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.”

He added:

"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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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Toon time

Another example of scientists getting it wrong

Even if 97% of scientists DID support global warming, it would not be very convincing.  Scientists have been getting it wrong at least since the phlogiston theory. Rejection of continental drift, peak oil, global cooling etc.  

In 1997, physicians in southwest Korea began to offer ultrasound screening for early detection of thyroid cancer. News of the programme spread, and soon physicians around the region began to offer the service. Eventually it went nationwide, piggybacking on a government initiative to screen for other cancers. Hundreds of thousands took the test for just US$30–50.

Across the country, detection of thyroid cancer soared, from 5 cases per 100,000 people in 1999 to 70 per 100,000 in 2011. Two-thirds of those diagnosed had their thyroid glands removed and were placed on lifelong drug regimens, both of which carry risks.

Such a costly and extensive public-health programme might be expected to save lives. But this one did not. Thyroid cancer is now the most common type of cancer diagnosed in South Korea, but the number of people who die from it has remained exactly the same — about 1 per 100,000. Even when some physicians in Korea realized this, and suggested that thyroid screening be stopped in 2014, the Korean Thyroid Association, a professional society of endocrinologists and thyroid surgeons, argued that screening and treatment were basic human rights.

In Korea, as elsewhere, the idea that the early detection of any cancer saves lives had become an unshakeable belief.

This blind faith in cancer screening is an example of how ideas about human biology and behaviour can persist among people — including scientists — even though the scientific evidence shows the concepts to be false. “Scientists think they're too objective to believe in something as folklore-ish as a myth,” says Nicholas Spitzer, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego. Yet they do.

These myths often blossom from a seed of a fact — early detection does save lives for some cancers — and thrive on human desires or anxieties, such as a fear of death. But they can do harm by, for instance, driving people to pursue unnecessary treatment or spend money on unproven products. They can also derail or forestall promising research by distracting scientists or monopolizing funding. And dispelling them is tricky.

Scientists should work to discredit myths, but they also have a responsibility to try to prevent new ones from arising, says Paul Howard-Jones, who studies neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol, UK. “We need to look deeper to understand how they come about in the first place and why they're so prevalent and persistent.”

Some dangerous myths get plenty of air time: vaccines cause autism, HIV doesn't cause AIDS. But many others swirl about, too, harming people, sucking up money, muddying the scientific enterprise — or simply getting on scientists' nerves.


Low oil prices mean few assets will be stranded


Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, in an exercise of warmist wishful thinking a few weeks ago, warned banks and by extension energy companies of the problem of “stranded” assets, left without value by environmental regulation. Naturally, this was just part of the threats and bluster designed to change behavior ahead of the Paris global warming conference. However I thought it worth considering whether the concept of stranded assets had any validity, and in what circumstances. My conclusion is that the stranded asset concept is valid but that current low energy prices greatly reduce their danger.

In essence, the concept of stranded assets is similar to the Austrian economic concept of “malinvestment.” In every economic cycle, some investments will be made which turn out in retrospect to have been a mistake. Those investments have to be liquidated at a loss or in some cases for no return at all, and the debt secured against them is generally lost.

There are three major reasons why malinvestment takes place. One is sheer bloody stupidity on the part of the investor, generally when a stock market or real estate bubble is in effect, pumped up by artificially easy money and low interest rates. A gigantic amount of malinvestment will undoubtedly have been caused by the zero interest rate policies of the Fed and other central banks since 2008. For example, the hotel sector has seen year after year of massive investment in new properties, with supply running far ahead of the most optimistic realistic projections for vacation and business travel demand.

Capitalism cannot work if the risk free real cost of capital is negative, because in that case any investment, even one with zero return, is attractive. As I discussed in an earlier piece when looking at the possibility of the Fed abolishing cash and pushing interest rates substantially negative, it would then be attractive to build ziggurats or other religious buildings with no monetary return and no resale value – you could live off the interest you received on the debt used to finance them.

A second form of malinvestment is that incurred when prices move dramatically and unexpectedly, as with the recent halving of oil prices. In this case, the investors are unlucky rather than stupid; if oil prices stay at $100 a barrel for several years, and everyone in the market has endless reasons why their future trend will be up, not down, then it is not necessarily foolish to make heavy investments in fracking opportunities that require an oil price of $70 per barrel to be viable. However the result is the same as if you had been foolish; if oil prices drop to $40 a barrel and stay there, as appears to have happened, then all that fracking investment has been wasted and needs to be removed from the market and written off.

The combination of these two forms of foolish and unlucky investment is currently causing severe problems in the junk bond market, which are likely to continue. Energy related investments that depended on $70 oil have neither value nor cash flow, and if they are dependent on fracking technology also have a relatively short lifespan, of around 18-24 months. Empty hotels produce a heavy cash flow drain, so will cause bond defaults pretty quickly. As bonds default, the value of other bonds goes down and bond mutual funds become more difficult to sell – we saw this dynamic play out with subprime mortgages in 2007. Consequently a junk bond market meltdown, in which the market seizes up altogether and credit becomes unavailable, is very likely at some point before the middle of 2017.

This is not however what Carney was talking about. The junk bond meltdown and massive financial panic that is shortly about to occur has not been deliberately caused by the world’s central banks; they are foolishly under the impression they have done all they can to avert it. On the other hand, Carney at least hopes that by dire warnings of “stranded assets” he can prevent energy companies from investing in fossil fuel projects, thus producing the carbon-free future the naïve little man imagines we ought to want. Like all government bureaucrats since the glory days of Gosplan, he hopes to prevent investment in areas he does not favor by warning potential investors of the costs of acquiring assets that cannot be utilized because of government regulation.

Energy companies considering new projects must therefore consider the probable future course of the world’s political/economic system, as well as the likely future trend in energy prices. If they believe today’s low prices are the new normal, then they probably won’t invest much in unconventional energy, developing only assets in which they have a lot of confidence, perhaps deep-sea assets in politically stable regions for which they have paid a great deal of money (probably too much, at current energy prices) for the leases. At low prices it is thus very unlikely that the oil companies will have much in the way of stranded assets; they will invest only modestly, so consumption will keep up with production, Even if an effective control or “carbon pricing” mechanism is introduced, the low-risk investments they are currently making are likely to pay their way so long as the oil deposits last.

The problem becomes more difficult if oil prices rise again (almost inevitable given the majors’ current reluctance to invest and Small Oil’s massive flirtation with bankruptcy.) In that event, investment projects will be more potentially profitable, but also located in more difficult areas and taking more time to come to fruition. These are the projects that can become stranded; if the regulators force down the use of oil by higher taxes or simple bullwhips, high-cost projects with heavy capital investment and long lives will become unviable, as it will become impossible to exploit them fully.

If prices rise, energy companies will have to engage in a two-pronged calculation: will prices stay high enough for the new investments to be profitable, and will the fad of global warming regulation last long enough for regulations against fossil fuel use to become effective.

The answers will differ depending on the project. For coal projects, the popular hatred for coal may just be sufficient to keep heavy regulations in force, whether or not the global warming problem is fashionable. Coal is in this sense like nuclear power; it can make a great deal of sense as an energy source but the political risk of hysterical reactions by a population driven mad by the media and by opportunistic politicians makes investment in it always a high-risk prospect. The only coal projects that are truly politically viable are those in countries like India and China, where the growth in energy demand is rapid and Western do-gooder politicians and regulators are even more unpopular than coal companies.

For oil and gas, on the other hand, the chances of Carney’s “stranding” appear pretty slim. If the world was not able to come up with binding climate change targets with the most environmentally committed President the U.S. has ever had or is ever likely to have, then it will be politically impossible to get the populace out of their petrol-driven cars, even if the ineffable Elon Musk brings down the cost of his alternative to say $40,000 before any subsidies. Budgetary constraints, which will increase exponentially after the next recession, will prevent the government from granting large enough electric car subsidies to overcome popular reluctance to spend that kind of money.

Accordingly, oil companies will continue to claim their product is essential (as indeed, it will be) and therefore politicians won’t be able to shut it down. Indeed, it seems likely that the Paris conference marked the point of “peak climate change” after which it becomes increasingly difficult to gain popular support for the increasingly Draconian regulations the Carneys of this world consider necessary. Energy companies (outside the coal sector) will be able to invest in full confidence that their assets can only be “stranded” by technological change, or by to the assets purchased being overpriced, either directly or in terms of the output they produce. The decision, in other words, will become once again a business one, of the type these highly analytical MBAs at the top are paid exorbitantly to take.

Mark Carney should concentrate on raising sterling interest rates, as far and quickly as possible; that is where his duty lies. Collapsing the British housing market is not a “bug” in this recommendation, it is a feature. The sooner real interest rates are again positive, and the detritus of regulation imposed in the last decade is swept away, the quicker will the global economy return to the rapid pace of growth which the world’s inhabitants demand. With rapid global growth and positive real interest rates, very few assets will be “stranded” either by Mr. Carney or by the market.


Days when wind farms run at 10% capacity: Union say figures show renewable energy cannot be relied upon and Britain needs nuclear and gas-powered energy plants

Wind turbines produced just 10 per cent of their energy capacity during almost a fortnight of the last three months, it was claimed yesterday.

Monitors tracking the energy generated from Britain's wind farms found 12 days when output dropped to 10 per cent of capacity or less, according to the GMB union.

It said its 'wind watch' figures demonstrated that Britain could not rely on renewable energy and needed nuclear or gas-powered plants to ensure its supply.

Britain has invested £1.25billion in wind power, which is now the country's biggest renewable energy source.

But critics have accused the Government and the National Grid of complacency over the risk of blackouts following the closure of coal-fired power stations.

A wind shortage last month (November) forced the National Grid to use new 'last resort' measures to keep the lights on in homes across the country on November 4.

Major industries were asked to down tools to protect energy supplies following high demand, power plant breakdowns and low wind power output.

At one point, wind farms were meeting only 0.5 per cent of the nation's electricity demand, compared to the average 10 per cent.

But in late November, dozens of wind turbines had to be switched off due to safety concerns when Storm Barney hit Britain.

Gusts of up to 85mph swept across the country, prompting fears they could overload the system or damage turbines.

The GMB, which supports more gas-fired power plants, said wind power produced 10 per cent or less of its energy capacity on 12 days during the three months from October 1 to December 21.

The figures related to wind farms connected to the national transmission system and not to turbines connected to local networks.

GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said: 'The renewables lobby has to face up to the need for a base load electricity capacity that is reliable and clean on the days that the wind does not blow and the sun doesn't shine.

'When your electricity supply has 'Gone with the Wind', the response of the renewable energy suppliers that 'Frankly my dear we don't give a damn' is just not acceptable.'

Industry body RenewableUK has insisted that wind power is a 'success story' for Britain, and generated 9.5 per cent of the UK's electricity from July to September, the last period for which figures were available.

Overall, 23.5 per cent of the UK's electricity for the same period was generated by renewable sources, including bioenergy, solar and hydro power.

RenewableUK and the Department of Energy and Climate Change did not respond to requests for comment on the GMB figures.

A National Grid spokeswoman said: 'A diverse mix of generation is essential to the national transmission network in terms of security of supply.'


Mission impossible

On climate change, curb your enthusiasm. It’s not that the recent international conference in Paris didn’t take significant steps to check global warming. It did. Nearly 200 countries committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from preindustrial times was reaffirmed. The trouble is that what’s being attempted is so fundamentally difficult that even these measures may be wildly unequal to the task.

What’s being attempted, of course, is the wholesale replacement of the world economy’s reliance on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) for four-fifths of its energy. To be sure, the shift is envisioned to take decades, four or five at a minimum. Still, the vast undertaking may exceed human capability.

Hence, a conundrum. Without energy, the world economy shuts down, threatening economic and social chaos. But the consequences of climate change, assuming the scientific consensus is accurate, are also grim — from rising sea levels (threatening coastal cities) to harsher droughts (reducing food supplies).

It’s useful to split the discussion into two parts. On the existence of human-driven warming, I accept the dominant scientific view, mainly because I’m not technically qualified to dispute it. But I have doubted that, without major breakthroughs in energy technology, we can do much about warming. The addiction to fossil fuels will triumph.

Paris confirms that view. Rather than show how much progress we’ve made, it demonstrates how little maneuvering room we have. Consider some estimates from IHS, a consulting company. In 2012, it reports, the world generated 45 gigatons of greenhouse gases, up 50 percent since 1990. Without new policies, that total would rise to 60 gigatons by 2030, IHS projects. But the national pledges made in Paris would hold the 2030 total to 50 gigatons. That’s good news, right? Well, not exactly.

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would require that emissions in 2030 drop to 35 gigatons, reckons IHS. So even with the Paris pledges, we’re about 40 percent above the goal. Moreover, IHS thinks that some pledged cuts won’t materialize. They are political gestures or depend on unproven technologies. There are no enforcement mechanisms.

True, renewable energy is expanding rapidly in the United States. In the next two years, the solar industry expects to double its installed U.S. capacity. In 2014, wind generation was up 51 percent from 2011, according to government figures. Moreover, costs are said to have fallen sharply. The wind industry puts its decline at 60 percent over the past four years; the solar industry reports a 70 percent drop since 2009.

But these achievements need to be qualified. For starters, renewables’ rapid growth comes off a tiny base. As a result, wind supplied only 4.4 percent of U.S. electricity in 2014. Solar’s contribution was smaller, about 1 percent; for 2020, the industry’s target is 3.5 percent. Global figures are lower. The Economist magazine puts renewables’ share of world energy production at 1 percent . The fact that wind and solar are heavily subsidized in the United States, through tax breaks, suggests that recent cost reductions haven’t yet made renewables competitive with other energy sources.

Another handicap is physics: Wind and solar generate electricity only when the sun shines or the wind blows. They need backup power supplies. This hasn’t been (so far) a big problem in the United States, because we have many “base” power plants — typically fueled by coal and natural gas — that can provide backup. Developing countries are another story. Seeking to reduce their poverty, they need more bulk power, says Robert Bryce, an energy expert at the Manhattan Institute. They have favored coal.

Despite Paris, we haven’t acknowledged the difficulties of grappling with climate change, whose extent and timing are uncertain. We invent soothing fantasies to simplify matters. The notion that the world can wean itself from fossil fuels by substituting renewables is one of these. The potential isn’t large enough.

Actual choices are harder. For example, Bryce argues that only an expansion of nuclear power could replace significant volumes of fossil fuels. But greater reliance on nuclear poses its own dangers, including the disposal of atomic waste, operational accidents and vulnerability to terrorism.

It’s true that technological breakthroughs could change this. We know what’s needed: cheaper and safer nuclear power; better batteries and energy storage, boosting wind and solar by making more of their power usable; cost-effective carbon capture and storage — making coal more acceptable by burying its carbon dioxide in the ground.

We have been searching for solutions for decades with only modest success. We need to keep searching, but without meaningful advances, regulating the world’s temperature is mission impossible.


El Niño is causing 'see-saw' weather: Fewer hurricanes formed in the Atlantic this year, but the Pacific was a hotbed for storms

El Niño dampened this year's Atlantic hurricane season while simultaneously creating conditions for powerful hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean.

This is according to a new study has found that an El Niño in the Pacific Ocean almost always hampers hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean–sometimes by as much as 50 per cent.

This year, only 11 named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic Basin, with four transforming into hurricanes.

In contrast, there were 18 named storms forming in the eastern Pacific this year and 14 named storms in the central Pacific.

El Niño is caused by a shift in the distribution of warm water in the Pacific Ocean around the equator.

Usually the wind blows strongly from east to west, due to the rotation of the Earth, causing water to pile up in the western part of the Pacific.

This pulls up colder water from the deep ocean in the eastern Pacific.

However, in an El Niño, the winds pushing the water get weaker and cause the warmer water to shift back towards the east. This causes the eastern Pacific to get warmer.

But as the ocean temperature is linked to the wind currents, this causes the winds to grow weaker still and so the ocean grows warmer, meaning the El Niño grows.

This change in air and ocean currents around the equator can have a major impact on the weather patterns around the globe by creating pressure anomalies in the atmosphere

An El Niño occurs when warm waters in the Pacific Ocean influences weather patterns around the world.

Researchers in Texas considered two distinct types of El Niño: a Central Pacific, also known as 'warm pool' El Niño; and East Pacific or 'cold tongue' El Niño.

'During both El Niño types, Atlantic hurricane seasons tend to become less active,' says Christina Patricola of Texas A&M University.

'This happens because the unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean leads to a shift in the typical location of deep convection (intense rainstorms), which in turn impacts high-level winds, causing greater wind shear which leads to unfavourable conditions for storms to develop.

'We also found that under the right conditions, in particular strong warming of the central Pacific, El Niño can suppress hurricane activity by as much as 50 per cent compared to normal conditions.'

Patricola and colleagues also found that the reverse can happen in other locations creating a 'see-saw' weather scenario.

She said a strong El Niño can produce more frequent hurricanes in the eastern North Pacific.

'This year is an excellent example of that,' she adds. 'Very strong El Niño conditions in 2015 contributed to the second most active hurricane season ever recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

'So while an El Niño can help reduce hurricane impacts in the Atlantic basin, impacts can be much worse over the eastern North Pacific basin.'

Patricola says the findings, published in Nature Geoscience, could help improve seasonal and climate change forecasts.

'Our study gives us a more general understanding of how El Niño and its variations in location and intensity, influence hurricane seasons in both the Atlantic and eastern Pacific,' she points out.

'In essence, we found that strong El Niño events that occur over the warmer locations of the Pacific drive the greatest changes in Western Hemisphere hurricane seasons.

Thirty major hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones occurred in the northern hemisphere in 2015; the previous record was 23 (set in 2004).

Twenty-five of those storms reached category 4 or 5, well beyond the previous record of 18.

In the Atlantic, tropical storm Ana formed in early May off the southeastern coast of the United States, well before the June 1 start of hurricane season.

But the months that followed were relatively quiet, with 11 named storms, four hurricanes—the second year in a row below the 1981-2010 median—and no major storms making landfall.

Yet one storm, Fred, became the easternmost hurricane on record in the Atlantic, lashing the Cabo Verde islands in September.

In November, Hurricane Kate hit The Bahamas, becoming one of the latest storms ever recorded in the islands.

The waters of the eastern Pacific warmed significantly in 2015 with the arrival of a potent El Niño.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the region was stirred by 18 named storms and 13 hurricanes, nine of them major—the most since reliable records were started in 1971.

Fueled by warm air and sea temperatures, Patricia grew rapidly into the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, with wind gusts approaching 200 miles (320 km) per hour and air pressure at 879 millibars.

But as research meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University noted, one of the biggest stories was the amount of activity in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

In the region above the equator from 140 to 180 degrees western latitude—the North Central Pacific—14 named storms and eight hurricanes formed or moved into the region.

Five of this year's storms reached category 3 or above (major), eclipsing the previous record of three.

At one point in August, three major hurricanes spun through the region east of the International Date Line at the same time, the first time any meteorologist has seen such activity.

'The 2015 season broke pretty much every prior record for that portion of the Northeast Pacific basin,' Klotzbach said.

'That portion of the basin had record-warm sea surface temperatures and record-low vertical wind shear, a prime combination for hurricane intensification and maintenance.'

'El Niño produces a see-saw effect, suppressing the Atlantic season while strengthening the eastern and central Pacific hurricane seasons,' noted Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, in a press release.

'El Niño intensified into a strong event during the summer and significantly impacted all three hurricane seasons during their peak months.'

Vertical wind shear was particularly strong in the Atlantic, cutting down storm systems before they could organize.

In the Central Pacific, the wind shear was the weakest on record, leaving nothing to stop the evolution of hurricanes and typhoons.

In the western Pacific, near Asia and the islands of Oceania, the season was noteworthy not for the total number of storms, but for the number of intense ones.

Fifteen typhoons grew to category 3 strength or higher in 2015, tying records set in 1958 and 1965. El Niño plays a different role in the western Pacific because slight decreases in water temperatures and wind fields push storm formation farther to the east, Klotzbach explained.

This allows the storms more time to intensify as they move from east to west with prevailing winds.



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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

China is officially Warmist

Mainly because they are desperate to get their appalling particulate air pollution down.  So they are trying all alternatives to coal -- with nukes the big alternative

Chinese scientists have published two alarming reports in a matter of weeks. Both conclude that the Himalayan glaciers and the Tibetan permafrost are succumbing to catastrophic climate change, threatening the water systems of the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Mekong.

The Tibetan plateau is the world’s "third pole", the biggest reservoir of fresh water outside the Arctic and Antarctica. The area is warming at twice the global pace, making it the epicentre of global climate risk.

One report was by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The other was a 900-page door-stopper from the science ministry, called the “Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change”.

The latter is the official line of the Communist Party. It states that China has already warmed by 0.9-1.5 degrees over the past century – higher than the global average - and may warm by a further five degrees by 2100, with effects that would overwhelm the coastal cities of Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. The message is that China faces a civilizational threat.

Whether or not you accept the hypothesis of man-made global warming is irrelevant. The Chinese Academy and the Politburo do accept it. So does President Xi Jinping, who spent his Cultural Revolution carting coal in the mining region of Shaanxi. This political fact is tectonic for the global fossil industry and the economics of energy.

Until last Saturday, it was an article of faith among Western climate sceptics and some in the fossil industry that China would never sign up to the COP21 accord in Paris or accept the "ratchet" of five-year reviews.

They have since fallen back to a second argument, claiming that the deal is meaningless because China will not sacrifice coal-driven growth to please the West, and without China the accord unravels since it now emits as much CO2 as the US and Europe combined.

This political judgment was perhaps plausible three or four years ago in the dying days of the Hu Jintao era. Today it is clutching at straws.

Eight of the world’s biggest solar companies are Chinese. So is the second biggest wind power group, GoldWind. China invested $90bn in renewable energy last year and is already the superpower of low-carbon industries. It installed more solar in the first quarter than currently exists in France.

The Chinese plan to build six to eight nuclear plants every year, reaching 110 by 2030. They intend to lever this into worldwide nuclear dominance, as we glimpsed from the Hinkley Point saga.

Home-grown energy is central to Xi Jinping's drive for strategic security. China's leaders know what happened to Japan under Roosevelt's energy embargo in the late 1930s, and they don't trust the sea lanes for supplies of coal and liquefied natural gas. Nor do they relish reliance on Russian gas.

Isabel Hilton from China Dialogue says the energy shift has reached a point where Beijing has a vested commercial interest in holding the world to the Paris deal. “The Chinese think they can dominate low-carbon technologies,” she said.

This is why they feel confident enough to forge ahead with a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions in 2017, covering more CO2 than all of the world's 40 existing schemes put together.

China is changing fast. The energy intensity of Chinese GDP is in freefall as Xi Jinping tries to wean the economy off primitive metal-bashing and move up the technology ladder.

The "tertiary sector" has jumped from 42pc to 51pc of the economy since 2007, taking the baton as the Party starts to tackle vast swathes of excess capacity in steel, cement and shipbuilding.

It comes at a time when the cost curve for renewables has fallen far enough to make the post-carbon switch economically painless. "The average cost of global solar was $400 a megawatt/hour worldwide in 2010. It fell to $130 in 2014, and now it has fallen below $60 in the best locations. Almost nobody could have imagined this six years ago," said Mark Lewis from Barclays.

China installed a record 23 gigawatts (GW) of windpower in 2014. It did so because wind is quick and cheap. Lazard calculates that the "levelized cost" of unsubsidized onshore wind has dropped 61pc globally, thanks to smart software, better blades and higher turbines that catch the sweet spot. It thinks wind now undercuts coal and gas, and by a wide margin in optimal spots.

Specifically, the levelized cost has fallen "well below" coal in Jilin, Jiangsu and Zhejiang with new turbines, according to a study by the North China Electric Power University.


Will Global Warming Heat Us Beyond Our Physical Limits?

The report below is a little less frank than one in "New Scientist" on the same topic recently.  It did not for instance say how many degrees of global warming were assumed in the MIT study.  So I will say again what I said a couple of months ago about the MIT study:

This is a typical bit of brainlessness from the Warmists.  They assume a very high global temperature rise (4 degrees) and calculate from that a wet-bulb temperature in the Gulf states of 35 degrees, which they say would make life impossible in the Gulf.  They then inform us that Gulf temperatures already run as high as 34.6.  But these things all operate on a continuum so if 35 is fatal, 34.6 should be extremely stressful too and more vulnerable people should start dying off at that point.  Yet there is no claim of that.  Half the Hajjis were not wiped out this year.

Clearly the 35 figure is just a theoretical one divorced from reality.  And I know from my own early life in the tropics that heat-adaptation does occur in humans.  The wet-bulb temperatures I experienced in Cairns would have been close to those recorded in the Gulf but we all just went about our business pretty much as usual.  We just took it a bit easy and drank a lot of beer. A cold beer on a hot day is one of life's great pleasures.  But our heat adaptation betrays us when we move away from the tropics.  A temperature that a Scot would experience as a pleasant summer's day becomes to us quite chilly

If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, rising temperatures and humidity wrought by global warming could expose hundreds of millions of people worldwide to potentially lethal heat stress by 2060, a new report suggests.

The greatest exposure will occur in populous, tropical regions such as India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. But even in the northeastern United States, as many as 30 million people might be exposed at least once a year to heat that could be lethal to children, the elderly, and the sick, according to the new study.

It’s the first study to look at future heat stress on a global basis, says Ethan Coffel, a PhD candidate in atmospheric sciences at Columbia University, who presented the results on Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Coffel and his colleagues used climate models and population projections to estimate how many people could face dangerous heat in 2060—assuming that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise sharply on a “business-as-usual” course.

The findings are based on forecasts of “wet bulb” temperatures, in which a wet cloth is wrapped around a thermometer bulb. Whereas standard thermometer readings measure air temperature, a wet bulb measures the temperature of a moist surface that has been cooled as much as possible by evaporation.

That reading depends on both the heat and the humidity of the surrounding air. It’s generally much lower than the dry-bulb temperature, and it’s a better indicator of the humid heat that humans and other large mammals find hardest to deal with.

The normal temperature inside the human body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius. Human skin is typically at 35°C. When the wet-bulb temperature of the air exceeds that level, it becomes physically impossible for the body to shed its own metabolic heat and cool itself, especially by evaporating sweat. Even a fit individual would be expected to die from such heat within six hours.

Today, even in Earth’s hottest, muggiest spots, the wet-bulb temperature does not rise above 31°C. (The highest dry-bulb temperature ever recorded is 56.7°C, or 134°F.)

But a study published in October by MIT researchers found that by 2100, in Persian Gulf cities such as Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the 35°C threshold of human survival may occasionally be exceeded—again, assuming that greenhouse emissions continue to rise unabated.
Where Heat, Humidity, and People Intersect

In practice, wet-bulb temperatures below the 35°C threshold are dangerous for children, the elderly, people with heart or lung problems—or anybody actively working outside. By the 2060s, according to Coffel and his colleagues, 250 million people could be experiencing 33°C at least once a year. As many as 700 million could be exposed to 32°C. For many people, those conditions could be lethal.

“You have a large portion of the world that’s very densely populated and potentially at risk,” says Coffel. “Populations which right now work primarily outdoors and have very little access to air conditioning. It’s hard to function outdoors in those kinds of temperatures.”

The MIT study concluded that wet-bulb temperatures of 32°C or 33°C could be expected to arise later this century in Mecca, for example, where they might sometimes coincide with the Hajj, when millions of pilgrims pray outdoors all day long.

But as rising temperatures push more moisture into the atmosphere, particularly near warming oceans, spells of extreme heat and humidity will become more frequent and intense in many parts of the world. Even residents of cities like New York and London could encounter future temperatures that are near the limits of what their bodies can tolerate, according to the Columbia researchers.

“Local ocean temperatures can be a really big driver for the extent of these high heat and humidity events,” says co-author Radley Horton of Columbia. “How far inland away from the coasts will we see some of these really deadly high heat and humidity events penetrate? Will this impact where people are able to live?”

Bryan Jones, a postdoctoral fellow at the City University of New York who also studies future heat exposures but was not part of the Columbia study, said its “projections of exposure to extreme heat stress seem very reasonable. In fact, they may even be conservative, depending on how populations in West Africa, India, and Southeast Asia are distributed in the coming decades.”
Heat Is Already A Big Killer

Heat already kills more people than any other form of extreme weather. In the past decade, heat waves that featured wet-bulb temperatures between 29°C and 31°C have caused tens of thousands of deaths in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.

Last summer more than 2,300 died from extreme heat in India, where air temperatures reached 122°F. High humidity and temperatures topping 116°F also proved deadly in Egypt this year. And work stopped for several summer days in Iraq while thermometers hovered around 120°F.

Air conditioning protects those who have access to it and can afford it. The spread of high-heat-stress events is likely to produce a surge in demand, says Horton. Air conditioners don’t function as efficiently in humid conditions, however—and as long as the electricity for them is generated with fossil fuels, they add to the underlying problem.

The other approach to coping with dangerous heat, Coffel says, is “reorganizing your society, like when you work outside, like giving people the day off when it’s hot.”

Neither air-conditioning nor staying inside is an option for other large mammals, which are affected by climbing heat and humidity in much the same way as humans. The impact on them is a “wild card,” says Horton. Little research has been done.


Vatican rumblings

If the Pope wants his teaching on global warming to be regarded as authoritative, he should declare it to be infallible.  That would put the cat among the pigeons.  He could do so but he has not

A heated exchange regarding global warming and magisterial teaching between a top Vatican official and various other presenters ended a December 3 Acton Institute conference in Rome.  Argentinean Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, a close advisor to Pope Francis and the Chancellor of both the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences stressed that the pope’s declarations on the gravity of global warming as expressed in the encyclical Laudato Si’ are magisterial teaching equivalent to the teaching that abortion is sinful.

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the founder of Ignatius Press who obtained his doctorate in theology under Joseph Ratzinger prior to his elevation to the pontificate, told LifeSiteNews, “Neither the pope nor Bishop Sorondo can speak on a matter of science with any binding authority, so to use the word ‘magisterium’ in both cases is equivocal at best, and ignorant in any case.” Fr. Fessio added, “To equate a papal position on abortion with a position on global warming is worse than wrong; it is an embarrassment for the Church.”

The conference, "In Dialogue with Laudato Si': Can Free Markets Help Us Care for Our Common Home?" was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross with over 200 attendees including members of the media, professors, and students of the Pontifical Universities.

The controversy was sparked when in his address Bishop Sorondo spoke of “global warming” saying that in Laudato Si “for the first time in the Magisterium” Pope Francis “denounces the scientifically identifiable causes of this evil, declaring that: ‘a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity.’” He repeated the point later, saying, “faith and reason, philosophical knowledge and scientific knowledge, are brought together for the first time in the pontifical Magisterium in Laudato Si'."

These points were contradicted in the presentation by Acton Institute founder and President Father Robert Sirico who said it is “important to underscore the distinction between the theological dimension of Laudato si’ and its empirical, scientific, and economic claims.” He explained, “The Church does not claim to speak with the same authority on matters of economics and science… as it does when pronouncing on matters of faith and morals.”

Quoting the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine to support his point, Fr. Sirico said: “Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic or social order; the purpose he assigned to her was a religious one.  . . . This means that the Church does not intervene in technical questions with her social doctrine, nor does she propose or establish systems or models of social organization. This is not part of the mission entrusted to her by Christ” (CCSD 68).

Father Joseph Fessio: “To equate a papal position on abortion with a position on global warming is worse than wrong; it is an embarrassment for the Church.”

When asked in a question and answer period that concluded the conference about the weight of the pope’s opinions regarding global warming in Laudato Si’, Bishop Sorondo distinguished between infallible statements and statements of the pope’s “Ordinary Magisterium.”  The distinction is important because ex-cathedra statements are in Catholic teaching “infallible” or never in error and require absolute adherence by all Catholics, while some of those in the “Ordinary Magisterium” could be in error but nonetheless teachings to which Catholics should submit “in mind and will.”

However, even asserting Pope Francis’ reflections on global warming in Laudato Si’ are part of his Ordinary Magisterium would propose a grave challenge to all those scientists who have asserted global warming is a hoax.

Comparing the Pope’s teaching on global warming to the Church’s teaching on abortion, Bishop Sorondo said the “judgement must be considered Magisterium – it is not an opinion.”

“It is under Ordinary Magisterium,” he explained, “that abortion is a grievous sin – this is Ordinary Magisterium because there is not the revelation of it.” So there is an assumption of “moral doctrine,” he continued, that even though the majority opinion is contrary, we accept that “abortion is a grievous sin” is Magisterium.

This led to a heated exchange with panel presenters at the conference, especially journalist Riccardo Cascioli, who objected to the suggestion that Catholics must submit to pronouncements on “scientific theories” rather than “faith and morals.”

Sorondo retorted by saying, “When the Pope has assumed this, it is Magisterium of the Church whether you like it or not -- it is the Magisterium of the Church just as abortion is a grievous sin – equal (it is the same)…  it is Magisterium of the Church... whether you like it or not.”

Pope Francis in Laudato Si’, says, “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” and that he seeks to “encourage an honest and open debate” (para 188). Nevertheless Bishop Sorondo seemed to oppose the contestability of global warming theories.

When Cascioli suggested Catholics could follow their consciences on the theoretical scientific matters, Sorondo rejoined, “If you were a scientist and had a serious (difference of) opinion,” then you could follow your conscience, “but since you are a journalist it is better you follow the opinion of the Pope!” Cascioli reminded the bishop that he too was not a scientist, to which Sorondo replied, “But I am in the Academy of Science of the Pope.”

When Fr. Sirico suggested that there are other experts or scientists with different opinions on the matter of global warming, Sorondo fired back, “But don’t follow them, follow these.  Just like in philosophy, there are many philosophers.. But the Magisterium of the Church follows the philosophy of the being, the person. There are many who say the person does not exist – the Pope does not follow them.... I say it is Magisterium.”

Fr. Fessio was unabashed in his criticism. “Bishop Sorondo is unknown to me, and – judging by this statement – eminently worthy of that ignorance,” he commented. “The best I can say of his remarks is that they seem to have been unprepared.”


Chilling climate of UN control


Like ancient Druids pleading with the gods for good seasons, world leaders and their aides recently devoted a fortnight in Paris to pleading with each other to stop global temperatures from rising more than an average 2C above pre-industrial levels, when the Earth was emerging from the Little Ice Age.

Of the 196 nations represented at the COP21 conference, 154 were developing economies. Regardless of the direction of world temperatures, they left Paris happy that the UN’s Green Climate Fund, which aims to reach $US100 billion a year by 2020, will give them cash for anything they can pass off as remotely ­related to their intended national contributions to world CO2 ­reduction. They argue this is only fair. Poor countries fare worst from climate change and must be compensated for unspecified damage and their share of repairing the West’s legacy. You can bet $US100bn a year won’t do it.

Overwhelmingly, the money for the fund will come from 42 guilt-racked wealthy nations. That is their moral responsibility. They caused the warming. They threaten the planet. It’s time for them to repay their climate debts.

It matters not that there is no empirical scientific evidence to support these claims. Even the 2C target is not based on science, it was originally plucked out of thin air by the European People’s Party for election purposes. But then climate change is not about credible scientific evidence. It has its roots in Marxism, and ultimately the Green Fund is presided over by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, run by Costa Rican Marxist Christiana Figueres. The “paradigm-shifting” fund will provide employment for an army of green bureaucrats who will offer “concessional finance” for the development needs of less advanced countries.

China, the leading emitter, venting one billion tonnes of CO2 a year more than it admits to, has been adroit in dealing with the politics. It approaches its domestic air quality crisis under the banner of climate action and so turns a domestic necessity into a global virtue. From this and its lack of interest in aid for itself, China projects moral authority and, while there is no cap on its emissions and only a promise that they will peak by 2030, promotes emission restraints for others, for its own competitive advantage.

India has adopted a similar line. The world’s third largest emitter is set to overtake China. It will not accept constraints on ­development and does not spell out when emissions will peak. Like China, it will adopt cleaner energy to improve air quality and will claim UN compensation.

Having successfully captured the West, post-Paris, the noose will tighten. Despite assurances that intended nationally determined contributions, delivered before the conference, would keep temperature increases to no more than 2C, we are now told that even if fully implemented, temperatures will rise by 2.7C by 2100. So the Paris agreement will “only lay the groundwork” and all those hard-won pledges were based on a miscalculation.

How disappointing. But there is now an aspirational 1.5C ambition on the table that Figueres quickly endorsed. Should it ever be agreed to, expect more ambit claims. And without a Tony ­Abbott in Canberra or a Stephen Harper in Ottawa, no world leader utters a peep in protest.

Caught in a moral dilemma of its own making, the developed world concedes its culpability. Its representatives succumb to propaganda and bullying and credulously accept bogus science and catastrophism. They pay no heed to alternative views. They consider abandoning fossil fuels, the world’s cheapest, most ­efficient and wealth-creating power source, and baulk at ­nuclear alternatives.

Instead, they pour hundreds of billions of dollars into costly, ­­in-efficient renewable energy, robbing their industries of flexibility and competitiveness and, punishing the world’s poorest citizens.

Indeed, Western capitalist societies have given up on rational thinking. They embrace junk ­science and junk economics and adopt wealth-destroying postmodern pseudo-economics, which teaches that taxpayer subsidies can produce desirable “economic transformation” and faster growth. Pigs may also fly.

Climate change has cowed once great powers into meekly surrendering sovereignty and independent thought to unelected bureaucrats in Geneva. From the White House to the Lodge, private choice now runs a distant second to collectivist visions.

Although only an aspiration now, the 1.5C target will be relentlessly pursued until adopted. The media, in step with the Green ­Machine, will bombard us with climate alarmism to the applause of the leader of the free world, Barack Obama, who says: “My mission is to make the world aware that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism.” ­Really? That’s serious. Clearly authority, not common sense or science, now rules the world.

While some activists such as James Hansen may criticise the Paris agreement as “worthless words”, those such as Figueres, interested in reconfiguring the world’s political and economic structure, will be pleased with progress. We are another step closer to her ideal of ‘‘centralised transformation”, with the UN at the authoritarian centre, calling the shots and doling out transfer payments from the rich to ensure poor countries remain her ­mendicants. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says: “If we really want to put an end to global poverty, if we really want to make the world healthier and planet Earth environmentally sustainable, we have first to address the climate change issue.”

The only certainty to come out of COP21 is that there will be a COP22.


Are Record Breaking Christmas Temperatures Proof of Global Warming?

It’s not every year that New Yorkers get to experience Christmas in a t-shirt. This year, New Yorkers, as well as others on the United States east coast got to experience some of the warmest Christmas temperatures on record.

Are these record breaking Christmas temperatures proof of global warming or simply a fluke of nature? According to CNN, some meteorologists have referred to these unusually warm December temperature patterns as the “blowtorch.”

National Geographic attributes the warmer than usual Christmas temperatures to El Nino and climate change. El Niño, which is the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, tends to bring with it more moisture and warmer than usual air temperatures. Some experts state that the same El Niño air patterns that are bringing warm weather to the east coast are also responsible for the heavy snow in areas like Denver.

As of last week, December alone already brought over 2,600 record high temperatures along the east coast, and even more are expected before ringing in the New Year. Accuweather reported that some locations across the southeast and up to New England have broken their previous record temperatures by 10 degrees or more.

“One of the most impressive records on Christmas Eve occurred in Burlington, Vermont, when the city set their all-time December high temperature. New York City and Baltimore are some of the cities that could break records yet again on Sunday before a cold front washes away the warmth,” said Brian Lada, an AccuWeather Meteorologist.

On Christmas Day, five locations around New York shattered previous Christmas day temperature records. It’s reported that some people were even playing volleyball in Central Park; something that is completely unheard of for winter in New York.

According the New York Times, the unusually warm Christmas weather interfered with typical Christmas traditions, as New Yorkers traded snowmen and ice skating for ice cream and summer sports.

The only location across the northeast that reported a white Christmas was northern Maine with about an inch of snow. Yet, some are still skeptical to attribute the heat wave to global warming and climate change.

The blog Real Science stated their opposition to the global warming argument by saying, “Christmas Eve 1955 was much warmer. Three-fourths of the country was over 60 degrees, and Ashland Kansas, Geary Oklahoma and Encinal Texas were all over 90 degrees. Fort Lauderdale was 85 degrees. Last winter, the East Coast had record cold. That was ignored because it was ‘less than 1% of the Earth.’ But this week, the Eastern US defines the global climate.”

Meanwhile, alternative news site Common Dreams explained that the correlation between El Niño, climate change and global warming often gets muddied, but that global warming is a factor in the record breaking December temperatures.

Erika Spanger-Siegfried senior analyst in the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “2015 is the hottest year on record by a wide margin, topping 2014. 2014 became the hottest year even in the absence of El Niño. We’re climbing the stairs, picking up pace, and taking some two at a time. So. Whatever we want to call December’s freakishly warm weather, whatever we’re tempted to call the punishing cold and snow that could follow, we ought not to leave out the global warming propping it all up.”


Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce Sue EPA Over Its New Ozone Rule

The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the EPA over its revised ozone rule, calling it “unworkable and overly burdensome.”

In October, the EPA changed the standard for ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion, which was set in 2008, to 70 parts per billion.

“The EPA’s ozone regulation, which could be one of the most expensive in history, is unworkable and overly burdensome for manufacturers and America’s job creators," said Linda Kelly, NAM's senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement. "Manufacturers across the United States need regulations that provide balance and allow us to be globally competitive."

The Chamber of Commerce agreed.

“The EPA has created a web of regulations that makes it almost impossible for businesses to succeed in this already tough economic climate,” said William Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, reports The Hill.

NAM led the charge against the ozone rule while the EPA was considering updating the standard. The group commissioned a report saying that a standard of 65 parts per billion — which the EPA had considered — could cost up to $1.1 trillion to implement.
The EPA and the rule’s supporters have questioned those analyses, and have said the rule will help improve public health. Green groups and health organizations, though, have criticized the rule for not going far enough toward cutting down smog.

NMA and the Chamber of Commerce are just the latest groups suing the EPA over the revised rule. Murray Energy Corp., a coal company, and five states—Arkansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Arizona—also filed lawsuits shortly after the rule was announced in the fall.



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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Monday, December 28, 2015

British Greenies need instructions on how to open a door!

At least their bosses think they do

Civil servants have been given a safety guide that instructs them how to use doors after a shocking 14 members of staff  were hurt walking through them in five years.

A step-by-step memo was sent to 2,440 people at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, run by energy secretary Amber Rudd.

The vital instructions include 'open the door slowly' and if the door has a 'vision panel' look through to 'judge if there's someone on the other side'.

The guide was issued because of the number of accidents staff had experienced in recent years.

However,  it has left others raising their eyebrows, with criticism over it being a waste of time and resources.

Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'This is patronising rubbish of the highest order and proof that there remains plenty of fat to trim at Whitehall departments.

'Families facing huge bills because of green taxes this department is responsible for will be appalled to see their money wasted like this.

'Perhaps it's those responsible for producing this 'advice' who should be shown how to use the door.'


Government’s Gold King whitewash

Double standards and pollution continue, while the feds exonerate themselves from blame

Paul Driessen

When a private citizen or company violates rules, misrepresents facts or pollutes a river, government penalties are swift and severe. It’s different when the government lies or screws up.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell testified before Congress on a toxic spill that federal and state agencies unleashed into western state rivers last August. Supervised by officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS), an Environmental Restoration (ER) company crew excavated tons of rock and debris that had blocked the portal (entrance or adit) to the Gold King Mine above Silverton, Colorado.

The crew kept digging until the remaining blockage burst open, spilling 3,000,000 gallons of acidic water laden with iron, lead, cadmium, mercury and other heavy metals. The toxic flood contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers, all the way to Lake Powell in Utah. EPA then waited an entire day before notifying downstream mayors, health officials, families, kayakers, fishermen, farmers and ranchers that the water they were drinking, paddling in, or using for crops and livestock was contaminated.

Ms. Jewell told Congress she was unaware of anyone being fired, fined or even demoted. In fact, federal investigations and reports didn’t hold anyone responsible for the disaster. (Maybe they even got bonuses.) Considering the spill’s severity, the gross incompetence of government officials, their advance knowledge of the dangers, and the way they downplayed and whitewashed their actions, this is intolerable.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did say she was “absolutely, deeply sorry.” But then FEMA denied disaster relief to the Navajos, and EPA sent them emergency water tanks contaminated with oil!

As I explained in a detailed analysis, experts had warned that contaminated water had probably backed up hundreds of feet upward into the mine, creating the risk of a sudden, powerful toxic flashflood. EPA, DRMS and ER’s prior experience with nearby mines meant they personally knew the high risks in advance. In a June 2014 work plan for the planned cleanup, ER itself had warned: “Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.”

Yet they went ahead, with no emergency plans for dealing with a toxic spill. They didn’t even follow their own ill-conceived plan. As the contamination moved downstream, they claimed they had simply “miscalculated” how much water had backed up and insisted they had been “very careful.” Barely a week after the spill, Ms. McCarthy said the river is “restoring itself” to “pre-spill conditions” – something she would never say if a privately owned company had caused similar contamination.

On August 24, EPA issued a preliminary report that can only be called a Tom Sawyer whitewash, designed to absolve the perpetrators of any blame, liability, civil penalty or criminal prosecution.

It says the state and federal personnel at Gold King were “senior mining experts” and “experienced professionals” who have “extensive experience with the investigation and closure of mines.” But their names were all redacted from the summary, and their actions strongly suggest that they had little training or experience in reopening mines or dealing with possible water impoundments and toxic spills.

The EPA/DRMS determination that there was “no or low mine water pressurization” at Gold King was supposedly based on actual observations. However, the EPA review team said it “was not able to identify any calculations made on the possible volume of water that could be held behind the portal plug.”

In fact, the “professionals” simply claimed ongoing mine drainage showed that a pressure buildup was not likely. Wrong. It simply showed that the compacted overburden was able to hold back an enormous volume of water – until they destroyed its structural integrity. They also said a similar excavation at a nearby mine “did not result in a blowout.” But that’s irrelevant. Every mine is unique and must be treated as if a worst-case scenario could unfold. The other mine didn’t have serious water backup; Gold King did.

Perhaps the most blatant example of self-serving excuses is on page 7, which says in relevant part:

“Mine water pressurization data from behind the blockage potentially could have been obtained through a drill hole inserted further back into the [Gold King] Adit from above the mine tunnel. Such a technique was … not used at the [Gold King] Adit [because it] would have been very difficult and expensive … and require much more planning and multiple field seasons to accomplish. Although difficult and therefore expensive and technically challenging, this procedure may have been able to discover the pressurized conditions that turned out to cause the blowout.” [emphasis added]

In truth, the crew could easily have drilled a borehole lined with steel pipe from above the portal into an area behind the blockage, and then used simple instruments to determine the water pressure and extent of water backup, before beginning to dig. They had done this elsewhere and at could have done it at Gold King for less than $75,000, experienced miners told me. It was not “technically challenging.”

These “experienced professionals” guessed but did not test. They simply assumed there was limited water in the mine, and charged blindly ahead. And they did it after bullying their way onto the Gold King premises by threatening its owner with $35,000 per day in fines if he did not allow them on his property.

Their actions were grossly negligent. In fact, they are criminal offenses under the Clean Water Act and other laws that the government routinely uses to fine and jail private citizens and company employees, such as John Pozsgai, Bill Ellen, and employees of Freedom Industries and the Pacific & Arctic Railway. None of these “convicted felons” intended to cause those accidents, and all were “absolutely, deeply sorry” for what happened. Why should the state and federal culprits be treated any differently – get off scot free – after causing far worse environmental damage?

Before the blowout, the Gold King Mine was leaking 206 gallons of acidic, metals-laden but mostly clear water per minute in 2010, 140 gpm in 2011, 13 in August 2014 and 112 in September 2014, just before EPA first began working at the mine portal. On August 5, 2015, it flash-flooded more than 3,000,000 gallons of turmeric-orange, toxic-sludge-laden pollution.

The mine is now leaking 500-900 gallons per minute: 720,000 to 1,300,000 gallons per day – a huge increase in pollution into these important waterways. Until winter set in, most of it was finally being treated before entering Cement Creek, the Animas River and downstream waters.

So we must ask, what was the emergency that “forced” the EPA and DRMS to return to Gold King, demand immediate access to the site – and proceed in such a hasty, negligent manner? Unfortunately, this incident and the whitewashing that followed is too typical of government agencies that have become increasingly dictatorial, unaccountable, and dismissive of other interests, outside expertise, and people’s needs for jobs, minerals, energy and quality living standards.

Today, throughout the Rocky Mountain region, waters are still polluted by metals and minerals that are present in underground mines … along with the gold and silver that have long drawn prospectors, created jobs, and built state and local economies. Hopefully, effluents from all these abandoned mines will soon be minimized via practical, efficient, low-maintenance treatment systems, under legal regimes that do not assign unlimited liability to private sector entities that try to fix these problems.

That will greatly improve water quality in many streams – while suggestions presented in EPA’s otherwise shoddy internal review could do much to prevent a repeat of Gold King, if they are followed.

Meanwhile, Congress and state legislatures should further investigate the Gold King disaster, and compel witnesses to testify under oath. They should also improve relevant laws, ensure that agency personnel are truly qualified to do their tasks, and hold agency incompetents and miscreants accountable.

Via email

Two cheers for the Chevy Volt

Electric cars are nice to drive and the Volt should have range  enough for most commutes.  A useful second car for affluent families, perhaps?

MY TRIP FROM L.A. to San Francisco in a 2016 Chevrolet Volt was an outlier, as Malcolm Gladwell would say. The redesigned Volt is a city car, with 53 miles of all-electric-vehicle range before it has to fire up the range-extending 1.5-liter gas engine. That’s enough to cover Americans’ average daily commute (37 miles) with room to spare. And within those 53 miles, the Volt thrives as a light, quick presence, an electric hummingbird, with premium cabin innards and 0-30 mph acceleration (2.6 seconds) that will dispatch your coffee to the back seat.

Beyond those 53 miles, in range-extender mode, the hummingbird sounds a bit more like a wasp trapped in the windscreen. Particularly up the merciless grade known as the Grapevine on the I-5 toward the Tejon Pass, the Volt struggled with the physics of the affair, which sussed out to be 101 horsepower drawing a 3,543-pound car up a mountain (once the batteries are depleted the engine power is routed directly to the front wheels). At 80 mph the little engine was working hard and the noise-abatement measures weren’t.

Then I had a revelation, one that Volt designers must have had many years ago: You can’t make range-extender mode too pleasant, lest consumers just forget it’s a plug-in hybrid car and keep filling it with gas and never plugging in. That would be, in engineering parlance, stupid. So, I was in “punishment mode” the whole way to San Francisco, which I thought was pretty funny.

I know the Volt fires up the political bases. Rolled out in the days of GM’s government-financed restructuring, the tidy plug-in hybrid was loathed as Obama’s Popemobile, even though the Volt project was initiated during the Bush administration. And to people who declaim it as a worthless product of governments’ intervention in markets and industry, I say, yes, that’s correct, except for the worthless part.

Actually, the Volt is quite worthy and still a bit visionary. You don’t think plug-in hybrids with range-extenders will ever catch on? Just hold your breath, 1, 2, 3.

If I may write two terms on the blackboard: urbanization and low-emissions zones (LEVs). As to the first, 81% of Americans live in urban areas, and U.S. rural population is ticking down. So any rules that affect solely urban areas would still affect the vast majority of Americans. Globally, half the world’s population are city dwellers; the U.N. predicts by 2050 two out of three persons will live in urban areas.

At the recent Paris climate-change conference, a group representing the world’s largest cities, the C40, announced aggressive targets to cut carbon emissions. Dozens of European cities have low-emission or no-emission zones in place or in progress. Of particular gravity is the financial and cultural giant London, which was a leader in congestion taxes. London aims to cut emissions by 60% over 1995 levels in the next decade. That will require steep cuts in vehicle emissions. Pretty soon if the world’s elite want to wheel their Ferraris down to Kensington, they are going to need a plug.

Urban populations in the U.S. are reliably politically blue and can be counted on to advance a progressive agenda regarding carbon and vehicle emissions at the ballot box. For example: If auto makers want to sell their wares in California, the most populous state and largest car market, they have to play by rules set by Californians themselves, through the California Air Resources Board, among other agencies. Because of this , California clean-air rules have had a determinative effect on most of the automotive world.

Seattle, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Austin are among the U.S. cities pledging to move toward carbon neutrality. Further out are weather-makers like the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which will require auto makers to achieve 54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025. The EU has its own upward slope of standards.

A common refrain of EV doubters is that lower-cost efficiencies can still be found in the internal combustion engine. Actually, the 2016 Volt agrees. Replacing the first generation’s port-injected, iron-block 1.4 liter that drank premium unleaded, the new direct-injection, aluminum-block 1.5 liter is lighter and more powerful (101 hp vs. 84 hp) and quieter overall, unless you are flogging it across the Imperial Valley on dinosaur fumes.

The fresher engine, part of GM’s EcoTec family, accounts for the Volt’s higher combined fuel economy (106 mpg-e) and higher efficiency in range-extender mode (42 mpg combined). The tweaks to the powertrain hardware net a weight savings of more than 100 pounds.


Let’s all boo the global warming panto villains

It may be only now that the post-Christmas pantomime season opens, but one pantomime running throughout the year has been that staged by all those comic characters who try to persuade us that the world is faced with deadly “global warming” (“Oh no it isn’t,” shouts an ever louder chorus from the audience).

Much on show, for instance, has been our favourite “pantomime dame”, Prof Julia Slingo, the Chief Scientist for the Met Office, with her organisation’s latest bid to alarm us by giving cute little names such as “Storm Eva” to all these episodes of seasonal wind and rain, which may be hell for those flooded out, but are technically not “storms” at all.

It is she who presides over those wacky computer models that have raised so many laughs over the years, with such predictions as that “barbecue summer”, which inevitably led to weeks of rain. Last week one media outlet mischievously reminded us of Dame Julia’s claim in 2013 that the melting of Arctic ice was now “loading the dice” in favour of “colder, drier winters”, only for this to be followed by the three wettest winter months since records began in 1766.

Also much on stage has been “Buttons”, played by Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environmental correspondent. Last week, undeterred by his failure to foresee the entirely predictable fiasco of the Paris climate summit, he invited Friends of the Earth to explain how “outrageous” it is that “the government can continue to hand out billions of pounds a year in subsidies to climate-wrecking fossil fuels”. Buttons somehow forgot to tell us that even the Department of Energy and Climate Change insists on the obvious fact that “the UK has no subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Finally bounding on to the stage again, greeted with customary boos, is our favourite pantomime villain Bob Ward, the chap paid by a billionaire climate fanatic to hurl derision at anyone daring to question the warmist faith. He now informs us that, thanks to “Britain’s commitment to the climate deal”, all use of gas for cooking, heating or making electricity “will be phased out, probably as soon as possible”.

"Scrapping gas has long been our own government’s policy, as the only way it can meet our insane commitments"

This would come as no surprise to readers of this column, since I have long been reporting on it, as in my Christmas article last year, headed “Forget your gas cooker – we’re headed for zero-carbon Britain”.

But the plan that within not many years, those 23 million UK households that rely on gas will have to scrap their cookers and central heating has nothing to do with that Paris “deal” (which committed no one to anything). Scrapping gas has long been our own government’s policy, as the only way it can meet our insane commitments under the Climate Change Act.

Another difference between me and Mr Ward is that while I argue that all this amounts to no less than a national suicide note, he believes it would be a jolly good thing.

Please hiss the poor boob off the stage.


The phantom menace

A red herring useful to the Left

This is the least important of the big stories because it’s not about something that’s actually happening. It’s about how a whole section of our top political and cultural leadership is pretending that something that isn’t happening is actually the most vital and pressing issue of the day. That is pretty important in its own right.

I’ll call this The Phantom Menace, which you can consider a tribute to the return of the Star Wars saga, or perhaps an unwelcome reminder of everybody’s least favorite prequel. (It’s a close call between the three, but Phantom Menace had the most Jar-Jar Binks, so it wins.)

I am talking, of course, about “climate change,” the lame euphemism for claims about catastrophic human-caused global warming.

The role of global warming in this year’s news is summed up in the recently concluded Paris Agreement: a gigantic international meeting held within a month of a massive terrorist attack on that city, for the purpose of diverting everyone’s attention away from the threat of terrorism.

As I wrote last week:

    "After last month’s massive terrorist attack brought the disastrous civil war in Syria and the renewed threat of radical Islam back to the forefront of everyone’s minds, world leaders met in Paris to forge an ambitious agreement — about global warming.

    You didn’t think they were going to do something big and important about terrorism, did you?

    No, they’re much more interested in what our own president clearly regards as the real issue of the day, “climate change.” And so the global warming conference ended with the Paris Agreement, which was hailed by both The Guardian and Slate as the “end of the fossil fuel era.”

I also noted that, for all that triumphalism about ending fossil fuels, the Paris Agreement is just a massive pretense in which “everything is legally binding, except the actual heart of the agreement.” But I noted that it serves a purpose.

    "Consider President Obama’s pronouncement that the agreement is “a testament to American leadership.” “We came together around a strong agreement the world needed. We met the moment.” For a president whose administration is known for the absence of American leadership and who is palpably not “meeting the moment,” you can see the incentive to pretend that he is by signing some phony-baloney agreement to solve a phony-baloney problem.

The intellectual basis for this evasion is summed up in the preposterous claim that global warming caused ISIS. After tracing the actual causes and origins of the Syrian civil war, I noted:

    "All of these facts are readily available to anyone who follows the news. And then there is the role in these attacks of a major world religion with about a billion followers that has been around for 1400 years — a primary cause that is a little hard to miss. Yet President Obama, [Bill] Nye, and many other water-carriers for the left offer us glib pronouncements about how this is all about water shortages in Syria. This is spectacular, willful ignorance dressed up as love for science."

This is the reason Obama doesn’t have much of a strategy for destroying ISIS and recently admitted that he was out of touch about how important the Paris attacks were because he didn’t watch enough cable news shows. I don’t even know where to start in describing how pathetic that is.

But the Left does have a plan to vilify and censor global warming skeptics, with New York’s attorney general launching an investigation to punish Exxon-Mobil for having briefly funded a few climate skeptics.

    "To be sure, this case will take forever to go through the courts…. But this is another case where the prosecution is the punishment. Just the prospect of being dragged through the courts and publicly maligned by prosecutors is deterrent enough.

    This prosecution is not really aimed at Exxon, which has pockets deep enough to fight if it chooses…. [T]he real target is everybody smaller than Exxon. The message is going out that they will face political reprisals, including embarrassing and expensive persecution in the courts, if they ever give a dollar to a climate skeptic….

    It seems Schneiderman has learned from the neo-authoritarians in Russia and China how to impose political control. There is no need for anything so crude as outright censorship. Anybody can say what they like, if they’re shouting on a street corner or writing in the pages of some obscure journal for intellectuals. But nobody can get any money to broadcast their views more widely because anyone with money faces ruin if they stand out against the powers that be."

And President Obama has a plan of attack for destroying our most plentiful sources of energy, under the guise of a transition to “clean power.” This “clean power,” as I explained, is based on absurd assumptions and is scientifically impossible.

    "So why create a national electricity scheme that is impossible to build? Perhaps because its purpose is not to build but to tear down. If you come up with a plan that claims it will reduce existing sources of energy in favor of new sources of energy — and those new sources turn out to be speculative at best, and physically impossible at worst — then it’s fair to conclude that the real essence of the plan is simply to reduce existing sources of energy."

So our leaders are dispirited and ineffective when it comes to deciding on a plan to destroy our actual enemies — but apply endless vigor and initiative to coming up with plans to dismantle our own civilization.

The delusion that global warming is the only really important issue of our era, eclipsing everything else, is embraced by elites in all areas of the culture. It benefits from the kind of universal dissemination characteristic of a new religion — which is reflected in the inroads it has made in converting leaders of the old religion.

Thus, for example, Christians are under unprecedented attack in the Middle East. Syrian Christians who speak the language of Christ, Aramaic, and whose churches were first established by the apostles themselves, have survived for 2000 years but are now fleeing the expansion of ISIS. Yet Pope Francis, who should be one of their most outspoken champions, has been devoting much more of his time as a partisan shill for global warming. I pointed out the totally one-sided presentation of the scientific claims about global warming in the Pope’s latest encyclical.

    "Francis is just repeating what he has heard from mainstream environmentalists and international green activists. The problem is that those are apparently the only people he is listening to….

    Pope Francis has sealed himself off in an ideological bubble that is harder and more impenetrable than the Popemobile. He refuses to recognize that there are alternative ideas outside the leftist orthodoxy on capitalism and the environment. The result is a sense that I’ve never quite gotten before from a papal encyclical: the sense of the pope as a narrow ideologue, captive to a relatively recent political fad.

    This is a real shame because the Vatican and the papacy are supposed to operate on a longer time scale, less affected by the political fads of the moment, or even of the century. After all, the Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old institution with a timeless spiritual remit. It’s what usually makes the popes so interesting to contend with, even for an atheist who frequently disagrees with them."

But Francis has a whole history of merging leftist politics with religion in a kind of “reverse syncretism,” a trend I discussed after a Latin American socialist gave Francis a “Marxifix,” a bizarre mash-up of the crucifix and the hammer and sickle.

    "I am not a Catholic nor even a Christian, and I know many American Protestants who, shall we say, were never deeply invested in the moral authority of the pope. So what does it matter to us whether or not this pope is surrendering the Church to the left?

    Historically, it does matter, because in the 20th century the Church helped change the course of history, vastly for the better, by offering ideological and material resistance to Communism. It mattered that there was a large institution with deep historical roots that was independent from the socialist state and politically correct orthodoxy, driven a different set of values. And it’s discomforting to think what might happen if that’s no longer true."

The religion of global warming is being invoked as a reason to overturn every big institution in our society, from Wall Street to the Vatican. Yet this is just another false god, based on an illusion.

That’s why the biggest theme in my coverage of global warming this year was fighting to reassert a truly scientific outlook in the face of pseudo-scientific propaganda. I debunked the claim that 2014 was the “hottest year on record.” Expect a repeat for 2015, if they can fudge the numbers enough. And expect that the real data will indicate the same thing: that 2015 was about as warm as 2014, which was about as warm as 2010 and 2005. Climate stasis, a plateau in temperatures that has lasted nearly 20 years now, will be re-defined as a runaway increase, in a testament to the warmists’ dedication to post-facto rationalization.

    "There is an important difference between prediction before the fact and explanation after the fact. Prediction requires that you lay down a marker about what the data ought to be, to be consistent with your theory, before you actually know what it is. That’s something that’s very hard to get right. If your theory is going to be able to consistently predict data before it is gathered, it has got to be pretty darned good. Global warming theories have a wretched track record at making predictions.

    But explanations of data after the fact are a lot easier. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. It’s a lot easier to tweak your theory to make it a better fit to the data, or in this case, to tweak the way the data is measured and analyzed in order to make it better fit your theory. And then you proclaim how amazing it is that your theory “explains” the data."

Speaking of predictions, I catalogued seven big failed predictions from environmentalists, from global cooling to overpopulation. (On that one, to my great surprise, even the New York Times is starting to come around — after only 47 years.)

    "But by now you can get an idea for the major outlines of an environmental hysteria. The steps are: a) start with assumption that man is “ravaging the Earth,” b) latch onto an unproven scientific hypothesis that fits this preconception, c) extrapolate wildly from half-formed theories and short-term trends to predict a future apocalypse, d) pressure a bunch of people with “Ph.D.” after their names to endorse it so you can say it’s a consensus of experts, e) get the press to broadcast it with even less nuance and get a bunch of Hollywood celebrities who failed Freshman biology to adopt it as their pet cause, then finally f) quietly drop the whole thing when it doesn’t pan out — and move on with undiminished enthusiasm to the next environmental doomsday scenario."

I traced that pattern with five more recent debunked claims, including an astonishing and eye-opening report about “horizontal gene transfer.” Seriously, the article is worth reading if only for that one piece of genuine science.

Most fundamentally, I examined what it would really take to prove that catastrophic global warming is happening and that humans are causing it. No one ever lays out the steps it would take, because if they did, they would have to acknowledge how far they are from proving it.

That’s the same reason they’re elevating the imagined threat of global warming over real and immediate threats like terrorism: because they don’t want to grapple with the implications. Terrorism is a problem that calls for solutions the Left doesn’t want to pursue — whereas global warming calls for solutions they have been longing to implement for more than a century. It’s almost as if they called the problem into existence for precisely that reason.

Hence the monumental absurdity of events like the Paris climate summit. The more important other issues become — the more our political leaders are called upon to deal with problems whose solutions don’t fit their agenda — the more they have to double down on the failed predictions, overinflate the phantom threat, project it as the real root of every other problem, and then proclaim every minor, ineffectual attempt to address the problem as a historic achievement of bold leadership.

But behind this there is a palpable desperation. Global warming persistently remains near the bottom of voter’s priorities — while terrorism is back on the top of the list. It seems that the more they try to puff up their phantom menace, the more insubstantial is appears alongside all of our real problems.


December heatwave shatters record temperatures in south-eastern Australia

Global warming, right?  Not quite.  In S.E. Queensland where I live we had an unusually COOL December.  So whatever is going on is not even Australia-wide, let alone global

Sunday night was Sydney's warmest in three years but a cool change will bring rain over Monday and Tuesday, aiding fire risk reduction efforts in the Newcastle and Wodonga areas.

It might be hard to recall after the past few days of torrential rain, but December has been hot - the records don't lie.

The extreme heat prompted the Bureau of Meteorology to issue a Special Climate Statement, confirming record temperatures across South Australia, NSW, Tasmania and Victoria, where the highest daily minimum temperature ever recorded was reached (31.9 degrees in Mildura).

"The most intense phase of the heatwave began on December 16 as high pressure became established in the Tasman Sea and directed hot, north-easterly winds over South Australia," the bureau said.
Children took to the Nepean River at Penrith as the mercury rose into the 40s on Sunday.

Children took to the Nepean River at Penrith as the mercury rose into the 40s on Sunday. Photo: James Alcock

"The heat spread over much of south-eastern Australia from 18 December as winds turned more northerly, reaching its most intense levels over the weekend of 19-20 December. A trough and cold front crossed the region on 20 December, bringing the heatwave to an end over the most-affected areas although hot conditions continued over parts of New South Wales on the 21st."

Sydneysiders have surely not forgotten the night of 20th, when they sweated through the hottest December night in 15 years, during which the mercury was still sitting at 29 degrees at 10pm in the city, before dropping briefly to a low of 22.6 degrees just after 3am.

An extended period of hot weather in South Australia concentrated on Adelaide, where temperatures reached 40 degrees on each of the four days from December 16 to 19.

"This was the first occasion that four consecutive days of 40 degrees or above had occurred in Adelaide in December," the bureau said.

"The highest temperatures of the heatwave occurred on 19 December. Hottest of all was the upper Spencer Gulf region, where Port Augusta reached 47.2 degrees, with 45.8 degrees at Whyalla and 45.6 degrees at Port Pirie."

Bureau senior climatologist Blair Trewin said the South Australian heatwave was particularly interesting as heatwaves usually occurred in late summer.

"Systems tend to be more stable and slow moving," he said. "It's unusual to get a heatwave in December. We've had that a few times in January and February but never December."

However, the fact a heatwave occurred early in summer did not suggest even hotter conditions for the coming January and February, Mr Trewin said.

"The seasonal climate outlook is leaning towards cooler conditions in much of Victoria and South Australia," he said. "We are experiencing a strong El Nino, but the main effect of that on temperatures in Southern Australia is actually in the second half of the year.

"El Nino effects on average temperatures disappear in Southern Australia from January onwards."

In Victoria, El Nino summers tend to bring more extremes at both ends of the scale, meaning more hot days but also more unusually cool temperatures as well.

The remarkable global heat experienced this year may not be the last of it, with forecasters already predicting next year will be hotter again - marking three years in a row of record annual warmth.

The prediction, by Britain's Met Office, came just days after almost 200 nations agreed in Paris to a new global agreement to tackle climate change.

Under the pact, to take effect from 2020, nations would review efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions every five years with the aim of keeping temperature increases to "well below 2 degrees" of pre-industrial levels.



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