Sunday, May 03, 2015

A foolish Pope?

Excerpt from a report below on a projected Papal encyclical on global warming.  If expectations are correct it will make old Frank a very foolish Pope indeed.  From encyclicals De rerum novarum to Centesimus Annus (and, Yes, I have read both of them) Popes have always trod a middle way between Left and Right.  Even Brennender Sorge can be read that way. And for a church that claims universality, that is the only prudent path. Times change and hitching your wagon to ANY current enthusiasm is likely to make you look ridiculous in the long run. Redemption is the only proper enthusiasm for the church.

An encyclical is clearly an occasion when a Pope speaks
ex-cathedra on a matter of faith and morals so it gives the seal of Papal infallibility to whatever the encyclical says.  It commits all his successors to his assertions.  Endorsing any particular secular gospel would therefore be exceedingly unwise.

The Pope does however have many conservative advisers.  Perhaps he will learn from the carefully-worded waffle of his predecessor, a predecessor who is still alive and nearby to advise him.  Benedict basically said:  "Yes the environment is super important and we should all do something about it".  Which committed him to precisely nothing.  So, despite present appearances, the new encyclical could well be as cautiously worded, with emollient words for everybody but no explicit committment to anything.

Frank is a strange Jesuit.  Jesuits are supposed to be scholarly but I have seen no sign of that in him. He is just a typical South  American priest under considerable influence from liberation theology as far as I can see.  Liberation theology is all heart and no head.  But Frank is undoubtably a man of great personal holiness so being influenced more by emotion than by reason is in keeping. He is a good man, whatever else he is

Perhaps I should take back my claim that he is no intellectual.  He does after all tweet in Latin, which must help to keep Latin alive.  And as an old traditionalist and a very amateur Latinist, that seems somehow important to me.  His latest tweet at the time of writing was
"Tot rebus, interdum gravissimis, afflicti, spem ne neglegamus in misericordia Dei infinita ponere".  Since at the time of writing I could see no translation into English online, perhaps I should have a go at translating it: "Concerning afflictions, even the most grave, we must never lose hope in the infinite mercy of God." 

The tweet appeared to be a response to the disaster in Nepal.  It is appropriately holy but whether the Hindu Nepalese were in any way comforted by it we may never know. Nepali and Latin are related languages but the relationship is not close

The encyclical on the environment from Pope Francis is stimulating a great deal of discussion and hope in academia and the environmental movement. The encyclical is expected in June or July.

The pope wants to make the environment one of the signature issues of his papacy. As he explained to reporters three days after his election, one of the reasons he took the name Francis was because St. Francis of Assisi is “the man who loves and protects creation.” He went on to say, “These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”

Conservationists are hoping that the encyclical’s attitude toward animals, especially wildlife, will reflect the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, according to Lonnie Ellis, associate director of Catholic Climate Covenant.

The encyclical is widely expected to give support to those who attribute climate change to human activity since the pope has already said he accepts this scientific conclusion. Although popes are clearly not infallible when it comes to science, Francis is the first pope to have a modern scientific training: He was educated as a chemist and worked as one in Argentina before he entered the seminary.

Christiana Peppard of Fordham University said she hopes the encyclical will affirm that “contemporary science is a marvelous way of knowing the world and that it represents a collective, collaborative way of discerning important realities about the Earth that we share, and thus that there is zero justification for skepticism of climate change among Catholics.”


Updated Satellite Data Puts a Chill on Global Warming

More bad news for climate scaremongers. Remote Sensing Systems recordings, which more accurately reflect global temperatures, have perplexed many scientists ever since they revealed a global warming hiatus that’s now lasted for more than 18 years. In response, alarmists have trashed RSS findings in favor of NOAA’s complicated and flawed method. Three University of Alabama climatologists, Roy Spencer, John Christy and William Braswell, just concluded additional research on UAH Version 6, an alternative system used to study global temperatures. Not only did the new research cast further doubt on the claims of climate alarmists, but the adjustments revealed similar results to that of RSS.

The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch explains, “Version 6 of the satellite data shows faster warming in the early part of the satellite record, which stretches from Dec. 1978 to March 2015, but shows reduced, or even eliminated, warming in the latter part of the record, wrote climatologists Roy Spencer, John Christy and William Braswell. UAH Version 6 satellite data now shows a decreased warming trend of 0.114 degrees Celsius per decade, compared to Version 5.6’s 0.140 degree trend.”

Dr. Spencer notes, “Even though our approach to that adjustment … is empirical, it is interesting to see that it gives similar results to the RSS approach, which is based upon climate model calculations of the diurnal cycle in temperature.”

You can read more about why revisions are necessary and, notably, how these revisions are different than NOAA’s alleged tampering with historical data. To summarize, UAH’s newest finding is another inconvenient truth for envirofascists — which is exactly why they’ll ignore it.


Time to End the Production Tax Credit Once and For All

If we want to build a healthier American economy, Congress must stop supporting special interests at the expense of our nation’s economic potential. The Production Tax Credit is a prime example of just how much this self-destructive pattern hurts competition, enables waste and works against the middle class.

Created in 1992 as a temporary provision to encourage investment in nascent forms of energy, the PTC has ballooned from a short term boost to aid innovation into a massive handout for the now multibillion-dollar wind industry. Since the PTC’s inception, wind energy production has surged from 2.8 million to 167.6 million megawatt-hours. That’s an increase of nearly 6,000 percent. Meanwhile, according to the Department of Energy, the cost of a wind turbine has come down by as much as 40 percent since 2008. The wind industry is also producing on a regular basis more energy than the market demands.

Common sense says that a mature and self-sufficient wind industry should no longer be paid for by the American taxpayer. But, common sense is a rare commodity in Washington and it becomes even scarcer when the special interest spigot has been opened.

The wind industry is now larger than ever and so is its influence on Capitol Hill. And with the growth in the wind industry’s lobbying have come perpetual increases in the PTC’s price tag. Last year, the PTC cost taxpayers $1.5 billion. This year it’s projected to cost $2.8 billion. Next year – $3.5 billion.

The PTC also fosters vast market distortion and even puts the environment at risk. The credit pays out per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy produced. That means the more energy you generate, the more money you make – regardless of actual demand. Wind power generators looking to milk the credit for all it’s worth are going to generate as much wind energy as possible. They then sell at artificially low prices and sometimes even engage in negative pricing, where they pay grid operators to take the load off their hands.

All of this puts immense pressure on non-PTC eligible clean energy producers, such as natural gas and nuclear, that are forced to compete on the skewed playing field of price-warping subsidies. In fact, all things considered, wind power in 2010 received 18-times the subsidies of nuclear power and 88-times those of natural gas per kWh. Ironically, because of this dynamic, the PTC can foster greater dependence on baseload energy resources that are worse for the environment.

Over its long life, the PTC has expired and been renewed nine times. In theory, the PTC is expired right now. In reality, the PTC is more like a walking-dead credit because it pays eligible claimants for ten years of energy produced. Facilities that met vague “beginning of construction” standards just before the PTC “expired” on Dec. 31, 2014 will receive credits until 2025 or beyond. That assumes special interests do not succeed in getting PTC extended yet again. Just a one-year extension comes with an estimated 10-year cost of $6.4 billion. If made permanent, as President Obama requested in his 2016 budget, taxpayers would be hit with a $35 billion bill to pay.

The wind industry has greatly matured since PTC’s inception, and it should not be spoon-fed by taxpayers any longer. Even the American Wind Energy Association recognized this back in 2012 when it publically supported a future phase-out of the PTC.

By beginning to take on such wasteful, counter-productive subsidies, Congress can show how serious we are in tackling true tax reform. This is why we introduced the PTC Elimination Act. Our legislation significantly scales back PTC handouts to those who remain eligible and completely dismantles the credit’s statutory framework. Similar proposals have been estimated to save taxpayers $9.6 billion.

But the PTC Elimination Act doesn’t stop there. It uses the savings to lower the U.S. corporate tax rate, which, being the highest in the world, is a major handicap for American businesses. Even President Obama agrees that the corporate rate has to come down if we want to keep U.S. businesses competitive.

Let’s put the American people first, bring new life to the U.S. economy, and eliminate the PTC once and for all.


Money and climate politics

Despite studies highlighting the economic benefits and safety record of fracking and other innovative drilling techniques, government officials at different levels have worked to block such practices.

Denton, Texas, in the very heart of oil country, has outlawed extraction within its limits in recent weeks. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, banned fracking in his state last December. And in March, the Obama administration announced it was moving forward with new federal regulations on fracking through the Interior Department.

On to Pennsylvania

The results of these policies can be seen the length and breadth of the Marcellus Shale region, which cuts across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions of New York, northern and western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, western Maryland, and much of West Virginia.

With New York off limits for fracking, the action has moved to Pennsylvania, where a proposed pipeline would help Pennsylvania producers sell the natural gas they harvest from the Marcellus Shale. The 114-mile PennEast Pipeline would carry the gas from Dallas, Pa., in the Poconos, to Mercer County, N.J.

One study, from the Concentric Energy Advisors, shows it’s a good deal for ratepayers—it’s enough low-cost gas to heat 4.7 million homes and would have saved New Jersey consumers almost $900 million if it had been in place by winter 2013-2014.

Despite those potential benefits, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a non-profit based in Bristol, Pa., that enjoys substantial financial support from the William Penn Foundation, is pushing back against the pipeline.

It has built its arguments against the pipeline around allegations that it would lead to environmental degradation.

The conclusion of the pipeline debate may provide another example of how outside money shapes policy positions.


UN Backs Coal Power for the Poor

The United Nations is breaking with the World Bank and environmental non-governmental organizations, agreeing to continue coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

At the behest of the Obama administration and with the support of international environmental non-governmental organizations, the world bank began to reduce funding  coal-fired power plants in the developing world in 2011 and in 2013 it adopted a new policy curtailing such loans even further, “provid[ing] financial support for greenfield coal power generation projects only in rare circumstances,” such as where there are “no feasible alternatives to coal.”

By contrast, he United Nation (UN) green climate fund (GCF) refused an explicit ban on fossil fuel projects at March meeting in Songdo, South Korea, according to a report in Power Engineering International (3/30/15).

‘Clean-coal reduces carbon-dioxide emissions’

In supporting coal-fired power plants for developing countries, the UN reasoned that these countries should and would develop using coal as a source of electricity. Therefore, the GCF would provide funding to ensure the coal-fired power plants built are the most advanced, cleanest, coal plants available. Otherwise, the UN feared, poor nations would adopt the cheapest, if dirtiest, coal technologies available.

Japan, China and Saudi Arabia favored the UN's position. Speaking for the Japanese government, Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told the Associated Press, “Japan is of the view that the promotion of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants is one of the realistic, pragmatic and effective approaches to cope with the issue of climate change." Japan backed its words with more than $1.6 billion in loans for coal plants in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia.

IEA on board

The International Energy Agency Clean Coal Center (CCC) also welcomed the UN's decision to fund coal power in developing countries. Dr Andrew Minchener of the CCC told Power Engineering International, "I am very pleased to see a further rejection of the World Bank and others blanket ban on support for clean coal technology. The provision of financial support for high-efficiency low emissions coal-fired power plants is an effective means to reduce the overall carbon intensity of the world’s coal power fleet, while also helping many people in developing countries to escape poverty."

The IEA CCC’s Head of Communications, Debo Adams echoed Minchener’s view, stating "At this stage, the options are not clean coal or 100 per cent renewables, they are largely dirty coal without much help, or clean coal if support is given to cover the higher installation costs of more efficient plants with pollution control technologies."


Are you now or have you ever been a climate contrarian?

The fury over Bjorn Lomborg in Australia confirms the intolerance of Greens.  It's not enough to agree with their beliefs;  You must agree with their policies too

Once, it was Communists who were harassed on Western campuses. Now it’s contrarians. Specifically ‘climate contrarians’. The massive stink over Bjorn Lomborg being given Australian government funding to set up a climate-change centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA) shows that the spirit of McCarthyism lives on. Only now, its targets aren’t Reds, but anti-greens: anyone who dares to criticise either the science — sorry, The Science — or the politics of climate change.

Lomborg is the Danish-born author of the bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001). He’s the rattler of greens across the globe with his claims that climate change is not the biggest problem facing humanity, and to the extent that it is a problem we should develop our way out of it rather than cutting back on fossil-fuel use and forcing everyone to live ‘sustainable lives’, which is only fancy code for eco-friendly poverty. So it was inevitable, given green hostility to any criticism of their creed, that Lomborg’s appointment at UWA would start a stir. But even by the standards of denier-denouncing environmentalists, the fury over Lomborg heading Down Under has been intense — and revealing.

Lomborg is being given $4million, apparently on the say so of Australian PM Tony Abbott himself, to set up and oversee the Australia Consensus Centre. It will be the new arm of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, the US-based think-tank Lomborg runs. No sooner had it been announced that Lomborg and his centre would be setting up shop at UWA than Aussie (and international) academics were spitting blood, and the liberal media Down Under were churning out pieces asking why the hell university space and cash were being given to someone who — horror of horrors — ‘downgrades climate change’. (Not denies it, you’ll note — just ‘downgrades’ it. It seems that even saying ‘I don’t think climate change is the most pressing issue in the world’ is now a sin that will earn you stinging demonisation.)

The Australia Guardian questions the fitness of Lomborg for university life. Green-leaning writers demand the Oz government ‘pull the plug’ on the Lomborg centre, outraged that it might argue that climate change should be ‘placed well down [the] list of global priorities’. At the UWA itself, academics and students held a meeting that one described as being ‘like a Rolling Stones concert’ (it was packed and heated), at which there was ‘riotous applause’ when staff called for UWA to ‘end [its] deal with the climate-change contrarian’. Rolling Stones gig, or mob? The UWA Student Guild joined with their professors to demand that UWA refuse to ‘engage controversial climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’, on the basis that having him on campus would ‘harm UWA’s world-class reputation’. An online petition demands that, ‘In the name of science’, Lomborg should be rejected by UWA; it has more than 6,000 signatures.

Reading these very public denunciations of a man who has committed the sin of ‘contrarianism’ and who thus must be denied the oxygen of a university position, you get a sense of what it must have been like on some American campuses in the 1950s. Then, academics were asked ‘Are you now or have you even been a Communist?’; now gangs of raging professors, journalists and finger-jabbing students demand of them: ‘Are you now or have you ever been a climate-change contrarian?’ Much of the commentary on Lomborg’s appointment obsesses over funding his think-tank has received in the past, including from foundations ‘with links to’ various ‘vulture capitalists’. They’re painting a demented picture of Lomborg being a front, a mole, for a vast and sinister network of climate deniers, invading a prestigious university with his ‘dangerous views’ — just as surely as McCarthyites once presented very left-wing academics as the possibly Soviet-foisted corrupters of American campuses.

There’s also a palpable religious feel to the denunciations. That student-started petition calling for Lomborg to be kept off campus demands that this be done ‘In the name of science’. Once we had ‘In the name of the Lord’, now we have ‘In the name of science’. The terminology used to denounce those who question climate change, particularly ‘DENIER’, brings to mind dark, intolerant episodes from history when anyone who called into question the truth of the Bible or the authority of the Church was likewise hounded out of universities (think John Wycliffe, expelled from Oxford in 1382 for riling church elders).

The most striking thing about the Lomborg scandal in Australia is the invention of a new term of abuse: ‘climate contrarian’. This is how Lomborg is being referred to by all the metaphorical pitchfork-wielders. Why? Because he isn’t a climate-change denier. He has said repeatedly that he thinks climate change is real and needs to be tackled, just not in the way mainstream greens think it should. So here, explicitly, we can see that someone is being demonised not for being ‘anti-science’ — the usual, unconvincing justification for shutting down criticism of the politics of climate change — but simply for holding the allegedly wrong political and moral views, for daring to put forward an alternative policy vision for environmental problems. As the UWA Student Guild said, ‘While Dr Lomborg doesn’t refute climate change itself’, he does have a ‘controversial track record [as a] climate contrarian’. And we can’t have controversy on a campus, can we?

This scandal exposes the true intolerance of the eco-lobby, their real censorious urge — which is not merely to ringfence science from ridicule, which is bad enough, but to prevent the expression of contrarian ideas. For years, greens have presented themselves as merely the rational, reasoned defenders of science against gangs of charlatans, when in truth they were all about protecting an ideology: the ideology of no-growth, of anti-development, of anti-progress, of population control, of modern-day misanthropy, fortified with bits of science but really expressing an underlying, elitist, growing contempt for humanity and its achievements.

Now, in their assaults on Lomborg, their nakedly political censorship, their moral policing, their desire to deflect any criticism of their miserabilist, illiberal moral outlook, has been brilliantly exposed: they want to shut this man down, not because he denies scientific facts, but because he thinks differently to them. It is undiluted intolerance, and at a university too. Proof that the Western academy in the 21st century is giving the old heresy-hunting Church a run for its money in the bigotry-and-dogma stakes.



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.  

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