Thursday, January 03, 2013

What global warming? Alaska is headed for an ice age as scientists report state's steady temperature decline

New research from the Alaska Climate Research Center shows that since the beginning of the 21st century, temperatures in the snow covered land of Alaska are actually getting colder - bucking the overall global warming trend.

In the Last Frontier, where temperatures can get as cold as 50 degrees below zero, local residents have experienced the increasing chill and scientists now confirm that the Northwest state is indeed seeing a temperature drop.

A new report from the research center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks reveals that the 49th state of the union has cooled by 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 2000.

The drop is described as a 'large value for a decade,' in the academic paper 'The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska.'

Scientists based their research on temperature readings from weather stations operated by the National Weather Service.

These stations are scattered across the state and represent the different climatic zones present. Based on the readings, 19 of the 20 stations have measured a consistently cooler climate over time.

The region most impacted by chillier temps is Western Alaska, notably King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula. That region saw temperatures drop most sharply by 4.5 degrees for the decade.

In the paper, researchers credit an ocean phenomenon, called the Decadal Oscillation, with bringing colder surface water temperatures and thus beginning the overall cooling effect.

This oscillation has brought a weakening of the Aleutian Low, the breeding ground for storms that end up regulating weather systems in the rest of the 48 states. With a less active Aleutian Low, cold winter storms have been sticking around Alaska longer and keeping the temperatures chilly.

This climate shift could shed new light on the long feared impact of dangerous greenhouse gases causing a rise in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and the thawing of arctic glaciers and sea ice.

Before the 2000s, the warming trend in Alaska has actually been twice the overall warming rate.  The sudden temperature increase began in 1977 and has gone up ever since 1998.  But now the trend has been reversed, with the mean temperature dropping.

Don Hatten, a National Weather Service forecaster, said local residents have noticed the colder temps but joked that when you're 'already bundled up for 20-below' a few degrees colder doesn't have as much of an impact, he told the Alaska Dispatch.

Mr Hatten also pointed out that for the first time in 2011, due to the colder weather, the Bering Sea ice shelf extended nearly to the edge of the Alaska Peninsula.

Though the chill has hit most areas of the state, there is one exception.

The Northern region of the state, in the town of Barrow, has actually seen temperatures rise since the region is secluded by the Brooks Mountain Range. The mountain range originates on the far northwest end of the state and stretches 700 miles into Canada's Yukon Territory.

In Barrow, temperatures were actually 3.1 degrees higher.


Climate disruption or politics? Follow the money

Writing under the preemptively dismissive title "Climate disruption denial: a natural by-product of libertarian values" Brian Angliss says, "The problem for libertarians is that accepting human responsibility for climate disruption creates a threat to their values."

Thus libertarians use "motivated reasoning," the short explanation of which is that they cherry-pick only information that confirms their existing beliefs while rejecting information to the contrary.

Angliss claims that no person of any ideology is immune to motivated reasoning, yet he doesn't write: "The problem for Greens is that rejecting human responsibility for climate disruption creates a threat to their values."

The real problem for libertarians isn't whether manmade climate disruption is true, the real problem is that it's not only politicized but that the politicization so conveniently fits the "motivated reasoning" of the collectivist left that wants a subservient world order run by itself.

So here's how motivated reasoning works for them.

Climate scientists know that the funding for their work comes primarily from massive amounts of money stolen by governments from citizens through taxation which is then funneled into university budgets and scientific institutions.

Motivated reasoning tells them that the best way to keep the money coming, to keep their projects going, to further their careers and enhance their incomes, reputations and influence with their peers is to supply the results the political money is paying for.

Media moguls know that a headline that screams "Polar bears are dying" will sell more newspapers and attract more viewers than one that says "Polar bears doing okay." Whether they're "in the tank" for the liberal environmentalist agenda or simply looking to make a profit, motivated reasoning tells them to run their cherry-picked stories.

Enviro-activists are believers because "saving the planet" is their secular substitution for "believing in God." Thus, motivated reasoning tells them to cherry-pick only information that confirms their existing beliefs while rejecting information to the contrary.

In the end nobody in the general population discusses climate disruption because nobody is knowledgeable enough to do so. What everybody discusses is the politicized data the bought-and-paid-for scientists spoon feed to them via a manipulative media.

Thus has science been harnessed by political money for the benefit of the powerful.

These three "iron rules" apply:

"Any issue that has been politicized ceases to be about that issue and becomes all about the politics."

"Politics is always about power, wealth and ego."

"Follow the money."


Political Murder and Environmentalism

Ben Pile gets out his philosophical scalpel and slowly chops Richard Parncutt's argument into small dead pieces

Jo Nova reports that  Prof Richard Parncutt, who suggested that climate change sceptics could face the death penalty for their crime, has taken down the original text of his argument and has apologised.

Though I would have preferred a more convincing reflection on his mistake, all’s well that ends well. So what follows is not intended to browbeat the professor at the University of Graz — of music, after all, not a discipline that typically reflects on the rights and wrong of killing people. Nonetheless, one doesn’t get to the position of professor (I used to think) without some broad acquaintance with ideas and their histories and some capacity for reflection on one’s own perspective. The mistakes he makes demonstrate the problem with many arguments that put the environment at the centre of their perspective, even those who do not call for the execution of sceptics. I hope to point out those mistakes — which are broader and deeper than just calling for your political opponents to face the death penalty — below.

Parncutt states his objection to the death penalty…

I have always been opposed to the death penalty in all cases, and I have always supported the clear and consistent stand of Amnesty International on this issue. [...] Even mass murderers should not be executed, in my opinion. Consider the politically motivated murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011. Of course the murderer does not deserve to live, and there is not the slightest doubt that he is guilty. But if the Norwegian government killed him, that would just increase the number of dead to 78. It would not bring the dead back to life. In fact, it would not achieve anything positive at all. I respect the families and friends of the victims if they feel differently about that. I am simply presenting what seems to me to be a logical argument.

… But then he finds an exception to his objection…

I don’t think that mass murderers of the usual kind, such Breivik, should face the death penalty. Nor do I think tobacco denialists are guilty enough to warrant the death penalty, in spite of the enormous number of deaths that resulted more or less directly from tobacco denialism. GW is different. With high probability it will cause hundreds of millions of deaths. For this reason I propose that the death penalty is appropriate for influential GW deniers. More generally, I propose that we limit the death penalty to people whose actions will with a high probability cause millions of future deaths.

Parncutt claims that his idea has been produced by thinking ‘logically’ and ‘objectively’ about the problem of what to do about all those pesky climate change deniers.  I don’t find that claim at all plausible. The argument I make on this blog is that what appears as self-evident to the environmentalist owes much more to environmentalism than to facts unambiguously presented to the environmentalist by the environment. The environmentalist’s thinking is littered with his own prejudices.

Indulging Parncutt’s incautious rant allows us to bring out environmentalism’s ‘ideology’ — it’s presuppositions, prejudices and logic — more starkly than is typically possible with more guarded environmental waffle.

For instance, Parncutt asks us to think about doing something wrong (executing people who deny climate change) to correct a greater wrong (preventing the deaths of people from climate change). But how does one get to such a position using ‘logic’, per his claim?

It’s certainly true that killing people who disagree with you prevents dissent. Similarly, we could claim that all crime, no matter how petty, should be punishable by death. Suddenly crime rates would plummet. What’s not to like?

It turns out that we prefer justice to be proportionate. And that is a trickier metric to get to grips with than ‘logic’ or ‘objectivity’can help us with. There simply isn’t an objective or logical measure of proportionality — it’s a complex idea, which different cultures and different ideologies form different perspectives on, for historical reasons. And so it is with the Parncutt’s blood lust.

The passages of Parncutt’s text are an example of a knot that moral consequentialists find themselves tied up in fairly often. When trying to weigh up the rights and wrongs of doing wrong to do right, consequentialists find themselves committed to some unpleasant ideas, as the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains:

A well-worn example of this over-permissiveness of consequentialism is that of a case standardly called, Transplant. A surgeon has five patients dying of organ failure and one healthy patient whose organs can save the five. In the right circumstances, surgeon will be permitted (and indeed required) by consequentialism to kill the healthy patient to obtain his organs, assuming there are no relevant consequences other than the saving of the five and the death of the one.

Even if we grant — for the sake of argument — that Parncutt’s argument proceeds logically, it proceeds from a basis where something like consequentialism has been presupposed. Another view might be that even if the consequences of allowing people to speak freely is an environmental disaster of the magnitude he predicts, it is nonetheless incumbent on environmentalists to make the persuasive argument. So there are now at least two views — with very different consequences — that ‘logic’ and ‘objectivity’ can proceed from. The problem being that logic and objectivity have little to say about the right way to navigate the between allowing free speech on the one hand, and terminating interlocutors on the other. Ending up at such an extreme speaks about something else that’s going on inside the professor’s head. ‘I am simply presenting what seems to me to be a logical argument‘, he says. But we can see as plain as day his self-deception. Rather than admitting that his argument is based on something like consequentialism — or more crudely, the ’24′ defence of torture — Parncutt tries to use the weight of the consequences to make the argument.

Objectivity aside, the argument fails on logic, too, though. Consider this passage:

GW deniers fall into a completely different category from Behring Breivik. They are already causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of future people. We could be speaking of billions, but I am making a conservative estimate.

Deniers ‘are already causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of future people‘. In Parncutt’s logic, the future is the present. There are two problems with this.

First, the linguistic sleight of hand is something looked at previously on this blog:

It would all be so much easier for everyone concerned if we could just linguistically lump the present in with the conditional future from the word go. Something like ‘Climate change is will being responsible for [insert climatological ravage here]‘ should cover it.

How can an action in the present ‘already’ have caused a consequence in the future?

Parncutt might well be right, and us ‘deniers’ will have campaigned against action to stop climate change, leading to the deaths of millions or billions of people. But it might also be the case that he is wrong. And there are many other possibilities. Climate change may continue at any degree between benign or even beneficial and something worse than even Parncutt has considered. But even then, such changes in the environment may not cause a single death, because — as is argued on this blog — human society is less sensitive to climate than Parncutt estimates, or because we are capable of organising ourselves against such problems as they happen. After all, we have thousands of years to cope with sea level rise. The migration away from, and the loss of the twentieth century’s great cities may cause people in the thirty-first or forty-first centuries no more anguish than the loss of Anglo-Saxon villages causes the average Briton. The human race might well prosper in the future, even without ice caps.


Lobbying blitz to save tax credits for wind energy

An all-star lineup of lobbyists, featuring former congressmen and many of Obama's closest allies, is fighting to save a tax credit for wind energy that expires at midnight Monday.

Congress created the Production Tax Credit in 1992 as a way of supporting the wind power industry until it could be self-sufficient. Twenty years later, the PTC is still subsidizing the likes of General Electric and Siemens and has been expanded to include solar and biomass. Companies get a tax credit of a penny or two for every kilowatt-hour their windmills or solar panels produce in their first 10 years. It's worth $1.4 billion a year to its beneficiaries.

The credit was set to expire at the end of 2012 for wind power and at the end of 2013 for other sources of renewable energy.

A Congressional Budget Office study found that the PTC was the biggest tax expenditure for renewable energy in 2011, after the ethanol tax credit, which has since expired.

The CBO study said tax credits like the PTC "are generally an inefficient way to reduce environmental and other external costs of energy. They often reward businesses for investments and actions they intended to take anyway."

A big reason why businesses would build windmills or solar installations anyway: Many states require utilities to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy. Given this captive audience, it's easy to see why the tax credits are more gravy than incentive.

The lobbying team to renew the tax credit is formidable, packed with Obama's closest corporate confidants as well as former congressmen from both parties.

General Electric in 2002 inherited Enron's wind energy business and is now the top U.S.-based supplier of wind turbines and a leading lobbying force for extending the PTC. The company is famously cozy with the Obama administration. CEO Jeffrey Immelt has served as Obama's jobs czar for two years.

GE spent more on lobbying Washington in Obama's first term -- $120 million from January 2009 through September 2012 -- than any other company. GE's hired guns lobbying on the PTC include the K Street firm McBee Strategic Consulting.

McBee is a premier lobbying force on green energy subsidies. The firm is also pushing the PTC on behalf of Obama-friendly Google, which has invested a billion dollars in wind farms and other green energy. Google was Obama's No. 3 source of funds, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, and CEO Eric Schmidt has been floated as a possible commerce secretary.

China-based Goldwind, the second-largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world, is also paying McBee to lobby on the PTC, federal lobbying filings show.

Germany-based Siemens is lobbying on the PTC, led by its VP for federal lobbying, David McIntosh. McIntosh was a Democratic Senate aide before serving on Obama's transition team, then held various senior roles in Obama's Environmental Protection Agency. He gave the maximum donation to Obama, skirting Obama's prohibition on lobbyist donations because he made the donations on June 23, 2011, and didn't register as a lobbyist until the third quarter, which began nine days later.

Billionaire Obama adviser and fundraiser Warren Buffett is also behind the push to renew the credit. His company Berkshire Hathaway owns MidAmerican Energy, which describes itself as "No. 1 in the nation in ownership of wind-powered capacity among rate-regulated utilities." Lobbying filings show MidAmerican lobbying on the PTC.

NextEra Energy is a leading beneficiary of the PTC. NextEra has retained K Street powerhouses Quinn Gillespie & Associates. The company, which has paid no corporate income tax in three years despite billions in profits, also retains Capitol Counsel, a leading lobbyist on the PTC.

Capitol Counsel's Jim McCrery, the former congressman who was recently the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, lobbies on the tax credit for NextEra. He also represents the American Wind Energy Association, the wind industry's D.C.-based lobbying group.

McCrery is not the only former congressman lobbying on the tax credit. Delaware Republican Mike Castle, now at DLA Piper, is lobbying for Cape Wind, while Maryland Democrat Albert Wynn, at Dickstein Shapiro, is lobbying for Covanta, which turns trash into energy.

As Congress drives toward the "fiscal cliff," will the wind and solar companies crash and burn? Or will their lobbying team bail them out?


UPDATE:  The parasites got their way

"We call this the place where only ghosts live"

China's planet-healing solar industry not going well

By many measures, this industrial park built to cater to solar businesses in eastern China's Kaihua County appears to be dead.

Roads are unimpeded by traffic. Most buildings stand vacant. Walking past dozens of factories here, no workers pass by. No machinery whirs.

"It is so quiet, ha? We call this the place where only ghosts live," said Yu Zhengying, who runs a restaurant outside the industrial park. Sitting in her empty hall during lunchtime, Yu said she used to greet many workers over the past three years, but now only a few come....

What has also tumbled is the stock value of U.S.-listed Chinese solar companies with shrinkage of more than 85 percent since early 2011. Suntech Power Holdings, the industry leader, in 2012 received a warning of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange as its share price stayed below $1 for a month. By contrast, that figure was nearly $90 in 2008.


Australia:  Climate change wiped out blacks

All those SUVs ...

AUSTRALIA'S original inhabitants may have died-off during a 1500-year-long "mega drought", new research suggests.

Researchers investigating rapid climate change in the Kimberley region found the intense drought coincided with the disappearance of a pre-Aboriginal style of rock paintings about 7000 years ago.

Ancient rock art from the region is divided into two distinctive styles: Gwion and Wandjina.

The Gwion rock-art style lasted some 10,000 years before the final image was painted. Wandjina paintings only began about 4000 years ago.

The study, sponsored by the Kimberley Foundation of Australia, for the first time offers an explanation for this 3000 year gap.

"The likely reason for the demise of the Gwion artists was a mega-drought spanning approximately 1500 years, brought on by changing climate conditions that caused the collapse of the Australian summer monsoon," says associate professor Hamish McGowan of the University of Queensland's School of Geography.

Researchers survey excavation sites of Gwion rock art in the north Kimberley. A sheer rock face is protected by a shallow overhang leaving a perfectly preserved Bradshaw or Gwion painting depicting unusually large figures.

The study found the plant density and land surface had changed at this time, combining with increased dust in the air. The effect was the failure of monsoon rains - peaking about 5500 years ago.

"This confirms that pre-historic aboriginal cultures experienced catastrophic upheaval due to rapid natural climate variability," he said.

"This is contrary to the conventional view that Australian Aboriginals lived a highly sustainable hunter-gatherer existence in which their knowledge of the landscape meant they adapted to climate variability with little impact."

Wandjina painters appear to have only moved into the area after the climate again became more favourable about 4000 years ago.

The report, published in the American Geophysical Union Journal, was compiled by researchers from the University of Queensland, Central Queensland University and Wollongong University.




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


No comments: