Monday, March 31, 2014

Climate change could make humans extinct, warns health expert

And pigs might fly.  The IPCC has just released its latest round of prognostications so floods of fears are breaking out worldwide at the moment.  The article below is one example of that.

The very first sentence is a lie.  The earth is not warming at all and has not done so for 17 years.  What the author has done is look at one of the IPCC "Scenarios" and take it as fact.  And the one she has lifted  is one of the more extreme scenarios.  A 2 degree temperature rise is the one most predicted by Warmists but she has picked a 4 degree rise.

Everything she says is true -- but only if global warming is occurring  -- and she offers only assertions about that.  The next article below gives you the actual figures.  I won't comment on the lady's health science.  It is as bad as her atmospheric science

The Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming "extinct" as a species, a leading Australian health academic has warned.

Helen Berry, associate dean in the faculty of health at the University of Canberra, said while the Earth has been warmer and colder at different points in the planet's history, the rate of change has never been as fast as it is today.

"What is remarkable, and alarming, is the speed of the change since the 1970s, when we started burning a lot of fossil fuels in a massive way," she said. "We can't possibly evolve to match this rate [of warming] and, unless we get control of it, it will mean our extinction eventually."

Professor Berry is one of three leading academics who have contributed to the health chapter of a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report due on Monday. She and co-authors Tony McMichael, of the Australian National University, and Colin Butler, of the University of Canberra, have outlined the health risks of rapid global warming in a companion piece for The Conversation, also published on Monday. The three warn that the adverse effects on population health and social stability have been "missing from the discussion" on climate change.

"Human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to wellbeing, health and perhaps even to human survival," they write.

They predict that the greatest challenges will come from undernutrition and impaired child development from reduced food yields; hospitalisations and deaths due to intense heatwaves, fires and other weather-related disasters; and the spread of infectious diseases.

They warn the "largest impacts" will be on poorer and vulnerable populations, winding back recent hard-won gains of social development programs.

Projecting to an average global warming of 4 degrees by 2100, they say "people won't be able to cope, let alone work productively, in the hottest parts of the year".

They say that action on climate change would produce "extremely large health benefits", which would greatly outweigh the costs of curbing emission growth.

A leaked draft of the IPCC report notes that a warming climate would lead to fewer cold weather-related deaths but the benefits would be "greatly" outweighed by the impacts of more frequent heat extremes. Under a high emissions scenario, some land regions will experience temperatures four to seven degrees higher than pre-industrial times, the report said.

While some adaptive measures are possible, limits to humans' ability to regulate heat will affect health and potentially cut global productivity in the warmest months by 40 per cent by 2100.


Some climate history

Fig.3. The upper panel shows the air temperature at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, reconstructed by Alley (2000) from GISP2 ice core data. The time scale shows years before modern time. The rapid temperature rise to the left indicate the final part of the even more pronounced temperature increase following the last ice age. The temperature scale at the right hand side of the upper panel suggests a very approximate comparison with the global average temperature (see comment below). The GISP2 record ends around 1854, and the two graphs therefore ends here. There has since been an temperature increase to about the same level as during the Medieval Warm Period and to about 395 ppm for CO2. The small reddish bar in the lower right indicate the extension of the longest global temperature record (since 1850), based on meteorological observations (HadCRUT3). The lower panel shows the past atmospheric CO2 content, as found from the EPICA Dome C Ice Core in the Antarctic (Monnin et al. 2004). The Dome C atmospheric CO2 record ends in the year 1777.

The diagram above (Fig.3) shows the major part of the present interglacial period, the Holocene, as seen from the summit of the Greenland Ice cap. The approximate positions of some warm historical periods are shown by the green bars, with intervening cold periods.

Clearly Central Greenland temperature changes are not identical to global temperature changes. However, they do tend to reflect global temperature changes with a decadal-scale delay (Box et al. 2009), with the notable exception of the Antarctic region and adjoining parts of the Southern Hemisphere, which is more or less in opposite phase (Chylek et al. 2010) for variations shorter than ice-age cycles (Alley 2003). This is the background for the very approximate global temperature scale at the right hand side of the upper panel. Please also note that the temperature record ends in 1854 AD, and for that reason is not showing the post Little Ice Age temperature increase. In the younger part of the GISP2 temperature reconstruction the time resolution is around 10 years. Any comparison with measured temperatures should therefore be made done using averages over periods of similar lengths.

During especially the last 4000 years the Greenland record is dominated by a trend towards gradually lower temperatures, presumably indicating the early stages of the coming ice age (Fig.3). In addition to this overall temperature decline, the development has also been characterised by a number of temperature peaks, with about 950-1000 year intervals. It may even be speculated if the present warm period fits into this overall scheme of natural variations?

The past temperature changes show little (if any) relation to the past atmospheric CO2 content as shown in the lower panel of figure 3. Initially, until around 7000 yr before now, temperatures generally increase, even though the amount of atmospheric CO2 decreases. For the last 7000 years the temperature generally has been decreasing, even though the CO2 record now display an increasing trend. Neither is any of the marked 950-1000 year periodic temperature peaks associated with a corresponding CO2 increase. The general concentration of CO2 is low, wherefore the theoretical temperature response to changes in CO2 should be more pronounced than at higher concentrations, as the CO2 forcing on temperature is decreasing logarithmic with concentration. Nevertheless, no net effect of CO2 on temperature can be identified from the above diagram, and it is therefore obvious that significant climatic changes can occur without being controlled by atmospheric CO2. Other phenomena than atmospheric CO2 must have had the main control on global temperature for the last 11,000 years.


Prof. Bob Carter comments:

Can I say that I view this diagram as the single most deadly illustration available with which to nail the DAGW coffin tightly shut.

The two messages it contains are (i) that 20th century warming falls completely within a well established natural rhythmn of warming and cooling (the 1500 year cycle that Fred has written a book on); and (ii) that over the late Holocene, as carbon dioxide levels rose gently the long-term temperature signature declined.

Each of these arguments is fatal to the simple DAGW hypothesis, which is why you will very rarely find IPCColytes referring to this graph.

For some reason there has been a recent outbreak of comments about modern temperatures being warmer than those of the MWP. A third use for this graph is to show the irrelevance of that assertion (even were it to be true, which it is probably not) - the real comparison should be with the early Holocene Climatic Optimum which was obviously significantly warmer than today for an extended period. On top of which, earlier interglacial climatic optima are known from Antarctic ice cores to have been up to 5 degrees warmer than today.

The sole caveat to all this is that these records represent regional high latitude and not global temperatures. And so they do. But, that said, many other palaeoclimatic records from all latitudes show similar patterning.

More Fraudulent Science From EPA

Paul Driessen

The Obama Environmental Protection Agency recently slashed the maximum allowable sulfur content in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm. The agency claims its new “Tier 3” rule will bring $7 billion to $19 billion in annual health benefits by 2030. “These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment and a win for our pocketbooks,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insists.

It’s all hokum. Like almost everything else emanating from EPA these days, the gasoline regulations are a case study in how America’s economy, jobs, living standards, health and welfare are being pummeled by secretive, deceptive, and indeed fraudulent and corrupt government practices.

Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, America’s cars have eliminated some 99% of pollutants that once came out of tailpipes, notes air quality expert Joel Schwartz. Since 2004, under Tier 2 rules, refiners have reduced sulfur in gasoline from an average of 300 ppm to 30 ppm – a 90% drop, on top of pre-2004 reductions. In addition, because newer cars start out cleaner and stay cleaner throughout their lives, fleet turnover is reducing emissions by 8 to10 percent per year, steadily improving air quality.

The net result, says a 2012 Environ International study, is that ground-level ozone concentrations will fall even more dramatically by 2022. Volatile organic pollutants will plummet by 62%, carbon monoxide by 51% and nitrous oxides by 80% – beyond reductions already achieved between 1970 and 2004.

EPA (which once promised to be ultra-transparent) claims its rules will add less than a penny per gallon to gasoline prices; but it won’t say how it arrived at that estimate. Industry sources say the Tier 3 rules will require $10 billion in upfront capital expenditures, an additional $2.4 billion in annual compliance expenses, significant increases in refinery energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, an extra 5-9 cents per gallon in manufacturing costs, which will certainly hit consumers at the pump.

But regardless of their ultimate cost, the rules will reduce monthly ozone levels by just 1.2 parts per billion during rush hour, says Environ. That’s equivalent to 12 cents out of $100 million or 1.2 seconds out of 32,000 years. These minuscule improvements could not even have been measured by equipment existing a couple decades ago. Their contribution to improved human health will be essentially zero.

Not so, say the EPA, Sierra Club and American Lung Association (ALA). The rules will reduce asthma in “the children,” they insist. However, asthma incidences have been increasing, while air pollution has declined – demonstrating that the pollution-asthma connection is a red herring. The disease is caused by allergies, a failure to expose young children to sufficient allergens to cause their immune systems to build resistance to airborne allergens, and lack of sufficient exercise to keep lungs robust. Not surprisingly, a Southern California study found no association between asthma hospitalizations and air pollution levels.

Moreover, EPA paid the ALA $20 million between 2001 and 2010. No wonder it echoes agency claims about air quality and lung problems. The payments continue today, while EPA also funnels millions to various environmentalist pressure groups – and even to “independent” EPA scientific review panels – that likewise rubber stamp too many EPA pollution claims, studies and regulatory actions.

As Ron Arnold recently reported in The Washington Examiner, 15 of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee members have received $180.8 million in EPA grants since 2000. One CASAC panelist (Ed Avol of USC) received $51.7 million! The seven CASAC executive committee members pocketed $80.2 million. Imagine Big Oil paying that kind of cash to an advisory group, and calling it “independent.” The news media, government and environmentalists would have a field day with that one.

The Clean Air Act, Information Quality Act, Executive Order 12866 and other laws require that agencies assess both the costs and benefits of proposed regulations, adopt them only if their benefits justify their costs, and even determine whether a regulation is worth implementing at all. However, EPA and other agencies systematically violate these rules, routinely inflate the alleged benefits of their rules, and habitually minimize or even ignore their energy, economic, health and social costs.

Reporting on a hearing held by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Arnold noted that CASAC members say they weren’t even aware that they are obligated to advise EPA on both benefits and costs. Former EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead testified, “As far as I know, CASAC never fulfilled this requirement as it relates to the ozone standard or any other” rule.

Former CASAC chairman Dr. Roger McClellan told Rep. Smith he did not think the panel “ever advised EPA to take account of the role of socioeconomic factors, unemployment or other risk factors” adversely affecting people’s health. Another former CASAC member testified that the advisory committee was not even “allowed to discuss any of the adverse consequences” associated with new rulemakings.

EPA regulations impose countless billions of dollars in annual impacts on the US economy, according to studies by the Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Government Accountability Office. Estimates of total compliance costs for all federal regulations range to nearly $2 trillion per year. Some may bring benefits, but many or most also inflict significant harm on human health.

They mean millions of layoffs, far fewer jobs created, and steadily declining quality of life for millions of Americans, who cannot heat and cool their homes properly, pay the rent and mortgage, or save for retirement. They mean increased commuting to multiple jobs, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, and lower life expectancies.

In another example, EPA justifies its onerous carbon dioxide regulations by asserting that Earth’s climate is highly sensitive to C02, hypothesizing every conceivable carbon cost, and imputing huge monetized damages from hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions ($36/ton of CO2 emitted). It completely ignores even the most obvious and enormous job, health and welfare benefits of using fossil fuels; even the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels for food crops, forests and grasslands; and even the harmful effects that these regulations are having on energy prices and reliability, and thus people’s jobs, health and welfare.

The EPA, ALA and CASAC likewise insist that new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards for coal-fired power plants will bring huge health benefits. However, the mercury risks were hugely overblown, the proclaimed dangers from fine particulates were contradicted by EPA’s own illegal experiments on human subjects – and the agency never assessed the health and welfare damage that the MATS rules will impose by causing the loss of 200,000 jobs and 23,000 megawatts of reliable, affordable electricity by 2015.

Similarly, EPA and CASAC blithely failed to consider the human carnage that will result from their new 54.5 mpg vehicle mileage standards, as people are forced into smaller, lighter, less safe cars. Having based numerous regulations on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that have been roundly criticized as erroneous and even fraudulent, EPA now refuses to reconsider any of its rules, even though there has been no warming for 17 years and the IPCC itself is back-peddling on previous claims.

Ignoring all these facts, the nation’s automakers nevertheless supported EPA’s Tier 3 sulfur rules. They prefer to have a single national standard, instead of one for California and one for the other 49 states. But to “Californiacate” America’s regulatory system is exactly the wrong direction to go. The once-Golden State has among the most perverse taxes and regulations – and thus some of the highest unemployment rates, especially for blacks, Hispanics and inland communities. Instead of emulating its strangulation by regulation proclivities, we should be forcing it to adopt more commonsense, scientifically sound rules.
Congress, state legislatures, attorneys general, people and courts need to exert much greater control over now unaccountable government agencies. At the very least, we need to ensure that legal and scientific standards are followed, and the harmful effects of regulations are fully and honestly analyzed, accounted for and debated, for all pending and recently promulgated regulations, at every level of government.


Scams, Fraud Flourish in Solar Still

Consumers considering installing solar panels on their rooftops have far more to think through than the initial decision to “go solar.”

They may search for the best price, only to discover, as customers in central Florida did, that after paying $20,000-40,000 for their systems, they are stuck with installations that may be unusable or unsafe. BlueChip Energy—which also operated as Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) and SunHouse Solar—sold its systems at environmental festivals and home shows. Buyers thought they were getting a good deal and doing the right thing for the environment. Instead, they were duped.

A year ago, it was revealed that BlueChip Energy’s solar panels had counterfeit UL labels—this means that the panels may not comply with standard safety requirements established by the independent global certification company Underwriters Laboratory. The Orlando Sentinel reports: “UL testing assures that a product won't catch fire, will conduct electricity properly and can withstand weather. Without such testing, no one is certain if the solar panels may fail.” Additionally, it states: “Without the safety testing, they shouldn't be connected to the electric grid”—which leaves customers nervous about possible risks such as overheating. Other reports claim that BlueChip inflated the efficiency rates of its photovoltaic panels, which do not meet “65 percent of the company’s published performance ratings.”

In July 2013, BlueChip’s assets were sold off at pennies on the dollar and customers were left with rooftop solar packages that now have no warranty.

With the shakeout in the solar photovoltaic industry, bankruptcy is a key concern for buyers. No company equals no warranty.

Two of China’s biggest panel makers have failed. On March 20, 2013, Suntech, one of the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturers, filed bankruptcy. Earlier this month Shanghai Chaori Solar became China's first domestic corporate bond default. The Wall Street Journal reports that another, Baoding Tainwei, has reported a second year of losses and investors are waiting to “see if officials will let it fail.”

Regarding Suntech’s bankruptcy, an industry report says the following about the warranties: “While Suntech has said that it was committed to maintaining the warranty obligations on its products following the bankruptcy, we are unsure if customers will be willing to take a risk considering the firm’s faltering financials.”

Last month, it was reported that solar panels can be “dangerous in an emergency.” Firefighters have been forced to stop fighting a fire due to electrocution concerns. The report quotes Northampton, MA, Fire Chief Brian Duggan as saying electrocution is not their only concern: “cutting through the roof for ventilation would also take a lot longer.” Springfield fire commissioner Joe Conant says: “nothing will stop them if there’s a life to be saved, but if it’s simply to save the structure, solar panels may keep them from going on the roof.

A Fox News story on the risk solar panels pose to fire-fighters states: “Two recent fires involving structures decked with solar panels have triggered complaints from fire chiefs and calls for new codes and regulations that reflect the dangers posed by the clean-energy devices. A two-alarm fire last week at a home in Piedmont, Calif., prompted Piedmont Fire Chief Warren McLaren to say the technology ‘absolutely’ made it harder on firefighters. Weeks earlier, in Delanco, NJ, more than 7,000 solar panels on the roof of a massive 300,000-square foot warehouse factored into Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt’s refusal to send his firefighters onto the roof of a Dietz & Watson facility.”

Then, of course, there are new concerns about scam artists like the one in North Carolina who collected “money from victims under false pretense that he would buy and install solar panels in their residences.”

As if all of that wasn’t enough, a new potentially fraudulent scheme has just been exposed.

A recent report from the Arizona Republic, points to complaints the Arizona Corporation Commission—the state’s top utility regulator—is getting from Tucson customers of SolarCity Corporation. They claim: “the solar leasing company is misleading them regarding the state rules for hooking up a solar array.”

In essence, customers in Tucson are being told one thing by their utility, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), but something else by a private solar power company, SolarCity—the nation’s second largest solar electrical contractor. This has drawn the ire of Bob Stump, Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). “This is an issue of consumer protection and solar installer transparency,” Stump told the Arizona Republic.

Stump made his concerns clear in a March 12 letter to Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s Chief Executive Officer: “I am concerned that you—as well as other solar providers—may be communicating with customers in a way that is both confusing and misleading and which deprives them of the balanced information they need in order to make informed decisions.”

The letter states: “Some customers … say that solar providers have told them that the rates, rules and regulations applicable to net metering are ‘grandfathered,’ thereby implying that the rates associated with net metering are not subject to change.” As a result, Stump says: “Customers are then surprised, disappointed, and angry to learn from TEP that this may not be the case.”

As a vocal advocate for responsible energy—which I define as energy that is efficient, effective and economical—I have closely followed what is happening with Arizona’s solar industry. There, when the ACC proposed a modification to the net-metering policies to make them more equitable to all utility customers, the solar industry mounted an aggressive PR campaign in attempt to block any changes. When the decision was made in November to add a monthly fee onto the utility bills of new solar customers to make them pay for using the power grid, I applauded the effort.

In light of this new issue, with a leading solar company misleading customers, it is time for the nation’s regulators to take a hard look at their states’ policies. Remember, this past summer, Georgia regulators voted for solar leasing such as SolarCity offers.

Pat Lyons, one of New Mexico’s Public Regulatory Commissioners, watched what happened in Arizona’s net metering battle. Upon learning about SolarCity’s potential deception, he was alarmed. “As solar leasing, like SolarCity pushes, moves into additional markets, regulators across the country need to be aware of the potential pitfalls and misrepresentations.”

It is vital that solar providers be held to the same high standard to which we hold our electric utilities and are made to answer tough questions about consumer protection, safety, and operation issues. Stump’s letter to SolarCity’s CEO asked for responses to his questions by March 31 and said he will “be placing this matter on a Commission open meeting agenda in the near future in order to discuss these important concerns with my fellow commissioners.”

It may be too late to protect some solar customers in Tucson, but there is still a chance to make sure others are treated fairly. If things don’t change, the dark clouds hovering over the industry will be raining on unsuspecting customers.


White House looks to regulate cow flatulence as part of climate agenda

As part of its plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama administration is targeting the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions in their operations.

This comes despite falling methane emission levels across the economy since 1990.

The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25 percent by 2020. Although U.S. agriculture only accounts for about 9 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it makes up a sizeable portion of methane emissions — which is a very potent greenhouse gas.

Some of these methane emissions come from cow flatulence, exhaling and belching — other livestock animals release methane as well.

“Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence,” according to How Stuff Works. “Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day… while others say it’s up to 500 liters… a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.”

“Of all domestic animal types, beef and dairy cattle were by far the largest emitters of [methane],” according to an EPA analysis charting greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Cows and other animals produce methane through digestion, which ferments the food of animals.

“During digestion, microbes resident in an animal’s digestive system ferment food consumed by the animal,” the EPA notes. “This microbial fermentation process, referred to as enteric fermentation, produces [methane] as a byproduct, which can be exhaled or eructated by the animal.”

It’s not just the dairy industry that the Obama administration is clamping down on. The White House is looking to regulate methane emissions across the economy from agriculture to oil and gas operations — all this despite methane emissions falling 11 percent since 1990.

Methane emissions have largely been reduced because of the incentive for companies to capture it and sell it for monetary gain. Oil and gas companies, for example, have been looking for ways to increasingly capture methane leaked from drilling operations which they can then sell.

“The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment, and recent studies show emissions are far lower than EPA projected just a few years ago,” said  Howard Feldman, head of scientific and regulatory affairs at  the American Petroleum Institute. “Additional regulations are not necessary and could have a chilling effect on the American energy renaissance, our economy, and our national security.”

“Methane is natural gas that operators can bring to the market,” he added. “There is a built-in incentive to capture these emissions.”

Environmentalists have been pushing the Obama administration to crack down on methane emissions for some time, arguing that they drive global warming and pollute the air and water. Activists have argued that the methane leakage rate from natural gas operations is 50 percent higher than the EPA estimates.

“President Obama’s plan to reduce climate-disrupting methane pollution is an important step in reining in an out of control industry exempt from too many public health protections,” Deborah Nardone, campaign director of the Sierra Club’s Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground campaign. “However, even with the most rigorous methane controls and monitoring in place, we will still fall short of what is needed to fight climate disruption if we do not reduce our reliance on these dirty fossil fuels.”

Republicans and the oil and gas industry argue that the methane leakage rate has been estimated to be 50 times lower than the EPA’s estimate. The GOP argues that the EPA’s estimate is simply an attack on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“The EPA has been on a witch hunt to shut down hydraulic fracturing, and yet again the evidence doesn’t back up their excessive claims,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “All too often we see the Agency using flawed science for political purposes, but this report – partially funded by environmental activists no less – shows EPA’s emissions estimates from hydraulic fracturing are way off.”


Dr. Patrick Moore states his credentials

That one of the founders of Greenpeace now disses global warming disturbs people who rely on authority for their opinions.  So Moore is regularly misrepresented by Warmists.  He replies below to one such misrepresentation in "The Missoulian"

Dear Editor,

I must reply to the nasty characterization of myself by Ron Scholl (Climate Change: Information not Exactly Credible, March 28). He makes a number of false statements, including to question my credibility as a scientist.

For his information I hold an Honours B.Sc. in Biology and Forest Biology, a Ph.D in Ecology, an Honorary Doctorate of Science from North Carolina State University and in 2009 received the National Award for Nuclear Science and History from the Einstein Society. In 1989 I founded the British Columbia Carbon Project and ever since have remained abreast of the climate change discussion on a daily basis.

In my testimony before the US Senate I simply stated “There is no scientific proof that humans are the main cause of the minor warming that has occurred over past 150 years.” This is why the IPCC uses the word “likely” when it states that humans are the main cause. This is a judgement (opinion), not a proof. If there was an actual scientific proof they would write it down on a piece of paper and show it to us.

Mr. Scholl also claims that I am not a co-founder of Greenpeace. If would take the time to Google “Who are the Founders of Greenpeace”, he would find my name clearly displayed. Just because Greenpeace has tried to write me out of their history doesn’t actually change historical fact. I was in the leadership of Greenpeace for 15 years, from the first campaign against US H-Bomb testing in 1971 until 1986 when I left due to disagreements on points of science and policy. Today Greenpeace campaigns are mainly based on sensation, misinformation, and fear. I prefer to base my environmental policies on science and logic.

Via email


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


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yet another problem of global warming?

This is supposed to be a science process?

The IPCC clearly does politics, not science

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to "abrupt and irreversible changes"


Did Nate Silver take down the Roger Pielke article in response to a campaign by a tiny minority of malcontents?

Lubos Motl

Nate Silver is a statistician who has analyzed baseball and elections. I don't know him but it seems that some other people do. At any rate, he started a new expensive online news server (the number is 538). Some mostly left-wing pundits have criticized the new server and made its childhood a rocky experience.

The first study he happened to publish on that server was one by Dr Roger Pielke Jr, a "climate lukewarmer" [in the middle between skeptics and alarmists] who does research into damages caused by meteorological phenomena:

Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change (by Pielke)

His main point is simple: the absolute amount of money destroyed by natural disasters is increasing but so is the total GDP. The ratio stays pretty much constant – as he demonstrates by some graph from the Munich Re reinsurance company – and it should.

(Well, there is even some decrease that seems statistically insignificant; if it ever became significant, it would probably be due to people's increasing ability to protect their assets.)

There exists no scientific or otherwise rational reason to think that the "losses to GDP" ratio should be significantly changing with time. As people are getting wealthier, they have more assets that may be destroyed by unpleasant weather and so on.

Needless to say, a "lukewarmer" like Pielke Jr is a sufficient heretic for the climate activists to go ballistic; his claims – self-evidently correct claims – were a blasphemy. So they have spammed the comment section with tons of negative comments (80% of comments were claimed to be negative), posted a long pseudoscientific rebuttal at SkepticalScience.COM, a rant at Salon.COM mentioning the grilling of Silver by Jon Stewart, a diatribe at HuffPo, and dozens of other anti-Pielke replies on assorted far left-wing servers and blogs.

All the data I can access are consistent with the hypothesis that all these insane anti-skeptic "fireworks" you can see on the Internet and in the media are the result of an orchestrated campaign by 25 or fewer unhinged alarmist trolls, at least 90% of the "fireworks".

This is actually the mean value of my estimate. Such a claim may sound remarkable but people who don't have access to any data about the visitors and commenters on a website generally underestimate how intensely amplified the visibility of certain views becomes due to the relentless work of a very small number of obsessed trolls and spammers.

I am fortunately not getting too many truly obnoxious comments these days. But during the last 3 months, I got about 5 comments from different posters praising guest posts on The Reference Frame, with the implicit suggestion that I should stop writing my own essays. OK individual opinions, I thought for a while. After all, I try to pick high-quality guest bloggers (and yes, I prefer native speakers, something I am not) so if the comparison ends up in this way, it shouldn't shock me.

However, when I saw the fifth comment of this sort, I finally checked the IP addresses. Needless to say, every single comment from this set was posted by the very same user in Halifax, Canada. Without this check (I am not doing them often, but sometimes I am), I could easily believe that there were 5 people holding this opinion; in reality, there was just 1 troll. This is just one recent anecdote but over the years, I have accumulated many stories of this kind. The general conclusion seems clear to me: on the Internet, a huge fraction of the "violent opposition" to some opinions is created by a tiny group of people.

The critics that were mentioned as contributors to Silver's apology by the media belonged to this list:

Michael Mann
Kevin Trenberth
Rob Honeycutt
... and a few others.

Have I seen the names before? You bet. All of them belong to the aforementioned "list of 25 top climate alarmist trolls". They keep on trolling, trolling, trolling. They are spamming, spamming, spamming. They are attacking, attacking, attacking climate skeptics. They are whining, whining, whining that they were unfairly attacked even though they haven't. They are lying 24 hours a day. Michael Mann is threatening others with lawsuits all the time (and sometimes even sues, being supported by some really immoral wealthy individuals), yet he has the breathtaking arrogance to claim that it's others who are threatening him. They are doing these things all the time, seven days a week, 52 or 53 weeks a year, and a large percentage of the "climatic portion of the blogosphere" is created by this small group of people. If you removed these trolls from the surface of the globe, climate alarmism would pretty much cease to exist on the Internet. Incidentally, yes, this is my recipe how to solve the climate problem.

I find it sort of shocking that people like Nate Silver who should already know something about the "behavioral science about the Internet commenters" and about the sociology of the climate debate – election-related statistics are not too far from this discipline – still fail to understand these points. I find it shocking that they still get manipulated by these aggressive yet intrinsically inconsequential scumbags and crackpots.

Let me just mention one graph – the only "apparently non-trivial" argument against Pielke's assertions that I have seen anywhere in the hurricane of vitriol directed against his self-evident assertions. You see that the "number of natural catastrophes" has more than doubled over the last 30 years. But one must be careful about the definition of a "natural catastrophe". Note that in 1980, the world population was less than 4.5 bilion, so it has "almost" doubled since that time, too. Moreover, the people are much wealthier and they have many more things that may be damaged or insured and damages of these things count as "natural catastrophes".

My point is that the quantity "number of natural catastrophes" doesn't really have a robust, time-independent definition here. If you actually look at the overall money which have a much more robust definition, as Pielke did, you will see that the claims or losses were increasing proportionally to the total GDP.

There's one more observation that is being mentioned by Pielke's critics: the number of "geophysical events" like earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruption wasn't substantially increasing – only "the weather got worse". But they always prefer to automatically assume that any such asymmetry is due to their favorite "climate change". The actual reason of the unequal growth is simply that people may escape from the places where earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are occurring because these places are known and ultimately determined by the fault lines, tectonic plates, and other geological entities. On the other hand, one can't really escape bad weather! So the rate of the increase of the concentration of people and their wealth in "geologically risky" places was much smaller (and insurance companies wouldn't insure you at certain places) than the concentration of people in places where "bad weather" may occur (which is the whole surface of the Earth).

At any rate, the right interpretation of all these graphs is a science of a sort. It is not as hard a science as particle physics. But one needs some expertise. And Roger Pielke Jr has accumulated about 10,000 citations by work focusing on these questions – despite the fact that his basic philosophy wasn't exactly aligned with the political establishment of the Academia. Why would Nate Silver surrender to 25 trolls whose total number of citations in these matters is 100 times lower than those of Roger Pielke Jr? And if Nate Silver thinks that the total loudness of the trolls is more important than the truth and the people's expertise, why did he hire Roger Pielke Jr to write the piece in the first place? Why didn't he establish a new server as a footnote to a random crackpot's blog, for example as 538.SkepticalScience.COM? A researcher (or an essayist) who may only conclude what the majority already believes is a useless parasite.

Roger Pielke Jr isn't necessarily my "#1 cup of tea" but I can still see that Nate Silver's behavior towards him was disrespectful. More generally, the freedom of expression and journalism ethics seems to be evaporating from the Internet in the U.S. that is increasingly controlled by the aforementioned groups of violent trolls and by the group think they want to impose – and they have already imposed in vast portions of the American Internet and the American society. Twenty-five years ago, I wouldn't predict that I would be writing these things in 2014. But it's true, anyway: I think that the freedom of expression – especially journalists' freedom to evaluate the data in the way they see fit – is much better e.g. in Russia these days than it is in the U.S. And despite all the annoying trends I am observing, I think that the journalism ethics and especially the freedom of expression is in a much better shape in Czechia than it is in either of the countries above.

I have embedded Robert Foster's ("funny fake rapping media host") "report" about the recent Russian-American tension. He is doing fun of both sides and makes some good points – well, at least good for those who are not following the events in any objective way. The funny video was reposted by Russia Today but I am afraid that it would be censored in all the U.S. media that look at themselves way too seriously when they moralize about the "evils" done by Russia. Around 4:20, journalist Abby Martin adds her contribution to the rap, too. She is saying things that Putin would probably disagree with – but she can do so despite her being an employee of the Kremlin-funded Russia Today. I think that nowadays, the journalists in MSNBC or other American TV channels wouldn't be able (well, I mean "wouldn't be allowed") to display their editorial independence and freedom of expression in this way. It would be enough for a few left-wing jerks like Michael Mann to launch an e-mail campaign against anything they find inconvenient and in the evening, the boss of the news would already be apologizing for and firing the blasphemous employee.

So I have grown increasingly disillusioned by the status of human rights and professional ethics in the U.S. It's a system de facto controlled by several cliques of aggressive fascists who are blackmailing everyone who is inconvenient them, who are spamming the Internet and news with lies, whining, demagogy, and character assassinations, and who are using the gullible brainwashed sheep – the average Americans – both as a weapon and as a final target to be conquered. Couldn't at least one Nate Silver find the balls to tell Manns and Trenberths of this world "fuck you"? It's probably too much to ask.

As the anthem indicates, the U.S. may have been a "land of the brave and the free" sometime in the past. But these days, it's mainly a country of spineless unfree cowards like Nate Silver.

And that's the memo.


Cook's 97%: A Climate Falsehood You Can Check for Yourself

One problem in arguments about climate (and many other things) is that most of the information is obtained at second, third, or fourth hand, with the result that what you believe depends largely on what sources of information you trust. One result is that people on either side of the argument can honestly believe that the evidence strongly supports their view. They trust different sources; different sources report different evidence. It is thus particularly interesting when on some point, even a fairly minor one, you can actually check a claim for yourself. I believe I have found an example of such a claim.

Cook et. al. (2013) is the paper, possibly one of two papers, on which the often repeated claim that 97% of climate scientists support global warming is based. Legates et. al. (2013) is a paper which criticizes Cook et. al. (2013). Bedford and Cook (2013) is a response to Legates et. al. All three papers (the last a pre-publication version) are webbed, although Legates et. al. is unfortunately behind a pay wall.

Bedford and Cook (2013) contains the following sentence: "Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause."

To check that claim, look at Cook et. al. 2013. Table 2 shows three categories of endorsement of global warming reflected in the abstracts of articles. Category 1, explicit endorsement with quantification, is described as "Explicitly states that humans are the primary cause of recent global warming."

Category 2 is explicit endorsement without quantification. The description, "Explicitly states humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change as a known fact" is ambiguous, since neither "causing" nor "anthropogenic global warming" specifies how large a part of warming humans are responsible for. But the example for the category is clearer: 'Emissions of a broad range of greenhouse gases of varying lifetimes contribute to global climate change.' If human action produces ten percent of warming, it contributes to it, hence category 2, as implied by its label, does not specify how large a fraction of the warming humans are responsible for.

 Category 3, implicit endorsement, again uses the ambiguous "are causing," but the example is '...carbon sequestration in soil is important for mitigating global climate change,' which again would be consistent with holding that CO2 was responsible for some but less than half of the warming. It follows that only papers in category 1 imply that "human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause." Authors of papers in categories 2 and 3 might believe that, they might believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases were one cause among several.

Reading down in Cook et. al., we find "To simplify the analysis, ratings were consolidated into three groups: endorsements (including implicit and explicit; categories 1–3 in table 2)." It is that combined group, ("endorse AGW" on Table 4) that the 97.1% figure refers to. Hence that is the number of papers that, according to Cook et. al., implied that humans at least contribute to global warming. The number that imply that humans are the primary cause (category 1) is some smaller percentage which Cook et. al. do not report.

It follows that the sentence I quoted from Bedford and Cook is false. Cook et. al. did not find that "over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause." (emphasis mine). Any interested reader can check that it is false by simply comparing the two papers of which Cook is a co-author. John Cook surely knows the contents of his own paper. Hence the sentence in question is a deliberate lie.

That Cook misrepresents the result of his own research does not tell us whether AGW or CAGW is true. It does not tell us if it is true that most climate scientists endorse AGW or CAGW. It is nonetheless interesting, for two related reasons.

In recent online exchanges on climate, I repeatedly encountered the claim that 97% of climate scientists believed humans were the main cause of global warming. That included an exchange with one of the very few reasonable and civil supporters of the CAGW claim that I encountered in the online arguments, where most participants on either side are neither. So far as I know, the paper says nothing that is not true. But it appears designed to encourage the misreading that actually occurred. It does so by lumping together categories 1-3 and reporting only the sum and by repeatedly referring to "the consensus" but never stating clearly what that consensus is.

The closest it came to defining the consensus is as the "position that humans are causing global warming," which leaves it unclear whether "causing" means "are one cause of," "are the chief cause of," or "are the sole cause of." To discover that it meant only the former, a reader had to pay sufficiently careful attention to the details of the paper to notice "contribute to" in the example of category 2 in Table 2, which few readers would do. The fact that Cook chose, in a second paper, to misrepresent the result of the first is pretty good evidence that the presentation of his results was deliberately designed to mislead.

There is a second, and more important, reason why all of this matters. Beliefs on either side depend largely on what sources of information you trust. I have now provided unambiguous evidence, evidence that anyone on either side willing to carefully read Cook (2013) and check what it says against what Bedford and Cook claims it says can verify for himself, that John Cook cannot be trusted. The blog Skeptical Science lists John Cook as its maintainer, hence all claims on that blog ought to be viewed with suspicion and accepted only if independently verified. Since, as a prominent supporter of the position that warming is primarily due to humans and a very serious threat, Cook is taken seriously and quoted by other supporters of that position, one should reduce one's trust in those others as well. Either they too are dishonest or they are over willing to believe false claims that support their position.

The fact that one prominent supporter of a position is dishonest does not prove that the position is wrong. For all I know, there may be people on the other side who could be shown to be dishonest by a similar analysis. But it is a reason why those who support that side because they trust its proponents to tell them the truth should be at least somewhat less willing to do so.

P.S. A commenter has located the data file for Cook et. al. (2013). By his count, the number of articles classified into each category was:

Level 1 = 64
Level 2 = 922
Level 3 = 2910
Level 4 = 7970
Level 5 = 54
Level 6 = 15
Level 7 = 9

The 97% figure was the sum of levels 1-3. Assuming the count is correct—readers can check it for themselves—that 97% breaks down as:

Level 1: 1.6%
Level 2: 23%
Level 3: 72%

Only Level 1 corresponds to "the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause." (emphasis mine) Hence when John Cook attributed that view to 97% on the basis of his Cook et. al. (2013) he was misrepresenting 1.6% as 97%. Adding up his categories 5-7, the levels of rejecting of AGW, we find that more papers explicitly or implicitly rejected the claim that human action was responsible for half or more of warming than accepted it. According to Cook's own data.

Would anybody now like to claim that lumping levels 1, 2, and 3 together and only reporting the sum was not a deliberate attempt to mislead?




The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its latest figures on the annual death toll caused by pollution--and they look shocking. Of all the deaths across the globe in 2012, no fewer than seven million--1 in 8--are apparently the result of pollution.

Even if you take the WHO's estimates with a huge pinch of salt--and you probably should--that doesn't mean the pollution problem in some parts of the world isn't deadly serious. During the 20th century, around 260 million are reckoned to have died from indoor pollution in the developing world: that's roughly twice as many as were killed in all the century's wars.

Here, though, is the point where the WHO loses all credibility on the issue.

    "Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains," Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health said.

    "WHO and health sectors have a unique role in translating scientific evidence on air pollution into policies that can deliver impact and improvements that will save lives," Dr. Dora added."

See what Dora just did there? He used the shock value of the WHO's pollution death figures to slip three Big Lies under the impressionable reader's radar.

First, he's trying to make out that outdoor pollution is as big a problem as indoor pollution. It isn't: nowhere near. Many of the deaths the WHO links to the former are very likely the result of the latter (cooking and heating in poorly ventilated rooms using dung, wood, and coal) which, by nature, is much more intense.

Secondly, he's implying that economic development is to blame. In fact, it's economic development we have to thank for the fact that there are so many fewer pollution deaths than there used to be. As Bjorn Lomborg has noted, over the 20th century as poverty receded and clean fuels got cheaper, the risk of dying of pollution decreased eight-fold. In 1900, air pollution cost 23 per cent of global GDP; today it is 6 per cent, and by 2050 it will be 4 per cent.

But the third and by far the biggest of the lies is the implication that the UN's policies on climate change are helping to alleviate the problem.

In fact the opposite is true. It's the UN's policies on climate change which are killing the world's poor.

Two years ago, at the Rio + 20 Earth Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon launched a program of "sustainable energy for all."

But "sustainable energy" is often merely an environmentalist euphemism for costly, inefficient, intermittent, unreliable renewable energy--such as solar or wind: a heavily subsidized, first-world luxury which no developing country could possibly afford because it makes no economic sense.

Another energy form that would fit into the "sustainable" category would be "biomass"--ie dung, vegetation--which is the very thing responsible for all those indoor pollution deaths.

The surest, quickest way to reduce pollution deaths in the developing world would be to develop a stable electric grid system so that people could keep themselves warm and cook relatively cleanly. But thanks to the UN's obsession with "climate change" this opportunity is being denied developing countries. The World Bank now more or less refuses to finance the building of any coal-fired power stations in places like Africa in order to promote "alternative energy sources." This anti-cheap energy policy has been endorsed by the Obama administration.

As one Ugandan writer once put it:

    "Al Gore uses more electricity in a week than 28 million Ugandans together use in a year. And those anti-electricity policies are keeping us impoverished.

    Not having electricity means millions of Africans don’t have refrigerators to preserve food and medicine. Outside of wealthy parts of our big cities, people don’t have lights, computers, modern hospitals and schools, air conditioning – or offices, factories and shops to make things and create good jobs.

    Not having electricity also means disease and death. It means millions die from lung infections, because they have to cook and heat with open fires; from intestinal diseases caused by spoiled food and unsafe drinking water; from malaria, TB, cholera, measles and other diseases that we could prevent or treat if we had proper medical facilities."

If the WHO's mother organization the United Nations wanted to stop those seven million pollution deaths, it could do so in short space. Unfortunately, like so many of those involved in global governance these days, it gives Gaia worship higher priority than the lives of the world's poor.


Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm

Even while it exaggerates the amount of warming, the IPCC is becoming more cautious about its effects

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will shortly publish the second part of its latest report, on the likely impact of climate change. Government representatives are meeting with scientists in Japan to sex up—sorry, rewrite—a summary of the scientists' accounts of storms, droughts and diseases to come. But the actual report, known as AR5-WGII, is less frightening than its predecessor seven years ago.

The 2007 report was riddled with errors about Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African agriculture, water shortages and other matters, all of which erred in the direction of alarm. This led to a critical appraisal of the report-writing process from a council of national science academies, some of whose recommendations were simply ignored.

Others, however, hit home. According to leaks, this time the full report is much more cautious and vague about worsening cyclones, changes in rainfall, climate-change refugees, and the overall cost of global warming.

It puts the overall cost at less than 2% of GDP for a 2.5 degrees Centigrade (or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase during this century. This is vastly less than the much heralded prediction of Lord Stern, who said climate change would cost 5%-20% of world GDP in his influential 2006 report for the British government.

The forthcoming report apparently admits that climate change has extinguished no species so far and expresses "very little confidence" that it will do so. There is new emphasis that climate change is not the only environmental problem that matters and on adapting to it rather than preventing it. Yet the report still assumes 70% more warming by the last decades of this century than the best science now suggests. This is because of an overreliance on models rather than on data in the first section of the IPCC report—on physical science—that was published in September 2013.

In this space on Dec. 19, 2012, I forecast that the IPCC was going to have to lower its estimates of future warming because of new sensitivity results. (Sensitivity is the amount of warming due to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.) "Cooling Down Fears of Climate Change" (Dec. 19), led to a storm of protest, in which I was called "anti-science," a "denier" and worse.

The IPCC's September 2013 report abandoned any attempt to estimate the most likely "sensitivity" of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The explanation, buried in a technical summary not published until January, is that "estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for [sensitivity] values in the lower part of the likely range." Translation: The data suggest we probably face less warming than the models indicate, but we would rather not say so.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London think tank, published a careful survey of all the reliable studies of sensitivity on March 5. The authors are British climate scientist Nic Lewis (who has no academic affiliation but a growing reputation since he discovered a glaring statistical distortion that exaggerated climate sensitivity in the previous IPCC report) and the Dutch science writer Marcel Crok. They say the IPCC's September report "buried good news about global warming," and that "the best observational evidence indicates our climate is considerably less sensitive to greenhouse gases than climate scientists had previously thought."

Messrs. Lewis and Crok argue that the average of the best observationally based studies shows the amount of immediate warming to be expected if carbon dioxide levels double after 70 years is "likely" to be between one and two degrees Centigrade, with a best estimate of 1.35C (or 2.4F). That's much lower than the IPCC assumes in its forthcoming report.

In short, the warming we experienced over the past 35 years—about 0.4C (or 0.7F) if you average the measurements made by satellites and those made by ground stations—is likely to continue at about the same rate: a little over a degree a century.

Briefly during the 1990s there did seem to be warming that went as fast as the models wanted. But for the past 15-17 years there has been essentially no net warming (a "hiatus" now conceded by the IPCC), a fact that the models did not predict and now struggle to explain. The favorite post-hoc explanation is that because of natural variability in ocean currents more heat has been slipping into the ocean since 2000—although the evidence for this is far from conclusive.

None of this contradicts basic physics. Doubling carbon dioxide cannot on its own generate more than about 1.1C (2F) of warming, however long it takes. All the putative warming above that level would come from amplifying factors, chiefly related to water vapor and clouds. The net effect of these factors is the subject of contentious debate.

In climate science, the real debate has never been between "deniers" and the rest, but between "lukewarmers," who think man-made climate change is real but fairly harmless, and those who think the future is alarming. Scientists like Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Richard Lindzen of MIT MITD -21.88%  have moved steadily toward lukewarm views in recent years.

Even with its too-high, too-fast assumptions, the recently leaked draft of the IPCC impacts report makes clear that when it comes to the effect on human welfare, "for most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers," such as economic growth and technology, for the rest of this century. If temperatures change by about 1C degrees between now and 2090, as Mr. Lewis calculates, then the effects will be even smaller.

Indeed, a small amount of warming spread over a long period will, most experts think, bring net improvements to human welfare. Studies such as by the IPCC author and economist Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University in Britain show that global warming has probably done so already. People can adapt to such change—which essentially means capture the benefits but minimize the harm. Satellites have recorded a roughly 14% increase in greenery on the planet over the past 30 years, in all types of ecosystems, partly as a result of man-made CO2 emissions, which enable plants to grow faster and use less water.

There remains a risk that the latest science is wrong and rapid warming will occur with disastrous consequences. And if renewable energy had proved by now to be cheap, clean and thrifty in its use of land, then we would be right to address that small risk of a large catastrophe by rushing to replace fossil fuels with first-generation wind, solar and bioenergy. But since these forms of energy have proved expensive, environmentally damaging and land-hungry, it appears that in our efforts to combat warming we may have been taking the economic equivalent of chemotherapy for a cold.

Almost every global environmental scare of the past half century proved exaggerated including the population "bomb," pesticides, acid rain, the ozone hole, falling sperm counts, genetically engineered crops and killer bees. In every case, institutional scientists gained a lot of funding from the scare and then quietly converged on the view that the problem was much more moderate than the extreme voices had argued. Global warming is no different.


For Once, an Energy Pivot in the Right Direction

To the surprise of many, the Obama administration seems to be taking a positive look at exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European nations, particularly Ukraine, in an effort to cut Russian influence in the region. “The situation in Ukraine proves the need to reinforce energy security in Europe and we are considering new collaborative efforts to achieve this goal. We welcome the prospect of U.S. LNG exports in the future since additional global supplies will benefit Europe and other strategic partners,” said the administration in a release.

A good first step would be to expedite decisions on exporting LNG to countries with which we do not have a free-trade agreement. So far the Department of Energy has approved just seven such deals, with a backlog of 24 more in the pipeline.

But a much more important step is investment in infrastructure to export LNG, and one such project in Washington's backyard is under attack from environmentalists. Cove Point, in southern Maryland, was built more than 30 years ago as an import facility, but owner Dominion Resources wants to invest over $3 billion to convert it to an export terminal.

Replicating a strategy that has thus far prevented natural gas extraction in Marcellus Shale states like Maryland and New York, environmentalists want to scuttle the project by studying it to death, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to do an exhaustive “environmental impact” study. They're claiming that approving the Cove Point project would produce a negative greenhouse gas impact. “Building a new LNG terminal doesn't strengthen our nation, and it further disrupts our climate,” sniffled Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Meanwhile, founder Bill McKibben warned Democrats that they won't escape notice if they back the project because it encourages more “exploitation” of resources. “Fracking's become a dirty word, for good reason,” McKibben opined.

But the geopolitical benefits of eventually reducing Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas may convince regulators to ignore these radical environmentalists. Ironically, many of these same nations have instituted their own bans on fracking but will be happy to buy our natural gas. Perhaps the environmentalists should just move there and await our energy bailout.



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


Friday, March 28, 2014

A naive survey

James Lawrence Powell has recently updated his survey of academic journal articles concerned with climate.  And he concludes that: "10,883 out of 10,885 scientific articles agree: Global warming is happening, and humans are to blame".

I have probably said most of what can be said about all that on some previous occasion but perhaps a recap of the basics might still be useful.

His big mistake is to get his taxonomy wrong.  Taxonomy is the first step in science but not, apparently, for James Lawrence Powell.  He just does not realize that most climate skeptics would fall into his "believer" category!

The great majority of climate skeptics accept that a warming response to CO2 is a reasonable theory so they don't get detected as skeptics by James Lawrence Powell.  Where most climate skeptics differ from the hysterics is in estimating the magnitude of the warming effect.  Skeptics say that Greenies greatly overestimate and exaggerate any possible effects of CO2 buildup.

I myself can see theoretical grounds for expecting that CO2 buildup will have a warming effect but those same theoretical grounds lead me to believe that the effect will be so minute as to be probably undetectable.

And that is what we find.  CO2 and temperature each go their own merry way quite independently of one-another.  Temperature does vary at times in response to various natural causes (mostly solar) but a response to CO2 is not detectable.

The most glaring example of that is of course the temperature standstill of the last 17 years while atmospheric CO2 has  steadily been rising.  The two variables are clearly uncoupled.

Pumping out exaggerated cries of alarm is of course what Greenies do so the fact that they have chosen just about the most alarming figure possible for the influence of CO2 on temperature should surprise no-one. Reality eventually trashes most of their wild  claims however and this is no exception.

Just for a bit of fun, have a look at the graph below.  It is two excerpts from the temperature record.  The IPCC says that human influence did not begin until 1950 -- so temperature variations before that must be due to natural influences.  Yet the slopes of the  two graphs are virtually identical.  So if one can be all natural, why is the other not natural too?  -- JR

The full graph is here. AMO is a running index of North Atlantic temperatures from NOAA.

Greenies have won the war in Britain

 by Tim Worstall

I both know and like Nick Cohen but it's also necessary to call out this extremely strange argument he made in The Observer. He seems to think that "climate change deniers" have won the war and that therefore all is doomed. When, actually, here in the UK at least, the government has already put in place the mainstream scientific remedy for the perils of climate change. We've actually already solved the problem:

If global warming is not new, it is urgent: a subject that should never be far from our thoughts. Yet within 24 hours of the American association's warning the British government's budget confirmed that it no longer wanted to fight it. David Cameron, who once promised that if you voted blue you would go green, now appoints Owen Paterson, a man who is not just ignorant of environmental science but proud of his ignorance, as his environment secretary.

George Osborne, who once promised that his Treasury would be "at the heart of this historic fight against climate change", now gives billions in tax concessions to the oil and gas industry, cuts the funds for onshore wind farms and strips the Green Investment Bank of the ability to borrow and lend

All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can't call us "global warming deniers " because "denier" makes us sound like "Holocaust deniers", and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.

To take my standard position here: let's assume that the IPCC is correct and see where that assumption takes us. That assumption takes us to the standard economics of how to deal with an externality. Some version of either cap and trade or a Pigou Tax will solve the entire problem for us. And we even have things like the Stern Review (or, giving us slightly different numbers for a variety of reasons, the work of Richard Tol and William Nordhaus) telling us how much that carbon tax should be: $80 per tonne CO2-e.

So, if the climate change deniers, whoever they are, have won we should see that there's no cap and trade program and no carbon tax. But if we look up at the world that we actually inhabit, what is it that we do see? We see that the EU has a cap and trade programme. Emissions are limited, exactly as the standard economics of the problem tell us they should be. Here in the UK we also have a carbon tax: in power generation it's been done in the rather silly manner of a floor to the price for a carbon emissions permit but while this is inefficient it does do the job. We have raised taxes on petrol (the fuel duty escalator) by twice what that Stern calculation would tell us we ought to. We have Air Passenger Duty which is again above that Stern calculation. In fact, when you add up all of the various green taxes we already pay on emissions we find that we're considerably over the amount that Stern said would be the optimal Pigou Tax to solve the problem.

No, really: I get some very odd looks when I try to explain this to people but it is actually true. If we accept the IPCC, then again accept the Stern Review, we have already put in place all of the policies necessary to solve climate change as a problem according to both the IPCC and the Stern Review findings.

And I simply cannot work out at all how this is supposed to be a victory for climate change deniers.


Senators Should Know the Truth about Global Warming

Recently almost 30 Democratic United States Senators stayed up all night taking turns delivering speeches about the importance of climate change and getting lowering the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

The event was organized to try and raise public visibility of the issue in hopes of forcing Congress to pass legislation aimed at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions. “Sure we should use all of our resources, but what we really need is a comprehensive strategy that reduces CO2 emissions,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).

While these Senators emitted lots of CO2 in the chamber for 15 hours, they are misinformed about the facts. Humans have been fertilizing Earth’s greenery worldwide, but not with nitrogen-based fertilizer that runs into the rivers and oceans with very negative effects. We have been raising the level of CO2, which has no negative effect on any plant or animal life.

There is no instance of CO2 being a pollutant; ask any chemistry professor. CO2 is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. The vapors you are shown bellowing from the various smoke stacks are not CO2, although some may be present. The colorful emissions the media shows you secretly imply they contain what is referred to as CO2 pollution.

Since CO2 is not a pollutant, what impact does it have? As we learned in the third grade, CO2 is what plants eat. The more of it they eat, the faster and larger they grow, including the food crops. It is also a mild greenhouse gas that helps warm the Earth somewhat. Most plants and trees also respond favorably to a modest warming. With more moisture in reasonably warm air than in cold, dry air, all three key ingredients are present: food, water and warmth.

This knowledge should start opening the eyes of Americans who have been deluged with propaganda from alarmist organizations that are trying to scare us that our planet is under attack by CO2.

Let’s examine and debunk some charges that these Democratic Senators and “warmist groups” make:

The rate and magnitude of recent warming is unprecedented. This is absolutely false. A number of peer-reviewed studies, including the journal Climate Dynamics, recently concluded that average global temperatures stopped warming a full 15 years ago. Looking farther back, there have been many periods of rapid warming before man’s measurable release of CO2.

The number and intensity of major hurricanes and tornadoes is rising. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was the first Atlantic hurricane season since 1994 to end with no known major hurricanes. Data published by Florida State University indicates global cyclonic intensity has been trending down for 20 years.

Droughts and floods are more frequent and intense. Again false. According to 106 peer-reviewed global drought and 47 global flood studies, this is not true.

Forest fires and acreage destroyed have intensified. The National Interagency Fire Center statistics of total wild land fires and acres destroyed from 1960 to 2012 concludes that there is no evidence to support this claim.

The rate of sea level rise is increasing. Global statistics refute this claim. Sea level is continuing its rate of rising 7 inches per century, unrelated to human contributions to global warming.

The oceans are becoming more acidic. This is grossly misleading. Mother Earth’s oceans are highly alkaline, not acidic, and there is no evidence human emissions can cause Earth’s oceans to become acidic.

Why has Earth been warming for 300 years, not just since the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago when CO2 begin to rise? Natural factors have been occurring over and over, long before the Industrial Revolution. Nothing new is taking place.

Climate models indicate that Earth is likely to warm to dangerous levels by 2100. All of these climate models are un-validated. They contain many assumptions that are not supported by actual observations.

Do not just take the word of this author, visit the website of former NASA scientists and astronauts that provide insightful analysis at Ask these Senators to provide you with the actual scientific data to support their statements. Please remember, un-validated models do not produce scientific data.

Doesn’t everyone want robust habitats and ecosystems, bountiful food crops, lush forests and grasslands? The good news is that it is already happening. Humanity has been running a real, worldwide experiment for a century and a half and it is paying dividends. Mother Nature is responding positively to our real-life, albeit inadvertent, actions that increase CO2 levels, and NASA satellite data proves that Earth has grown greener for at least the past three decades.


Analysis Shows Solar Modules Cause More Greenhouse Gas Emissions

It turns out that because of the emissions of extraordinarily potent greenhouse gases NF3 and SF6 and energy during the manufacture of solar modules, solar energy ends up being worse for the climate than burning coal (assuming the global warming hypothesis is valid).

A Swiss engineer has made a thorough analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the manufacture, transport and operation of solar panels. His conclusion:

Solar energy in Germany is climate killer no. 1!”

Ferrucio Ferroni writes here how China is the number 1 manufacturer of solar panels globally and that the production of solar panels there requires immense amounts of electricity, which in China is mainly produced by coal power plants. Moreover the manufacture of solar panels also involves substantial amounts of potent greenhouse gases that leak out into the atmosphere.

The result Ferroni writes:

The comparison on CO2 emissions of a modern coal power plant and that of a PV system shows that per kilowatt-hour of power produced, PV systems damage the climate more. This statement is true if the hypothesis of the IPCC is correct to start with.”

Ferroni writes that it is accepted as fact the coal power plants emit carbon dioxide. But what is little known is that PV systems also lead to the emission of considerable quantities greenhouse gases – not during their operation, but during their manufacture.

Ferroni writes that when calculating the climate impacts of PV systems per unit, it is first necessary to account for the energy used in their manufacture in China, which involves the processing of solar silizium. Silizium processing involves considerable amounts of chemicals and raw materials. Also the manufacture of peripheral systems and their subsequent transport of materials to Europe and North America and their modest outputs in many northern locations have to be taken into account.

In comparison, modern steam power plants using clean-coal-technology now reach an efficiency of 52%, which means they emit 846 grams of CO2 per kWh when powered with stone coal (heat value: 30 MJ/kg). Moreover, nowadays highly efficient filters keep dust emissions to a minimum.

Producing 1 square meter requires 300 kg of coal

The manufacture of the silizium for the panels is immensely energy-intensive. According to Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University in Peking, one square meter of solar module production requires more than 300 kg of coal, which leads to more than 1100 kg of CO2 emissions.

Also the production in China of peripheral systems for PV systems, like frequency converters, batteries, copper cable, switches, instruments etc., require fossil energy. According to literature this is estimated to be an additional 13%. Thus so far the emission for one square meter of solar module now adds up to 1243 kg CO2.

Potent gases needed for manufacturing solar modules

According to Ferroni, the other huge drawback presented by PV systems are the nasty chemicals and industrial gases used for their manufacture. The production of solar panels in China entails nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which are extremely potent heat-trapping gases that leak out during the process. NF3 has a greenhouse gas potency that is 16,600 times greater than CO2; SF6 is 23,900 times more potent. Reports show that these gases emitted annually into the atmosphere from the manufacture of solar panels is equivalent to over 70 million tonnes of CO2 in terms of greenhouse effect. In 2010 over 17.5 GW of rated capacity of solar cells were installed. Thus the emissions per square meter of solar panels comes out to be 513 kg CO2 – a huge amount!

Other chemicals in the production process

The manufacture of solar cells also uses other chemicals like (HCl), silizium carbide, and silver among others. The total alleged warming potential of these chemicals comes out to be an estimated 30 kg CO2 per square meter of PV module. Oddly (likely to avoid embarrassment) the solar industry has yet to release any detailed data on the warming potential and impacts of the chemicals used in their manufacture.

Emissions-intensive transport

Also the transport of the PV systems and modules represent a considerable source of emissions. Ferroni writes that the transport of the systems from China to Germany results in 23 kg CO2 per square meter of solar module, more than what is used to transport coal from South Africa to Europe.

In total 1809 kg of CO2 equivalent is emitted into the atmosphere per square meter of solar panel manufactured and transported.

Ferroni then calculates that over the entire lifetime of a solar panel (25 years) one square meter will produce a total 2000 kwh in Germany. But then there are losses from conversions and so the real value is closer to 1850 kWh.

Over the entire lifetime and taking all factors into account, Ferroni finds that each kwh of electricity produced by solar modules emits 978g of CO2. How does this compare to coal? Ferroni:

In comparison, a modern coal power plant emits 846 g CO2/kWh, i.e. about 13% less. As a result, under German conditions, PV modules are the no. 1 climate killers. By comparison a gas power plant is more advantageous because its CO2 emissions are about half as much: approx.: 400g CO2/kWh.”


End of the road for nasty, dirty rich environmental bullies

John Briscoe, a South African who spent most of his life working for the World Bank, has just been awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, regarded by some as the water equivalent of the Nobel. But after 40 years in the development business, he is angry at the way in which rich people tell poor people how to live their lives – and keep them in the dark. The sooner a BRICS Bank is up and running, the better, he says. What has made him so angry?

From his CV, US Senator Patrick Leahy looks like a nice progressive guy, for an American career politician. He supports organic farmers and renewable energy and has campaigned against landmines and cluster weapons. So why did this man from Vermont, a small, pretty state with a population considerably smaller than Limpopo’s Vhembe district, decide to tell Africans to stay poor; aggravate Southern Africa’s power shortage; and incidentally trash his own President’s plan to “Power Africa”?

The answer helps to illustrate the how American and European NGO politics impacts on poor people without effective voice. It also shows just how vulnerable Africa has been to foreign bullies. Fortunately, that era is coming to an end. And not a moment too soon.

A decade ago, Uganda was running out of electricity as the population and economy grew. Power cuts were becoming increasingly frequent and factories were finding it difficult to cope. The state power company and individual companies turned to dirty and very expensive diesel generators. The transport of diesel by tanker on the notorious Mombasa - Nairobi – Kampala road was profitable for some but many industrial users could not afford the high prices and simply shut up shop. Unemployment and poverty grew.

Uganda had an alternative. At Jinja, where the Nile river flows from Lake Victoria, the Owen Falls hydroelectric dam had been built in colonial times to capture the river’s power. The Ugandan government planned to build a further power station a few kilometres downstream, to double the power generated by the controlled flow.  But environmentalists, mainly from the USA and Europe, objected and started lobbying the development banks to stop the project. They alleged that the dam required would displace large numbers of people, destroy local cultures and damage the environment. They had little local support; their Ugandan associate, the “National Association of Professional Environmentalists” was famously documented by Washington Post reporter Sebastian Mallaby to have just 25 members. Mallaby commented that:-

“Time after time, Western publics raised on stories of World Bank white elephants believe them. Lawmakers in European parliaments and the U.S. Congress accept NGO arguments at face value, and the government officials who sit on the World Bank's board respond by blocking funding for deserving projects.”

There was a bitter exchange between Mallaby, the journalist who told the story and the California based International Rivers Network over the details. But a few years ago, when I visited the site where the Bujagali dam was finally being built, it was evident that just a handful of people had been affected. The reservoir is small, covering less than 400 hectares (including the original course of the river) since water is stored in the vast Lake Victoria. Aside from the foreign-owned white water rafting company which had to relocate, the main complaints were the inconvenience caused by the construction and the fact that not enough locals were being employed.

But the cost of delay can be documented. Electricity shortages and high energy prices were identified by the International Monetary Fund as a major drain on the economy. The resulting increase in unemployment and poverty has been measured; the increase in infant mortality caused by increased poverty is well documented. The available data suggests that perhaps 10,000 children died as a result of the delayed electricity project.

But Uganda is by no means the only place in Africa where countries have been prevented from using cheap, reliable and renewable hydroelectricity. Closer to home, the Zambezi River could be producing 10,000Megawatts more than is already generated at Cabora Bassa and Kariba. That could be supplying the regional power pool from which South Africa would also have benefited. But that capacity was not developed when it was needed.

The donors, on whom countries like Mozambique and Zambia depend, would simply not allow aid money to be spent on planning and developing water infrastructure projects. In the early 2000s, I sat through one particularly ill-tempered meeting in Europe where African water Ministers said that they needed funding to prepare infrastructure projects and their European counterparts simply refused to put that on the agenda for discussion. They wanted to talk conservation.

At the root of this conflict is a family of environmental NGOs that has been remarkably effective at stifling Africa’s hydropower development proposals even as they fail abjectly to influence their home countries’ environmental and climate change policies. The Germans, amongst the most vocal opponents of dam development, have increased their use of coal for electricity generation over the past few years even as they lecture Africans about the need to reduce CO2 emissions and prepare for climate change.

But the NGOs have targeted the World Bank and the wider family of regional development banks because they are gatekeepers for funds to poor countries. Even if they don’t lend all the money needed for projects, their involvement gives comfort to other financiers who don’t have the capacity to evaluate projects.

South African born John Briscoe, former Chief Water Advisor to the World Bank has documented the consequences of the attack on the Bank for investment in water:

“… poor developing countries without choices had to deal with the enormous transaction costs and processes which piled up in the Bank. ‘I am ashamed to even come here’ said President Museveni of Uganda, when he thought he was inaugurating the Bujagali dam in 2002. ‘I am not happy because a project that should have taken two years has taken seven years to start. All this hullabaloo has been a waste of time and a lack of seriousness... this was a circus’ (Reuters, 2002) (little knowing that the process would take another six years before the project was to be actually approved!).

In short, there was an impasse between the urgent needs for financing of infrastructure in poor countries, on the one hand, and an ever-more skittish set of institutions (with the World Bank, the iconic institution) unable and unwilling to make capital available for reasonable projects which should be built. Bank lending for hydropower fell by 90% in the 1990s.

Briscoe documented how the US government worked, back then, to ensure that its positions were adopted by an institution where decision-making is, nominally, the responsibility of its 180 country members. In the formal meetings of the Bank’s directors,

“… the rich countries did not contradict the views of the developing countries but did their talking in other ways. Immediately after one of these sessions the phone rang in the office of my Vice President. It was the US Executive Director who, uncharacteristically, had not said a word during the discussion. ‘If this is the position taken by the Bank, then you should know that it will be very difficult for the US to support the next round of IDA’. IDA is the concessionary tail which wags the hard-lending dog in the World Bank.“

More recently, it appeared that this approach was history. The World Bank reviewed its water policies and recognized that if they did not invest in water infrastructure, they would be failing in their job as a development bank. They recognized that hydropower, which uses the solar energy that drives the hydrological cycle, is an excellent way of producing cheap, reliable low-carbon energy. They also acknowledged that storing water in infrastructure like dams was important to allow poor countries to ensure reliable supplies of the water that they need for their development despite their unpredictable and variable climates.

The example of South Africa is frequently cited. Were it not for the dams that augment the Vaal’s flow during dry seasons, Gauteng and its surrounds would have just one tenth of the current water supply reliably available. The economy would close down and the majority of Gauteng’s people – who consume most of the stored water – would have to move elsewhere.  But while South Africa has dams in which it can store approximately 600 tonnes of water per person, the figure in many sub-Saharan African countries  is closer to 60 tonnes. Meanwhile, the USA stores over 6000 tonnes of water per person.

But Patrick Leahy, the Democrat from Vermont, first elected in 1974 and now his country’s longest-serving senator, has decided that he does not want to allow African countries to enjoy the benefits that he already has. He introduced a clause into the 2014 US budget, now passed into law, that instructs the World Bank (and the wider family of regional development banks in Africa, Asia and Latin America) not to allow Africans to build dams. He can do this because he is chairman of the foreign affairs sub committee of the Appropriation Committee, which draws up the US budget and sets conditions for its use. Although in June last year, President Obama had promised to help bring Power to Africa, his Vermont Senator had other ideas.  The clause he introduced into the law stated clearly that:

“The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution that it is the policy of the United States to oppose any loan, grant, strategy or policy of such institution to support the construction of any large hydroelectric dam.” (Section 7060(c)(7)(D).)

So why should a good guy like this introduce into US budget legislation a provision that will keep poor people in poverty and stall African development?  The answer, it would appear, is that he has to keep his environmental constituency sweet. And he doesn’t have to worry about offending black voters, who might raise African concerns. The 2010 census found only 6277 African-Americans in Vermont, just 1% of the population. This is presumably why he was also able to help pass an agriculture Bill that made significant cuts to the food stamp programmes on which many poor - disproportionately black - Americans, depend. And Senator Leahy clearly worries even less about the feelings of the millions of people in Africa and Asia on whom he imposes his views. He certainly does not account to them.

The fact that most of Vermont’s electricity comes from the kind of large dams he opposes elsewhere just passes him by.  He is comfortable to abuse the US Treasury to carry instructions into the World Bank that override any internal analysis. His instructions will overrule the Treasury’s own staff let alone the World Bank and its members, simply to please his lobby group.

He can do this because the Banks work on a “one dollar, one vote” system that allows richer shareholder countries to veto policy and projects that they don’t like, regardless of the quality of the proposals. Yet Leahy knows that his own country’s aid programmes are seriously flawed. In 2012, he told the heads of his government’s USAID programme that,

“I have long voiced my concerns with the way a few large U.S. contractors and NGOs obtain the vast majority of USAID funding. Years ago I created the Development Grants Program, a small fund to support innovative proposals of small, mostly local NGOs. But USAID has done what it does too often – take a good idea and either fail to implement it or redesign it in such a way as to thwart the original intent.

“I hope you can tell us what you expect from the changes to USAID’s procurement process, because they need to fundamentally reform the way USAID does business. If these changes just end up shifting resources to big contractors in developing countries that is not the reform we seek.”

In 2007 I met a group of US Congressmen, the HELP commission, who were on a round-Africa junket to find ways to make their foreign assistance more effective. I asked whether they could they pool their resources with other donors - “SWAPs” – sector wide approaches are widely used to help both donors and recipients use external assistance more effectively. That would be a step too far they said, their big contractor lobbies were simply too powerful to fight.

The consequence was seen in another attempt to make US aid work more effectively. The Millennium Challenge Programme tried to go beyond normal USAID pork barrel process of appointing an American main contractor, who would then often appoint an American sub-contractor and then a local contractor (who would do all the work). But in Mozambique, they could only fund just over half of their intended projects, because their bureaucratic procedures added so much to the costs.

Yet the Help Commission report highlighted that a Principle underlying American aid should be that it “Supports the promotion of democratic principles and recognize that good governance and accountable leaders advance development.”

Accountability, like charity, it seems, should start at home but doesn’t go much further.

So, one reason that Leahy’s intervention was approved may lie in the fine print of the Power Africa proposals. The problem with the World Bank is that it insists on (relatively) objective tender procedures, under which companies from countries like China, Korea and India regularly wipe the floor with American competition. Power Africa will not allow such indignities. It will rather use traditional US institutions to extract as much business for themselves as they give help to poor countries.

This is where the BRICS and their bank comes in. A decade ago, the World Bank and its regional family were the only game in town. If poor countries could not get their support, they could not build dams. So many countries, faced like Uganda with power shortages, ended up burning dirty coal or expensive diesel to try and keep up with growing demand for electricity. Hydropower was simply off the agenda.

Then China got in on the act. As their trade with Africa and other developing regions has expanded, they have offered attractive deals to pay for the minerals and other goods that they are exporting. And, while this has been viewed with suspicion by many – particularly western – commentators, the basic rule is that China is willing to provide what it is asked for.

Help with dams is one area where they can offer obvious value. Over the past couple of decades, China has built hundreds of large dams to provide water for its cities and agriculture, for flood protection and to generate clean electricity – a high priority as the ongoing Beijing smog crisis is showing us. So, in their discussions with African and Asian countries, they offered to support dam building projects for hydropower as well as water supply and irrigation.

The response has been remarkable. According to the International Rivers Network, the leading anti-dam NGO (located, bizarrely, in California, whose economy would collapse without water from large dams) China is now financing and building over large 15 dams in 8 African countries and there are more to come. Chinese companies are also building projects financed by other parties as in Lesotho, where Sino Hydro, China’s leading dam construction company, won the billion rand contract to build the Metolong dam to supply Maseru, with finance from Middle East Development Funds. Brazil and India, also capable dam builders, are following suit. Because alternative sources of funding are now available, the World Bank’s effective ban on water infrastructure has just opened up the market to other players.

So this is another piece in the puzzle about Senator Leahy. People who think he is a nice guy will say that he is just starting a conversation about social and environmental protection in developing countries.  But that is not how it will be seen in Africa and Asia. Says John Briscoe:

“it reinforces a prevalent view that US policy towards the developing world is driven by politicians who are driven by extreme single-issue groups at home, and give little attention to the proven instruments – including infrastructure – which lead to growth and poverty reduction.”

The outcome is already clear:

“Africans and others are turning and will turn, with great appreciation, to the governments and companies of China and Brazil and potentially to a BRICs Bank, who understand that electricity is one of the keys to a better life, and who will help Africans build the infrastructure they need for economic growth and poverty reduction.”


Australia:  Pressure on cattlemen to be "sustainable"

They already are

SENATOR Ron Boswell has attacked the power of environmentalists to damage the prosperity of regional communities.

In a speech in the Senate today, Senator Boswell warned cattle producers to closely examine a campaign to force them to prove their environmental sustainability.

“The apparent growing power of environmental non-government organisations and corporations raises fundamental questions about the future role of government, science and rational resource management in Australian primary production,” he said.

Senator Boswell foreshadowed a Senate inquiry to examine the implications of an international campaign to develop sustainability criteria for beef production.

“This goes to the very essence of not simply who is running the Australian beef industry but who is running the country,” Senator Boswell said.

“Who determines how our primary industries are managed and how they are administered? Who decides how our resources are utilised and where they are marketed? Who determines the prosperity of our communities, our industries and our nation? Those are questions that must be answered.

“I believe this issue should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport. Before I do that, I will discuss this further with my colleague, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.”

Senator Boswell said indications were that meeting basic sustainability criteria could cost Australia’s 77,000 cattle properties some $135 million in fees in the first year.

“I do not want to see Australian farming families burdened with more cost and more paperwork and more unnecessary environmental obligations to keep WWF in business and provide a marketing point-of-difference for the likes of McDonald’s,” he said.

Senator Boswell was referring to the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), established by WWF and McDonald’s.

“On March 17, the GRSB published a document called the ‘Draft Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef’, which potentially could shape how Australian cattle producers are allowed to operate in years to come.

“We can call witnesses to the inquiry from the main players. We can thoroughly examine who will bear the cost of this sustainability scheme and who will enjoy the benefits.

“We can investigate what the implications are for rural and regional communities that depend on cattle and other primary production. Also the implications for Australia’s trade sovereignty and its ability to freely trade in primary products, products we already know to be sustainable.”

Via email from Sen. Boswell


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