Saturday, May 27, 2006


Al Gore's new global warming movie is apparently causing some to think that a major turning point in the debate is at hand. The ranks of the so-called global warming "skeptics" were supposedly thinned this week when prominent environmental commentator Gregg Easterbrook announced his defection in a May 24 New York Times op-ed. "As an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism. But based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert," wrote Easterbrook, a senior editor with The New Republic and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Easterbrook a "skeptic"? With "a long record of opposing alarmism"? Are there two Gregg Easterbrooks? Though Easterbrook is far from a household name, readers of environmental commentary are certainly familiar with his reputation as a left-of-center eco-contrarian - an image secured by his 1995 book entitled, "A Moment on Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism." Publicly reviled by environmentalists and hailed by their opponents, Easterbrook's book examined human impact on the environment and concluded that the environment was getting better, not worse. But 1995 is so over and now in 2006, Easterbrook concluded in the Times that "[Global warming] research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger."

So what changed Easterbrook's mind? Ironically, it was a report from the Bush administration released earlier this month. Before we get to that, consider what developments Easterbrook says in his op-ed didn't persuade him. Easterbrook writes that, in 2003, the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Service "both declared that signs of global warming had become compelling" and "In 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that there was no longer any `substantive disagreement in the scientific community' that artificial global warming is happening." He also notes that in 2005 the national science academies of the U.S., U.K., China, Germany and Japan issued a joint statement announcing that "significant global warming is occurring."

But it wasn't "case closed," according to Easterbrook's op-ed, until the Bush administration's Climate Change Science Program announced this month that research supports "a substantial human impact on global temperature." It's difficult to take this alleged conversion seriously. Since at least 1998, Easterbrook has consistently regurgitated global warming alarmism. In a 1998 New Republic article, Easterbrook wrote that "the scientific consensus on global warming has strengthened," that projected warming could be "quite nasty" and that "coming temperature increases appear cast in stone."

In 2000, Easterbrook criticized CBS for "trivializing the greenhouse effect" by broadcasting the 1993 miniseries "The Fire Next Time," which depicted the U.S. as destroyed by global warming in the year 2007. Later in 2000, Easterbrook wrote, "The signs of global warming keep accumulating. realistic steps against global warming could start right away. A warming world need no longer be our destiny." In 2003, Easterbrook criticized Democrats for being too critical of President Bush and discouraging him from "proposing. meaningful global warming rules." In 2004, Easterbrook wrote that, "There are troubling problems with Bush administration attitudes toward science, especially greenhouse gases." In 2005, Easterbrook wrote that "restraining greenhouse gases" was "our next great environmental project."

Contrary to assertions in his Times op-ed, Easterbrook's writings indicate that he became a global warming convert long ago - not just this month. So what's up with the melodramatic announcement of his "conversion"? Easterbrook may be thinking that Al Gore's movie and attendant hoopla will finally cause sufficient public panic to catapult the global warming alarmists to rhetorical victory. If so, Easterbrook may want to atone to the environmental activist community that he previously alienated by "A Moment on Earth" and any other eco-contrarian "moments" he has had over the last decade. Easterbrook will no doubt be welcomed and forgiven for any past sins by the environmentalists since, as a prominent eco-contrarian writer, his supposed "conversion" from skeptic to convert purports to signal the public that a major turning point in the global warming debate has been reached.

I suppose a major turning point has been reached - Al Gore and the alarmists have seemingly gone over the edge in thinking that a movie rather than scientific debate is the way to resolve the global warming controversy. There certainly has been no change in the science - there is still no persuasive evidence that humans are adversely affecting global climate or that humans can manipulate global climate by regulating greenhouse gas emission. Moreover, it's quote ironic that the tipping point for Easterbrook was a statement about global warming from the Bush administration whose viewpoint apparently is not credible until it coincides with his own. It's quite laughable that Easterbrook and the New York Times fancy his imaginary status as a new convert of any importance to the global warming debate. It's the science that's important, not a journalist's self-aggrandizement for political and possible career-advancing purposes. And if there are two Gregg Easterbrooks, will the real skeptic please stand up?



By Dr. Roy Spencer

Dear Mr. Gore:

I have just seen your new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," about the threat that global warming presents to humanity. I think you did a very good job of explaining global warming theory, and your presentation was effective. Please convey my compliments to your good friend, Laurie David, for a job well done. As a climate scientist myself -- you might remember me...I'm the one you mistook for your "good friend," UK scientist Phil Jones during my congressional testimony some years back -- I have a few questions that occurred to me while watching the movie.

1) Why did you make it look like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, droughts, and ice calving off of glaciers and falling into the ocean, are only recent phenomena associated with global warming? You surely know that hurricane experts have been warning congress for many years that the natural cycle in hurricanes would return some day, and that our built-up coastlines were ripe for a disaster (like Katrina, which you highlighted in the movie). And as long as snow continues to fall on glaciers, they will continue to flow downhill toward the sea. Yet you made it look like these things wouldn't happen if it weren't for global warming. Also, since there are virtually no measures of severe weather showing a recent increase, I assume those graphs you showed actually represented damage increases, which are well known to be simply due to greater population and wealth. Is that right?

2) Why did you make it sound like all scientists agree that climate change is manmade and not natural? You mentioned a recent literature review study that supposedly found no peer-reviewed articles that attributed climate change to natural causes (a non-repeatable study which has since been refuted....I have a number of such articles in my office!) You also mentioned how important it is to listen to scientists when they warn us, yet surely you know that almost all past scientific predictions of gloom and doom have been wrong. How can we trust scientists' predictions now?

3) I know you still must feel bad about the last presidential election being stolen from you, but why did you have to make fun of Republican presidents (Reagan; both Bushes) for their views on global warming? The points you made in the movie might have had wider appeal if you did not alienate so many moviegoers in this manner.

4) Your presentation showing the past 650,000 years of atmospheric temperature and carbon dioxide reconstructions from ice cores was very effective. But I assume you know that some scientists view the CO2 increases as the result of, rather than the cause of, past temperature increases. It seems unlikely that CO2 variations have been the dominant cause of climate change for hundreds of thousands of years. And now that there is a new source of carbon dioxide emissions (people), those old relationships are probably not valid anymore. Why did you give no hint of these alternative views?

5) When you recounted your 6-year-old son's tragic accident that nearly killed him, I thought that you were going to make the point that, if you had lived in a poor country like China or India, your son would have probably died. But then you later held up these countries as model examples for their low greenhouse gas emissions, without mentioning that the only reason their emissions were so low was because people in those countries are so poor. I'm you really want us to live like the poor people in India and China?

6) There seems to be a lot of recent concern that more polar bears are drowning these days because of disappearing sea ice. I assume you know that polar bears have always migrated to land in late summer when sea ice naturally melts back, and then return to the ice when it re-freezes. Also, if this was really happening, why did the movie have to use a computer generated animation of the poor polar bear swimming around looking for ice? Haven't there been any actual observations of this happening? Also, temperature measurements in the arctic suggest that it was just as warm there in the 1930's...before most greenhouse gas emissions. Don't you ever wonder whether sea ice concentrations back then were low, too?

7) Why did you make it sound like simply signing on to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be such a big step forward, when we already know it will have no measurable effect on global temperatures anyway? And even though it represents such a small emission reduction, the economic pain Kyoto causes means that almost no developed country will be meeting its emission reductions commitments under that treaty, as we are now witnessing in Europe.

8) At the end of the movie, you made it sound like we can mostly fix the global warming problem by conserving energy... you even claimed we can reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But I'm sure you know that this will only be possible with major technological advancements, including a probable return to nuclear power as an energy source. Why did you not mention this need for technological advancement and nuclear power? It is because that would support the current (Republican) Administration's view?

Mr. Gore, I think we can both agree that if it was relatively easy for mankind to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, that we should do so. You are a very smart person, so I can't understand why you left so many important points unmentioned, and you made it sound so easy. I wish you well in these efforts, and I hope that humanity will make the right choices based upon all of the information we have on the subject of global warming. I agree with you that global warming is indeed a "moral issue," and if we are to avoid doing more harm than good with misguided governmental policies, we will need more politicians to be educated on the issue.

TCS Daily, 25 May 2006

Australian report: Nuclear power 'viable, economical'

Nuclear power makes economic sense for Australia and is viable even without government support. Science Minister Julie Bishop said a report commissioned by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation showed that a nuclear power station would be competitive with a newly built coal-fired station. "It found there are significant health risks associated with coal energy production but minimal risks with nuclear power," Ms Bishop said. The report suggested two ways that construction of a nuclear power plant could be funded, which were similar to models in operation in the US. "Overall, the report is positive about the economic basis for establishing a nuclear power industry in Australia."

It is understood the report, due to be handed to the Government today, considers public and private funding models and finds that when environmental costs are taken into account, the economics of nuclear power make more sense. It has also emerged that had plans for a nuclear power station at Jervis Bay in NSW been acted on in the 1970s, it would today be producing the world's cheapest electricity.

"It's time we did get down to a really detailed examination of what are nuclear power's prospects in Australia," said Keith Alder, the last general manager of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Mr Alder said he hoped the renewed nuclear debate would focus on Australia developing a uranium enrichment industry. "Whether we want to remain a quarry for the rest of the world or whether we establish a full industry in Australia and (export) the processed product: enrichment should take priority at this stage over whether or not we now look into nuclear power," he said. It was "crazy" that Australia held 40 per cent of the world's uranium "but we don't have any industry that processes it". And with fast-growing nations such as China and India going for nuclear power, it was time for Australia to act. "In 50 years it's going to be a bigger industry than coal," Mr Alder said. "We should be thinking about our role."

Attempts to develop an enrichment industry had got as far as negotiating a deal with an international consortium but were killed by the election of the Hawke government in 1983. "I think it's one of the greatest tragedies in Australian industrial history," he said. "It could have been the start of an enormous enterprise, very profitable in jobs and money."


The High Price of Land-Use Planning

Most people know that the San Francisco Bay Area has one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation. However, not everyone realizes that, as recently as 1970, Bay Area housing was as affordable as housing in many other parts of the country. Data from the 1970 census shows that a median-income Bay Area family could dedicate a quarter of their income to housing and pay off their mortgage on a median-priced home in just 13 years. By 1980, a family had to spend 40 percent of their income to pay off a home mortgage in 30 years; today, it requires 50 percent.

What happened in the 1970s to make Bay Area housing so unaffordable? In a nutshell: land-use planning. During the 1970s, Bay Area cities and counties imposed a variety of land-use restrictions intended to make the region more livable. These restrictions included urban-growth boundaries, purchases of regional parks and open spaces and various limits on building permits. These regulations created artificial land shortages that drove housing prices to extreme levels. Today, residents of Houston, Texas, can buy a brand-new four-bedroom, two-and-one-half bath home on a quarter-acre lot for less than $160,000. That same house would cost you more than five times as much in Marin or Contra Costa counties, seven times as much in Alameda County, and eight to nine times as much in Santa Clara, San Mateo, or San Francisco counties.

In fact, planning-induced housing shortages added $30 billion to the cost of homes that Bay Area homebuyers purchased in 2005. This dwarfs any benefits from land-use restrictions; after all, how livable is a place if you can't afford to live there? The benefits of protecting open space are particularly questionable. The 2000 census found that nearly 95 percent of Californians live in cities and towns that occupy just 5 percent of its land. Many San Francisco Bay Area counties have permanently protected more acres as open space than they have made available for urban development. When such actions make it impossible for middle-class families, much less low-income families, to afford their own homes, they represent a sad distortion of social priorities.

Moreover, as in the 1980s, California's fast-rising home prices have attracted speculators who have created huge bubbles in the state's housing markets. Bay Area prices fell by 10 percent in the early 1980s, 20 percent in the early 1990s, and are likely to fall even more as the bubble deflates in the next few years.

The impacts of high housing prices are also reverberating throughout the region's economy. First, economic growth has slowed as businesses look elsewhere to locate offices and factories. High housing costs have also increased prices for food and other consumer goods; retailers now pay $1 million per acre or more for store locations. Far from reducing driving as planners desire, high housing prices force many commuters to live farther away from their jobs, forcing more cars onto the roads. Ironically, an obsessive focus on protecting Bay Area "farmlands" (in fact, mostly marginal pasturelands) forces people to move inland and more rapidly develop the highly productive croplands in California's not-yet-so-unaffordable Central Valley.

The people most enthused about all these planning rules like to call themselves ''progressive.'' But the effects of planning on home prices are entirely regressive. Planning-induced housing shortages place enormous burdens on low-income families but create windfall profits for wealthy homeowners. Does this steal-from-the-poor, give-to-the-rich policy reflect the Bay Area's true attitudes?

Homeownership is more than just a dream, it is a vital part of America's economic mobility. Most small businesses get their original financing from a loan secured by the business owner's home. Children in low-income families who own their own homes do better on educational tests than those who live in rental housing. Barriers to home ownership reduce this mobility and help keep low-income people poor.

Predictably, planners' solutions to the housing affordability problem often make the problem worse. Planners typically require that homebuilders sell or rent 15 percent of their homes at below-market rates to low-income families. The homebuilders simply pass that cost on to the buyers of the other 85 percent of the homes they sell. Existing homeowners, seeing that new homes suddenly cost more, raise the price of their homes when they sell. The result: A few people benefit and everyone else pays more.

The solution to the Bay Area's housing affordability crisis is not a few units of affordable housing, but widespread land-use deregulation that will make housing more affordable for everyone.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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