Thursday, June 30, 2011

That pesky sea-level

Instead of rising faster, it has actually STOPPED its long-term rising tendency

Much larger version of graphic here or a very sharp but slow-loading copy here

"Scientific" American claims that human "fingerprints" are showing up on individual weather events; fails to tell us exactly what this means

Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change: Scientific American
In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast...
...Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were "consistent" with the predictions of climate change. No more. "Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming," says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo....

The second line of evidence comes from a nascent branch of science called climate attribution. The idea is to examine individual events like a detective investigating a crime, searching for telltale fingerprints of climate change. Those fingerprints are showing up...

This new science is still controversial. There's an active debate among researchers about whether the Russian heat wave bears the characteristic signature of climate change [What, exactly, is that supposed to mean?] or whether it was just natural variability, for instance. Some scientists worry that trying to attribute individual events to climate change is counterproductive in the larger political debate, because it's so easy to dismiss the claim by saying that the planet has always experienced extreme weather. ...[Nashville-based author and environmental journalist Amanda Little] "Climate change translates into mold on my baby's crib..."...In her own basement her family's belongings bobbed like debris in a pond.


Australia: Academic study demolishes the coral reef scare stories

The reefs have been going to hell in a handbasket for years -- according to the Greenies
Disturbance and the Dynamics of Coral Cover on the Great Barrier Reef (1995–2009)

By Kate Osborne et al.


Coral reef ecosystems worldwide are under pressure from chronic and acute stressors that threaten their continued existence. Most obvious among changes to reefs is loss of hard coral cover, but a precise multi-scale estimate of coral cover dynamics for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is currently lacking.

Monitoring data collected annually from fixed sites at 47 reefs across 1300 km of the GBR indicate that overall regional coral cover was stable (averaging 29% and ranging from 23% to 33% cover across years) with no net decline between 1995 and 2009.

Subregional trends (10–100 km) in hard coral were diverse with some being very dynamic and others changing little. Coral cover increased in six subregions and decreased in seven subregions. Persistent decline of corals occurred in one subregion for hard coral and Acroporidae and in four subregions in non-Acroporidae families. Change in Acroporidae accounted for 68% of change in hard coral.

Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) outbreaks and storm damage were responsible for more coral loss during this period than either bleaching or disease despite two mass bleaching events and an increase in the incidence of coral disease. While the limited data for the GBR prior to the 1980's suggests that coral cover was higher than in our survey, we found no evidence of consistent, system-wide decline in coral cover since 1995. Instead, fluctuations in coral cover at subregional scales (10–100 km), driven mostly by changes in fast-growing Acroporidae, occurred as a result of localized disturbance events and subsequent recovery.

PLoS One. 2011; 6(3): e17516.

British green ‘stealth tax to encourage wind farms and nuclear power will hit the poor the hardest’

A green ‘stealth’ tax to encourage new wind farms and nuclear power plants could push tens of thousands of households into fuel poverty but do nothing to reduce emissions.

The carbon floor price, announced in the March Budget, could even end up giving climate policies a ‘bad name’, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned.

To be introduced in 2013, the tax is intended to encourage investment in low-carbon energy – and raise billions for the Treasury. Under the existing rules, energy companies must generate a fixed amount of green energy every year, or else buy permits to pollute on the open market. The new tax kicks in if the cost of these permits falls too low. From 2013, the ‘floor price’ of a permit needed to emit a tonne of carbon will be set at £16, rising to £30 by 2020.

The higher cost of electricity will be passed on to household and business customers with energy-guzzling industries hit hardest.

But the IPPR, a centre-left think-tank, says that householders, many of whom are already struggling to pay their fuel bills, will also suffer. It estimates that 30,000 to 60,000 more households will be pushed into fuel poverty – defined as spending more than 10 per cent of your disposable income on heat and light.

The think-tank also warned that the UK scheme could lead to lower carbon permit prices elsewhere in Europe – and so do nothing to ease pollution.

Andrew Pendleton, IPPR associate director, said: ‘The carbon price support scheme risks giving energy and climate change policy a bad name because it will do nothing to reduce carbon emissions while piling more cost on to the shoulders of already hard-pressed consumers in the UK.’

The think-tank report also said that because the floor price was announced in the Budget, it would be open to annual review – meaning it would not have the certainty needed by investors looking at putting money into low-carbon energy projects such as wind, wave and nuclear power.

The report suggests setting the floor price low to minimise its impact and urges ministers to encourage European countries to introduce similar measures.

Confining the tax to Britain could be an ‘inexcusable’ waste of £1billion,’ Mr Pendleton said.

The soaring cost of fuel means that 5.5million households are already living in fuel poverty —including two million pensioner households. This is compared to 1.4million households in 2004.

Earlier this month CBI director-general John Cridland said a trio of new carbon levies, including the carbon floor price, were ‘counterproductive’ and will make the UK’s steel and chemicals industries less competitive on the world stage. In a stinging attack, the head of Britain’s largest business lobby called for the Government to axe some climate change taxes and make energy-intensive businesses exempt from others.

The warning came days after former Cabinet Secretary Lord Turnbull said politicians should ‘stop frightening us and our children’ about global warming. He accused politicians and Whitehall mandarins of pandering to global warming ‘alarmists’ and consigning Britain to a future of inflated fuel bills.


Why your new car doesn’t have a spare tire

Fewer tires, higher taxes.

That may be what's in store for drivers under the federal government's spiraling fuel economy mandates (known as CAFE, for Corporate Average Fuel Economy). The Department of Transportation is floating 62 mpg as a possible standard for 2025, more than double the current 27.5 mpg standard. How the industry can meet that target, and at what cost, is anyone's guess. A new study in mid-June by the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. put the tab at about $10,000 extra per new vehicle, while admitting that even this estimate might be far too low.

And that's not the only bad news; in the past few weeks there have been two other unwelcome developments. First, GM announced that several versions of its compact Chevy Cruze would no longer have spare tires; instead, they'll have vehicle-powered sealant repair kits. This is a major jump in the trend toward eliminating spare tires, a trend due largely to CAFE's drive to shed every possible ounce of car weight.

Some argue that spare tires are unnecessary, given the growing presence of run-flat tires, tire pressure monitors, and roadside assistance systems. But the fact that spares are being eliminated in the name of fuel economy, rather than market demand, demolishes one of the chief claims of CAFE's advocates. For several decades, the need to reduce vehicle size and weight in order to raise mileage has been CAFE's Achilles' heel. Smaller, lighter cars not only hold fewer passengers and less baggage; they're also less crashworthy. CAFE-induced downsizing causes several thousand additional traffic deaths per year.

Proponents of CAFE argue that while vehicle downsizing may once have been needed to raise fuel economy, it has been obviated by new technologies. As a result, they claim, CAFE no longer forces us to give up safety for other car features.

Yet despite this talk of new technologies eliminating trade-offs, here we have GM scrapping the spare tire to comply with CAFE. The station wagon disappeared under CAFE because it was a highly regulated passenger car (unlike SUVs, which were less-regulated "light trucks"). Now, with the spare tire following the same pattern, we have another hard-to-miss symbol of what CAFE hath wrought.

Getting rid of spare tires alone won't be nearly enough to meet the more stringent mandates that are looming. In early June, GM unveiled another strategy—higher gasoline taxes. GM CEO Dan Akerson proposed boosting the federal tax by up to $1 per gallon to increase small car sales.

This isn't the first time a car maker's chief executive has called for higher gas taxes. In 2009, after gas had dropped to below $2 a gallon from $4, Bill Ford made a similar proposal, citing the need for a "price signal . . . strong enough so customers will continue buying smaller, fuel-efficient cars." Mr. Ford joked about his reputation as "something of a Bolshevik" among his industry colleagues. But Mr. Ford's wish for higher gas prices has come true; gas is now in the high $3 range. And yet even that isn't high enough for GM's Mr. Akerson.

It would be one thing if these gentlemen wanted to replace CAFE with higher gas taxes. That would at least give us a politically honest fuel efficiency regime. Rather than being bamboozled by the smoke and mirrors of CAFE's technological mandates, consumers would learn from a gas-tax hike exactly what government was doing to them. But if that's what Mr. Akerson means, then he'd better say so, because he now sounds like another antimobility environmentalist pushing a sin-tax increase.

Mr. Akerson's stand demonstrates CAFE's real perversity—by forcing mileage standards far above what consumers want, it pits car makers against their customers. Car makers need high gas prices to force buyers into the vehicles that government demands the industry sell. The public hopes for low prices, and if markets push prices down, then consumers ought to be able to enjoy their good fortune.

Two weeks ago the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its latest study of vehicle death rates. Like its previous studies, this new report found that larger and heavier models continue to be safer. SUVs heavier than 4,500 pounds, for example, have a death rate less than one-third that of cars under 2,500 pounds. The politics of energy efficiency may have gone insane, but the law of physics remains.


Al Gore's Ugly Rhetoric Is Nothing New

For years, the Sierra Club and other environmentalist groups have warned us that too many babies will destroy the Earth.

"We are experiencing an accelerated obliteration of the planet's life-forms -- an estimated 8,760 species die off per year -- because, simply put," explained environmentalist Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, "there are too many people." (Well, not exactly that simple when one considers that millions of species had disappeared long before humans selfishly began drinking from plastic bottles.)

In one of his recent works of speculative fiction, The New York Times' Thomas Friedman asked: "How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we'd crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?" Dunno. Maybe we value reality? Perhaps we believe in the ability of humans to adapt and to innovate. Perhaps we've learned that Malthusian Chicken Littles slinging stories about the impending end of water or oil or natural resources are proved wrong so often that we ignore them.

Though, admittedly, it's difficult to ignore the charismatic pseudoscience of Al Gore. "One of the things that we could do about it is to change the technologies, to put out less of this pollution, to stabilize the population, and one of the principal ways of doing that is to empower and educate girls and women," the former vice president explained at the Games for Change Festival. "You have to have ubiquitous availability of fertility management so women can choose how many children (they) have, the spacing of the children."

No doubt capitalism appears terribly unstable to the autocratically inclined Gore, but nonetheless, in this country "fertility management" is not only already ubiquitously obtainable by girls and women but also obtainable by boys and men -- and for free at any Planned Parenthood and at many schools. There is also post-fertility management, or 1.3 million yearly abortions -- because no one should be punished with a baby.

Then again, perhaps educating and empowering girls should be the job of parents. After all, Gore has blessed the Earth with four of his own offspring. Does he believe the world would be better off without two of them? If not, why does he assume that an "empowered and educated" woman would reach the conclusion that having fewer children is a more logical and moral choice? (Many, including Bryan Caplan, author of the superb new book "Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think," would probably make a strong counterargument.)

Gore hasn't embraced any nefarious brand of population control. But President Barack Obama's "science czar," John Holdren, co-authored (with Paul Ehrlich of "Population Bomb" notoriety) a book in the 1970s that toyed with the idea of compulsory sterilization and coerced abortions -- to "de-develop the United States." (Boy, the tea party is so radical!) Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, openly advocated for population control to weed out undesirables. You'll remember that in a New York Times interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she "thought that at the time Roe (v. Wade) was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of."

Whatever did she mean?

If "too many" people are killing 8,760 species every year, isn't it an imperative to do something? What is holding us back? If unrealized human life is only going to sponge off the Earth and decimate our natural resources, don't we have a duty to limit population growth?

Forget that the populations of Brazil and India and a number of other nations continue to grow and life continues to improve. Forget that our own standard of living steadily increases while our population steadily grows. Forget the never-ending ingenuity and development of mankind -- especially anything that has to do with fossil fuels. For Gore, people are parasites, millions of little environmental disasters. And when a man embraces debunked 19th-century notions rather than empirical evidence, well, surely another Nobel Prize is in order.



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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