Sunday, July 02, 2006


Time magazine has named MIT's Kerry Emanuel one of the world's 100 most influential people. Congrats to him, I certainly think he is brilliant and the honor is well deserved. However, I can't imagine that Kerry is too happy with the unfortunate blurb Time put together to describe him.

It's easy to argue about the hypothetical causes and effects of global warming. It's a lot harder for any serious disagreement to continue when extreme weather is demolishing a major American city. The U.S. experienced just such a moment of clarity last year when Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, awakening all of us to the true cost of climate change. It was Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who helped us make the connection.

Perhaps before writing that bit of nonsense Time might have visited Kerry's homepage and considered this statement he has posted:

Q: I gather from this last discussion that it would be absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming?

A: Yes, it would be absurd.



To begin with, it is useful to recall perhaps the principal way science distinguishes itself from other discourses: the reliance on discovery of facts through observation, and validation of theory through test and falsification - in short, the scientific method. This procedure evolved in Western Europe in contrast to the medieval mechanism for establishing truth, which was reference to authority, in the form of the Church Fathers, Aristotle, or other accepted texts. The seismic shift in worldview that a change from authority to observation as source of truth induces is difficult to appreciate in hindsight, but there is little question that it was a seminal step in the rise of the West and the creation of modernity.

But it is precisely the strength of this core characteristic of the scientific discourse that creates the potential for nightmare science. The nightmare arises in this way. We have, as scientists, established the validity of science through adoption of a process that institutionalizes observation, and thus grants us privileged access to truth, at least within the domains of physical reality. In doing so, we have destroyed authority as the source of privileged knowledge -- and, concomitantly, assumed much of the power that used to reside in the old elite (e.g., the Church).

But now suppose that scientists become increasingly concerned with certain environmental phenomenon -- say, loss of biodiversity, or climate change. They thus not only report the results of the practice of the scientific method, but, in part doubting the ability of the public to recognize the potential severity of the issues as scientists see them, become active as scientists in crafting and demanding particular responses, such as the Kyoto Treaty. These responses, notably, extend significantly beyond the purely environmental domain, into policies involving economic development, technology deployment, quality of life in many countries, and the like.

In short, the elite that has been created by practice of the scientific method uses the concomitant power not just to express the results of particular research initiatives, but to create, support, and implement policy responses affecting many non-scientific communities and intellectual domains in myriad ways. In doing so, they are not exercising expertise in these non-scientific domains, but rather transforming their privilege in the scientific domains into authority in non-scientific domains. Science is, in other words, segueing back into a structure where once again authority, not observation, is the basis of the exercise of power and establishment of truth by the elite. But the authority in this new model is not derived from sacred texts; rather it is derived from legitimate practice of scientific method in the scientific domain, extended into non-scientific domains. Note that this does not imply that scientists cannot, or should not, as individuals participate in public debate; only that if they do so cloaked in the privilege that the scientific discourse gives them they raise from the dead the specter of authority as truth.

Why is this nightmare science? Precisely because it raises an internal contradiction with which science cannot cope. In an age defined by the scientific worldview, which is the source of the primacy of the scientific discourse, science cannot demand privilege outside its domain based not on method, but on authority, for in doing so it undermines the zeitgeist that gives it validity. When demanding the Kyoto Treaty as scientists, it is themselves, not their opponents, that they attack.

More here


The contemporary environmentalist movement faces a stark choice: change tactics or fade into irrelevance. Over the past decade, environmentalists have achieved few political victories and utterly failed to influence the general public. As indicated by a recent MIT study, the public knows little about environmental problems, and cares less. Out of 21 national and international issues, Americans ranked environmental problems 13th, well below terrorism, taxes, crime, and drugs.

Alarmism-the environmental movement's basic strategy-has led to this dead end. Since Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," the movement has been dominated by doomsday scenarios. Even on the first Earth Day in 1970, biologist George Wald predicted that "civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken" while the New York Times warned that "man must stop pollution and conserve his save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction." Fortunately, such apocalyptic forecasts have repeatedly proven to be wrong.

Take biologist Paul Ehrlich's popular Malthusian broadside, "The Population Bomb." Farsighted Ehrlich predicted that a "population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make," causing world-wide famine and the death of "hundreds of millions of people" annually from starvation. Oops-in the subsequent 35 years, increased agricultural productivity exceeded population growth and the total amount of cultivated land barely increased.

Ehrlich is hardly alone; the environmental movement has spawned a remarkable number of would-be Cassandras. Between 1970 and 2006, global cooling predictions mysteriously morphed into global warming fears. Concerns about rampant Dodo-ism proved baseless: the rate of animal extinction in the U.S. has been declining since the 1930s, and only seven species have gone extinct since 1973. And rather than running out of resources, the world has experienced a commodity glut, with the prices of most metals and minerals dropping by 30 to 50 percent. The litany of failed apocalypses goes on.

Not that this history of crying wolf has chastened contemporary environmentalists. Activists and researchers still issue dire warnings with mind-numbing regularity. Just three weeks ago, a panic-stricken Time magazine story on global warming shouted, "Be Worried, Be Very Worried." Harping on worst-case scenarios like a 220-foot rise in the ocean's water level, the article more closely resembled "The Day After Tomorrow" than a serious report.

Although such scare mongering persists, it has reached the point of diminishing returns. Knowing the movement's track record of false alarms, the American public dismiss dire environmental warnings out of hand. Moreover, these alarming reports attract a disproportionate amount of media attention, discrediting the environmentalist movement twice over: First when the sensational predictions drown out more plausible reports, then again when the highly-publicized disaster fails to occur.

Contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. environment is getting healthier. The U.S. population has more than doubled since 1970, yet forest coverage has increased. Measurements of major air pollutants-sulfur, suspended particulates, and carbon monoxide-have registered declines of 15 to 75 percent. Likewise, the number of healthy rivers and lakes has roughly doubled since the first Earth Day, and Lake Erie, declared "dead" in the 1970s, now supports a healthy fishing industry. There are exceptions to this positive trend, but the overall direction is unmistakable: The U.S. natural environment is improving.

Of course, environmentalists claim credit for this trend. Alarmists can't lose: either doomsday comes true, or their warnings averted disaster. Certainly, part of the positive trend is due to activism and government regulations, but much of the change is a result of increased technological efficiency as well as longstanding trends that predate the rise of environmentalism.

Although the impact of the movement's past achievements is uncertain, its future success clearly depends on a fundamental reevaluation of long-unquestioned theories and policies. Doomsday warnings no longer shock the public into action; instead, environmentalists need to develop moderate arguments that don't depend on the 'stick' of calamity. This means abandoning Soviet-style "command-and-control" regulation, epitomized by the Kyoto Treaty, and exploring ideas, like the use of DDT, that are currently considered heretical.

Until environmentalists cease depending on nightmare scenarios, they will fail to influence the public at large. Let the next generation of environmentalists begin to reestablish the movement's credibility by exploring currently heretical ideas and producing moderate, nuanced reports, even if they do not make for good press.

More here

The future of nuclear energy in Australia

On June 6, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a task force to conduct a comprehensive review into the future of the nuclear industry in Australia, covering uranium mining, uranium enrichment and the future of nuclear power. In light of soaring prices of oil, coal and uranium oxide - the main sources of energy - such an inquiry is long overdue.

As a result of a veto imposed by environmentalists and Aboriginal activists on Labor governments, the expansion of Australia's uranium industry has been restricted since the 1970s, and most new uranium mining projects have been stopped in their tracks.

The other matters to be examined by the nuclear energy inquiry are more complex, and refer to matters of less immediacy, even if in the long-term they are of considerable importance - including uranium enrichment and reprocessing, and the competitiveness of nuclear power reactors. However, as neither Australia's Government nor the Opposition has shown much interest in the viability of Australian manufacturing industry, preferring the easy alternative of buying cheaper imports from overseas, it is hard to believe that any recommendation of the inquiry in these areas will be taken seriously.

Despite the restrictions on production, Australia is currently the world's second largest producer of uranium oxide behind Canada. Australia's uranium is sold strictly for electrical power generation only, and safeguards are in place to ensure this. Australia currently supplies uranium oxide to the United States (where nuclear power provides 20 per cent of the country's electricity), Japan (30 per cent), South Korea (40 per cent), France (77 per cent), UK (20 per cent), Sweden (50 per cent), and Germany (30 per cent).

In announcing the inquiry, Mr Howard noted that "recent developments in global energy markets have renewed international interest in nuclear energy as a technology that can help meet growing demand for electricity without the fuel and environmental costs associated with oil and gas. This also comes at a time when energy prices and energy security are key considerations for future economic growth in a lower emissions future". The price of uranium oxide has increased six-fold since 2001.

Mr Howard also noted that a growing number of environmentalists now recognise that "nuclear energy has several other advantages over fossil-fuel electricity generation, including significant lower levels of air pollution and greenhouse emissions".

Australia has some 40 per cent of the world's known reserves of uranium ore, but the development of uranium mines in Australia has been severely restricted as it requires the approval of both state and federal governments: the states control mining, but the Federal Government controls export approvals.

There are currently three uranium mines operating in Australia: the Ranger mine in Arnhem Land (in the Northern Territory), the Roxby Downs copper-gold-uranium mine in South Australia, and the small Beverley mine in outback South Australia. These are low-cost mines, and have been expanded to meet growing demand for uranium oxide, a low-value raw material used for the production of enriched uranium which fuels the world nuclear power stations.

However, a string of uranium deposits around the country have been blackballed by state and territory government vetoes. These include the rich Jabiluka and Koongara deposits in the Northern Territory; the Honeymoon and Billeroo West deposits in South Australia; the large Kintyre, Yeelirrie and Mulgra Rock deposits in Western Australia; and the Westmoreland, Valhalla and Ben Lomond deposits in Queensland. As things stand at the moment, state Labor Governments have prevented the establishment of any new uranium mines. The new federal inquiry will have to find ways to deal with these, in the national interest. At the moment, a coalition of environmentalists associated with the Australian Conservation Foundation and Aboriginal activist groups have a stranglehold on public policy.

In light of the fact that uranium has been safely mined for decades in Australia, and that Aboriginal Australians have been beneficiaries of mining operations, the current veto on new mines is intolerable. Until this is changed, there will be little action on the ground. The line taken by the federal Opposition leader, Kim Beazley - that the Australian Government should be concentrating on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power - is both bizarre and irrelevant given that Australia's uranium is being supplied to electricity utilities in the northern hemisphere. One can only conclude that Mr Beazley is happy that Labor's policy is being determined by vociferous minority groups on the fringes of the political process.



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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