Monday, January 12, 2015

Climate change: Why some Australians won't believe it's getting hotter

Peter Martin, Economics Editor of the Leftist "Age" newspaper  presents below an argument with all the usual Warmist holes in it.  Once again we find an argument from authority, with not a single actual climate datum mentioned.  It is his central contention below that  climate skeptics are ideologically motivated but it apparently has not occurred to him that Warmist scientists might be ideologically motivated!  Typical one-eyed Leftist reasoning. Awkward facts, such as the disablingly high temperatures reported in Sydney in 1790 (Yes. 1790, not 1970) don't swim into his view  at all.  But he would have to be an unusual economist to know anything about climate, of course.  He is just gullible -- and only the gullible would believe him

What is it about the temperature that some of us find so hard to accept?

The year just ended was one of the hottest on record. In NSW it was the absolute hottest, in Victoria the second-hottest, and in Australia the third hottest. Doesn't that tell us that it is regional variations we are looking at, not something global?

The measure is compiled by the Bureau of Meteorology. It dates back to 1910. A separate global reading prepared by the World Meteorological Organisation has 2014 the hottest year since international records began in 1880. Not a single year since 1985 has been below average and every one of the 10 hottest years has been since 1998.

That it's getting hotter is what economists call an empirical question – a matter of fact not worth arguing about, although it is certainly worth arguing about the reasons for the increase and what we may  do about it.

But that's not the way many Australians see it. I posted the Bureau of Meteorology's findings on Twitter on Tuesday and was told: "Not really". Apparently, "climate-wise we are in pretty good shape".

If the bureau had been displaying measures of the temperature on a specific day or a cricket commentator had been displaying the cricket score, there would be no quibbling. The discussion would centre about the reasons for the result and its implications.

But when it comes to the slowly rising temperature some of us won't even accept the readings. And that says something about us, or at least about those of us who won't accept what's in front of our faces.

I am not prepared to believe that these people are anti-science. Some of them are engineers, some mining company company executives. Like all of us, they depend on science in their everyday lives.

Nor am I prepared to believe they've led sheltered lives, although it's a popular theory. In the United States a survey of six months of coverage on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel found that 37 of its 40 mentions of climate change were misleading.

The misleading coverage included "broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry-picking of data".

Fox News called global warming a "fraud", a "hoax" and "pseudo science".

Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal fared little better. 39 of its 48 references were misleading.

In Australia it's not as bad. Rupert Murdoch's The Australian gives more space to climate change than any other newspaper. Its articles are 47 per cent negative, 44 per cent neutral and 9 per cent positive, according to the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

It's impossible to read The Australian's articles without feeling at least a bit curious about climate change.

Another theory is that it's to do with psychology. Some people are more threatened by bad news than others, making them less able to accept that it's real.

And now a more sophisticated theory suggests that it's not about the facts at all. It's really a debate about the implications, disguised as a debate about the facts. Troy Campbell and Aaron Kay, a researcher and associate professor in neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina find that belief in temperature forecasts is correlated with beliefs about government regulation and what those forecasts would mean for government regulation.

They assembled a panel of at least 40 Republicans and 40 Democrats and asked each whether they believed the consensus forecast about temperature increases. Half were told that climate change could be fought in a market friendly way, the other half that it would need heavy-handed regulation. Of the Republicans, the proportion who accepted the temperature forecast was 55 per cent when they were told climate change could be addressed by the free market and only 22 per cent when they were told it would need regulation.

(Democrats were about 70 per cent likely believe the temperature forecast and weren't much swayed by how climate change would be fought.)

The finding is important. It means that the first step in getting people to at least agree that it's getting hotter is to stop talking about how to prevent it. Muddying the two, as we do all the time, gets people's backs up.

It is getting hotter. Seven of Australia's 10 hottest years on record have been since the Sydney Olympics. Last year was 0.91C hotter than the long-term average. Last year's maximums were 1.16C hotter than long-term average maximums.  Warming is a fact. The Bureau of Meteorology accepts it, the government accepts it and it shouldn't be beyond our abilities to accept it.

Then we can talk about what to do.


AGW Forecast: More of the Same

By forecaster Joe Bastardi

In the wake of another year of useless energy spent, another year of claims and rebuttals to anthropogenic global warming is already beginning.  I find myself at odds with both sides of the debate, for I am coming to the uneasy conclusion that this is one of the greatest wastes of time and energy in which I have ever been involved.

As far as what I do for a living, the argument really means nothing. If it goes away tomorrow, I won’t change what I have researched and used climate for one iota. The only reason I got involved was because a lot of people who never make forecasts decided they were going to tell other people why something was happening after the fact. To an operational meteorologist, you have no business dictating to the guy that is taking a stand beforehand why something happened. You want to do that, get out in front and be right.

You see folks, one of the big problems I see is that, for years, climatologists were not given the same status as were meteorologists. Twenty years ago, the television mets were already rock stars, but did you know one climatologist? The joke at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) when I attended was that, if you can’t forecast, do climatology. I loved climatology. To me as a kid, it was weather history, and I loved history. So when my dad was in school, I dug into the only thing I could really understand at that young age – climatology. I actually memorized the monthly averages at different cities around the world so I could identify them if you just gave me the data! Years later, in my climatology class, we would get tested with the same data I memorized as a kid. I loved it!

But as a forecaster, we’re always looked down upon by the dynamists in the field who dealt with a lot of the high-powered math and physics. I was always reminded by my professors that the part of the atmosphere the weather takes place in is only 10%. Meteorology is the study of the whole picture. So the pecking order was dynamists, synopticians (forecasters), climatologists.

It’s like the Three Stooges – Moe smacks Larry, Larry smacks Curly.

Interesting interpretation, eh? I see people labeled heroes and villains in a climate war with dispatches, etc. I would suggest those people know nothing about real war, or even severe physical challenges. Then you have me who has never been to war, so I can’t know. But I wrestled at PSU under a guy that was one of the first men on the beach of Normandy who believed that wrestling was meant to test you to prepare you for life. Wondering if I would catch my next breath was pretty challenging. So this is not a war to me, and, with all the silly things going on, it’s more like a Three Stooges routine, except $185 billion down the drain in 21 years is no laughing matter. At least not to me. C'est la vie.

But there is so much cross motivation here on both sides, it is in the interest of both sides to keep it going! What happens if it stops? A lot of people aren’t going to be rock stars anymore. (I was in a rock band, for a couple of years anyway, so I have had my rock stardom.) Me? Could care less about that. My job depends on getting the weather right, but I have used climate as a foundation because that is what I was taught. It has always been about the search for the right answer, not my answer. I can see the test in front of me, and will have the truth revealed by what actually happens (like any forecast). There is no real dog in the fight. It’s not what I do, but it is a strong means to the end of what I do!

You need to know and understand the past, for it forms the foundation you stand on today to reach for tomorrow. But to know the past, you can’t sit on the sideline and tell people after the fact. You must do to truly know. My obvious distaste for this is that I am being told by a bunch of people in the stands what is happening based on what they see … from the stands. They aren’t out fighting every day, where right and wrong can be determined in real time.

Perhaps it’s the leftover attitude from my college days.

Sea ice is classic. It goes the other way, and there is an excuse that is then repackaged to say it was expected. Or the heat hiding in the ocean, when Dr. Bill Gray wrote about it 40 years ago. So why do we run to the guys that says it after the fact, rather than the guy who talked about this 40 years ago?

It goes on and on, and it’s now 2015. The AGW side has an interest in it. With $185 billion dollars now since 1993 spent on climate change and related interests, wouldn’t you?

In the end, there is nothing we as humans can do about the climate. That is not to say we cannot help the environment; I mean be good stewards. But the AGW agenda has really hijacked the environmental movement, at least the one I spent a lot of time and effort on when I was younger and one I still think is worthwhile. But each person reading this, pro or con, has to ask themselves the same question I do all the time. In relation to the myriad of problems that face us a people today, is this what we want to be occupied with?


EPA Punts Major Emissions Rule

Just one day before its Jan. 8 deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency delayed its highly anticipated rule that will require a significant reduction in fossil fuels emitted by new coal-fired plants. The purpose, they claim, is to wed the release with other rules scheduled for later this year. “[T]he Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it would wait until midsummer, and issue the new power plant rules with a separate regulation aimed at cutting the pollution blamed for global warming from the existing coal-fired power fleet,” the Associated Press reported.

EPA Air and Radiation Administrator Janet McCabe remarked, “This is all about the best policy outcome, and the appropriate policy outcome. That is what we are talking about here, and that is why we think it is important to finalize these rules in the same time frame.”

Actually, there’s a better explanation. With Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress threatening to overhaul the EPA, Democrats are waiting for NOAA’s forthcoming announcement that 2014 was the “hottest year ever,” which will provide Democrats with much-needed leverage. We need to “do something”! But Republicans are being obstructionists! The same strategy will be employed at the pivotal UN climate assembly later this year. It’s quite clever, really. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bode well for Liberty.


Dem. Governors Chair on Keystone: ‘This Needs To Go Forward’

 The Democratic Governors Association Chair is continuing to support the development of the Keystone-XL pipeline saying, “this does need to go forward.”

During an appearance on CSPAN’s Newsmakers late last month Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) was asked about his support for the pipeline.

“I think - done right, that’s ensuring essentially the safety of the pipeline, ensuring that private property rights are protected, this does need to go forward and it only makes sense for our country,” Bullock said.

“By and large, I think there has been some frustration overall, in some ways the Keystone has become a proxy battle for the thinking that we should be doing more on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”

At the White House press briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that President Obama would not sign a bipartisan bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone-XL Pipeline.

If approved, the pipeline would transport crude oil from Canada and from two U.S. states to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Gov. Bullock has long supported the construction of the pipeline and has written the president in the past urging for the permitting for the project.


Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards

More than half the states have renewable portfolio standards in place requiring certain and growing percentages of electricity to come from specified sources. Are these policies providing society with measurable benefit? Are they too costly for what they provide? In an attempt to answer this fundamental question, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory published a survey of estimates from the state regulatory agencies and utilities entitled A Survey of State-Level Costs and Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Unfortunately, the Survey failed to assess the quality of the estimates and ends up potentially misleading policymakers. The Survey has a number of structural and conceptual problems:

Cost estimates include only direct costs to utilities. Other market participants and non-participants carry much of the cost of renewable portfolio standards. Further, the Survey counts the costs for only two years (2010–2012), while counting the benefits for 30 years or more.

Neither costs nor benefits occur in a consistent manner over time. The Survey’s selection of the time-frames magnifies the false impression that benefits are near equal to, or exceed, costs.

The Survey is incomplete with respect to the cost of integration of intermittent and volatile generation sources. Specifically it ignores the cost of backup capacity and the lost efficiency of power plants required to balance the output of intermittent and volatile generation. (With wind energy, “backup” is required to operate during periods when the wind is not blowing; “balancing” is required during periods when the wind is blowing but not at a very constant speed.)

The Survey does not include environmental impacts that create non-monetized costs, such as noise pollution and avian mortality. Increased noise pollution, in addition to its own health impact, reduces the aesthetics of neighborhoods with renewable installations, thus reducing property values and property taxes to local governments.

Higher electricity rates caused by RPS lead to reduced discretionary income for ratepayers, which in turn may lead to premature mortality. This phenomenon is especially regressive (that is, it harms poor people more than wealthy people).

The Survey ignores the cost associated with causing prematurely “stranded” assets in the existing fleet of power plants due to lowered capacity factors. RPS effectively wastes useful and serviceable power plants (and the embodied energy and emissions that went into building them), because they will no longer be used at the capacity for which they were designed.

The Survey ignores costs for backup and balancing of intermittent and volatile renewables that are shifted to neighboring states.
Similarly, the Survey ignores the very expensive Production Tax Credit that shunts almost half of the cost of wind installations onto taxpayers (many of whom realize zero benefit from wind installations) made even worse by special tax depreciation available only to certain renewables.

The Survey is silent on lost opportunity. There are commercially available technologies that can achieve the same or better primary objectives (price stability, environmental improvements, etc.) than the specified favored renewables included in RPSs.

The Survey assumes that all renewables installed during the period in which RPSs have been in place were the result of the RPSs and that without the RPSs there would have been zero new renewables. This is clearly an error, as renewables were in fact installed prior to any RPS, when market participants found specific installations cost-effective. In some states, there was as much renewable generation, in percentage terms, prior to imposing the RPS as there was after.

Some benefits noted in the Survey, including inflated benefits and incomplete netting, are speculative and self-fulfilling rather than meaningful. For example, one RPS benefit claimed is an increase in diversity, even if that supply diversity provides no price hedging, reduction of emissions or other actual benefit. It presumes diversity is a goal and benefit in and of itself.

The benefit estimates also suffer from double counting. Double counting is especially prevalent with emission reductions, as those benefits (and their costs) have already been accounted for in such regulatory programs as Clean Air Act Regulations. The majority of the dollar benefits from emission reduction cited in the Survey are from reductions of carbon dioxide “priced” at the EPA’s highly controversial “social cost of carbon.”

Some renewable energy technology installations conserve resources and some don’t: some are efficient and some are not. Renewable portfolio standards (further exacerbated by various federal tax treatments and local subsidies) fail to recognize this distinction and foster the development of inefficient installations, thereby discouraging the use of more efficient and environmentally effective facilities.

For example, most of the compliance with state-level RPSs has come in the form of wind energy. Wind energy is unpredictable and volatile, leading to lower value and imposing significant costs on others. Advocating for RPS reveals the belief by proponents that the market would not otherwise embrace cost-effective, resource-conserving installations of renewables. History proves otherwise.

Even more unfortunate is that some advocates are citing the Survey in efforts to extend or expand such policies. The Survey has already been inappropriately cited, such as in congressional testimony, to justify extending and expanding renewable portfolio mandates, including at the national level. Doing so would further harm our economies and negatively impact public health. The Survey should not be used to formulate or justify policy in any state or federal legislation.


English farmers could grow commercial GM crops for first time

A landmark ruling by the European Parliament is this week expected to give ministers the power to approve genetically modified crops

Genetically modified crops could be grown commercially by English farmers for the first time following a landmark ruling in Europe next week.

On Tuesday the European Parliament is expected to approve a deal which will let countries decide for themselves whether they want to plant GM crops.

The new legislation, which will be in place by Spring, could mean that commercial GM crops including maize and oil seed rape are grown in Britain.

The crops, which have been genetically modified to produce higher yields and withstand higher concentrations of weedkiller, would be sold for animal feed or to produce energy.

It raises the prospect that genetically modified fruit and vegetables could ultimately be grown for sale in Britain's supermarkets.

Lord de Mauley, the environment minister, told MPs that genetically modified produce are a "key agricultural technology for the 21st century".

He told the science and technology select committee that it will help "undo the logjam" in approvals for genetically modified crops at European Union level.

However, he said he was "disappointed" that the legislation will allow other European nations to make decisions to ban GM crops which are "not based on scientific evidence".

It is feared that could lead the industry simply to write off the whole of Europe.

He said: "GM offers the potential to increase production and maintain it when it might otherwise be reduced with crops that resist disease or pest damage, or which can thrive in difficult climatic conditions.

"As GM production continues to expand outside Europe and the range of beneficial GM traits is increased it should become increasingly difficult for the EU to set its face against widespread acceptance of the technology. We will continue to engage with them.

"Regardless of the EU situation, we have a world-class plant science base which could provide commercial opportunities for the development of new GM crops.

"It will be a key agricultural technology for the 21st century, and it is important that we maintain UK research in that area."

At present, the European Union has banned the use of a large number of genetically modified crops because of opposition across Europe.

The new legislation will mean member states will be able to decide at a national level whether to plant GM crops.

Lord de Mauley said that that are no genetically modified crops awaiting for approval which are suitable for growing in England.

Experts said that genetically modified maize and oilseed rape were the most likely crops to be grown in this country, alongside potatoes which require lower levels of pesticides. They are likely to take several years to gain approval from regulators.

Genetically modified fruit and vegetables are not currently available for sale in British supermarkets. However, meat from livestock which has been fed using genetically modified crops is sold.

Supermarkets have previously said that they are only prepared to change their policy and sell genetically modified food if there is demand from customers.

Genetically modified crops are being trialled in Rothamstead, Hertfordshire and Norwich in Norfolk, but they are not be sold commercially. Wales and Scotland are opposed to the use genetically modified crops and will not be growing anyway.

Lord de Mauley said: "It could provide an easier route to market for GM crops that pass the EU safety assessment process, albeit the market will be limited to those member states or regions that are open to GM cultivation. We will be pressing for the outstanding applications for EU approval to be authorised as soon as possible."

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: "I hope that England will learn from the lessons of Scotland and Wales and think about what's in the interests of the farming industry rather than the chemical companies.

"The biggest risk is that England gets the reputation of being a GM country. It wouldn't be a surprise. It could damage exports from England and if you get a reputation for being an unreliable supplier people look elsewhere. "

Meurig Raymond’s, President of the National Farmers Union, said: "If the European Parliament adopts the text currently tabled, it is supporting unscientific, emotional and politicised arguments and justifications for banning an agricultural technology within a single market.

“GM could provide UK farmers with the potential for expanding markets and meeting the challenge of feeding an ever growing population in a sustainable way. Restricting ourselves from doing this is an outdated and backward step.”

Genetic modification involves taking existing plant strains and genetically engineering them with DNA from other species to produce useful traits, such as higher yields or resistance to pesticides.

But there has been vociferous public opposition to so-called “franken-foods” in the past.

Critics have raised fears of possible environmental damage if GM strains spread and have argued that they allow chemical companies to “own” plants as the GM strains are protected by intellectual property law.

The prospect of England growing GM crops commercially prompted concern from organic farmers last night.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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