Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Could Public Health Benefits Make Combating Climate Change Free?

The bit of nonsense excerpted below is actually fairly typical of medical writing. They seem incapable of looking at the bottom line. They exult over a beneficial effect of something and ignore other effects that may more than cancel out the benefit. In this case it may be true that some parasites would spread more widely with global warming but the big seasonal killer is winter not summer -- so if winters became milder many deaths would be avoided at that time. And winter deaths show a considerable excess over summer deaths so the health benefits of a warmer world would be large

South Africa—Former entomologist Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum of the World Health Organization worries about nosebleeds more than the average person. That's because he's one of the estimated 12 million people worldwide afflicted with leishmaniasis—a potentially fatal parasitic disease characterized most often by lesions on the skin and/or mucus membranes—caused by the bite of a sandfly.

As the team leader for climate change and health at WHO and an environmental epidemiologist, Campbell-Lendrum is also in a position to worry more about how global warming is going to affect such so-called vector-borne diseases. "Is climate change going to bring malaria back to the U.S. and Europe? It's not," he asserts. "Climate change is eroding the environmental determinants of health: water, food, increasing disease," he says. Already WHO research suggests that current warming of global average temperatures of just under one degree Celsius is responsible for an additional 150,000 deaths per year, largely due to agricultural failures and diarrheal disease in developing countries. "All the inputs are on the conservative side," says Campbell-Lendrum, who helped come up with the number.

As a result, WHO—and a consortium of other public health organizations—declared climate change to be among the most pressing emerging health issues in the world at the recent climate negotiations here in South Africa. Consider some of the changes that are already taking place: extreme heat waves, such as the one in Europe in 2003 that killed 46,000 people; changes in bacterial diseases due to water contamination and a quickening of bacterial growth rates in warmer temperatures; worsening levels of ground-level ozone, otherwise known as smog, which is responsible for worsening asthma and heart attacks (among other health effects); changes in pollen making allergies worse; changes in vector-borne diseases; as well as droughts, floods and other forms of extreme weather such as the 12 natural disasters in the U.S. this year that caused at least $1 billion in damage.


We are living in a COLD period of the earth's history

Above is the factual part of a speculative article in New Scientist

Large climatic variability over the last 2,000 years in Britain

The record is one of the highlights of the most comprehensive record of English weather, dating back to 56BC, which identifies the worst winters seen in Britain in over 2,000 years.

Using a wide variety of sources, including some which less diligent researchers might have eschewed, Jim Rothwell, a retired meteorologist, has built what he believes to be the fullest study of weather across central England in existence.

He has found striking examples of extreme weather going back hundreds of years.

In 1357, after a dry early summer then downpours throughout the autumn, winter saw starving wolves prowling through Sherwood Forest, taking livestock and even threatening humans.

The winter of 1458 saw a bridge destroyed over the river Trent because of floodwaters caused by melting ice which followed prolonged and heavy snowfall.

In 1635, severe blizzards led to very deep snow with drifts up to 20ft deep in Lincolnshire.

However, he had also found evidence of particularly mild winters.

In 1607, in the reign of James I, flowers were reported to be in bloom on Christmas Day.

Four hundred years earlier, in 1249, witnesses claimed the winter was so mild that there were “birds singing like it was spring”.

The summer of 1375 is also noteworthy, as evidence shows the warm, dry weather lasted well into October.

As is the rainy summer of 1315, which was so wet that on July 15 that it is thought to be the origin of the St Swithin’s Day belief that if it rains on that day, it will continue for 40 more.

Mr Rothwell worked for the Met Office for 38 years but was also the expert forecaster for filming of the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball.

On his retirement in 1989, he began to piece together everything that was known about central England’s weather, a roughly pear-shaped area which extends from the north Midlands to Winchester and London in the south.

He chose the area as it is largely flat to make chronological comparison more relevant as hills create local weather patterns which are not necessarily representative of the weather for the country.

Mr Rothwell, 80, who is also a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, has now compiled The Central England Weather Series, which begins at 56 BC in the era of Julius Caesar and is housed with Nottinghamshire County Council’s archives service.

His sources, which number over 50, range from county council and university archives; to historical reference works, particularly those with pictures showing the weather in detail; to the writing of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, the 17th century diarists.

He also used local newspapers to corroborate information and even used the library of De Bilt, a publication in Holland, to get weather reports for the Middle Ages.

One of the quirks he had to overcome was the 11 days added to the calendar by the government in 1752 when England swapped the Julian calendar for the Gregorian to being it into line with the rest of Europe.

Mr Rothwell, who has a Masters degree in climatology as well as degrees in history and geography, said his combination of skills had helped him in his research.

He said: “I have used history books containing references to key periods in history as part of the research. If there was a photograph or image showing snow, I have pinpointed that date in the records.

“There has been much analysis of data to ensure I have the truest record possible. For example, Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn had a tendency to exaggerate some of their descriptions of weather in their diaries.”

Mr Rothwell said: “The records show that all sorts of unusual weather has occurred during all of the seasons in central England in the past.

“People are alert to unusual weather patterns at the time they happen, but do tend to forget these exceptions as time goes on.”

Mark Dorrington, of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: "This is a fantastic and comprehensive record of weather in Central England and we are privileged to have it in our archives.

“The weather is always a fascination for people and this collection of records is a hidden gem, so we are delighted to let people know it is available.”


His Eminence has a shot at the Warmists

Cardinal Pell's reference to the "Roman warm period" is completely factual. There is no way Hannibal could drive elephants over the Alps these days and yet that is one of the best known episodes in Roman history. But Warmists don't do real history. They just make up their own

The changeable environment loomed large in the Christmas message of Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, who said the blessings of prosperity, peace and a good climate were taken for granted. "The unusual rains after 10 years of drought are a small price to pay in this run-up to Christmas," he said.

Every age was marred by some disasters, he said. "In Biblical times, only Noah escaped the great flood and Jacob's sons had to travel to Egypt for grain during a long drought."

Cardinal Pell said Christ's birth in the "Roman warm period" was a call to worship God and "to acknowledge how powerless we all are before the mighty forces of nature, unable sometimes to escape the caprice of disease and misfortune".


Link to the full address here. He is well known for being a climate atheist.

The Worst NYT Story on Climate Ever?

Regular readers will know that I think that the print media overall has done a pretty good job on covering the science of climate change, if not always getting the politics right. They will also know what I think about the "debate" over climate change and extreme events (above). But every once in a while I see a story that is so breathtakingly bad that it is worth commenting on. Today's installment comes from Justin Gillis at the New York Times and was published on Christmas Eve. The article is so bad that it might just be the worst piece of reporting I've ever seen in the Times on climate change.

Where to begin? How about the start. The NYT laments that the work of attributing the cause of extreme events in NOAA is "languishing":

Scientists say they could, in theory, do a much better job of answering the question “Did global warming have anything to do with it?” after extreme weather events like the drought in Texas and the floods in New England.

But for many reasons, efforts to put out prompt reports on the causes of extreme weather are essentially languishing.

Set aside the unattributed "scientists say" -- a favorite construction of Gillis and the Times. The article fails to explain that NOAA already has a robust effort in place focused on climate attribution and which has put out recent assessments about phenomena as varied as the 2011 US tornado season and the 2009/2010 mid-Atlantic coast snowstorms. No one from that effort was quoted in the article nor was any of their work (perhaps because it utterly contradicts the narrative of the story).

The article repeats the tired statistic that the number of billion dollar disasters have increased in recent decades:

A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events, including wildfires in the Southwest, floods in multiple regions of the country and a deadly spring tornado season. And the agency has not finished counting. The final costs are certain to exceed $50 billion.

The article does not explain that $1 billion in 2011 is about the same as $400 million in 1980 (XLS). Nor does it explain that a $50 billion total in losses for 2011 is about exactly the same as the total in 1980, after adjusting for inflation -- however, as a proportion of the overall economy those 1980 losses were 250% larger than those experienced in 2011. That is, the equivalent 1980 losses in 2011 would be $125 billion (XLS). The article completely ignores relevant peer-reviewed research on the subject (see here also).

The article fails to cite the recent IPCC report which covered this exact subject, concluding (PDF):

Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded.

The IPCC SREX report has a lot of other things to say about extremes, which also contradict the narrative of the story. Also neglected is the US government's own review of extreme events in the US, which found no long-term trends.

The article is extremely sloppy when discussing tornadoes:

Tornadoes, the deadliest weather disaster to hit the country this year, present a particularly thorny case. On their face, weather statistics suggest that tornadoes are becoming more numerous as the climate warms. But tornadoes are small and hard to count, and scientists have little confidence in the accuracy of older data, which means they do not know whether to believe the apparent increase.

Tornadoes are not in the least bit "thorny." You wouldn't know from reading the article that the most powerful tornadoes - the F3,  F4 and F5s which cause almost all of the damage and fatalities -- have actually decreased over the past 50 years (so too has damage). Nor would you know that the NOAA Climate Attribution effort has recently looked at the 2011 tornadoes and found no evidence of causality from increasing greenhouse gases:

So far, we have not been able to link any of the major causes of the tornado outbreak to global warming. Barring a detection of change, a claim of attribution (to human impacts) is thus problematic, although it does not exclude that a future change in such environmental conditions may occur as anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing increases.

The NYT article relies on a very few people from the usual small circle of folks cited in such articles to say the usual suggestive things - Ben Santer, Jeff Masters, Peter Stott. Not one researcher is cited who actually publishes peer-reviewed work on tornadoes, economic impacts of disasters, or the long-term history of US weather extremes. However, somehow Congressional Republicans show up as the bad guys in the usual good guys-bad guys framing on this topic. No budget numbers are presented nor any specific discussion of what is going on in NOAA. Ink blot.


Obama Energy Programs “Infused With Politics at Every Level”

Even the liberal Washington Post, which hasn’t endorsed a Republican for President since 1952, seems to be souring on the Obama Administration’s failed energy programs, saying they were “infused with politics at every level.” As it noted in discussing the Solyndra scandal: “Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials. The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra,” which was owned by major Obama backers, like George Kaiser.

As law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds notes, “all the ‘stimulus’ and ‘green energy’ stuff was never anything but a program to put taxpayer money into the hands of cronies and supporters.”

The Obama Administration hastily approved the taxpayer subsidies for Solyndra despite obvious danger signs and warnings from accountants about the company’s likely collapse, the misgivings of agency officials, and the company’s mismanagement and lousy-quality products. (Solyndra executives are now pleading the 5th Amendment to avoid disclosing incriminating information.) The Obama administration was determined to shovel taxpayer money to its cronies as fast as it could. As an Obama fundraiser and Solyndra stakeholder exulted, “there’s never been more money shoved out of the government’s door in world history and probably never will be again than in the last few months and the next 18 months. And our selfish parochial goal is to get as much of it . . . as we possibly can.” “At the time Solyndra received its grant, Vice President Joe Biden declared that the Solyndra investment is ‘exactly what the [the stimulus package] is all about.’”

While diverting taxpayer money away from productive and efficient businesses to corporate-welfare recipients controlled by political cronies, the Obama Administration is busy wiping out jobs through thousands of pages of counterproductive regulations. Some of these new regulations are designed to spawn lawsuits that will enrich trial lawyers at businesses’ and consumers’ expense.

Obama appointees at the EEOC are busy harassing businesses that hire and fire based on merit, thus discouraging employers from hiring or expanding operations, and the EEOC is bringing costly, unjustified lawsuits against businesses. The 2010 healthcare law imposes financial burdens — some of them large, and others difficult to calculate — on the nation’s employers, resulting in some business owners deciding not to expand or hire new employees.

Many businesses are also suffering from the effects of the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” law, a 2,315 page monstrosity that makes it harder for small businesses to obtain credit, and also outsources and wipes out jobs in the financial sector. Even one-time Obama supporters in the business community have grown disenchanted: Democratic businessman Steve Wynn called Obama“the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime,” saying that “the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.”

The Obama administration has sought to temporarily pump up the economy with stimulus spending paid for with massive deficits, but as the Congressional Budget Office has noted, the stimulus package will actually shrink the economy in the long run, so it will not be able to offset the economic drag resulting from all of the Obama administration’s new regulations and red tape.


No coal, no growth, says South African power company chief

It might be one of the world's worst polluting energy sources, but coal has allowed South Africa to become the continent's largest economy, according to the chief executive of the country's power utility company Eskom.

Speaking to CNN's Robyn Curnow, Eskom's Brian Dames said coal has been key to fueling South Africa's economic growth and improving the lives of many in the country.

"We've been very successful in the use of coal in growing one of the largest economies, in bringing electricity to the majority of South Africans -- we're absolutely not defensive about it," said Dames.

South Africa gets 86% of its energy from coal and, despite the criticism that it is bad for the environment -- when burned, coal emits more air pollution and greenhouse gases than other major energy sources -- Dames argued that South Africa will continue to use the natural resource. An edited version of the interview follows below.

CNN: Why is coal important for South Africa?

Brian Dames: It's about energy security first and foremost for us, it's about affordable energy, it's about energy access. You would agree with me without those three things there is no economic growth, no poverty alleviation, no job creation in any of our economies.

And then it is about, as we do this, how we can do it in a more cleaner manner and at the same time make sure we deal with issues such as job creation -- can we create green jobs -- so we're very clear as to where we want to go and what the balance is and that commitment is there -- it is there to move towards a lower carbon footprint over time.

Read more: Is South Africa addicted to coal?

CNN: What percentage of energy do you get from coal?

BD: It's more than 80%, about 86% of the energy, and it has put us in a position as a company and as a country to really fuel the economic growth in South Africa. That's why this country has got the largest economy on the African continent, that's why we operate one of the world's 10 largest power companies.

CNN: Eighty per cent of all your energy comes from coal -- that is dirty energy and South Africa is the biggest producer of coal in the world. Don't you find that difficult in terms of charting a green future?

BD: No, it is not difficult. We should be quite clear, because South Africa's emissions is about 1.5% of global emissions, the continent's emissions is about 3% of global emissions, it's less than 200 times than what's in the U.S.
We have a clear path as to how we make sure we grow and how we make sure we respond to the needs of the environment.
Brian Dames, CEO Eskom

What you're asking us to do is not do that, not have electricity, not have energy security and not have energy access.

CNN: I think the reality is Eskom relies heavily on coal, South Africa historically has relied heavily on coal to produce its electricity. Why do you seem a bit defensive about it?

BD: No, we're not defensive, absolutely not. Coal has been used very successfully and will be used in future in South Africa. It's a natural resource that we have, we've been very successful in the use of coal in growing one of the largest economies, in bringing electricity to the majority of South Africans -- we're absolutely not defensive about it.

Banker: Spending on climate change makes good business sense

CNN: But it is dirty energy and there is an excess of reliance on coal.

BD: It's not a question of being defensive, it's a question about the ill-informed, because you want us as a country to be cleaner and not have electricity and energy and that is a problem.

CNN: That's not what I'm saying, it's a fact that South Africa relies heavily on coal.

BD: It is a fact and successfully have done so. We've said clearly growth is important, we have said clearly that we're committed to a low-carbon future over time, so it is not growth at all costs.

South Africa has got a very clear path and strategy and is fully committed to deal with that. South Africa has made very clear commitments in terms of its CO2 emissions. South Africa has also made it very clear that it is a developing country that must grow, that we must see the establishment of funding to make sure that it is available for us to do so.

We have a clear path as to how we make sure we grow and how we make sure we respond to the needs of the environment and as a country and as company we're fully committed to that.

CNN: Is nuclear still a very big part of your plans?

BD: South Africa has produced a 20-year energy electricity plan and that plan has got an inclusion of nuclear. That plan says, of the additional capacity of the next 20 years, 42% of it will be renewables, 23% of it will be nuclear, because we do have requirement for base-load energy.

We can't stall electricity -- nuclear as a base-load energy option is a viable option for this continent and again, coming back to my previous point, no one option, whether coal or renewables or hydro will solve our energy problems in the future. We need a combination of all of it, and including nuclear for that matter.



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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