Friday, November 19, 2010

Intellectual incest at the United nations

"Objective" seems to be a lost adjective at the U.N. -- and don't anybody bother their silly little heads about conflict of interest either

Koko Warner is an American citizen who was selected to be a lead author of the next edition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. For these purposes, it has been decided that she officially represents the country of Germany. [see p. 8 of this 27-page PDF]

Warner is one of at least four people assigned to work on the new IPCC report who is employed by an entity called the United Nations University. First and foremost, this institution exists to further “the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

I can’t be the only one who finds this troubling. Scholarship is one thing. Scholarship sponsored and supervised by bureaucrats perched atop the world’s political org chart is surely another. Why does the United Nations feel the need to cultivate its own army of scholars? Of all the things in this messed up world on which the UN could be spending its money how can this be a priority?

Is it not also awkward that the IPCC – itself a UN body – thinks UN employees are the sort of experts who should be writing what is supposed to be a dispassionate climate change report? Is there no concern that the UN appears to be influencing the outcome? After all, in one chapter of the upcoming climate bible (Working Group 2′s Chapter 24) two of the 11 people responsible for writing it are affiliated with this university.

Warner herself will contribute to a chapter titled Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development – which will be produced by eight authors backed up by three review editors. As one of those eight authors, her judgment will inform this chapter’s findings.

So what do we know about her? For one thing, she is the lead author of a lavishly illustrated document (36-page PDF here) titled In Search of Shelter published in May 2009. Rather than being a scholarly work, this is a glossy public relations brochure – an overt example of advocacy literature. We know this because the first sentence on the acknowledgments page admits as much: "This report and related activities advocating for the protection of environmental migrants are possible due to generous support from the UN Refugee Agency…"

Numerous people connected to a range of United Nations bodies are thanked for their assistance with this report, individually as well as collectively. For example, the authors acknowledge receiving “constructive feedback from the [United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention] and other UN…organizations.”

Cue the alarm bells. The UNFCCC is an international treaty. It is an entirely political mechanism. The people involved in that organization are political animals. Period.

One of Warner’s coauthors is an employee of CARE International, an anti-poverty NGO. The report advises us that media inquiries regarding this report should be directed to an e-mail address at The report then thanks seven additional CARE employees by name, a couple of employees of another NGO called Germanwatch, and someone from Oxfam.

In other words, this document has been produced by people who have agendas – agendas that cannot be pursued unless others (nations, foundations, and private citizens) fund them via charitable donations. Which means these people, no matter how well-intentioned they might be, have an enormous incentive to exaggerate and dramatize their subject matter.

In a subsequent blog post I’ll discuss the report itself. But for now it’s worth noticing that this non-peer-reviewed document was officially released during the Bonn Climate Change talks in June 2009. Rather than being a run-of-the-mill academic study whose findings are released to the media whenever it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, this report received very special and unusual treatment.

It wasn’t merely accorded its own press conference at a larger event in which representatives of the world’s media were already in attendance. Rather, its findings were delivered under the guise of a Media Training Workshop sponsored by the UNFCCC itself. In a video of that event it is a representative of the UNFFCC who introduces Warner and her co-author to the press corps.

What does all this mean? It means Warner is not an independent scholar. She is a UN employee. Her research has been funded by the United Nations and brazenly promoted by the United Nations in a manner intended to advance the United Nations’ climate change agenda.

And now she is an IPCC lead author.


Hot air from a political nobody

THE United States will be banned from selling goods to many countries if it continues to shirk its promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Lord Stern, the world's leading climate change economist, said nations that were taking strong action on emissions could start imposing restrictions on "dirty" US exports by 2020.

Lord Stern, who advises several G20 leaders and is one of the key players in the international negotiations seeking a deal on emissions, made his comments 10 days before the annual United Nations climate change conference opens in Cancun, Mexico. They reflect the feeling in many countries that a lack of action on emissions in the US is delaying progress in the talks.

"The US will increasingly see the risks of being left behind, and 10 years from now they would have to start worrying about being shut out of markets because their production is dirty," Lord Stern said. "If they persist in being slow about reducing emissions, US exports will start to look more carbon intensive. [Countries] will start measuring the carbon content of exports."

President Obama pledged before the Copenhagen climate conference last December to cut US emissions by 17 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020. But his efforts to introduce legislation on emissions have been blocked by Congress. Republican gains in the midterm elections mean that there is little chance of legislation being passed in the next two years.

The US emits more than twice as much CO2 per capita as the EU and almost three times as much as China.

Lord Stern said that Europe and the Far East were forging ahead of the US in controlling emissions and switching to low carbon sources of energy. They would not tolerate having their industries undermined by American competitors that had not paid for their emissions.

"If you are charging properly for carbon and other people are not, you will take that into account," he said. "Many of the more forward-looking people in the US are thinking about this. If they see a danger on the trade front to US exports that could influence public discussion."

Asked what type of US products could face restrictions, Lord Stern said: "Aircraft, clearly, some cars, machine tools - it's not simply what's in the capital good, it's what kind of processes the capital good is facilitating."

Lord Stern said that a complete ban on some goods was also possible. He said the American people should overcome their historical antipathy to taxation and accept that emissions needed to be controlled either through a tax or a trading scheme.

"It goes back to the War of Independence. It's a country that is very sensitive to big government and taxation for understandable historical reasons," he said, adding that it was a "conceptual mistake" to see charging for emissions as a tax. "This is about stopping subsidising by stopping people being allowed to pollute for free."

Lord Stern said that China was taking far greater action on climate change than the US and was winning the race to develop clean technology to sell to the rest of the world. "The Chinese have declared very strongly for change. They are already talking about a tax on coal and natural resources. They have been quite drastic in closing a number of the dirtier factories."

He said that China was also considering a cap on overall energy use by 2015. "The Chinese are very serious about this because they know just how vulnerable China is, with big populations on the coastline. They also know that the green race for the new industrial revolution is on and they see that as a big source of growth."

He said other countries were no longer willing to allow the US to block progress. "The big blocs, the EU, Brazil, China, India, are asking now,'What should we be doing in a world where we can't be sure that the US will be a leader in the near future? Do we all wait, or do we get on with this new industrial revolution?'"

Todd Stern, the US lead negotiator on climate change, said earlier this year that it was in America's own economic interest to impose emissions controls. Speaking to the Centre for American Progress, he said: "This is something we must do for our own good, to contain the gathering storm that threatens to ravage our natural world."


NYT Does a Great Disservice to its Readership on Climate Change Coverage, U.N. Critic Says

Precious little progress has been made from the alarmist perspective since the United Nations climate change conference held last December in Copenhagen, Denmark, a blogger for the New York Times concedes. Looking ahead to the next conference, which opens at the end of November in Cancun, Mexico there is now speculation that this may be last gathering.

Although green activists continue to push for a binding international agreement to lower emissions, government officials are unlikely to advance any substantive measures.

“Now many are wondering whether the process itself, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is so flawed that it should be scrapped,” the blog says. “Is it realistic to expect that 200 nations with vastly different interests, from China to Saudi Arabia to Bolivia to Micronesia, can come together to address a problem that will affect them in vastly different ways? Is there a better way to attack a global problem largely caused by a handful of large industrialized countries? Should the next so-called `conference of the parties’ be the last?”

Since the mid-1990s, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been invoked as the final authority on the question of man-made global warming. But it has come under severe criticism recently over its methodologies and procedures.

The U.N. tasked The InterAcademy Council (IAC), based in Amsterdam, to investigate the IPCC. Its findings, published on August 30th concluded that the IPCC was predisposed toward conflicts of interest, made multiple assertions about climate change that lack scientific support, and inappropriately interjected itself into the policy making process.

Yes, the process is flawed but somehow the Times never gets around to raising questions about the so-called scientific consensus that has been used as a rationale for international regulatory agreements.

“A relatively small group of countries — the United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil and the European Union — are responsible for the vast bulk of global carbon emissions,” the blogger observes. “Why can’t they get together and agree on some common steps and a plan for providing aid to smaller, more vulnerable countries? Why do Cuba and Sudan have to sign onto whatever they agree to? In fact, such discussions now regularly take place outside the United Nations ambit, whether in the Group of 20 or other international forums, or in bilateral talks like those between the United States and China on clean energy innovation.”

Just prior to the November elections, the Times ran yet another editorial criticizing public officials who have raised questions about the evidence offered to support the idea that human activity has been driving climate change. This despite an avalanche of data that shows nature forces are largely responsible for warming and cooling trends.

Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and professor emeritus with the University of Virginia, suggests in a recent essay for The American Thinker that NYT become better acquainted with recent developments and the sentiment of its own readership.

“The NY Times may be seriously out of step with its own readers,” he wrote. “At least that’s how I would judge the results of a survey of readers of Scientific American, a magazine that has been just as alarmist about AGW as the Times:

“**77% believe that current climate change is caused by natural processes

“**68% think we should do nothing about climate change, are powerless to stop it

“**90% approve of climate scientists debating the issue in public forums

“**83% believe that the UN-IPCC is corrupt, prone to groupthink, and has a political agenda.

“The New York Times is doing a disservice to its readers and to the U.S. public in stoking unreasonable fears not based on solid science,” Singer concluded. But were we expecting anything else?


How EPA could destroy 7.3 million jobs

Environmental Protection Agency officials Wednesday provided power companies and states with new guidance on EPA’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases. A D.C. lobbyist for two major power companies told Bloomberg News that “the energy and manufacturing sectors will essentially be in a construction moratorium” as a consequence.

Here we are, with 15 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed, and the EPA is moving blindly ahead with new regulations that will increase dramatically the energy costs of U.S. industries, reducing their competitiveness and profitability, and making it less likely they will hire.

EPA’s action amounts to rewriting the Clean Air Act to suit its own bureaucratic and ideological objectives. At a time when the Obama administration should be focused on job creation and the nation’s economic recovery, promulgating stringent new environmental rules should be its last priority.

The new EPA rules call for a reduction in the national ambient air-quality standard for ground-level ozone, a precursor of smog, from 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, a cut of up to 20 percent.

While this might seem innocuous enough, setting a more-stringent ozone standard will in fact cause economic havoc.

Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties already don’t meet the current standard. If the EPA tightens the rules, these counties will fall permanently into noncompliance, even with costly investments in new pollution controls.

Under the Clean Air Act’s nondegradation provision, state and local governments are not permitted to take actions that would worsen air quality, even if the area is in compliance with EPA standards.

If a county or city is not in compliance, its economy won’t be able to grow—so the EPA’s proposal would spell economic stagnation for many communities.

A study by the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a 75-year old organization that provides economic research and training for business executives, warns that the new standard would destroy an estimated 7.3 million jobs nationwide and add $1 trillion annually in new regulatory costs beginning in 2020.

In Mississippi, the EPA proposal would kill an estimated 130,000 jobs and add $32.2 billion annually in new regulatory costs from 2020 to 2030.

Direct compliance costs are only part of the burden, however. If the new standards go into effect, the costs of nearly everything we buy also will go up, as higher energy prices raise production costs.

This huge price tag, however, wouldn’t appreciably improve public health. So it’s fair to ask why a more stringent ozone standard is even needed. Efforts to achieve cleaner air over the past 20 years have been extraordinarily successful, with pollution in some places cut in half.

If we’ve learned anything from clean-air regulation to date, it is that there is no low-cost way of substantially curtailing ground-level ozone or greenhouse-gas emissions within a relatively short time frame, which the EPA insists is necessary.

Fossil fuels account for 85 percent of America’s energy resources. We use oil, natural gas and coal—and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future—because they are plentiful and affordable.

All EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will accomplish is to impoverish America, while doing little to cut emissions globally.

Increased energy consumption in China and other developing economies will offset any reductions in the United States. It is an unwise and dangerous move that would compel us unilaterally to curtail our use of fossil fuels significantly, one consequence of which would be a decline in our country’s economic well-being.

The EPA’s proposed ozone standard exemplifies arbitrary over-regulation that will destroy jobs and harm our economy without any offsetting benefit. Congress should block the EPA move.


Amid the climate gloom life goes on and nature thrives

Comment from Australia

Left orthodoxy maintains that the story of man's interaction with the ecosphere is a story of habitat degradation leading to species extinction. That's the headline. But by overstating the risks of climate change, and underestimating the capacity of humans and other species to adapt, we risk missing the chance to address real, pressing, soluble environmental problems.

Scientists at James Cook University last week announced they have discovered an exquisite new species of pygmy seahorse, 200 kilometres off the coast of Cairns. At less than half a centimetre long, the tiny creature may be the smallest vertebrate.

The discovery adds to the work of 2700 scientists from 80 countries who just completed the first Census of Marine Life. The census increased the estimate of known species from 230,000 to 250,000, finding "an unanticipated riot of species, which are the currency of diversity".

A startling find is the "rare biosphere" of microbes - species surviving in numbers of less than one in 10,000. These tiny cohorts subsist among masses of a dominant competitor, apparently waiting and hoping that conditions will change to allow their moment on the evolutionary stage. They seem to be a planetary insurance policy so that even if nutrient or temperature conditions change over time, there will still be an abundance of microscopic sea life in the food chain.

Outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef have reduced by half over the past decade. Scientists have no way of explaining their pattern of aggression and regression but it is clear that runoff from the farmers of north Queensland is not the main culprit.

Our lack of perspective derives in part from shortness of memory. It is not possible to recall the five mass extinction events that have, independent of man, wiped out more than 90 per cent of all species that ever lived - only to be followed, in each case, by an explosion of new life. Virtually no large land animals survived the end Cretaceous mass extinction 65 million years ago. As global temperatures rose six to 14 degrees higher than current levels, most plants and tropical marine life were decimated but all life on earth today is descended from the 10 to 15 per cent of species that survived that terrible wipeout.

The alarmist claims of eco-warriors such as Al Gore have suggested melting polar ice caps will cause sea levels to rise by seven metres over the next century, with catastrophic results for coastal cities globally. The best guess of the United Nations climate panel says that sea levels will not rise more than half a metre in that period. The climate economist Richard Tol has shown that rising temperatures would actually deliver a range of benefits to the planet and to mankind, including reduced energy costs for many. For most of earth's 4.5 billion year history, life has developed most quickly, with the greatest diversity, in periods without ice caps.

Life on land continues to prove highly adaptable, too. For some time it was illegal to feed native birds in NSW. The authorities in Sydney realised that prohibiting feeding was simply removing birds from the cityscape and repressing a natural behaviour in humans. Recently, they relented. The lorikeets and kookaburras are back on balconies of Meriton Apartments, eating seed meal from Woolworths. It is no Arcadian idyll but it is successful adaptation.

Meanwhile, the government of China is taking responsibility for groundwater salinity and urban pollution with a determination that no other country could contemplate. Tokyo has adapted to man-induced subsidence of four metres over the past 70 years. Ingenious Dutch dykes and barrages have made habitable and productive a country with one-fifth of its landmass below sea level. Professor Bjorn Lomborg estimates that further adaptation to sea level rises over the next century will cost one-tenth of 1 per cent of Holland's gross domestic product.

This year's inundation has let the mouth of the Murray River spring back to life with death-defying audacity. Inflows in October were the highest in a decade. Shellfish middens dotting the dunes attest that this special place has sustained human and marine life throughout droughts and floods for 30,000 years.

While we obsess about a global price for carbon (without which there would be no life at all), we risk failing to respond adequately to soluble problems like why marine mammals beach or how to repel the European carp from Australian rivers and arrest the southern march of the cane toad. We can and must tackle the boring but important challenges of noxious weeds and feral cats. All are responsive to effort, ingenuity and leadership.

Humankind must be accountable for its ability to affect the quality of life of all species on the planet we share but let's admit it is not possible for 6 billion humans to live anywhere in a "steady state". Nature doesn't. We mustn't get depressed by the hellfire gloom of those trying to scare us into submission. The story of life on earth is one of stunning resilience, abundance and diversity.


Star warmists are ripping us off

By Andrew Bolt, commenting from Australia

DICK Smith and his two helicopters aren't just evidence that global warming is the first faith preached exclusively by hypocrites. Our petrol-powered greenie also demonstrates a bizarre chasm between private behaviour and public policy that should warn us we're being ripped off.

Smith, in a profile in Good Weekend on Saturday, once more banged his warmist drum. Having criss-crossed the world by chopper and private plane, the entrepreneur declared: "After my research, it is most likely that humans are affecting climate." Er, one human in particular, Dick.

As the same article made clear, few of us would have pumped out more emissions than Smith, even though he's the one claiming these gases are suffocating the planet. For instance: "He has a holiday house, a farm with a homestead, a large house with a swimming pool, two cars, a steam train and all that owning three separate households entails. "He's very open but for some reason refuses to confirm just how many aircraft he owns - there are at least two helicopters and a jet."

Smith objects that cutting back on his joy rides would "make no measurable difference", and change really had to come from governments. Decoded, that means governments must pass laws to force the rest of us to make the sacrifices Smith will not. Or put it this way: Smith wants governments to force up the bills for the power you need to cook dinner and wash the kids' clothes, but won't voluntarily cut down on his helicopter trips to watch birds.

You may say I've picked an extreme example, but how many would you like?

There's Virgin boss Sir Richard Brazen, for instance, who says we must cut our emissions, but then drops in to Brisbane in a private helicopter (yes, him, too) to flog his new line of business - joy rides into outer space.

Or take our own Alarmist of the Year, Tim Flannery, now a consultant for Brazen's gassy Virgin Galactic despite demanding we cut the emissions that "threaten civilisation as we know it".

Or how about Al Gore, the global warming billionaire, who says we must save the world by leaving a smaller footprint, yet recently bought his fourth big house. Or was it his fifth?

Then there's supermodel Gisele Bundchen becoming a United Nations environmental ambassador, then ordering herself a new 20,000sq ft home with a six-car garage, lagoon and lift.

Have I missed anyone? Oprah Winfrey, perhaps, who urges her viewers to "see what you can do to stop global warming", but then announces she'll fly 300 of them to Australia. She herself will probably take her private plane.

And how could I forget Laurie David, producer of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, the propaganda tape for the warming faithful, who admits: "Yes, I take a private plane on holiday a couple of times a year," but says she has the right attitude: "I feel horribly guilty."

Or director James Cameron, who sold his crazy environmental movie Avatar as a plea to "live with less", yet lives in a Malibu mansion with no less than six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a tennis court, a swimming pool, a guest house and an indoor cinema.

Sorry, but you shouldn't get me started about these celebrity warmists, each blinder than the last.

Take film star Jeremy Irons, who insists "people must drop their standard of living", while enjoying his six houses and a pink castle. Couldn't he at least paint the damn thing green?

But I won't go on. Point made. Well, half the point. Against the refusal of the loudest warming preachers to make observable sacrifices of their own, set the sacrifices demanded of much poorer taxpayers.

See, the thing about global warming is that it not just licenses closet totalitarians to design ways to force others to live more virtuously, but also excuses any harebrained scheme. After all, they're "saving" the planet. How could you question that great work?

And so one planet-saving scheme after another is proposed by governments that achieve nothing and cost a bomb - often so much, that even a Labor politician must finally choke.

Some examples? The NSW government last month had to slash a subsidy for solar panels to stop it from blowing out by $2.5 billion.

The Rudd government's own solar rebates had to be scrapped completely, along with the much-rorted [defrauded] "green loans" scheme and the "free insulation" disaster, in which $2.4 billion was frittered on often substandard or even lethal batts and foil.

Still going is the $100 million a year the Gillard Government is investing into the El Dorado of carbon capture - a quixotic scheme to catch and bury emissions of our power stations. Add the countless millions in subsidies and padded prices paid for wind power and you'll know part of the reason for your power bills soaring.

Rod Mills, head of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, explained it last week to the Labor-Greens carbon price committee: "Household solar and wind generation in particular ... are high-cost measures and ones where the cost is added to the bills of all electricity consumers."

Compare: making electricity with brown coal costs less than $40 a megawatt hour; with wind more than $100, and with solar about $300.

And the sick joke is that solar does little to stop any warming anyway. An Australian National University review of the scrapped federal scheme says it wasted $1 billion to cut our emissions by a microscopic 0.015 per cent, and mostly by importing solar panels from China.

All of it charged to you, dear reader, in the hope that because we're "saving the planet" you won't ask such awkward questions as "will it actually work?" and "how much will it cost?" and "are you out of your freaking mind?"

How else to explain the Gillard Government's "cash for clunkers" scheme, in which owners of old bombs will be paid up to $2000 if they scrap them and buy a "green" car instead. That works out to a lunatic $400 for each tonne of carbon dioxide "saved", even accepting the Government's own figures. Put that in context: the emissions trading scheme proposed by Kevin Rudd planned to start with an effective tax of just $23 a tonne.

Here's a tip for Smith and his kind. You think this joke can go on for much longer, with warming preachers belching hot air while everyone else must cork their own? If the planet really is threatened with warming doom, why don't you act like you believe it?

In truth, a Smith demonstrates the real question we must calmly consider: would each sacrifice we're told to make in fact make so much difference that we should make it? Hear that choppering high over your head? That's Smith's answer.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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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