Friday, October 12, 2018

The Environmental Scam: One Quick and Easy Response

by Sean Gabb

Once you cut through their verbiage, the enemies of bourgeois civilisation have two demands. These are:

* Put me and my friends in charge of preferably a one-world government with total power over life and property; or, until then, or failing that,

* Give us a lot of money.

When I was younger, the occasion for making these demands was something to do with poverty or economic instability, and the alleged need was for a bigger welfare state, or state ownership of the means of production, or playing about with money to “move the aggregate supply curve to the right.” The nice thing about these claims and their alleged solutions was that they all had to be debated within the subject area of Economics. Because most of us knew a lot about Economics, we could always win the debates.

By the end of the 1980s, winning was so easy, the debates had become boring. Since then, the alleged need has shifted to saving the planet from some environmental catastrophe. The resulting debates are now harder to win because most of us are not that learned in the relevant sciences. Though I am more than competent in Economics, my main expertise is in Ancient History and the Classical Languages. Much the same is true for most of my friends.

Take, for example, the latest occasion for making the two demands stated above. This is that the sea is filling up with waste plastic, and that this looks horrid, and is being eaten by the creatures who live in the sea, and that they are all at risk of dying – and that this will be a terrible thing of all of us. For the solution, see Annie Leonard, writing in The Guardian: “Recycling alone will never stem the flow of plastics into our ocean. We must address the problem at the source.” You can take her last sentence as shorthand for the usual demands.

What response have I to this? Not much directly. Give me half an hour, and I will explain with practised ease that the Phillips Curve is at best a loose correlation between past variables, and that there is no stable trade-off between unemployment and inflation. But search me how most plastics are made, how long they take to degrade, or what harm they do if eaten.

A short search on the Web has brought up some useful information. There is, for example, an essay by Kip Hansen, published in 2015 – “An Ocean of Plastic.” He says, among much else:

* That the Great Garbage Patch said to be floating about the Pacific is a myth, and that the main alleged photographs of it were taken in Manila Bay after a storm had washed the rubbish out of the streets;

*That the amount of plastic waste floating in the sea is very small per cubic metre of water, and that it is invisible to the uninformed eye in the places where this Garbage Patch is said to be floating;

*That plastic waste quickly breaks down into tiny chunks that are then eaten by bacteria, who are not harmed by it;

*That larger chunks eaten by fish and birds are easily handled by digestive systems that have evolved over many ages to cope with much worse than the occasional lump of polystyrene foam.

His conclusion:

The “floating rafts of plastic garbage”-version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a pernicious myth that needs to be dispelled at every opportunity.

That really is all I need to know. Of course, however, it is not enough to win an argument. Put me up against someone whose job is to lecture the world on the horrors of plastic waste, and I shall do a very poor job. He will pour scorn on the response I have summarised. He will draw attention to other alleged facts, and support these with reams of official statistics collected I have no idea how.

We shall be engaged not in a deductive argument about the science of human choice, but in an argument about facts that I am in no position to examine for myself, and about scientific claims that I am not remotely qualified to assess. What to do about that?

Here is my response. During the past half century or so, we have had one factual claim after another about the natural world. These include:

The claim my English teacher repeated to me in 1974 about the coming exhaustion of mineral resources – that, for example, there would be no more gold to mine after 1984, and that the oil would run out shortly after or before then;

* The claim, made around 1986, that aids would, by 1990, have killed two million people in England alone;

* The claim, made in 1996, that, by 2006, a million people in England would have had their brains rotted by eating beef infected with Mad Cow Disease;

* The claims, made in the 1980s, that factory emissions were turning the rain to acid, and that this would do terrible things;

* The claims, made about the same time, that our refrigerators and air conditioning units had opened a hole in the ozone layer, and that we would all soon be cooked by radiation from the Sun;

*The claims, that I noticed in 1989, that areas of jungle the size of Belgium were being regularly cut down in the Amazon, and how this would somehow be bad for us;

* The claims, made since about 1988, that our industrial civilisation as a whole was causing a rise in global temperatures.

I leave the last of these claims aside for the moment. What the others all have in common is that they involved predictions of substantial or total collapse unless the usual demands were met. These demands were not met, and the world carried on as normal.

Gold and oil did not run out. I am not sure how many people have heard about the ozone hole. I am not sure if anyone now claims it is getting bigger, or is still there. Nothing substantial was ever done about acid rain, but the world has still not become a giant desert. None of my friends has died of aids, nor of Mad Cow disease. My South American students do not report that Brazil nowadays looks like the surface of the Moon.

I now turn to the claims about global warming. I will not discuss the intricacies of how much carbon dioxide we are releasing, or what effect this may have on temperatures. I leave aside the persistent claims of scientific fraud and other corruption. As said, I am not qualified to comment on these or other matters. What I do note is that, in 2006, Al Gore

"[p]atiently, and surely for the 10,000th time, [explained to The Guardian] what’s going wrong. The atmosphere is like a coat of varnish around the globe, he says. When it’s thin, as it should be, heat naturally escapes. But when it gets thicker, thanks to carbon dioxide emitted by us, it traps in the heat and the world gets warmer. “It’s cooking and wilting the most vulnerable parts of the eco-system, melting all the mountain glaciers, the north polar ice cap, parts of Antarctica, parts of Greenland.” That molten ice-water will raise sea-levels, flooding food-producing areas that all of us rely on. Eventually it will submerge whole cities, from San Francisco to Shanghai. The site of the Twin Towers will not be a memorial garden: it will be underwater.

… He agrees with the scientists who say we have 10 years to act, before we cross a point of no return."

In 2009, the Prince of Wales – advised by the “leading environmentalists Jonathon Porritt and Tony Juniper” – said we had 96 months to change our ways. After that, we faced “irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it.”

In 2005, George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian:

Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood. The freezes this country suffered in 1982 and 1963 are – unless the Gulf Stream stops – unlikely to recur. Our summers will be long and warm. Across most of the upper northern hemisphere, climate change, so far, has been kind to us.

Ten years took us to 2016. Assuming my arithmetic is correct, 96 months take us to about now. If we have really reached the “point of no return,” why have these people not yet switched to telling us “I warned you: now it’s too late”? Instead, the apocalyptic warnings continue at top volume. Oh – and English weather remains as unpredictable today as it was in 2005. In March this year, there was an inch of snow in Deal.

The point of repeating these claims is that they were not random assertions, but appear to have been made on scientific advice – scientific advice that turned out to be wrong. Whether the scientists in question were lying, or whether they advised in good faith, is less important than that they were wrong. You do not need a degree in the natural sciences to notice when predictions are falsified.

It is with this in mind that I take the present claims of plastic waste in the sea, and reject them out of hand. It may be that, this time, the claims are true. But the whole burden of proof is on those making them. The burden of proof comes with the barely-rebuttable presumption that we are being fed yet another diet of alarmist falsehoods.

My general view is that our planet is a vast treasure house of resources that, properly used, will take us to the stars. We shall colonise the inner planets, and mine the Asteroid Belt. We shall find cures for every illness and extend our lives. We shall uncover every remaining mystery of the natural world. During the past three centuries, much encouraging progress has been made. The curve is now turning almost vertical.

It may be that, now and again, our scientific and technical progress throws up problems. If so, the solution is more scientific and technical progress. The only reasonable fear we should have is that the usual suspects will have their way, and return us to a past that I am fully qualified to describe, and that I assure you was horrible in every respect.


Must Read Lecture: Top Physics Prof Nails the ‘Global Warming’ Myth

In its latest hysterical bulletin, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has urged that we need to spend $2.4 trillion a year between now and 2035 to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of ‘climate change.’

But the truth is that ‘climate change’ – at least as perceived by the IPCC – is bunk and all that expenditure (which, added up, amounts to a sum greater than the entirety of global GDP) would be a complete waste of money.

Or, as Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world’s greatest expert on the subject rather more elegantly put it in a lecture in London last night:

"An implausible conjecture backed by false evidence and repeated incessantly has become politically correct ‘knowledge,’ and is used to promote the overturn of industrial civilization".

Lindzen, who for 30 years was Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is probably the scientist most loathed and feared by the climate alarmist establishment. That’s because he knows the subject rather better than they do and has never been bested in argument.

He is withering in his contempt for man-made global warming theory, as he demonstrated in some scientific detail at the annual lecture of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, hosted by its president (Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer) Lord Lawson.

The global warming scare has little to do with science, Lindzen began by noting, but is rather the product of ignorance of science.

Hence his lecture title: Global Warming for the Two Cultures. This was a reference to the influential lecture given in the Fifties by the novelist and physical chemist CP Snow in which he decried the scientific ignorance among the supposedly educated elite. Little has changed since, said Lindzen:

"While some might maintain that ignorance of physics does not impact political ability, it most certainly impacts the ability of non-scientific politicians to deal with nominally science-based issues. The gap in understanding is also an invitation to malicious exploitation. Given the democratic necessity for non-scientists to take positions on scientific problems, belief and faith inevitably replace understanding, though trivially oversimplified false narratives serve to reassure the non-scientists that they are not totally without scientific ‘understanding.’ The issue of global warming offers numerous examples of all of this"

Later he singled out former Secretary of State John Kerry for especial scorn.

"Former senator and Secretary of State John F. Kerry is typical when he stated, with reference to greenhouse warming, ‘I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of chemistry or physics can be tough. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this’. As you have seen, the greenhouse effect is not all that simple. Only remarkably brilliant kids would understand it. Given Kerry’s subsequent description of climate and its underlying physics, it was clear that he was not up to the task".

Lindzen’s scientific case against the man-made global warming scare is essentially this: the world’s climate is a chaotic system whose workings, even after decades of intense study and billions of dollars of research funding, scientists have but barely begun to comprehend. Yet here they are deciding on the basis of no convincing evidence to pin the blame on just one of the many contributory elements to climate – carbon dioxide – and trying to persuade us that this trace gas is somehow the master control knob.

This notion is so ridiculous, he said, it is close to “magical thinking”.

Now here is the currently popular narrative concerning this system. The climate, a complex multifactor system, can be summarized in just one variable, the globally averaged temperature change, and is primarily controlled by the 1-2% perturbation in the energy budget due to a single variable – carbon dioxide – among many variables of comparable importance. This is an extraordinary pair of claims based on reasoning that borders on magical thinking. It is, however, the narrative that has been widely accepted, even among many sceptics.

Until the late 80s, not even climate scientists subscribed to this theory. It only took off for political reasons and because there was so much money to be made from it.

When, in 1988, the NASA scientist James Hansen told the US Senate that the summer’s warmth reflected increased carbon dioxide levels, even Science magazine reported that the climatologists were sceptical. The establishment of this extreme position as dogma during the present period is due to political actors and others seeking to exploit the opportunities that abound in the multi-trillion dollar energy sector.

Elites are much more susceptible to this nonsense than ordinary people.  As Lindzen explained, elites are less interested in truth than in what is convenient.

1. They have been educated in a system where success has been predicated on their ability to please their professors. In other words, they have been conditioned to rationalize anything.

2. While they are vulnerable to false narratives, they are far less economically vulnerable than are ordinary people. They believe themselves wealthy enough to withstand the economic pain of the proposed policies, and they are clever enough to often benefit from them.

3. The narrative is trivial enough for the elite to finally think that they ‘understand’ science.

4. For many (especially on the right), the need to be regarded as intelligent causes them to fear that opposing anything claimed to be ‘scientific’ might lead to their being regarded as ignorant, and this fear overwhelms any ideological commitment to liberty that they might have.

None of these factors apply to ‘ordinary’ people. This may well be the strongest argument for popular democracy and against the leadership of those ‘who know best.’

The scientists, meanwhile, don’t know nearly as much as they pretend they know. And in any case, many of them have been corrupted by money or their left-wing politics.

1. Scientists are specialists. Few are expert in climate. This includes many supposed ‘climate scientists’ who became involved in the area in response to the huge increases in funding that have accompanied global warming hysteria.

2. Scientists are people with their own political positions, and many have been enthusiastic about using their status as scientists to promote their political positions (not unlike celebrities whose status some scientists often aspire to). As examples, consider the movements against nuclear weapons, against the Strategic Defense Initiative, against the Vietnam War, and so on.

Scientists are also acutely and cynically aware of the ignorance of non-scientists and the fear that this engenders.

But what about all the scary “proof” that global warming is happening? Lindzen has no truck with any of it.

"What about the disappearing Arctic ice, the rising sea level, the weather extremes, starving polar bears, the Syrian Civil War, and all the rest of it? The vast variety of the claims makes it impossible to point to any particular fault that applies to all of them. Of course, citing the existence of changes – even if these observations are correct (although surprisingly often they are not) – would not implicate greenhouse warming per se. Nor would it point to danger. Note that most of the so-called evidence refers to matters of which you have no personal experience. Some of the claims, such as those relating to weather extremes, contradict what both physical theory and empirical data show. The purpose of these claims is obviously to frighten and befuddle the public, and to make it seem like there is evidence where, in fact, there is none."

Just to repeat that last important point: Lindzen believes that there is no real-world evidence that supports man-made global warming theory. None.

Lindzen concluded:

"What we will be leaving our grandchildren is not a planet damaged by industrial progress, but a record of unfathomable silliness as well as a landscape degraded by rusting wind farms and decaying solar panel arrays. False claims about 97% agreement will not spare us, but the willingness of scientists to keep mum is likely to much reduce trust in and support for science. Perhaps this won’t be such a bad thing after all – certainly as concerns ‘official’ science.

There is at least one positive aspect to the present situation. None of the proposed policies will have much impact on greenhouse gases. Thus we will continue to benefit from the one thing that can be clearly attributed to elevated carbon dioxide: namely, its effective role as a plant fertilizer, and reducer of the drought vulnerability of plants. Meanwhile, the IPCC is claiming that we need to prevent another 0.5◦C of warming, although the 1◦C that has occurred so far has been accompanied by the greatest increase in human welfare in history. As we used to say in my childhood home of the Bronx: ‘Go figure’."


U.N. Ignores Economics Of Climate

New Nobel laureate William Nordhaus says the costs of proposed CO2 cuts aren’t worth it

By Bjorn Lomborg

The global economy must be transformed immediately to avoid catastrophic climate damage, a new United Nations report declares. Climate economist William Nordhaus has been made a Nobel laureate. The events are being reported as two parts of the same story, but they reveal the contradictions inherent in climate policy—and why economics matters more than ever.

Limiting temperatures to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges, is economically and practically impossible—as Mr. Nordhaus’s work shows. The IPCC report significantly underestimates the costs of getting to zero emissions. Fossil fuels provide cheap, efficient power, whereas green energy remains mostly uncompetitive. Switching to more expensive, less efficient technology slows development. In poor nations that means fewer people lifted out of poverty. In rich ones it means the most vulnerable are hit by higher energy bills.

The IPCC says carbon emissions need to peak right now and fall rapidly to avert catastrophe. Models actually reveal that to achieve the 2.7-degree goal the world must stop all fossil fuel use in less than four years. Yet the International Energy Agency estimates that in 2040 fossil fuels will still meet three-quarters of world energy needs, even if the Paris agreement is fully implemented. The U.N. body responsible for the accord estimates that if every country fulfills every pledge by 2030, CO2 emissions will be cut by 60 billion tons by 2030. That’s less than 1% of what is needed to keep temperature rises below 2.7 degrees. And achieving even that fraction would be vastly expensive—reducing world-wide growth $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year by 2030.

The European Union promises to cut emissions 80% by 2050. With realistic assumptions about technology, and the optimistic assumption that the EU’s climate policy is very well designed and coordinated, the average of seven leading peer-reviewed models finds EU annual costs will reach €2.9 trillion ($3.3 trillion), more than twice what EU governments spend today on health, education, recreation, housing, environment, police and defense combined. In reality, it is likely to cost much more because EU climate legislation has been an inefficient patchwork. If that continues, the policy will make the EU 24% poorer in 2050.

Trying to do more, as the IPCC urges, would be phenomenally expensive. It is important to keep things in perspective, challenging as that is given the hysterical tone of the reaction to the panel’s latest offering. In its latest full report, the IPCC estimated that in 60 years unmitigated global warming would cost the planet between 0.2% and 2% of gross domestic product. That’s simply not the end of the world.

The new report has no comparison of the costs and benefits of climate targets. Mr. Nordhaus’s most recent estimate, published in August, is that the “optimal” outcome with a moderate carbon tax is a rise of about 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Reducing temperature rises by more would result in higher costs than benefits, potentially causing the world a $50 trillion loss.

It’s past time to stop pushing so hard for carbon cuts before alternative energy sources are ready to take over. Instead the world must focus on resolving the technology deficit that makes switching away from fossil fuels so expensive. Genuine breakthroughs are required to drive down the future price of green energy.

Copenhagen Consensus analysis shows a ramped-up green-energy research-and-development budget of around $100 billion a year would be the most effective global-warming policy. It would be much cheaper than the approach pushed by the IPCC, and would not require global consensus. Most important, it would have a much better chance of ameliorating temperature rises. Under the IPPC’s approach, by contrast, the costs would vastly outweigh the benefits. Instead, the over-the-top reception to the latest IPCC report means that we are more likely to continue down a pathway where the costs would vastly outweigh the benefits.


Trump Should Kill Handouts to King Corn, Not Expand Them

Allowing for year-round sales of E15 gas is a political sop to the ethanol swamp

President Donald Trump is one of the rarest of all creatures — a politician who keeps his promises.

Sick of politicians making grandiose campaign promises, only to discard them after the election, the American people shocked the world by electing a billionaire businessman and political novice in Trump, hoping that he, not beholden to special interests, would battle entrenched politicians and bureaucrats who wield enormous power in the DC swamp.

Trump, from a conservative perspective, has excelled beyond all expectations, slashing massive amounts of economy-crushing regulatory red tape, opening the throttle on American energy production, creating a pro-growth economic environment, pulling us out of or reworking bad trade deals, and making American sovereignty and prosperity the yardstick by which policies are measured.

Unfortunately, not every promise kept is a good thing, as evidenced by reports this week that Trump is giving a sop to the ethanol/corn industry, issuing a waiver for summer restrictions on E15 (15% ethanol/gas blend) fuel, paving the way for year-round use.

This move is entirely political. In fact, after the announcement, Trump held a MAGA rally in Iowa, and that was no coincidence. Between helping Iowa Republicans in the election and heartland farmers hurt by Trump’s own tariffs, the political ramifications are significant, so this decision is, sadly, hardly surprising. For the American people, however, the benefits of expanding this boondoggle are dubious at best.

Last year, when former EPA Director Scott Pruitt announced rollbacks to the ethanol mandate, the response was swift and forceful. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a not-so-veiled threat to President Trump that the move would have consequences; namely, seeing his judicial nominees move through Grassley’s committee at the speed of molasses. Trump got the message, and the changes were put on hold.

Grassley however, has held up his end of the unspoken deal, deftly ushering Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, through a vicious confirmation process that made the Democrats’ reprehensible “high-tech lynching” of Justice Clarence Thomas seem downright neighborly by comparison.

Additionally, this ethanol decision may be the help needed to get Iowa’s Republican governor, currently trailing her Democrat opponent in the polls, and at least two at-risk Iowa House members, over the finish line to victory. These wins would be critical when many are predicting a Democrat takeover of the House and Senate.

As for the ethanol change itself, it’s unlikely that it will take immediate effect. A lawsuit is planned that challenges the legality of the waiver. Additionally, a bipartisan letter from 20 members of Congress from oil-producing states went to President Trump last week, opposing the measure, arguing it would do nothing to protect refinery jobs and would actually harm American consumers.

And they are right.

The ethanol mandate his been a huge victory for Midwestern agricultural states, which are essentially guaranteed a buyer for every ear of corn they can grow, and then some.

Unfortunately, from a scientific and environmental standpoint, the mandate is a disaster. Ethanol harms gasoline engines, eating through seals, gumming up fuel systems, damaging tanks, and introducing stray moisture into the system. This leads to thousands of dollars of unnecessary repairs for consumers.

Ethanol is 33% less energy dense than gasoline — meaning you have to burn 33% more ethanol to travel the same distance — and ethanol is dirtier than gasoline, generating significantly more formaldehyde, creating twice as much ozone smog.

Investor’s Business Daily asks, “Do people want ethanol in their gasoline so badly they’re willing to pay extra for something that cuts their fuel efficiency by anywhere from 5% to 7% per mile?”

Then there is the destruction to the environment caused by clearing millions of acres of land for corn production. In the year 2000, only 5% of America’s corn crop went to ethanol production. By 2013, that had skyrocketed to 40%. To envision what a boondoggle the ethanol mandate is, consider that the amount of corn required to fill a truck’s 26-gallon gas tank would feed a person for an entire year!

A 2009 Duke University study found that growing corn for fuel production actually produces more CO2 than it saves. The Associated Press, in an in-depth investigation of the “green” energy industry entitled “The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama’s Green Power Push,” concluded:

The ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today. As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies. …

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch. Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil. Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive. The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

President Trump has done much right since taking office, but this is a decision he needs to reconsider.

It’s also an area where bipartisan agreement — between limited-government, free-market advocates on one side, and environmentalists on the other — could be found and, who knows, maybe even generate enough goodwill to find common ground on other issues.

King Corn has ruled politics long enough. It’s time for a coup.


Australian PM returns serve on energy policy

Claims Australia's energy policy has descended into anarchy are rubbish, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

Scott Morrison has dismissed a stinging critique of Australia's energy policy, saying claims of "anarchy" by the architect of the government's dumped plan are rubbish.

Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott on Wednesday mourned the death of the National Energy Guarantee, which was abandoned when Malcolm Turnbull was knifed as prime minister.

But the current prime minister gave the short shrift to her policy grief, bluntly rejecting the idea the government had lost its way on energy.

"I don't agree with that at all. I think that's rubbish," Mr Morrison told 3AW on Thursday.

Dr Schott told a conference she was still going through the stages of grief over the government's one-time signature energy plan, but was yet to leave anger.

"I characterise the general state of affairs right now as anarchy," she said.

Mr Morrison insists the government is still pursuing a reliability guarantee with state and territory governments, a feature of the NEG.

"What is necessary is that we need to get more reliability into the national energy market which covers the east coast of Australia," he said.

He dismissed suggestions there was uncertainty about the government's emission reduction commitments.

"Everybody knows what they are and we're meeting them."




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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