Tuesday, September 17, 2013
That pesky Arctic again
In recent years, Warmists have had a love-affair with the Arctic. Overall terrestrial temperatures have been depressingly stable for them but there are lots of changes in the Arctic from year to year. So just a few years of Arctic ice shrinkage are enough to put lead back in their pencils and enable them to say that there is warming going on SOMEWHERE.
So the massive rebound in ice cover this year has sparked much hilarity among skeptics and a notable lack of press-releases from Warmists.
The best that Warmists can do to preserve their addled theory is to say that the ice this year is just temporary and that the long term trend in the Arctic is towards warming.
So the graph above is interesting. It shows that, far from this year being anomalous, it is in fact closely tracking the long term average. Over the period covered, there has been NO CHANGE in Arctic temperatures to date.
The graph is from the Danish Meteorological Institute’s daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel. They have been measuring that for over 50 years, notably longer than the time period customarily used by Warmists (from 1979 on).
But the whole focus on the Arctic is a silly distraction anyway. If overall temperatures are stable, what does it mean if just one part of the globe (the Arctic) is warming? It means that there are local effects going on, not global ones. Which would surprise only a Warmist.
Beware Of The Foolish Politics Of Climate Change
Last week, while America dithered over whether or not to depose Syria’s president, an ocean away, a different leader was decisively dumped. The election of Australia’s new prime minister has international implications.
On September 5, in a landslide election, Tony Abbot became Australia’s new Prime Minister—restoring the center-right Liberal-National coalition after six years of leftward economic polices. Conservatives the world over are looking to learn from Abbott. In the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Tom Switzer, sums up the “resounding victory” this way: “Abbott did the very thing so many US Republicans and British Tories have shied away from in recent years: He had the courage to broaden the appeal of a conservative agenda rather than copy the policies of his opponents. As a result, Australians enjoyed a real choice at the polls.”
Conservatives have a right to be rejoicing. As Jerry Bowyer points out in Forbes: “the Anglosphere is now post progressive. The English speaking nations of the world: England, New Zealand, Canada and now Australia are governed by conservatives. America stands apart from them as the sole remaining major leftist-governed power in the Anglo world.” He then points out how the English-speaking peoples “tend to move in a sort of partial political sync with one another.”
While this should sound alarms for liberals, the real panic is with the global warming alarmists.
Abbott is said to have run a “tight campaign”—though he was “remarkably vague over his economic plans.” The Financial Times reports: “Abbott was much clearer on his intention to scrap a carbon tax and a levy on miners’ profits.”
Abbott ran an almost single-issue campaign saying: “More than anything, this election is a referendum on the carbon tax.” While there are debates as to whether or not he will have the votes needed in the Senate to overturn the Labor Party’s policies (though it looks like he can do it), the will of the people couldn’t be clearer. As Switzer observes: “what changed the political climate was climate change.” In Slate.com, James West calls the election “the culmination of a long and heated national debate about climate change.” Abbot has previously stated: “Climate change is crap.”
Add to the Abbot story, the news about the soon-to-be-published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's “fifth assessment report,” which “dials back on the alarm,” and you’ve got bad news for alarmists. Addressing Abbott’s win, West writes: “Politicians enthusiastic about putting a price on carbon in other countries must be looking on in horror.”
It is not just the politicians who are “looking on in horror.” It is everyone who has bought into, as the WSJ calls them, “the faddish politics of climate change”—those who believe we can power the world on rainbows, butterflies, and fairy dust are panicked. Their entire world view is being threatened.
This was clearly evident at last week’s hearing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, regarding the proposed change in compensation for electricity generated by rooftop solar installation. The hearing was scheduled in a room typically used for Public Regulatory Commission meetings. Well before the scheduled start time, it became clear that a bigger auditorium was needed—and it was filled to capacity. The majority was, obviously, there in support of solar—they were carrying signs. Thirty-nine of them gave public comment in opposition to the proposed rule changes. After each comment, they hooted, cheered and waved their signs—until the Chairman prohibited the sign waving. Two of the women went by only one name “Lasita” and “Athena,” with no last name—linking themselves to some goddess. Several referenced Germany’s success with renewable energy.
They were organized, rabid in their support, and intimidating to anyone who dared disagree. At one point, the Sierra Club representative, took control of the hearing and, completely ignoring the Chairman’s instructions, stood in the front of the room and, with hand-waving gestures, got everyone who was there in opposition to the proposed change to stand up and wave their signs. A smattering of individuals remained seated. Three of us spoke in favor of the proposed change. I brought up those who’d held up Germany as a model to follow and posited that they didn’t know the full story.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a petite woman marched up to me and demanded: “What do you do?” I calmly told her that I advocate on behalf of energy and the energy industry. “Oil?” she sneered. “Yes.” “Coal?” “Yes.” “Gas?” “Yes.” “Nuclear?” “Yes.” “It figures,” she hissed as she went off in a huff. When I approached my vehicle in the parking lot, I feared my tires might have been slashed. They weren’t.
Australia’s election was early this month. Germany’s is later—September 22. As climate change played a central role in Australia’s outcome, green policies are expected to be front and center in Germany’s election.
In an article titled: “Ballooning costs threaten Merkel’s bold energy overhaul,” Reuters points out that Merkel’s priority, assuming she wins a third term, “will be finding a way to cap the rising cost of energy.” “In the current election campaign,” Der Spiegel reports, “the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely.” Later, addressing Germany’s renewable energy policy it states: “all of Germany’s political parties are pushing for change. … If the government sticks to its plans, the price of electricity will literally explode in the coming years.”
German consumers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. “Surveys show people are concerned that the costs of the energy transformation will drive down living standards.” Spiegel claims: “Today, more than 300,000 households a year are seeing their power shut off because of unpaid bills.” Stefan Becker, with the Catholic charity Caritas, wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity cut off. He says: “After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power –leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can't even boil water for a cup of tea. It's like living in the Stone Age.” This is known as Germany’s “energy poverty.”
Because of “aggressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power,” as Der Spiegel calls it, “Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.” Gunther Oettinger, European Energy Commissioner, advised caution when he said Germany should not “unilaterally overexpose itself to climate protection efforts.”
While the solar supporters in Santa Fe touted the German success story—“more and more wind turbines are turning in Germany, and solar panels are baking in the sun”—“Germany's energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.” Surprisingly, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest energy producer, E.on, is being told not to shut down older and inefficient coal-fired units. Many of the “old and irrelevant brown coal power stations” are now “running at full capacity.”
Interestingly, one of the proposed solutions for Germany’s chaotic energy system is much like what has been proposed in New Mexico and Arizona. Reuters writes: “instead of benefiting from a rise in green energy, they are straining under the subsidies’ cost and from surcharges.” The experts propose a system more like Sweden’s, in which “the government defines the objective but not the method.” Der Spiegel explains: “The municipal utilities would seek the lowest possible price for their clean electricity. This would encourage competition between offshore and terrestrial wind power, as well as between solar and biomass, and prices would fall, benefiting customers.” If implemented, the Swedish model “would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place.”
The Financial Times reports: “Nine of Europe’s biggest utilities have joined forces to warn that the EU’s energy policies are putting the continent’s power supplies at risk.” It states: “One of the biggest problems was overgenerous renewable energy subsidies that had pushed up costs for energy consumers and now needed to be cut.”
“It is only gradually becoming apparent,” writes Der Spiegel, “how the renewable energy subsidies redistribute money from the poor to the more affluent, like when someone living in small rental apartment subsidizes a homeowner's roof-mounted solar panels through his electricity bill.” Sounds just like what I said in my public comment at the PRC hearing in Santa Fe.
Australia’s election changed leaders. Germany’s election will likely keep the same leader, but Merkel “has promised to change but not abolish the incentive system right after the election.”
While other countries are changing course and shedding the unsustainable policies, America stands apart from them by continuing to push, as the Washington Post editorial board encourages, building “the cost of pollution into the price of energy through a simple carbon tax or other market-based mechanism.” President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, believes in regulation and incentives to force more renewables and calls natural gas a “dead end.”
In a September 5 press release with the headline: “Administration Should Learn From Australia’s Carbon Tax Failure Before Committing US to Same,” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) says: “We can add Australia as an example to the growing list of failed carbon policies that are becoming so abundant in Europe.”
It is said: “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool has to learn from his own.” Sadly, it appears that the US has not learned to beware of the foolish politics of climate change.
Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide
The Obama administration recently increased the federal government’s estimated social costs for carbon emissions. The federal government’s asserted social costs for carbon emissions are important because they are a major factor in federal government decisions regarding land development, business permits, energy production, carbon dioxide restrictions, and a host of other applications. A review of the Obama administration’s asserted costs show they are flawed in many particulars.
The White House Interagency Working Group technical document for how to calculate a “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC) will be used to “allow agencies to incorporate the social benefits of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that impact cumulative global emissions.”
The White House document makes many scientifically dubious assumptions that allow the federal government to assign unrealistic social costs to carbon dioxide emissions. For example, the technical document dubiously assumes higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations harm agricultural production, even though carbon dioxide serves as aerial plant fertilizer. U.S. crop production continuously sets new records for gross yields and yields per acre as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise. The same holds true on a global scale, with global production of food staples doubling and tripling during the past 40 years as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise.
Similarly, the White House’s technical document dubiously assumes rising sea levels will inundate coastal regions, resulting is substantial land loss. There was no such occurrence during the twentieth century, as sea level rose approximately seven inches, and there has been no acceleration of sea level rise during the twenty-first century.
Strikingly, the technical document totally ignores the many benefits of carbon dioxide emissions and their assumed climate impacts. Hurricane frequency and severity have substantially lessened as carbon dioxide emissions have risen. Tornado frequency and severity have substantially lessened as carbon dioxide emissions have risen. Global and U.S. soil moisture have substantially improved, and foliage density, particularly in the U.S. West and arid regions throughout the world, has dramatically increased.
In another glaring shortcoming, the technical document does not provide relative comparisons for the social costs of the environmental impacts of non-carbon energy sources. For example, U.S. wind turbines, while providing less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity, kill at least 1.4 million birds and bats—including many endangered species—every year. Also, according to the wind industry’s own numbers, it requires 300 to 600 square miles of wind turbines to replace a single conventional, carbon-emitting power plant (and the plant must remain open and running anyway, because of the unreliable, intermittent nature of the wind). Measuring and placing a price on the asserted social costs of carbon emissions, while failing to do the same for negative environmental impacts and social costs associated with other energy sources, is not an honest, apples-to-apples assessment.
Dr. Robert Murphy of the Institute for Energy Research told the U.S. Senate the SCC estimates could have “profound impacts on both industry and consumers.” SCC estimates are extremely malleable, Murphy testified, because they depend on very subjective modeling assumptions which can allow government agencies to produce studies justifying whatever policy they desire. Policymakers and regulators should be aware of the SCC’s unreliability as a scientific measure and not use it to justify regulations.
What about wind effects?
The 'Hockey Schtick' (HS) reports (September 10, 2013) on more problems for official climate models. Newly-published research shows that climate models do not realistically simulate the role of wind (convection) on earth's climate.
The HS-highlighted paper is published the very same day as a damning new analysis exposing similar flaws in the upcoming UN climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). HS explains:
“A paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters finds climate models do not realistically simulate convection, "a key element of the weather and climate system for transporting mass, momentum, and thermal energy," because of a large gap in the scale or resolution required to simulate convection [1-2 km] compared to global atmospheric motions [on the order of 10,000 km].”
Meanwhile, Dr. Vincent Gray (Expert Reviewer of every IPCC report since 1990) publishes his own damning study in which wind, among other forces, is not factored into the official models, thereby causing climatologists to overestimate the effects of so-called “greenhouse gases.”
Taken together, both the GRL paper and the study by Dr. Gray form persuasive evidence that undue emphasise has long been placed on the roles of radiation and carbon dioxide (CO2) in climate change.
As the impacts of wind and the water cycle (via latent heat) are increasingly recognized this may persuade ever more scientists to question the greenhouse gas “theory” itself.
Bob Carter says the real environmental crisis is one of public perception
At last week’s Melbourne launch of Taxing Air, his new book co-authored with John Spooner (and with contributions from Bill Kininmonth, Martin Feil, Stewart Franks and Bryan Leyland), Professor Bob Carter explained how the perception of a supposed environmental crisis has been manufactured and maintained. This is an edited version of Professor Carter’s address:
Western countries have an environmental crisis on their hands. In Australia, you think, oh well, that’s the Great Barrier Reef. No, it’s not the Great Barrier Reef.
Oh, you think, well it must be the Murray-Darling Basin. No, it’s not the Murray-Darling Basin. We do have a political problem, a big political problem with the Murray-Darling Basin, to do with the over-allocation of water licences. We also do have some significant environmental impacts, but nothing on the level that the hyperbole in the press would lead us to believe.
Well, then, it must be the global warming crisis. Well, of course, it isn’t. The global warming crisis is, quite simply, the biggest scientific scam in history.
So the environmental crisis is not one of actual environmental crises, it’s one of the perception amongst the average citizenry, both of Australia and other western nations, that there is this environmental crisis. And that is leading to all sorts of degradations.
Those creating this crisis do four things.
Capture the language
The first thing they do is they capture the language.
And instead of talking about the issues that they have raised, which was a good issue to raise in the late 1970s, which is: isn’t carbon dioxide greenhouse? Well, yes it is. Aren’t we putting extra into the atmosphere? Yes, yes we are. So mightn’t that cause dangerous global [warming]? Yes, yes, it might. Those were very good questions to ask in the late 1970s.
We’ve now spent $100 billion and 30 years almost, and thousands of scientists looking for the answer. And we know the answer. The answer is: no, it’s not dangerous warming.
But the people who raised the question are not listening to the answer.
So, the first thing that the alarmists do is they control the language and instead of talking about carbon dioxide, which was the basis to the original question, they talk about carbon.
And, quite astonishingly, we have people up to the Prime Minister, not just one prime minister, but several prime ministers, getting up on the bully pulpit and talking about carbon pollution. Now, that’s not only inaccurate, it’s grotesque.
Firstly, because it is deliberately ambiguous. Anybody that uses the word “carbon” in public to describe this is either scientifically ignorant or they have an agenda. Or both. So, the control of the language—you don’t talk about Melbourne’s water supply in terms of hydrogen. Or do you? And to talk about the carbon dioxide and possible problem in terms of carbon is simply an abuse of logic, an abuse of language and an abuse of science. So that’s the first tactic. It’s capture the language, because if we talk incessantly about carbon pollution the public will envisage little particles of soot dancing around in the air.
A second thing they do, having controlled the language, is they control education. And, starting in the late seventies, motoring into the eighties and accelerating into the nineties, no Australian child now receives an education in environmental matters. They receive an indoctrination and a propagandisation. That is of a severe concern.
Refuse to debate
The third thing they do is they refuse to debate. And I think it was Nick [Minchin] that referred to the attitude of the government scientists and CSIRO scientists. They, as a point of principle, not just in Australia but worldwide, scientists associated with the United Nations group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will not appear on a public platform to discuss climate change with scientists of equal stature who are independent scientists. And you may think, well, that’s not a big deal. It is. For 15 years they have been maintaining this ban. So I’m frequently invited. Will I participate in the debate? Of course, I will. Be there tomorrow. So, it might sound trivial. It’s not trivial. It’s a very destructive worldwide ban. You cannot get a balanced discussion on this in public because one side simply will not turn up. They won’t turn up because they know if they do they will lose.
Ad hominem attacks
The fourth point that they use is relentless ad hominem criticism. And the level of language is such that you and I would blanche at it, but if you’re involved in this game, and all my co-authors know this and many of the rest of you know it, you just have to shrug your shoulders and put up with this tirade of public abuse.
So there’s the control of language, the control of education, the refusal to debate and the relentless ad hom. criticism.
The net result, policy result, is not just undesirable. It’s not just expensive and it’s not just socially regressive—acting on the poorest people in our society by increasing the fundamental costs of energy and everything else—it is actually evil. The definition of “insane” is “out of the rational mind”. It is also insane. There is no scientific substantive evidence that dangerous global warming is happening or will happen.
We wrote our book to combat this evil. We hope it will prove useful to people as a field guide and a reference manual.
More information, including how to order, is available at www.taxingair.com
Bag the Bag Ban
Both sides of the political debate think the other is way off in their thought patterns. The Left loves to repeat their mantra that the Right is ignorant of science. Unfortunately, it proves out that the left frequently blindly adheres to a policy developed to forward their agenda and then shames everyone else into myopically following their policies or asserts they are Neanderthals. This is the exact pattern they have followed in attempting to spread a ban of plastic bags at retailers.
I first became interested in this when I saw the burgeoning flock of do-gooders coming to the grocery store with their “reusable bags.” I would ask the store personnel how they allowed these bags to be placed on counters where my food would travel. How could the store allow a bag – which they had no idea of its prior whereabouts (i.e., the car trunk) or about when it had been last washed -- on the counter where food was being conveyed?
The bags my family took home were being used to line our trash cans or for other purposes, but almost always reused. So playing the do-gooder, I would speak to the ladies walking into the store and commend them for their environmental sensitivity for using “reusable bags.” Now that I had raised their self-esteem because someone had noticed their civic mindedness, I would then ask the ladies what they used to line their trash cans in the house. The response was always an impish “plastic trash can liners.”
When the City of West Hollywood in California enacted their own law against plastic bags, we decided to take a closer look at their decision making process. The elements of the policy, which is modeled after laws passed in other communities throughout California and other “forward looking locales,” are as follows:
1. Retail establishments are banned from using plastic bags except where specifically exempted. Restaurants and “Farmers’ markets” are exempted.
2. Retailers are encouraged to make “reusable bags” available for purchase.
3. Retailers must charge 10 cents for each paper bag supplied to the customer. Customers receiving various forms of welfare including food stamps are exempted from this charge. All funds are to be retained by the retailer to help “offset the cost” of stocking bags.
I contacted the person who sent out the letter to my business. John Berndt, Senior Code Compliance Officer, seemed to not be very knowledgeable about the issue. When I asked him about what procedures were in place regarding the cleanliness of the “reusable bags,” he stated his job was to enforce the ordinance and nothing was in the ordinance to address that. When I spoke to Jeffrey Aubel, Manager of the Code Compliance Division, he laughed at my question about “reusable bags.” He passed me on to Melissa Antol, Long Range and Mobility Planning Manager. Before I had a discussion with Ms. Antol, I received 267 pages of documents regarding the passing of the ordinance and the environmental impact report (EIR).
The EIR had no mention of the environmental impact of “reusable bags.” That appeared to be odd. They had a couple hundred pages on environmental impact of plastic bags, but not one word about their replacement. After all one would think they might consider the usage of water to clean the bags or the impact of disinfectants to cleanse the bags draining into the sewer system. There was not a word except some references to the main authority on “reusable bags,” which is an operation named Green Seal (you can tell where this is heading.)
I contacted the operation through their website. I spoke to Dr. Arthur Weissman, President and CEO of Green Seal. When I asked him about what information he had about the environmental impact of “reusable bags” he spoke of the construction of the bags. I asked since his operation recommended the construction of the bags produce at least 300 uses did he not consider the effects of the water and disinfectants used to wash the bags. He reacted as if I asked him if he was having sex with Britney Spears. He stated “I am not concerned at all about the health concerns of reusable bags.”
I then contacted Sarah Sheehy, Director Local Government Relations for the California Groceries Association. I was stupefied that she had submitted a letter on behalf of the Association supporting the ban – stupid me. I asked her if she had ever surveyed her customers regarding the reuse of the paper bags and plastic bags they handed out to carry out groceries. She said no. When I stated I had done an informal survey of over one hundred people and all of them reused the bags, she stated she had no further comment. When I asked if she had ever seen a study of the viruses in “reusable bags,” she stated she had “a while ago.” I then asked if she had any comment on the studies. She said “I am sure there are studies that debunk those studies.’” To which I replied “Wow! Are you sure you want to say that? How do you know there are other studies?” She replied “I have no further comment on that.” She then stated we encourage our customers to wash their “reusable bags.” When asked where that was because I have never seen it in any stores I shop at, she replied “I have no further comment, this interview is over.”
Here are the facts folks:
1. Scientists from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University collected “reusable bags” from people entering grocery stores in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tucson. Though the sample was not huge, they found bacteria in 99% of the “reusable bags.” They found no bacteria in new bags or plastic bags. Hand or machine washing reduced bacteria in 99.9% of “reusable bags.” They found through their tests and interviews that consumers almost never washed their “reusable bags.” They cite that 76,000,000 cases of foodborne illness occur in the U.S. annually. Since almost all occur in the home, the pinpointing to a “reusable bag” would be limited.
2. A study done by APCO which surveyed 502 people found that 92% reused the bags they brought home from the store for such things as trash disposal, lunch bags and cleaning up after pets.
The people who moan about bags being washed to sea and choking fish are doing this without consideration of the impact of their change. They are blindly following a formula without scientifically analyzing the ramifications of their actions. They are lying about the frequency that the banned bags were reused. There will still be millions of bags issued at grocery stores, restaurants and other exempt entities to carry out product, and stupid insensitive people will continue to throw those bags into improper places.
The groceries stores are totally in cahoots with these do-gooders. They no longer have to supply plastic bags. The pager bags -- which cost them about 8.5 cents -- will now be sold for 10 cents. They will be selling “reusable bags” and their sales of trash can liners will soar as people will have a new need for them and those bags will truly be single-use bags. When their customers complain, the grocers will point their fingers at the government who created these bans and blame the politicians while the groceries pocket all these new-found dollars.
The governmental wonks will continue their lies about the great harms of plastic bags. They will blame all the landfills on those bags, refer to them as “single-use bags,” falsely cite how few are reused, and contrive some number of bags (500) that each American can save annually by the use of “reusable bags.”
My suggestion is the next time you go grocery shopping and someone slaps down their bags which were washed in some former lifetime that they dragged out of their trunk, you ask your grocer to clean the belt before your food starts moving down. Rather be safe than sorry.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. 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 or here
Posted by JR at 2:18 PM