Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Warmist economist scorns his country

Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economist. He criticizes the Australian character, as well he may, given his own defective character. His slavish acceptance of authority is very un-Australian. Australians are traditionally irreverent. No wonder he does not like his fellow Australians. He would have been wearing a brown uniform in Hitler's Germany

It's a sore test of faith when people put power bills before their children's future.

Like most people, I'm an instinctive optimist. In any case, I see no margin in pessimism. If you concluded the world was irredeemably wicked, or destined for certain destruction, what would be left but to curl up and die? Since we can never be certain the end is nigh, much better to keep living and keep plugging away for a better world.

I confess, however, I've needed all my optimistic instincts to avoid despair over the terrible hash we're making of the need to take effective action against global warming. We're showing everything that's unattractive about the Australian character.

We pride ourselves that Aussies are good in a crisis, but until the walls start falling in on us we couldn't reach agreement to shut the door against the cold.

This week's report from the Climate Commission - established to provide expert advice on the science of climate change and its effects on Australia - tells us nothing we didn't already know, but everything we've lost sight of in our efforts to advance our personal interests at the expense of the nation's.

Its 70 pages boil down to four propositions we'd rather not think about. First, there is no doubt the climate is changing. The evidence is clear. The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, and sea levels are rising. Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.

Second, we are already seeing the social, economic and environmental effects of a changing climate. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwave-associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfires.

Sea level has risen by 20 centimetres globally since the late 1800s, affecting many coastal communities. Another 20-centimetre increase by 2050 is likely, on present projections, which would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.

Third, these changes are triggered by human activities - particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation - which are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide the most important of these gases.

Fourth, this is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience. Without strong and rapid action, there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine society's prosperity, health, stability and way of life.....

Australians are proud of their inbuilt bulldust detectors, but on this issue they seemed to have turned them off, happily believing whatever self-serving nonsense politicians, business people and media personalities serve up to them.


The NYT has a small rush of honesty

Writing in relation to the Joplin, Mo. tornado

At least 122 people were killed when a tornado cut across Missouri and slammed into the city of Joplin on Sunday. The storm is the latest to ravage the Midwest and South this spring. As the search continues for the dead and injured, reporters from The Times answered readers’ questions. Some questions have been edited for space or combined with similar queries.

How bad has this year’s tornado season been, relative to other years?

Extraordinarily bad, even by historical standards. The death toll, now at more than 480, is the highest since 1953, when an outbreak of twisters across the Midwest and Northeast claimed 519 lives. The high death toll so far this year is all the more remarkable considering that early warning systems are in place throughout tornado country, made possible by the advent of Doppler radar. Many tornado experts believed that the advances in technology had greatly diminished the risk of mass tornado fatalities.

Since 1875, there have been just 15 years with more than 360 tornado deaths, and none since 1975. The single deadliest tornado year in the United States was 1925, with 794 fatalities. This year now ranks eighth on the list of deadliest tornado years.

Can the intensity of this year’s tornadoes be blamed on climate change?

Probably not. Over all, the number of violent tornadoes has been declining in the United States, even as temperatures have increased, making it likely that this year’s twister outbreak is simply a remarkable and terrifying — but natural — event.

Climate science has long predicted that global warming will cause more weather extremes, however, and statistics suggest this has started to happen. In most areas of the world where good weather data is available, instances of heavy precipitation are rising, often leading to flash flooding. And the same thing is true of heat waves; in the United States, new high-temperature records for a given date now occur twice as often as record lows.

That said, scientists are reluctant to attribute any specific weather event to global warming. And, at least so far, only a handful of studies have suggested that tornadoes are likely to become more frequent or more intense on a warming planet; this has not become a mainstream prediction within climate science.


Apocalypse Later?

As virtually everyone now knows, Saturday was supposed to be doomsday, according to the formerly obscure geezer Harold Camping. Search terms related to his prediction consistently led Internet rankings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- except for the hour or two after Kate Gosselin was fined $10,300 for stiffing a marriage counselor.

Politicians must be envious of Camping's spectacular publicity. A quick Yahoo search of "Obama kills bin Laden" yielded only 297 thousand hits, while "Harold Camping" scored 36.1 million. And Mr. Camping didn't have to spend billions on CIA spies and a SEAL team to get his notoriety. He probably doesn't even own a stealth helicopter.

Interviews with Mr. Camping and clips of his TV program seem to show that he was absolutely certain of the impending apocalypse. As LiveScience reported on Friday:

Sociologists and doomsday experts agree that Camping is likely convinced of doomsday rather than perpetuating a hoax or running a scam. A con artist, Hassan said, would never set himself up for failure by giving a firm date.

That highlights the paradox confronting leaders of the "green" cult. On one hand, declaring a specific date for their predictions of environmental apocalypse would signal their sincerity, yet all such past predictions have failed to materialize. On the other hand, if they play it safe and issue only vague doomsday warnings, an intelligent observer would correctly conclude that they merely are grifters or maternal control freaks.

Like Mr. Camping, the green cult leaders have issued plenty of embarrassingly false doomsday predictions. Here are just a few:

Accelerating baby boom will lead to mass starvation in the United States

Of course the exact opposite happened: birthrates fell while food production and gluttony rose. Ironically, the leftist doomsday prophets would have been better off had their birthrate prediction come true. With a fast-growing US population, their Social Security Ponzi scheme still would be thriving rather than losing money.

Adding to the irony, the resulting labor shortage (and leftist minimum wage laws) triggered an influx of 15-20 million young illegal aliens. As low-income unskilled laborers, they pay few or no taxes while consuming a disproportionate amount of public education, Medicaid, and food stamp social spending, threatening to bankrupt those leftist programs too.

The irony is even more delicious in Western Europe. There, the self-absorbed socialist cult followers have birthrates even lower than those in the US. They also work less, take longer vacations, and retire earlier. To fill the worker void, they opened their doors to millions of high birthrate Muslims, which inevitably will become majorities and turn many European countries into militant theocracies -- not quite the utopia that the pacifist social engineers expected. Also, Islamic Sharia doesn't allow interest on debt, and socialism can't survive without massive deficit spending.

The earth's protective ozone layer will disappear, threatening humans

Conspiracy theorists think DuPont was behind this scare. Supposedly, its Freon patent was about to expire and the firm wanted to introduce a more expensive replacement product that theoretically would not deplete the ozone layer. There's no proof of such a conspiracy, but it certainly would be delightful if it were true: anti-capitalist leftists duped into acting as useful idiots for capitalists. Similarly, could the nuclear power industry be orchestrating the carbon dioxide scare?

Like "the population bomb," "the ozone hole" no longer seems to be as trendy among the green cultists as "manmade global warming." Perhaps that proves the Freon conspiracy theory. Or perhaps someone pointed out that stratospheric ozone is synthesized by sunlight and the con artists measuring the ozone hole were traveling to Antarctica in August, after it had been dark there for three months.

Non-renewable energy sources will be used up by 1990...uh, 2010...make that 2030...

Current known reserves of oil will last about a century and estimates continue to grow. Coal and natural gas will be economical for many centuries. And simply ending Jimmy Carter's foolish ban on nuclear fuel reprocessing would expand the amount of available reactor fuel to cover our needs for about ten centuries.

If those forecasts are wrong and energy sources actually are scarcer, then a force more powerful and virtuous than government automatically will correct the problem. That natural force is price. As energy prices rise, consumption will fall until alternatives are found. After 30 years of trying, the US Department of Energy has failed to produce any viable alternatives, but history repeatedly shows that free enterprise can accomplish such feats in only a tiny fraction of that time, at zero taxpayer expense.

Meanwhile, leftist maternal control freaks mindlessly demand that the government artificially raise energy prices via taxation and regulation. In 2008, candidate Obama vowed to do precisely that to the coal industry. But without a one-world government, such a scheme simply drives businesses to countries that have lower energy taxes. For instance, the US currently exports coal to China, where it is burned to make electricity. That cheap energy then is used to build products for export back to the United States. Considering the amount of fuel wasted in shipping raw materials and finished goods halfway around the planet, "green" energy taxes and regulations undoubtedly cause more, not less global energy consumption.

Global warming will kill our grandchildren

In a few years, the leftists undoubtedly will have to acknowledge that false prophesy too. Perhaps they will channel Harold Camping in their apology:

Dear grandchildren: Although the oceans have been rising by a foot or two per century since the most recent ice age ended, we leftists created taxes and regulations projected to reduce the rise from 18 inches to 17.9 inches over the 21st century. Of course, then another mini ice age struck the planet and the ocean levels actually fell, but at least our intentions were good. Turns out, climate change simply is caused by sunspots. Gosh, are we embarrassed!

By the way, don't forget to pay the bill for all of our pointless efforts: At last count, it was a little over 50 trillion dollars in deficit spending for windmills, luxury electric sports cars for leftist movie stars, lost economic productivity, and massive unemployment. Sorry about that.

But hey, it's not the end of the world.


Al Gore Got ‘D’ in ‘Natural Sciences’ at Harvard

Warmists never stop criticizing the credentials of skeptics so the summary below may be a useful reminder

In his commencement speech at Hamilton College on Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore told the graduates that global warming is “the most serious challenge our civilization has ever faced.” But as an undergraduate at Harvard University in the late 1960s, Gore--one of the most prominent spokesmen on climate change today--earned a “D” in Natural Sciences.

Gore’s transcript documents that during his sophomore year at Harvard he earned a "D" in Natural Sciences 6 (Man’s Place in Nature). Also, as a senior at Harvard, he earned a C-plus in Natural Sciences 118.

Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on global warming.

For his college board achievement tests, Gore earned a 488 (out of 800) in physics, and a 519 (out of 800) in chemistry. Gore’s academic records were first obtained and reported on by reporters David Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima at The Washington Post in March 2000.


A conservative economist sees the problem

He claims to believe in global warming -- whether for real or as a stratgem, who knows? -- but he shows well what is missing from Green/Left thinking. I guess that both he and the Green/Left know that it is politically (and probably physically) impossible to do more than huff and puff about global temperature control

Ideally, both sides will agree that this is a bad situation.
Suppose you believe, as I do, in basic conservative principles (free enterprise and a market economy, limited government, and minimal change in established institutions that work well), but also acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change presents a sufficient danger that something needs to be done about it. The risk is that even as little as 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) of warming might push one of a number of different Earth systems past a tipping point that is both catastrophic and irreversible. In other words, the problem is one of risk management, in which prudence calls for taking action before it is too late to make a mid-course correction. What would be a conservative response to this threat?

It is unfortunate that the climate issue has been co-opted by liberals, because conservative policy prescriptions would not be the same as those that have been put forward by the Democrats and their allies among the environmental groups. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2010 (then died in the Senate) was a 1,400-page monstrosity; it catered to special interests, placed undue burdens on people with low incomes, and had no connection to a coherent U.S. international negotiating strategy on climate. Just as misguided is the EPA's intention to regulate CO2 as a pollutant by executive fiat -- a scheme that also is inefficient, non-transparent, and regressive. Virtually all economists would agree that either approach is inferior to a well-designed carbon tax or auctioned emissions permits, with revenues returned to citizens on a per capita basis or used to cut other taxes.

Neither domestic cap-and-trade nor the command-and-control regulatory approach of the Democrats recognizes the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Whatever the United States does will be ineffective unless there is global action. The cornerstone of a conservative climate policy has to be to foster emissions reductions everywhere. The United States should exercise leadership because we have the world's largest economy, but we cannot solve this problem alone. What is needed is less social tinkering within the U.S., and more old-fashioned realpolitik, an approach that ought to be the hallmark of conservatism in foreign affairs. We need to recognize the interaction of the interests of other nations large and small, and fashion policies that will alter the international political and economic landscape to our benefit.

The necessity for international action is purely a matter of arithmetic. The "non Annex I" countries as defined by the Kyoto Protocol -- with a few exceptions the developing countries that are not in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the former East Bloc -- now account for more than half of total global CO2 emissions, and by 2050, under business as usual the non-Annex I countries will emit three times the CO2 of the OECD, according to International Energy Agency projections. China is already the largest single emitter of CO2.

The key question for the U.S. is, what would induce other countries to make the large-scale emissions reductions required to avoid the risk of reaching one of the tipping points that most concern climate scientists? Won't free-riding and the development imperative driving China, India, and the other rapidly-growing countries doom any attempt at coordinated global action?

Perhaps not. The fact is that any one of the big countries or groups of countries -- the U.S., China, India, the E.U., or Japan -- can by itself drive the climate into the danger zone. This reality transforms the international negotiations from something that looks like the Prisoner's Dilemma (in which the temptation for free-riding is overwhelming) into a coordination problem. In a coordination problem, one of the stable outcomes is that all major countries reduce their emissions because it is not in their individual interest to continue polluting and thereby risk climate catastrophe. A Prisoner's Dilemma-type equilibrium, in which all countries continue to pollute, is also possible, so a negotiated agreement to reduce emissions is needed to reach the optimal outcome in which all countries abate. The good news is that such an agreement, once achieved, would be "self-enforcing" because it would be in no country's interest to defect from it.


The Australian Labor Party gives thumbs up for coal

RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has slapped down a demand by the Greens for a ban on new coalmines, declaring the coal industry has a bright future as a driver of economic prosperity, despite moves to tackle climate change.

Mr Ferguson has also championed the emerging coal-seam methane industry, which the Greens also oppose. He noted that if Australia abandoned coal and coal-seam gas exports, its customers would be forced to use lower-quality coal from overseas that would cause greater global levels of carbon pollution.

And as the minister accused the Greens of trying to "undermine and destroy" jobs and export revenue, one of Julia Gillard's hand-picked climate change commissioners warned that a sudden phase-out of coalmining would spark economic and social chaos.

Economist Roger Beale, a member of the Prime Minister's Climate Commission, which is charged with promoting rational debate on climate change, told a forum in Canberra that coal would be a part of world energy production for decades.

"So coal is with us," Mr Beale told a Climate Commission forum. "We can produce coal close to the markets that are demanding it. And we can do it in an efficient way. And it is high thermal-efficiency coal and it's generally low-sulphur coal."

Mr Beale's comments came as senior Labor Party sources scoffed at the Greens' demands on coal and said no Labor government would be "silly enough" to embrace the end of an industry that provided tens of thousands of jobs, often in areas traditionally favourable to Labor.

The Greens have lately sharpened their anti-coal rhetoric as they continue their negotiations with the Prime Minister about the design of a carbon tax.

Ms Gillard agreed to work with the Greens on the issue after last year's election produced a hung parliament, forming a multi-party committee to give the minor party input in return for its support for her minority government.

On Monday, Greens deputy leader Christine Milne, who favours a swift switch to renewable energy sources and believes lost jobs would be replaced by clean energy jobs, made clear she had no patience for a long transition away from fossil fuels.

"The Greens have said very clearly: no new coalmines, no extension of existing coalmines; let's invest in renewables - the technology exists," Senator Milne said. She also attacked the emerging coal-seam gas industry as "a disaster for Australia", despite it creating thousands of jobs.

Mr Ferguson yesterday rejected the Greens' view, issuing an unambiguous vote of confidence in the resources sector. "Not only does the coal-seam methane export industry have a great potential for Australia over the next 10 to 20 years, but so has the coal sector, and I might say the iron ore sector," he said. "That's despite, I might say, when it comes to coal-seam methane, LNG and the coal industry, the best endeavours of the Greens to undermine and destroy that industry in Australia."

In a veiled attack on the Greens' contention that jobs lost could be replaced by new positions in the renewable sector, Mr Ferguson said coal and coal-seam gas would deliver "real jobs and training opportunities" and "real export earnings" that would strengthen the overall national economy. Later, Mr Ferguson told The Australian that Australian coal was relatively clean by international standards and, if its exports ceased, customers such as China would be forced to use coal that would discharge greater levels of carbon.

Earlier, Mr Beale, the executive director of economics and policy at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Climate Commission forum - staged to promote rational debate based on facts - Australia needed to accept "the hard fact" that coal would be an unavoidable part of the global energy mix for up to the next three decades.

Mr Beale, a former secretary of the Department of Environment and Heritage and a lead author for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the answer to reducing carbon emissions was providing incentives for the market to drive change at a pace that was economically and socially sustainable.

"If we simply cut coal off, we would have economic and social chaos," Mr Beale said.

"These things shouldn't be planned, they should emerge through an efficient marketplace, and that will get you the best-paced, best adjustment, providing around the world we are given the right incentives to use coal in as clean a manner as is possible."

Mr Beale said the coal industry would continue to grow and remain an important power source for the world.

Shutting down the Australian industry, he said, would not necessarily "save the world" because its customers would simply take their business elsewhere.

Yesterday's forum came as several Labor Party MPs, asking not to be named, said that Labor was realistic enough to know that agreeing to the Greens' positions on coal would be politically unsustainable.

They said Labor had lost seats in mining areas in last year's federal election, such as the Queensland seats of Flynn and Dawson, and understood it wold not regain the seats if it shut down the industries that underpinned their local economies. "We want to do the right thing by the environment, but we're not silly enough to put people out of work, particularly when they are our supporters," said one Labor backbencher.

"Everything I am hearing from our leaders is that we want to put in place a process that will allow the market to drive the changes. So we are hardly going to tell people they can't build new coalmines." Another MP said it would be "political suicide" to embrace the Greens' position.

"At some point, the Greens will have to moderate their demands," the MP said. "I'm hoping they will be realistic enough to accept they can't have everything."

Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson said Senator Milne's attack on the coal-seam gas industry was a risk to the transition to a low-emissions economy. "Outright opposition to viable and sensible energy options . . . impedes the thoughtful and intelligent energy debate that we need to have," she said.



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1 comment:

slktac said...

I find the analogy of an 800 lb gorilla very strange. I always thought escape was the only option (gorillas don't negotiate and how long can you pacify a gorilla?)

It is interesting that agreements to cut carbon emissions are the answers we come up with to climate change. How about agreements to stop buying cheap crap that causes pollution in countries we don't seem to care about and start buying higher quality items produced in less damaging ways? How about giving grants to scientists to figure out how to remove pollutants from the air or use resources more efficiently? Let the market drive the improvements.
Does reward outstrip punishment? It might, if we actually tried it. I doubt it could lead to any less of a mess than we have now. Manufacturing and consumption practices will not change overnight--even if it means a catastrophe if they don't. People don't work that way. So try rewards instead of flogging.