Thursday, July 16, 2020

The next culture war will be over climate change

It is steadily becoming clear where the woke brigade will go once the current moral panic over racism has run its course (which can’t be long, following the news that London estate agents have stopped using the term ‘master bedroom’ to avoid its connotations with slavery). A week ago Andrew Willshire wrote here of how the activist group Hope Not Hate has now decided that climate change ‘denialism’ is now a hate crime.

Now comes another sign that climate change is becoming the next woke battleground. Earlier this week, an environmental campaigner, Michael Shellenberger wrote a mea culpa on the website of ‘On behalf of environmentalists everywhere I would like to formally apologise for the climate scare we have created over the past 30 years,’ it began. ‘Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.’

Shellenberger, who has been campaigning against the destruction of the rainforest since the age of 16, has not given up his campaign. On the contrary, that is the very reason he has changed his mind. Previously, he worked as an advocate for renewable energy – persuading the Obama administration to invest $90bn (£72bn) into renewables, he says. But he has now changed his mind. He has calculated that at present, 0.5 per cent of land on Earth is used for the production of energy. If the world switched to 100 per cent renewables, however, we would have to use 50 per cent of all land on Earth for wind farms, solar farms, growing biofuels or forest plantations to feed wood-burning power stations and so on. The devastation this would cause has led him to the conclusion that if we are going to reduce carbon emissions the only practical way is via nuclear power.

Now you may or may not agree with that conclusion. Personally, I have serious misgivings about using nuclear fission to provide the world’s energy needs, given the economic devastation that another Chernobyl or Fukushima would bring to a densely-populated country. Nuclear fusion, if we could get it to work on a commercial scale, would be a different story – although everyone has been promising that for the past half century, and there is a limit to how many billions you can throw at a technology in the hope of a breakthrough.

Anyway, that is by the by. What is surely true is that the world’s future energy needs, and the extent of the damage wrought on the climate by man-made carbon emissions, are areas of legitimate debate. If you do disagree with Shellenberger, you have every right to do so. But that is not, of course, how woke politics functions. The aim now is not to engage with political opponents but to attempt to put them beyond the pale, to try to delegitimise their opinions by making out that they belong on some far-right fringe from which the general public needs to be protected.

‘I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people,’ Shellenberger wrote prophetically in his Forbes piece. Not half. His piece has now been taken down by Forbes. A US journalist who tried to find out why was issued only with the following statement: ‘Forbes requires its contributors to adhere to strict editorial guidelines. This story did not follow those guidelines, and was removed.’

It is not hard to decode: a bunch of climate alarmists decided that Shellenberger is inconvenient to their cause and have tried to cancel him by complaining to the website – and the website caved in. Fortunately, Shellenberger has reposted his piece, so you can still read it here – and judge for yourself what ‘editorial guidelines’ Forbes judged it to breach (after initially passing it for publication).

The attempt to classify climate change ‘denialism’ as a hate crime has been coming for quite a while. The very use of the word ‘denial’ is an attempt to put anyone sceptical of climate alarmism in the same pigeonhole as holocaust deniers. Incidentally, I recently wrote a novel, The Denial, about a meteorologist who falls foul of climate activists because he values observation over alarmist predictions. I intended it as a satire set in the near future, but by the time it is published in September it looks as if it may well have become the present.


No, Global Warming Did Not Create Pink Algae in Snow, Nor Is It Dangerous

Among the climate click-bait topics getting media attention today is a series of stories implying climate change is giving rise to algae on the Presna glacier in Northern Italy, leading to melting of the glacier.

Live Science, CNN, CNBC, and The Guardian, among other media outlets, all published variations of this climate scare in the past few days. CBS’s write up, titled “Mysterious pink “watermelon snow” has been appearing in the Italian Alps — and it may warn of environmental disaster,” is typical of the coverage—misleading and overwrought.

It seems that a pink algae has appeared on some areas on the alpine glacier Presna, in Italy. However, as the scientists interviewed in the press reports point out, repeatedly, the pink algae is not a mystery at all in the sense that it is not unusual but rather a “well-documented” seasonal phenomena on Presna. Similar seasonal algae blooms occur in areas of Greenland, with green algae appearing in a small part of Antarctica, during the spring and summer months as seasonal snow melts and sunlight reaches the underlying surface. As Biagio Di Mauro, of the Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP) at Italy’s National Research Council, who traveled to the glacier to study the phenomena said in a press release, “The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles.”

Still CBS and other news outlets tried to make a climate mountain out of a natural mole hill, warning the algae reduces the reflectivity of the snow and ice, which is true, resulting in localized warming, causing ever more melting. Also true but irrelevant since it is part of a natural cycle which happens seasonally every summer.

Indeed, Presna has one of the shortest summer seasons and longest ski seasons in the Alps, being, in the words of one website, “one of the few glaciers where skiing is possible until late spring.” There is no evidence this has changed in the last three decades. None of the media outlets present any data indicating the temperatures in and around Presna have experienced a significant warming trend in recent years, a fact which undermines their seemingly breathless admonition, “it [the algae] may actually be a warning sign of environmental trouble.”

CBS’s story says the “snow algae productivity has implications for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” not telling the reader what the implications are but rather, based on the warnings contained throughout the story, leaving them with the impression the implications are dangerous. In truth, if one is concerned about increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the algae’s annual appearance should be thought of as good news. As CBS ignores, but I explained in a May 29 Climate Realism article discussing a faux “green snow” scare in Antarctica, the algae bloom removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Thus while the bloom may contribute to a marginal localized warming in areas on the glacier, because it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, if you believe rising CO2 is causing climate change, then the pink algae is reducing the threat.

In the end, while media outlets may sell papers and get online clicks by warning “mysterious” pink ice is appearing on Presna glacier, the facts are less alarming. The algae bloom is a natural seasonal phenomena, worth studying, undoubtedly, but not worth worrying about.


False Alarm: Bjorn Lomborg’s $69,000 Reveal Book

False Alarm is a new book by Bjorn Lomborg that reveals some amazing data about climate, the economy and what is falsely called sustainable development.

Buy this book, read it and pass it on to your friends (and enemies, too, if you think they will listen to you).  Bjorn Lomborg’s False Alarm is not perfect, but it is great.  If for nothing else (and there are lots of other good reasons to read the book) the price of the book is worth it for this one number: $69,000.

False AlarmThat is how much better off will be the average person in 2100 under a fossil-fuel developed world than under a sustainably developed world.  Lomborg did not make that number up.  He got it from a 2017 report by the IPCC.  That’s right.  A UN climate panel report shows that per capita GDP will be $69,000 higher if we follow a fossil-fuel-development path than with a ‘sustainable-development’ path.  Again, the average person will be $69,000 better off with fossil-fuels even after subtracting damages from global warming.

Lomborg is an environmentalist and former economics professor who, after assigning a class project on the topic, unexpectedly came to the realization that climate change is not the looming catastrophe people have been led to believe.  He thinks it is a problem with solutions—solutions that may cost quite a bit of money—but it is not an existential threat that must be stopped at any cost.

For this apostasy, Lomborg has been excommunicated.  It is similar to what has happened to Roger Pielke, Jr., Richard Tol, and is now happening to Michael Shellenberger.  Agreeing with many or even most of the alarmist positions is never enough.  Anything less than 100 percent fealty to the cause and all its policies brings out the knives.  The personal attacks and efforts to censor have even been directed at Michael Moore for co-producing “Planet of the Humans.”

Some of the chapter titles from False Alarm give hints as to why those proclaiming “the end is near” are upset.  Here are a few: “How Climate Policy Hurts the Poor,” “You Can’t Fix Climate Change,” and “Why Do We Get Climate Change So Wrong?”  The frustration with Lomborg’s reality check must be especially galling because of the extensive citations backing up his claims.  Virtually every paragraph is footnoted and the bibliography alone runs to 53 pages.

False AlarmThe basic themes of False Alarm are similar to the argument that Lomborg has made for years: The available evidence runs counter to the notion that we are seeing more and more extreme weather; projections show an amazingly wonderful future for Earth even with climate change damage; the current climate policies are very ineffective and very expensive; we can use our resources much more efficiently to protect the environment and help the least advantaged.  Spoiler alert: Replacing capitalism with socialism is not the answer.

So why do we get climate change so wrong?  People are more likely to read a story about a car wreck than about a car wash.  A headline like, “Scientists predict next week will be a lot like last week,” is unpromising clickbait.  Lomborg notes, “the media likes to predict impending doom, preferable with a firm date attached.”  This bias for the dramatic bends journalism toward the fantastic.

He gives the example of a journalist’s story on damages from flooding caused by rising sea-levels.  The number that got traction was 350 million people would be subject to flooding by 2100.  The journalist got great coverage with that number.  However, the study on which he based his article noted large exposure to flooding would only occur without any adaptation.  The scientists said that adaptation was very likely and would lead to fewer people being subject to flooding in 2100 than are subject to it now.  So, the likely future from the study was that fewer people would be subject to flooding at the end of the century, but the story spread by the media was the opposite.

And so it goes.  The polar bear population was supposedly a canary in the climate coal mine until the data showed that polar-bear populations are much healthier today than they were fifty years ago.  It turns out that hunting was a much greater threat to bears than shifting ice patterns.  So, it is not a story anybody is covering anymore.

The media continually repeat data showing the increasing dollar-value of damages from floods and hurricanes.  They conveniently leave out the increasing damage is not from greater flooding or more hurricanes, but, instead, from the much greater value of buildings and other infrastructure that has been built in the path of these events over the last century.  Weather damage as a percent of GDP has actually declined and the number of deaths from extreme weather has dropped dramatically.

We hear extreme heat can be deadly, but we do not hear cold weather is deadlier.  There are 33 cold-related deaths for every heat-related death.  In what may seem ironic, heat waves are less deadly in hot cities than in cooler ones.  This is good news for a warming planet.  People who are used to the heat adapt better.

An overarching theme of the book is that humans are creative and adaptable.  Further, the wealthier they are the better they are able to adapt and not just to extreme weather but to any adversity.

This brings us to one of Lomborg’s major points.  Climate policies are frequently ineffective and sometimes harmful.  By ignoring the benefits of adaptation in favor of policies to cut CO2, we provide meager benefits with an unconscionable delay and at a cost that reduces the growth that will make future generations resilient in the face of all kinds of problems.

A case in point is the Paris Agreement.  Lomborg devotes a whole chapter to it.  By the year 2030 he estimates the agreement will cost $2 trillion to $3 trillion per year and these annual costs will continue through the end of the century.  Yet, these trillions will moderate world average temperature by a ridiculously small 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit.  Even that tiny temperature impact will not occur until the year 2100.  The intervening years will see an even more trivial cut.  Saddling future generations with a $100 trillion burden whose reward is 0.05-degree moderation in average world temperature is nothing for which the present generation should expect thanks.

Back to that $69,000.  Lomborg has a plan (or a set of plans) to improve on it a bit.  He wants to spend money on science research and on innovation.  He wants to spend money on adaptation, though he does note much adaptation will be done privately and needs no government impetus and certainly not an international agreement.  He thinks it prudent to research (though not employ at this point) geoengineering for emergency use.  He wants the economy to grow.  However, the main part of Lomborg’s plan is a carbon tax.

Assuming that CO2 is a pollutant, the theory of the carbon tax is impeccable.  The reality, however, is messy.  Surprisingly, Lomborg provides the data that undermines his case for a carbon tax.  In Figure 11.3 he lays out the costs of four different carbon-tax policies based on Nobel laureate Willian Nordhaus’s work.  The optimal policy has the temperature increase capped at 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  Under that policy target, the costs of climate damage are $87 trillion and the cost of economic damage from the carbon tax is $21 trillion, for a combined cost of $108 trillion.

However, four pages later Lomborg notes the $21 trillion damage from the carbon tax assumes perfect policy implementation and in reality the damage from the tax “could be at least four time the most efficient cost.”  Four times $21 trillion is $84 trillion.  When that is added to the expected $87 trillion of climate damage, the total is $171 trillion.  Since the no-tax policy’s combined damage is less than $150 trillion, a no-carbon-tax policy is better than the “optimal” carbon tax.

This last result goes a long way toward explaining why skeptics are not “deniers.”  We can agree on the basics of climate science but be very skeptical any climate policy coming out of Congress will do less damage to the next century’s economic growth rate than the 0.07 percent the IPCC says will be done by climate change.

Despite this serious policy flaw, False Alarm is a great addition to the climate-change literature.  Lomborg brings reason, data, lots of citations, and indefatigable optimism to the overheated and emotional climate debate.  Get it.  Read it.


Dem climate plan turns reality upside down

It is with good fortune that I had just re-read the 1949 dystopian novel “1984” by George Orwell, when I received a copy of the Democratic party’s climate action plan titled The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.

In the novel, the party in power (there was but one party) effectively forced the public to believe the equivalent of “what is right is actually wrong”. They taught three premises which became the nations slogans, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.

Absurd as you may think these slogans to be, they are no less absurd than the ideas presented in the Democrat’s climate plan which include:

Carbon Dioxide, though it is the breathe of life, is a pollutant
The burning of fossil fuels will destroy the planet and must be eliminated
Renewable energy such as wind and solar power can support our way of life
Wind and solar power will improve human health and save 62,000 premature deaths in the next 3 decades by eliminating carbon dioxide emissions
Wind turbines and solar farms will improve the economy by creating millions of jobs

To believe otherwise, among alarmists, is to be called a “denier” and warrant career destruction and being shunned by the public. It is equivalent to Orwell’s “thought crimes” described in his book “1984.”

There is no single goal of the Democrat’s plan that has any chance of being achieved which will allow some to breathe a sigh of relief. However, there is no question that if they gain the Whitehouse on November 3 the plan will be put into motion and serious economic damage will quickly be incurred.

Irrefutable physical facts relating to any attempt to shift our energy production from fossil fuels to wind and solar must quickly increase our energy costs. The reason is simple. Due to the recognized lack of consistent availability of wind and solar to produce energy for our community electric grids, they must be backed up with additional dependable fossil fuel power. This energy must be equal or greater than the energy that can be produced by wind or solar running on standby 100% of the time ready to be placed on the grid within seconds of the failure of the wind or sun to cooperate. Thus their plan will not only dramatically increase the costs of all electric utilities, but it will actually increase the volume of the very carbon dioxide emissions the democrat plan hopes to reduce.

They talk of batteries as the backup for wind and solar but such batteries are on no ones drawing boards save perhaps Elon Musk’s Teslas. A solar farm outside of Las Vegas plans to use 62,000 Tesla batteries at a cost $6000 each and no doubt they could take over for a few hours but certainly not a few days.

A good deal of the Democratic plan is aimed at public health. They are enforcing the idea that the impending warming of the earth will create physical and mental health problems which their plan will attempt to avert. In fact their plan itself creates alarm where there should be none and can have a real negative impact on human health brought on by unwarranted fear.

At the community level the plan wishes to establish disaster relief programs preparing for the effects of warming. It ignores in entirety that the Earth has not been warming for he past 20 years and that the increase in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is barely more than a tenth of one percent.

The Democrats are taking alarmism through legislation to a new and unfortunate level for the nation as a whole. They control the Congress and if they gain the Whitehouse there is little doubt they will endeavor to implement this technically insane plan. Let’s hope they do not succeed.



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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