Friday, March 21, 2014

NEW BOOK:  CORNUCOPIA: Our Inexhaustible Resources

George Boyce (Author)

Kindle Price: $7.52

Cornucopia is an optimistic view of the universe we live in and its inexhaustible resources. We are constantly bombarded with claims of future shortages, usually food, water, energy and minerals. This has been going on since humans became sentient, but none of these predictions ever materialise. Cornucopia examines resources in the light of the past, present and future, explaining why Malthusian predictions always fail. Ultimately, when something becomes scarce, we find more of it, substitute one material for another, or use our own ingenuity to create something entirely new. By applying our intelligence, creativity, and ever-improving technology, we have access to effectively unlimited resources.


Is Leftist Science-Denial The Most Dangerous Kind?

In a column for Scientific American January of last year, Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, exposed what he calls “The Liberals’ War on Science.” Shermer observes that, while it is true that Republicans are more overwhelmingly opposed to well-established scientific consensus like anthropogenic climate change theory and evolution, the problem of science denial also reaches epidemic proportions on the left.

“Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—,” Shermer writes, “in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.”

Taken only at face value, this seems fairly innocuous  but I offer this riposte: Rick Santorum and his ilk don’t teach science.

Discovery News, on the other hand, does– and in June, they posted a YouTube video by Laci Green, a popular online social justice advocate, feminist and peer sex educator, about genetically modified organisms.  In this video, Laci doesn’t explicitly state her own opinion with regard to whether or not genetically modified foods are safe, choosing instead to present arguments for and against, with a heavy bias against, ending by asking viewers to post their thoughts on the matter in the comments section below the video.

This is a clear example of “false balance,” a tendency for media to overstate controversy in scientific matters.  Fox News has been criticized for this because their coverage of climate science greatly over-represents those who disagree with anthropogenic global warming theory while there is a strong consensus among climate scientists that the theory is correct.  As it happens, there is a similarly strong scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods, but Laci conveniently ignores it for the sake of manufactured controversy– and she’s not alone.

SciShow, hosted by Hank Green, is a YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers devoted to discussing scientific topics.  Last year, Hank posted a video wherein he discusses genetically modified organisms– what they are, why they exist, how they’re made, etcetera– which included some cherry-picked information and outright fabrications about the supposed dangers of genetic modification, in spite of the existing scientific consensus to the contrary.  It was later removed, and re-uploaded by another YouTube user– in the comments section there, Hank explains “We dropped it because we cited studies that have since been discredited.”

But Hank and Laci Green are just a couple of online personalities– No real harm, right?

Enter Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”  Bill has been, for the most part, strongly against science denial– he has spoken against teaching creationism to children as well as climate change denial, but oddly, he breaks form when the topic is genetically modified organisms.

Let that sink in for a moment– perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive, Bill Nye, trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.

That’s a far cry from some preacher doing the same thing because it conflicts with his religious dogma.  It’s science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience, and the consequences could be devastating.

Golden rice, a genetically engineered rice which is rich in beta carotene, was developed to help curb vitamin A deficiency in the third world, and has been shown as effective as beta carotene in oil at providing vitamin A.  If policy or activism regarding genetically modified foods were to be based on the anti-science fear-mongering of people like Bill Nye, it would hinder efforts to stave off the ailments caused by micronutrient deficiency in the third world.

According to statistics compiled by UNICEF, this includes 1-2 million deaths annually of children 1-4 years old that could be averted by improved vitamin A nutritive.

Greenpeace activists have vandalized testing sites for this potentially life saving genetically modified rice.  Tons of genetically modified beets have been torched.  Greenpeace has also broken into a CSIRO experimental farm in Australia to destroy genetically modified wheat, and anti-GMO activists in Hawaii cut down genetically modified papaya trees during debates about whether or not they would be banned in the state.

This is the same Greenpeace, by the way, which cites the broad and overwhelming scientific consensus that exists on the subject of climate change in support of their environmentalist views.  Science, it seems, only matters when the conclusion is agreeable.

Science denial also seems to have been quite successful legislatively as of late, with Kauai and Hawaii’s Big Island each passing their own anti-GMO bills, heavily Democratic Portland, Oregon voting against fluoridation in its water, and about 20 states last year considered GMO labeling mandates, with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, signing one into law.

This is all in addition to the fact that the US Department of Agriculture’s “organic” certification prohibits the use of genetically engineered crops– and “organic” food is a 63 billion dollar industry worldwide, with the US its biggest market.

Furthermore, several countries ban or heavily regulate GM crops, which is often cited as a reason the US should institute such regulation– a sort of pseudoscience positive feedback loop.

Mind you, none of this is to say that the issue I have been giving the most focus– genetic engineering– doesn’t have a large body of science deniers on the right.  Rather, the fact that the “pro-science” left has anti-science voices in its midst lends undue credibility to those issues.  This is not thousands of years of religious tradition being contradicted by relatively recent scientific discovery, it’s pure organic bullshit, and it is, right now, costing lives.


How the Greens help Putin in Crimea incursion

The eco-left’s opposition to oil and gas use leaves Ukraine at the mercy of Russia

A primary duty of a sovereign nation is to put policies in place to protect the country from both military and economic aggressors.

This normally includes the creation of a capable military force (and protective military alliances) and competent economic policies to make sure the country is not dependent on key resources from or exports to potential enemies. Ukraine, for a variety of reasons, some outside its control, violated these defensive principles.

After the breakup of the old USSR, Ukraine was left with a large nuclear-missile force, but the country was financially bankrupt. The United States made a deal with Ukraine to give up all of its nuclear weapons and missiles in exchange for major financial payments, to allow it to get through an economic transition period and for a guarantee of future sovereignty.

On Dec. 5, 1994, the presidents of Ukraine (Leonid Kuchma), Russia (Boris Yeltsin) and the United States (Bill Clinton), and the prime minister of the United Kingdom (John Major) signed three memorandums to provide security assurances to Ukraine, in exchange for Ukraine agreeing to relinquish its nuclear weapons.

The memorandums read, in part: Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States “reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty.”

Russia now stands in clear violation of the agreement. Other than going to the United Nations (which the Russians just vetoed), no enforcement mechanism was created for Ukraine’s protection.

The United States and the United Kingdom have no military obligation to protect Ukraine, but having signed the 1994 agreement, they appear to be obligated to take other actions to try to enforce Ukraine’s borders and independence — which, in effect, means economic actions that will hurt Russia.

When a country engages in economic sanctions or other forms of economic warfare, it must be sure that it will do more damage to its enemy than itself.

The Russian economy is highly dependent on oil and gas exports, and reducing Russian oil and gas exports would be the most direct way to cause pain to the Russian leadership. However, Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil, particularly gas.

Six European Union countries — Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria — are 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia and Greece depend on the Russians for more than 50 percent of their gas.

The countries in the EU did not need to be in this position, because the EU has plenty of gas reserves that could be economically tapped using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Because of the environmental lobby, though, the EU has allowed itself to become dependent on foreign energy sources — particularly Russian.

Perhaps Peter Foster said it best in The Financial Post on March 8: “Europe’s alternative-energy policy is in a shambles. The EU would be even more vulnerable but for a typically unanticipated example of free-market ingenuity: hydraulic fracturing and the boom in oil shale gas.

But guess what: Greens are everywhere resolutely opposed to fracking, and nowhere more than in Europe. [L]ike their peace march colleagues half a century ago, they are ultimately dupes for an authoritarian agenda .”

Russia used its natural-gas supply as a weapon back in 2006 and 2009 when it cut off supply to Ukraine, which affected the rest of Europe as well. A number of European leaders are now getting the message and arguing for opening up the EU’s gas potential — but this is obviously too late to have any impact on the current crisis — and they are still opposed by the green lobby.

Two weeks ago, the ambassadors to the United States from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, asking it to remove export limits and help them buy American natural gas to reduce their dependence on Russia. Many lawmakers and others have applauded the idea.

The reality is that the first possible liquefied natural-gas export terminal at Sabine Pass in the Gulf of Mexico is still two years away, and others won’t be ready until many months after that. The Department of Energy has been engaging in regulation by strangulation.

As John Kemp of Reuters reported on March 13: “By making regulatory barriers and the permitting process insurmountable, environmental organizations have been able to stop most fracking on lands controlled by the U.S. government.”

The result is that the United States is still dependent on foreign oil and less able to help supply Europe with various forms of energy — because of various environmental regulations, which have delayed both the production and development of the necessary export infrastructure.

Economic warfare is far preferable to military warfare, but economic warfare requires that those who engage in it are not dependent on the enemy for needed raw materials, energy or markets. Europe is dependent on Russia for all three — and America has so hobbled itself that it cannot bail out Europe. Poor Ukraine, poor Europe, poor America.

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Glob


End this obsession over climate change: It stops us tackling floods and storms now say British experts

Obsessing over climate change is distracting politicians from dealing with floods and storms, experts warned yesterday.

Trying to link all extreme weather to man-made global warming ‘has been a social and policy disaster’, they said.

Instead, the focus should shift towards dealing with the impact of fierce weather, which will  happen regardless of climate change, argued David Schultz and Vladimir Jankovic.

The academics from the University of Manchester said flood defences must be given greater priority to avoid a repeat of the impact of this winter’s storms.

In a paper published last night, they said the Government was too focused on cutting  greenhouse gases, which was crucial but would never eliminate devastating floods or powerful tidal surges.

Senior politicians have been eager to link Britain’s severe floods to global warming.

The Prime Minister said man-made climate change was ‘one of the most serious threats’ the country faced and that he ‘very much suspected’ it caused the floods in Somerset and along the Thames Valley.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has described global warming as  ‘an issue of national security’ which would bring ‘more flooding, more storms’.

And UN executive Christiana Figueres prompted fury when she said the floods had a ‘silver lining’ as they forced climate change on to the political agenda.

But Professor Schultz, an expert in meteorology, and Dr Jankovic, a climate historian, said that it was almost impossible to link any one weather event to global warming.

Trying to do so was ‘a distraction’, they wrote in the journal Weather, Climate and Society.

Linking ‘climate change and high-impact weather events, although an interesting scientific question, has been a social and policy disaster’, they added.

‘The over-emphasis on “was this associated with climate change?” distracts from the issue that weather happens whether or not climate change  is occurring.

‘For most purposes, any change due to climate change is a less immediate concern than the impact of the weather itself.

'Society ought to do its best to protect the planet but society should also protect itself against weather disasters.’

Politicians wrongly thought cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be the main response, the authors said.

They said this was important but governments should also focus on measures such as building flood defences. But Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics Grantham Institute said talking about climate change was vital.

‘Frankly it is dangerous to suggest that all we need to do is make ourselves resilient to weather extremes,’ he added.

It was important ‘the public understands climate change is already occurring and the scale of the risk is huge’, he said.

Dr Saleemul Huq, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, agreed extreme weather was likely with or without climate change.

‘But I also think there is a strong case that such events may become more extreme due to climate change,’ he added.

The Manchester paper comes a week before the latest report from the UN on climate change. Leaked drafts predict that the changing climate will cause severe flooding globally.

Chancellor George Osborne announced an extra £140million for flood schemes in his Budget but this was dismissed as grossly insufficient by engineers.


Finally, Some Real Climate Science

Comment from Australia

The American Physical Society has been amongst the loudest alarmist organisations whipping up hysteria about CO2, but a review of its position that has placed three sceptics on the six-member investigatory panel strongly suggests the tide has turned

The 50,000-strong American body of physicists, the American Physical Society (APS), seems to be turning significantly sceptical on climate alarmism.

The same APS put out a formal statement in 2007 adding its voice to the alarmist hue and cry. That statement caused resignations of some of its top physicists (including 1973 Nobel Prize winner Ivar Giaever and Hal Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara).[1] The APS was forced by 2010 to add some humiliating clarifications but retained the original statement that the evidence for global warming was ‘incontrovertible’.

By its statutes, the APS must review such policy statements each half-decade and that scheduled review is now under way, overseen by the APS President Malcolm Beasley.

The review, run by the society’s Panel on Public Affairs, includes four powerful shocks for the alarmist science establishment.[3]

First, a sub-committee has looked at the recent 5th Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  and formulated scores of critical questions about the weak links in the IPCC’s methods and findings. In effect, it’s a non-cosy audit of the IPCC’s claims on which the global campaign against CO2 is based.

Second, the  APS Panel’s review sub-committee, after ‘consulting broadly’, appointed a workshop to get science input into the questions. The appointed  workshop of six expert advisers, amazingly, includes three eminent sceptic scientists: Richard Lindzen, John Christy, and Judith Curry. The other three members comprise long-time IPCC stalwart Ben Santer (who, in 1996, drafted, in suspicious circumstances, the original IPCC mantra about a “discernible” influence of manmade CO2 on climate), an IPCC lead author and modeler William Collins, and atmospheric physicist Isaac Held.

Third, the sub-committee is ensuring the entire process is publicly transparent — not just the drafts and documents, but the workshop discussions, which have been taped, transcribed and officially published, in a giant record running to 500+ pages.[4]

Fourth, the APS will publish its draft statement to its membership, inviting comments and feedback.

What the outcome will be, ie what the revised APS statement will say, we will eventually discover.  It seems a good bet that the APS will break ranks with the world’s collection of peak science bodies, including the Australian Academy of Science, and tell the public, softly or boldly, that IPCC science is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The APS audit of the IPCC makes a contrast with the Australian Science Academy’s (AAS) equivalent efforts. In 2010 the AAS put out a booklet, mainly for schools, ”The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers”, drafted behind closed doors. The drafters and overseers totalled 16 people, and the original lone sceptic, Garth Paltridge, was forced out by the machinations of  then-President Kurt Lambeck.

The Academy is currently revising the booklet, without any skeptic input at all. Of the 16 drafters and overseers, at least nine have been IPCC contributors and others have been petition-signing climate-policy lobbyists, hardly appropriate to do any arm’s length audit of the IPCC version of the science. Once again, the process is without any public transparency or consulting with the broad membership.


As warming slows, denunciation grows

By Don Aitkin (Don is a very eminent Australian academic.  Google him)

Two little essays, both published on The Conversation (13 and 14 March*), and a compilation of surveys, provide the basis for this post. I’ll start with the surveys first, which come courtesy of Donna Laframboise, who has written an amusing little piece on surveys about ‘climate change’. Imagine, she asks, that you are on a transcontinental rail journey. You go to eat in the buffet car, and at every meal you are asked what you would like — but, whatever you ask for, the food is always vegetarian. She says opinion surveys and political oratory about global warming are like that.

American surveys routinely place global warming or ‘climate change’ last in the list of important issues, so far as the electorate is concerned, and the same is largely true both of the UK, and of the United Nations’ own global surveys. In Australia the poll evidence is that Australians are more concerned than Americans, but there are no truly equivalent poll results. Ms Laframboise points out that despite this lack of interest, politicians and the ‘concerned’ go on telling us that we are wrong: we should be concerned like them, and must be deficient in sense and altruism for not being so. She lists Secretary of State John Kerry as a Cassandra example, pointing to the same speech that I wrote about three weeks ago.

So the orthodox go on waiting impatiently for the warming to return, and becoming even louder and more aggressive in their contempt for those of us who ask for good argument and good data and point out what seem to be problems in the orthodoxy. The decline in interest in AGW is certainly connected to the lack of significant warming to match the increase in carbon dioxide, but there is a lot more to it, I think. So to the first of these  articles, which is by Rod Lamberts, Deputy Director of the ANU’s National Centre for Public Awareness of Science. What do you think of this?

The fact is that the time for fact-based arguments is over. We all know what the overwhelmingly vast majority of climate science is telling us. I’m not going to regurgitate the details here, in part because the facts are available everywhere, but more importantly, because this tactic is a core reason why climate messages often don’t resonate or penetrate. If, like me, you’re convinced that human activity is having a hugely damaging effect on the global climate, then your only responsible option is to prioritise action.

I don’t think that what he proposes is at all a ‘responsible option’. The most responsible surely would be to look hard at what you think are the facts. Like Bernie Fraser, however, of whom he speaks well in this essay, Mr Lamberts knows what ‘the vast majority of climate science’ is telling him, though he won’t tell his readers. I’m certainly not sure what it is, and I think by now I have a reasonable understanding of ‘the science’. We don’t need any more facts, he says, we need action. Nor is it clear what sort of action he has in mind, other than noisy behaviour.  But then we get this: What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means.

That really worries me, and it should worry anyone. That is not how democracies should behave, and indeed it is what people object to about people who think they know The Truth: they are always telling the rest of us what to do. Mr Lamberts says that deniers should just be disregarded.  Ignore them, step around them, or walk over them. I object to this sort of talk, especially from an academic at the ANU, from which I have my PhD. It is stormtrooper stuff, and has no place either in universities or in a website funded by universities.

The second essay is by Lawrence Torcello, an American academic who teaches philosophy in the USA. It is not in any way a sensible article, and while I wonder why it was accepted for publication in Australia it is certainly another good illustration of the aggressive style which you can find from the ‘believers’. Here is a sample:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus… What are we to make of those behind the well documented corporate funding of global warming denial? Those who purposefully strive to make sure “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” is given to the public? I believe we understand them correctly when we know them to be not only corrupt and deceitful, but criminally negligent in their willful disregard for human life. It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems accordingly.

Nowhere in this is any attempt to define anything; apparently it’s not needed by philosophers like Mr Torcello, though I would have thought ‘climate denial’ at least needs some kind of explanation if funding it is to be regarded as criminal behaviour. As I’ve said a few times, I am simply unaware of any funding that flows to me or to the others with whom I discuss AGW. Nor can I see any ‘sustained campaign to undermine the the public’s understanding of scientific consensus’. What does Mr Torcello have in mind?

No matter. Any innocent reading this will come away with the view that ‘climate deniers’, whoever they are, should be jailed. It’s different stormtrooper talk, and just as objectionable. Neither Lamberts nor Torcello deserves much respect, on the evidence of these essays, but I put to them that it is indeed time for a debate, a real debate, the kind that I mentioned in my piece on Bernie Fraser last week. The more they denounce citizens who ask questions about ‘climate change’ the weaker their position becomes. Let us discuss these ‘facts that are available everywhere’, and in public. And soon.


A good comment by Colin Davidson that appeared on Don's site below the article above:


I think you have done a great service by drawing attention to academics wanting, nay advocating, the shutting down of free speech, and the sanctioning of anyone who dares to oppose their own beliefs.

And I would also add that skeptics in general, and I in particular, do not want to stop the proponents of action from having their say. The nasty sentminent that opponents must be coerced into agreement is coming almost wholly from the proponents of action. Dictators to a man. Lovers of concentration/extermination camps. Nazis.

There is no other way to say it. That group represents a group which does not believe in the rule of law, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press. It believes in slavery for us all, and is working hard to achieve that.

Cut their funding, I say. I'm happy for them to be whackos, play with their doodles, boil their sweets. But not on the public purse. Let them exist on the funding that skeptics receive - as I think Jo Nova pointed out skeptics receive very little funding, and certaimnly no public monies. On the orther side there are vast rivers of Government Gold pouring into the coffers and funding halfwits like the two turkeys you mention.

Let them fund their beliefs by themselves. I hate it that my taxes are going to academics who, rather than being seekers after the truth, are just ill-educated, lazy thinkers, full of themselves up to the hilt.

Amazing that they can walk.


For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. 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


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