Sunday, May 10, 2020

A miraculous turn of events

Michael Moore and Driessen agree! Wind, solar and biofuel energy are devastating Planet Earth

Paul Driessen

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision a day when I’d agree with anything filmmaker Michael Moore said – much less that he would agree with me. But mirabile dictu, his new film, Planet of the Humans, is as devastating an indictment of wind, solar and biofuel energy as anything I have ever written.

The documentary reflects Moore’s willingness to reexamine environmentalist doctrine. It’s soon obvious why more rabid greens tried to have the “dangerous film” banned. Indeed, Films for Action initially caved to the pressure and took Planet off its website, but then put it back up. The film is also on YouTube.

Would-be censors included Josh Fox, whose Gasland film Irish journalists Phelim McAleer and Anne McElhinney totally eviscerated with their FrackNation documentary; Michael Mann, whose hockey stick global temperature graph was demolished by Canadian analysts Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre, and many others; and Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, who just got slapped with a potential $1-million penalty (in legal fees) for bringing a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) and defamation lawsuit against a mathematician who criticized Jacobson’s renewable energy claims.

These critics and their allies are rarely willing to discuss any climate or energy issues that they view as “settled science,” much less engage in full-throated debate with “deniers” or allow former colleagues to stray from the catechism of climate cataclysm and renewable energy salvation. They prefer lawsuits. But they sense the Planet documentary could be Fort Sumter in a green civil war, and they’re terrified.

Their main complaint, that some footage is outdated, is correct but irrelevant. The film’s key point is the same as my own: wind, solar and biofuel energy are not clean, green, renewable or sustainable, and they are horrifically destructive to vital ecological values. The censors believe admitting that is sacrilegious.

Director-narrator Jeff Gibbs never talks to coal, oil or natural gas advocates – or to “renewable” energy and “manmade climate crisis” skeptics. Instead, he interviews fellow environmentalists who are justifiably aghast at what wind, solar and biofuel projects are doing to scenic areas, wildlife habitats, rare and endangered species, and millions of acres of forests, deserts and grasslands. He peeks backstage to expose bogus claims that solar panels actually provided the electricity for a solar promotion concert.

After speaking with “renewable” advocates in Lansing, Michigan, and learning that the Chevy Volt they’re so excited about is actually recharged by a coal-fired generating plant, Gibbs visits a nearby football-field-sized solar farm. It can power 50 (!) homes at peak solar intensity. Powering all of Lansing (not including the Michigan State University campus) would require 15 square miles of panels – plus wind turbines and a huge array of batteries (or a coal or gas power plant) for nights and cloudy days.

The crew films one of those turbines being erected outside of town. Each one is comprised of nearly 5,000,000 pounds of concrete, steel, aluminum, copper, plastic, cobalt, rare earths, fiberglass and other materials. Every step in the mining, processing, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance and (20 years later) removal process requires fossil fuels. It bears repeating: wind and sun are renewable and sustainable; harnessing them for energy to benefit mankind absolutely is not. (Go to 36:50 for a fast-paced mining tutorial on where all these “clean, green” technologies really come from.) 

Then they’re off to Vermont, where a wooded mountaintop is being removed to install still more wind turbines. Removing mountaintops to access coal, bad; to erect huge bird-killing wind turbines, good?

An aerial shot features 350,000 garage-door-sized mirrors sprawling across six square miles of former Mojave Desert habitat – with the giant Ivanpah “solar” power plant in the center. The system gets warmed up each morning by natural gas-powered heaters, so that it can generate a little electricity by sundown.

This “environmentally benign” solar facility now sits where 500-year-old yuccas and Joshua trees once grew. “Outdated” footage shows them being totally shredded to destroy any evidence they ever existed.

Gibbs and Moore next discuss ethanol – and the corn, water, fertilizer and fossil fuels required to create this “clean, green, renewable” gasoline substitute, which emits lots of carbon dioxide when burned.

Even worse is the total devastation of entire forests – clear cut, chopped into chips, maybe pelletized, and shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles ... to be burned in place of coal or natural gas to generate the electricity that makes modern homes, factories, hospitals, living standards and life spans possible. The crew gets “five seconds” to leave a denuded forest and “biomass” power plant area in Vermont – or be arrested. Haunting images of a bewildered indigenous native in Brazil and a terrified, mud-covered orangutan in Indonesia attest to the destruction wrought in the name of saving Earth from climate change.

You’re left to wonder how many acres of corn, sugarcane or canola it took for Richard Branson to fly one biofuel-powered jet to mainland Europe. How many it would take to produce the 96 billion gallons of oil-based fuel the airline industry consumed in 2019. How many decades it will take to replace the millions of acres of slow-growth forest that are incinerated each year as a “carbon neutral” alternative to coal.

“Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?” the producers wonder. “Renewable” energy systems last only 15-20 years, and then must be torn down and replaced, using more non-renewable resources, “if there’s enough planet left,” they say. “We’re basically being fed a lie.” Maybe we’d be “better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place,” than doing this.

Indeed. But bear in mind, the devastation that so deeply concerns Moore and Gibbs is happening in a world that is still some 85% dependent on oil, natural gas and coal, 4% on nuclear and 7% on hydroelectric. Imagine what our planet would look like if we went 100% (pseudo)renewable under various Green New Deals: millions of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, billions of batteries, thousands of biofuel plantations and denuded forests, thousands of new and expanded mines, and more.

But where some see devastation, others see opportunity. Or as Arnold Schwarzenegger says in the film, where some see the Mojave Desert as miles and miles of emptiness, he sees a vast “gold mine.” Al Gore sees endless millions in profits, a lovely seaside mansion and cushy private jets. Koch Industries sees bigger solar and biofuel empires. The Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists envision raking in more millions off climate doom and renewable salvation, while founder Bill McKibben can’t seem to remember that the Rockefeller Brothers and other fat-cat foundations gave him millions of dollars, too.

But Moore and Gibbs aren’t indicting free market capitalism. They’re indicting government-mandated and subsidized crony corporatist opportunism. And the solution they ultimately proffer isn’t recognizing that climate change has been “real” since Earth began; that humans and fossil fuels play only minimal roles amid the powerful natural forces that brought glacial epochs and interglacial periods, Medieval Warm Periods and Little Ice Ages; or that modern nuclear power plants generate abundant CO2-free electricity.

Instead, they propose that we humans must “get ourselves under control.” This means not just slashing our living standards (may we all have “carbon footprints” as small as Al Gore’s) and “de-developing” and “de-industrializing” the United States and Europe, while simultaneously dictating to still impoverished nations how much they will be “permitted” to develop, in accordance with former Obama science advisor John Holdren’s totalitarian instincts. It also means having far fewer humans on this glorious planet. (How exactly that is to be achieved they don’t say, though several twentieth century dictators offer ideas.)

This is where Planet of the Humans takes a troubling, wrongheaded, neo-Malthusian turn. But these final minutes should be viewed attentively, to understand what still motivates far too many “environmentalists,” who too often get lionized or even canonized for their devotion to Mother Earth – even if the price is measured in billions left in unimaginable poverty, malnutrition and energy deprivation, and millions dying long before they should.

Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs have done us a great service in exposing the environmental degradation from pseudo-renewable energy. Now they just need to reexamine neo-Malthusian doctrines as well.

Via email

There is no such thing as "The Science".  Science is not some grand tome we can consult to get the ‘right’ answer

According to David Blunkett, a former senior cabinet minister in Tony Blair’s governments, attempts to have a blanket lockdown on the over-70s are discriminatory. He believes that the current ‘shielding’ rules are too crude and need to be more nuanced. Whatever the merits of his ideas, his comments on the scientific advice that the government is receiving are interesting.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One on 28 April, Blunkett argued that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has a problem. Drawing on Matthew Syed’s book, Rebel Ideas, he said that ‘major mistakes in the recent past have been made by people of similar ilk, similar ideas, similar background, similar thinking being considered the only experts that you could draw down on. And I’d like RAGE – a Recovery Advisory Group – that had a very much broader swathe of advice and expertise to draw down on.’

The dangers of listening to a small pool of experts with orthodox thinking was also pointed to by a former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King. Reacting to reports that Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, may have pushed SAGE to back the current lockdown, King told Bloomberg: ‘There is a herd instinct in all of us – we call it groupthink. It is possible that a group is influenced by a particularly influential person.’

Other leading scientific figures have criticised the idea that the government’s policies are based on science. Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian: ‘As a scientist, I hope I never again hear the phrase “based on the best science and evidence” spoken by a politician. This phrase has become basically meaningless and used to explain anything and everything.’

The same article quotes Professor Mark Woolhouse, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh: ‘I do think scientific advice is driven far too much by epidemiology – and I’m an epidemiologist. What we’re not talking about in the same formal, quantitative way are the economic costs, the social costs, the psychological costs of being under lockdown. I understand that the government is being advised by economists, psychiatrists and others, but we’re not seeing what that science is telling them. I find that very puzzling.’

All these comments and more point to one of the most striking aspects of the Covid-19 crisis. For many years now, politicians – largely bereft of any wider purpose or philosophical principle – have claimed that they are pursuing ‘evidence-based policy’ and being ‘led by The Science’. In reality, science is a process of trying to draw together tentative conclusions driven by experiment and observation. Claiming authority from The Science – as if there were a grand tome you could simply open up to find the correct answer – is just wrong.

As Professor Brian Cox told Andrew Marr this week: ‘There’s no such thing as The Science, which is a key lesson. If you hear a politician say “we’re following The Science”, then what that means is they don’t really understand what science is. There isn’t such a thing as The Science. Science is a mindset.’

With widely publicised disagreements about everything from computer models to the use of face masks, it is clear that we need to move beyond the idea that we can rely on scientists coming to a cosy consensus. Science works – at its best – through the accumulation of evidence, an openness to new theories, and a willingness to challenge and be challenged.

It’s great that these principles are being restated. Funnily enough, though, this wasn’t the reaction we saw over Michael Gove’s much-half-quoted comment during the EU referendum – that the public has ‘had enough of experts’. (In fact, he said: ‘I think the people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying they know what is best, and getting it consistently wrong.’) The trouble with politicians, we were told by Remain-supporting types, is that they don’t listen to the cool, rational views of experts nearly enough. Now that it seems that experts might be blamed for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the expertise cheerleaders are reversing out of that position, pronto.

Actually, the public never gave up on experts. We’re only too happy to find out about the latest scientific understanding of the virus, how soon we might have a treatment or a vaccine, and so on. What some have taken issue with is the politicisation of expertise. An unholy alliance of politicians and a selected band of experts, whose views suit the current needs of government, have often in recent years told us what ‘The Science says’ and urged critics to just shut up – over issues from passive smoking to climate change. To disagree with the experts was, and is, to be a ‘denier’, and should lead to the perpetrator’s expulsion from public life and even private career.

Even giving a platform to a critical voice is beyond the pale. For example, when the former chancellor of the exchequer and climate-change sceptic, Nigel Lawson, appeared on Radio 4’s Today back in 2017, it was Cox who tweeted: ‘Irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.’ Cox certainly seemed to believe that there is a thing called The Science three years ago.

We need to get beyond a simple black-and-white view of science and expertise. The question is not whether we should believe experts, but how we understand expertise. Each and every claim needs to be treated with scepticism (not cynicism) and we need to be clear about the limits of each claim.

To go back to Blunkett’s points, it really does seem that the over-70s are at greater risk from Covid-19 than younger people. That doesn’t mean it necessarily makes sense to keep them under house arrest and separated from their families indefinitely. That’s a judgement that involves questions of physical and mental health, autonomy, pleasure and much more.

Carbon dioxide may be heating our planet. But the wilder claims about an overheating planet and eco-geddon need to be understood in the context of, for example, the assumptions made by computer models – some of which are actually very overheated themselves. Moreover, even if we are heading for a much warmer world, abandoning fossil fuels for a ‘Net Zero’ future seems to many people (including me) very likely to cause much more harm than global warming. These are matters for public debate. They should not be closed down because of The Science.

In the midst of a health crisis, hopefully we are now developing a proper and very healthy scepticism towards experts.


Saving Species on Private Lands

“‘Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.’ These words were written in 1934 by Aldo Leopold, the father of scientific wildlife management. In the same essay, Leopold called himself a ‘political and economic dreamer,’ acknowledging that, in his day, society lacked both the appetite and the tools for rewarding private landowners for conserving wildlife.

Eighty-six years later, America has begun to understand what Leopold meant when he wrote that “[t]he implements for restoration lie not in the legislature, but in the farmer’s toolshed.” Although many of our historic battles over wildlife management have focused on public lands, the current frontier of conservation is on private lands—especially the working lands that are economically productive and support an individual’s livelihood, such as farms, ranches, and timberlands. In the continental United States, 74 percent of all land is privately owned. Among species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, two-thirds can be found on privately owned land, as can hundreds more species at risk of being listed. Private land provides critical wildlife habitat in every state, including many of the most imperiled and ecologically valuable areas. For example, more than 75 percent of remaining wetlands and 80 percent of remaining grasslands in the United States are located on private land.

The historic approach to conserving endangered species focused on public land and largely used federal legislation and command-and-control policies. Statutes such as the ESA prohibit actions that would harm listed wildlife, and land management statutes such as Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act, both enacted in 1976, require public land managers to apply these laws. This has resulted in both conservation successes and failures on public land, but the history of efforts to bring this approach onto private land is unequivocally one of failure, punctuated by conflict, litigation, recriminations, and distrust. At its worst, federal wildlife management created perverse incentives that encouraged landowners to mismanage their land in order to prevent the appearance of any endangered species upon their property.

This is because, in the vast majority of cases, species are in decline and perhaps in danger of future ESA listing because of loss of habitat due to development, mostly on private land. Thus, as Leopold understood, landowners ultimately bear much of the cost of conservation. In fact, many people criticize the ESA for functioning as a regulatory land-use law. This tension between commercial development and wildlife values has been the root of most bitter conflicts over wildlife.

Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.

As Leopold understood, in our system of private property, the cost of conserving land must fall in large part upon the owners of that land. But today, command-and-control regulation is not the only option for conservationists. Thanks to improving incentives, voluntary conservation on private lands has expanded greatly in recent years. Incentives for voluntary action are emerging as a powerful tool for aligning landowner interests with wildlife recovery and improving conditions for species while avoiding listings under the ESA and the costs that federal regulation can bring.

The conservation successes discussed in this essay illustrate that by extending at-risk species conservation’s historic regulatory approach to also include incentives and financial support for conservation on private lands, we can fulfill the public’s interest in maintaining and restoring healthy wildlife populations. This essay will focus on two bird species in particular: the red-cockaded woodpecker and the greater sage-grouse, which exemplify the importance of voluntary habitat conservation and how the right incentives can encourage species recovery.

The Path Forward

Private landowners have been instrumental to the success of both greater sage-grouse and red-cockaded woodpecker conservation. In each case, proactive conservation efforts took species that had suffered many decades of declines and set them on a course for recovery. Achieving conservation on private lands requires patience and partnership-building among government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and, of course, landowners themselves. These species show that Aldo Leopold’s vision of public support for private lands conservation is the path forward for conservation in the twenty-first century. What is needed now is for more people to step forward and answer this challenge.

MORE here

Coronavirus: Science is clear on climate and the pandemic

Climate activists seldom waste a crisis, whether it is a drought, a bushfire or a viral pandemic. Having failed to come up with a way to blame the pandemic on climate change (yet), the green left is ­begging for more renewable ­energy funding to boost the post-pandemic economy.

They also reckon the corona­virus response offers a template for global warming policy. “Above all,” The Sydney Morning Herald editorialised this week, “Australia should take the same evidence-based scientifically led approach to climate change as we took to COVID-19.”

This is the same newspaper that editorialised last September about how the Prime Minister should have attended a climate speech in New York, not by a scientist but by a teenage activist. “Scott Morrison should have gone to hear Greta Thunberg,” counselled the Herald.

Presumably, the pandemic has turned the paper’s focus away from teenage slacktivism and back to science. It makes sense given that Earth Hour in March couldn’t make much of a mark when everything was ­already shut down, and school strikes don’t real­ly cut it when the kids aren’t in their classrooms to start with.

So, science it is. Let’s take up the Herald’s challenge and compare a science-based pandemic response to the climate policy debate.

The COVID-19 pandemic, like rising global greenhouse gas emissions, is a global problem emanating largely from China. The big difference is that by banning overseas arrivals and enforcing strict quarantine rules, Australia has been able to isolate itself and deal with the virus within our borders.

This has been Australia’s single greatest scientific advantage: isolation. It has meant that all the other actions we have taken — from hospital treatments to social distancing, from testing to infection tracing — have delivered ­material benefits for this country, regardless of what happens in the rest of the world.

By contrast, the atmosphere knows no borders; we all share the same air and experience whatever climatic variations occur globally, regardless of the policies of individual countries. On climate action Australia is beholden to what the rest of the world does or does not do; we could cut our emissions to zero and our climate would still be hostage to rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

The science is clear. If global emissions growth delivers a warming planet and dire climate changes for Australia, our own emissions reductions effort will do little more than reduce the economic resilience we need to deal with the consequences.

The appropriate analogy ­between climate and COVID-19 is to imagine how effective it would have been for this country to impose social-distancing measures but still allow tens of thousands of international visitors to arrive every day. Our anti-infection measures would have been rendered almost as futile as our emissions reduction schemes.

The fundamental evidence-based point the green left continues to ignore is that the minuscule reductions in our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions have been eclipsed many times over by ­increases elsewhere. According to the National Greenhouse Gas ­Inventory, annual emissions to September last year were 531 million tonnes, 69 million tonnes (or 11 per cent) less than the corresponding period in 1990. Across those same three decades, annual emissions in China alone rose from 3265 million tonnes to 13,405 million tonnes — from more than five times our total emissions to more than 25 times.

You don’t need to be a Nobel laureate to look at those facts and work out the likely impact of Australia’s renewable energy target on global atmospheric conditions and climate patterns. Those who pretend our policies make any difference globally are indulging in a giant deceit or a grand delusion. Our efforts are mere gestures, and science tells us that gestures will not save a planet.

The economic pain Australians have inflicted on themselves has produced no environmental gain. The cost-benefit analysis is stark: the cost in the energy sector alone tops something like $100bn, while there is no gain or, to be generous, the negligible benefit that we might have marginally reduced global emissions increases. The only plausible argument for deepening our emissions reduction ­effort is to suggest that where we go, others will follow. But like our early settlers who believed the rains would follow their ploughs, this theory is bound to end in heartache.

Malcolm Turnbull’s secret gift to our political debate, Guardian Australia, had a treatise this week from an unlikely triumvirate pushing the pandemic-climate coupling. “If we have learned anything from what we have already endured in 2020 it is that stopping an emergency is far better than responding to one,” said Australian Council of Social Service chief Cassandra Goldie, Australian ­Industry Group chief Innes Willox and Investor Group on Climate Change chief Emma Herd.

This stuff is trite and superficial. It is a level of political advocacy that demeans their case.

The coronavirus pandemic was and is a real and present danger. We know it is highly infectious and kills people, mainly those who are elderly or already ill. Even then, there is widespread and ongoing scientific research and debate trying to ascertain precisely how virulent and contagious it is. We can see the damage that is done when the virus runs rampant.

The science on stopping the spread of a virus is simple. We need to avoid direct human contact and be careful with indirect contact.

There has been no scientific ­debate about how to deal with the problem. The dilemma has been in deciding what is practical — we could all self-isolate in our bathrooms for a month, which would stop the virus but destroy our society — so we have had ongoing debates and adjustments to balance the battle to slow the spread of the virus against the sustenance of our community and economy.

Our domestic response is being sullied by political science. Buoyed by their successful suppression of the pandemic, some premiers have fallen into egotistical mission-creep; forgetting that their aim was to restrict infections to a level our health system could handle, they now see every new case as a personal and political blemish.

We need to prize our society, its economic viability and its self­-reliance above a zero-tolerance policy on COVID-19 that we would never apply to influenza, cancer or syphilis. To fight HIV-AIDS in the 1980s the left took ­delight in promoting condom-protected promiscuity; to battle the coronavirus Daniel Andrews demanded that lovers who did not live together should not even visit each other. This viral puritanism could have flattened more than the curve. Thankfully, Andrews was sweet-talked out of it.

“Our success in flattening the curve,” that Herald editorial continued, “has been because the ­advice and science have been believed and clearly communicated.”

This is a very unscientific ­simplification of what the nation is enduring. The whole conundrum of the pandemic response has been balancing the scientific objective of minimising human contact against the economic imperative for human engagement. If it were science alone, we would all be wasting away in our bathrooms.

Likewise, notwithstanding the futility of Australia reducing carbon emissions while they rise globally, any attempt to reduce emissions here is far more complicated than merely following the science. It is scientifically accurate to declare that burning fossil fuels generates CO2 emissions, therefore if we stop doing it emissions will reduce. But what would we do for affordable and reliable energy? How would our civilisation function without this crucial input? And if science reigns supreme, why would we not embrace scientifically proven, emissions-free nuclear energy?

The wrongheadedness of the Herald’s sloganeering was laid bare when it declared: “We have also learned in the past couple of months that working together as a nation we can actually beat global threats and climate change should be no different.” This is utter tripe.

We have banded together to solve a national problem. Look outside our borders and you can see COVID-19 chaos in the US, Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Australia cannot solve the global pandemic unless we come up with a vaccine (which would solve our export diversification issues, too). Science suggests we cannot come up with a vaccine for global warming.

This all underscores the scientific absurdity that anything the Australian federation can agree to do on emissions reduction policies can make the slightest difference to global atmospheric conditions or improve the climate in Australia or anywhere else. Any rational scientific analysis of national climate policy can only conclude that it will have an infinitely greater impact on our economy than our environment — yet that is precisely the aspect the green left ignores.



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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