Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Carbon Tax Miracle Cure

It's hard to know whether the theory below is satire or not. Either way, Mr Blinder is well named. He seems blind to the fact that increasing the cost of energy must hike costs of almost everyone and thus make most people poorer


What is this miraculous policy? It's called a carbon tax—really, a carbon dioxide tax—but one that starts at zero and ramps up gradually over time.

The timing is critical. With the recovery just starting—we hope—to gather steam, this is a terrible time to hit it with some big new tax. Hence, while the CO2 tax should be enacted now, it should be set at zero for 2011 and 2012. After that, it would ramp up gradually. Adapting some calculations from a recent paper by Prof. William Nordhaus of Yale, the tax might start at something like $8 per ton of CO2 in 2013 (that's roughly eight cents per gallon of gasoline), reach $25 a ton by 2015 (still just 26 cents per gallon), $40 by 2020, and keep on rising. I'd like to see it top out at more than $200 a ton in, say, 2040—which is higher than in Mr. Nordhaus's example.

But the time pattern is more important than the exact dates and numbers. What's critical is that we lock in higher future costs of carbon today. The key thing, as the president said, is that "businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling."

Think about what would happen. Once America's entrepreneurs and corporate executives see lucrative opportunities from carbon-saving devices and technologies, they will start investing right away—and in ways that make the most economic sense. I don't know whether all this innovation will lead to 80% of our electricity being generated by clean energy sources in 2035, which is the president's goal. But I can hardly wait to witness the outpouring of ideas it would unleash. The next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are waiting in the wings to make themselves rich by helping the environment.

Jobs follow investment, and we need jobs now. Even if our economy manages 4% growth for several years in a row, unemployment is destined to remain high for years. We have become accustomed to grading stimulus programs on their "bang for the buck." The 2009 Recovery Act, for example, was expected to cost $90,000-$100,000 for each job created. The "bang for the buck" from a phased-in carbon tax would be infinite at first: lots of jobs at zero cost to the federal budget.


No increase in extreme weather

Philip Angell of the World Resources Institute had a letter published in the New York Times this week blaming recent floods and droughts on global warming. He talks about a “new normal” of extreme weather events. Yet floods and droughts have occurred throughout the earth’s history, and likely always will. So what evidence do we have to support the frequently made assertion that global warming is causing alarming precipitation extremes?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks the frequency of floods and droughts. According to NOAA there has been no upward trend in extreme precipitation events (floods plus droughts) during the 20th century. Indeed, if there is any trend at all, it is a trend of less frequent floods and droughts. Not a single year in the past decade cracked NOAA’s Top 15 list for extreme precipitation events, and each of the top six years occurred prior to 1985.

Today’s media can certainly bring any drought, flood, or other noteworthy weather event directly into our homes, but that doesn’t mean that more such events are occurring lately or that global warming is to blame.


Missing Arctic Ice Causes Warm Dry Cold Wet Winters

There is more Arctic ice now than in 2006, which had a very warm December and January. We are told by leading climate experts that less ice means more cold, so we can logically infer that less ice brings warmcold, and more ice brings coldwarm.

Source of graph


Senators vow to strip Obama climate power

Conservative senators vowed Monday to strip President Barack Obama of his power to regulate greenhouse gases, in a move that would cripple US efforts on climate change if successful.
Eleven Republican senators introduced a bill that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, which scientists blame for global warming, without explicit approval by Congress.

Under Obama, the federal agency has steadily increased standards on gas emissions. The Republicans accused Obama of circumventing Congress, where a so-called "cap-and-trade" bill to mandate emission curbs died last year.

"My bill will shrink Washington's job-crushing agenda and grow America's economy," said Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming and skeptic of climate change who is leading the effort. "I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn't impose cap-and-trade policies in any form."

The Obama administration counters that a shift to green energy would help both the planet and the economy by creating a new source of high-paying jobs. Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts who led last year's climate bill, hit back that Barrasso's proposal "puts the public health at risk and encourages the outsourcing of American jobs."

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused the Republicans of doing the bidding of industrial emitters, saying: "The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters."

The Republicans swept November elections but the Democratic Party still controls the Senate and the White House, meaning that Obama can veto any effort to roll back powers on emissions. But the proposal is another sign that it will be virtually impossible for the Democrats to pass legislation on climate change, which failed to pass even when the party controlled the House of Representatives and held a wider majority in the Senate.

The battle in Congress leaves the Obama administration with a delicate task as it tries to persuade China and other growing polluters to agree to a global plan on greenhouse gases. Obama has pledged that the United States, the second largest emitter, will take action alongside other nations to fight climate change.


Does the IPCC Follow the Rules? Insiders Say ‘No’

We’ve been told many things about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that aren’t true. For example, IPCC reports are not based entirely on peer-reviewed literature (see here and here). Nor are they necessarily written by the world’s top experts (see here and here). Nor has the IPCC sought the input of thousands of scientists regarding the crucial question of whether or not humans are responsible for global warming. Rather, that determination was made by the authors of a single chapter of the 2007 IPCC report (out of a total off 44).

So it isn’t surprising that doubt is being cast on yet another IPCC claim. According to the catechism, one of the reasons we can be assured the IPCC is a neutral and objective body is because it isn’t in the business of producing original research. In the words of an explanatory page on its website, the IPCC “does not conduct any research” of its own. It merely assesses whatever material happens to be available.

Many IPCC insiders believe this to be the case. But others allege that the IPCC isn’t as arms-length as it claims to be. Last year 232 people answered a questionnaire distributed by an external committee investigating the IPCC. All their answers were released in a 678-page PDF here after their names were removed. The remarks below are those of IPCC insiders only – authors, review editors, and bureau members.

The person speaking on page two expresses the IPCC party line: "The IPCC does not (and should not) do any research…" Similar comments may be found on pages 58, 98, 206, 210 and 211.

Yet, according to a lead author whose remarks appear on page 188:
"…on a number of occasions the IPCC has been connected to [climate] model intercomparisons/harmonization and scenario development which border on research".

This person’s concern isn’t so much that the IPCC’s no-research rule is being violated, but that when this occurs, the research the IPCC has commissioned is given more weight than alternative findings: "Such research should not be given preferential treatment compared to other sources of research – there should be a level playing field and not favored models or groups…" (p. 188)

A second lead author volunteers that the IPCC: "…has at times, in my opinion, strayed into creating literature rather than assessing literature. I am thinking particularly of past special reports on emissions scenarios that generated “IPCC scenarios” rather than assessing scenarios [already available] in the literature" (p. 69)

This theme is confirmed by someone else who observes on page 322 that while the tables and graphs appearing in IPCC reports used to be copied from already-published studies (which had presumably received quality-assurance checks via the peer-review process), these exhibits are now more likely to be prepared “specifically for the IPCC reports.”

This means that some of the material the IPCC authors want to include has not, in fact, been published previously. Again, this person’s concern isn’t that the rules are being flouted. Rather, s/he tells us that the IPCC authors find it onerous to construct these exhibits themselves.

Apparently it doesn’t stop with graphs and charts. When information that IPCC authors wish to include in their chapter does not already exist in the peer-reviewed literature, some of them aren’t above arranging for it to be inserted there. Says one person: "Governments want the chapter to cover questions of current relevance for which there [is] often “grey literature” but little peer reviewed literature… An approach that has been used in such cases is that lead authors try to have material published in peer reviewed journals while they are drafting the IPCC chapter so that the published or in press article can be cited in the final draft of the IPCC chapter". (p. 68)

This is surely a no-no. If the public is being told the IPCC surveys only the currently-available literature, it’s surely cheating for IPCC authors to deliberately plant select information in journals.

This does, however, shed light on a curious discovery I made last year. The 2007 IPCC report references no less than 16 articles from a single issue of the journal Climatic Change. All told, there are 39 citations spread across four IPCC chapters. The difficulty is that this issue wasn’t published until May 2007. Which means it didn’t exist during the time period in which the IPCC report was being written and reviewed. (The last cut-off date for IPCC expert reviewer comments for the working groups involved was July 21, 2006. But 15 of these 16 papers weren’t even accepted for publication by the journal until two months later.)

As I wrote last May, this means there are at least 39 citations in the 2007 IPCC report that: "…don’t reference research papers the wider scientific community had already digested. They don’t even reference papers that were hot off the press. Instead, in 15 of 16 cases, no expert reviewer could possibly have evaluated these papers since they hadn’t yet been accepted for publication by the journal itself".

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some IPCC authors have been playing fast-and-loose with the rules – and that they may have been assisted in this regard by supposedly neutral academic journals. When one considers that many IPCC authors also fill senior positions at academic journals, a theoretical loophole starts to look like a potentially serious problem. Yet to my knowledge, the IPCC has never acknowledged that this sort of bad behaviour might be a concern.

The answers insiders provided to the questionnaire also highlight the fact that 22 years of ongoing IPCC reports (including 4 large assessments, with a fifth underway) have – inadvertently or not – begun to exert an influence on the kind of climate research that is judged to be necessary, relevant, and worthy of funding by governments and research institutes. For example, one coordinating lead author observes:

"I am greatly concerned that the current model is unsustainable. It produces serious burnout in the research community and consumes valuable resources for tasks such as running the SRES scenarios with high-resolution global climate models (GCMs). It is doubtful whether this rather routine task of running the scenarios, which is undertaken only because IPCC asks for it, is an optimal use of skilled GCM scientists and massive supercomputer power. In short, the current IPCC model places a severe burden on the research community". (p. 87)

More HERE (See the original for links)

Alarmists ignore basic physics

Both climate alarmists and so-called sceptics seem to agree that the recent devastating floods [in Australia] can be attributable, at least in part, to the La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean. Where the two groups differ is that alarmists are claiming or implying that human activity has also had a significant influence.

First we had Neville Nicholls, of Monash University and a former IPCC author, reported in various News Corporation outlets saying that while the link between the current “extreme La Nina event” and global warming was not clear, the record sea surface temperatures could not be disputed: "The only issue we do have with global warming is that the changes we see around Australia are partly to do with the oceans around Australia warming - it’s a pattern of La Nina - and this year they’re hotter than they’ve ever been."

Then on January 12, in a report titled “Scientists see climate change link to Australian floods”, Reuters quoted Matthew England, of the University of New South Wales: "I think people will end up concluding that at least some of the intensity of the monsoon in Queensland can be attributed to climate change … The waters off Australia are the warmest ever measured and those waters provide moisture to the atmosphere for the Queensland and northern Australia monsoon".

The same report paraphrases Kevin Trenberth, another IPCC Lead Author: "He said a portion, about 0.5C, of the ocean temperatures around northern Australia, which are more than 1.5C above pre-1970 levels, could be attributed to global warming".

You could be forgiven for getting the impression that a warmer atmosphere has caused the oceans to warm. Although only Trenberth is paraphrased as explicitly saying as much, the others seem to want to imply this.

Maybe their caveats and clarifications didn’t make it into print, or maybe there were none to begin with. Maybe they have forgotten their high school physics.

The simple fact is that according to the laws of physics, it is impossible for the atmosphere to warm any more than the top millimetre or two of the oceans. If the sea surface is made turbulent by winds then maybe a little more water will be heated, but when the ocean calms this heat will be quickly lost.

Warm air, like warm water rises. Think hot-air balloons. Cool air and cool water fall; just ask anyone who lives near the bottom of a large hill or mountain about winter nights.

If warm air touches the cold ocean then the top layer of water will warm. The air touching the water loses its heat and won’t rise because it’s now cooler than the air above. Likewise the top layer of water would be warmer than water beneath it, so it won’t fall. The warming process basically ceases before it has properly begun.

Nor can carbon dioxide warm the atmosphere directly. The radiation that it bounces back towards the Earth is absorbed in the first few thousandths of a millimetre of the ocean surface and almost immediately disappears in evaporation.

Maybe some volcanoes beneath the oceans cause a little warming but sunlight is the principal source of heat and it penetrates to around 100 metres in clear water. Clear skies and calm conditions could cause the warm oceans, just as they previously have done on the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a very different story when the heat goes from the oceans to the air.

When warm ocean water comes in contact with cooler air, the water loses heat and the air gains heat. The water in contact with the air is now colder than the water beneath it, so it falls away and is replaced by warmer water. The air in contact with the water is now warmer than the air above it, so it rises and is replaced by cooler air. The process continues because warm water keeps being exposed to cooler air.

On top of that the heat content of water is 3300 times that of air. This means that the heat stored in one metre depth of water is equivalent to the amount of heat that could be stored in air to a height of 3300 metres above the same area as the water. In practice it doesn’t work that way because temperatures won’t be constant in those volumes of water or air, but the principle is correct and shows why a little warm water can heat a lot of air.

The same principles can even account for the warming since the middle of the last century. The IPCC, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology all agree that El Nino conditions have dominated since 1976-7. La Nina events, such as the recent one, have become rare.

El Nino conditions occur when there’s little or no easterly wind in the Pacific and top 100 metres of the ocean warm, especially in the centre and western half of the ocean, and then this water in turn warms the air above. That air rises and is carried away from the tropics and ultimately warms much of the world.

La Nina conditions occur when the easterly winds push the warm surface water right across the Pacific, allowing cooler water to rise in its place. The heat is concentrated in the western Pacific, around the islands in south-east Asia. While the sea there still warms the air and it rises, the circulation takes it back above the equator to the eastern Pacific where it sinks. Because this air doesn’t spread from the equator and doesn’t act against intrusions of cold Polar air, the average global temperature is lower than with an El Nino.

The whole El Nino and La Nina system has operated for at least 125,000 years, so there’s nothing new here. Scientists haven’t found a cause of the abrupt shift in 1976 but there’s no reason to believe that it was anything other than natural. The rise in average global temperatures started shortly after that shift, driven both by warmer air and by the reduction in rainfall meaning that more energy from the sun could contribute to temperature and less to the evaporation of surface water.

Simple physics shows us that human activity is not to blame for the recent warming of the oceans around northern Australia and the same physics can account for the rise in average global temperatures that have been blamed on human activity.

The question that now bothers me is whether some of our luminaries of climate science have forgotten their basic physics or whether the media organisations distorted what they were told. Both alternatives are unhelpful and quite alarming.



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


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