Sunday, May 21, 2006


(From The Guardian, 17 May 2006)

The EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS), the cornerstone of its campaign to assume global leadership in combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, is in tatters. This week, the European commission confirmed that companies operating more than 9000 industrial plants had emitted 66m tonnes less carbon dioxide (CO2) than allowed in 2005. The news prompted charges that the commission had been hoodwinked by energy groups into granting grossly over-generous pollution permits.

To add insult to injury, the scheme is proving a recipe for windfall profits. Faced with evidence that Germany, Europe's biggest polluter, had undershot its target by 21m tonnes, the Berlin government accused the four biggest power producers - Eon, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW - of profiteering from the ETS at the expense of consumers. The environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said these four and others had thereby stoked up their earnings by between EUR6bn (œ4.1bn) and EUR8bn.

In Britain, where industry pumped 33m tonnes more pollution into the atmosphere than permitted, the Department of Trade and Industry has published on its website an energy consultancy report suggesting that UK-based electricity producers - including Eon, owners of Powergen and the UK's biggest polluter, and RWE, owners of npower - are making œ800m a year in windfall profits. This figure has since been revised to œ1bn and rising.

Amid wild fluctuations in the price of CO2 on the fledgling ETS market, which began on January 1 2005, governments are reflecting its disarray by proposing a series of contradictory measures to stabilise the scheme. This comes despite the scheme's architects lauding it as "the most cost-effective instrument ever to combat climate change and reach the Kyoto targets for cutting greenhouse gases" and "the main driver for long-term trading schemes" worldwide.

France, which is uncertain exactly how much CO2 its industry emitted last year, wants to roll over unused permits into the next phase from 2008 to 2012. Germany wants to claw back its over-generous permits and cancel them, reducing the energy groups' earnings. But both want changes to the ETS which would prohibit companies from passing on the value of their CO2 permits directly into wholesale power prices. Britain warily backs this plan, which could cut soaring consumer bills.

The complex scheme's fundamental problems arise because governments, under pressure from power producers, give free permits up to a certain level to these very producers, who are responsible for the bulk of CO2 emissions. Those who cut their output via clean technology have allowances to spare and can sell them to, say, coal-fired generators at up to EUR30 a tonne, netting the profits.

The Edinburgh-based energy consultants IPA, who wrote the report on the DTI website, calculate that the windfall earnings would not have arisen if, say, the British government had capped permits at 45m tonnes of CO2 rather than the 130m tonnes it issued.

Analysts say one answer would be to create a genuine carbon trading system by forcing energy groups - which, after all, operate in a captive market free of outside competition - to bid for their permits. Centrica, owners of British Gas which generates 60% of its own power and buys the rest, is backing this idea. It has suggested that 10% of carbon permits be auctioned this year.

Belatedly, the British government is trying to tighten the greenhouse gas emission limits on power plants and thus slash the windfall profits. And senior Brussels officials, including the ETS architects, have vowed to impose tougher "caps" later this decade - say, 10% fewer permits under phase two.

The commission has blamed the undershoot on a mild winter in early 2005, soaring oil and gas prices leading to reduced output, faster-than-anticipated use of clean technology and even the rain (encouraging more use of hydro-power) - provoking laughter among onlookers.

Britain sued the commission last year after Brussels rejected its proposals to allow industry to emit 20m tonnes of CO2 over that originally planned. But it has dropped the case and now plans to claw back that amount and more from the power companies. RWE npower, Scottish Power, Scottish & Southern Energy, International Power and Drax, Europe's biggest coal-fired station, have taken up the cudgels and are suing Brussels over the "lost" 20m tonnes in the sector's allowances.

One clear sign that the ETS is in serious trouble is that senior EU officials say last year's undershoot is "good for the environment" when it is blindingly obvious that by failing to create a genuine market, the scheme has not encouraged investment in renewables and other low carbon technologies. Another is that these officials also suggested that Britain might escape punitive treatment because it is on course to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by the official Kyoto target of 12.5% by 2012. However, Brussels is likely to take the UK to court again later this year as the government has said it will miss the June 30 deadline for submitting its national allocation plan for 2008-2012.

This sorry mess, unlikely to be cleared up by the European court of justice, can be seen as yet another example of the EU's inability to put its vaulting ambitions into practice. The ETS was supposed to be EUR3.4bn cheaper than alternative methods of meeting its ambitious Kyoto targets; instead it is costing consumers untold billions in windfall profits and dividends for power producers and their over-fed shareholders.


(From BBC News Online, 15 May 2006)

Rising ocean temperatures look set to cause lasting devastation to coral reef systems, a study suggests. An international team of researchers looked at reefs in the Seychelles, where an ocean warming event in 1998 killed much of the live coral. The group found the oceanic reef had experienced fish extinctions, algal growth, and only limited recovery. Details have been published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1998 event saw Indian Ocean surface temperatures rise to unprecedented levels, killing off - or "bleaching" - more than 90% of the inner Seychelles coral. Coral bleaching has been described as a vivid demonstration of climate change in action. "[Bleaching events] are becoming more frequent and are predicted to become more severe in coming decades. They are directly linked to increases in sea surface temperatures," said lead author Nick Graham, of the University of Newcastle.

Or will it?

If the climate is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions, there could be many plausible consequences, such as melting ice and polar bears not having a home. However, of all the ecosystems in the world, coral reefs are in virtually the best position to come through unscathed. They are certainly not the worlds canary as has sometimes been stated. Consider the following points:

(1) Corals are a tropical species. They like warm water. Most of the species found on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), for example, are also found in areas with much warmer water.

(2) In a couple of hundred million years of existence, corals have survived through hotter, (and more seriously colder) periods.

(3) Coral tissue thickness, often seen as an indicator of coral health, is generally higher for corals in hotter water. Some of the highest tissue thickness' measured have occur around PNG where the water is far hotter than the GBR.

(4) For all the hype about the bleaching events on the GBR, most of the reef did not bleach and almost all that did bleach has almost fully recovered.

(5) From the statistical viewpoint it is highly improbable that bleaching only started to occur in the last 25 years. Bleaching on the GBR occurs in summers when there is a combination of low cloud cover and light winds. This drives up water temperatures to a degree or two about normal. The water temperature has not increased by a degree over the last 25 years and thus bleaching must have been occurring previously, though quite possibly at a reduced rate. The apparent increase in bleaching is quite possibly due to the very large number of scientists and managers who are now interested in the phenomenon.

(6) Data of coral growth rates from massive corals indicate that there has been a small but significant increase over the last 100 or so years. This is related to the small but significant temperature increase that has occurred in the last hundred or so years. This is not surprising, coral, by and large like hot water.

(7) Some corals clearly are killed by unusually elevated temperature. These are not the long-lived massive corals but rather the plate and staghorn corals. These susceptible corals have the living philosophy of a weed, i.e. live fast and die young. The massives are in for the long haul, they are like the forest giants that live for hundreds or years and must thus be able to withstand the extreme conditions, such as high temperature and cyclones, that will temporarily wipe out there frail but fast growing brethren.

(8) Even the susceptible corals seem to be able to adapt to higher temperatures by replacing the symbiotic plants (zooxanthellae) that are embedded within them with more suitable species.

(9) If we see a sealevel rise due to the thermal expansion of the ocean, we will see a great expansion in the area of the GBR under coral. This is because the reef flats, which now have almost no coral due to the FALL in sealevel of the last 5000 years, will be covered even by the lowest spring tides. The presently dead reef flats, which are a very large proportion of the reef (perhaps the majority), will come alive. So though rising sealevel might be bad if you live in a small South Pacific Island nation, it will be good for coral.

I have a very high regard for the hardiness of corals. The GBR was borne at a time of rapidly rising sealevel, very high turbidity and very rapidly rising temperature. Presently, they live in areas of extreme temperature (40 degree), in muddy embayments and in regions continuously affected by runoff. Provided they are not grossly overfished, as has happened in the Caribbean, they are very adaptable systems.

My message is that if you must make an argument for the Kyoto Protocol, then using coral reefs is a poor, and implausible choice. In the final analysis, corals like hot water, polar bears do not. Corals will do badly in an ice age, polar bears and alpine meadows can suffer in a warm period.

Even more coral doubts:

Close examination of coral reef reveals that when the rest of the world was experiencing warm weather, the Pacific was cold. And during a period of cold weather elsewhere in the world, the Pacific was warm and stormy

For more than five decades, archaeologists, geographers, and other researchers studying the Pacific Islands have used a model of late Holocene climate change based largely on other regions of the world. However, in a new study from the June issue of Current Anthropology, Melinda Allen (University of Auckland, New Zealand) uses evidence from the long-lived Pacific corals to suggest that the climate in the Pacific diverged from the rest of the world during two major climate periods: the "Little Ice Age" and the "Medieval Warm Period."

"These findings have relevance for both ancient and modern Pacific peoples," explains Allen. "Climate change, accelerated sea rise, and deterioration of coral reefs, along with their associated social and environmental costs, are among the most pressing concerns of Pacific Island nations today."

The new climate models presented in this paper suggest that while the rest of the world was experiencing certain weather patterns, the Pacific island region and the people who lived there were experiencing something else entirely. During the "Medieval Warm Period" ca. A.D. 900-1200, conditions in the tropical Pacific were cool and possibly dry. Similarly, during the "Little Ice Age" ca. A.D. 1550-1900, the central Pacific was comparatively warm and wet, with stormy conditions more common.

As Allen writes: "The ancient coral studies, in tandem with archaeology, offer an opportunity for investigating the impact of climate change on Pacific environment and Pacific peoples' responses to these changes - conditions which their successors are again facing in the 21st century."


Email alert from Paul Biggs (

The first picture of climate change in the northern hemisphere using data from stalagmite growth has been created by researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

By using this new method, they have discovered that there has been a global temperature rise of 0.65 degrees centigrade over the last 500 years. The stalagmite records suggest a more gradual increase in temperatures during this time period, in addition to the rapid rise during the 20th century.

Data from tree rings has previously been the main data source used by scientists to collect information about past climate change, but trees grow for short periods - usually decades or centuries - and provide better evidence of short term climate variability. Stalagmites grow for tens of thousands of years and their layers provide a better picture of long term climate variability.

Stalagmites grow in caves and are linked to the weather as they form from rain water which has passed through soil and limestone forming calcite deposits. As the chemistry of this water and the climate of the cave change through the year, different types of calcite is deposited, creating layers or rings that are formed annually. The width of a ring, or how fast a stalagmite has grown in any one year can be linked directly to climate change.

Claire Smith, postgraduate student in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, says, 'This is the first time that ring width series from many stalagmites from across the northern hemisphere have been used in a climate change study. Because stalagmites grow for long periods of time we are confident that the information we have gained gives a clearer picture of long term climate variability than the studies that have previously used tree ring data.'

Dr Andy Baker continues, 'It is very important to get accurate measurements of climate change in the recent past, as this data is essential to calibrate computer models that predict future climate change. Also data from the past helps us understand the importance of the many natural factors that can affect climate change, and help us understand the relative importance of today's greenhouse gas induced global warming.'

Stalagmite data from China, Italy and Scotland were used in this study.

The study is published by the International Journal of Climatology and appears online here. Abstract follows:

The magnitude of recent warming, and the variability of climate on centennial-millennial time scales are compromised by questions concerning the ability of tree rings to capture low-frequency climate fluctuations. Annually laminated stalagmite records can potentially provide a low-frequency climate archive through variations in annual growth rate. Presented here is an initial attempt to demonstrate the applicability of annually laminated stalagmite series to a large-scale climate reconstruction, by producing a 500-year Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction. The reconstruction shows an overall warming trend with a magnitude of 0.65 K and several other low-frequency characteristics consistent with other independent Northern Hemisphere archives. The result is sufficiently encouraging to warrant significant future effort in characterising annual growth rate records from laminated speleothems.

New offshore drilling = more oil and fish

That clique of noisy, well-heeled and politically powerful south Florida voters is at it again. And as usual, Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Mel Martinez are pandering shamelessly. Never mind the national interest. This cantankerous group's archaic prejudices still prevail. Never mind simple logic. Their emotions still guide our national policy to the frustration of the rest of the nation, to the detriment of our economic well-being and to the bitter amusement of much of the world.

Never mind almost half a century of visible evidence against their moss-ridden bugaboos. Their zealotry, intransigence and apparently incurable block-headedness again prevail. This groveling by Republican politicians to a fringe group of highly emotional Florida voters is a national scandal by now. It's high time these hotheads in Florida got with the national program.

They need to shed their petty obsessions with the past and start assessing the national interest soberly and in light of current developments, not stale policies enacted in the heat of hysteria almost half a century ago. Most outrageous of all, their policies hurt the very people they claim to help.

I refer, of course, to offshore oil drilling, currently banned off Florida because of rich pressure groups. That shock and awe at the gas pump might wake up a few people. There's something called the law of supply and demand. Rant and rave all you want, bellow and whine all you want, throw as many tantrums as you want, hold as many rain dances as you want, hold as many s,ances with ghosts as you want, sacrifice as many virgins as you want, burn as many witches as you want - but no amount of legislation or wishful thinking will abolish it.

We need more oil and there are millions of barrels offshore, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida. Soon Fidel Castro himself with the help of Spanish and Chinese oil companies (who are not subject to U.S. environmental rules) will be drilling for it barely 45 miles of the Florida coast. This raises the fascinating prospect of Florida beaches fouled by the very oil we'll later use to fuel the SUVs to transport us to those beaches - all purchased from Communists who crave to blow us up. Only politicians could create such a prospect.

Actually the fouling of beaches is a long shot. The environmental dangers of oil exploration and extraction rank right up with the marvels of Cuba's healthcare as modern man's most zealously cherished fables. It's the transportation of oil that accounts for the overwhelming number of oil spills. Recall the Valdez, the Cadiz, and the Argo Merchant. These were all tanker spills.

And even these (though hyped hysterically as environmental catastrophes) always play out as minor blips, those pictures of oil soaked seagulls notwithstanding. To the horror and anguish of professional greenies, Alaska's Prince William Sound recovered completely. More birds get fried by landing on power lines and smashed to pulp against picture windows in one week than perished from three decades of oil spills. In fact, Florida's gorgeous and tourist-packed beaches have suffered from an ugly oil spill. It happened summer of 1976 off Panama City and Destin, by far the most beautiful beaches in America. That sugar white sand and those emerald waters were fouled from a tanker spill. The current drilling ban will make another such spill more likely.

The ban not only puts us at the mercy of shaky sheikdoms and Hugo Chavez for oil, it also means we'll need to keep transporting that oil stateside - typically to refineries in Louisiana and Texas. This path takes those tankers smack in front of Florida's beaches.

But there's another resource shortage that more drilling would solve. Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, said a National Geographic headline a couple years ago. "Our demand for seafood appears to be insatiable. From giant blue marlin to mighty blue fin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left."

Then let's create a new fishing frontier, using offshore oil platforms and the explosion of marine life that always accompany their installation. It happened here in Louisiana. The observable evidence is overwhelming. The verdict is in. Of the 3,739 offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico nowadays, 3,203 lie off the Louisiana coast. We love offshore oil drilling, and not just for the loot (taxes) extorted from oil companies for the privilege.

"Environmentalists" wake up in the middle of the night sweating and whimpering about offshore oil platforms only because they've never seen what's under them. This proliferation of marine life around the platforms turned on its head every "expert" opinion of its day. The original plan, mandated by federal environmental "experts" back in the late `40s, was to remove the big, ugly, polluting, environmentally hazardous contraptions as soon as they stopped producing. Fine, said the oil companies.

About 15 years ago some wells played out off Louisiana and the oil companies tried to comply. Their ears are still ringing from the clamor fishermen put up. Turns out those platforms are going nowhere, and by popular demand of those with a bigger stake in the marine environment than any "environmentalist."

Every "environmental" superstition against these structures was turned on its head. Marine life had EXPLODED around these huge artificial reefs. Louisiana produces on third of America's seafood In fact a study by Louisiana State University shows that 85 percent of Louisiana offshore fishing trips involve fishing around these structures and that there's 50 times more marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding Gulf bottoms. Louisiana produces one-third of America's commercial fisheries - because of, not in spite of, these platforms.

All of this and not one major oil spill in half a century - not one. As more assurance, today's drilling technology compares to the one used only 20 years ago about like the Kitty Hawk compares to a jumbo jet. The one that gave us the Santa Barbara Oil Spill in 1969 compares to today's like a fossil.

Market forces, not meddlesome bureaucrats, account for cleaner, safer oil drilling. A deep-water drilling rig might cost $1 billion. This thing has to produce oil daily - hourly(!) - to recoup such a gargantuan investment. A blowout and spill would shut them down for weeks. No oil company could stay in business that way.

In 1986 Louisiana started the Rigs to Reef program, a cooperative effort by oil companies, the feds and the state. This program literally pays the oil companies to keep the platforms in the Gulf. Now they just cut them off at the bottom and topple them over as artificial reefs; more than 60 have been toppled thus far.

Louisiana wildlife and fisheries officials were recently invited to Australia to help them with a similar program. Think about it: here's the nation with the Great Barrier Reef, the world's biggest natural reef, the world's top dive destination, asking for help from Louisiana about developing exciting dive and fishing sites by using the very structures that epitomize (in greenie eyes) environmental disaster.

Mark Ferrulo, a Florida "environmental activist" who lobbies incessantly against offshore drilling called Louisiana's coastal waters "the nation's toilet." Then Florida's fishing fleet must love fishing in toilets. And her restaurants must love serving what's in them. Many of the red snapper you eat in Florida restaurants are caught around Louisiana's oil platforms. We see the Florida-registered boats tied up to them constantly. Sometimes we can barely squeeze in.

It also turns out that Louisiana's natural reefs are much healthier than the much-protected and pampered Florida reefs. The Flower Garden coral reefs lie off the Louisiana-Texas border. Unlike any of the Florida Keys reefs, they're surrounded by dozens of offshore oil platforms that have been pumping away for the past 40 years. Yet according to G.P. Schmahl, a Federal biologist who worked for decades in both places, "The Flower Gardens are much healthier, more pristine than anything in the Florida Keys. It was a surprise to me, and I think it's a surprise to most people."

"A key measure of the health of a reef is the amount of area taken up by coral," according to a report by Steve Gittings, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's science coordinator for marine sanctuaries. "Louisiana's Flower Garden boasts nearly 50 percent coral cover ... in the Florida Keys ... it can run as little as 5 percent."

The panorama under an offshore oil platform staggers the most experienced divers. I've seen divers fresh from the Cayman's Wall surface from under an oil platform too wired on adrenaline to do anything but stutter and wipe spastically at the snot that trails to their chins. I've seen an experienced scuba-babe fresh from Belize climb out from under a platform gasping and shrieking at the sights and sensations, oblivious to the sights and sensations she was providing with her bikini top near her navel



Giving Chinamen electricity for light and heat, saving them from drowning in floods, and giving them water to grow crops with for feeding themselves are all unforgivable from a Greenie viewpoint

China today pours the final concrete that will mark the completion of the world's biggest dam and Beijing's most ambitious engineering project since the Great Wall. The emperors of China took hundreds of years to build the 4,000 miles (6,400km) of the Great Wall but the Communist Party has taken only 13 years to finish the $25 billion Three Gorges dam that now stands 185m (600ft) high, is 2,309m wide and can store 39.3 billion cubic metres of water where it cuts across the mighty Yangtze.

However, the dam also stands as a monument to the ability of a one-party state to push through a controversial and costly project despite unusually vocal opposition. Li Yongan, the general manager of the Three Gorges Corporation, said: "This is the grandest project the Chinese people have undertaken in thousands of years."

By 2011, the Three Gorges power station will have a generating capacity of 18.2 million kilowatts. The dam has long been an ambition of China's leaders as a way to provide power and end flooding that had led to the deaths of millions over the centuries. But debate raged for decades as to whether such a huge dam was feasible, or even needed.

In 1992, the rubber-stamp parliament approved construction - although nearly half of its members voted against it in an unprecedented show of discontent. Worries have persisted: about corruption; damage to the environment; safety; cost; what to do with the one million people forced to move; and whether China really needed a huge dam when such large-scale projects had fallen out of favour around the world.

Dai Qing, an environmentalist, said: "They had to realise this project to say, `This is something you foreigners couldn't do, but we Chinese could do it, our socialist system could do it'." Already, officials are defending charges that thousands of tonnes of silt swept along by the Yangtze will soon start to fill the reservoir, clog the turbines and turn the 600km lake into a cesspool.

Scientists say that the project could also affect water quality and even modify the local climate. Environmentalists say that it may not even prevent flooding. Nevertheless, today Chairman Mao's dream of a "wall of stones" across the Yangtze will be complete.

The Three Gorges reservoir will store 39.3 billion cubic metres of water, enough to cover Britain with a layer of water 10cm deep. One million people have been relocated from land to be submerged. The dam will use 26 massive hydroelectric turbines to generate 18,200 megawatts of power, about 15 times the output of Sizewell B nuclear power station



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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