Sunday, May 25, 2014
Record Antarctic Ice Extent Throws Cold Water On Global Warming Scare
Antarctic polar ice extent has set another new record, defying alarmist global warming claims. Surpassing the greatest month-of-April ice extent in recorded history, the new record throws cold water on alarmist claims that the Antarctic ice cap has crossed a melting point of no return.
The most recent Antarctic ice sheet alarm began with a paper examining a particular glacier in West Antarctica that “has long been considered prone to instability.” The paper speculates that a collapse of this particular glacier is unavoidable, though it will not actually collapse for at least a couple centuries and possibly not until 2900 AD.
Notably, while the majority of Antarctica is getting colder and the Southern Hemisphere polar ice cap is expanding, West Antarctica is a smaller portion of the continent that is experiencing modest warming. Taking advantage of this outlier trend in a smaller portion of the continent, the media has a long history of highlighting modest warming in West Antarctica or a small retraction of West Antarctic sea ice and falsely claiming this is caused by global warming and is representative of Antarctica as a whole.
Guess what? Global warming alarmists and their media allies are at it again. Here is a representative sample of how the media have reported the new paper:
“Irreversible collapse of Antarctic glaciers has begun, studies say” – Los Angeles Times
“How Washington coastal cities will look when the Antarctic Ice Sheet melts” – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Catastrophic collapse of Antarctic ice sheet now underway, say scientists” – Christian Science Monitor
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison. A paper speculates that a long-unstable glacier in one part of West Antarctica is inherently unstable and may collapse several hundred years from now. Compare that finding to the ridiculous alarmist headlines above.
The good news, beyond the less-than-alarming truth about the paper’s findings, is real-world scientific facts show Antarctic ice extent is undergoing a long-term expansion. Alarmists try to scare people into believing a “Catastrophic collapse of Antarctic ice sheet [is] now underway” at the very time that the Antarctic ice extent is setting record after record.
It’s not just the Antarctic, either. Precise satellite measurements of both polar ice caps show absolutely no decline in polar ice since the satellite instruments were launched in 1979. Not only is total polar ice extent currently greater than the long-term average; polar ice extent has been greater than the long term average for nearly all of the past 16 months.
State Waivers from EPA Regulation
The federal environmental regulatory system is broken. Thousands of pages of flawed environmental rules and regulations exist, with no reasonable chance they’ll ever be reformed given the entrenched special interests that benefit from them. The inherent subjectivity of environmental standards also allows these rules to grow without a scientific basis for them. They cannot be efficiently and cost-effectively enforced given the overwhelming amount of information they demand.
The emergence of capable state-level environmental agencies in all 50 states – agencies that did not exist when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1971 – reduces the need for a federal environmental agency to have such control. States are already responsible for up to 90 percent of all environmental enforcement actions in the nation, yet they are allowed little flexibility for innovation.
Congress could effectively scale back the increasingly costly and bureaucratic federal EPA by allowing states to apply for regulatory waivers. Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler and Cato Institute Vice President Jerry Taylor have written articles suggesting implementation of an EPA regulatory waiver similar to Section 160 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed telecom companies to submit requests for regulatory waivers from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Applied to environmental policy, such a mechanism would allow states to apply for forbearance from any EPA rule or regulation by submitting supporting material “detailing the basis for the request and explaining why the waiver would serve the public interest. EPA would then provide public notice, seek comment from interested parties, and make a call one way or the other within one year pending judicial review under aegis of the Administrative Procedure Act,” Taylor writes.
Congress and the president should decentralize environmental regulation by allowing states to apply for regulatory waivers from EPA. This would allow greater regulatory experimentation at a lower cost, while also enabling greater containment of risk, thereby facilitating much-needed innovation in environmental regulation.
The Liberty and Energy Connection
Following my appearance on the Daily Show, I’ve received emails and phone calls from people who don’t agree with my views about energy and the advantages America’s energy abundance provides—benefits that drive both progress and prosperity.
Some of the emails can’t be read in polite company, but one that can asked: “Please explain how energy from mountain top removal, fracking, and tar sands makes America great.” The word choices Greg selected tell me that he isn’t truly seeking enlightenment and is instead aiming to antagonize me. The next day, he sent another: “I have yet to hear back on this simple question. Please respond.” It does seem like a simple question. One I should be able to answer in an instant. But I didn’t want to offer platitudes. I felt the question deserved a thoughtful answer. So, Greg, here you are.
I’ve spent the past couple of days at a conference on “Energy, Economics and Liberty.” There discussions took place on the energy debate, government’s role, market solutions, and the geo-politics of energy. About twenty men—all experts in various aspects of energy—attended. I wasn’t just the only female I was the only energy advocate. The topics brought Greg’s request to mind and the conversations helped form the answers.
One of the participants, Jim Clarkson, wrote an article titled: “The Shale Gas Paradigm,” in which he states: “Increased access to energy is a key to economic progress in the undeveloped world.” Similarly, in my book, Energy Freedom, I quote Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry, who says: “Electricity is the energy commodity that separates the developed countries from the rest. Countries that can provide cheap and reliable electric power to their citizens can grow their economies and create wealth. Those who can’t, can’t.”
Senate Major Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) once said: “Oil and gas are making us sick.” But I contend that they—along with coal—are the very things keeping us well. In Energy Freedom’s introduction, I point out: “Energy saves lives. When fire strikes or hurricanes are bearing down upon a city, it is energy—in this case in the form of gasoline—that allows people to drive away and escape death. … When weather is extreme, it is energy—usually in the form of electricity (most frequently from coal or natural gas)—that keeps people alive. Air conditioning allows people to live in comfort in Arizona in the summer. Heating keeps people from freezing to death in Alaska in the winter. Energy keeps us well. Energy makes us comfortable.”
The Energy, Economics and Liberty conference was hosted by the Liberty Fund. On its website, it offers this definition of liberty: “the beginning and the source of happiness from which all beneficial things flow in return.” Much like liberty, energy is the source from which many beneficial things flow. Energy has been a source of America’s freedom, a big part of what has made America great.
The conflicts in Ukraine have made the importance of energy freedom clear. Because of being on the Daily Show talking about fracking, I’ve been given other opportunities to address the topic. One was with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura for his show Off the Grid. At the end of the twenty-minute interview, he asked me for closing comments. I said something like: “Because of fracking, OPEC would never be able to use energy as a weapon as it did to America in 1973 and as we see Russia doing to Ukraine today.”
Greg’s email to me used terms that lead to three different energy sources: coal, natural gas, and oil—and each have been big contributors to America’s progress and prosperity. Each has made the personal lives of Americans more pleasant and less painful. Together these energy sources have made America energy secure.
The email used the term “mountain top removal,” which is a method by which coal can be mined. It is safer than underground mines because it removes the risk of mine accidents, the horror of which we’ve recently witnessed in Turkey. (Note: America has far more stringent mining regulations today than does most of the world.) Greg likely selected the term “mountain top removal” because it sounds harsh. In fact, in the mountainous regions of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, this surface mining process allows for hospitals, housing developments, shopping centers to be built—all which bring more economic development and much needed jobs.
I’ve toured regions where “mountain top removal” is being done and stood on top of the massive coal seam. The procedure is amazing. Picture the region like lots of upside down ice cream cones next to each other. Hills and valleys—but no place to create a community. In that mountain is a thick layer of coal that goes all the way through the mountain, north to south, east to west. To access it, the dirt, the tip of the ice cream cone, is taken off and the coal is removed.
In the past, when the coal had been extracted, a private landowner could ask the mining company to level out the land—making it economically productive. However, today’s regulations take away that property owner’s rights and require that the mountain be rebuilt and put back to its original condition. If the landowner wants to turn his land into a housing development, he then has to incur the expense of, once again, removing the peak and leveling the land.
The coal provides, and has provided, America with low-cost, base-load electricity—which, as we’ve already addressed, has given us a competitive advantage in the global marketplace and unmatched personal progress. And, therefore, energy from mountain top removal makes America Great.
Fracking—short for hydraulic fracturing—combined with the amazing technology of horizontal drilling, has brought America into a new era of energy abundance. Clarkson states: “Gas using industries are expanding while we enjoy a distinct advantage over the rest of the world.” He explains: “Shale gas lay worthless beneath the earth’s surface for the whole of man’s previous existence until human intelligence made it valuable”—and that was done with fracking.
One of the definitions of liberty found at Dictionary.com is: “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.” Clarkson points out: “There were no federal programs with subsidies, tax breaks, and mandated markets to favor the shale industry. …The new shale order of things is a triumph of free enterprise over government planning. The shale revolution shows that the good old American know-how and individual initiative that made this country great have survived the burden of big government and can still create economic miracles.” Clarkson closes with: “Some observers are already calling this the century of natural gas. This could also be the century of prosperity, free markets, and optimism as America regains its energy mojo.”
Unlike the pariah Greg presumes fracking to be, it is responsible for the shale gas phenomena.
Last, Greg asked about tar sands and how they make America great. Tar sands, or oil sands, allow America to get oil from our friendly Canadian neighbor and reduce our need to import OPEC’s oil. We then refine that oil into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that fuels our transportation fleet—something that wind and solar power cannot do.
I have been to the oil sands of Canada and what they are doing there is, like fracking and horizontal drilling, a technological miracle.
If you have ever walked on a California beach and stepped on a tar ball (created when the oil seeps out of the ground and is washed ashore mixed with sand), you have a clue what the tar sands are like. The naturally occurring tar sands are a layer in the earth (much like coal). This layer has raw crude oil mixed with the dirt/sands. I recall driving to the tar sands from the town where we stayed. As the elevation increased, I noticed that trees reached a certain height and then died. It was explained that as soon as the roots hit the bitumen (or tar) it kills the tree.
At the extraction site, the tar sands are bulldozed and dumped into giant trucks (much like surface coal mining). The tar and sand mixture is processed to separate the oil and the sand. (Think of taking that tar ball from the beach and boiling it. The oil melts and floats while the sand drops to the bottom.) The oil is now available for use and the clean sand is put back into the earth—only now the trees can actually grow. The reclaimed land is teeming with wildlife that lives in the healthy forest the extraction process provides. As a result, when the Keystone pipeline is approved, America would be far less dependent on people who aim to do us harm and OPEC couldn’t cause an instant recession as it did in 1973. Plus, Keystone will be safer and cheaper—not to mention creating more jobs—than shipping the oil via rail as we are currently doing.
And that, Greg, is how tar sands can make America greater.
Yes, mountain top removal—or coal; fracking—or natural gas; and tar sands—or oil, make America great. The use of natural resources are a part of liberty: “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.”
People like Greg want to interfere, restrict, and hamper North America’s energy abundance—which will take away America’s ability to provide cheap and reliable power to her citizens and take away the ability to grow the economy and create wealth. Why would anyone want to do that?
Super PAC targets GOPers who deny human role in warming
As usual, they exaggerate skeptic spending and downplay their own
Retired hedge fund manager Tom Steyer is setting his sights on Republicans who reject climate change. The billionaire environmentalist is unveiling plans to spend $100 million this year in seven competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, as his super PAC works to counteract a flood of conservative spending by the Koch brothers.
The retired hedge fund manager’s super political action committee, NextGen Climate Action, announced plans Wednesday to plunge $100 million into seven congressional and gubernatorial races, where Democratic candidates face opponents who have publicly expressed doubts about anthropogenic climate change or who receive donations from the fossil fuel industry.
"The debate on climate change is settled," Mr. Steyer told Reuters. "It is here, it is human-caused, and it is already having a devastating impact on our communities, but we need to accelerate the level of political support to address this critical issue before it's too late."
Steyer has thrown his financial backing behind Democratic candidates in the past, including President Obama and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but the NextGen campaign represents a more concerted effort to counter the massive sums being spent on Republican candidates by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s super PAC, Americans for Prosperity, according to NextGen's chief strategist, Chris Lehane.
"We're spending a drop in the big-oil bucket compare to what the fossil fuel industry is spending,” Mr. Lehane told the Associated Press. “All Tom is trying to do is really to level the playing field."
Steyer has already pledged $50 million of his own funds to NextGen and hopes to entice likeminded donors to match his contribution. Still, it is unclear if Democrats will be able to compete with Republican super PACs. The Koch brothers reportedly poured $400 million into the 2012 elections.
What NextGen lacks in spending power, it plans to make up for in pointed strategy. NextGen strategists will focus calculated ad campaigns that play on issues central to local constituencies in seven states. Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania are all in the super PAC’s sights.
“We are not going to be talking about polar bears and butterflies,” Lehane told the Los Angeles Times. “We are going to be talking about how this issue of climate impacts people in their backyards, in their states, in their communities.”
In Colorado, NextGen plans to capitalize on existing energy and environment concerns and urge voters to defeat Rep. Cory Gardner (R), who is running for the US Senate. Representative Gardner, who rejects the role of human activity in climate change, opposed new rules combating carbon pollution.
In Florida, NextGen is planning television ads that will highlight the potential impact of climate change on voters' budgets by way of soaring flood insurance premiums in an effort to turn voters against Gov. Rick Scott.
In New Hampshire, ads will likely target Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown’s recent oped backing the Keystone XL pipeline that "spouted regular Republican talking points that are absolute misinformation," NextGen's political director Sky Gallegos told the Associated Press.
In Iowa, NextGen will focus on the role of climate change in the drought that has plagued the state, the LATimes reports.
The idea is to initiate “a long-term conversation with voters,” Mr. Gallegos told the Times. “We want to talk to them and make a real connection of how climate hits them at the household level.
Tedious Warmist doomsaying is just another foolish squawk
Optimism isn't just an attitude—it's an accurate assessment of how well the human race has fared over the past several centuries
Are you worried about the future? It's hard not to be. If you watch the news, you mostly see violence, disasters, danger. Some in my business call it "fear porn" or "pessimism porn." People like the stuff; it makes them feel alive and informed.
Of course, it's our job to tell you about problems. If a plane crashes—or disappears—that's news. The fact that millions of planes arrive safely is a miracle, but it's not news.
So we soak in disasters—and warnings about the next one: bird flu, global warming, potential terrorism. I won Emmys hyping risks but stopped winning them when I wised up and started reporting on the overhyping of risks. My colleagues didn't like that as much.
In England, science journalist Matt Ridley also realized he had focused on the wrong things. That realization led to the more positive outlook in his book The Rational Optimist. Now Ridley gives lectures about why he's an optimist. It's not just an attitude; it's an accurate assessment of how well the human race has fared over the past several hundred years.
"I discovered that almost everything is getting better, even the things that people thought were getting worse," says Ridley.
He was taught to think the future was bleak. "The population explosion was unstoppable. Famine was inevitable. Pesticides were going to shorten our lives. The Ice Age was coming back. Acid rain was killing forests ... All these things were going to go wrong."
Yet time and again, humanity survived doomsday. Not just survived, we flourish. Population increases, yet famine becomes rarer. More energy is used, yet the environment gets cleaner. Innovation and trade keep improving our lives.
But the media win by selling pessimism porn. "People are much more interested in hearing about something that's gone wrong," says Ridley. "It sounds wiser to talk about what might go wrong than to talk about what might go right."
Or what already went right. Over the past 40 years, murder dropped by 40 percent, rape by 80 percent, and, outside of war zones, Islamic terrorism claims fewer than 400 lives a year. The last decade saw the fewest lives claimed in war since record keeping began.
One unnecessary death is tragic, but the big picture is good news.
Our brains just aren't very good at keeping track of the good news. Evolution programmed us to pay attention to problems. Good news often happens slowly. The media miss it.
There is, however, one big problem that threatens our future: the political class. Politicians offer us unsustainable debt and incomprehensible regulations. So far the economy has survived that because of what the Mercatus Center's Adam Thierer calls "permission-less innovation."
No one got approval from Washington to do Google searches, create Facebook profiles, or invent apps for Apple. If we did, they probably would never have happened. It's fortunate entrepreneurs keep making things faster than worried, control-freak government can smother them.
Google now informs us about most anything within seconds for free. Today people in the poorest countries have access to more information than the rich used to have. Email is free. So are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Skype.
The new "sharing economy" improves our lives. Companies like Roomorama and Airbnb let us share homes. Uber, Sidecar and Lyft let us share cars. EatWith.com lets us share a home-cooked meal.
Government regulators reflexively move to crush or control every such development, fearing that rooms rented online will be disruptive to neighbors, rides from Lyft too dangerous, and meals found through EatWith unhealthy. There's always some reason to worry—even though these same politicians don't worry too much about the risks of excessive government and its $17 trillion in debt.
Progress now depends on innovators finding customers faster than sleepy politicians can regulate. Better to beg forgiveness later than ask permission now. By the time bureaucrats wake up, entrepreneurs have lots of happy customers who lobby for the survival of those businesses.
You might call it "entrepreneurial civil disobedience." It's what it takes to win in today's hyper-regulated America. It's a good thing—and our best hope of having more good things in the future.
Key to the modern world – the sinister groupthink
All around us these days we see illustrations of what I have come to think of as one of the more illuminating insights into much of what goes on in our modern world. Consider one or two random examples. Some time back, under the heading “Thought police on patrol”, a well-known US journalist, Charles Krauthammer, reported how his newspaper had received a petition signed by more than 110,000 people calling on it not to carry any more articles questioning the fact of man-made global warming. He went on to recall how the new CEO of a leading media company, Mozilla, was recently forced to resign by the furore that erupted when it was revealed that, six years earlier, he had made a modest donation to a campaign in California to amend the state’s constitution, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Nearer home we have lately seen the extraordinary and unprecedented campaign by so much of the media to demonise and smear the UK Independence Party in general and Nigel Farage in particular (it appears he may have had the last laugh).
Some time back, a reader drew my attention to the book in which, 40 years ago, a Yale professor of psychology, Irving Janis, analysed what, with a conscious nod to George Orwell, he called “groupthink”. It is a term we all casually use (which even he derived from another writer), but he identified eight symptoms of groupthink. One is the urge of its victims to insist that their view is held as a “consensus” by all morally right-thinking people. Another is their ruthless desire to suppress any evidence that might lead someone to question it. A third is their urge to stereotype and denigrate anyone who dares hold a dissenting view. Their intolerance of “independent critical thinking”, as Janis put it, leads them to “irrational and dehumanised actions directed against outgroups”.
Of course, there is nothing new about this. Hostility to heretics and dissenters has characterised the more extreme forms of religious and political belief all down the ages. But as someone who tends often to come to views differing from those held by many other people – what Ibsen called that “majority” that is “always wrong” – I am quite sensitive to the power and prevalence of groupthink in our own time. It is particularly evident in views widely held on several subjects I regularly write about here, from climate change and “renewable energy” to everything its acolytes like to describe as “Europe”. It is their groupthinking intolerance that prompts them to stereotype anyone daring to disagree with their “consensus” as “deniers”, “flat-Earthers”, “creationists”, “xenophobes”, “homophobes”, “bigots”, “racists” or “fascists”.
But another characteristic of groupthink that Janis doesn’t fully explore in his book is that those caught up in these mindsets have never actually worked out their thinking on the subject for themselves. They have taken on their belief-system, and the reasons for supporting it, ready-made and wholesale from others. That is why it is impossible to have any intelligent dialogue with, say, zealots for man-made climate change or the European Union, because they have not really examined the evidence for themselves but have come to a set of opinions that are skin-deep and second-hand. They can only parrot the mantras they have picked up from others.
That is why, as we see illustrated on every side (not least in much of the output of the BBC, or, for that matter, the online comments below this column), they cannot tolerate or offer rational arguments, or explore the three-dimensional truth of a subject. They quickly resort just to dismissing anyone who disagrees with their beliefs as an “idiot”, “hopelessly ignorant”, “wildly inaccurate” or “anti-science”. Or they appeal to what Gustave Le Bon called “prestige”, citing supposedly respected authorities, such as the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which are only voicing the “consensus” views of other adherents of the same groupthink.
When Ed Davey, our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, recently called on climate-change sceptics to “shut it”, he was merely reflecting the fact that absolutely nothing of all the nonsense he talks on this subject derives from his own independent thinking. He is merely repeating the nonsense he has been told by other people. But on this, as on so many other subjects these days, people like Mr Davey are just classic victims of groupthink. Because they don’t have any proper understanding of what they are talking about, they merely lash out with intolerant smears and ad hominem insults at anyone who does not inhabit the same “irrational and dehumanised” bubble in which they themselves have become, albeit quite unwittingly, trapped.
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
Posted by JR at 8:59 PM