Thursday, May 12, 2016
Climate Crisis and Political Power
April 22nd was Earth Day and also the day that 175 countries came to the UN to sign a “climate pact” they hope will limit any rise in global temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius. Global temperatures, the Times reports have risen about one degree since the onset of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, in the middle of the 18th century.
This, of course, is all part of the so-called fight against “climate change.” But is climate change the existential threat such people as Al Gore and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who spoke at Friday’s UN ceremony, say it is? I’m skeptical, to say the least, for several reasons.
1) Sound science produces predictions that come true. The science behind climate change does not. Indeed, the experts have been proven wrong time and time again. Around the time of the first Earth Day, scientists were predicting a coming ice age. Then, as global average temperatures rose in the 1980’s, global warming became the big threat. Al Gore in 2005 predicted that the polar ice caps would be gone by 2015, leading to a catastrophic rise in sea levels. But in 2015, the polar ice caps were not gone. They were, in fact, above the average for the period since 1979. The computer climate models predict steady warming. But the warming stopped in 1998. If the computer models cannot accurately predict what is now the past, why should we rely on them to predict the future?
That’s exactly why the threat of “global warming” suddenly became the threat of “climate change,” a much more generalized — indeed, fuzzy — term. The climate on Earth, after all, has been changing since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, ranging from periods of tropical warmth as far as the poles to “snowball earth,” when the entire globe was covered in ice. In the early 14th Century, the world grew suddenly and sharply colder. The “Little Ice Age,” as it was dubbed in recent years, lasted until the last half of the 19th Century. Those climate shifts could not have been anthropogenic.
2) Science is always skeptical. But when it comes to climate, we are constantly being told that “the science is settled,” which translates into the immortal words of Ring Lardner, “’shut up,’ he explained.” The most forceful advocates of a climate change crisis are exactly the people trying most vigorously to shut down the argument. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wants to use RICO to go after skeptics. Twenty state attorneys general are trying to go after Exxon for financially backing studies that cast doubt on climate change. People with the facts on their side don’t need to shut down the argument.
3) Sound science needs sound data. But climate data is often “adjusted.” If a weather station located, say, in Nassau County, New York, was put there in 1925 and is still yielding data today, that data has to reflect changing conditions at that site. In 1925 it might have been in the middle of a potato field. In 2016, while standing on the exact same spot, it’s now behind a suburban strip mall, surrounded by tarmac and twenty feet from the kitchen exhaust fan of a Chinese restaurant. The opportunities to manipulate data rather than adjust it (not to mention the guesswork involved in even honest adjustment) are legion. And climate scientists have been caught red-handed manipulating it and otherwise trying to affect the public perception by dishonest means. People with the facts on their side don’t need to fudge them.
4) Who benefits? When a body is discovered in the library, à la Agatha Christie, the first thing the police want to know is who benefits from that person’s death? So, let’s assume for a moment that anthropogenic climate change is indeed a grave and present threat to civilization. Who benefits from that realization? The answer primarily is two groups. The first group is made up of politicians. Such a crisis could only be handled by government at the highest levels, greatly increasing the power of government over the lives of citizens. And, as James Madison explained, “Men love power.” For politicians, that goes double. That’s why Democrats, such as Senator Whitehouse and the twenty state attorneys general, love the idea of climate change. Democrats are the party of government. They favor anything that increases the power of government.
The second group is made up of climate scientists. If politicians need to cope with a crisis, they’ll need expert advice. And getting to whisper in the ears of the powerful is itself a potent form of power. Also, of course, government agencies such as the EPA fund most climate research and it is in the self-interest of EPA bureaucrats to advance the idea of climate change. Studies that might do so are thus favored. So the scientists have a powerful self-interest in aligning with the government in order to obtain research grants.
5) Chicken Little doesn’t act like he believes the sky is falling. When the UN held a climate conference in Bali in 2007, attendees flew in on so many private jets that many had to be parked at an airport on next-door Java. These conferences, by the way, never take place in, say, Cleveland. They are always in out-of-the-way places, such as Bali, that anyone would be happy to visit on someone else’s nickel. Al Gore a few years ago was embarrassed to have it publically revealed that his monthly electric bill was routinely over $1,000 (and in Nashville, Tennessee, which enjoys very low rates, thanks to TVA). Leonardo DiCaprio usually flies by private jet. I imagine that that is how he arrived in New York last Friday in order to tell the masses of the sacrifices they must make in their life styles in order to save the planet. He was recently seen frolicking in Brazil on a 470-foot yacht.
As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit says, “I’ll believe there’s a climate crisis when the people who tell me there’s a climate crisis start acting like there’s a climate crisis.” Until then, I’ll believe that “climate change” has little to do with science and much to do with aggrandizing political power.
United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Testimony of Major General (Retired) Robert Scales April 13, 2016
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for inviting me to testify before the Committee on the relationship between climate change and war.
The Administration’s passion to connect climate change to war is an example of faulty theories that rely for relevance on politically correct imaginings rather than established historical precedent or a learned understanding of war.
The theories linking climate change to war come from a larger body of political thought that ascribes human conflict to “Global Trends”. Advocates of the Global Trends theory argue that environmental scourges such as diminishing water supplies, urbanization and the AIDS/HIV epidemic shape the course of human conflict.
Lately, thanks to legitimacy provided by the Obama Administration, climate change has become the most prominent of all the global trends that seek to link global misfortunes to war. President Obama codified his embrace of this particular global trend during his graduation address at the Coast Guard Academy in 2015: “So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security.”
It’s interesting to note the hypocrisy within the scientific communities that argue for a connection between climate change and national security. Scientists generally agree on the long-term consequences of global warming. Radical environmentalists delight in excoriating the so-called “junk science” espoused by climate change deniers.
But they are less than enthusiastic in questioning the “junk social science” that environmentalists and their Beltway fellow travellers use to connect climate change to war.
Of course not all theories from Global Trends activists are off the mark. They have a legitimate argument when they warn of the consequences of pandemics on the course of warfare. The Greek historian Thucydides recounts that the great Athens plague of 430 BCE resulted in the retreat of the Athenian army and navy as well as the death of the great Greek military leader Pericles. The Byzantium emperor Justinian’s ambition to expand his empire to the West was shattered by the horrific Plague of 540 AD. A small band of Spanish conquistadors conquered all of central and south America in just few short decades because their conquests were preceded by Western diseases they carried with them from Europe.
However, no historical evidence exists that makes a “cause and effect” argument linking war to rising global temperatures. Where does the Administration get their facts about climate change and war? First, they contend that a warming planet causes drought, which leads to mass migration away from areas of creeping desertification.
To be sure rising temperatures combined with over grazing in places like central Africa have caused displacement of peoples. But the misery of these peoples leads to, well, misery, not war. Tribes striving to exist in these often horrific environmental conditions have little energy left over to declare war against a tribal neighbor.
The nations of Central Africa are in the grip of conflicts started by Boko Haram in Nigeria and al Shabaab in Somalia. But these transnational terrorists are motivated to kill by the factors that have always caused nations (or entities masquerading as nations) to start wars. These factors are timeless and immutable. First of course is hatred induced by fear of alien cultures, religions, ideologies, as well as social and racial differences.
The common spark for all wars is jealousy and greed amplified by centuries-long animosities and political ambitions. The catalyst for war is the ignorance of leaders that leads them to misjudge. Humans start wars believing they will be profitable, short, glorious and bloodless. These truths never change.
None are affected in the least by air temperature. But the myth of climate change as an inducement to war continues to curry favor among Washington elites.
One source for connecting war to temperature comes from the political closeness between environmentalists and the anti war movement. Their logic goes like this: “global warming is bad. Wars are bad. Therefore they must be connected.”
Remember, prior to the 1991 Gulf War, environmentalists warned of a decade of global cooling that would come from burning Kuwaiti oil fields. More recently environmental radicals argued against bombing ISIS oil trucks fearing the environmental consequences. Sadly those in the Administration who lobbied against striking a legitimate military target because of imagined environmental damage caused by these strikes may, in all likelihood, have sustained ISIS by refusing to interdict their richest source of income.
The point is that in today’s wars politically correct theories when inserted into a battle plan might well extend wars needlessly and get soldiers killed.
Conservative groups target ozone law in push for rule's rollback
A coalition of 60 conservative groups is asking lawmakers to overturn the Obama administration’s new ozone pollution rule and change the law under which it was written.
The bill the groups endorse, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, would for the first time require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider the costs of tightening the ozone standards when it proposes such restrictions.
It would also push back deadlines for new standards and have the EPA consider new ozone rules every 10 years instead of every 5 years.
“The ozone regulation places a tremendous burden on communities across America,” the groups wrote to the heads of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the EPA.
“The result of a nonattainment designation can be disastrous and bring economic activity to a halt. Local governments risk losing federal highway funds. Oil and gas operations, with the royalty and tax revenue they bring, may cease. Manufacturers may be forced to relocate or shut down, destroying jobs in the process,” they wrote.
The coalition includes some big names such as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, along with state and local groups and others with smaller footprints.
Last year’s ozone regulation is extremely unpopular among conservatives, Republicans, the fossil fuel industry and many business interests.
It lowered the allowable ambient ozone concentration to 70 parts per billion from the previous 75 parts per billion. Businesses fear that complying with the standard could lead states to restrict manufacturing, power generation and other activities that generate pollutants that create ozone.
The EPA and its allies in the environmental and public health communities counter that the public health benefits, including better respiratory health resulting from reduced pollution, greatly outweigh the $1.4 billion in projected costs.
How Washington Politicians Wasted Billions Trying to ‘Invest in Our Future’
The federal government has wasted billions on energy projects promising to usher in a new energy future.
All Washington can do is play favorites when picking energy options (think Solyndra).
It does this through providing grants, loans, loan guarantees, mandates (like the use of biofuels), and tax subsidies to specific energy technologies—to only name of a few.
Another way in which the government intervenes in the energy market is the annual budget of the Department of Energy. Programs within the Department of Energy supposedly recognize that there’s great potential for wind, solar, fusion, geothermal, biofuels, carbon capturing technology for coal, and much more. These energy sources and technologies themselves may very well be worthy of investment, but that’s not the point. The problem is the government meddling in what is clearly not its role.
The mantra from proponents of government spending on energy is generally the same. To borrow from President Barack Obama, “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.”
Half of that statement is correct. Taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize the past. Nor should they “invest” (read: subsidize) in the future. In fact, that’s why the market has investors: to take chances, using their own money, on promising new endeavors. From basic research to full-scale commercialization for any energy technology, every step of the way should be driven by the private sector.
Free enterprise will spur the next energy revolution, just as it has the latest oil and gas revolution that’s lowering the cost of living for Americans. Competition will provide incremental improvements in energy, for conventional natural resources and for renewable technologies.
As energy prices rise and fall, markets respond accordingly. Higher prices at the pump, for instance, incentivize companies to extract more oil and invest in technologies to produce the oil more cheaply and efficiently. Higher prices encourage exploration into alternative power sources for vehicles, whether it is biofuels, batteries, natural gas, or something entirely different.
Markets shift to more efficient and cost-competitive technologies when they make economic sense and meet consumer preferences. In the 1800s, wood was the dominant energy source for families because it was abundant and convenient. Over time, coal replaced wood because it provided more heat per pound and was easier to store and to transport.
Furthermore, the evolution of rail power from steam to diesel occurred even faster because the transition significantly reduced costs and increased productivity. Though legislation encouraged the use of diesel locomotives on a small scale, the dramatic shift mostly happened because of market forces. The cost-effectiveness and increased productivity of diesel-powered trains largely eradicated the use of steam locomotives in just over two decades.
The reality is that Washington isn’t needed to drive energy innovation, which is a difficult pill to swallow for some politicians and special interests. Because those are the folks who want to keep the money flowing to their preferred energy sources because they stand to benefit.
It’s more difficult for politicians to take credit for the successes guided by the invisible hand. But the free market will actually trigger successful investments and reward disruptive technologies, providing more choice and better options for families.
On the surface, their reasons for government funding energy projects may sound appealing to the public. For years, policymakers stressed the need to develop alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources. Lately, the justification for Department of Energy spending is that America needs to combat global warming, reduce greenhouse gas emission, and be a leader in green tech.
But intentions and results are two very different things. Decades of the federal government trying to commercialize specific energy technologies have left Americans with nothing more than empty promises and squandered money.
Instead of continuing to fund energy programs almost without hesitation, policymakers should trust that the market will determine the true value of potentially innovative technologies. We know what works and what doesn’t. It’s time for Congress to stop dumping money into failed programs and expecting different results. Instead, they should live by this mantra:
A penny saved is a penny earned and a taxpayer dollar spent on energy is a taxpayer dollar wasted.
Dept. of Energy Spends $90M Towards 3 Commercial Biofuels Plants
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it’s spending $90 million in taxpayer dollars to advance their goal of producing at least three biofuel commercial plants over the next dozen years.
“The production of biofuels from sustainable, non-food, domestic biomass resources is an important strategy to meet the Administration’s goals to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on imported oil,” a DOE release says.
“Today’s funding opportunity announcement will advance the Department’s goal of producing at least three total pioneer commercial plants over the next twelve years.”
Lynn Orr, DOE’s Undersecretary of Science and Energy says, “This funding opportunity will support companies that are working to advance current technologies and help them overcome existing challenges in bioenergy so the industry can meet its full potential.”
The $90 million is meant to assist in the construction of bioenergy infrastructure to integrate pretreatment, process, and convergence technologies.
Biorefineries convert plant and algal materials used to derive fuel.
The DOE press release states that the U.S. could produce 1 billion tons of biomass that could, “be used to fuel vehicles, heat homes and replace everyday materials such as plastic — all while potentially displacing over 25 percent of U.S. petroleum use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 550 million tons.”
Australia had larger extreme weather events in the distant past
More flooding and longer droughts. Pesky for the Warmists as CO2 was LOWER at that time (the last 1,000 years)
Australia is systematically underestimating its drought and flood risk because weather records do not capture the full extent of rainfall variability, according to our new research.
Our study, published today in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, uses Antarctic ice core data to reconstruct rainfall for the past 1,000 years for catchments in eastern Australia.
The results show that instrumental rainfall records – available for the past 100 years at best, depending on location – do not represent the full range of abnormally wet and dry periods that have occurred over the centuries.
In other words, significantly longer and more frequent wet and dry periods were experienced in the pre-instrumental period (that is, before the 20th century) compared with the period over which records have been kept.
Reconstructing prehistoric rainfall
There is no direct indicator of rainfall patterns for Australia before weather observations began. But, strange as it may sound, there is a link between eastern Australian rainfall and the summer deposition of sea salt in Antarctic ice. This allowed us to deduce rainfall levels by studying ice cores drilled from Law Dome, a small coastal ice cap in East Antarctica.
It might sound strange, but there’s a direct link between Antarctic ice and Australia’s rainfall patterns.
How can sea salt deposits in an Antarctic ice core possibly be related to rainfall thousands of kilometres away in Australia? It is because the processes associated with rainfall variability in eastern Australia – such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), as well as other ocean cycles like the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) – are also responsible for variations in the wind and circulation patterns that cause sea salt to be deposited in East Antarctica (as outlined in our previous research).
By studying an ice record spanning 1,013 years, our results reveal a clear story of wetter wet periods and drier dry periods than is evident in Australia’s much shorter instrumental weather record.
For example, in the Williams River catchment, which provides water for the Newcastle region of New South Wales, our results showed that the longest dry periods lasted up to 12 years. In contrast, the longest dry spell since 1900 lasted just eight years.
Among wet periods, the difference was even more pronounced. The longest unusually wet spell in our ice record lasted 39 years – almost five times longer than the post-1900 maximum of eight years.
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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Posted by JR at 12:35 AM