We all know that Romney is wishy-washy when it comes climate change science, and that us so-called skeptics were not at ease with that. Well, now you can cast your worries aside.
Over the last hours there’s been a lot of buzz out in the media that Paul Ryan has been chosen as Romney’s running mate. Confirmation of that is still pending. If true, that means we have a VP candidate who is a pretty solid skeptic when it comes to catastrophic manmade global warming. Romney is obviously comfortable with that and is using Ryan to reposition himself on the issue of global warming and energy.
What is Ryan’s position on climate science? Here’s what Paul Ryan wrote less than 3 years ago:
To the detriment of the American people, environmental issues have fallen victim to the hyper-politicization of science. The Journal Times editorial board sensibly cautioned both sides of the political divide against this unfortunate trend (“Science must trump spin,” The Journal Times, 12/3/09).
At issue in the Journal Times’ recent editorial and on the minds of many Copenhagen observers are published e-mail exchanges from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). These e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.
The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists, but it also marks a major step back on the need to preserve the integrity of the scientific community. While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates.”
Here’s a list of Ryan’s other climate and energy accomplishments:
- voted to eliminate EPA Limits On Greenhouse Gases. [Roll Call 249, 4/7/11].
- voted to block the USDA from implementing its climate raindance. [Roll Call 448, 6/16/11].
- voted to eliminate the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, the special envoy for climate change (Todd Stern), and the special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation. [Roll Call 87, 2/17/11].
- voted to eliminate ARPA-E. [Roll Call 55, 2/17/11].
- voted to eliminate the ban of incandescent light bulbs. [Roll Call 563, 7/12/11]
- voted for Keystone XL. In 2011, Ryan voted for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline. [Roll Call 650, 7/26/11]
- Paul Ryan’s FY 2013 budget resolution retained a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while slashing subsidies in alternative energy research. The plan called for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone. [CAP, 3/20/12].
You can read how Ryan voted on every energy and environment issue here. Expect the debate on climate to gain traction in the campaign in the weeks ahead. We welcome it!
The latest electic car
The Renault Twizy has all the cons but none of the pros of a bicycle, says Neil Lyndon from London
The Renault Twizy was to be delivered to the house of friends in London with whom I was staying for the night. We were out at dinner when the car was unloaded.
Excited chatter and laughter were resounding in the night air as we turned into my friends’ street. Mobile phone cameras were flashing. Few cars could draw such a throng. People who would not even notice a Ferrari were elbowing to get a better look inside this tiny, high-domed two-seater that makes a Smart car look like a lorry.
It helped the crowd nosing around that my Twizy had doors but no windows; cheaper versions have no sides at all. As it was so evidently unsafe to park on the street, my friends asked the vicar of the church opposite to open his gated car park. I then had to insert my large body into the midget Twizy through its scissor door and figure out how to get it going, which made everyone fall about. The stages of start-up for this all-electric vehicle are obvious, as is the push-button transmission selector on the dashboard that simply offers D for a single-speed drive, N for neutral and R for reverse. But it took me about three minutes to wangle the parking-brake free, during which one of the audience declared that this show was better than the movies.
It’s fair to say, then, that life with a Twizy is one hassle after another – as it proved the next day when I took it out on the streets of London.
I had asked to borrow it while I was in London for the Olympics, thinking that such a tiny quadricycle, with a top range of 60 miles and a recharge time of three and a half hours, would be ideal for negotiating the clogged city streets. Wrong. Its makers describe the Twizy as being “unlike anything else on the road” but, to my mind, it combines all the most troublesome aspects of car, motorbike and bicycle.
Its four wheels outside its body mean that you may not drive in the bus lane. Those wide-set wheels also prevent you from threading through lines of stationary cars like a two-wheeler. The Twizy is so tiny that three could probably fit into a standard parking bay, but that’s not allowed either: each Twizy incurs a normal car’s charge. Its rear-mounted electric motor produces zero carbon emissions, making it exempt from London Congestion Charging and road tax, but that’s true of a bicycle, too, and you would not be much more exposed to the elements on a bicycle than in the open-sided Twizy.
Nippy and manoeuvrable though it is, the Twizy was far slower on my trip to the Olympic Park than my massive BMW R1200 RT motorbike would have been. My bike would also have been more comfortable and warmer. The Twizy lacks any heater or radio; the R1200 RT has both. The bike easily negotiates sleeping policemen; the Twizy hits them full square, with an impact through the uncushioned tandem seats like a kick in the pants.
Bus passengers enjoyed staring down into the Twizy so it’s an incomparable platform for narcissism; but, as a form of transport, you might be better off on foot with an umbrella.
Windmill caused huge and dangerous forest fire
With County Supervisors poised to consider approval of Tule Wind and a wind ordinance that could open much of fire-prone East County to wind energy development, a wildland fire that started at a wind turbine facility in Riverside County last month provides fuel for opponents concerned about fire risks posed by industrial-scale wind projects. “The fire started with the windmill itself,” Captain Greg Ewing with Cal Fire/Riverside Fire Department informed ECM today.
Despite extensive area cleared around the base of each turbine, Ewing said, the blaze still spread into a wildland fire that swiftly engulfed 367 acres. If not for prompt reporting by a witness, it could have been far worse.
According to Cal Fire's report on the incident, The View Fire occurred in the Whitewater area east of Cabazon in Riverside County on June 17, 2012 at a wind facility near Cottonwood Road and Desert View. A caller who dialed 911 initially reported seeing flames and “one confirmed windmill on fire” at 9:15 p.m.
By 9:33 p.m., CHP stated it had received multiple reports that there were “several windmills on fire” along with a ridgeline near I-10 and Haughen-Lehmann Way. Callers also reporting “popping loud noises” as the turbines burned. Both ground crews and aircraft battled the blaze.
Residents in the box canyon were evacuated, including 90-year-old Barbara York, who had time to grab only an overnight bag. York was “frantic,” the Desert Sun reported at the time.
At 12:34 a.m. on June 18, Cal Fire’s report on the fire indicates that a request had been made for Edison, since power lines had caught fire in the middle of the wind turbines. More than 100 firefighters fought the fire through the night.
The blaze was ultimately stopped at 367 acres, including 100 acres of public lands on Bureau of Land Management property. The final report blames “equipment”, specifically a “generator” and “arcing” for the fire.
Asked directly whether the generator that caused the fire was an actual wind turbine, Captain Ewing confirmed, “Yes ma’am.” He also confirmed that ground had been cleared around the base of each turbine, the blaze swiftly spread to become a wildland fire despite those precautions. Captain Ewing did not know the precise cause of the turbine malfunction. “Several companies lease the land,” he noted. “Other companies own the windmills and others service them.”
It only takes one wildfire to scorch hundreds of thousands of acres, putting homes and lives at risk, as San Diegans well know. Is that a risk worth taking, for the promise or renewable energy from wind?
When comparing the viability of wind to other options such as rooftop or parking lot solar, should the potential costs of firefighting--as well as potential liabilities for damages to property and lost lives--be factored into determining projects' long-term costs and benefits?
Homeowners near the View Fire were fortunate that a witness spotted the fire and reported it promptly, before homes or lives were lost. What happens if a turbine fire occurs in a remote East County location in the middle of the night? Will flames engulf homes, or in the case of Tule Wind, campsites in the path of the fire? Could the County be held liable if wind turbines that it approves cause a devastating wildfire?
These are troubling questions that deserve satisfactory answers.
Just what we need: A professor of peace to tell us all about The Great Drought of 2012
Peaceniks have always been a blinkered lot but this guy is blinkered to the point of utter blindness. If the drought in some parts of the USA is caused by global warming, how come many other parts of the world (e.g. Britain, China) have been having big troubles with flooding? Doesn't global warming cause drought there? If not, why not? He may talk about global phenomena but his mental world is clearly limited to America. Some people would call that ethnocentrism, a relative of racism
If earth continues heating at its exponential rate, our post-apocalyptic fantasies could become everyday realities
The Great Drought of 2012 has yet to come to an end, but we already know that its consequences will be severe. With more than one-half of America’s counties designated as drought disaster areas, the 2012 harvest of corn, soybeans, and other food staples is guaranteed to fall far short of predictions. This, in turn, will boost food prices domestically and abroad, causing increased misery for farmers and low-income Americans and far greater hardship for poor people in countries that rely on imported U.S. grains.
This, however, is just the beginning of the likely consequences: if history is any guide, rising food prices of this sort will also lead to widespread social unrest and violent conflict.
Food — affordable food — is essential to human survival and well-being. Take that away, and people become anxious, desperate, and angry. In the United States, food represents only about 13% of the average household budget, a relatively small share, so a boost in food prices in 2013 will probably not prove overly taxing for most middle-and upper-income families. It could, however, produce considerable hardship for poor and unemployed Americans with limited resources. “You are talking about a real bite out of family budgets,” commented Ernie Gross, an agricultural economist at Omaha’s Creighton University. This could add to the discontent already evident in depressed and high-unemployment areas, perhaps prompting an intensified backlash against incumbent politicians and other forms of dissent and unrest.
It is in the international arena, however, that the Great Drought is likely to have its most devastating effects. Because so many nations depend on grain imports from the U.S. to supplement their own harvests, and because intense drought and floods are damaging crops elsewhere as well, food supplies are expected to shrink and prices to rise across the planet. “What happens to the U.S. supply has immense impact around the world,” says Robert Thompson, a food expert at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. As the crops most affected by the drought, corn and soybeans, disappear from world markets, he noted, the price of all grains, including wheat, is likely to soar, causing immense hardship to those who already have trouble affording enough food to feed their families.
Not all packaging is "superfluous"
By Michael Zacka – President and CEO of Tetra Pak, United States and Canada
When it comes to packaging—which is Tetra Pak’s business—there are many lessons about the environment to embrace and confront in our personal race to the top. We are faced with new ones daily that need to be addressed. But one of the most persistent issues we battle is an ironic and common misconception: many consumers assume that less packaging or no packaging is always the best answer for the environment. That may be true of most products, but there are reasons food packaging is different, as a recent blog in the Harvard Business Review points out.
Packaging actually protects the environment and conserves resources, when you consider that “globally, about a third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste—which means that the water, land use, energy and financial resources that went into producing it are also squandered,” notes author Kristin Heist. Yet “the energy that goes into packaging makes up just 10 percent of the total energy that goes into producing, transporting, storing and preparing food. When packaging prevents food waste even a little, it can have a major positive impact on the environment.”
Or, one-fifth of all beef produced ends up as waste. Beef store-wrapped in butcher paper has a one-to-three day shelf life, while beef sealed in plastic at the processing plant has a shelf life of up to 21 days, notes Heist.
Similarly, 2 percent of all milk goes bad on U.S. supermarket shelves before it’s purchased, according to the blog post. But milk in Tetra Pak’s aseptic cartons, which is how milk is commonly sold in Europe and Asia, will last up to six months unrefrigerated.
As far back as 1951, our company’s founder believed that a package should save more than it costs and be made from minimal amount of materials. Over 60 years later, cartons continue to be one of the most sustainable solutions in the market, lighter than traditional packaging, and a more efficient fit in trucks—which can save on transportation costs and CO2 emissions by taking vehicles off the road. Our packages are mostly made from paper, a renewable resource, and don’t require refrigeration for transportation or storage. And our filling and processing machines save water, use fewer chemicals and conserve energy. Finally, we are doing everything possible to increase consumer access to carton recycling, which admittedly still lags behind metal and glass recycling.
Going beyond the limited reach of laws and regulations to preserve our environment for coming generations will require ethical business leaders who are willing to get out in front to become part of the solution, and listen to those informed and active consumers. Sustainability is the opposite of a pyramid scheme: it is listening and collaborating to find solutions, and laying a true foundation we can build on for the future.
Some advantages of being an ageing conservative white male
by Steven Kates
Robert Manne knows no more about climate science than I do. It’s been an issue since the 1970s and I have been following it with the kind of interest anyone following political issues is apt to take. And the more it rose to become one of the centrepieces of the left, the more I kept a watchful eye on how it would develop. Manne has now written an article in The Monthly for August, “A Dark Victory” with its subtitle the actual main point, “How Vested Interests Defeated Climate Science”.
The gist of what he wrote is that here is this scientific theory that is so well attested to by every reputable authority across the globe that if the human race had any sense at all it would be rushing in every direction to save itself from the impending threats created by greenhouse gases. And up until a few years ago the threats had been so well recognised that actual steps were being taken to rescue ourselves from this disastrous outcome but then, just as reason was about to prevail, those with power, money and influence on the right side of the political spectrum came along and changed the climate of opinion so that now we are far less likely to take the necessary steps we were about to take only a handful of years before. We will, in time, be cursed by our descendants (p29) for not having taken the appropriate measures while there was still time. Instead we are potentially heading for the fate predicted by NASA’s James Hansen where, as described by Manne, “inevitably all the polar ice on Earth will melt, raising the level of the oceans by 75 metres and turning the planet into an alien, barren and unrecognisable place.” (p22)
The issue raised by Manne is not, however, whether global warming a genuine problem. That is done and settled. The question he wishes to raise is how the tide was turned so that the climate action that seemed so inevitable has now receded to the point where it is clear nothing at all is going to be done by anyone. And it turns out that it is a combination of right wing think tanks using near on unlimited amounts of money from conservative sources to sow doubt by raising scepticism as a legitimate point of view. It is the disgraceful manufacturing of doubt (p24) in a political environment where according to Manne:
"a rational citizen has little alternative but to accept the consensual core position of climate scientists. Discussion of the point should long ago have ended. That it has not is the most persuasive possible example of the feebleness of reason, the futility of argument and the failure of politics. (p23)"
All very well, but unless you are going to shut down political debate, end all argument and allow whatever temporary consensus that may exist at some moment in time to persist for ever without possibility of change, this is how it must be. Because when all is said and done, the answers given by climate scientists are nothing more than the commencement of a series of political questions. Whatever communal decisions we make must be filtered through the political process. And therefore we all get to participate in the debate, whether we are, to use Manne’s own classification, sceptics, contrarians or denialists, the three forms of unreason he lists.
But what really had me take notice was this:
"Ageing conservative white males are many times more likely than any other segment of the population to be denialists. (p28)"
Being myself an ageing conservative white male I found myself, and not for the first time, dwelling on my refusal to have at any time accepted the arguments of the global warming crowd. I have followed the debates and read the literature and listened to the scientists and have come out of it unconvinced. It turns out that I am part of that one band, that single stratum that has resisted all such arguments. It naturally warmed me to my fellow ageing conservative white male cohort but you do have to wonder why we have been singled out in this way either for our blindness to reality or for our ability to see through a sham and a con.
Now I must accept that I have been white and male all my life, but I have not always been aged and, along with many others of the post-war generation I belong to, have not always been conservative. But to have lived through the 1960s did provide an opportunity to reflect on many a scam in the name of science that has left me, and possibly many others, with a jaundiced eye of sorts when I hear fantastic claims about science and what it has shown. Those younger than us have, unfortunately for them, never had the opportunity of being subjected to the kinds of nonsense that we, when young, were surrounded by on all sides. I won’t get the order right, but allow me to go through some of the major stages along the way towards a sceptical outlook that I value as part of my own lessons in life. Whether with global warming this well developed scepticism to the fantastic and implausible is letting me down and making it impossible to see reality as it is seen by Robert Manne and others of his tribe is just how it is. We are what we are, just as he is what he is. We can be no other.
Paul Ehrlich and The Population Bomb
There is, firstly, Paul Ehrlich and The Population Bomb (1968). This, his most famous book, starts with his most famous statement.
"The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."
Needless to say, none of this happened nor have his “scientific” credentials been tarnished a whit. He has apparently just this year in 2012 been made Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Right, wrong? Who cares? On he goes with nary a pause. Good luck to him but for me it was one of those lessons in science in that the word of a “scientist” is not gospel and the more fad-like those beliefs are, the more resistant you should become. Mass acceptance of the implausible is a sign not so much that a theory is valid but that it fills some psychological need in those who take it up.
The Club of Rome
Related to Ehrlich and population had been the debate over oil depletion along with our other natural resources. This has been a perennial going back to William Stanley Jevons in the nineteenth century who had argued that the world would soon run out of coal. Oil is now the resource that is most frequently cited as the likely candidate for exhaustion but so far, if anything, these hydrocarbon sources keep expanding. It is a staple of economic theory that there will always be no more than around twenty years of proven supply available since once there are twenty years’ worth around, it is pointless to find any more since any new deposit would not be needed for at least another 21 years.
The centre for this argument was provided by what is called “The Club of Rome”. This is from the “Club of Rome” Wikipedia entry:
"It consists of current and former Heads of State, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists, and business leaders from around the globe. . . .
The Club of Rome raised considerable public attention with its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 12 million copies in more than 30 translations, making it the best-selling environmental book in world history. Published in 1972 and presented for the first time at the International Students' Committee (ISC) annual Management Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland, it predicted that economic growth could not continue indefinitely because of the limited availability of natural resources, particularly oil."
I have kept my watching brief on this as well which has been a constant thrum ever since its founding in the 1960s. And in all of these forty years, economic growth has never yet been hindered by resource depletion at any time in any place. All that this has done is add to my resistance of theories of catastrophe which grows more resistant every year that none of these scare stories turns out to have been even remotely true.
Nor should I neglect the global cooling argument of the 1970s. The planet was cooling and we were heading into an ice age. Here is the first paragraph from a report in Newsweek published on April 28, 1975. The report was titled “The Cooling World”.
"There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon." (Source: http://denisdutton.com/cooling_world.htm)
The same thing as now, only with the reverse direction in temperatures. It didn’t last long since average temperatures have since the mid-1970s begun to rise instead of fall. But if you were not told that this passage was about falling temperatures, you might have thought it was from the latest IPCC Report.
But then possibly the most instructive example of them all was the threat of Y2K. Just a joke today but taken seriously at the time was the concern pushed by every computer scientist in the world, that with the turning of the century from 1999 into 2000, computer clocks would all mistake the actual date for 1900. The story went that when computers were first being engineered, the amount of disc space was so restricted that only two digits were used for the year. Therefore as the date ticked over from 99 to 00, rather than going forward in time, many computers would fall back into the past. The error would then lead to major discord in computer run technologies.
Who knows how many millions were then spent on trying to rectify this problem and who knows how much money was made by all those computer scientists in fixing computer programs. I knew of no computer scientist who was in any way sceptical. A genuine problem we were told. And on New Years eve 2000 there was not a plane flying anywhere in the world. Since no one could be certain, and since it only involved in the first instance a few hours of downtime, it was not all that costly to avoid the risk. However, by that same afternoon, everyone was flying again and since then not a word, and no apology either. This is the closest cousin to global warming in that the collective expertise of the world assured us there was a problem to fix and that it would cost heaps of money to do. So heaps of money was spent and here we are with nothing to show for it other than a number of computer scientists living in somewhat larger houses than they might otherwise have done.
So Why Would I Not be Sceptical?
So this is the kind of background we ageing conservative white males bring to the global warming debate. In my view, the world is a better place because of this scepticism. We probe and mistrust all of those gung ho science types who think that their creaky shifting models are all that’s needed for the rest of us to fall into line with their recommendations. We have heard it all before. We are not buying this on the say so of a bunch of climate scientists who are no more informed about the future than computer scientists were in 1999 or the Club of Rome in the 1970s or Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s. You have models and you have your beliefs. Fine, but let’s really test them, make sure they stand up under the pressures that they need to withstand if we are going to take the kinds of drastic actions you seem to recommend.
Because it is also the case that what I, as an ageing conservative white male, understand more than anything else is that if you give these people power to deal with this confected emergency they will never willingly give it back. They will want to run your life for the good of the planet as they seek out and find even more reasons to add to their power and ask for ever more money to find the cure. They argue that the risks are infinitely high and therefore the only answer is to pay an almost infinitely high price to forestall this potential climate catastrophe.
Robert Manne may well see in James Hansen a reborn St Francis of Assisi but all I see is another Uri Geller. He may see climate scientists as the most noble and selfless conclave since the Knights of the Roundtable but what I see are a bunch of rent seekers looking for the next government grant.
As an ageing conservative white male my hope is to pass on to the next generation a world of rising prosperity and greater personal freedom. It is not a small matter that to follow the Robert Mannes of the world would mean that we would leave behind a world far less prosperous and far less free than it is today. Manne treats these as if they are trivial matters, that given the speculations of these climate scientists, thinking about the effects on our standard of living or on personal freedom should be mere dust on the balance, given virtually no weight at all.
Well I have news for him and the rest. We are not going to give up our way of life, our personal freedoms and our prosperity on the say so of those who seem to care nothing at all for these considerations or even seem to be unaware that they are an integral and important part of this debate. These are considerations that constitute the conservative element found in that ageing conservative white male classification. Tell me just which freedoms I should put at risk and how much the future wealth of the world ought to be diminished to pander to these climate change fantasists. Manne and the rest of the global warming crowd will have to be a lot more convincing than they have so far been before I sign on to a program that will put at risk a very great deal that I care about in the social order we have taken many centuries to create and to do so in exchange for no obvious benefit of any kind that I so far have been able to see.
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