Monday, May 22, 2006


The crusade to fight global warming with tough reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions has entered its war-room phase. Already we are seeing the fruits of a multi-million dollar PR campaign: lavish cover stories in Time magazine ("Be Worried, Be Very Worried"), Vanity Fair, and Wired; multiple global-warming scare specials on PBS, HBO, and the network news; and, finally, the imminent release of Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Soon the Ad Council will begin airing TV spots pulling on the usual heartstrings: We have to stop global warming for the children! One of these ads--featuring a montage of kids counting down "tick, tick, tick"--is reminiscent of the infamous 1964 anti-Goldwater ad.

Unfortunately, the green warriors substitute propaganda for persuasion, insist that there is no debate about the science of climate change, and demonize any scientist who dares dissent from their views. They advocate putting the U.S. and the world on an energy starvation diet, to the exclusion of a wider and more moderate range of precautions that might be taken against global warming.

Underlying this effort is a sense of panic over two things: the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol, and frequent polls showing that Americans aren't buying into global-warming alarmism. The latest Gallup poll on environmental issues found that only 36 percent of Americans say they "worry a great deal about global warming"--a number that has hardly budged in years. Global warming, Gallup's environmental-opinion analyst Riley Dunlap wrote, puts people to sleep. Even among those who tell pollsters that the environment is their main public-policy concern (who are usually less than 5 percent of all Americans), global warming ranks lower than air and water quality, toxic waste, and land conservation.

There is no conspiracy behind the global-warming-awareness campaign; in fact, the environment lobby is quite open about what it's up to. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies recently published a plan to elevate climate change to the top tier of the political agenda. This report, Americans and Climate Change, grew out of a summit meeting of environmental leaders held last year in--naturally--Aspen. It lists 39 recommendations for raising the percentage of the public that is alarmed by global warming from the anemic mid-30s to over 50 percent. Tactics include everything from manipulating public-school curricula to reaching out to NASCAR's fan base to seizing events like Hurricane Katrina as "teachable moments."

The Yale report also does us the favor of making its authors' desire to politicize climate change explicit. One faction of environmentalists openly argues that "the only way to proceed is to exercise raw political power, wake up the public about the urgent nature of the issue, create a major public demand for action comparable to that which stimulated major environmental legislation in the 1970s, pursue outright victory at the polls." In other words, we need to boot out those evil Republicans.

Game Over, They Say

This campaign intimidates the public and would-be dissenters with its unrelenting line that the science of global warming is settled, full stop. (Time swallowed it whole: "The debate is over. Global warming is upon us--with a vengeance. From floods to fires, droughts to storms, the climate is crashing.") The "consensus" that human activities are playing a role in the earth's so-far mild warming trend is misrepresented as agreement that we are headed toward catastrophic results that can be prevented only by immediate and drastic action.

In fact, many scientists don't believe the catastrophe scenarios. But those who dissent from the politicization of climate science face withering ad hominem attacks. For example, the National Environmental Trust and Vanity Fair attacked Frederick Seitz, the 94-year-old former president of the National Academy of Sciences, for supposedly taking money from R. J. Reynolds while he was president of Rockefeller University to deny the health effects of smoking. In fact, the money went into a medical-research project unrelated to tobacco that led to a Nobel Prize in medicine. The climate-action caucus clearly feels no shame about employing smear tactics. One might even go so far as to accuse it of scientific McCarthyism.

But try as it might, this caucus cannot change two facts that have been evident since climate change first came to the fore in the late 1980s. First, even though the leading scientific journals are thoroughly imbued with environmental correctness and reject out of hand many articles that don't conform to the party line, a study that confounds the conventional wisdom is published almost every week. Sometimes these studies even find their way into Science and Nature. Most recently, the April 20 issue of Nature carried a study that casts serious doubt on the high-temperature forecasts of computer climate models. And last fall, Science published a study finding that the Greenland ice sheet, whose perimeter melting is presented as a sign of imminent sea-level rise (never mind that the Vikings observed similar melting 1,000 years ago), is gaining ice mass in the interior. (The oddest aspect of the Greenland story is that average temperatures in southern Greenland appear to have fallen during the 20th century; ice-mass changes probably have more to do with regular variation in Atlantic ocean currents--a natural phenomenon known as Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.) The media tend to ignore such research while giving disproportionate coverage to the latest news about melting glaciers or expiring frogs.

Climate alarm is likely to get a fresh infusion of "authoritative" science next year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Early indications are that AR4 will remove its upper-bound estimate of potential warming at the end of this century (currently 5.8 degrees Celsius), assuring a fresh round of media headlines that the situation is worse than we thought. Yet the computer climate models remain plagued with weaknesses and biases--from the doubtful emissions forecasts that go into the front end, to assumptions about the linearity of the relationship between greenhouse gases and temperature that affect the results. As MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen argues, the computer models overestimate the sensitivity of climate to greenhouse gases and don't adequately account for "negative forcings" (the technical term for natural processes that mitigate potential temperature increases). It is likely, in Lindzen's judgment, that we have already reached the threshold of diminishing "positive forcings" (that is, increases in temperature) from additional greenhouse-gas emissions.

Most of the computer models predict temperature increases of two to three degrees Celsius by the year 2100, which, while not an "end of civilization as we know it" catastrophe, could cause significant problems for the planet. Even discounting for the biases in the models, these predictions still raise questions about what precautions are appropriate to take against a low-probability event with potentially serious consequences. This leads to the second difficulty for the climate-change crusade: There are alternatives to its insistence that the only appropriate policy response is steep and immediate emissions reductions (on the order of 60 percent). Kyoto's 8 percent reduction target is modest by comparison, but no nation is honestly meeting it. (Britain met its 2000 target as an unintended consequence of Margaret Thatcher's decision 20 years ago to smash the coal miners' union and move the nation to natural gas. But even with this wind in its sails, Britain is seeing its greenhouse-gas emissions start to rise again.) The energy technologies to achieve a 60 percent reduction in emissions while meeting the world's energy needs simply do not exist.

Environmentalists were against fossil fuels long before climate change rose to prominence, and this monomania is evident in their continued opposition to nuclear power, the only technology that can generate large amounts of energy without emitting greenhouse gases. (In a recent C-SPAN appearance with me, the legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters said that nuclear power had no role to play in mitigating climate change.) Instead, environmentalists advocate a supposedly market-friendly "cap and trade" program. Such a program would impose downwardly ratcheting emissions caps; but instead of creating thousands of detailed Clean Air Act-style regulations, it would grant "emissions permits" to companies, which would be able to trade these permits among each other. If one company's emissions were lower than the allowed amount, it could trade or sell its "leftover" allotment to a second company, which could add that amount to its own emissions allotment. The idea of such trading is to let the market guide emissions reductions to the companies able to undertake them most efficiently.

"Cap and trade" is thought to have been a great success in reducing sulfur-dioxide emissions at low cost. But there is a world of difference between sulfur dioxide and greenhouse gases. For a variety of reasons, curbs on sulfur dioxide did not impose any constraint on net energy production, whereas a greenhouse-gas-emissions cap ultimately would constrain energy production.

A Commonsense and Workable Plan

A sensible climate policy would emphasize building resilience into our capacity to adapt to climate changes--whether cooling or warming; whether wholly natural, wholly man-made, or somewhere in between. A resilience policy, instead of focusing solely on emissions controls, would have four parts.

First, the transition to a post-carbon world decades from now will come about more quickly and efficiently by keeping energy markets open and unregulated than by subsidizing particular energy technologies or artificially making energy more expensive for producers and consumers. Efforts to subsidize energy paths will inevitably fall prey to interest-group lobbying (as witness the domestic ethanol lobby's success in winning tariffs on foreign ethanol), and will likely delay the development of promising technologies.

Second, we should implement practical carbon-sequestration measures: the capturing and storing of carbon in any number of places, whether underground, deep in the ocean, or in biomass (think more trees). There is much sequestration research under way, but many environmentalists oppose it because it would let us off the hook for our original sin of energy consumption.

Third, we should consider strategies of adaptation to a changing climate. A rise in the sea level need not be the end of the world, as the Dutch have taught us. Developing countries with vulnerable coastlines will be better able to adapt if their economic growth is not constrained by severe energy limits. And here at home, the federal government ought to stop subsidizing flood insurance and coastal development anyway; potential climate change is another reason to eschew such policies.

Finally, we should consider climate modification. If humanity is powerful enough to disrupt the climate negatively, we might also be able to change it for the better. On a theoretical level, doing so is relatively simple: We need to reduce the earth's absorption of solar radiation. A few scientists have suggested we could accomplish this by using orbiting mirrors to rebalance the amounts of solar radiation different parts of the earth receive. Right now this idea sounds as fanciful as Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative seemed in 1983, but look what that led to. New York University physicist Martin Hoffert points out that the interval between the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk and Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon was a mere 66 years. It is entirely reasonable to expect vast changes in our technical capacity before the century is out.

In the end, a relentless campaign to extend political control over the world's energy use is likely to fail, in part because, even if severe climate change is in our future, most people intuitively recognize that rhetoric about "the end of civilization as we know it" is inconsistent with human experience. Our distant ancestors survived an ice age with little more than animal skins, crude tools, and open fire pits. For all the talk of science and progress, the global-warming alarmists betray an astonishing lack of confidence in human creativity and resiliency. It's almost as if the scientific community had abandoned the idea of evolution.

American Enterprise Institute, 22 May 2006


A tiny biosciences company is developing a promising drug to fight diarrhea, a scourge among babies in the developing world, but it has made an astonishing number of powerful enemies because it grows the experimental drug in rice genetically engineered with a human gene. Environmental groups, corporate food interests and thousands of farmers across the country have succeeded in chasing Ventria Bioscience's rice farms out of two states. And critics continue to complain that Ventria is recklessly plowing ahead with a mostly untested technology that threatens the safety of conventional crops grown for food. "We just want them to go away,'' said Bob Papanos of the U.S. Rice Producers Association. "This little company could cause major problems.''

Ventria, with 16 employees, practices "biopharming,'' the most contentious segment of agricultural biotechnology because its adherents essentially operate open-air drug factories by splicing human genes into crops to produce proteins that can be turned into medicines. Ventria's rice produces two human proteins found in mother's milk, saliva and tears, which help people hydrate and lessen the severity and duration of diarrhea attacks, a top killer of children in developing countries. But farmers, environmentalists and others fear that such medicinal crops will mix with conventional crops, making them unsafe to eat.

The company says the chance of its genetically engineered rice ending up in the food supply is remote because the company grinds the rice and extracts the protein before shipping. What's more, rice is "self-pollinating,'' and it's virtually impossible for genetically engineered rice to accidentally cross breed with conventional crops. "We use a contained system,'' Ventria Chief Executive Scott Deeter said.

Regardless, U.S. rice farmers in particular fear that important overseas customers in lucrative, biotechnology-averse countries like Japan will shun U.S. crops if biopharming is allowed to proliferate. Exports account for 50 percent of the rice industry's $1.18 billion in annual sales. Japanese consumers, like those in Western Europe, are still alarmed by past mad cow disease outbreaks mishandled by their governments, making them deeply skeptical of any changes to their food supply, including genetically engineered crops.

Rice interests in California drove Ventria's experimental work out of the state in 2004, after Japanese customers said they wouldn't buy the rice if Ventria were allowed to set up shop. Anheuser-Busch Inc. and Riceland Foods Inc., the world's largest rice miller, were among the corporate interests that pressured the company to abandon plans to set up a commercial-scale farm in Missouri's rice belt last year.

But Ventria was undeterred. The company, which has its headquarters in Sacramento, finally landed near Greenville, N.C. In March it received U.S. Department of Agriculture clearance to expand its operation there from 70 acres to 335 acres. Ventria is hoping to get regulatory clearance this year to market its diarrhea-fighting protein powder.

There has been little resistance from corporate and farming interest in eastern North Carolina. But the company's work has raised the hackles of environmentalists there. "The issue is the growing of pharmaceutical products in food crops grown outdoors,'' said Hope Shand of the environmental nonprofit ETC Group in Carrboro, N.C. "The chance this will contaminate traditionally grown crops is great. This is a very risky business.''

Deeter points out that there aren't any commercial rice growers in North Carolina, although the USDA did allow Ventria to grow its controversial crop about a half-mile from a government "rice station,'' where new strains are tested. The USDA has since moved that station to Beltsville, Md., though an agency spokeswoman said the relocation had nothing to do with Ventria. The company, meanwhile, has applied to the Food and Drug Administration to approve the protein powder as a "medical food'' rather than a drug. That means Ventria wouldn't have to conduct long and costly human tests. Instead, it submitted data from scientific experts attesting to the company's powder is "generally regarded as safe.''

Earlier this month, a Peruvian scientist sponsored by Ventria presented data at the Pediatric Academics Societies meeting in San Francisco. It showed children hospitalized in Peru with serious diarrhea attacks recovered quicker-3.67 days versus 5.21 days-if the dehydration solution they were fed contained the powder.

Ventria's chief executive said he hopes to have an approval this year and envisions a $100 million annual market in the United States. Deeter forecasts a $500 million market overseas, especially in developing countries where diarrhea is a top killer of children under the age of 5. The World Health Organization reports that nearly 2 million children succumb to diarrhea each year. But overcoming consumer skepticism and regulatory concerns about feeding babies with products derived from genetic engineering is a tall order. This is especially true in the face of continued opposition to biopharming from the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America, which represents food, beverage and consumer products companies with combined U.S. sales of $460 billion.

Ventria hopes to add its protein powder to existing infant products. There is no requirement to label any food products in the United States as containing genetically engineered ingredients. The company also has ambitious plans to add its product to infant formula, a $10 billion-a-year market, even though the major food manufacturers have so far shown little interest in using genetically engineered ingredients. But Deeter says Ventria can win over the manufacturers and consumers by showing the company's products are beneficial. "For children who are weaning, for instance, these two proteins have enormous potential to help their development,'' Deeter said. "Breast-fed babies are healthier and these two proteins are a big reason why.''



Below is the latest post from Prof. Brignell. See the original for extensive links

May you live in interesting times.
Old Chinese curse

Suddenly, after years of complacency by politicians, bureaucrats and the media, inflation is back on the agenda in a big way. Balloon goes up over inflation yells the Telegraph , while the rest of the media echo the sentiment. Followers of the best of the blogs will not be so surprised. It is all part of the master plan to return humanity to the New Stone Age. The key is energy. Modern civilisation cannot survive without it. People are packed into cities and towns that cannot possibly be self supporting. Governments of the leading economies have been sleep-walking into a disastrous situation in which that most vital commodity is in short supply. It is not just the inexorable workings of the law of supply-and-demand that apply; spurious "green" taxes also stoke the fire. Increase the cost of energy and you increase the cost of everything.

The high priests of The Religion now exert such power that they can prevent the advanced economies from developing new energy resources of their own. They will permit nothing new to be built except the monstrous, useless idols to their own creed, which scar and uglify the landscape, as a testament to the principle of sacrifice.

The prime sources of energy are becoming more and more concentrated in the most unstable and hostile regions of the world - a Russia on the road to dictatorship, the Islamic Middle East and neo-Marxist South America.

The energy policies of the Western leaders have been tantamount to treason, as they leave their peoples open to blackmail and extortion. When the proper energy policy is glaringly obvious, they have ignored it and meekly obeyed the diktats of the eco-theologians. Now they are waking up, but too late! In Australia, America and the UK, suddenly they are talking about building the nuclear power stations that were always the clearly evident way to service the base load, but in doing so they still feel the need to genuflect to the eco-myth of Global Warming. They have been in office for the best part of a decade, fiddling while Rome burned. The time to start building the new generation of nuclear reactors was ten years ago.

Then there is carbon trading. In a re-run of the Kyoto carve-up, Britain finds itself in deficit while Germany (Surprise , surprise!) is in surplus. Yet another blow to people on low and fixed incomes, as their energy bills soar!

The central banks, like generals fighting a new war with the technology of the old, can be relied on to perform their knee-jerk reaction and start jacking up interest rates, squeezing the life out of emergent industries, contributing to a degenerative spiral. Economic journalists have never appreciated the havoc wrought among small and promising businesses in such times as the Thatcherite experiments in monetarism, or the dangers of progressive de-industrialisation, but that is macro-economics for you. Ordinary people, many of whom have been sucked into debt by greedy and irresponsible banks face misery and bankruptcy.

Leaders like Tony Blair are now talking as though someone else had been in power for all these years. You have to admire the chutzpah. They have created hundreds of new crimes that threaten ordinary law-abiding people with conviction, yet vicious criminals, often illegal aliens, roam free. That, however, is nothing to the consequences of the irresponsibility over energy. Blair now says:

Britain faced the prospect of being largely reliant on foreign gas imports for its future energy needs and it would be a "dereliction of duty" if he failed to take long-term decisions.

The "dereliction" took place at the beginning of his term of office. Nothing has happened that was not totally predictable at that time. With characteristic insouciance he has simply swept the most important question of his reign under the carpet. Energy planning takes decades, not the final year of a failing r‚gime.


An email from Paul Martin (, Emeritus Professor of Geosciences

In my new trade book, "Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America" (U.California Press, 250 pages, 2005) I compare cultural and climatic models of late Pleistocene extinctions globally. In the USA "Twilight..." has been reviewed favorably in Science, American Scientist and ONEARTH. I'm not aware of a review in Nature.

(1) When we examine what happened in radiocarbon time in corners of the world we find very heavy extinction throughout America, Australia, Madagascar, Mediterranean Islands, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and the West Indies. In each case heavy extinction accompanies or follows human invasion and colonization.

(2) For example, in the Americas large animals from Alaska to Argentina vanish at about the same time, around 11-12,000 years ago, EXCEPT in the Greater Antilles where all sloths and other endemics disappear later, ca. 6000 years ago, when humans first colonize the Greater Antilles (Steadman, et al., recent issue of PNAS).

(3) What about Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands? The late-glacial or Younger Dryas (~12,000 years ago) is not known to be a time of extinction in those parts of the planet, whereas prehistoric human arrival coincides with large and (in NZ) small animal extinctions. In their book Tim Worthy and Richard Holdaway indicate that petrels, wetas and other small species were obliterated by depredations of introduced Polynesian rats.

(4) Finally, to the best of my knowledge, the Greenland ice cores along with Northern Hemisphere paleo-botanical records indicate change but nothing unusual or extraordinary, much less unique, at 10-12,000 years ago, compared with earlier changes seen in the Greenland ice cores and other glacial-age fossil records..

In brief, the global pattern of extinctions in "near time" would appear to be reasonably independent of global climatic forcing and highly dependent on the spread of our species.

Whatever the cause, it is extraordinary that dozens of genera of large mammals became extinct during the late Quaternary throughout the western hemisphere, including 90% of the genera of the xenarthran suborder Phyllophaga (sloths). Radiocarbon dates directly on dung, bones, or other tissue of extinct sloths place their "last appearance" datum at ~11,000 yr BP or slightly less in North America, ~10,500 yr BP in South America, and ~4400 yr BP on West Indian islands. This asynchronous situation is not compatible with glacial-interglacial climate change forcing these extinctions, especially given the great elevational, latitudinal, and longitudinal variation of the sloth-bearing continental sites. Instead, the chronology of last appearance of extinct sloths, whether on continents or islands, more closely tracks the first arrival of people.


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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