The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently adopted a major new policy for overseeing conflicts of interest among its leaders and authors. I was very supportive of the proposed policy when it was first announced. But according to several, independent colleagues inside and outside of the IPCC, the organization still has a major decision to make on the proposed policy -- when does it come into effect?
The question that the IPCC apparently has yet to resolve is whether the new policy is to apply to participants in its fifth (current) assessment report or whether to defer application of the new policy until subsequent reports. This looming decision has -- as far as I can tell -- not been reported or openly discussed. (If the details on this decision that have been reported to me are incorrect, IPCC officials invited to set the record straight.)
The challenge faced by the IPCC is significant. Under the adopted policy it is inconceivable that its current chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, could continue to serve. Presumably, other participants would also fail to meet the high standards of the new policy. This would mean major change in the organization.
But if the IPCC decides to defer application of the new policy to future assessment reports it will risk being labelled unaccountable and even a farce by making a mockery of conflict of interest. A third option of implementing the policy but not enforcing it is possible, but seems unlikely, given the complete loss of credibility that would result.
What will the IPCC do? There is no easy choice. But at this point, does anyone really care?
2011 Still Cool
The HadCrut3 global temperature is now available for April so we have the first third of the year available. So far we have this year;
January (temp anomaly 0.215). Cooler than 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1995, 1992, 1991, 1988. Note: 2000 = 0.210 so it was essentially equal to 2011.
February (temp anomaly 0.275). Cooler than 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1995. Note: 1991 = 0.272. 1987 = 0.266. 1973 = 0.263.
March (temp anomaly 0.328). Cooler than 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1990.
April (temp anomaly 0.396). Cooler than 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998.
This shows that 2011 has had an exceptionally cold start to the year – possibly the coldest for over a decade. January is the 15th coldest, February the 13th, March, the 14th and April the 9th.
Compare these months to the same months in 2010.
January (temp anomaly 0.599) was the 5th warmest.
February (temp anomaly 0.462) was the 6th warmest.
March (temp anomaly 0.569) was the 2nd warmest.
April (temp anomaly 0.599) was the warmest.
Last year the El Nino boosted temperatures. This year La Nina has cooled them. This did not stop some claiming that 2010 would be a record year because of global warming. I predict that if 2011 turns out to be exceptionally cold it will be because of the La Nina. It seems that to some if it’s hotter than average it’s man-made global warming, but if it’s cooler it’s a natural fluctuation.
May Arctic sea ice update: 3,500 more Manhattans of ice than 7 years ago
Average ice extent for May 2011 was 12.79 million square kilometers (4.94 million square miles). This is 210,000 square kilometers (81,000 square miles) above the previous record low for the month, set in May 2004 ....
Arctic weather in the next few months will be a critical factor in how much ice remains at the end of the melt season. New research led by James Screen at the University of Melbourne shows that the storms that move northwards into the Arctic from the lower latitudes during summer strongly influence sea ice extent at the end of summer. Years with dramatic ice loss, such as 2007, have been associated with comparatively warm, calm, and clear conditions in summer that have encouraged ice melt. Summers with slow melt rates are opposite and tend to be stormier than average. The number of storms influences how warm, windy and cloudy the Arctic summer is.
Wind power in political trouble?
Almost as soon as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went critical, Fox News reported that wind power had killed more Americans than nuclear energy. Meanwhile, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, issued a study that said the state's taxpayers would be $28 billion better off if Texas abandoned its pro-wind policies.
Wind, after being the darling of the media, business and state governments for much of its history, has suddenly found itself on the receiving end of negative publicity, questions about its value as an energy source and even calls for an end to wind development. The feel-good "green" story, according to the New York Times, "is now nearing extinction."
Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, all considered wind-friendly states, have recently pursued policies that can be seen as anti-wind.
Some of this shift is due to the industry's natural maturation process, according to David Lowman, an attorney who is co-chair of Hunton & Williams' global renewable energy practice group in Washington, D.C.
Some of the backlash against wind also stems from the recession, which has not only hampered wind development but has made even previously wind-friendly regulators and legislators question its cost at a time when state and federal budgets are being slashed.
The pushback, says attorney Jim Tynion, who chairs Foley & Lardner's energy industry team, is genuine and something that the industry needs to address.
The acrimony is being powered by a combination of small-government conservatives who see wind and other renewables as a waste of money and by others who consider wind a technology that will never be as effective as oil, coal or natural gas.
During a Texas ground-breaking ceremony for an oil and gas processing company, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told KSAT in San Antonio, "I understand that some people want to see green jobs; I think that's great. We need all of the above when it comes to energy: wind, solar, biofuels and the like. But the fact of the matter is 85 percent of our fuel consumption comes from fossil fuels."
Cornyn's comments underscore the political realities that wind energy faces.
"The political landscape has changed," Tynion says. "It's easy to take potshots at something that isn't part of the status quo, like wind. It has become an easy target."
Certainly, not all has gone badly for wind. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that the U.S. wind power industry grew by 15% in 2010 and provided more than one-quarter of all new electric-generating capacity. Also, California, despite its fiscal problems, will require one-third of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.
But those are the bright spots. Some dark ones include the following:
- The Wisconsin State Legislature is considering a bill that would restrict the development of approximately $500 million worth of projects over the next two years. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Republican Gov. Scott Walker says wind costs too much and impedes on rural property rights. The legislature voted in March to suspend wind farm siting rules. The five-to-two vote tracked along party lines, with all five votes to suspend coming from Republican members;
- Texas comptroller, Republican Susan Combs, has decried wind as an expensive boondoggle that does not produce jobs. The state's GOP-controlled legislature may limit the ability of local school districts to give tax abatements, which wind advocates in the state say will limit development in rural areas; and
- The 2012 extension of the production tax credit could be in jeopardy, given the budgetary concerns on Capitol Hill. Jon Chase, vice president of government relations for Vestas-American Wind Technology, told an AWEA finance and budget workshop in April, "All the credits out there are going to be looked at very closely. Everything is going to be on the table."
"There are politicians who can make political hay by playing to that constituency," says Tom Konrad, who manages several green energy stock portfolios and is editor of AltEnergyStocks.com.
As part of this political footwork, Konrad says rhetoric debunking climate change has increased markedly over the past several years, more or less in relation to how many Americans believe that climate change actually exists. If fewer Americans believe in climate change, fewer Americans will support wind and other renewables, he says.
This goes a long way toward explaining the difference in the current political and media attitude toward wind compared to just a couple of years ago. Also important, say wind industry analysts, has been the length and depth of the recession, both in how it has slowed development and made consumers more wary of higher energy prices.
Whether or not some of these concerns may be warranted, says Tynion, the wind business should not discount the change in the political climate. "Politicians and state regulators are withdrawing their support for wind across the board," he says, citing the Wisconsin controversy as a prime example.
Walker's proposed legislation would overturn a siting compromise three years in the making, says Tynion, adding that the compromise seemed to satisfy everyone involved - developers, rural landowners and regulators.
The war on air conditioning
With summer upon us and temperatures rising, we should stop and thank our lucky stars for air conditioning — and wish upon the same stars that government won't destroy it, because it seems to be trying to do so.
Willis Haviland Carrier invented the modern air conditioner in 1902. Thomas Midgley Jr. created the first chlorofluorocarbon gas, Freon, in 1928. America got its first exposure to air conditioning at the movie theater in the 1930s during the heyday of motion pictures. After the Hoover/Roosevelt Depression and WWII were over, Americans indulged in the new technology and applied it to factories, office buildings, homes, and eventually automobiles. It was quickly noticed that air conditioning significantly increased worker productivity.
The technology and all the products based on it had a transformative effect on American life and society. Not only does air conditioning provide comfort; it also provides new possibilities in architecture, manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture. It permits good living conditions in areas that would otherwise be intolerably hot and humid, such as Dallas, Houston, and Orlando.
In architecture, buildings can be larger and thicker because window ventilation is unnecessary. We can also build higher because window ventilation is impracticable at skyscraper heights. These advantages allow us to conserve on land and live in denser concentrations. Air conditioning also allows for new styles of architecture, because windows are no longer required. Museums can be built anywhere that will effectively conserve our treasures and art for many generations longer. Prior to air conditioning, museums and libraries could not be located in hot and humid areas without risking weather-related degradation to its holdings.
Modern air conditioning was invented for the purpose of providing the correct temperature and humidity for advanced printing technology. Air conditioning was also important for improving textile production, hospital surgeries, plant and animal breeding, power plants, and of course the clean rooms used in the production of computer chips, pharmaceuticals, and bioengineering. The data centers that we all depend on are only possible because of air conditioning.
Most forms of transportation also rely on air conditioning. Air-conditioned cars and trucks allow us to travel on highways at high speeds with little net energy consumption and keep our cool. Passenger travel by planes and high-speed trains are also only possible because of air conditioning. We can go farther and faster, all in comfort, thanks to air conditioning.
Want Clean Air? Try Air Conditioning.
AC has been a boon to our health. Not only is it important for eliminating germs and viruses in surgical rooms; it also reduces infant mortality, improves recovery times, and has reduced the number of heat-related deaths in big cities. In fact the first attempt to invent the modern air conditioner was by a physician from Apalachicola, Florida, who wanted to be able to provide relief for his patients from the high heat and humidity.
Remarkably, the cost of air conditioning plummeted over the decades. The cost of air conditioning units declined, and they became increasingly reliable, safe, and efficient in turning electricity into relief from heat and humidity.
That is until recently. Twenty years ago I had an air-conditioning system (i.e., heat pump, HVAC system) installed in a house that was almost 1,000 square feet for $1,600. I just got the preliminary estimate, not an actual bid, to replace a system on a similarly sized house for $11,000. Not surprisingly, this is the reason for this article.
EH.net provides you with six ways to compare dollar values in the past to dollar values in the present. The lowest estimate for $1,600 (1991 dollars) was $2,670 the high was $4,040. Two other anecdotes from friends indicate a doubling or tripling of the overall cost of heat-pump systems in nominal terms over the same time period.
Naturally, my first instinct was that the government had somehow fouled up this market like everything else. Or as Glenn Fry wrote in his 1984 hit song, "The shadows are on the darker side. Behind those doors, it's a wilder ride." In this case, it is government bureaucrats and environmentalists behind this door, in the shadows, on the dark side. I suspect some manufacturers and patent holders probably played some role along with the dealers and installers' associations.
In 2006, the Department of Energy required that heat pumps and central air conditioners meet an efficiency rating of 13 SEER or about a 60 percent increase over existing equipment. Equipment that is rated 13 SEER is also much larger and heavier than previously existing equipment so that most homes require substantial and costly modifications to the coil, electrical, gas lines, line sets, concrete pads, stands, plenum, transitions, valves, and more. This newly designed equipment is naturally thought to be less reliable, and to have a shorter life expectancy, than existing technologies.
Starting in 2010, the government began phasing out the preferred refrigerant, Freon R-22, in order to meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol. Freon R-22 was the most efficient refrigerant for many years. Ironically, the transition from Freon to subsequent refrigerants coincided roughly with the expiration of DuPont's patent on Freon and the establishment of their new patents on replacement refrigerants. The justification for replacing Freon R-22 is that it is thought by some to harm the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.
Having bigger, more complicated machines running on a less efficient refrigerant is a recipe for inefficiency. For example, every additional pound the machines weigh requires a lot of energy. It takes 6.2 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity to turn alumina into one pound of aluminum (just the smelting process) and of course it take lots of energy to turn bauxite into alumina, to mine and transport the bauxite, and to ship the aluminum to market. Even though much of the aluminum we use today is recycled, the production of aluminum still uses more than 1 percent of America's electricity.
In summary, the government has taken a wonderful product of the market that produced a highly positive transformation on human life — a product that was becoming safer, cheaper, and much more efficient over time — and turned it into something that is more expensive and less efficient overall.
Just think: if the Fed had not caused a housing bubble, there would be millions of fewer homes to heat and cool. Most of those excess homes were built bigger than ever, way out in the suburbs in precisely those places that absolutely require air conditioning, like central California, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida.
With summer temperatures headed higher, air-conditioning systems will be failing across the country. Poor people and people who have lost their jobs in the Bush/Obama depression are unlikely to be able to pay for these very expensive systems in the event that theirs break down. For them it will be one giant 80-year step back in history to the time before air conditioning, the Great Depression.
The opening of the third front – Particulates!
The way to bring down a modern state is to attack its energy, manufacturing and transport systems, hence the dam busters and the bombing of German railways and factories during the Second World War. Nowadays, however, developed nations are under attack from the Enemy Within, the neo-Marxist Greenies. Greenpeace, which in its inchoate form was a fairly straight environmental campaigning group, was soon taken over by political extremists and after its conversion to an apocalyptic vision lost original members such as Patrick Moore; but over time this has also happened to other mainstream parties.
The UK is the world basket case in this respect (witness the passing without comment of the destructive carbon tax, which is being strongly resisted in other western countries) and almost the entire British political class have become true believers. Nevertheless, countries far apart in both distance and character, such as Australia and Germany , are manoeuvred relentlessly by their green parliamentary minorities in the direction of economic suicide.
Carbon is the focus. Even the extreme greenies were not so bold as to declare war directly on energy, manufacturing and transport, so they launched a proxy war on this wholly benign atom, which is directly involved in those essential entities. Their motivation is revealed by the fact that they consistently oppose all realistic energy sources and support only impractical ones.
The first front
The first war front was opened under the guise of Global Warming, later transmogrified into Climate Change, Climate Catastrophe etc. This apocalyptic theory, based on tenuous logic, implausible computer models and dubious data, rapidly became dominant in world politics. Fortuitously it was convenient to a wide range of interests; the world government movement, the authoritarian socialist movement, those who promoted the transfer of wealth (from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries) various individuals and corporations (who saw it as an unparalleled money spinner), the new spate of environmental editors and journalists, finance ministers looking for new excuses to raise taxes and politicians of various shades eager to take a ride on the coat-tails of what had metamorphosed into the most powerful propaganda machine in human history.
The activists in the new movement had adopted the method of Trotskyite Entryism, but took it far beyond anything Trotsky envisaged. They penetrated and took control of political parties, establishment media organisations and leading scientific institutions. Initially richly funded by various trusts and gullible subscribers, they later found ways of diverting taxpayers’ money to their cause (so the EU, for example, gave money to the green groups to enable itself to be lobbied by them). Control of the media and scientific publications enabled them to establish The Censorship, which successfully prevented any critical discussion of the theory and data on which The Belief was based and starved any doubters of public funding.
There was one little flaw in this impeccable construct – the internet. Chance had it that, just as the Faithful had established a firm grip on all official sources of information, new technology provided a voice to those outside the charmed circle. Disenfranchised groups, such as older scientists trained in the traditional sceptical scientific method and younger newcomers resistant to being dictated to, began to examine the detail of the theories and the provenance of the data purported to support them. What they found was a can of worms about which they were able to compare notes and circulate critiques. The response from the new establishment was a torrent of invective and ad hominem attacks on the infidels.
It is impossible for anyone outside the traditional world of science to understand the shock that such grotesque behaviour caused. Disputes had hitherto been resolved by debate, often passionate but always polite. Suddenly the public conduct of science had become thuggish. Furthermore, activists within the political and bureaucratic establishment were diverting funding away from the natural progress of science and towards the new cuckoos in the nest. Claims by the outsiders of manipulation of editorial content of journals, and particularly the operation of the peer review process, were ridiculed by the new breed of environmental editors as being devoid of evidence.
Then occurred the potentially cataclysmic event that became (unimaginatively) known as Climategate. One who was either a great human benefactor or a vile robber (depending on your point of view) released into the public domain a large selection of files, including e-mails, from the computers of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia . This unit had been specifically set up by a British Government to create evidence in favour of the global warming hypothesis (quite the inverse of the scientific method). It in turn was instrumental in creating the UN IPCC, a powerful international body that produced heavily biased reports in favour of the belief that human release of carbon dioxide would cause catastrophic global warming.
The Climategate files (and especially the e-mails) showed that everything (and more) claimed by the infidels was true. The CRU and its allies around the world had been engaged in a systematic corruption of science. This included deliberate misrepresentation of data (Hiding the Decline) and ruthless suppression of dissenting views. There was initial panic among the New Establishment, but The Censorship largely held fast and the general public knew little of what had been going on. The subsequent official whitewash was so crude and prejudiced that it invited nothing but ridicule, but it is a testament to solidity of the establishment (and particularly the media) that the potential tsunami passed off with scarcely a ripple. There had, however, been a serious wobble and this led to:
The opening of the second front
The attack on carbon dioxide was faltering. Even the most unscientific of lay people were beginning to realise that all the projected catastrophes that they had been warned about for more than a decade and a half had simply not come about. Opinion polls showed that global warming had drifted down the scale of human worries and was in danger of dropping off the end. True belief was becoming restricted to the activists and their allies among the political class and the media. What was needed was another line of attack that was not so dependent on something that anyone could monitor.
So Ocean Acidification was invented. The name is, inevitably, somewhat hyperbolic, as the alleged phenomenon is but a marginal reduction in the alkalinity of sea water, which varies with altitude and other geographic features. The launch of the alarm was characteristically accompanied by a demand for billions of dollars of funding for the work of “the scientists”. As in the case of global warming, this would require an enormous data collection system to find evidence for the alleged change.
The link from absorption of carbon dioxide to impending devastation was a tenuous one. It depended on various marine animals being unable to form shells under acidic conditions. It is simply not true that shells cannot be made in an acid environment (This author once kept a tropical fish aquarium with water that was deliberately acidified to enhance the colours of the fish, for which that was the natural environment. The plant collection was completely destroyed by the accidental introduction of live-bearing snails, which had no difficulty in making shells.)
Carbonic acid is a weak one and a solution of, say, sodium bicarbonate is alkaline. It is as always, however, the measurements that are the weak point. The pH of the oceans varies from place to place and the contours of distribution are not fixed, while appending the term “acidification” to a mere alleged change of pH from 8.2 to 8.1 is, to say the least, tendentious. Even if it were true, comparing modern measurements with data from 1800 is a dubious practice and such a change could have a variety of possible causes (that year, for example, represented the last knockings of the Little Ice Age). The great weakness from the alarmist point of view, however, is that the scare is rather remote from the experiences and potential fears of the general public.
And so the third front
Many lines of attack in the proxy war have been mooted and some further promoted. As we have seen, one of them was identified and funded about fifteen years ago, but has recently sprung to life . This was based on sub-microscopic particles (implicitly of carbon) in the atmosphere that we breathe. Considering the scale of investment of funds, the data seem to be rather sparse and nebulous. Old canards, such as observations that health improves with distance from major roads, have been resurrected, but they are replete with possible confounding variables (how many rich people live near major roads?)
The alarmist community maintains excellent lines of communication and it takes no time at all for their whole world to start singing from the same new hymn sheet. In the UK the way to keep tabs on what the alarmists are up to is to read Geoffrey Lean, if you can bear to. His latest diatribe is largely directed to particles of pollution. This for example:
Mind you, Britain ’s air pollution policies have long been enveloped in a thick fog of complacency and inaction. Back in 1285, Edward I reacted to public anger over coal-burning in London by setting up a commission, which sat for 25 years and achieved nothing. In the autumn of 1952, Harold Macmillan, facing complaints about the same problem in the same city, reached for the same solution, explaining: “We cannot do very much, but we can seem to be very busy, and that is half the battle nowadays.”
In fact his committee never met, because a great pea-soup fog early that December killed 4,000 people in London over a weekend, galvanising a national clean-up. By coincidence, particulates are now officially recognised as killing much the same number in the capital each year. But, this time, little is being done.....
This is serious stuff, because air pollution kills. Research shows that smog – which is formed by sunlight working on pollution, mainly emitted from car exhausts – caused up to 700 deaths over two weeks in August 2003. Particulates and ozone, the two pollutants responsible for this week’s warning, are to blame: indeed, a Government panel concluded that particulates alone help to kill around 29,000 people in Britain each year.
For collectors of the genre, this is a fine example. Rewriting history is one of the established techniques among alarmists. There are none of us still around from the days of Edward I, but there are still a few of us who walked to school in the great smog of 1952.
Those of us who had chemistry sets then knew exactly what the problem was, as did the Government. We had all tried setting light to a small pile of sulphur and been obliged to retreat rapidly choking for air. The problem was that the Government, faced with a mountain of debt left by its Labour predecessor (sound familiar?), was exporting all our high quality coal and leaving the low quality sulphur stuff to the local populace to burn. They got away with it until a stationary high settled over the basin of London, with the said disastrous results.
Note, however, the technique behind Lean’s version of history. First there is the frequently used procedure of subreption (misleading by concealing the truth). The cause of the deaths was and is known (sulphur) it is an egregious stunt to leave it out. The second method is the non sequitur (having no relation to what has gone before). Particulates are introduced without any reasoning. There is no basis for the supposition that sulphurous coal produces any more particulates than the higher quality form.
As for the coincidence that particulates are now officially recognised as killing the same number each year, this is what we know as the body count politic, a pronouncement by a committee of politicians who are true believers with no basis of real scientific evidence (apart from epidemiology, which parted ways with the scientific method long ago). As always the response to such claims is – Name one!
So the same old dreary trench war of attrition against overwhelming forces continues, but watch out for much more of the new battle cry – Particulates!
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