Thursday, December 31, 2015
Totally empty Warmist thinking
The puff below appeared in The New Daily, which aspires to be a serious newspaper. It was headed "Why Australia is sitting on a clean energy goldmine" and was written by Rob Burgess, their economics commentator and previously a journalist on Left-leaning newspapers.
I looked forward to hearing what particular activity or resource Australia had that would give it the great advantage claimed. Do we have rare earth metals in abundance? Do we make very efficient solar cells? Do we make better wind turbines? I knew in advance that the answers to those question would be No, so what was it that had I not thought of or what was it that did I not know?
I was disappointed entirely. All there is below are conventional prophecies and some very airy generalities that are well known but are in no way explicitly tied to the subject at hand.
Take this sentence:
"The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up".
That is just a pious hope with no evidence or argument offered that it is happening or will happen.
Mr Burgess clearly has nothing to say but says it at length. But Warmist thinking is generally brainless so I don't suppose I should have been surprised
Australia has for a long time become convinced that it ‘got lucky’ via the mining boom, and that the subsequent boost in national income and household wealth could not be generated any other way – a defeatist position that would make industrial nations such as Germany and Japan, or newly-industrialised Malaysia, cringe.
That’s because their growth stories are not put down to ‘luck’ but to successful deployment of financial capital, innovation, development of human capital, and transparent and stable systems of governance.
Australia’s new comparative advantage, then, will be found in acknowledging how far along the non-luck path we are.
Despite pockets of deprivation, Australia is still one of the wealthiest nations in the world and its people rank second only to the Norwegians on the United Nation’s human development index.
The USA is eighth, the UK 14th and Japan 20th, by way of comparison.
Our rule of law, and stable and well-regulated financial markets, make Australia an excellent place to invest, meaning financing our renewable energy future will be easier and cheaper than for developing nations.
And to those advantages – strong human capital and attractiveness to investors – can be added a growing recognition that services exports will form a large part of our future economic growth.
The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up.
Oh, and there’s a bit of luck too – we have excellent natural resources to develop in renewable energy areas such as solar, wind, wave, biomass and biofuels. We also have huge scope to offset future carbon emissions via carbon forestry.
In short, Australia is sitting on a carbon-free goldmine. We are smart enough, wealthy enough, export-oriented enough, well governed enough and blessed enough in natural resources to be ahead of the curve in the transition to clean energy.
The five-year challenge
At the heart of the Paris agreement is a five-yearly ‘stocktake’ of how each nation is doing with meeting its self-nominated targets.
Australia took a very modest target to Paris at the end of November, but it will now face five-yearly check-ups to see if, firstly, it has met the target, and, secondly, whether it will offer a stronger target for the next five years.
As the US, China and others strengthen their targets, they will not idly disregard laggard nations – the threat of trade measures such as ‘border tax adjustments‘, are the means by which ‘non-binding’ pledges will, in effect, be made binding.
Also, as with all 195 nations who have signed up to the Paris agreement, Australia is committed to globally binding transparency measures – that is, we can’t fake our carbon emissions.
But why would we?
The tide of history is running, strongly. The arguments put forward by the fossil-fuel lobby, the Abbott government, and a few King Canute-like backers in the media, have been lost.
Yes, Australia has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the highest carbon-intensity per unit of GDP. So we have more work to do than comparable nations to keep up with the post-COP21 pack.
But the point that must not be missed is that those reductions will be easier here than just about anywhere.
It is our new comparative advantage.
And though it’s based partly on luck, to capitalise on it we will need world-beating innovation, business acumen, policy responses and, most importantly, a voting public given the full facts of where the tide of history is flowing, rather than the unworthy fear campaigns of the past few years.
Myth: The human population is growing exponentially (and we're doomed)
This belief is a favorite of the Green/Left. The example of Malthus does not deter them
Fears about overpopulation began with Reverend Thomas Malthus in 1798, who predicted that unchecked exponential population growth would lead to famine and poverty.
But the human population has not and is not growing exponentially and is unlikely to do so, says Joel Cohen, a populations researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York City. The world’s population is now growing at just half the rate it was before 1965. Today there are an estimated 7.3 billion people, and that is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Yet beliefs that the rate of population growth will lead to some doomsday scenario have been continually perpetuated. Celebrated physicist Albert Bartlett, for example, gave more than 1,742 lectures on exponential human population growth and the dire consequences starting in 1969.
The world's population also has enough to eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the rate of global food production outstrips the growth of the population. People grow enough calories in cereals alone to feed between 10 billion and 12 billion people. Yet hunger and malnutrition persist worldwide. This is because about 55% of the food grown is divided between feeding cattle, making fuel and other materials or going to waste, says Cohen. And what remains is not evenly distributed — the rich have plenty, the poor have little. Likewise, water is not scarce on a global scale, even though 1.2 billion people live in areas where it is.
“Overpopulation is really not overpopulation. It's a question about poverty,” says Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington DC. Yet instead of examining why poverty exists and how to sustainably support a growing population, he says, social scientists and biologists talk past each other, debating definitions and causes of overpopulation.
Cohen adds that “even people who know the facts use it as an excuse not to pay attention to the problems we have right now”, pointing to the example of economic systems that favour the wealthy.
Like others interviewed for this article, Cohen is less than optimistic about the chances of dispelling the idea of overpopulation and other ubiquitous myths, but he agrees that it is worthwhile to try to prevent future misconceptions. Many myths have emerged after one researcher extrapolated beyond the narrow conclusions of another's work. That “interpretation creep”, as Spitzer calls it, can lead to misconceptions that are hard to excise. To prevent that, “we can make sure an extrapolation is justified, that we're not going beyond the data”, suggests Spitzer. Beyond that, it comes down to communication, says Howard-Jones. Scientists need to be effective at communicating ideas and get away from simple, boiled-down messages.
Dead wrong on oil
The green doomsayers have repeatedly claimed the fuel is disappearing
It would be hard to find anyone in all of America who has been more wrong on the American energy story than Barack Obama.
Oil prices have fallen from $105 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to hovering at $35 a barrel today. That’s a two-thirds reduction in the price and the biggest factor is shale oil brought to you by fracking. In many areas of the country gas is now less than $2 a gallon and it could fall further in the weeks ahead.
The falling price means, of course, an expanded supply. But now listen to President Obama, who has lectured the nation on energy as if he were one of the top experts for the last eight years.
In a 2008 Speech in Lansing, Michigan, presidential candidate Obama was all doom and gloom about oil, advising: “We cannot sustain a future powered by a fuel that is rapidly disappearing.”
Then in 2010 from the Oval Office he solemnly declared: “We’re running out of places to drill,” and he jeered that the oil and gas industry might want to start pumping for oil near the Washington Monument.
During a 2011 weekly address he referred to oil and gas as “yesterday’s” energy sources.
Then during a speech at Georgetown University, he pontificated: “The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource (oil) that will eventually run out.”
By the way this discredited Malthusian belief that we are running out of oil is still widely believed by many scientists and pundits as well. Paul Krugman of The New York Times wrote in 2010 that “the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking” of global oil production and that “world commodity prices are telling us that we’re living in a finite world.”
That was when prices were abnormally high. So if high prices tell us we are running out, then obviously low prices must tell us supply is rising.
These stupid predictions of the end of oil have been going on for most of the last century. Just over 100 years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Mines estimated total future production at 6 billion barrels, yet we’ve produced more than 20 times that amount. In 1939 the Department of the Interior predicted U.S. oil supplies would last 13 years. I could go on.
The wonder is that smart people like Nobel prize winners Krugman and Obama haven’t learned anything from history and instead keep regurgitating these myths about “running out.”
The folks at the Institute for Energy Research recently published a study showing three data points: first, the government’s best estimate of how much oil we had in America 50 years ago.
The second was how much U.S. oil has been drilled out of the ground since then. And the third is how much reserves there are now. Today we have twice as many reserves as we had in 1950. And we have already produced almost 10 times more oil than the government told us we had back then.
Technology and innovation account for the constant upping the amount of “finite” oil we can produce. We discover new sources of oil much faster than we deplete the known amount of reserves and so for all practical purposes, oil and natural gas supplies are nearly inexhaustible. Fracking is the latest game changer and the access it gives us to shale oil and gas resources has virtually doubled over night. And this technology boom in drilling is just getting started.
My point is how absurd it is for Americans to blindly trust any “scientific consensus” on any of these natural resource or environmental issues. The credibility of the alarmists is just shot. In 1980, hundreds of the top scientists in the United States issued a report called “The Global 2000 Report to the President” — which was a primal scream that in every way life on earth would be worse by 2000 because the world would run out of oil, gas, food, farmland and so on.
My mentor Julian Simon and Herman Kahn challenged this conventional wisdom. Today they would be disparaged as “deniers.” Yet on every score these iconoclasts were right and the green scientific consensus was wrong.
Lately, even Mr. Obama doesn’t make the ridiculous claim that we have to use green energy because we are running out of oil. Instead he now says we should keep our super-abundance of oil “in the ground,” even as he tries take credit for the low prices.
In reality, if we do what Mr. Obama wants, gas at the pump and electricity are going to be more expensive. If you don’t like $1.89 gasoline at the pump, you’re probably a big fan of the Obama energy/climate change agenda.
Hopefully, the neo-Malthusians like Mr. Obama will stop resorting to the century long false fear that we are running our of oil as an excuse for using much more expensive and much less efficient “green energy.”
Many years ago I was quoted in The New York Times as making this point about our infinite oil supply and a high school science teacher wrote me and huffed: “Even my 14 year olds know that oil is finite.”This teacher is probably now a top science advisor to Mr. Obama.
John Kerry Proves He Doesn’t Understand Climate Science
In an interview at the close of the recent Paris climate conference, Secretary of State John Kerry scolded Republican senators for saying out loud that the next president may not be a big supporter of President Barack Obama’s climate policies. Kerry asserted voters won’t allow a change, “I don’t think they’re going to accept as a genuine leader someone who doesn’t understand the science of climate change and isn’t willing to do something about it.”
But Kerry disproves his own theory. In a widely covered speech in Jakarta, Indonesia Kerry gave an absolutely cringe-worthy explanation of CO2 and global warming. Of course the press totally ignored his bizarre CO2 science lesson:
“I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of science or physics can be tough – chemistry. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this.
“Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going.”
He probably should have stopped with “physics can be tough.” His “a quarter-inch way up there” absolutely does not describe CO2 in the atmosphere. It seems what Kerry had in mind is a very abstract representation of the ozone layer. This may have been relevant a long time ago in a debate far, far away, but it is not a description of CO2 in the atmosphere.
His notion that the Earth has had a steady temperature for “literally millions of years” is also way off base. This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration webpage shows temperatures have bounced around by 10-25 degrees Fahrenheit ten or so times in the last 800,000 years.
Kerry dismissively lecturing climate skeptics brings Emily Litella to mind. Emily was Gilda Radner’s “Saturday Night Live” character whose bad hearing led to impassioned, but hilariously misguided, editorial responses.
Who knows what Kerry’s aides were thinking as he recited his mixed-up ozone lecture in the carbon dioxide forum? You can almost imagine them trying to catch Kerry’s attention, “Psst! We are talking about CO2, not O3.”
Climate Models Have Been Wrong About Global Warming For Six Decades
Climate models used by scientists to predict how much human activities will warm the planet have been over-predicting global warming for the last six decades, according to a recent working paper by climate scientists.
“Everyone by now is familiar with the ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ in the rate of global warming that has taken place over the past 20 years of so, but few realize is that the observed warming rate has been beneath the model mean expectation for periods extending back to the mid-20th century—60+ years,” Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, climate scientists at the libertarian Cato Institute, write in a working paper released in December.
Michaels and Knappenberger compared observed global surface temperature warming rates since 1950 to what was predicted by 108 climate models used by government climate scientists to predict how much carbon dioxide emissions will warm the planet.
What they found was the models projected much higher warming rates than actually occurred.
“During all periods from 10 years (2006-2015) to 65 (1951-2015) years in length, the observed temperature trend lies in the lower half of the collection of climate model simulations,” Michaels and Knappenberger write, “and for several periods it lies very close (or even below) the 2.5th percentile of all the model runs.”
To further bolster their case that climate models are over-predicting warming rates, Michaels and Knappenberger looked at how climate models fared against satellite and weather balloon data from the mid-troposphere. The result is the same, and climate models predicted way more warming than actually occurred.
“This is a devastating indictment of climate model performance,” Michaels and Knappenberger write. “For periods of time longer than about 20 years, the observed trends from all data sources fall beneath the lower bound which contains 95 percent of all model trends and in the majority of cases, falls beneath even the absolute smallest trend found in any of the 102 climate model runs.”
“The amount of that over-prediction comports well with a growing body of scientific findings and growing understanding that the sensitivity of the earth’s surface temperature to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels… lies towards (and yet within) the low end of the mainstream assessed likely range.”
Satellite temperatures, which measure the lowest few miles of the Earth’s atmosphere, show there’s been no significant global warming for the last two decades despite rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
The so-called “hiatus” in warming has sparked an intense debate among climate scientists over what’s caused warming to disappear. Dozens of theories have been put forward as to why global warming has stalled, but no one has cracked the case.
Michaels and Knappenberger, however, suggest the “hiatus” and the previous decades of overblown temperature predictions point to a huge flaw in climate science: the climate isn’t as sensitive to CO2 as previously thought.
The Cato scientists argue “climate sensitivity” estimates are too high and are causing climate models to over-predict how much warming will happen with increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Climate sensitivity refers to how much warming would occur with a doubling of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
Climate scientists typically put climate sensitivity at 3 degrees Celsius, but a slew of new studies suggest that’s way too high an estimate based on how much warming has been observed in recent decades. One estimate put together by the U.K.-based Global Warming Policy Foundation last year found climate sensitivity may be as low as 1.75 degrees Celsius — almost half what mainstream climate models use.
Virginia Lawmakers Urged to Question Taxpayer-Subsidized Climate ‘Alarmists’
Conservative lawmakers, scholars, and activists say it’s time for the Virginia General Assembly to look into the taxpayer funding of academics and scientists who don’t want President Obama to tolerate dissenting views on climate change.
The question, they told The Daily Signal, is why taxpayers should pay for the work of radical academics and scientists who want Obama to launch a racketeering investigation of organizations that have an open mind on how much mankind contributes to global warming.
“I’m just not sure about where we are right now on the question of climate change,” said Angela Chellew, a legislative liaison in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“I’ve been reading about sea level rise near where I live off Norfolk,” Chellew said, “but then I read conflicting things about what it all means. I do think we need to be careful about how we spend our taxpayer dollars and how government regulations will impact average people.”
Chellew and other climate change skeptics spoke to The Daily Signal during the 2014 Republican Advance, a weekend retreat held at the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs.
About 500 Virginia legislators and party activists attended Dec. 12, even as hundreds of government officials and delegates from across the globe gathered in Paris to reach an international pact to counter climate change.
Rick Buchanan, chairman-elect of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, agreed with Chellew.
As the federal government continues to pump billions of dollars into activities related to climate change, Buchanan said, he is concerned that it subjects honest scientific inquiry to a highly politicized process.
Between 1993 and 2013, the U.S. government spent more than $165 billion on global warming or climate change issues, according to federal reports.
“I’m what you call a scientific skeptic,” Buchanan told The Daily Signal, adding: "I’ve studied the issue very carefully, and there’s plenty of science out there that refutes the theory of man-made global warming. But government officials are still racing ahead with very expensive regulations".
Government funding of climate change research is a big part of the problem because it tends to fuel global warming alarmism that isn’t rooted in sound science, Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., said in an interview with The Daily Signal.
“Scientists should be in a position where they can freely pursue research without any strings attached,” Wittman said. “But the government funding can have a chilling effect on the scientific method.”
Wittman, a candidate for Virginia governor who has a background as a biologist, said he would like to see more attention focused on ice cores and tree rings. Both, he said, point to significant periods of global warming in earth’s past, before the emergence of human industrial activity.
The recent United Nations Conference of Parties, also known as COP21, produced the Paris Agreement, a pact described as legally binding on nations in some respects but voluntary in others. The stated goal: limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees C (or 3.6 degrees F) by the end of the 21st century.
Obama’s representative was among more than 190 government ministers who adopted the pact by consensus. But the agreement’s restrictions on carbon dioxide would cost American consumers and businesses a pretty penny in higher energy bills, warned Nicolas Loris, a Heritage Foundation economist.
Contrary to what Obama and other government leaders have told the public, Loris argued, the most reliable scientific data show Earth is not heading toward a climate crisis and that natural forces, not human activity, are at work.
‘A State Tradition’
John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, told The Daily Signal that the Virginia General Assembly particularly ought to investigate the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, including state funds, that went to the work of a George Mason University professor specializing in atmospheric, oceanic, and earth studies.
That professor, Jagadish Shukla, led a recent call for the Obama administration to prosecute climate change skeptics. “Unfortunately, double-dipping is nothing new in the state of Virginia,” Taylor said. “In fact, it is a state tradition. We have college professors and commonwealth attorneys in the General Assembly, and this has been going on for some time.”
Many Virginia residents and leaders don’t buy into what they consider alarmist claims about man-made global warming, interviews at the Republican retreat confirmed. Even so, state taxpayers may not know they fund political activism that not only advances “alarmist” theories, but works to silence, marginalize, and even criminalize dissent.
That much became apparent earlier this year when 20 taxpayer-funded academics from Virginia’s George Mason University and other public universities from across the country signed a letter to Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for criminal investigations of scientists and organizations that disagree with the administration’s position on global warming.
Shukla was the first of the 20 public employees to sign the letter to Obama calling for a probe of “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.”
They asked for the probes under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.
Also signing the so-called RICO 20’s letter were five of Shukla’s colleagues at George Mason University and academics from the University of Washington in Seattle, Rutgers University in New Jersey, the University of Maryland, Florida State University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Columbia University. All are publicly funded universities.
As previously reported by The Daily Signal, a U.S. House committee wants to know more about Shukla’s work and the relationship between taxpayer money received by the academics and their urging of Obama to use racketeering law to go after businesses and other groups that oppose his climate change agenda.
The India-born Shukla, 71, is the founder of the Rockville, Md.-based Institute of Global Environment and Society, a nonprofit that received $63 million in taxpayer funds since 2001, according to financial data first compiled by the Washington Free Beacon. The $63 million accounts for over 98 percent of his environmental institute’s revenue in that time.
Critics say Shukla broke the law governing nonprofit groups by calling for the RICO investigation. They say the professor also appears to have violated George Mason University’s stipulations against conflict of interest as well as rules for federal grant recipients who work for universities.
One such critic is Ron Arnold, who has written about Shukla and his environmental institute at LeftExposed.Org, a project of the Heartland Institute.
Shukla receives a six-figure salary at George Mason University. He and most of the other George Mason academics who signed the RICO 20’s letter did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request earlier this year for examples of scientific skeptics who “knowingly deceived” the public about the risks of global warming.
A George Mason spokesman also did not respond to requests for comment on whether the university had concerns about Shukla’s environmental institute and whether it was confident he operated within school guidelines.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, questioned Shukla in a letter and followed up with a separate letter to Shukla’s attorney asking for related financial documents.
Shukla’s environmental institute, Smith wrote to the professor, “appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activities by requesting a [federal] investigation of companies and organizations that disagree with the Obama administration on climate change.”
“Our staff has been in regular contact with GMU and Mr. Shukla’s attorney and are continuing to look into the matter,” a committee aide said in an email to The Daily Signal. “We don’t have anything to publicly report at this time.”
‘No Further Response’
Paul Dirmeyer is another of the six George Mason University professors who signed the RICO 20 letter. Dirmeyer is a meteorologist who researches the role of the land surface in the climate system.
“Some press reports have distorted what the letter stated and its context,” Dirmeyer said in an email to The Daily Signal. He said a blog post by Barry Klinger, another George Mason professor who signed the letter, “clarifies several points.”
“Further background that may answer your questions may be found in an article in Science or references therein,” Sirmeyer said in the email. “I will have no further response.”
The Virginia Institute for Public Policy describes its mission as promoting policies that uphold the rule of law and constitutional limited government.
Taylor, the organization’s president, said he faults the Republican Party for not doing more to dismantle incestuous relationships between academics and government agencies as well as similar arrangements that give rise to conflicts of interests, wasteful spending, and bloated bureaucracies that burden taxpayers.
“Every time the Republicans come to power they leave the infrastructure the Democrats put into place untouched,” Taylor said. “This way when the Democrats come back into power, they just pick up right where they left off.”
With the Virginia General Assembly set to convene its 2016 legislative session on Jan. 13, Marc Morano, editor of Climate Depot and producer of the new film “Climate Hustle,” said he sees an opportunity to push back against the infrastructure Taylor describes.
“Since George Mason is a state university, the relevant government oversight should be taken,” Morano said in an email to The Daily Signal. “What Shukla has done may be the tip of the iceberg.”
‘Politically Imposed Orthodoxy’
Like Wittman, the congressman running for governor, Morano sees federal funding corrupting the scientific process.
“The funding of climate and climate-related studies by the U.S. government are now fueled by studying man’s influence on climate,” Morano told The Daily Signal. “And the researcher had better not have in mind any notion of challenging the politically imposed orthodoxy that mankind is driving dangerous climate change.”
"Study after study seems to be just a series of models-based predictions of the future. In fact, they use model predictions to counter the current data, which shows mankind’s influence on climate is not even measurable. The prediction studies can claim ‘it is worse than we thought’ not because current data is showing that, but because predictions of 50 to 100 years out are now more dire and thus ‘worse than we thought.’
“If a scientist publishes something ‘off message’ from the warmist narrative, they quickly find out that their results are not welcome,” he said. “Renowned scientists like hurricane expert Dr. Bill Gray found out that when you challenge skepticism, your federal funding dries up.”
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., one of several Republican congressmen who addressed the Advance gathering, told The Daily Signal that the letter to Obama from Shukla and the other academics encourages action to thwart freedom of speech.
“I’m not real big on having investigations into what people think,” Forbes said. “We have the First Amendment. So let’s have a full, fair, open debate, and [let] the pieces fall where they may.”
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