Saturday, December 03, 2011

Durban Due Diligence

Kelvin Kemm

From my vantage point here in South Africa, I could hardly miss the major build-up to the COP-17 United Nations world environment and climate conference, which is being held November 28 to December 9 in Durban, where I went to school and university.

For weeks international news broadcasts spoke of “the road to Durban,” and people of all ranks made daily comments concerning issues to be addressed at COP-17. Conference organisers announced that bottled water would be limited, or even prohibited, because making, shipping and disposing of plastic bottles was not environmentally sound – and in any event Durban tap water is so good that anyone can safely drink water out of any tap, whether in a hotel room, restaurant or back yard garden hose. I agree with both points; Durban municipal water is excellent everywhere.

Other images also drifted through my mind, such as those of legendary scientist and philosopher Galileo, who dared to announce that it was not the sun that orbited the earth, but the planets, including the earth, which orbited the sun. The ruling establishment of the day jumped on Galileo, threatening him with dire consequences if he did not toe the politically correct line and recant his claims. He did so to avoid burning at the stake but was placed under house arrest anyway, to ensure that he did not spread his views, and his book was banned.

Many years later, during the French Revolution, baying mobs in Paris streets were ready to chop the heads off anyone perceived not to be part of the New World Order. Even scientist Antoine Lavoisier, the discoverer of oxygen and hydrogen, was one of many unfortunate people who lost their heads to French guillotines.

Today, I fear we are experiencing similar, though less lethal, sentiments on topics of so-called global warming, global climate change, global climate disruption and weather “weirding.” In far too many instances, any person who dares to challenge official dogma is branded a “denier” and treated as an enemy of society. This is not merely sad; it is dangerous to all mankind.

Chanting climate change advocacy groups want non-compliant businesses and industries found guilty of crimes against the planet, so that condemned industrialists can be hunted down and punished. This is destructive of reasoned scientific debate, affordable energy and modern civilization.

The asserted evidence that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is totally to blame for any observed climate changes is at best scientifically very shaky. There are far too many holes in the theory for it to pass the conventional rigour that should be applied to any scientific debate.

The evidence shows serious deviations between CO2 claims, computer models and computer-generated forecasts and scenarios, on the one hand – and actual observations and measurements of temperature and weather, on the other hand. Historical and archaeological evidence (of major climate and weather changes and extremes) likewise do not support claims that allegedly stable climate conditions have suddenly been thrown into disarray by human greenhouse gas emissions.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and observed temperature changes over the past century simply do not correlate nearly as well as necessary for proper scientific analysis. Similarly, historical evidence clearly demonstrates that there was a Medieval Warm Period (MWP) of great health, wealth and prosperity, during which temperatures were warmer than today’s, but with no anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the equation.

Archaeology and history also show that successful Viking settlements died out in Greenland after the MWP, as a significant 500-year-long period of global cooling set in. The coldest point of this Little Ice Age was the well-documented Maunder Minimum, when ice fairs were held on London’s frozen Thames River. Contemporary paintings of these frozen festivals still exist today.

Similar long-term periods, such as the Roman Warming, have likewise been documented, as have lengthy periods of droughts and floods in various ancient societies – to say nothing of major ice ages and interglacial periods that affected much of Europe and North and South America. Previous significant climatic changes are hardly rare events. However, for obvious reasons, the global warming advocacy faction does not want to discuss these historical periods.

Moreover, over the past decade, significant new scientific evidence has suggested that observed global warming can probably be explained largely or entirely by changes in solar activity and thus cosmic ray incidence on earth, consequent changes in cloud cover and atmospheric water vapour levels, periodic shifts in oceanic temperatures and currents, and other natural phenomena.

Why, then, do we witness repeated attempts to demonize and bury any hint that solar activity is a principal cause of observed global warming? Why do climate change alarmists seek to suppress evidence that the Earth has not warmed and may even have cooled slightly since 1998? Why do so many Climategate 1.0 and 2.0 emails reflect much more private uncertainty among alarmist climate scientists than they have been willing to admit publicly?

These actions are much too close to the Galileo and French Revolution affairs for comfort.

Even worse, misguided government and corporate policies and actions worldwide – in response to the false science and high pressure tactics – will be highly detrimental to mankind, especially poor families that will be trapped in perpetual poverty, disease, malnutrition and premature death.

We can only hope that future generations will not group the Galileo, French Revolution and climate change eras as similar Dark Ages, when “establishment” zealots and easily inflamed crowds suppressed science and analytical truth.

Let us hope, instead, that at least some world leaders will have the courage to stand up at COP-17 and demand the kind of scientific rigour that brought so much enlightenment and progress over the centuries. Proper due diligence in Durban requires nothing less.

Only then will poverty be eradicated, and health and environmental conditions improve, for billions of people all over our planet.


Quarter of British homes 'face fuel poverty': Green taxes add to burden for struggling families

One in four households will struggle to keep warm this winter because of costlier gas and electricity and the impact of green taxes, figures out today show. More than five million households in England alone are living in fuel poverty as incomes stagnate and energy bills soar.

Fuel poverty is where a family spends more than 10 per cent of its income on energy.

Ministers are under increasing pressure to abandon green energy targets amid warnings that fuel surcharges will put the lives of the most vulnerable at risk as they struggle to pay bills.

The Government faces calls to tear up or delay plans to force through a £200billion shift to wind turbines, wave power and new nuclear power stations.

Previous official projections had forecast that 4.1million households would be in fuel poverty this year, but calculations following rises in energy prices over the summer have shown that a million more will be hit.

The figures provided to Consumer Focus are based on actual bills after the rises.

William Baker, of the statutory consumer body, said: ‘With over five million households currently in fuel poverty, it is difficult to see how the Government is going to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, as required by the Warm Homes and Conservation Act 2000.

‘We therefore urge the Government to use the proceeds from new carbon taxes to provide vital funds to support a national energy efficiency programme.’

All six of the big energy suppliers pushed up their prices with the biggest, British Gas, putting up its gas and electricity prices by 18 per cent and 16 per cent.

The government-appointed Fuel Poverty Advisory Group last night urged ministers to act. Chairman Derek Lickorish said that the average family’s dual fuel bill has doubled since 2003 and is now more than £1,300.

‘The Government needs to reflect on what’s happening to ordinary people. It has not been taking this seriously enough,’ he said.

The figures show the severity of the problems in parts of the country with more than 40 per cent of households in Wales in fuel poverty. The North East and West Midlands have fuel poverty levels of more than 30 per cent. Around 2.5million people are now in debt to their energy supplier, with the average gas bill arrears now £320.

A Government-commissioned study earlier this year warned that more than 2,700 people are dying each year in England and Wales because they cannot afford to keep their homes warm.

The study by social policy expert Professor John Hills, of the London School of Economics, concluded that green taxes on household power bills have a disproportionate impact on poorer homes.

Energy companies meanwhile are under pressure to cut prices following significant falls in the wholesale cost of fuel.

Unusually warm weather and the lack of demand from industrial customers as the economy falters have created a glut of cheap power. The fall in wholesale prices kicked in at the end of August – exactly the time that price rises began.

Experts at independent industry analysts ICIS Heren said: ‘UK energy markets are in freefall as the eurozone teeters on the brink of recession.

‘UK wholesale energy prices plummeted to 12-month lows this week, finally cancelling out increases earlier in the year that caused energy companies to raise household prices.’


Global warming alarmism cooling

Another frantic effort to redistribute wealth from developed nations to developing nations is under way, this time in Durban, South Africa. The excuse is the same old, tiresome claim that socialism writ large is necessary to save the planet from global warming.

Fewer people are fooled every year the United Nations brings together representatives of about 190 nations hoping to profit from the shakedown. Just as claims of climate doom are wearing thin, so are arguments for separating you from your money.
Article Tab: In this image made available by Greenpeace, activists dressed as trees protest the deforestation of the Amazon jungle in Brazil in Durban, South Africa, Nov. 29, the second day of the two-week U.N. climate conference attended by 192 parties seeking agreement on future action to curb climate change.

We like the way contrarian climate scientist S. Fred Singer describes the confab: "10,000 or so Durban attendees – official delegates, U.N. and government officials, journalists, NGO types and other hangers-on – will have a grand old time: two weeks of feasting, partying, living it up in luxury hotels, and greeting old friends at this 17th reunion – all at someone else's expense."

"At someone else's expense" could be the theme of the global warming movement.

Americans should be pleased that the conference no sooner began than the U.S. was blamed for not taxing and regulating greenhouse gases enough, and for not writing enough compensatory checks to countries less fortunate. In the view of those overseas who want your money, America still hasn't sacrificed enough, despite onerous regulations and punitive taxes imposed domestically, including the horrific California Global Warming Solutions Act.

The United States and other developed nations are realizing that reducing their own productivity – a byproduct of reducing greenhouse gas emissions – isn't smart in hard times. It's good to see common sense prevail.

On the eve of this conference to extend the Draconian Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas-limiting treaty, someone leaked thousands of emails revealing the duplicity, flawed science and conspiratorial inclination of the clique of climate scientists, who have claimed global warming threatens the planet.

A similar leak occurred on the eve of the 2009 global warming conference in Copenhagen, which ended in frustration for climate alarmists and nothing binding for the rest of us. The emails' peek behind the scenes called into question the motives of climate alarmists, the reliability of the science behind their scary stories and pointed up the conspiratorial nature of the clique.

It also hasn't hurt that the public increasingly is aware climate alarmists' catastrophic claims aren't panning out. Sea levels declined in 2010, rather than drowning island nations as claimed. The melting of Mount Kilimanjaro's snow cap was proven unrelated to global warming, contrary to claims. There are fewer, not more, devastating hurricanes. Temperatures at best have remained level for nearly 15 years, despite historic increases in CO2 emissions, which warming theorists insist should drive them higher.

And now, as nations ride out a rough economy, they are becoming more reluctant to cut their own economic throats and throw money at unproductive uses.


EPA fuel efficiency standards are an unnecessary cost to taxpayers, automakers and drivers

Once again the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is stepping on the toes of, well, everyone who owns, manufacturers or sells a vehicle.

The EPA’s most recent announcement is all vehicles must meet an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025—a doubling of today’s average of about 27 mpg, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The ironic part of this mandate is if you asked anyone who drives they will likely confirm that they would love to see an increase of fuel economy in their vehicle. Better fuel economy means fewer trips to the gas station and more money in your pocket, who doesn’t want that?

But, alas, the free enterprise system is once again interrupted by the edict of a rogue government agency.

The problem with this EPA decree is it jumps ahead of the free market economy. Instead of letting consumer demand be the driving force behind better gas mileage in vehicles automakers will now be forced to pay an EPA-estimated $157 billion to comply with the rule. But automakers aren’t the only ones who will suffer, this mandate will likely raise the price of vehicles by an average of $3,100—not something Americans want.


Don't let Big Green stymie boom in energy jobs

Imagine that you never went to college and you have virtually no experience punching the time clock, thanks to the ongoing depression in blue-collar jobs in American manufacturing. Not to worry, though, because there are places in America where men who are willing to put in long hours doing hard work can earn $100,000 or more. There are downsides, like being out in the middle of nowhere and coping with shortages of housing and other amenities such as sleep, but the rewards can be immense for the hardy. And, since this is the oil and gas industry, true stories of ambitious men going from rough-necking to millionaires are anything but unprecedented.

We refer, of course, to the booming Bakken oil fields in America's high plains, where little towns like Williston, Dickinson and Minot have seen populations and economic growth explode in recent years. There are billions of barrels of oil in the Bakken formation that underlies North Dakota, Montana and Canada's Saskatchewan region. Bakken oil was previously inaccessible, but, thanks to new technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, it has become eminently reachable.

Here's how CNN Money describes the boom: "Many of the highest-paying jobs are at oil companies, where workers make an average salary of about $100,000, often with little-to-no experience or need for a college degree ... But it's not just the oil companies that are hiring. The oil boom has brought such a big influx of people that every single industry -- from hospitality to retail -- has been hit with overwhelming demand as a result." Unemployment is all but nonexistent in these boom towns.

Similar, if somewhat less spectacular, success stories are playing out in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia where those same new technologies have produced an explosion of natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale formation. As the New York Times' David Brooks wrote earlier this month: "Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come." Even old-line industries like steel are benefitting, with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer recently reporting that Republic Steel is investing $85 million to create 450 new jobs at a plant it was shutting down just three years ago. The plant will make steel pipe needed for the Marcellus gas wells.

Thanks to the new technologies, additional vast untapped energy resources in Texas, Alaska and off-shore could make America energy independent in the 21st century, allowing U.S. policymakers to tell Orgazniation for Petroleum Exporting Countries nations to go pound sand. But Big Green environmentalists - and their political allies in the White House and Congress -- are determined to keep the country from enjoying this boom. As Brooks noted in the Times, "not-in-my-backyard activists are organizing to prevent exploration. Environmentalists and their publicists wax apocalyptic." So a key issue in 2012 will be whether Americans want continued high unemployment and economic stagnation, or new jobs and growth. We're betting on the Bakken boom.


Suppression of climate debate is a disaster for science

Margaret Wente, in Canada

Environment Minister Peter Kent has done us all a favour by stating the obvious: Canada has no intention of signing on to a new Kyoto deal. So long as, the world’s biggest emitters want nothing to do with it, we’d be crazy if we did. Mr. Kent also refuses to be guilted out by climate reparations, a loony and unworkable scheme to extort hundreds of billions of dollars from rich countries and send it all to countries such as China. Such candour from Ottawa is a refreshing change from the usual hypocrisy, which began the moment Jean Chr├ętien committed Canada to the first Kyoto Protocol back in 1998.

Yet even though a global climate deal is now a fantasy, the rhetoric remains as overheated as ever. Without a deal, we’re told, the seas will rise, the glaciers will melt, the hurricanes will blow, the forest fires will rage and the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will do their awful work.

Or maybe not. As Roger Pielke Jr., one of the saner voices on the climate scene, points out, the hurricanes have failed to blow since Hurricane Wilma hit the Gulf Coast back in 2005. Despite the dire predictions of the experts, the U.S. has now experienced its longest period free of major hurricanes since 1906.

It’s possible to accept the underlying science of global warming, as Mr. Pielke does, while also maintaining that substantial uncertainties still exist. Why wouldn’t they? Climate science is relatively new, and it’s also insanely complicated. No one knows with any certainty the exact impact of carbon dioxide emissions, what long-term climate trends will be or the effect of other factors, such as the sun.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from the climate scientists themselves.

By no coincidence, a new cache of hacked e-mails from leading climate scientists hit the Internet last week, just in time for the lead-up to the United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa. The e-mails are not recent – they are a new instalment in the so-called Climategate affair, which broke two years ago. They deal with a small area of global-warming studies that addresses the question: How do we know the Earth is warmer now than it was 1,000 years ago? The evidence is not straightforward, because it relies on proxy data such as tree rings.

Although Climategate has been widely dismissed as nothing more than the usual academic sniping, it is much more than that. In some of the e-mails, scientists propose ways to massage the data to make it look better. They try to figure out how to get dissident scientists fired. Others are unhappy because they believe important information has been simplified, suppressed or misrepresented for public consumption.

“There have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC [the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change],” one scientist complained, also arguing that calculating the climate’s sensitivity to increased levels of carbon dioxide “cannot even be done using present-day data.” Another wrote, “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.” Or, as another doubter put it, “What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multi-decadal natural fluctuation? They’ll kill us probably…”

There’s nothing wrong with uncertainty in science. What’s wrong is denying it exists. “They were attacking skeptics for questioning the science, but in private, they were questioning it themselves,” Ross McKitrick, an economics professor at the University of Guelph who is a leading climate-science critic, told me. He thinks the entire IPCC process needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

Governments around the world have spent billions on policies to counteract the impact of global warming. They have done so because policy-makers, politicians and the public have been told that the science is built on bedrock. But some of that bedrock turns out to be sand.

Instead of distancing themselves from the shenanigans, the broader climate-science community has treated the central figures in Climategate like persecuted heroes. That is a terrible mistake, because it erodes the credibility of the entire field. The suppression of legitimate debate is a catastrophe for climate science. It’s also a catastrophe for science, period.



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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