Monday, November 12, 2012
Demoralized Republicans to allow a carbon tax?
EARLY WEDNESDAY, delivering his victory speech in Chicago, President Obama elevated an issue that had hardly come up during the campaign. “We want our children to live in an America,” he said, “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
Later that day, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that climate change is an important issue and that he wants to “address it reasonably” — particularly following big storms in the Northeast that have highlighted rising sea levels and other dangers associated with global warming.
House Speaker John R. Boehner (R-Ohio), meanwhile, spoke about cooperating with Democrats on urgently needed budget reform.
Now if there were just some policy that would reduce carbon emissions and raise federal revenue . . . .
A tax on carbon, of course, is that policy, and lawmakers and the president should be discussing it. The idea is to put a simple price on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases — some dollar amount per ton of CO² — that steadily increases at a pre-set rate.
This is the best plan lawmakers can take off the shelf to fight global warming. As an added benefit, it would reduce dependence on imported oil. If businesses and consumers had to pay something for the otherwise invisible costs of their actions — in this case, pollution — they would be more careful. Their combined preferences, not those of Congress or bureaucrats, would determine how to wring carbon out of the economy.
Homeowners might turn down their thermostats or weatherize their windows. Power companies would devise the cheapest ways to reduce the carbon dioxide they emit, without the government ordering them to build this or to refrain from that. At first, they would probably burn more natural gas and less coal, a cheap way to cut lots of emissions quickly. In the long term, the demand for green technologies would expand, and with it private investment.
A carbon tax would make sense regardless of the revenue it would raise. But the policy could bring in serious money. Economists at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank, estimate that a tax of $25 per ton of CO² would raise $125 billion a year. That’s more than entirely eliminating the tax deduction for mortgage interest. Carbon taxes hit lower-income households hardest, so Congress should rebate some money to consumers. But that would still leave plenty of revenue to make a difference in budget reform.
The federal government needs new, economically efficient streams of revenue, to fund priorities such as scientific research and to narrow the deficit. A carbon tax should be atop the list.
Can Medieval Heat Cool Warming Worries?
A flurry of recent scientific papers has tried to measure the warmth of the “Medieval Warm Period” (MWP) of about 1,000 years ago. Scientists have long debated whether it was cooler or warmer than today, and whether the warmth was global or regional. The point for nonscientists: If recent warming has precedents, some might find it less alarming.
Until the late 1990s, researchers generally agreed that the MWP was warmer than today and that the “Little Ice Age” of 1500-1800 was colder. Then in 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adopted the “hockey stick” graph devised by Michael Mann at the University of Virginia and colleagues.
Using temperature indicators such as tree rings and lake sediments, the graph rewrote history by showing little warmth in the 11th century and little cold in the 17th, but a sharp spike in late-20th-century temperatures. That graph helped to persuade many people (such as me) that recent temperature rises were unprecedented in scale and speed in at least 1,400 years.
But critics of the graph pointed out that it used a statistical technique that overemphasized hockey-stick shaped data from unreliable indicators, such as tree rings in bristlecone pine trees and Scandinavian lake sediments influenced by 20th-century land-use changes. Four recent studies have now rehabilitated the MWP as a period of unusual warmth, though they disagree on whether it was as warm or warmer than today.
Jan Esper of the University of Mainz and his colleagues looked at pine wood densities from Sweden and Finland and found “evidence for substantial warmth during Roman and medieval times, larger in extent and longer in duration than 20th-century warmth.” Bo Christiansen of the Danish Meteorological Institute and Fredrik Ljungqvist of Stockholm University looked at 32 indicators across the Northern Hemisphere and found the level of warmth during the peak of the MWP “in the second half of the 10th century equaling or slightly exceeding the mid-20th century warming.”
Thomas Melvin of the University of East Anglia and colleagues reanalyzed one of the tree samples from Sweden used in the “hockey stick” and concluded: “We can infer the existence of generally warm summers in the 10th and 11th centuries, similar to the level of those in the 20th century.”
A fourth study of creatures called diatoms in Chinese lake sediments found that the period “between ca. A.D. 1150 and 1200 was the warmest interval of the past 1,000 years.”
Taken together, these studies cast doubt on the IPCC’s conclusion in 2007 that “the evidence is not sufficient to support a conclusion that [Northern] hemispheric mean temperatures were as warm, or the extent of warm regions as expansive, as those in the 20th century as a whole, during any period in medieval times.”
But was the medieval warm period confined to the Northern Hemisphere?
I consulted a database of papers collated by the climate-skeptic website CO2Science.org, run by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a nonprofit research center in Tempe, Ariz. The database contains numerous published studies of isotopes and other indicators in caves, lake sediments and other samples from Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Antarctica that find the MWP warmer than today. Two Antarctic studies, for instance, concluded that current warming “is not yet as extreme in nature as the MWP” and that “the present state of reduced ice on the western Antarctic Peninsula is not unprecedented.” A far smaller number of studies, such as one from Lake Tanganyika, found the MWP cooler than today.
It remains possible that today’s warming is different from that of the Middle Ages. For example, while summers might have been warmer then, winters might be warmer today (if today’s warming is caused by carbon dioxide, that should be true). And of course, it is the future, not the past, that scientists expect to be dangerous. Nonetheless, the evidence increasingly vindicates the scientists who first discovered the Medieval Warm Period.
Landed on CNN and they were nattering on about a Global Warming topic. That ‘bit’ was focused on a new Natural Disaster Movie being touted by the maker. It is about glacial melt, mostly, and “global warming” as catastrophe. What caught my attention was a new level of idiocy in the Stupid Meme department. The speaker (that I think was the film maker) while painting a picture (with calving glaciers in the background) of runaway weather and pending doom said “Nature isn’t Natural anymore!!!”
That is one heck of a level of unnatural stupidity, IMHO.
But expect to see it ‘coming around’ as a slogan / talking point in the AlGore “Dirty Weather” campaign....
What interests me out of all this is that such things as movies on “dirty weather” or “unnatural nature” or whatever, have a fairly long lead time to plan and prepare. That means the “meme” has been ‘in the works’ for a while. Which further implies that the folks who were hard pushing “Global Warming” most likely KNEW we were headed into a ‘regime change’ in the weather as the PDO / AMO flip happen and as “global warming” returned to the more storm prone (and colder) patterns of my youth.
The weather NOW is substantially identical to what it was in the 1950s. It is not “dirty weather”, nor is it “unnatural nature”. It is the absolutely natural and consistently historical pattern of weather prior to the warm / stable phase of the PDO that we’ve had for the last 30 years. It is a 60 year cycle, so not all that surprising that the last similar storm to hit the New York / New Jersey area was about 60 years ago. (Though that one was stronger). Similarly, it is absolutely normal that glaciers that had relentlessly ADVANCED during the Little Ice Age would turn around and retreat during the rebound to normal warmth when that Little Ice Age ended. As we are at the end of that period, the retreat would be maximum now. As we enter the next cold phase, they will again advance after the turn is well underway.
So looking at this, it is clear to me that there is a “pattern”. One that says there is an understanding of what are leading and lagging indicators. That there is planning to shift to lagging indicators when an expected cyclical turn happens, and that implies a cynical understanding that this is a ‘put up job’.
No, not by all participants. Many will be “useful idiots” picking up the latest twist and turn of the narrative and parroting it, blissfully unaware of ‘yesterdays story’ and how the narrative has changed. Yet the planners must know. Due to lead time.
There is a small possibility of a ‘synchronous shift’ where the ‘narrative’ is mutated in real time with the weather cycle. That depends on fairly fast cycle times on things like making movies and writing scripts. It would also depend on a certain amount of ‘opportunism’ where, for example, you film a lot of things then ‘fix it up’ in the editing. But that’s a hard way to make a film. So the more likely is a planned and coordinated shift with understanding of what the natural cycle will do.
Secret! Those who made the BBC Green will not be named
Warmism thrives on secrecy, which should tell you most of what you need to know
As expected, the BBC has won its legal battle against blogger Tony Newbery.
Newbery wanted the list of "scientific experts" who attended a BBC seminar at which, according to the BBC Trust, they convinced the broadcaster to abandon impartiality and take a firmly warmist position when reporting climate change. When the Beeb refused to divulge who these people were and who they worked for, Newbery took the corporation to an information tribunal. Now the names and affiliations of the 28 people who decided the Beeb climate stance - acknowledged by the Corporation to include various non-scientists such as NGO people, activists etc - will remain a secret.
The case was heard on Monday and Tuesday last week; the BBC was represented by a team of five, at times six, lawyers, including lead counsel Kate Gallafent, a barrister at Blackstone Chambers. Newbery, who represented himself, was accompanied by his wife. The hearing included cross-examination of the BBC's director of news Helen Boaden.
Newbery had asked for the attendance list in a freedom-of-information request to the BBC some 18 months after the seminar took place in early 2006. He had been struck by a disparity between the BBC Trust's description of the event - "a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts" - and subsequent accounts of the confab, which suggested the 28 invitees included a number of environmental activists and ideologues. Newbery wanted to know how many scientists were there, and what they said that had been so convincing.
The BBC argued that it was able to derogate from the Freedom of Information Act because the seminar was held "for the purposes of journalism" and its attendance list is therefore protected by the law.
And in any case, according to the Beeb's lawyers, the information didn't exist at the time of the request - despite its historic significance: the public-funded broadcaster has statutory obligations, under Royal Charter, to be impartial.
The "purposes of journalism" get-out-clause has been used by the BBC on various other occasions as a cloak to conceal information requested by the public under the act. For example, the corporation has refused to disclose how much tax its commercial operation BBC Worldwide pays in the United States, and its US web traffic numbers, using the "purposes of journalism" catch-all.
The speed of the verdict is a surprise - most deliberations take four to six weeks, but this took a mere ten days. However the verdict itself is less surprising: the Supreme Court earlier this year upheld the BBC's "purposes of journalism" derogation and supported its right to withhold an internal review, dubbed the Balen Report, of its Middle East coverage.
Tribunal judge David Marks QC supported the broadcaster, cut off several avenues of questioning from Newbery, and agreed with the BBC that it can be considered a "private organisation", despite the fact that it is funded by a compulsory tax.
The hostility of lay judge Alison Lowton, one of the three-strong panel, to Newbery was also noticeable - but perhaps understandable. The former director of legal services [PDF] of Camden Council took a six-figure severance package in 2007 when her post was abolished. Camden fought to keep the details of the settlement away from freedom-of-information requests.
The other lay judge, former Haringey councillor Narendra Makanji, appears to have strong views on climate-change skeptics, as he tweeted here this year:
We asked the Information Commissioner's Office how a lay judge with such partisan views on climate change came to oversee hearings so closely coupled to the subject of climate. Campaigning lay judges would not normally be appointed to sit on such a case, a spokesman noted, and concerns would be legitimate grounds for appeal.
Makanji was a councillor from 1982 to 2006 and sits on the boards of various quangos and charities, according to his tribunal service profile [PDF], including the Selby Trust, which makes grants to bodies promoting climate-change issues.
The BBC Trust may have erred in giving the seminar, arranged by Beeb reporter Roger Harrabin and climate activist Joe Smith, such significance. However by a year later, the BBC had an elegant solution before it: in June 2007, the BBC Trust published a report, known as the Bridcut Report [PDF], which grappled with the issue of impartiality. Bridcut agreed that it was impractical and unreasonable for every point of view to be included in every report. However, turning to the topic of climate change, he warned:
"These dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as "Flat Earthers" or "deniers", who "should not be given a platform" by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space. ‘Bias by elimination’ is even more offensive today than it was in 1926. The BBC has many public purposes of both ambition and merit – but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them.
The report was ignored - and in the best tradition of a British bureaucratic establishment under siege, the Beeb simply dug in deeper. Our postbag reflects widespread disquiet from supporters of the BBC about the disparity between its declarations of intent on transparency, and the reality. A refusal to make itself accountable to the citizens only makes political meddling more likely - so by winning an expensive legal battle, it risks losing a rather more important war.
Newbery has told us he is mulling a request to appeal.
Scottish Borders 'on course for 1,000 wind turbines'
A thousand wind turbines are on course to be built in the Scottish Borders thanks to the SNP's "backroom bullying" of the local council to ignore public opposition, it has been claimed.
Campaigners said official figures showed wind farm developers have already built or have planning permission for 403 turbines in the picturesque tourist area.
An additional 418 are in the planning system, either as live applications or appeals, while wind farm companies have started scoping and screening for around a further 200 turbines.
The figures emerged the day after the Daily Telegraph disclosed how SNP ministers are pressurising Scottish Borders Council to allow more wind farms even where they risk reaching "saturation point".
Scottish Government planning officials have asked the local authority to change a new blueprint for the area's future development after complaining of the "negative language" about wind farms.
The council also acceded to another SNP demand to drop proposals for turbine "buffer zones" around castles, abbeys, stately homes and gardens.
Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council, compiled the total number turbines built and in the pipeline after becoming concerned about the effect on tourism, agriculture and country sports.
He said: "I'm sure the many Borders residents who have made their concerns about oppressive wind farm development known will be shocked to discover that whilst they were openly engaging in the planning process, the Scottish Government was busy behind the scenes bullying the council into consenting more turbines.
"Our residents are clear - they have supported schemes in the past but think enough is enough." Although the local authority's website contains details of wind farm numbers up to March this year, he has compiled figures that include plans lodged up to this month.
Scottish Borders Council is in the process of drawing up a new local development plan (LDP), which will decide which areas are appropriate for new housing, businesses and wind turbines.
One of the first stages was producing a document called a major issues report (MIR), which highlights the most prominent development pressures facing the region.
Correspondence published under the Freedom of Information Act showed the Scottish Government has written to the council attacking the MIR's "negative language" about wind farms and urging it to recognise the "positive benefits".
Anne Grove, a senior planner, wrote: "It is regrettable that the only alternative option suggested is a negative one stating that the Borders landscape is at saturation point for wind turbines."
The council has protested their policies are compliant with national guidelines, but has agreed to consider ministers' views and commission further research before drawing up a final version of the LDP next year.
John Lamont, Tory MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said: "This correspondence from the Scottish Government just goes to show how ruthless they are being in pursuing their wind farm agenda.
"The SNP are insistent that more and more sites should be given planning permission to help them reach their ludicrous energy targets regardless of the views of local residents."
Ray Porter, an anti-turbine campaigner who lives near the village of Coldingham, said the Borders was in danger of becoming a "turbine landscape".
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was a legal requirement for councils to consult them on emerging development plans and they provide comments when this occurs.
Australia: Future of NSW environment office at risk after cuts
THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has refused to guarantee future funding for the Environmental Defender's Office of NSW, the legal agency that represents community groups against developers in environmental disputes.
With reduced funding available only to March, the office has been put on notice while the Attorney-General conducts a review of community legal advice.
The Minister for Energy, Chris Hartcher, has accused the group of helping activist groups hurt the coal and coal seam gas industries as part of a "left agenda to destroy the economy".
When asked if he endorsed Mr Hartcher's views, Mr O'Farrell did not comment. "The Premier supports the comments made last week by the Attorney-General," a spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said.
The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said no decision had been made about the EDO's future. Most of its funding - about $1.12 million this year - comes from the Public Purpose Fund, based on interest on unclaimed solicitor's fees.
Mr Smith would be concerned if resources were "diverted from those who need it most to other activities, particularly given limited funding and the state of the Public Purpose Fund", a spokeswoman for Mr Smith said.
The environmental office said its staff would have to be reduced from 25 people to just three people if funding was not restored. It denies it is engaged in activism and said most of its cases involved providing legal help to farmers.
"We have had an extraordinary level of support from people in the community since they heard about the threat to cut funding," said the office's executive director, Jeff Smith.
Among supporters is a group of 59 environmental law academics, who have written to the state government asking that the future of the office be guaranteed.
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Preserving the graphics: Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here and here
Posted by JR at 1:38 PM