientists could say. Unfortunately, Congress, the George H.W. Bush White House, and most of the mainstream media were not thrilled with the fact that the End Of The World As We Know It and let it be known that anything less than Apocalypse Now was unacceptable.

In writing about NAPAP’s 1987 Interim Report, I noted:
The assessment concluded that acid rain was not damaging forests, did not hurt crops, and caused no measurable health problems. The report also concluded that acid rain helped acidify only a fraction of Northeastern lakes and that the number of acid lakes had not increased since 1980. The assessment also agreed that acid rain hampered visibility in the eastern United States.

The report ignited a firestorm of protest. Rep. James Scheuer (D-NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Agriculture Research, and the Environment, said the assessment was "intellectually dishonest" and badgered NAPAP witnesses before his committee. Environmentalists belittled the document because it came from the Reagan administration. They were especially angry at J. Lawrence Kulp, whom Reagan had appointed NAPAP director.

Scientists, however, generally endorsed the study. Documents from the International Conference on Acid Precipitation in 1988 show participants agreed with most of NAPAP's conclusions almost unanimously. In fact, the scientists from Canada agreed with Krug on the important watershed acidification theory, which was partly at odds with the Interim Assessment. In other words, NAPAP's conclusions were scientifically correct, if not politically correct.

The secondary reaction to the study by the government was indifference, in that the government could do nothing, and the eastern United States would not have been any worse off, environmentally speaking. However, because the NAPAP report was politically incorrect, the Bush administration (which took office in 1989) suppressed its findings – with no objection from the NYT or any other mainstream journalistic outfit – except for one, "60 Minutes."

On December 30, 1990 (after Congress passed the acid rain provisions in the Clean Air Act of 1990), "60 Minutes" broadcast a story that thoroughly debunked the scare stories, including a recent one by the "Newspaper of Record." Reporter Steve Kroft
…asked Krug about a then-recent New York Times story that claimed acid rain had turned forests in the Appalachia's into "ragged landscapes of dead and dying trees."

Krug replied, "I don't know where they got that from. It appears to be another assertion, unsubstantiated...We do not see that occurring."

One of the people interviewed by "60 Minutes" was none other than Moynihan, and he told Kroft that he was relieved by the results of the report. After all, he said, at the beginning of the scare, New Yorkers had been told that they would be losing "all of their lakes" and forests. The Apocalypse had not materialized, and Moynihan, while saying he would support the law, nonetheless was not a "believer" in the sense that the NYT characterized him 30 years later.

Not surprisingly, the EPA objected to the report and the NYT and most mainstream publications followed suit. Acid rain was destroying the country, and even if it was not, it still was, period. Instead, the newspapers either ignored the science or were used as conduits for the EPA to attack Krug and destroy the career of a promising scientist.

At the end, I wrote:
The EPA's performance on acid rain – and how it dealt with a respected scientist who told the truth – is not comforting when one considers how important the federal government now is in funding scientific research and how politicized current environmental issues such as global warming and depletion of the earth's ozone layer have become. One NAPAP scientist, who for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous, warns that in the future the EPA will not go through the pretense of research and debate: "There is no NAPAP for global warming."

So, once again we see an editorial in the "Newspaper of Record" that outright distorts the record and ignores some good science. This is the same newspaper that claimed that the George W. Bush administration was "corrupting" science because it was not quick enough to join Gore’s Global Warming bandwagon.

In his excellent essay, "America’s Ruling Class," Angelo M. Codevilla writes regarding the modern "Progressives" and science that "identity always trumps" the truth. Indeed, in the case of acid rain, Codevilla’s assessment is on the mark. Americans were bullied by political elites and their amen media and academic corners into having new restrictions placed on their lives in order to deal with a non-existent threat. And it will happen again and again and again. But it will happen.


Howard Stern: 'Bring back DDT!'

Stern argues that New York's bedbug problem is nothing compared to the millions dying from malaria in Africa

Howard Stern, radio personality and host of The Howard Stern Show, one of the most popular and influential radio programs in America, is calling for the insecticide DDT to be brought back to battle the bedbugs in New York and the malarial mosquitos in Africa. "It's time for this nonsense to stop," Stern declared. He cited CFACT's Paul Driessen to support his case.

CFACT senior policy advisor Paul Driessen recently wrote about the drastically different consequences the ban on DDT is having in America and Africa. "Growing infestations of the ravenous bloodsuckers have New Yorkers annoyed, anguished, angry about officialdom’s inadequate responses," says Driessen. In the past, DDT was used effectively to deal with bedbug infestations.

Howard Stern agreed with Driessen that Africa's malaria problem dwarfs the bedbug issue, saying, "You're talking about the difference between life and death. They gotta have some insecticides." Stern continued, "forget about a bunch of city-dwellers with their emotional distress with bedbugs. You're talking about malaria!"

South Africa, one of the few African nations wealthy enough to fund its own anti-malaria campaign, has used insecticides and DDT to achieve 95% reductions in disease and death rates, Driessen reports. The rest of Africa is not so fortunate, due to many aid agencies' refusal to fund DDT programs. As a result, Driessen says, malaria "kills over a million annually, most of them children and mothers, the vast majority of them in Africa. It drains families’ meager savings, and magnifies and perpetuates the region’s endemic poverty."

Howard Stern read extensively from Paul's article and gave his verdict: "they gotta bring back DDT. Stop being a bunch of pussies."


Global cooling hits Australia

HUGE overnight snowfalls have delivered Victoria's best skiing conditions in years. Falls Creek had the biggest dumping, with 54cm of fresh snow recorded in the 24 hours to 6am. Mt Hotham had 46cm, Dinner Plain 30cm, Mt Buller 29cm and Lake Mountain 25cm. There was 10cm of new snow at Mt Baw Baw and Mt Buffalo.

Falls Creek resident Chris Hocking said 226cm of snow had fallen in the area so far this month, already higher than any August figure in at least a decade. "The volume of snow we have seen in August is just staggering,’’ Mr Hocking said. "I haven’t seen anything like this in so many years.’’

It's already been the wettest winter since 1996, with Melbourne's rainfall almost 10mm above average for the season. And if you've been cranking up the heater on a daily basis, it's probably because the mercury hasn't made it past 18C in Melbourne, forcing us to shiver through an average maximum of 14.6C.

Weather bureau senior forecaster Terry Ryan said there had been a return to the icy winters of more than a decade ago. "It's been a return to average temperatures, which we haven't had for a while," Mr Ryan said.

The wet weather had been great news for our dams, currently about 40.2 per cent and growing by 0.2 per cent a day, according to Mr Ryan. "There's no reason why we can't be up to 45 per cent by the end of spring, and there's an outside hope to touch 50 per cent," he said.

And, while the weather has kept most of us inside it has also been a boon for snow bunnies, with conditions among the best in several years. Falls Creek is leading the way and, with more snow expected overnight, it could break records.

Local resident Chris Hocking said last night the snowfall had been amazing. "It's already the best in six years, minimum," he said. "And it's likely to go into the 20-year margin before the end of the month."



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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