Are skeptics "amateurish"?
A "New Yorker" writer below says so but it would be hard to get mnore amateurish than her. She quotes not one single solitary scientific fact to support her faith. Her complete faith in authority would be amusing if it were not so childish. She'll probably make someone an obedient wife, though
BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT
Last week, in Stockholm, a group of scientists from around the world issued what should be, but of course will not be, the last word on climate change. Officially known as Working Group I’s contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the document offered a veritable flood of information—two thousand two hundred and sixteen pages’ worth. Many groups posted good summaries of the report’s central points, including Climate Central and RealClimate. But perhaps the best one I read came in an e-mail from a biologist who studies the effects of climate change in the Andes. “Spoiler alert,” he wrote. “Earth is getting warmer.”
For weeks leading up to the release of the report—several more will be issued in the next few months by other working groups of the I.P.C.C.—the denialosphere was working overtime. A group that calls itself, wittily enough, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, published its own report, twelve hundred pages long, explicitly modelled on the I.P.C.C.’s but reaching entirely opposite conclusions. The N.I.P.C.C., as it happens, is sponsored by the Heartland Institute, which, in turn, is funded by a coven of tobacco companies, fossil-fuel producers, and right-wing foundations.
The goal of organizations like the N.I.P.C.C., it seems, is not to convince anyone that the science of global warming is faulty—their tactics are way too amateurish for that—but, rather, to provide cover for those already predisposed to prefer fairy tales over facts. This group turns out to be not only numerous but, as recent events have demonstrated, also quite powerful...
Tuesday, just as the “Closed” signs were being posted on the steps of the National Gallery, Ron Binz, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration. Binz, who served on Colorado’s public-utilities commission for several years, is a strong advocate of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, which, as any schoolchild can tell you, is a critical part of any plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. As far as Senate Republicans and also some Democrats were concerned, holding such rational and forward-thinking views disqualified Binz from service. “Mr. Binz’s record shows he strongly favors renewable over other energy sources,” Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said, and, remarkably enough, he meant this as an insult.
DON’T MENTION THE ‘PAUSE’
The press conference associated with the release of the AR5 Summary for Policymakers was notable by the elephant in the room – the lack of warming the surface of the world has experienced over the past 16 years. Many observers have called this fact ‘the greatest problem in climate science,’ and it certainly is its most discussed aspect these days. However, nobody on the IPCC panel wanted to say anything about it. When they did, reluctantly, they were evasive, and inaccurate.
Although the panel, aided by the moderator, dealt with other things, the press conference was really all about the ‘pause,’ and trying not to say anything about it or take any questions on it. When it was unavoidable Prof Thomas Stocker put down the hiatus as a statistical illusion related to cherry picking a particular start date which he said was 1998. Different start dates tell a very different picture he added. Those who have taken any interest in the growing discussion of the standstill in global surface temperatures are well aware of the 1998 problem. This was the date of a very powerful El Nino, and subsequent temperatures have not exceeded it. That is why almost nobody, except uninformed critics, ever use this as a start date.
Prof Stocker seemed to think that the ‘pause’ depended upon what dates were chosen for it’s start and end. Actually it doesn’t. It’s more statistically sophisticated than that. All one needs to do is to start at the most recent annual datapoint – 2012 – and work backwards to find the earliest date when there is no statistically significant warming. Let the data make the choice, not humans. This way one arrives at January 1997.
The key point is that the strong 1998 El Nino is statistically counteracted by two La Nina years in 1999 and 2000. Taking data from 2001 gets over this problem, even though there are several El Nino’s and La Nina’s since then, and it is also flat.
This is why no one with any knowledge of the data would ever start looking for a trend starting with the La Nina years of 1999 and 2000. But on the IPCC’s press panel the WMO’s Secretary General Michel Jarraud told reporters that if you start the data in 1999 you get a positive trend! This really is rather poor knowledge of the global surface temperature data or a deliberate misrepresentation of it to what, with some strong exceptions, was a rather scientifically unsophisticated audience.
At the start of the press conference Prof Stocker showed average decadal temperatures showing that the 2000s was warmer than the 1990s which was warmer than the 1980s. As we have said before decadal binning the data is only one way to look at the data and just looking at the data like this is an example of cherry picking. Looked at another way, with say 5-year data bins reveals a very different story. Indeed one that highlights the importance of the past 15-years unchanging surface temperature.
The Ocean Hypothesis
Prof Stocker and Rajendra Pachauri mentioned that one of the reasons for the ‘pause’ could be the heat going into the oceans. Prof Stocker initially admitted that the data for this was not very good. Curious that later on in the press conference such qualifications as to the quality of the ocean heat data was glossed over.
One of the most interesting stories of the week which will undoubtedly be told is how the ‘pause’ was all over the draft summary but almost completely excised from the final summary. For some this automatically relegated the importance of the ‘pause’ allowing it to be dismissed as irrelevant. Actually, it was treated this way for exactly the opposite conclusion.
David Rose of the Mail on Sunday newspaper, who has written much about the ‘pause,’ must have had a frustrating start to the press conference. Clearly wanting to ask a question he was obviously ignored by the moderator until the moderator pointed to another journalist sitting next to him. At this point David grabbed the microphone much to the moderator’s dismay.
David asked a simple question. How many more years will the ‘pause’ have to go on for until the climate models are questioned? Prof Stocker evaded the question, saying that no warming in 30 years time was not an IPCC predicted outcome!
Finally Prof Stocker said that the ‘pause’ in global surface temperatures was relatively new science. He clearly hasn’t been reading the substantial discussion of this hot topic in the peer-reviewed scientific literature over the past 5 years.
The real story of the IPCC’s summary for policy makers is not the upgrading of scientific confidence from 90% to 95% – whatever that really means – but the attempt at burying the ‘pause.’ It won’t matter in the long run because the IPCC hierarchy, just like many climate scientists, know that if the ‘pause’ continues for a few more years then everything will change.
As scientists Profs Stocker and Jarraud should have had a better grasp of the global temperature data. It is surely at the heart of the climate change debate and should not be treated in such a hand waving manner. Despite what the IPCC said at the end of a week-long process to distil the science and communicate it simply, the ‘pause’ is still the biggest problem in climate science. Overall, for a press conference about the science of climate change, those scientists answering the questions behaved like politicians, and slippery ones at that.
Green dreams that have been blown away in Britain
A Warmist mourns
The Government's volte-face over the Planning and Energy Act shows how times have changed
Let’s scroll back six years or so to what now seems a looking-glass world, for that was the time that the Conservative Party was making itself (almost) electable by championing green policies to shed its “nasty” image. David Cameron had been to the Arctic to hug huskies and had briefly put a windmill on his roof (a “sweet little thing”, he called it, which had to come down when somebody complained). And we were being urged to “Vote blue. Go green”.
A Tory MP, Michael Fallon, had the once-in-a lifetime luck to come top in the ballot for private members’ bills – and introduced an environmental one. My colleague Philip Johnston rightly hailed this as “a sign of the political times”, since Mr Fallon – “very much a member of the Thatcherite free-market, No Turning Back wing of the Conservative Party” – was far from being “someone you would automatically consider a tree-hugger”. More remarkably still, he got it through unopposed.
The then party chairman, Eric Pickles, backed the measure, which let councils force developers to meet higher standards of energy efficiency than required under national building regulations, and ensure the resulting homes got some energy from solar panels or other renewable sources.
Indeed the Planning and Energy Act, as it became, fitted the party’s priorities, being a voluntary measure for councils which enshrined localism as well as protecting the environment. And it addressed a need, for Britain’s standard of energy efficiency in homes (less than half are properly insulated), like its use of renewables, is among the lowest in the developed world.
“We are all in this together,” said Mr Fallon of the battle against global warming, adding: “I want to see councils leading the fight against climate change.” And a Tory policy document on the “low carbon economy”, which Mr Cameron launched in a webcast interview with me, promised to ensure it was “implemented in full”.
Back to 2013, and the world as it now is. The Act is a success: most of England’s 324 planning authorities use it to tighten efficiency standards on new houses and install renewables, and it has become the principle driver of such improvements. Yet the same Mr Pickles who espoused the measure is now considering abolishing it, while Mr Fallon, now the energy minister, seems to want to ditch the Government’s climate-change undertakings.
Mr Pickles, now Communities Secretary, proposes to “amend or remove” the Act as part of a review of housing standards out for consultation. The review, aimed at simplifying the “large and complex range of local and national standards, rules and codes that any developer has to wade through”, is long overdue: there are, for example, 12 different wheelchair standards for housing in London alone. But its plans for Mr Fallon’s initiative have caused widespread alarm.
It justifies the volte-face on the grounds that national building standards are being “progressively strengthened” to make the measure unnecessary. But their latest “strengthening”, in July, was more than a year overdue and fell far short of what had been expected. As a result, says the Renewable Energy Association, scrapping the Act would “essentially stop the incorporation of renewables in new building for up to 10 years”.
The review also plans to “wind down” the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes, which sets out a roadmap for future improvements, including abandoning a reduction in water wastage that would cost a three-bedroom house only £68.
All this would only seem to benefit developers – some of whom have lobbied against the green rules – though Mr Fallon took care, when introducing the measure, to ensure that it did not “inhibit housing”. Housebuyers would recoup any extra costs: expert assessments have worked out that their energy bills would be reduced by a third if the higher standards were applied.
I’ve not yet seen a reaction from the energy minister himself, but it seems his views have turned right round too. This week he hinted that the Government would scale back on renewable energy and seemed to indicate, in an aside at the Conservative Party conference, that he would like to “scrap” Britain’s “strong environmental and climate change commitments”.
Both he and George Osborne, the Chancellor, stressed that Britain should not get ahead of the rest of Europe – though in fact we’re close to the bottom of the EU league on both energy efficiency and renewables.
Strangely, the Prime Minister sings a different tune. Earlier this year, he pledged to make Britain “the most energy-efficient nation in Europe” and still occasionally repeats his promise to lead the “greenest government ever”. But, as in Alice’s looking-glass world, that particular jam always seems to be due tomorrow.
The great tax-exemption rip-off
How your tax dollars help radicals attack America's industries, jobs and living standards
If you believe future IRS abuses will be prevented by putting Lois Learner and her merry band of political hacks in the hoosegow, stop drinking Potomac River Kool-Aid and start partaking in a dose of reality.
The most effective way to eliminate political hackery at the IRS would be to abolish the so-called progressive income tax and completely dismantle the tax agency. Too draconian? Only if you believe the Tea Party purge is the solitary scandal rolling around the halls at the IRS. It’s not.
Fact is the system is corrupt to the core. To illustrate, consider Lois Learner’s old haunt at the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division. When the IRS bureaucrats determine that an organization is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt group, that group is excused from paying federal taxes and contributors to the group are allowed to deduct contributions from their taxable income.
Those Americans who actually pay federal taxes must make up what the US Treasury loses as a result of the tax exemptions. Moreover, once the IRS determines that a group is tax-exempt, that group is excused from paying taxes (including property taxes) in at least thirty-nine states.
Consider these facts from the National Center For Charitable Statistics about 501 (c)(3) Public Charities. In 1988, 10,215 organizations filed with the IRS as 501(c)(3) Public Charities. They reported combined revenues of $29.8-billion. By July, 2013, organizations filing as 501(c)(3) Public Charities amounted to 357,167! These tax-exempt groups reported combined revenues of $1.6-trillion and assets of $2.9-trillion.
Calculating the amount of federal and state tax revenue lost as a result of tax exemptions is way above my pay grade. I would guess the federal and state revenue loss exceeds one-trillion dollars annually. Who gets stuck paying for this loss? The American taxpayer. Talk about redistribution of wealth. Need I remind you that in 2011 only 53% of American households actually paid federal income taxes?
Allow me to add insult to injury. The uncivil servants at the IRS and their progressive allies on Capitol Hill have corrupted the definition of “public charities” to allow activist groups to feed at the trough of the American taxpayer. For example, 13,716 US-based environmental groups filed as tax-exempt 501(c)(3)s in 2010. Their combined revenue was $7.4-billion. Their total assets equaled $20.6-billion.
In 2012, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reported $112-million in revenue and $173.1-million in assets. EDF has been tax-exempt since 1969. In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) reported $97-million in revenue and $248.9-million in assets. NRDC has been tax-exempt since 1970. Three tax-exempt Greenpeace organizations in the U.S. reported $39.2-million in revenue and $20.6-million in assets in 2011.
I wonder whether the tax-paying coal miners of West Virginia realize that they are subsidizing progressives intent on destroying their jobs? Do they consider Greenpeace charitable? I can’t speak for the coal miners, but I can confirm that both New Zealand and Canada have stripped Greenpeace of its charity status.
What about unemployed union workers who have been denied jobs on the Keystone pipeline? Is it fair and just that they have to pay taxes while the progressive activist groups lobbying against pipeline construction avoid state and federal tax collectors?
Progressive environmental organizations aren’t the only radicals feeding off the beleaguered taxpayer. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been tax-exempt since 1981. Last year PETA reported $31-million in revenue and $16-million in assets. For those who have been victimized by the radical animal rights group, how does it feel to be forced to subsidize your adversary?
The Ruckus Society trains protesters to disrupt public events and engage in civil disobedience. Yes, Ruckus has been tax-exempt since 1996. Three years later it helped train radicals to rain havoc and rampant property destruction on Seattle during a World Trade Organization conference. Very charitable, wouldn’t you agree?
One final example: The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which is alleged to have links to Hamas, a State Department designated terrorist group, has at least thirteen 501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups in the USA. During 2011, CAIR reported $8.7-million in revenues and $6.4-million in assets. It also boasts a multi-million dollar lobbying organization. Isn’t it ironic that the IRS saw fit to declare CAIR a Public Charity worthy of tax-exempt status, while putting the Tea Party through the wringer?
Once the Congress finishes its investigation of the IRS Tea Party scandal, it would do well to take a comprehensive look at how “charity” is defined for the purpose of granting tax exemptions. Failure to do so will amount to taxation without representation for millions of real American taxpayers.
BOOK REVIEW of Vahrenholt and Luning's "The Neglected Sun". Review by by Thomas Cussans
In June 1997, addressing the United Nations, Bill Clinton made a dramatic assertion. ‘The science is clear and compelling,’ he said. ‘We humans are changing the global climate.’
In fact, Clinton was behind the curve. Well before his claim, the belief in a ‘settled science’ that human CO2 emissions would produce an unprecedented and catastrophic rise in the Earth’s temperatures had become an unchallenged truth. Governments across the world, most obviously in the West, embraced it with a kind of masochistic delight. Green activists were similarly frantic in their assertions of impending disaster. Scenting cheap profits courtesy of immense government grants to produce ‘renewable’ energy, a series of multi-nationals made clear their determination to climb on board the global warming express. No less important, the West’s media took as read that this ‘consensus’ represented an obvious truth.
Towering over this improbable coming-together of vested interests was the United Nations in the shape of its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, established in 1988 as a supposedly disinterested body that would assemble the world’s leading climate experts to pronounce authoritatively on the impending, self-imposed crisis.
The message was unambiguous. The world was moving towards disaster.
At least until Climategate in 2009, those who dared to question the orthodoxy could be dismissed as cranks. If they were not in the pay of Big Oil, they were ‘anti-science’, even ‘anti-climate’. No less tellingly, they were derided as climate ‘deniers’, a term whose deliberate offensiveness made plain the political motives of those labelling them.
Yet at heart, however politicised it has become, the question of global warming is – and can only be – scientific. Is the world warming? And if so, why? More to the point, does it matter?
For at least the last five years, the orthodox view of global warming as a direct product of CO2 emissions has come under increasing challenge. Intially content to swat away its critics with a kind of high-handed snootiness as the work of precisely those deluded fossil-fuel funded ‘deniers’ we could all safely ignore, the response of the orthodox camp has become increasibly jittery. They have good reasons to be worried.
The authors of The Neglected Sun, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, present a compelling series of reasons to say that not only is the belief in human-induced CO2 warming over-stated but that it ignores by far the most obvious influence of the Earth’s climate: the Sun.
The core argument is simple. The Sun may be a minor star in an insignificant part of our galaxy but in human terms it generates a staggering quantity of energy. Every second, it produces 620 million metric tons of hydrogen. It has been doing this for something like four billion years. It is estimated that it will continue to do so for a further 5.4 billion years.
That said, it is subject to a series of cycles: short, medium and longer term. These have clearly played the key role in the Earth’s climate. In the mid term, the most obvious are a series of ice ages, played out over thousands of years, briefly interrupted by warmer periods. The last five of these ice ages each lasted 100,000 years, the intervening warm periods about 10,000 years. Over the last 8,000 years or so, there has a period of unusually benign solar activity. Perhaps co-incidentally, this has precisely coordinated with what, historically, has been called the birth of human civilisation: settled communities, writing, agriculture, the domestication of animals.
In the shorter term still, every subsequent advance in human society has coincided with warmer periods, every reverse with cooler periods. Fast forward again and we find that since about 1850 a further period of modest warming has occurred. The IPCC contends that this warming, in stark contrast to all earlier periods of warming, can only be the consequence of increased CO2 emissions.
Never less than politely, Vahrenholt and Lüning tear this simplistic argument into minute shreds. They reserve their major criticisms for the debasement of the science. The West can clearly cite the scientific method as among its most obvious triumphs. Yet this painstakingly-won advantage is now being sacrificed, they contend, in the interests of activists, egos, political necessity and headlines. In short, the science has been corrupted in the interests of political expediency.
We can take some comfort from this. Truth has a way of winning, however painfully. Patently, Vahrenholt and Lüning have laid out what at the very minimum must be a serious case for calling into question the IPPC orthodoxy. To ignore their arguments can only be an act of deliberate obfuscation or deliberate ignorance.
Nederland hearts Greenpeace
The likelihood that the Russian bear will even notice the Dutch chihuahua is remote
The Dutch foreign minister said Friday he will file suit to recover the Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise," which was seized by the Russian government last month after activists for the environmental group protested at an oil platform in the Arctic Sea.
Frans Timmermans said he would also try to obtain the release of the ship's 30 occupants charged with piracy by Russia via diplomatic channels.
"I feel responsible for the ship and its crew because it's a ship that sails under the Dutch flag," he told reporters in The Hague, Netherlands.
Timmermans said he would file an arbitration suit at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in Hamburg, Germany, because it wasn't clear to him whether the ship's seizure was legal. Greenpeace International, which is based in Amsterdam, denies any wrongdoing and describes the charges as absurd.
The Russian Coast Guard seized the ship and crew after a Sept. 18 protest at the platform, which is owned by the Russian state-controlled oil company Gazprom. The activists are being held in the northern Russian city of Murmansk.
"I really want to consult with my Russian colleagues...to get these people freed as soon as possible," Timmermans said. "I don't understand why this could be thought to have anything to do with piracy; I don't see how you could think of any legal grounds for that."
He added he was open to hear the Russian point of view. Russian investigators filed the piracy charges, which can result in a 15-year prison term upon conviction, this week.
"Our ship was illegally detained in international waters following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling and we hope that other states, especially the countries whose nationals are among the detained, will support the Netherlands in this commendable initiative," said Greenpeace lawyer Jasper Teulings.
In addition to Russia the activists hail from 17 other countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Britain, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.
The platform, which belongs to Gazprom's oil subsidiary, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said in September that it was going to start pumping oil this year but did not provide the exact date.
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