Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This meaningless green drivel, by environment guru: Scientist's U-turn on doomsday claim

He was once a guru to environmentalists, claiming climate change would kill billions of humans by the end of this century. But it seems James Lovelock has had a change of heart.

On the eve of a major environmental summit, he has attacked the modern green movement – declaring its theories 'meaningless drivel'.

Almost half a century after he revealed his Gaia theory, which inspired a generation of activists, the former Nasa scientist said he believed that rising sea levels were not a problem and that wind turbines were 'useless'.

The 92-year-old described the modern green movement as a 'religion', which used guilt to gain support.

Speaking about climate change, he said: 'I'm not worried about sea-level rises.' He added: 'At worst, I think it will be 2ft a century.'

Slamming environmentalists, he said: 'It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion. 'I don't think people have noticed that, but it's got all the sort of terms that religions use. The greens use guilt. You can't win people round by saying they are guilty for putting CO2 in the air.'

Mr Lovelock said he was a firm supporter of nuclear power and even voiced his support for fracking – the controversial process of extracting gas from rock deep underground, opposed by the green movement. He said: 'Gas is almost a giveaway in the US at the moment. They've gone for fracking in a big way. 'Let's be pragmatic and sensible and get Britain to switch everything to methane. We should be going mad on it.'

In an interview, Mr Lovelock described existing theories of 'sustainable development' – a key topic for discussion at the upcoming summit – as 'drivel'.

He suggested that humans should instead use air conditioning to deal with climate change in cities, citing Singapore as an example. He said: 'If we all move into cities, they become the equivalent of a nest. Then another thought comes immediately from that: if that's the way the flow is going, don't stop it, let's encourage it. 'Instead of trying to save the planet by geo-engineering or whatever, you merely have to air-condition the cities.'

Speaking about Singapore he said: 'You could not have chosen a worse climate in which to build a city. It's a swamp with temperatures in the 90s every day, and very humid.

'But it is one of the most successful cities in the world. It's so much cheaper to air-condition the cities and let Gaia take care of the world. It's a much better route to go than so-called “sustainable development”, which is meaningless drivel.

Mr Lovelock, who has conducted research at Yale and Harvard universities, has been a respected member of the academic community for decades. He discovered the presence of harmful chemicals – CFCs – in the atmosphere in the 1960s.

He developed the Gaia theory while working with Nasa. It claims that the Earth has a self-regulating system which has automatically controlled global temperature, atmospheric content, oxygen, ocean salinity, and other factors.

But last month, the scientist admitted that he had been 'alarmist' and 'extrapolated too far' with his doomsday-like predictions on the effects of climate change.

His latest comments came just a week before the Rio+20 summit, a major conference on climate change, to mark the anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in 1992.


Perhaps We Shouldn't Listen To The Climate "Scientists" About Climate Change

Tim Worstall very foolishly expects Warmists to care about the facts

For it would appear that some climate scientists are remarkably ignorant about what is going on. And this rather worries me: the idea that people who quite literally do not know what they are talking about making government policy is scary.

I present as my example this from Sir David King, until recently the chief scientific advisor to the UK Government. There are various misunderstandings of how economics and finance work in his expressed views but this is particularly horrible:
He also believes it is imperative to fund other major infrastructure projects, such as the Severn Barrage, which would provide three gigawatts of electricity and still run in 200 years with minimum maintenance.

“The problem is that the longest time an economist will work on investment returns is 25 years. We need to look at taking a much longer view. What is missing is clear direction from number 10 and 11.”

The problem with this is that it is entirely nonsense. The report by economists into that Severn Barrage is here. You will see there, at the top of page two, that the costs and benefits are projected out to 120 years: the rough lifespan of the asset if it is ever built.

The reason the economists have downvoted the plan is not because they’re not looked out beyond 25 years: it is because they have. They’ve looked at it and found that all possible variations of the project lose money. All are more expensive than not building it and doing something else instead.

I’m entirely happy to take climatologists’ word for it about climate. Hydrologists’ about water, cloud specialists about clouds and so on but I do object vehemently when the experts on those same subjects decide to try pronouncing on a subject they’re ignorant of, economics. As Sir David clearly has done here.

This is more than just a whine or whinge: there’s an extremely important underlying point here. Whether or not climate change is happening is properly the work of those who understand climate science. However, once the determination has been made it becomes a matter of changing peoples’ behaviour and that’s not something that climate scientists know about. Whereas it is exactly what economists study. Assuming that climate change is happening, that we’re causing it and that something must be done it then becomes and economic problem, to be dealt with using economic methods and methodology.

And it’s rather worrying don’t you think that the man who until recently was the main technical advisor to the government on the subject is entirely ignorant of those matters economic?


Florida mercury scare threatens health; The mercury itself is no problem

Fish contain important nutrients but Floridians are being frightened into not eating any

Regulatory actions being debated in Florida should raise bright red flags for Sunshine State residents, other US states, and even other countries.

On May 24, the Environmental Assessment and Restoration Division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued a seriously flawed draft report, proposing much stricter limits for mercury in Florida's river, stream, lake and coastal waters. The FDEP claims the rules are based on sound science and will improve environmental quality and public health.

However, my studies of mercury (Hg) and its biologically toxic form, methylmercury (MeHg), over the past ten years make it clear that the new limits are not scientifically defensible.

Not only would they raise electricity costs, while bringing no health or environmental benefits. The new standards, along with statements made by the DEP in public forums, would actually harm people's health.

First, the FDEP is wrong in claiming that mercury pollution is a new, manmade phenomenon.

The Department cites a 2008 paper that reported average mercury levels of 0.25 parts per million (ppm) in the hair of Florida Panhandle women of childbearing age (16 to 49). However, a 2002 study of 550-year-old Alaskan mummified bodies found hair mercury levels five to eighteen times higher: an average of 1.2 ppm for four adults and 1.44 ppm for four infants – and 4.6 ppm in one mummy!

Equally troubling, the FDEP draft report cited a 1972 study, but failed to highlight the study's conclusion that mercury levels in the past were at least as high as those in today's tuna. In a related study, Princeton University scientists expecting to find a 9-26% increase in MeHg instead found no increase (and actually a slight decline) in mercury levels in tuna caught between 1971 and 1998. The Princeton researchers concluded that mercury in fish is not related to human emissions, which continue to decline in the USA.

Even more important, the FDEP draft report failed to consider a 17-year-long Seychelles Islands study that found no harm, and no indications of harm, from mercury in children whose mothers ate five to twelve servings of fish per week – far more than most Floridians consume.

In establishing MeHg exposure risks from fish consumption, the researchers concluded that no consistent patterns exist between prenatal MeHg exposures and detailed neurological and behavioral tests. They also concluded that, despite remote but potential MeHg risks, "ocean fish consumption during pregnancy is important for the health and development of children, and the benefits are long lasting."

Moreover, the latest Centers for Disease Control data show blood mercury levels for U.S. women and children are already below EPA's "safe" levels for mercury – and EPA's standards are the most restrictive in the world. In addition, selenium in nearly all fish is strongly attracted to mercury molecules and thus protects both fish and people against buildups of methylmercury.

By scaring women and children into eating less fish, and thus getting fewer Omega 3 fatty acids, FDEP's misleading literature on "dangerous mercury levels" in fish will actually impair their health.

Second, the FDEP failed to note that natural sources dwarf human mercury emissions.

Forest fires in Florida alone emitted an estimated 4,170 pounds of mercury annually between 2002 and 2006. This single source of local mercury emissions is significantly higher than mercury emitted in 2009 from all manmade mercury sources in Florida, including coal-fired power plants (which emit less than 1,500 pounds per year).

The FDEP draft report did note that volcanoes are an important source of global mercury emissions, but failed to explain how enormous this natural source is. In fact, recent studies calculated that volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers and other natural sources emit up to 2 million pounds of mercury per year.

These natural sources explain why it is unsurprising to find high levels of mercury in samples taken years ago in Florida fish, panthers and raccoons – long before coal-fired power plants were on the scene. Mercury has long been part of our environment, in ocean and terrestrial waters, and in Earth's rocks and soils.

Today, mercury from natural sources represents the vast bulk of all the mercury in our atmosphere. Even eliminating 86% of all mercury from Florida's power plants (as the FDEP proposes) would bring trifling environmental and health benefits – while raising electricity rates for the state's families, retirees, schools, hospitals and businesses, costing jobs, and adversely affecting human health and welfare.

Third, the FDEP is wrong when it says mercury "pollution" in Florida's watersheds and fishes is increasing.

Since the 1970s, contaminants in fish have been monitored increasingly each year. More advisories are being issued simply because of increased sampling by state agencies, and "not necessarily due to increased levels or frequency of contamination," as even the U.S. EPA acknowledges.

Finally, FDEP's proposed new mercury limit for Florida's inland and coastal waters is an unjustifiably low 1.25 parts per trillion – which is equivalent to 0.00000125 ppm and 125 seconds in 32 million years!

The Department also assumes Hg levels in water are directly related to Hg levels in fish tissue. In fact, no such relationship exists. Indeed the FDEP draft report admits as much, when it says (page 58), "Using the data collected for the [Florida Mercury Project], no relationship is observed when comparing total mercury in the water column to total mercury in fish tissues."

It's also worth noting that even a bottle of Hunt's tomato ketchup or Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce contains at least 50 times (!) more mercury than what Florida proposes to permit in its waters.

One has to wonder why the FDEP is so intent on setting mercury levels below those that exist in nature – and why it is so reluctant to disclose, explain or discuss publicly available information from the scientific literature, so that all concerned Florida citizens can study it themselves.

Scientific inquiry must be above political pressure and partisan advocacy. Good decisions can arise only if the scientific evidence and knowledge are examined fully, without selective bias.

The FDEP needs to reconsider its mercury rulemaking, and this time base it on actual science. So do other states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other countries considering similar actions.


Earth Summit Babble

By Alan Caruba

Why anyone still believes anything the UN Environmental Program and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has to say is one of those great imponderable questions. To prepare you for the flood of totally idiotic predictions to which you will be treated during the June 20-21 Earth Summit, here are just a few and I strongly advise you to ignore all of them.

A 550-page preparatory UN report, put together by “600 experts”, the Global Environmental Outlook—intended to soften up global suckers—predicts that Earth’s environmental systems are nearly at “their biophysical limits” thus subjecting the Earth to “irreversible and possibly cataclysmic world changes” and “If humanity does not urgently change its ways” it is doomed.

Notably, the Earth Summit will abandon “global warming” and “climate change” as its main theme and instead focus on “sustainability”, the utterly bogus notion that humans are using up all of the Earth’s resources.

The people most famous for really bad predictions these days are environmentalists. Rachel Carson kicked it off fifty years ago with her book, “Silent Spring”, assuring everyone that all the birds would fall dead out of the sky because of pesticide use. These days they are more likely to be chopped to shreds by wind turbines.

Ever since the early days of environmental hysteria just about every awful scenario cooked up in the fevered brains of the Greens has become front page news. There is method to their madness and it comes down to a simple equation: Scaring People Equals Money and Power.

Environmentalism is all about controlling you while picking your pocket. By any other name it is Socialism or its big brother Communism. It depends on lies backed up by a massive propaganda machine, funded by ultra-wealthy foundations, by governments who support Green programs of all sorts, and by the members of an endless succession of environmental organizations.

For example, you may recall that global warming, a massive heating of the Earth due to carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas emissions” was predicted to occur twenty, thirty or fifty years hence when the hoax kicked off in the late 1980s. Keep that in mind when the Rio+20 United Nations Earth Summit is held in Rio de Janeiro, the site of the first conference.

Supported by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the so-called “scientists” backed up their claims with all manner of computer models, dubious graphs, and tons of “scientific” papers to convince governments and people that massive changes had to occur—primarily a huge reduction in the use of fossil fuels—or we were all doomed.

Exposed in November 2009 by the “Climategate” release of thousands of emails between the perpetrators, I still find it astonishing that not one single member of this conspiracy has gone to jail. Indeed, in 2007 the IPCC and Al Gore shared a Nobel Peace Prize.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has issued a formal request that all the “researchers” who contributed to the global warming hoax be granted immunity from prosecution. Unbelievable, eh?

Back in 1956, a geologist named M. King Hubbert released the findings of his calculations to let the world know that U.S. oil production would “peak” between 1965 and 1970. It didn’t. What has since slowed oil production in the U.S. has been the refusal of the Obama administration to issue the permits necessary to drill on federal lands and offshore. The world is afloat on an ocean of oil and, in addition, the U.S. is not running out of coal or natural gas.

Similarly, all the population predictions made by Prof. Paul R. Erhlich and his wife in 1968 have proven false as well. A colleague of his, Dr. John Holdren, is the science advisor to the President. One of the central themes of environmentalism is that humanity is to blame for harming the Earth and that there are too many people.

The other theme is that all these people are “consuming” too much of the Earth’s natural resources and should be penned up in cities and kept out of most places on Earth in order to protect its “endangered species”, etc. Meanwhile, as this is being written, huge sections of western states’ forests are going up in flames thanks to Mother Nature setting off fires off with lightning strikes.

Does it surprise anyone that the Earth Summit is calling for a “climate fund” and wants nations to kick in $100 billion? The proposal for the fund called “The Earth We Want” covers an extraordinary range of topics that includes gender equality, woman’s empowerment, and all the usual social justice and environmental clap-trap that is intended to ensnare everyone in a web of laws, regulations, and treaties aimed directly at eliminating the freedoms the West has and that many in other parts of the world want.

There is one good reason to not ignore the Earth Summit. They are telling you just what kind of an Orwellian and totalitarian world they have in mind for you.


Even "New Scientist" rebukes the IPCC for using 'grey' evidence

Skeptics have been saying the same for years

Climate scientists are likely to face charges of putting politics before science, following two controversial decisions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this month.

The IPCC decided for the first time to impose strict geographical quotas on the scientists who author its major assessment reports. There will also be a push to increase the representation of women among its authors.

Controversially, it also voted to increase the role in those assessments of "grey literature": publications not subject to peer review. Using such material in the last assessment is what led to the "glaciergate" scandal in 2010, when the report was found to have vastly overestimated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are losing ice.

The panel publishes three voluminous assessments of the state of climate science every six years, the last of which came out in 2007Speaker.

Some critics New Scientist spoke to say the changes, which have not so far been publicly announced, will reduce the quality of the assessments by excluding the best scientists and muddying the waters between peer-reviewed and other literature.
Geographical bias

However, the changes were backed this week by a senior IPCC scientist, Thelma Krug, a Brazilian co-chair of the panel's task force in greenhouse gas inventories. Speaking at a side event at the Rio+20 environment conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she said the changes will correct geographical biases that have skewed past assessments.

Grey literature was responsible for several embarrassing errors in the 2007 report. These included the false claim that the Himalayas could be ice-free within 30 years and the assertion that African farmers could suffer yield losses of up to 50 per cent by 2020 because of climate change. The latter claim was formally corrected at this month's Geneva meeting.

After the scandals, some called for grey literature to be banished from IPCC assessments. Instead, the meeting embraced it, and set criteria for its use. From now on, for instance, any grey literature used in an IPCC report will have to be put online so that reviewers can assess its quality.
Correcting imbalance

Krug told New Scientist this would correct an imbalance in the assessments as it is harder for people in developing countries to get research findings into the major peer-reviewed journals.

"There is a lot of information available in [the grey literature of] developing countries that would balance IPCC literature," she said.

The IPCC is an intergovernmental body, but its reports are written by scientists. In the past these have been chosen largely on their scientific merit, but from now on the 30-person IPCC bureau - which oversees all publications - will have geographical quotas. For instance Africa will have five members and North America four. In addition, each of its three working groups must now include at least one person from every continent in their eight-person bureaux.

Richard Klein, an IPCC stalwart from the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, told New Scientist this was mostly a formalisation of current practices. "Membership has always been based on expertise, geographical balance and gender." But Krug said it represented a breakthrough for involvement of developing-world scientists.


Australia: Coal hard light of day for dud Green/Left scheme

Kevin Rudd's decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology to capture and store carbon has failed to deliver.

They've conferenced in empire-style Parisian ballrooms and dined in Kyoto on food cooked by a genuine Iron Chef. But deeply disgruntled former staffers believe Australia's $300 million Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute has not achieved very much.

In 2008 the then prime minister Kevin Rudd decided a fledgling technology called carbon capture and storage was the key to two of his government's big aims: joining a successful international fight to reduce global warming and continuing to be the world's largest exporter of coal.

In his grandiloquent style, he promised $400 million to a new not-for-profit company, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which would get CCS up and running at home and also "lead the world".

The funding was pared back over time, but industry and government sources and former staff of the institute are frustrated that much of the $300 million spent on the institute has been "squandered".

Even the man appointed to haul it away from government hand-outs and into the world of commercial reality - Brad Page, the former head of the peak electricity industry body - concedes the original $100 million a year "seed funding" given to the institute was more that it knew how to spend.

"It's actually impossible to spend that amount of money responsibly," he tells The Sun-Herald.

But his predecessors tried, in lavish ways that raised the ire of senior bureaucrats and ministers. Since 2009, more than $235 million has been delivered to the institute, $122 million of it already spent and another $113 million in its bank account, beyond the reach of Treasury's razor, information provided at a Senate estimates hearing reveals.

Treasury managed to claw back more than $80 million of the promised $400 million before it was handed over. Only about $80 million remains to be paid over the next five years.

The institute has 78 staff, including nine permanent employees overseas - two in Washington, three in Tokyo and four in Paris. Former senior employees say its first chief executive, the British businessman Nick Otter, was paid well over $500,000 a year - more than the Prime Minister.

Page insists he has "no idea" what his predecessor was paid and his own salary is "nothing like that". The institute's five board members are paid from a budget of $400,000 a year and are entitled to first-class air travel.

The first members' meeting was in Canberra, where the institute is based, in early 2009. But its second, in November 2009, attended by more than 15 Australia-based staff, was in the luxurious ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel in Paris, opposite the Paris Opera and decorated in similar ornate style.

Both industry sources and former staff concede the jaw-dropping opulence sent "all the wrong messages" to the 180 members who attended.

"The spending was very difficult to justify," said one former employee.

And it did not end in Paris. In 2010 when they met in Kyoto, they enjoyed a dinner cooked by a celebrity Iron Chef ( the institute says his services were thrown in for no extra charge by the hotel).

Documents released under freedom of information show a staggering $54,257,000 was spent on "operational expenses" in the first two years.

The spending began before the institute even existed. Rudd - who decided at a G8 meeting in Japan in 2008 that the success of CCS was vital to Australia's interest - set it up on advice from Boston Consulting, rather than the public service, at a cost of $1.5 million. By September 2008, he summoned business leaders to Canberra for a 30-minute presentation unveiling his plan.

Many were nonplussed, unsure about its aims or how it would be different from the CO2 co-operative research centre set up under the Howard government ( with almost $50 million in federal funds), Dick Wells's National Low Emissions Coal Council ($400 million in federal funding) or another international body set up by the US, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.

"I still have no real idea how it will work or what it will do," one chief executive said at the time.

But the public service was already doling out $65 million to future institute "partners", including $21 million to the Asian Development Bank, almost $20 million to the International Energy Agency, $10 million to the Clinton Foundation headed by the former US president, and a grant to a body called the Climate Group to "advance" CCS. The Sun-Herald understands there is deep concern about what Australia is achieving from these contracts.

The institute was soon seeking global members and now boasts more than 300, including foreign governments, corporations, industry organisations and research bodies. There was no reason not to sign up. There is no joining fee.

In July 2009, the grand idea was paraded on the international stage, its reannouncement the key initiative at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. It was a heady moment for the Australian prime minister, who shared the podium with the US President, Barack Obama, the leaders of the developed world listening behind him.

At the time, Australia's $400 million was termed "seed funding" with hundreds of millions from other governments also anticipated. But it took years for the US government to come good with $1 million and the European Union has only this year contributed €3 million ($3.8 million) for the institute to take over work it had previously contracted elsewhere.

Its advisory panel included the world's best and brightest, among them former World Bank boss James Wolfensohn and influential climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern. Wolfensohn has since left.

Despite all its money, it took the institute some time to clarify exactly what it would do to meet its ambitious brief. At its inception, a spokesman for Rudd said the institute would not "actually fund demonstration projects overseas" but would "provide expertise … and research".

However, in its first report to the Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, revealed under freedom-of-information laws, the institute said it was planning to "make approximately $50 million per annum available to support a substantial portfolio of CCS projects around the world".

And in a letter to Ferguson in February 2010, institute chairman Russell Higgins wrote proudly that the initial offer to support international projects received an "extremely encouraging" response. The institute had received requests from overseas projects asking for a total of $500 million of Australia's money. So far, the institute has spent $37 million on projects, mostly overseas. Several have failed. Only about $6 million has been spent on projects in Australia.

A total of $8 million was spent on a single CCS plant proposed by the energy company Tenaska, in Texas. In a recent report, Tenaska conceded it was still unable to bridge a "financing gap" required before the project could proceed because the US government had not provided any assistance. Internationally, the only CCS projects working on power plants are where the injected carbon dioxide serves an additional revenue-raising purpose - helping to recover more oil deposits from underground.

"They thought they could purchase an acceleration of projects overseas, but it was clear from the start that even though we had a lot of money, doing that would cost a lot more money than we had," the former employee says.

Peter Cook, the former head of the research centre CO2CRC and a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, says Australia should have used its money to make sure at least one domestic carbon capture and storage project was built to prove to investors that the technology worked at commercial scale.

"Some of the other countries must think we are wonderfully generous, but I believe we could be getting a lot more bang for our buck," he said.

Page says the institute's function is now "knowledge sharing" - to make sure each new project around the world does not repeat the mistakes of the last. He says the money was initially paid to overseas projects to begin building up the institute's publicly available "knowledge bank", but from now on it will commission specific research and will no longer fund projects on the ground.

As the government funding runs out, Page's job over the next two years "is to develop a strategy for the future … where our services are attractive enough to be paid for by our customers." It will almost inevitably involve fewer staff and pared back operations.

But the main knowledge being "shared" is that, like all low-emission technologies, CCS is more expensive than coal, and therefore (unless it can make a revenue stream through enhanced oil recovery) it requires upfront capital assistance from governments, and ongoing subsidies while a carbon price remains low.

The institute itself came to this conclusion after its first global "audit", released in October 2009 and Page concedes this remains the reason for slow progress on CCS around the world.



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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