Tuesday, February 17, 2015

You couldn't make this up

The Australian Academy of Science has just issued an updated "explanation" of global warming.  They note that "Most available material ... usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on".  So in their latest "explanation", what did they do to remedy that deficiency?   Below is their full "explanation" of how human activities enhance the ‘greenhouse effect’:

"Today, human activities are directly increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, plus some chemically manufactured greenhouse gases such as halocarbons. These human-generated gases enhance the natural greenhouse effect and further warm the surface. In addition to the direct effect, the warming that results from increased concentrations of long-lived greenhouse gases can be amplified by other processes. Human activities are also increasing aerosols in the atmosphere, which reflect some incoming sunlight. This human-induced change offsets some of the warming from greenhouse gases"

In short, they have done NOTHING to fill the gap they identified.  Their screed is all just assertion and in any case completely ignores the key question of climate sensitivity -- i.e. even if we accept everything they say above about the greenhouse effect, how do we know HOW BIG the effect will be?  Most skeptics do believe that there is some human effect but can see neither theoretical nor empirical grounds for expecting it to be anything but trivial.  It is the Warmists who shriek about it not being trivial but what is their evidence for that?  There is none.  It is all just poorly founded speculation

If that's the best that the scientific establishment can do to explain Warmist beliefs, then the explanation is an utter failure. One wonders if they really believe in Warmism themselves.

Australia's leading science body has reissued its climate change booklet in a bid to improve public understanding of the contentious subject.

The Australian Academy of Science was prompted to update the information based on new research and public questions since its original release in 2010.

Most available material is either too technical for the lay reader and usually omits some of the basics, such as how scientists know humans are causing global warming and what future projections are based on, said Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of NSW.

"There is so much misinformation or confusing information out there, that we thought it would be nice to gather in one place an accessible explanation," Professor Sherwood said.

About 97 per cent of scientists who study the climate accept that humans are having an impact, with carbon dioxide – mostly emitted from humans burning fossil fuels – the primary driver.

"Even though carbon dioxide is not the only influence on climate, over the long term it will have such a large effect, it has to be brought under control no matter what else we do," Professor Sherwood said.

The academy report notes global carbon dioxide emissions rose at an average annual rate of 3.2 per cent between 2000 and 2012, at the top end of previous projections. These emissions, though, will have to start falling at a pace between 5.5 and 8 per cent for the planet to have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature increases to within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December to thrash out a global climate treaty aimed at reducing carbon emissions beyond 2020. Countries, including Australia, are expected to announce their targets by the end of next month.

The heads of Britain's three main political parties agreed at the weekend to phase out all coal-fired power plants unless their emissions can be captured.

The academy report notes average surface warming had slowed since 2001 despite rising carbon emissions but said decadal variability in how oceans and the atmosphere exchange heat meant extra warmth had been absorbed by the seas. Other changes such as the increasing incidence of heat extremes, shrinking Arctic sea ice – its thickness dropping 30 per cent in 30 years – and rising sea levels had all continued unabated.

It is well known that the greenhouse effect is important for sustaining life on Earth – temperatures would be 33 degrees cooler without it. Perhaps less well known is the role rising temperatures have on concentrations of water vapour, a key greenhouse gas.

"When global average atmospheric temperatures rise, global water vapour concentrations increase, amplifying the initial warming through an enhanced greenhouse effect," the report says. "[T]his feedback approximately doubles the sensitivity of climate to human activities."

"For Australia, a warmer future will likely mean that extreme precipitation is more intense and more frequent, interspersed with longer dry spells," the report says.

By the end of the century, a high temperature event that would now occur only once in every 20 years would be occurring annually or once every two years on our current emissions trajectory, the academy says.

While societies and nations will face varying challenges to cope with climate change, many natural ecosystems are likely to face extinction.

Native animals that depend on cooler mountain habitats, for instance, will be particularly vulnerable. Scientists examining the fate of 50 species in the Wet Tropics bioregion in north Queensland found they would be all but wiped out with a 5-degree temperature increase.


Scientists must solve growing trust problem

San Jose Mercury News Editorial

Scientists are facing a crisis of trust.  A Pew Research Center poll released Jan. 29 shows a huge gap between the views of scientists and the general public on a range of issues -- not just climate change but also genetically modified foods, vaccinations, the use of animals in research and the threat of overpopulation.

Furthermore, as scientific theories evolve, today's instant mass communication of each step forward and back undermines belief in facts that are proven, like the ability of vaccines to all but eliminate a disease.

Lecturing people isn't the answer. Alan Leshner, the outgoing CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, made that clear Wednesday when he met with this newspaper's Editorial Board. Scientists instead need to engage the public in a forthright conversation about the importance of science to society, he said.

Thousands of scientists are gathered in San Jose this weekend for the AAAS annual meeting. We hope they're grappling with how to begin that public conversation. Silicon Valley's science-based economy should be an inspiration.

Federal funding for R&D in areas such as energy and medicine has dropped 10 percent in the past six years -- and these are areas people consider important. Overall, R&D as a percentage of total federal spending is at its lowest level since 1956.

America's changing attitudes toward science and diminishing funding for research are not entirely a cause-and-effect phenomenon. Americans believe in roads and bridges but don't want to pay to maintain them, either. And like declining infrastructure, the decline of scientific research and the consequences for Americans' lives and economic advancement are worrisome.

Increasingly, Americans believe that what's called science is actually political posturing. For example, only half of the adults surveyed by Pew said climate change is mostly due to human activity, while 87 percent of scientists believe it is; 37 percent of Americans think genetically modified foods are safe, compared to 88 percent of scientists; 68 percent of adults say childhood vaccines should be required, while 86 percent of scientists think so.

And 82 percent of scientists believe world population will be a major problem, while only 59 percent of Americans agree.

In a January editorial in Science magazine, Lesher wrote that only 52 percent of scientists say this "is a good time for science," down from 76 percent as recently as 2009. The disparity not only puts future funding for science in danger, Leshner said, but also carries the risk that America's best young minds will no longer want to pursue research as a career. That would be disastrous for Silicon Valley.

Community and political leaders have a role in restoring respect for the pursuit of scientific truth. But Lesher is right that scientists themselves need to be more engaged in fostering understanding of their independence, motivation and actual work.


Divestment  ethics and realities

Eliminating fossil fuels from investment portfolios hurts colleges, workers and poor families

Paul Driessen

College students who support divestment of fossil fuel stocks are passionate about their cause. Just look at their word choices. Though they could never function even one week without hydrocarbon energy, they call fossil-fuel companies “rogue entities,” assert that oil, coal and natural gas interests have the “political process in shackles,” and believe most of the world’s known fossil fuel resources must “stay in the ground” to avoid “catastrophic global warming.” It’s a shortsighted view of energy ethics and corruption.

Their over-heated hysteria over climate change is fanned by groups like 350.org and college professors who rehash doom-and-gloom forecasts about rising seas, dying species and other cataclysms that they insist can be remedied only by terminating fossil fuel use and investments in fossil fuel companies.

But in their lemming-like rush to glom onto claims that human carbon dioxide emissions will destroy life as we know it, they reveal an abysmal understanding of true science, our planet’s turbulent climate history, creative free markets, and what academia once proudly espoused: open, robust debate.

Of course, deceptive information is exceedingly useful to community organizers and agitators, particularly those who occupy Oval Offices, endowed chairs, government regulatory agencies and Big Green war rooms – and want to “fundamentally transform” the United States. Bombarding impressionable students with such intellectually dishonest drivel is equally useful … and detestable.

Just as bad, too many students devote their time and energy to divestment campaigns, when they should be learning and applying critical-thinking and ethical skills. Honest analysis reveals that divestment will have negligible to zero effects on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, climate change or energy company stock prices, even if every university in the country gave in to the students’ anti-fossil fuel pleas.

Indeed, college and university endowments are not large enough to create even a ripple in fossil fuel investments. A recent Bloomberg analysis found that university endowments have about $400 billion invested in stocks; the National Association of College and University Business Officers puts the figure at $456 billion. Of that, only about 2.1% was invested in fossil fuel stocks in 2010-2011. That is a pittance in the overall stock market, which was valued at some $18 trillion in 2012 and now is much larger. In fact, it amounts to only about 0.05% or a nickel out of every $100 – and any fossil fuel stocks sold by an endowment would be purchased by another investor almost immediately.

Moreover, fossil fuel stocks historically have been good investments for schools. A Sonecon study found that endowment investments in oil and natural gas equities in 2010-2011 provided returns of a whopping 52.8% – nearly twice the returns from all other U.S. publicly traded stocks, real estate securities and foreign equities. This fact is not lost on university presidents, who have a fiduciary duty to grow their endowments, to pay for student scholarships, new and remodeled facilities, and other expenditures that further their educational objectives.

American University trustees voted against divestment in November 2014, saying AU financial advisers “could not provide assurance that the effect of divestment would not be insignificant.” Actually, a recent Compass Lexecon analysis found that an  investment portfolio totally divested from fossil fuels lost 70 basis points and cost significantly more every year in management fees to keep them “fossil-free.”

When asked whether he would sell University of Colorado fossil fuel stocks, President Bruce Benson said flatly, “I’m not going to do that.” Similarly, Harvard University President Drew Faust rejected demands for divestment and reminded proponents that Harvard “exists to serve an academic mission.” Harvard must be “very wary of steps intended to instrumentalize our endowment in ways that would appear to position the University as a political actor, rather than an academic institution,” she stated.

Just as importantly, the world’s largest energy companies dwarf the likes of ExxonMobil and other U.S. firms – but are owned by foreign governments and are not publicly traded. Caterwauling college kids at Stanford, Swarthmore and elsewhere will not cause companies to abandon what they do best: develop and produce fossil fuel energy for people who need them for jobs, living standards, health and welfare.

That raises this discussion’s most critical point, which is generally brushed aside by divestment advocates. These campaigns are part of a global anti-hydrocarbon crusade that would inflict enormous harm on working class families, and even worse consequences on Earth’s most destitute citizens.

In 2012, coal, oil and natural gas supplied 87% of the world’s energy, Worldwatch Institute figures show. Further, despite the Obama Administration’s war on coal, International Energy Agency data reveal that global coal usage is rising and by 2017 will likely supplant oil as the dominant energy resource.

Fossil fuel companies and their shareholders know traditional forms of energy will continue to power the world for the foreseeable future, because there are no viable alternatives. Solar, wind and other energy resources cannot supply enough energy to meet the world’s needs; they are not price competitive without huge subsidies; and they require fossil fuels and millions of acres to manufacture, install and operate.

Nor is it sufficient to claim anti-fossil fuel demands are well-intended, when the real-world consequences are so readily apparent and so easily predicted. In developed nations they cost jobs and degrade living standards, health, welfare and life spans. In poor countries they perpetuate electricity deprivation, unsafe water, disease, squalid environmental conditions, inability to adapt to climate changes, and early death.

To inject these vital ethical considerations and counter climate cataclysm concerns, students at a number of colleges and universities have launched Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACTcampus) chapters to promote free markets, less government intervention and regulation, and better lives for more people. Their motto is “scientific truth without the spin.”

The University of Minnesota chapter proclaims that “Western values of competition, progress, freedom and stewardship can and do offer the best hope for protecting not only the Earth and its wildlife, but even more importantly its people.” These sound science and “stewardship of creation” principles should guide discussions, debates and decisions on all campuses. So should accurate information about climate change.

Divestment activists often claim that climate science is settled. Far from it. The supposed connection between carbon dioxide and planetary temperature is far from proven. Indeed, contrary to alarmist forecasts and computer models, Earth’s temperature has not budged for 18 years, the United States has not been struck by a Category 3-5 hurricane for a record nine years, “extreme weather events” have not become more frequent or severe during the past 100 years, and other “crises” have not materialized.

Nevertheless, both NOAA and NASA, perpetual purveyors of scary climate headlines, have again used ground-based data to pronounce that 2014 was the hottest year on record. These temperature reports “are ridiculous,” say experts like Dr. Tim Ball, historical climatologist and former professor at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The measurements are taken mostly in always warmer urban areas, the raw data have been “adjusted,” “homogenized” and manipulated, and the alleged year-to-year differences are measured in hundredths of a degree – a mere fraction of their margin of error!

Moreover, it is impossible to get accurate average global temperatures based on ground stations, because the data do not exist, Dr. Ball notes. “There are virtually no data for 70% of Earth’s surface that is oceans, and practically no data for the 19% of land area that are mountains, 20% that are desert, 20% boreal forest, 20% grasslands, and 6% tropical rain forest.” So NASA “just invents data” for these areas.

Unfortunately, instead of facts, campus politics will likely drive divestment demands this weekend (February 13-14), when college students demonstrate, hold sit-ins and organize flash mobs for Global Divestment Day. In many ways, to quote Macbeth, it will be “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But for many people, the consequences could be dire – or even deadly.

Via email

The high price of being Green

Last Friday afternoon, 67-year-old Gov. John Kitzhaber (D-Oregon) announced his resignation. He and his 47-year-old clean energy consultant/lover Cylvia Hayes will no longer be taking romantic strolls through the manicured gardens of Mahonia Hall. Nor will they be engaging in late-night pillow talk sessions on “energy” at the Tudor-style governor’s mansion.

Two days before resigning, Kitzhaber distributed a defiant press release to announce that he would not be resigning. Reading between the lines, his message was: I don’t care that my constituents—the majority of whom are Democrats—feel that I’ve betrayed their trust. I’m standing by my green energy gal pal.

Then the New York Times did a story, and it was not flattering. Rule of thumb: if you’re a Democrat and even the New York Times thinks you’re a scallywag, beware.

“Clean” Can Be Dirtier than “Crude”

Politicians can learn a valuable metaphorical lesson from Kitzhaber’s errors. You see, much of the current renewable energy technology is rather dirty—and not in a playful, coquettish way. So-called “clean” energy hurts poor people—who are disproportionately young (one-in-five Millennials lives in poverty)—by raising their energy prices and reducing their ability to trust government leaders.

The Wall Street Journal recently noted that residential electricity prices are up 39%. This is in part due to the fact that taxpayers are being forced to subsidize the higher cost of “clean” energy like solar, wind and electric.

At present, most renewable technology is not able to compete with petroleum or coal without substantial help from taxpayers. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently noted that electric car batteries would have to become about 10 times more efficient than they are today in order to compete with gas-propelled cars.

Oil companies like Exxon make a small profit in comparison to the billions they pay every year in taxes and the hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs that they create. In 2012 alone, Exxon posted 12.1 billion in U.S. taxes and 102.1 billion in worldwide taxes. Other than higher energy prices, what are renewables giving back to the community in return for the boost they are receiving from taxpayers?

When MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry asked Attorney General Eric Holder to “quack” on national television, it was a universal turn-off. There’s only so much reckless flirtation that Americans will tolerate from public figures and Kitzhaber is now in the same camp as Harris-Perry.

If a male politician talks dirty back to a female clean energy consultant, she can sue him for sexual harassment. Or, she can savor his sweet nothings while making off with taxpayers’ money—and then kill his career.


Green light for genetically modified apples that don't brown

The US Department of Agriculture says it is okay for two varieties of genetically engineered non-browning apples to be sold in the United States.

The agency's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service says the move was based on the fact that the apples are not likely to pose a risk to other plants in the form of bacteria, fungi and other threats.

The apples will be marketed as Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, based in Summerland, British Columbia, in Canada.

"It's been 57 months and counting for us to get this approval," said Neal Carter, Okanagan's president and founder. "We're very super excited today. It's a big big day for us."

It will take some time for the first crop to grow, and most of the initial fruit will be consumed by product development trials and test marketing, Carter said. The public can expect to see the apples in large numbers probably in 2017, he said.

The non-browning effect happens because the company has reduced the apple's production of one enzyme, and nutrition-wise, the apples are similar to conventional fruit, Carter said.

The Arctic Golden apples are essentially Golden Delicious apples that don't go brown and the Arctic Granny apples are Granny Smith apples that avoid browning.

Over time, the apples will develop browning, but they will produce less of the substance that causes them to brown, according to USDA documents. When the apples are sliced or bruised, they retain their original colour longer, the USDA says.

Tests have shown genetically engineered foods to be safe but some opponents have pushed for laws that require such foods to be labeled so that consumers know what they are eating.


Announcing the Golden Rice South Asia Tour

Commencing March 4 to March 20 the Allow Golden Rice Campaign will tour the Philippines, Bangladesh, and India where vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of child mortality.

Two million children and many mothers die each year from a lack of this essential vitamin. It is the greatest cause of child death today. Golden Rice is the obvious cure, but because it was created with genetic science Greenpeace and the anti-GMO movement fervently oppose it.

On August 8, 2013, Greenpeace instigated the destruction of Golden Rice scientific field trials at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The Allow Golden Rice Society is actively campaigning for the approval of Golden Rice so it can be delivered to the 200 million children who are deficient in vitamin A.

“If Golden Rice were a cure for cancer, malaria, or Ebola, it would have been approved 10 years ago. In that time 20 million people, mostly children, have died.

This is a crime against humanity,” stated Dr. Patrick Moore, leader of the campaign. “All we ask is that Greenpeace and their allies make an exception for Golden Rice to their opposition to GM crops”, continued Dr. Moore. “Millions of lives are at stake.”



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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