Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How the Trump Administration Is Reining in the EPA’s Union

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new collective bargaining agreement last week that has outraged the main labor union representing EPA employees.

According to the president of the union—the American Federation of Government Employees—the EPA is “trampling on federal employees’ rights and ignoring the law” with the new agreement.

So what are the draconian provisions that have the union so exercised?

Well, perhaps the biggest change is that EPA employees will have an automatic right to work from home only one day a week instead of two. But the reason the union is up in arms has less to do with working conditions and more to do with losing its own taxpayer-financed perks.

Unlike private-sector unions, which have to charge their members (including some forced members) full price in order to finance themselves, federal employee unions are in large part financed by taxpayers who pay for all sorts of things, such as union office space within government buildings.

Tax dollars have even paid for federal workers to spend up to 100% of their time working for their union.

The new collective bargaining agreement brings an end to that. It cuts union office space in federal buildings and the use of conference rooms, internet, and other amenities, all of which the union used to receive totally free of charge.

The Trump administration is also taking on the EPA union’s most generous subsidy: taxpayer-funded manpower.

Under the old collective bargaining agreement, the EPA allowed employees to conduct union business during regular working hours while being compensated at their regular wage—a practice that is common throughout the federal government, called “official time.”

Indeed, many employees spend their entire workday doing union business and never doing what their actual job title suggests. These employees are, for all intents and purposes, full-time union reps being paid a government wage to not do their job.

Often, the employees that do this are among the most highly trained and highly paid. For instance, until recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs paid 400 physicians, dentists, nurses, and physician assistants to work for the union instead of helping veterans.

The new agreement between the EPA and the employee union does not completely do away with official time, but it does curtail it significantly.

Employees at the agency will now be required to do the job they were hired to perform 75% of the time they are on the clock. And, to prevent the union from simply spreading the same amount of official time across more employees, the new agreement caps the agency-wide total of official time as well.

The agreement also limits the sort of activities federal employees can do while on official time. Under the new agreement, employees will not be able to use official time to combat disciplinary actions taken by EPA management and supervisors unless they are defending themselves.

This does not mean the union can’t defend its members. It just means it has to spend its own membership dues, rather than taxpayer dollars, to perform these services.

Of course, the American Federation of Government Employees—the largest federal employee union, which donated $9.5 million to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle compared to only $100,000 for Republicans—would prefer to use its membership dues for other things.

The union complains that all of these provisions were unilaterally imposed by the administration. And to some extent, it’s right. It did not agree to these terms. But that’s because it walked away from the negotiating table years ago.

Federal law demands that both the agency and the union engage in collective bargaining in a good-faith effort to reach an agreement. In this case, the union did not even come close.

In fact, the union walked away from negotiations before they even began, refusing to negotiate unless the agency accepted a set of “ground rules” that protected every substantive provision of the old agreement. That was unrealistic and hardly in good faith.

This is becoming a familiar story by now. Federal employee unions are currently in the midst of legal battles over collective bargaining agreements at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration.

If they get in front of the right judge, they just might win. Even when the law isn’t on their side, they have a strong track record of winning in front of activist Obama-appointed judges.

But, in the long run, the union’s all-or-nothing tactics are doomed to fail. Public-sector unions in general, and the American Federation of Government Employees in particular, do their members no favors by refusing to engage in any serious conversation with agency leadership about the state of the civil service.

Good government groups on both sides of the political aisle are dialoguing about how to update a decades-old bureaucracy built for a bygone era. Not since the 1970s has there been more bipartisan agreement that serious reform is needed.

Labor unions are not part of this exchange, however, because they prefer to throw bombs and cold water than offer any practical solutions. The reform agenda that is currently galvanizing in their absence will soon blindside them.

The climate has changed, and the EPA fight is just the beginning.


Big Government Is Not the Answer to Climate Change

In the 1970s, Americans were told we were in a global cooling crisis and if something wasn’t done, we’d enter a new ice age.

When that didn’t happen, a few decades later we were told that entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend was not reversed by the year 2000.

Despite the consistent failure of these apocalyptic warnings, that hasn’t stopped climate change alarmism.

We’re now being told we only have 12 years to combat climate change, and the solution is to fundamentally dismantle the system of free enterprise. That means Washington controls things like how we produce our energy, what food we eat, and what type of cars we drive.

The question is, even if we believed their alarmist, catastrophic predictions, would their proposals work?

Not according to the climate scientists’ own models. Based on those models, even if the United States cut its carbon dioxide emissions to zero, it would only avert global warming by a few tenths of a degree Celsius—in 80 years.

We would see no noticeable difference in the climate, yet it would come at an enormous cost to the American people.

Climate change is happening, and human activity undoubtedly plays a role, but big-government climate policies are all economic pain, no environmental gain.

After all, the purpose of climate change regulations is to drive energy prices higher so families and businesses use less energy.

Abundant energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas have allowed Americans to affordably drive to their jobs, light and heat their homes, and power their refrigerators, computers, and iPhones.

On the other hand, more heavy-handed climate regulations would drive up electricity bills and prices at the pump.

Families would be hurt multiple times over, paying not just more for energy but also more for food, clothing, and health care, as energy is critical for every stage of planting, harvesting, manufacturing, and transporting goods to consumers.

These rising costs would stifle economic growth, one of the most important factors for maintaining a cleaner environment.

As a country’s economy grows, the financial ability of its citizens to take care of the environment grows, too. So creating more economy-killing climate regulations and taxes would not only harm the livelihoods of the American people, it would also harm our ability to protect our environment.

Instead, government should focus on keeping the economy strong by reducing taxes and eliminating regulatory barriers to energy innovation.

For example, some states produce clean, cheap natural gas, but excessive regulations and litigation prevent the construction of pipelines to distribute natural gas to other parts of the country.

Furthermore, competitive electricity markets can give consumers the option to buy 100% renewable power if they like. And fixing a broken regulatory system will allow new, innovative commercial nuclear technologies to get off the ground.

This is how we can ensure affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy. It’s how we can keep our economy growing. And ultimately, it’s how we can ensure a cleaner environment for America.


What I Learned on My Undercover Mission Among the Greenies at Glastonbury…

James Delingpole

At Glastonbury Festival I finally caught up with one of my all-time heroines…

No, not really. Look closely and you’ll see that it’s just a painted hardboard cut-out. But it does give you an idea of what we’re up against. Hanging on the wall nearby was a painting of Sir David Attenborough with a halo around his head. None of this, it goes almost without saying, was in any way tongue-in-cheek.

Whoever painted these pictures genuinely, sincerely believes that Greta Thunberg is a latter day Jesus whose every utterance we should aim to follow. And that Attenborough, far from being a whispery-voiced, gorilla-hugging, alleged walrus-murdering Malthusian, is in fact right up there with St Francis of Assisi.

Scarier than that, though, is the assumption behind those paintings. It’s one that pervades the whole festival, namely: every good and decent person in the world — including all 135,000 people at Glastonbury — knows that we have only 12 years left to save the planet and that if we don’t put on our hair shirts, drink Oatly instead of milk [bit ironic that, given that the festival is held on a dairy farm and was founded by a dairy farmer…], abandon plastic, recycle everything, and bomb the economy back to the dark ages, we are all totally doomed.

I find the intolerance of this green totalitarianism utterly terrifying.

But here’s the thing I learned during my three days among the green enemy: they are not hateful or evil, just woefully ill-informed.

Travelling incognito (well I hope I was, otherwise it might have been a bit awkward), I hung with people in Extinction Rebellion t-shirts and naked greenies in the sauna in a yurt and bought coffee (made with Oatly, natch) from the greenies at the Greenpeace cafe. And what I realised was something I ought to have appreciated ages back but didn’t quite: they actually believe this nonsense!

They believe it not for the most part because they are stupid or because they are cynically using it as a way to smash the capitalist system or because they’re crony capitalists making money out of a massive scam (though obviously those people exist too). Rather they believe it because they know no better.

In one conversation, a red-headed woman told me — during a discussion prompted by the scorching weather — how much harder the future was going to be for people of her pale complexion because what with global warming summers were going to get hotter and hotter.

Certainly, as she spoke the weather we were experiencing was indeed jolly hot.

But it seemed not have occurred to this very nice lady that a) heat is something you can get quite a lot of in June, June being part of the season called summer, known for its sun and b) this particular bout of heat had nothing whatsoever to do with “climate change” but was the result of a warm front which had come from North Africa.

This is how you think, though, when you live in a bubble where you meet no one who is a climate sceptic or indeed ever get exposed to articles or books questioning the alarmist narrative.

The media bear a terrible responsibility for this. It isn’t just the wall-to-wall green propaganda you get from avowedly left-wing newspapers like the Guardian or blatantly partisan organisations like the BBC or CNN. Even conservative newspapers are part of the problem. Wandering into my kitchen just now I happened to catch sight of the business section of the Daily Telegraph, former house journal of the Tory shires, to see an article headlined ‘Green finance can solve world’s greatest challenge.’

I’m sure the author of that bilge, Simon Thompson, chief executive of the Chartered Banker Institute (whatever that is when it’s home) knows less than bugger all about the background to climate change. But the casual reader isn’t going to know that. More likely, they’re going to tell themselves mentally: “Well the chief executive of the Chartered Banker Institute is hardly going to write this stuff if it’s not true. Nor would the Telegraph publish it if it weren’t true.”

So what happens is that public’s trust in the cumulative prestige of all manner of institutions — the BBC, the Telegraph, the Chartered Banker Institute, on and on it goes — is being horribly abused, daily, because journalists aren’t doing their job and scientists are fudging the evidence and businessmen and financiers (so hardheaded about most things) are being too woefully credulous and politicians are too busy trying to don the green mantle because they think it makes them sound caring and sensitive.

But you expect businessmen and financiers to follow money, politicians to chase votes, scientists to go where the grant funding is. Journalists are — or ought to be — different. You don’t go into journalism for the money: you do it, usually, because you’re a nosey so-and-so, largely unemployable elsewhere, who wants to get to the bottom of the story however ugly or inconvenient it may be.

With climate change — and the environment generally — mainstream media journalists just aren’t doing this. They’re swallowing the green narrative whole — then regurgitating it daily in their newspapers and on their TV and radio shows. Not only do they assiduously promote the [non-existent] climate change ‘problem’ but they also shill on behalf of the extremely damaging solution: renewables (or ‘clean’ energy as they’ve laughably redesignated it).

Reading the Telegraph‘s gushingly uncritical coverage of the wind industry, for example, you sometimes wonder whether its entire business model isn’t just a front for Big Wind.

This lack of critical scrutiny means that green propagandists get a free pass.

It means suicidal projects like Theresa May’s ‘Net Zero’ carbon scheme get passed by parliament on the nod, even though the £1.5 trillion or so it will cost the taxpayer is really quite a lot of money and the damage it will do to the environment and the economy and liberty will prove devastating.

It means that the public start acting like turkeys voting Christmas.

For example, if we are to believe the Guardian — quite a stretch, I know — even Conservative voters are now clamouring to have more wind turbines erected all over the British countryside.

They think this way because they genuinely believe it’s going to help the environment.

Apparently the message hasn’t got through that what wind turbines actually do is this…

Eagle hit by a wind turbine

I can't watch it either. And what is more revolting is that this slaughter is for nothing. Wind is a non reliable, expensive and chaotic energy source with no future so we can't even justify the murders by saying that some good has been done elsewhere.

I don’t believe all those people pushing for more wind turbines want millions of birds and bats to sliced and diced; I don’t believe that they want to ruin views for miles around, enrich crony capitalists, drive old people into fuel poverty, or make people sick from wind turbine syndrome. Rather I think it’s that they’ve been brainwashed by the media into ignoring these issues or into imagining that this is #fakenews or that these are small and acceptable prices to pay for the massive environmental benefits which will accrue once we’ve abandoned fossil fuels.

What I learned at Glastonbury is at once cheering and depressing.

The cheering part is that most of the people who believe passionately in climate change, even the really radical ones who support Extinction Rebellion, are mostly just as nice and normal and reasonable and decent and intelligent as you and me.

The depressing part is that our message is simply not reaching them. We on the sceptical side of the argument have so many facts in our favour: we have the science, we have nature, we have the weather, we have the economics, we have the birds and the bats, we have the poor, all on our side, all adding up to arguments against the Green Terror so utterly compelling than any half way competent PR company ought to win the battle for hearts and minds in a nanosecond.

Yet still we’re losing and I really don’t know what to do. Anyone got any bright ideas?


Disentangling the Renewable Energy Scam

The solar energy industry is telling its pals in Congress that it is willing to lose most of its subsidies.  The current subsidy for solar is 30% of the construction cost.  To that subsidy, an additional 10% subsidy is available due to special fast depreciation for solar energy plants.  The 30% subsidy is scheduled to ramp down to 10% by 2022 and thereafter remain at 10%.  This is not a consequence of declining costs of solar that makes the industry no longer in need of such a large subsidy.  Solar electricity is a mature industry, and cost declines are moderate.  The real reason the solar people are happy with a lower subsidy is that the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) is not their most important subsidy.  The real subsidy is more complicated and better hidden.

The real subsidy is rooted in renewable portfolio requirements in about 30 states. These states require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources. The quota ramps over time. For example it might ramp from 20% now to 50% by 2030.  These quotas create a chain of events that guarantee solar and wind energy a market for years to come with a guaranteed profit. If that is not enough, the industry is trying to freeze the quotas into state constitutions so as to make it difficult for the electricity consumers to get out of the trap that has been set for them.

Renewable energy has been defined in an illogical way so as to favor solar and wind.  The ostensible motive for increasing renewable energy is to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and thus avoid a supposed global warming catastrophe.  But hydro and nuclear are prohibited from being used to meet the renewable energy quota, even though they don't emit CO2.

Electricity is responsible for 28% of U.S. CO2 emissions.  The rest is from transportation, heating, and industrial processes.  Yet the emphasis on reducing CO2 is focused on the electricity sector.  The U.S. is responsible for 14% of world CO2 emissions, and our electricity generation creates less than 4% of world emissions.  All the effort being put into U.S. renewable electricity will have no important effect on global warming, assuming that global warming is even real.  The real source of CO2 emissions is China and India among others.

I will explain how renewable energy quotas subsidize solar.  The argument for wind is similar but different in various details.  To see how big the subsidy is, I will compare an imaginary, unsubsidized solar electricity business with the existing situation, propped up by subsidies and quotas.

Our imaginary unsubsidized solar business is going to sell electricity to various utilities that its electricity can reach via the transmission networks that are open to companies exchanging electricity.

Solar electricity is erratic electricity.  You get it during the day, when the sun is not obscured by clouds.  The utilities that deliver electricity must supply electricity in a predictable and non-erratic manner.  Why would any utility even want erratic electricity?  The answer is that the utility can use its existing plants to compensate for the erratic nature of the solar.  The value to the utility of the solar electricity is the value of the fuel saved in its existing plants when solar electricity is actually flowing.  Solar can't replace existing plants because sometimes it's not there, particularly in the early evening, when electricity demand often peaks.  On the negative side, solar lowers the utilization of its existing plants and stresses them more, increasing the cost of electricity from existing plants.

To summarize a complicated story, solar electricity is worth about $20 per megawatt-hour to a typical utility.

Our imaginary company with a speculative market and no guarantees would need an 8% return over a 10-year period to justify the investment.  Under these conditions, it is not remotely possible to sell solar electricity for $20 and get the 8% return appropriate to this speculative business.  The company would have to get about $100 per megawatt-hour to stay in business.  One hundred dollars per megawatt-hour is the true price of solar electricity in a free market.

But suppose the solar company has a 25-year contract with a utility guaranteeing a market and price.  Then our not so imaginary company could be financed with a rate of return of 4.5% over 25 years.  Under these conditions, the company could prosper by selling electricity for $37 per megawatt-hour.  Take it one step farther and assume we have the full 30% ITC, which, in combination with rapid depreciation, is a 40% subsidy.  Under those conditions, the company could sell electricity for $22 per megawatt-hour.  That $22 per megawatt-hour is in line with the lowest-cost solar agreements being signed at the present time.  The subsidy is $100 - $22, or 78%.  Take it one step farther and consider when the ITC ramps down to 10%.  The subsidy from the ITC and the rapid depreciation will then be 20%.  In this case, the electricity can be sold for $30 per megawatt-hour and the company will still get its return.

Because utilities are forced to search out renewable electricity due to the quota, they have to provide terms that will cause the installations to be built.  Those terms are driven by long-term interest rates and the cost of building the solar installations.  When, and if, the ITC is reduced from 30% to 10%, we can expect the best power purchase agreements to rise from $22 to $30 per megawatt-hour, or a bit less if the industry lowers its costs.  The profits of the industry will remain the same.  The renewable portfolio quotas protect the business.  The payer of the subsidy shifts from taxpayers to electricity consumers when the direct subsidies are reduced.

If the quotas were repealed, the utilities would have little incentive to offer long-term contracts to solar energy producers.  The utilities might be willing to pay $20 for the electricity, but without the long-term contracts, the required rate of return needed for a viable business would be much higher, and that would be unobtainable with the $20 amount the utilities would be willing to pay.  Even with the 40% existing federal subsidy, the solar producers would need about $60 per megawatt-hour to get an 8% return over 10 years.

What this comes down to is that if you guarantee a market and price for 25 years, that is of great value to the company receiving it.  You have taken away most of the risk, and risk requires higher returns.  A company with such guarantees is more like a government bond than a normal enterprise.

The proselytizers for renewable energy have cleverly created a good business by convincing states to set quotas for renewable energy.  Because there is a quota, the utilities will sign contracts that will result in providing the needed supply.  The quotas are justified on the grounds of saving the Earth from global warming, but even if global warming is a real danger, the problem is in Asia, not in the U.S. electricity sector.  By banning hydro and nuclear on spurious grounds, the wind and solar industry has fended off the competition for CO2-free electricity.

The experts, like James Hansen and Michael Shellenberger, who really, really believe in global warming, are loudly saying the solution is nuclear, not wind or solar.

It's time to get rid of the subsidies and quotas and put these scammers out of business.


Disgusted: Australian public broadcaster angers farmers with water management report

The usual unbalanced reporting we expect from the Left

Australia’s farming lobby says it is “disgusted” by the ABC’s Four Corners program’s report into the Murray-Darling Basin plan which it labels “reckless” and “incredibly damaging” to the sector.

Four Corners reported last night that millions of dollars in Commonwealth funds had been handed out to irrigators under a scheme designed to help the environment and raised concerns over whether checks were being made into the grants given under the scheme were delivering their promised water savings.

Last night’s program has elicited an angry response from both the National Farmers’ Federation and Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud.

NFF president Fiona Simson said her organisation — the peak farmer’s body — said the report failed to mention that the majority of irrigation projects were carried out by smaller farms, not big corporations, and that 7000 gigalitres had been returned to the river system under the Murray-Darling Plan.

“The management of the Murray Darling Basin is an issue of immense national importance,” Ms Simson said. “Reckless and ill-informed reporting such as that aired last night, that picks and chooses facts, has the potential to be incredibly damaging for not only farmers, but communities and the environment.

“Not to mention doing a disservice to the intelligence of Australians, who expect informed and balanced reporting from what used to be one of our nation’s flagship investigative news programs.”

The ABC spoke to experts and former Murray-Darling Basin Authority officials who said the Murray-Darling Plan was now putting irrigators before the environment.

Four Corners reported that some of the beneficiaries of the scheme were partly foreign-owned corporations that had used the money to plant thirsty cotton and nut fields along the river system.

“That program was supposed to reduce the amount of water that was going to irrigation, when it’s actually increased the opportunities for irrigation … all subsidised by taxpayers,” former Murray-Darling Basin Authority director Maryanne Slattery told Four Corners.

“I think Australian taxpayers will be really shocked to find out that that money is actually going to foreign investors as well.”

Ms Simson said today that farmers had to return water to the environment in order to access an Murray-Darling infrastructure access scheme.

A spokesman for Mr Littleproud said the government had moved against speculators in the water market and had invested more than $60m in compliance.

The Coalition is proud to invest in water efficiency projects because they return water to the river system while protecting rural jobs and communities rather than decimating them as water buybacks do,” Mr Littleproud’s spokesman said.

“It is unfortunate Four Corners did not mention this crucial fact … The office of Minister Littleproud was not contacted for the Four Corners story.”



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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9 July, 2019 

Waitrose’s package-free shopping is a PR move that will change little

The article in Britain's "Guardian" below  by a cynical Greenie makes some good points.  He is right that popular Greenie strategies are pissing into the wind.   He wants much more radical Greenie "solutions" but knows he will not get them any time soon.  He has some amusing lapses.  He recommends selling avocados in edible coatings.  But who eats the outside of avocados?  Avocados come in an excellent natural packaging of their own

He sees no reason to explain his aversion to plastic packaging.  But there is no obvious reason for it.  The plastic waste that entangles some birds and fish does not come from Britain.  The Brits carefully gather up their waste and make sure it does not go into the sea. The plastic waste that entangles some birds and fish is put there by third-worlders in  Africa and Asia who just chuck their garbage into any nearby river. Without some action about that, anything Brits do is pointless.  It has negligible effect.

He does however touch on one genuine problem.  Reducing plastic packaging increases food waste.  That plastic packaging is there for a purpose.  It increases the shelf-life of the food item and protects it from contamination of various sorts.  Without the packaging the food will go off faster and have to be thrown out.  And people will get more food-borne illnesses.  Is that good?  Greenies tend to get highly critical of food waste but by  reducing packaging they are creating it.  But nobody expects logic from Greenies.  Foot-shooting and panic is their forte.

Waitrose’s experiment in packaging-free shopping is an obvious win for the supermarket chain. Its decision to sell around 200 loose lines to shoppers at its Oxford store – they can now use their own containers to take home rice, pasta, lentils, cleaning products – will be catnip (now dispensed in self-service hoppers, presumably?), to ethical shoppers. The move co-opts the trend for “unpackaged” seen in more radical zero-waste shops and the rise of refillable wine and beer (growler-fills in Waitrose!). It ticks some useful, hip boxes for this rather stuffy middle-class brand.

It is all positive PR and puts Waitrose on par with rival supermarkets who, facing predicted “polluter pay” legislation (more on that later), are suddenly super-keen to prove their green packaging credentials. Market-style loose vegetable aisles are being rolled out at Booths; Asda has removed the plastic wrap from its swedes; Morrisons has unsheathed its cucumbers (for part of the year); and both Iceland and Tesco are trialling schemes to pay customers to recycle plastic bottles (5.5bn worth of which are currently burned or dumped annually). Tesco is even experimenting with collecting and recycling “soft plastics” such as crisp packets, which local authorities generally cannot reprocess.

Waitrose is discounting its unpackaged goods too, a bonus for those of us who shop there (full disclosure: me. I go there and to the Co-op because they are at least employee-owned – all caveats fully acknowledged). Behaviourally, Waitrose appears to be pushing at an open door here, too. A decade ago, when the campaigning group, Wrap, looked at consumer attitudes to unpackaged products, it found that hygiene concerns were less important than the public’s disgust about overpackaging. Ninety per cent of us already happily buy loose fruit and vegetables.

But instead of celebrating this change, it feels to me like another of those fashionable supermarket spasms (trials selling misshapen veg; pushes on unfashionable sustainable fish like mackerel), that will ultimately change little. It will achieve traction with an already self-motivated minority, but then what?

Realistically, how practical is unpackaged for most people? Keeping a bag for life handy at all times is difficult enough (and, such are the unintended consequences that can arise, some worry they have actually increased the total amount of bag-plastic in circulation). But imagine the hassle of planning and carting – by car, inevitably – endless (plastic?) containers to Waitrose. For dry goods, wouldn’t providing heavy-duty, reusable and recyclable paper sacks in-store be more user-friendly? And is any of this a truly sustainable model: driving to Waitrose to refill on frozen fruit because we want to eat strawberries in February? If so, where is the scientific audit, the full life-cycle analysis of all those interlocking energy uses, that proves it?

If you want to reduce Britain’s carbon footprint, surely a far more radical overhaul is needed? One that, for instance, evenly distributes big supermarkets (not local and metro spin-offs), so that, using their economies of scale and logistical might, we all have access to affordable food where we live. Enabling us to shop little and often (using refillables, preferably), without driving. That would go hand-in-hand with a generational schools programme teaching people how to plan meals and shop carefully, to minimise food waste.

Investment in sustainable food packaging, such as Apeel Sciences’ edible coating for avocados, is important, too. Removing plastic is great in immediate pollution terms, but if it leads to increased food waste – Morrisons unpackaged cucumbers have a shelf-life of five rather than seven days – many experts would tell you that, in carbon-footprint terms, food waste causes the greater damage.

That lack of joined-up thinking is most glaring in the recycling market itself where local authorities (or the taxpayer) shoulder 90% of the cost of waste recycling in a system so flawed that two-thirds of all our waste plastic is shipped overseas. Instead of being managed nationally for the greater good, the recycling market fluctuates, driving or curtailing innovation haphazardly and leaving huge technological holes in what can be recycled, where. That is why Costa Coffee is subsidising coffee-cup collections, at £70 a tonne, in an attempt to kickstart the market in recycling coffee cups and their problematic plastic linings.

The government, meanwhile, prevaricates. Plans announced in 2018 to make the food industry pay £1bn each year to recycle the waste packaging it creates (currently councils spend £700m annually on recycling, business just £73m), are out for consultation and years from implementation. It is “too little, too slowly”, said Labour MP Mary Creagh, chair of the environmental audit select committee.


The fact is that our earth has ice in its veins

By David Shelley former lecturer in geology at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury.

Climate change is a defining issue of our time, especially for young people who are persuaded that we are doomed unless urgent action is taken on carbon emissions. Activists, with some success, are demanding climate emergencies be declared around the world, making those demands on the basis that temperatures are at record highs, glaciers and sea ice are melting at unprecedented rates, and sea levels rising dangerously.

A cursory examination of the geological literature shows that the first two assertions are simply not true, and that rising sea levels are par for the course.

To assert that today’s temperatures are record highs is mischief-making of the highest order. Earth has been much hotter (up to 10C hotter) for the vast majority of geological time. Jurassic Park was very hot, and when the dinosaurs suddenly died out 65 million years ago, the succeeding age of mammals was similarly very hot.

The last million years (a mere heartbeat on the geological time-scale) has been atypically cold, with extraordinarily large fluctuations in temperature. This period can be described as a series of 100,000-year-long cycles of dangerously cold ice ages (10C colder than today) and warm interglacials (where we are now). The inter­glacials are relatively short, usually a few thousand years, and we are already 12,000 years or so into this one. The record would suggest we might soon descend into another dangerously cold glaciation.

Geologists know temperatures were higher than they are today during the Holocene maximum, 5000 to 9000 years ago in our current interglacial, and higher (by at least 2 C) in two of the last three interglacial periods. Sea levels are rising, but just 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glaciation, sea levels were as much as 140m lower than today, and they then rose dramatically as we entered this interglacial. Sea levels were significantly higher than today just a very short time ago.

Sea levels were also significantly higher in the last interglacial 125,000 years ago; Florida Keys, for example, is the remains of a coral reef that grew then.

The really major ice melt was during the transition from the last glaciation to today. Canada was covered entirely by a massive sheet of ice with no vegetation and New Zealand’s South Island lakes were 1km-thick glaciers — so today’s reductions in sea ice and glacier volumes are quite trivial.

This is proved by the modern-day retreat of glaciers which is ­exhuming the remains of forests that existed just a few thousand years ago in Alaska and Europe.

Alarmists assert that despite all that, CO2 is a greenhouse gas and we are pumping large quantities of it into the atmosphere, causing catastrophic warming. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not know how potent CO2 is as a greenhouse gas, and gives a possible range for climate sensitivity of one to six. If climate sensitivity is low (close to one) then our emissions will never dangerously warm Earth. Climate sensitivity due to CO2 alone is actually just one, but climate scientists add all sorts of uncertain feedback effects to make it higher.

Milankovitch Cycles are the favoured explanation for the recent cycles of ice ages and interglacial periods, thus making the sun the main driver of temperature change. But other factors are certainly involved, because climate is an incredibly complex system, and on the geological time scale, processes such as plate tectonics, volcanism and impacts from extraterrestrial bodies play significant roles.

Let us agree that the sun drove the 10C ups and downs in temperature between glaciations and interglacials, and let us acknowledge that the modern satellite record of temperatures shows global temperatures regularly going up and down by as much as 1C on a timescale of three to 10 years (probably due to oceanic influences such as El Nino). We know, too, that temperatures over the past 9000 years have varied up and down by almost 2C. Not one of those changes can be blamed on our carbon emissions. In the context of these natural changes, why is the small warming of about 1C in the 20th century regarded as extraordinary and alarming?

The IPCC stated quite clearly that: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” Why is it then that people believe the so-called IPCC projections of future climate change to be valid, when even the IPCC says it can’t make valid predictions?

It is an indictment of our education system that students are convinced today’s climate change is extraordinary when it falls well within the bounds of natural climate change. They should be told, too, that we do not know how potent CO2 is as a greenhouse gas.

All this is not to say that there is nothing to be alarmed about. Humans have changed and often overwhelmed the environment (most living things try to do exactly the same, but are restrained by some form of dynamic equilibrium). If we want our civilisation to survive, it is imperative that we manage finite resources (including fossil fuels) more carefully.

Most politicians talk in terms of a few years’ time, or of caring for our children’s or grandchildren’s generation, but I’d prefer to think we can stay around a little longer than that. Human civilisation as we know it has been around perhaps 10,000 years, so let’s start by making sure we can survive for at least another 10,000 years. And why not a million years or more?

Which means we must stop polluting the oceans, stop overfishing, find more sustainable sources of electricity and control population growth. Given the present reality that large nations such as China dominate global emissions and are increasing them, nations such as Australia and New Zealand need not panic over the use of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy may be a short-term option for Australia, but surviving for another million years will certainly require new solutions and technology.

I suggest to the activists that the clarion call for action should be “managing the environment and sustainability”, not “stopping climate change”.

The very idea that we can stop climate change is barking mad. Climate change is inevitable, as geology has always shown.


One climate crisis disaster happening somewhere in the world every week, UN warns

But where is the eidence that it is due to CO2?  There is none.  Destructive weather has always been common, particularly if you look worldwide

Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.

Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”

This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”

Estimates put the cost of climate-related disasters at $520bn a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure that is resistant to the effects of global heating is only about 3%, or $2.7tn in total over the next 20 years.

Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough. Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for.” That would mean normalising the standards for new infrastructure, such as housing, road and rail networks, factories, power and water supply networks, so that they were less vulnerable to the effects of floods, droughts, storms and extreme weather.

Until now, most of the focus of work on the climate crisis has been on “mitigation” – jargon for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and not to be confused with mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. The question of adapting to its effects has taken a distant second place, in part because activists and scientists were concerned for years that people would gain a false complacency that we need not cut emissions as we could adapt to the effects instead, and also because while cutting emissions could be clearly measured, the question of adapting or increasing resilience was harder to pin down.

Mizutori said the time for such arguments had ran out. “We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot confront this [issue of adapting to the effects] we will not survive,” she told the Guardian. “We need to look at the risks of not investing in resilience.”

Many of the lower-impact disasters would be preventable if people had early warnings of severe weather, better infrastructure such as flood defences or access to water in case of drought, and governments had more awareness of which areas were most vulnerable.

Nor is this a problem confined to the developing world, she said, as the recent forest fires in the US and Europe’s latest heatwave had shown. Rich countries also face a challenge to adapt their infrastructure and ways of protecting people from disaster.

“Nature-based solutions”, such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands which could form natural barriers to flooding should be a priority, said Mizutori. A further key problem is how to protect people in informal settlements, or slums, which are more vulnerable than planned cities. The most vulnerable people are the poor, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and displaced, and many of these people live in informal settlements without access to basic amenities.

Regulations on building standards must also be updated for the climate crisis and properly enforced, she said. One of the governance issues cited by Mizutori was that while responsibility for the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions was usually held in one ministry, such as the economics, environment or energy department, responsibility for infrastructure and people’s protection was held elsewhere in government.

“We need to take a more holistic view of the risks,” she said.


Once again cooling proves warming.  Does cooling ever prove cooling?

In what will go down as one of the weirdest weather events ever caught on film, residents of Guadalajara, Mexico, awoke Sunday to 5 feet of hail and slush.

Video captured the truly jaw-dropping sight of 18-wheelers plowing through frigid slush as high as their doors.

The Washington Post carried pictures of the bizarre event, calling it a “freak summer hailstorm.”

While children across the city doubtless delighted in the unexpected spectacle, environmental alarmists quickly decried it as proof of global warming.

According to The Post, Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro was quick to attribute the frigid precipitation to global warming, saying, “I’ve never seen such scenes in Guadalajara. …Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomenons,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Increasingly, the establishment media have drawn attention to nearly any sort of unexpected weather and attributed it to man-made warming of the planet.

Hurricanes have long been blamed on global warming, yet the data do not bear out that conclusion.

More recently talking heads blamed tornadoes on global warming, despite there being little evidence to support the claim.

And perhaps most incredibly, wildfires started by power lines have been blamed on global warming.

In that last example, however, it’s rarely mentioned that one reason those fires were so devastating is that environmentalists made reducing underbrush more difficult, which in turn provided massive amounts of fuel for the blazes.

As Guadalajarans dig out and the summer heat begins to melt off the remaining hail, the establishment media’s drumbeat of “global warming,” “climate change” and “extreme weather” will continue, despite the fact that it’s essentially blaming a massive blanket of frozen precipitation on temperatures being higher.


Australia: Natural gas producers fear more regulation

Scott Morrison’s tax cuts deal with Centre Alliance has put the government on a collision course with the gas industry.

Australia’s petroleum and gas lobby this morning slammed Centre Alliance’s raft of gas reforms, which it claims to have secured in exchange for supporting the federal government’s full tax cuts bill.

The minor party today said it had secured changes to the gas pricing trigger, new transparency measures for the gas market and a long-term plan to boost domestic gas supply in order to pass the tax cuts package through the senate.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed today that the government had “talked through” gas reforms with Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, and announcements would be made in due course.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association today said there were no needs for any changes, and wanted more details from the government.

“APPEA needs to hear directly from the Government on the specifics of the proposed gas deal before commenting further,” an APPEA spokesman told The Australian.

“But we see no need for changes to the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) at this time.

“The ADGSM is up for a review in 2020 and the gas market transparency work will follow on from ACCC recommendations that were recently made public. “The Australian gas market is comprised of multiple gas suppliers competing to win local business.

“AEMO’s 2019 Gas Statement of Opportunities has confirmed that the gas market is well supplied until at least 2023.

“That why it is important that identified gas resources in NSW, Victoria and the NT are able to be developed as soon as possible.”

Centre Alliance says it has achieved changes to the Australian Domestic Gas Mechanism, new transparency measures for the gas market and long-term plans to ensure surplus domestic gas supply.

Senator Patrick says the gas reforms he has negotiated with the government will “cause lower electricity prices” but won’t say if he has a signed commitment for the policies.

“What we’ve done with the Government is negotiated a range of policy measures that they will announce over the next couple of months. And we have a very clear understanding of what those policies are. And we anticipate that they will have a positive effect for consumers on pricing.

“It’ll be good for consumers ... it might be bad for gas companies.”

The Finance Minister today declined to say the government has “horse-traded” with crossbench senators for their support for the full tax cuts package and said Scott Morrison has a long-term commitment to boosting domestic gas supply and bringing energy prices down.

“We’ve been prepared to engage in good faith with those senators about public policy issues that are important to them and they will be decided on their own merits and will be announced when we’re in a position to do so,” Senator Cormann told ABC radio.

“The government has a longstanding policy commitment to bring energy prices down. We have a longstanding policy commitment to boost the domestic supply of gas, in particular in the east coast electricity market.

“We’ve sat down in recent weeks with Centre Alliance, we’ve sat down with Senator Lambie. We’ve talked through these policy issues, we’ve talked through the measures the government has already announced, we’ve talked through the measures the government is developing at present.

“That is just normal parliamentary process engaging in good faith with elected members of parliament.”



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


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