Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An optimal world temperature?

Have any of the AGW people ever said just what is the optimal average world temperature and why that temperature is optimal??

The AGWers don't have a specific optimum global average temperature, but they do have a sort of optimum temperature band. This forms the basis of the idea, widely used by (and specifically invented for) AGW promoting politicians, that the global average temperature must be limited to not increasing by more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial temperature levels. The 2 degree C figure usually appears in statements made by politicians at the various international climate change summits that seem to take place every year.

The story about where the 2 deg C figure comes from, which was invented by some German climate scientists back in the mid-1990s, is given in this link:
"The story of the two-degree target began in the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Administration politicians had asked the council for climate protection guidelines, and the scientists under Schellnhuber's leadership came up with a strikingly simple idea. "We looked at the history of the climate since the rise of homo sapiens," Schellnhuber recalls. "This showed us that average global temperatures in the last 130,000 years were no more than two degrees higher than before the beginning of the industrial revolution. To be on the safe side, we came up with a rule of thumb stating that it would be better not to depart from this field of experience in human evolution. Otherwise we would be treading on terra incognita.""

So from that the above it looks like pro-AGW climate scientists are assigning an optimum temperature band to what they think the homo sapiens species has already experienced in its history. The 2 deg C rise figure would go outside this optimum band. It's an application of the precautionary principle.

As far as I'm aware climate scientists don't think a 'catastrophe' would occur if the limit is exceeded (for example Schellnhuber, who invented the limit, doesn't think that) but Green-leaning politicians often treat it as though it is a catastrophic limit.

The Green lobby, it goes without saying, claim that an apocalypse would occur if the 2 deg C limit is exceeded. For example the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition in the UK (a coalition of about 100 Green-leaning NGOs) have this on their webpage:
"But with a rise of 2 degrees C or more, southern Europe will suffer serious drought every decade; billions of people will not have enough water; 550 million will go hungry; 3 million will die from malnutrition.

In the UK coastal flooding will impact up to 170 million people. And many plant, bird and butterfly species will be consigned to the history books."

The above extract also gives the biggest Greenie numerical howler I think I've ever seen. They're claiming 170 million people in the UK would be affected by coastal flooding when the current total population of the UK is something like 60 million.


Eco-terrorists: Ready to Kill for Their Cause?

A string of arson fires and material found during an arrest point to "animal rights" groups now being willing to kill for their goals.

According to STRATFOR, an open source intelligence firm, on July 22 special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI arrested Walter Bond in Denver. He was charged with setting an April 30 fire which destroyed the Sheepskin Factory, a Glendale, Colorado, business.

According to STRATFOR, Bond goes by the alias ALF Lone Wolf, and he apparently bragged to a confidential informant that he was also responsible for a June 5 fire at a leather factory in Salt Lake City and a July 3 fire at a restaurant in Sandy, Utah.

Bond is a member of an extremist group called the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). They are allied with a similar organization called the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

These groups were somewhat in the news a few years ago, but faded off the radar when it became apparent that public sympathies were rather with the business owners whose livelihoods were destroyed and workers who were injured — not the radicals who saw no moral dilemma in spiking trees or torching housing developments.

So far, law enforcement has not focused heavily on organizations like the ALF or the ELF for a couple of reasons. First, because they’re hard to catch. They use an operational model called “leaderless resistance” in which small cells or individual operatives function underground without a command structure. They are in turn given some cover guidance by above-ground political organizations which are very careful not to do anything illegal. They also tend to get cover from a sympathetic media which, when they do report on it, will tend to decry the action and then proceed to talk about the horrors of animal testing.

The other reason these cases don’t get a lot of attention is that to date the terrorists have been very careful not to target people deliberately. There are some indications this may be changing.

As STRATFOR reports:
According to the ATF affidavit, a search of Bond’s backpack after his arrest revealed that he had a copy of an ALF publication titled “The Declaration of War: Killing People to Save the Animals and the Environment.” The book, which was first published by the ALF in 1991, contends that nonviolent methods such as those laid out by Gandhi and Jesus are not productive (especially when applied to animals) and explains that violence is justified to protect animals, who cannot protect themselves. The book’s author contends that people who seek to liberate animals (which the author refers to as “brothers” and “sisters”) from human oppression and abuse will “use any and every tactic necessary to win the freedom of our brothers and sisters. This means they cheat, steal, lie, plunder, disable, threaten, and physically harm others to achieve their objective.”

In other words, they figure it’s OK to kill people if it will save an animal.


Post-spill, it’s still “drill, baby, drill!”

Public support for tapping America's oil reserves got a tough test over the last few months with the Deepwater Horizon spill, but the verdict is in: It's "drill, baby, drill!"

A clear majority continued to support drilling in American waters even during the height of the spill, when oil was gushing uncontrollably and dying birds headlined network newscasts. Pollsters at Rasmussen reported on Aug. 4 that "since the oil-rig explosion that caused the massive oil leak, support for offshore drilling has ranged from 56 percent to 64 percent." That's fairly consistent with the percentages in April of this year, just before the spill, and not a huge drop-off from the 72 percent that supported it back in the summer of 2008, when pump prices topped $4 a gallon.

Now that the leak has been stopped, the number in favor should start creeping back up. Support was always strongest in Louisiana -- which bore the brunt of the environmental and economic damage -- where 79 percent of residents remained in favor of drilling in Rassmussen's numbers, the same as before the spill.

President Obama clearly overplayed his hand with Louisianians and other Gulf Coast residents when his administration tried to parlay the spill into a justification for a moratorium on offshore drilling and other job-killing measures, such as the cap-and-trade global-warming tax on energy. The bayou backlash against the moratorium -- including from Louisiana Democrats in Congress -- was deafening.

Looking forward, the biggest threat to the Gulf region's economy isn't the spill itself but Washington's reaction to it. According to a study by Louisiana State University economics Professor Joseph Mason, the moratorium will destroy 12,000 jobs in the near term and 36,000 if it lasts a year. As the Gulf region loses jobs, the rest of the nation is losing the energy that would have been produced.

Gulf Coast residents were right not to overreact. Despite Obama's best efforts to hype the spill, including a prime-time speech calling it "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced," the damage has proved to be far from catastrophic.

The scariest claims turned out to be nonsense. Remember those "experts" who predicted that the oil would make its way around Florida and blacken the Atlantic Coast?

As cleanup activities and efforts to compensate those who've been harmed move forward, there is reason for cautious optimism about the long-term prospects for recovery. The Gulf shrimp is just as safe to eat -- and as tasty -- as before the spill.

The administration is still pushing the moratorium, but its gloomy rhetoric -- echoed by nearly every anti-fossil-fuel environmental group -- may undercut its own efforts. If the Deepwater Horizon spill really was the absolute worst that could happen, then the benefits of producing American oil sure seem worth the risks. Spills of this magnitude occur only once every few decades. We'll more likely see a return of gas at $4 a gallon -- or higher -- long before we see another spill this big.

Washington can and should find out what caused the spill and impose reasonable safeguards, but it shouldn't close the door on tapping the nation's oil resources. The American people have had it right all along: Drill, baby, drill!


Corny capitalism

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued another one of those announcements read exclusively by government bureaucrats and green policy wonks. The EPA decided to delay a decision to increase the concentration of ethanol legal in gasoline from 10% to 15%. So-called E15 fuel would have to wait for approval until November.

It was a little-read regulatory decision that barely made a splash in the media. But it was also a rock thrown at Washington's hornets' nest of food and agricultural lobbyists. "We are disappointed," warned food giant Archer Daniels Midland. "We find this further delay unacceptable" and a "dereliction of duty," harrumphed ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy.

By delaying the decision, the EPA punted on a crucial decision. The pressure brought to bear against the agency by the agriculture industry has been incredible. It's also been applied well; the EPA will most likely still approve E15 fuel in the fall.

That's bad news for any American who likes to drive. In a country powered by the automobile, E15 is an enormous question mark. Since the 1970s when ethanol was first regulated by the feds, concentrations of alcohol in fuel above 10% have been illegal. But the government, lost in a dream world where cars can run on corn, has tied itself in regulatory knots trying to force ethanol into the fuel supply.

The history of ethanol is a sad torrid affair of crony capitalism and green fantasies. By jumping in bed with the agriculture industry and blindly slapping on new regulations, the government artificially propped up an industry and put itself in a bind from which there may be no return.

From Suing Toyota to Subsidizing E15

Across America, pumps at gas stations are emblazoned with the words, "Contains 10% Ethanol." That's no free market innovation. Since the 1970s, the federal government has heavily subsidized the production of "gasohol"--a blend of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol that reduces tailpipe emissions. For decades, progressive politicians and environmental groups have revered ethanol as a miracle additive that will help purify America's air. "No country has ever gone to war over ethanol," reads one sign on the Washington, D.C. Metro subway.

There's just one problem: Ethanol fuel is wildly inefficient. The amount of corn required to soak the fuel supply is massive. To shift America's car culture entirely from gasoline to gasohol would require 700,000 square miles of land growing corn exclusively for ethanol production. That would mean converting one-fifth of the United States into a sprawling corn farm.

Then again, the government never found a green boondoggle it didn't love. For five years now, Congress has been mandating that the fuel supply be diluted with ethanol. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 required 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the fuel supply by 2012. A Democratic Congress went a step further in 2007, mandating 9 billion gallons by 2008, 15.2 billion by 2012, and 36 billion by 2022.

Unfortunately, that whole Economics 101, supply-and-demand thing got in the way. The maximum amount of ethanol that can be produced to meet demand, called the "blend wall," is expected to level out at 15 billion. That will make it impossible to meet the government's mandates.

The agriculture industry, represented primarily by Archer Daniels Midland and Growth Energy, spied an opportunity. Why not increase the legal gasohol concentration from 10% ethanol to 12% or even 15%? That would immediately ignite ethanol production and allow the government to meet its mandate. More importantly, it would make Big Agriculture some serious money.

The EPA looked ready to raise the limit until science finally intervened. A study surfaced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory from 2008 that found E15 ethanol caused a raft of problems in cars, including a loss of fuel economy and spikes in exhaust temperatures. Meanwhile the higher concentration of ethanol did nothing to reduce tailpipe emissions. The study also found problems when E15 fuel was used in lawn trimmers.

The car industry exploded in outrage. Most car warranties only cover E10, which could leave customers stuck with hefty bills if their engines were damaged. A study done by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers found E15 "made engines run hot, compromised catalytic converters, and even damaged cylinder walls."

To its credit, the EPA ultimately delayed its decision in order to review the science. But in the meantime they'll have an army of powerful agricultural lobbyists leaning on them. Even supported by its scaffolding of government subsidies and mandates, the ethanol industry is collapsing. The recession shuttered several ethanol companies. Others were gobbled up by oil giants at bargain prices. Some estimates suggest ethanol producers are losing 10 cents on every gallon of gasoline. This is all despite the fact that 25% of corn grown in the United States goes towards ethanol production.

The agricultural industry needs E15. And if history is any indication, it'll probably get what it wants.


Greenies defeated by their own reverse turn

Their lack of any real principles other than mindless hostility to the world they live in shows up

Watching the colossal and implosive decline of the once mighty green movement to stop global warming has been an educational experience. It’s rare to see so many smart, idealistic and dedicated people look so clueless and fail so completely. From the anti-climax of the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held, the movement has gone from one catastrophic failure to the next.

A year ago giddy environmentalists were on top of the world. The greenest president in American history had the largest congressional majority of any president since Lyndon Johnson; the most powerful leaders in the world were elbowing each other for places on the agenda at the Copenhagen conference on climate.

It all came to naught. The continued stalemates and failures of the UN treaty process have fallen off the front pages; as the Kyoto Protocol sinks ineffectually into oblivion, no new global treaty will take its place. The most Democratic Congress in a generation will not pass significant climate legislation before the midterms pull Congress to the right, and there will be no US law on carbon caps or anything close in President Obama’s first term, and there is less public faith in or concern about climate change today than at any time in the last fifteen years.

Has any public pressure group ever spent so much direct mail and foundation money for such pathetic results?

The standard rap on the greens is that they failed because they were too environmentalist. Their pure and naive ideals were no match for the evil, ugly forces of real world politics. Beautiful losers, they dared to dream a dream too gossamer winged, too delicate for the harsh light of day. Bambi, meet Godzilla; the butterfly was broken on the wheel.

Even in defeat, the greens can’t get it right. The greens didn’t fail because they were too loyal to their ideals; they failed because lost touch with the core impetus and values of the environmental movement. Bambi wasn’t crushed by Godzilla; Bambi turned into Godzilla, and the same kind of public skepticism and populism that once fueled environmentalism have turned against it.

The greens have forgotten where they come from. Modern environmentalism was born in the reaction against Big Science, Big Government and Experts. The Army Corps of Engineers built dams that devastated wetlands and ruined ecosystems; environmentalists used to be people who fought the Corps because they understood the limits of science, engineering, and simple big interventions in complex ecosystems.

The case environmentalists used to make was that modern science was too crude and too incomplete to take into account the myriad features that could turn a giant hydroelectric dam from a blessing into a curse. Yes, the dam would generate power — for a while. But green critics would note that the dam had side effects: silt would back up in the reservoir, soil downstream would be impoverished, parasites and malaria bearing mosquitoes would flourish in the still waters and so on and so forth. Meanwhile the destruction of wetlands and river bottoms imposed enormous costs to wildlife diversity and the productivity of river systems. Salmon runs would disappear. Often, the development associated with hydroelectric dams led to deforestation, offsetting gains in flood control.

Environmentalists were skeptics of the One Big Fix. Science could never capture all the side effects and the unintended consequences. DDT looked like a magic bullet against malaria, but it threatened to wipe out important bird species. Books like Silent Spring, the environmental classic, attacked the engineers of big interventions as hopelessly out of touch crude thinkers, who tried to reduce complex social and biological issues and processes to simple science. Intellectually and culturally, environmentalists came out of the same movement as critics of crude urban development like Jane Jacob (The Death and Life of Great American Cities). They celebrated the diverse local, small-scale adaptations that reflected the knowledge of communities as opposed to the grandiose plans of the social engineers.

Essentially, the core environmentalist argument against big projects and big development is the same argument that libertarians use against economic regulations and state planning. The ‘economic ecology’ of a healthy free market system is so complex, libertarians argue, that bureaucratic interventions, however well intentioned and however thoroughly supported by peer reviewed science of various kinds, will produce unintended consequences — and in any case the interventions and regulations are too crude and too simple to provide an adequate substitute for the marvelously complex economic order that develops from free competition. Environmentalists turned this logic against Big Science projects like dams and more generally built a case that humanity should work to have a light footprint in the world. Natural systems are so complicated, so interlinked in non-obvious ways, that any human intervention in nature has unanticipated costs. The less we intervene, the better.

An increasingly skeptical public started to notice that ‘experts’ weren’t angels descending immaculately from heaven bearing infallible revelations from God. They were fallible human beings with mortgages to pay and funds to raise. They disagreed with one another and they colluded with their friends and supporters like everyone else. They often produced research that agreed with the views of those who funded their work (tobacco companies, builders of nuclear power plants, NGOs and foundations).

More, on issues the public follows closely, the scientific consensus keeps changing. Margarine was introduced as the healthy alternative to butter; now experts tell us that the transfats in many types of margarine are the worst things you can eat. Should you eat no fat or the right fat? All carbs, no carbs or good carbs? How much vitamin E should you take? How much sun should you get? How much fish oil should you swallow? How should you divide your time between aerobic and non-aerobic exercise? On these and many other subjects, expert opinion keeps changing. Perhaps the current consensus will last; quite possibly, it won’t — but the experts can’t tell you what will happen.

The rise of the environmental movement reflected the increasing independence of thought and judgment of a public that was becoming less and less impressed with credentials and degrees. The public wanted to take power back from experts and appointed government agencies and put up new obstacles in the way of technocratic engineers with big projects in mind.

But when it comes to global warming, the shoe is on the other foot. Now it is suddenly the environmentalists — who’ve often spent lifetimes raging against experts and scientists who debunk organic food and insist that GMOs and nuclear power plants are safe — who are the pious advocates of science and experts. Suddenly, it’s a sin to question the wisdom of the Scientific Consensus. Scientists are, after all, experts; their work is peer-reviewed and we uneducated rubes must sit back and shut up when the experts tell us what’s right.

More, environmentalists have found a big and simple fix for all that ails us: a global carbon cap. One big problem, one big fix. It is not just wrong to doubt that a fix is needed, it is wrong to doubt that the Chosen Fix will work. Never mind that the leading green political strategy (to stop global warming by a treaty that gains unanimous consent among 190 plus countries and is then ratified by 67 votes in a Senate that rejected Kyoto 95-0) is and always has been so cluelessly unrealistic as to be clinically insane. The experts decree; we rubes are not to think but to honor and obey.

The environmental movement has turned into the Army Corps of Engineers, even as public skepticism of experts has reached new heights. The financial experts and economists told us the new financial markets were perfectly safe. Then the Obama administration’s expert economists told us the stimulus would work and that unemployment wouldn’t get above 8%. They told him and he told us the recovery was underway. “Recovery summer,” anyone?


AAAH! That lovely global cooling

Coldest year on record for minimum temperatures in the capital of Western Australia

Perth is shivering through its coldest year for overnight temperatures, but at the same time bathing in the sunniest winter on record.

Meanwhile, farmers are battling the second driest year since records began, as the WA Bureau of Meteorology rewrites the history books for rain, sun and temperature extremes.

Perth's minimum temperature for winter this year is 1.9C colder than the average 8.2C, according to the bureau's climate information officer John Relf.

And the city has received just 402.6mm of rain compared to the January to August average of 648.3mm.

While daytime temperatures are on average at 18.8C, the number of sunlight hours are well above the 6.4 hour average with a 7.3 hour average recorded for August. ``We've literally had an extra hour of sunlight a day in August this year," Mr Relf said. ``Our weather has been dominated by high pressure and when you get high pressure for extended periods of time the lows just run underneath. ``We seem to be going on some sort of parallel with 2006 at the moment, which recorded the driest year on record and it's been going like that for a long time."

The dry conditions spell devastation for many wheat and cattle farmers across large parts of the state. WA Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said some farmers in the eastern Wheatbelt stand to lose entire crops this year because of drought. ``You don't have to go very far inland to be at half our normal rainfall," Mr Norton said. ``We desperately need a very, very wet September.

``When you start to talk about livestock, there is going to be some real problems across a very large area of the Wheatbelt. Pastures are doing worse than what the crops are."

Perth dams are also low. At 35.3 percent capacity, dams are down 52.38 gigalitres compared to this time last year - one gigalitre is the size of Subiaco oval filled to the brim.

Despite the dry spell, the Bureau of Meteorology says the outlook for spring holds some hope. The bureau is predicting a 65 per cent chance that the median rainfall will be exceeded from September to November in the South-West, while remaining average across the state in spring. ``The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is dominated by the recent warm conditions in the Indian Ocean as well as a cooling trend in the equatorial Pacific Ocean associated with a La Nina," it says.



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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


No comments: