Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warmists revise their facts once again

Having global warming evangelists in charge of the temperature record is a joke and their unending "adjustments" of it show vividly what a joke it is. See Anthony Watts for details of their track record.

But note something amusing: The temperature differences they talk about are so tiny that they are still statistically insignificant (i.e. are indistinguishable from random fluctuations) even after all the "adjustments". At that rate there will be more adjustments coming down the pike, I am sure

And an important logical point: If their past facts were wrong, how can we know that the latest facts are right? Constantly-changing facts lack credibility as facts at all.

Britain's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), which for years maintained that 1998 was the hottest year, has published new data showing warmer years since, further undermining a sceptic view of stalled global warming.

The findings could helpfully move the focus from whether the world is warming due to human activities - it almost certainly is - to more pressing research areas, especially about the scale and urgency of human impacts.

After adding new data, the CRU team working alongside Britain's Met Office Hadley Centre said on Monday that the hottest two years in a 150-year data record were 2005 and 2010 - previously they had said the record was 1998.

None of these findings are statistically significant given the temperature differences between the three years were and remain far smaller than the uncertainties in temperature readings.

CRU drew fire during the 2009 "Climategate" scandal which derailed UN talks in Copenhagen and tripped up efforts at a U.S. climate bill. It was sparked after leaked emails showed CRU scientists, led by Phil Jones, sniping at rivals. The CRU was criticised in subsequent public enquiries for not sharing data but exonerated of any manipulation.

Nevertheless, it was the most cautious major climate research centre, in cooperation with the Met Office Hadley Centre, holding the view that 1998 was the hottest year in an observation record dating back to around 1850.

Its peers are the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Both had already found that 2005 and 2010 were warmer than 1998. They used an approach which gave more weight to the Arctic, where temperatures have risen faster than the rest of the world, but where there are also fewer observations.

They expanded Arctic coverage by statistically inferring warming in areas without weather stations, using neighbouring observations.

Now the CRU-Hadley Centre team have included more than 400 extra actual Arctic observations from Russia and Canada, as these countries have made these available, leading to the change in the annual ranking, which is based on fractions of a degree.


Eco-Fascists Don Their Jackboots

I tend not to traffic too much in the “eco-fascist” theme, preferring to stick more narrowly to the substance of particular aspects of particular issues like climate change or air pollution. But sometimes the jackboot fits, and they should have to wear it.

I have noted at some length in the Claremont Review of Books a while ago the openly anti-democratic and pro-authoritarian views of some eco-alarmists, but that only makes them just like Thomas (China-Is-Awesome) Friedman, who for some reason is a respected figure. I quote, for example, a British analyst who said in a press interview a few years back that “When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it.” And also two Australian political scientists who wrote, among other things, “To retain an inhabitable earth we may have to compromise the eternal vicissitudes of democracy for an informed leadership that directs.” I love that euphemism “an informed leadership that directs” bit. And who would do the “informing”? So much for government by consent of the governed. Perhaps the movie version will be called An Inconvenient Democracy.

Lately I came across a several months old column from the Sydney Morning Herald that offers another example of the mendacity of the climate campaign that I can’t decide is either clueless or just pathetic. Richard Glover wrote:
Surely it’s time for climate-change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies. Not necessarily on the forehead; I’m a reasonable man. Just something along their arm or across their chest so their grandchildren could say, ”Really? You were one of the ones who tried to stop the world doing something? And why exactly was that, granddad?”

Maybe, Glover allowed, “maybe the tattooing along the arm is a bit Nazi-creepy,” and “OK, maybe the desire to see the painful, thrashing death of one’s opponents is not ideal.” Ya think? The reaction caused Glover to append the following note to the online version of the article:
I’m sorry some readers felt my piece on global warming made light of the suffering of Jewish people during the Holocaust. Of course, this was not my intention. . . I accept that some readers found the reference inappropriate and I certainly apologise to them for causing offence.

As I said in recent posts here and my Weekly Standard article on Gleick-gate, these people make life easy for climate skeptics.

But the eco-fascists never seem to learn. And so we learn that in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Rio UN Earth Summit that brought us the travesty of the Kyoto process that the would-be informed leadership that directs autocrats of the UN environmental community would like to tinker with the voting process of these UN summits so that recalcitrant nations like the U.S., China, India, Poland, etc., can’t block our salvation.

Oh, that’s not how they put it, but it isn’t hard to see through the euphemisms they use. The BBC’s environment writer Richard Black (and there are few journalists more in the bag for the greens than Black) gives away the game in his recent story on this:
The most radical idea in procedural terms is introducing majority voting in UN fora to prevent a few recalcitrant nations from blocking the will of the vast majority.

Great: let’s have climate policy governed by the UN General Assembly. How long before we get a “Zionism is causing global warming” resolution? Back to Black’s account:
There have been many times in the past when just one or two countries held up progress in UN processes such as the climate change convention – and the same issue is now being raised within the EU, where last week Poland on its own managed to block the setting of tougher carbon emission targets.

On the other hand, some countries’ protests clearly matter more than others.

Sovereignty is such a bitch. The UN’s Earth Systems Governance Project says that there needs to be a “fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.” One of the specific recommendations is to “morph the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) into something more representative and influential.” In other words, please give us more power.

Keep it up, gang-green (heh), and I can retire early.


David Friedman on the economics of global warming

A correspondent points me at the work of Nordhaus and Boyer, attempting to estimate the externality from CO2 production and the appropriate response. I have not read the printed version, but there is a webbed version available. A number of things strike me:

1. Their conclusion is that

"current approaches, such as the Kyoto Protocol, are highly inefficient, with abatement costs approximately ten times their benefits in reduced damages."

2. In order to get even that result, they depend on including costs from a very uncertain estimate of the risk that global warming will result in low probability catastrophes of one sort or another:

"this approach is taken because of the finding of the first-generation studies that the impacts on market sectors are likely to be relatively limited."

Or in other words, without including the costs from such catastrophic risks, global warming doesn't seem to be a serious problem.

3. They estimated the cost from low probability catastrophes by asking a lot of experts how likely they thought it was that there would be a catastrophe, assuming a given rise in global temperature, that would reduce world GNP by at least 25%.

Even if one takes seriously the output of that sort of procedure, there is a striking asymmetry in their approach. They do not appear to have asked any experts what the chance is that preventing global warming would cause a catastrophe—or, to put it differently, that global warming will prevent one. Yet, as I keep pointing out, earth's climate was not designed for us, hence there is no a priori reason to assume that large negative results due to a few degrees of warming are more likely than large positive ones.

This is a striking illustration of my general critique of the "add up the externalities" approach to policy issues. Possible changes can have both positive and negative effects. If you want to conclude that something should be prevented, you focus on the negative effects, ignore or minimize the positive ones, and claim to have an objective argument to support your conclusion. That is precisely what Nordhaus and Boyer have done. The only surprising part is that, even after doing that, they still got only a weak version of the (presumably) desired conclusion.

This leaves me wondering what the pro-global warming view of Nordhaus and Boyer is. Their conclusion weakens the case for something like the Kyoto protocol--and that conclusion hinges on a procedure that cannot, I think, be defended. Correct that error and their work appears to provide no support for any substantial effort to prevent global warming.

P.S. After writing this, it occurred to me that there is one respect in which I am being too hard on Nordhaus and Boyer. Suppose we limit "catastrophes" to changes that are not only unlikely and very large, but also very fast. Then there really is some asymmetry to the situation. Humans are currently optimized against the current environment, making any change presumptively negative. I have argued in the past that that is not a strong argument with regard to changes that occur slowly—for example three degrees of warming in a century—since humans will in any case be changing what they do in many ways over so long a period. But that argument would not apply to a change that occurred over only a few years.

If, for instance, climate change makes Europe unbearably cold but adds an equal amount of acceptable land elsewhere, say in northern Canada, and does it in only a couple of years, there will be a very large net cost.

So they would have a legitimate case if they limited their category of catastrophes to rapid ones—but, so far as I can tell from what they wrote, they did not.


Green/Left Control Freaks

I can draw a line through “Caribbean” on my bucket list now. A week on Grand Cayman was a nice break from winter which was raging when I left on March 2nd. March came in like a lion but has become profoundly lamb-like less than halfway through the month. Looking down on my back field from my office chair, I see brown grass on the north side, while snow still buries the southern half. In Maine, it usually looks and feels like winter during the first week of official spring on March 21st, but this year it feels like spring while it’s still officially winter.

If this is climate change, I like it. Paleo-Americans liked it too, I’m sure, as they watched the Pleistocene glaciers recede north from here 13,000 years ago. Unlike us today, however, they suffered no illusions that they caused all that melting by burning wood in their cooking fires as they roasted their mammoth meat. They just enjoyed the warmth. Taking a cue from them, I moved down to my back porch where it’s 65 degrees on March 12th. Nice.

Liberal Democrats, however, think this is bad. They worry about melting ice caps drowning cute polar bear cubs and flooding coral islands. That’s okay with me if they want to stress themselves over it, but it’s not okay when they want to tax me into oblivion thinking they can thereby prevent it by making fossil fuels like gasoline too expensive to buy. They can buy windmills and solar panels, Priuses and Chevy Volts if it makes them feel better too, but I object when they want me to pay them for doing so.

People don’t want to buy Chevy Volts, so the Obama Administration wants to further subsidize them with another $10,000 per car with my money. I don’t want to pay them more so they can feel “green,” and “progressive” and morally superior to the rest of us. They can put up windmills and solar panels and ride bicycles with funny helmets and spandex, but I don’t want to pay them to do so. I like electricity and hot showers, but I like those things on cloudy days and when the wind is calm too, so I’d rather buy my electricity and hot water in the usual, reliable - and cheaper - ways.

Liberal Democrats are control freaks. They think they know what species should live and which should be wiped out - and they would use the power of the federal government to implement their schemes. The environmental whacko (EW) wing of their party (actually it’s more than just a wing, but a good part of the legs and torso too) put northwest loggers out of work as they “protected” their beloved spotted owl. There were more trees to hug up there, but that wasn’t enough for them or their cute little owl.

Don’t get me wrong; I like owls. As I write this on the back porch, a nearby barred owl is hooting to another further down the hill. I like to hear their “hoo, hoo - hoo-HOO” early in the morning. As ornithologists write, their hoot kind of sounds like: “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all.” I saw a barred owl once on the edge of my field and wrote about it here. Their hooting has charmed me ever since, but now the Obama Administration wants to shoot barred owls to protect the sacred spotted owls which they prefer.

Barred owls are bigger and they’re crowding out the smaller spotted owl. The environmental whackos justify killing one owl to protect another by claiming the barred owl is “not native” to northwest forests. It migrated there.

Control freaks to the end, they believe they know better which species should live where even though history shows animals, birds and plants are constantly migrating. Evidence indicates that horses covered North America until hunted to extinction by paleo-Americans, but were re-introduced by the Spanish five hundred years ago. Would they want to go around and shoot horses too?

Liberal Democrats are entitled to whatever crazy ideas they wish to discuss in their green seminars. What I don’t like is when they appoint people like Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to positions in which they spend my tax money trying to implement their screwball schemes.

Most of us here in New England like climate change. We can’t do anything about it anyway, no matter what Al Gore and the rest of his environmental whacko friends believe, so just relax and enjoy it.


Run for the hills: sea levels to rise 70 feet by, er, sometime…

It will happen, but we don't know when…

This kind of pointless, gratuitous alarmism does nothing but damage The Cause. It's like saying "planet will be swallowed by Sun - entire population to die… in 4.5 billion years".

But I'm not complaining. If the alarmists want to shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of hysterical climate astrology, I'm very happy to sit back and watch them do it:
Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.

The researchers, led by Kenneth G. Miller, professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University, reached their conclusion by studying rock and soil cores in Virginia, Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific and New Zealand. They looked at the late Pliocene epoch, 2.7 million to 3.2 million years ago, the last time the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was at its current level, and atmospheric temperatures were 2 degrees C higher than they are now.

"The difference in water volume released is the equivalent of melting the entire Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, as well as some of the marine margin of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet," said H. Richard Lane, program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the work. "Such a rise of the modern oceans would swamp the world's coasts and affect as much as 70 percent of the world's population."

"You don't need to sell your beach real estate yet, because melting of these large ice sheets will take from centuries to a few thousand years," Miller said. "The current trajectory for the 21st century global rise of sea level is 2 to 3 feet (0.8 to1 meter) due to warming of the oceans, partial melting of mountain glaciers, and partial melting of Greenland and Antarctica."

Miller said, however, that this research highlights the sensitivity of Earth's great ice sheets to temperature change, suggesting that even a modest rise in temperature results in a large sea-level rise. "The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 20 meters higher than at present," he said.


Broken down and rusting, is this the future of today's 'wind rush'?

A breathtaking sight awaits those who travel to the southernmost tip of Hawaii’s stunningly beautiful Big Island, though it’s not in any guidebook. On a 100-acre site, where cattle wander past broken ‘Keep Out’ signs, stand the rusting skeletons of scores of wind turbines.

Just a short walk from where endangered monk seals and Hawksbill turtles can be found on an unspoilt sandy beach, a technology that is supposed to be about saving the environment is instead ruining it.

In other parts of the U.S., working wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of birds and bats each year, but here the wildlife can perch on the motionless steel blades.

If any spot was tailor-made for a wind farm it would surely be here. The gales are so strong and relentless on the tip of South Point that trees grow almost horizontally.

Yet the 27-year-old Kamaoa Wind Farm remains a relic of the boom and inglorious bust of America’s so-called ‘wind rush’, the world’s first major experiment in wind energy.

At a time when the EU and the British Government are fully paid-up evangelists for wind power, the lesson from America — and the ghostly hulks on this far-flung coast — should be a warning of their folly.

Few people were talking about saving the planet back in the early Eighties. The wind rush was a free-for-all in which get-rich-quick companies exploited ridiculously generous tax breaks to pepper the States with thousands of wind turbines.

For anyone who has questioned Downing Street’s controversial pledge — spurred on by EU green targets — to give £400 million-a-year subsidies to wind farms as well as hefty bribes to landowners in order to spur the building of an additional 4,500 turbines, the wind rush may sound eerily familiar.

Indeed, America’s growing band of wind sceptics insist that what happened three decades ago in the U.S. could easily recur over the next few years in the UK if the wheels come off the wind energy gravy train once again.

So what went wrong? It started with the late Seventies oil crisis that convinced America it had to look around for other sources of power. For a time, wind power was considered to be a serious alternative to fossil fuels.

Turbines were built across several states, though there was a preponderance in California, where nearly 17,000 sprouted up from the dusty earth.

Nearly all of these were concentrated in three giant wind farms: Altamont, east of San Francisco; Tehachapi, on the edge of the Mojave desert; and San Gorgonio near Palm Springs.

In theory, conditions couldn’t have been better. Each of these are passes that benefit from just the right sort of wind that turbines need — strong and almost continual.

Better still, they were crossed by under-used high voltage lines to take away the power.

But most importantly for the scrum of investors who were thrusting their snouts into the trough, there was the extraordinary generosity of the government.

Between 1981 and 1985, federal and state subsidies in California were so favourable that investors could recover 50 per cent of the cost of a wind turbine.

Even better, the amount they were paid for their electricity was tied to the price of oil, which had shot through the roof.

Paul GIPE, a former California wind company executive, calls what happened next a ‘tax credit frenzy’. ‘The lure of quick riches resulted in shoddy products that littered California with poorly operating — sometimes non-operating — turbines.’

They were expensive and badly designed. Some were far too small to make a difference, others were just clunky machines designed by the aero industry with blades the length of a rugby pitch.

But thanks to the subsidies, it hardly mattered that some of the untested turbines were so sub-standard they barely even worked. Not to put too fine a point on it, for some wind energy investors it was simply a tax scam.

But as tends to happen with a business that is driven by financial incentives, it lasted only as long as the subsidies. In 1986, the price of oil tumbled and the subsidies started to die out. Suddenly, the wind energy sums didn’t add up any more.

And just like the gold rush miners who had rushed to the same Californian passes a century earlier, the wind prospectors departed in such a hurry that they didn’t even bother to take down the turbines they had littered across the state.

With so many moving parts to worry about, maintaining turbines is expensive — too expensive when the electricity they could produce was suddenly worth so little. ‘So when something broke, you simply didn’t send a repairman because it just didn’t make financial sense,’ Hawaii wind sceptic Andrew Walden told me.

With some turbine makers going out of business, there were no spare parts either.

According to the California Energy Commission, the collapse in subsidies stalled the state’s huge wind energy industry for nearly two decades.

No one who has driven past one of America’s mega wind farms today can fail to be struck by how few have blades that are turning, even in strong winds.

The truth is that even fewer may be producing electricity than it appears. Many are switched to a mode in which the blades continue to turn just to keep oil moving around the mechanism, but no electricity is produced.

Unfortunately, the frenzy of windmill building during the wind rush didn’t just ruin the view, but also devastated the wildlife.

No one noticed until far too late that the 5,000-turbine wind farm at Altamont Pass is on a major migratory path for birds. The National Audubon Society, America’s RSPB, has called it ‘probably the worst site ever chosen for a wind energy project’.

An estimated 10,000 birds including up to 80 protected golden eagles, 380 burrowing owls, 300 red-tailed hawks and 330 falcons were being shredded each year in Altamont’s massed banks of turbine blades — to say nothing of thousands of bats — until outraged conservationists sued America’s ‘deadliest’ wind farm four years ago.

As a result, it has agreed to grind to a halt for four months every year to avoid causing more carnage during the migration season. Go further south to the Tehachapi pass on the edge of the Mojave desert and you’ll find golden eagle carcasses under the wind turbines, too.

Tragically, the size of these majestic creatures makes it difficult for them to manoeuvre through forests of wind turbine blades spinning at speeds of up to 200mph, especially when they are concentrating on looking for prey. The problem is so serious that in Minnesota and Oregon, wind farms have drawn national condemnation by applying for an eagle hunting licence.

In the U.S., one of the great ironies about wind energy is that the people you might expect to cheer for it most — wildlife conservationists who care about the planet — are its most vociferous critics. It’s not hard to see why when you glance at the statistics. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds each year.

The conservation cause is not the only issue. There are horror stories about turbines falling over, catching fire after being struck by lightning, lethal shards of ice being hurled from the blades, the nerve-racking low frequency noise (like a pulsing disco) and the disorientating strobe effect in sunlight.

While Hawaii has six abandoned wind farms, most of California’s derelict turbines are only now being removed — decades late — after disgusted local authorities threatened to sue. In Palm Springs, those who campaigned against the turbines included the late singer Sonny Bono, former husband of Cher.

But if a turbine’s owner had walked away from his investment or gone bankrupt, it was sometimes the hapless farmer or rancher who owned the land who had to foot the $1,000-a-tower clean-up bill.

So how many windmills have been abandoned across the U.S.? It is an intensely sensitive subject for wind enthusiasts, who will quibble that it depends on how you define ‘abandoned’.

They wouldn’t, for instance, count ones that are working again today, even if they were switched off for years. They also argue that many of those that were left to rust were technologically outdated and set for the scrapheap anyway.

Wind power sceptics estimate 14,000 turbines across the U.S. have become derelict since the Eighties, while there are around 38,000 in operation across the country.

Paul Gipe claims the number abandoned in his state of California is around 4,500, of which 500 are still standing.

In Hawaii, which is soon to get a new subsidised wind farm, Andrew Walden argues that whatever turbine makers boast about their machines’ impressive kilowatt per hour output, there remains an intractable problem with any industry that can survive only with government help.

‘The key lesson from history is that when the subsidies go, the wind farms go,’ he told me. ‘It costs too much to maintain them and they just get abandoned.’

How ironic that the British government is pushing through permissions for thousands of new turbines just as the Americans are going cool on the idea.

The latest figures show U.S. investment in wind energy plunged 38 per cent last year. Experts say there are simply too many turbines out there and not enough people buying the electricity.

Republicans in Congress want to cut wind energy’s 20-year-old subsidy at the end of the year. Why, they ask, should the debt-laden country be giving wind energy companies a 30 per cent tax credit, costing taxpayers nearly $3 billion a year, when wind accounts for only 2.3 per cent of America’s electricity and 8 per cent of its pollution-free electricity?

Wind energy companies claim the move will ‘kill 37,000 jobs, shut plants and cancel billions of dollars in private investment’. They don’t mention more abandoned windmills, but it hardly seems impossible.

Nicolas Loris, an energy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, told me it just goes to prove ‘you can build anything if you subsidise it enough’.

What if the green subsidies that have made many landowners in Britain millions of pounds dry up, too, in the not-too-distant future?

Who in their right mind would want any of the new generation of turbines — under EU plans, the turbines will be nearly 1,000ft tall (that’s six times the height of Nelson’s Column) — rusting away in their backyard?



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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