Tuesday, February 20, 2007


"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." -- Leo Tolstoy (1826-1910)

Clearly, Tolstoy -- the great Russian novelist -- wasn't writing about man-made global warming, since he predated this relatively recent hysteria. Nevertheless, the quote certainly applies to the global warming debate -- or should I say the climate change consensus? The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summary released last Friday inflates the language of doom even as it deflates its predictions of temperature and sea level increases from previous reports.

The IPCC Climate Change 2007 report predicts world temperatures will possibly rise 1.8C to 4C (3.25 to 7.2F) from 1990 levels to the year 2100 and that sea levels might rise 28 to 43 cm (11 to 17 inches). Just six years ago, however, the picture looked much bleaker.

The 2001 IPCC report predicted that from 1990 to 2100 temperatures would rise 1.4C to 5.8C causing sea levels to rise by .09 to .88 metres (3.5 to 34.6 inches or 9 to 88 cm). In other words, in just six years, predictions about temperature increases have plummeted by one-third and predictions about sea-level increases at the high end have been cut in half! At that rate, by my calculations, we'll just have to wait for two more reports and the IPCC will be predicting no measurable increases at all!

Incidentally, many climate scientists have been saying just that -- wait until 2025, when it's expected the sun's output may wane, leading to global cooling. Another measurement has had to be slashed by one-third as well. In 2001, the UN body said the global net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming with radiative forcing of 2.43 watts per square metre. Oops. Now they're saying it's 1.6 watts per square metre. Shouldn't someone at least be blushing? Shouldn't they apologize for getting all of this so wrong? If a large automobile executive got his predictions wrong by up to 50%, he'd be fired.

The IPCC, however, continues to fly around at great cost to the UN and the environment and they stay on board this great gig as long as they continue to tout the party line -- that Earth is going to hell, only it's going to be even hotter. What's most troubling about all of this is the 21-page, much-hyped summary is not referenced at all. The science that supposedly backs all of these predictions is nowhere to be found and won't be released until April and May.

This is problematic on many fronts, but as past IPCC reports have shown, the summary is not written by the scientists whose names appear on the cover, it's written by politicians and bureaucrats. Indeed, some of those scientists after the fact have complained their work has been grossly misrepresented.

In 2001, two scientists complained publicly their work was misrepresented by those who wrote the summary, including MIT physicist Richard Lindzen.

In June 1996, Dr. Frederick Seitz, past-president of the National Academy of Sciences and president emeritus of Rockefeller University, wrote with regard to the 1995 IPCC report: "I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report." He continued: "This report is not what it appears to be -- it is not the version approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page."

In other words, past IPCC reports have proven to be fraudulent and yet, to paraphrase Tolstoy, they have been woven into the public policy fabric of our lives.



You could be excused for thinking that we'll soon do something serious about global warming. Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- an international group of scientists -- concluded that, to a 90 percent probability, human activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, Democratic congressional leaders made global warming legislation a top priority; and 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) endorsed federal regulation. Strong action seems at hand.

Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming. Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior.

Anyone who honestly examines global energy trends must reach these harsh conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main greenhouse gas) totaled 26 billion metric tons. Under plausible economic and population assumptions, CO2emissions will grow to 40 billion tons by 2030, projects the International Energy Agency. About three-quarters of the increase is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009. Poor countries won't sacrifice economic growth -- lowering poverty, fostering political stability -- to placate the rich world's global warming fears. Why should they? On a per-person basis, their carbon dioxide emissions are only about one-fifth the level of rich countries. In Africa, less than 40 percent of the population even has electricity.

Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an "alternative scenario" that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from "renewables" (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.

Since 1850, global temperatures have increased almost 1 degree Celsius. Sea level has risen about seven inches, though the connection is unclear. So far, global warming has been a change, not a calamity. The IPCC projects wide ranges for the next century: temperature increases from 1.1 degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees; sea level rises from seven inches to almost two feet. People might easily adapt; or there might be costly disruptions (say, frequent flooding of coastal cities resulting from melting polar ice caps).

I do not say we should do nothing, but we should not delude ourselves. In the United States, the favored remedy is "cap and trade." It's environmental grandstanding -- politicians pretending they're doing something. Companies would receive or buy quotas ("caps") to emit carbon dioxide. To exceed the limits, they'd acquire some other company's unused quotas ("trade"). How simple. Just order companies to cut emissions. Businesses absorb all the costs. But in practice, no plausible "cap and trade" program would significantly curb global warming. To do that, quotas would have to be set so low as to shut down the economy. Or the cost of scarce quotas would skyrocket and be passed along to consumers through much higher energy prices. Neither outcome seems likely. Quotas would be lax. The program would be a regulatory burden with little benefit. It would also be a bonanza for lobbyists, lawyers and consultants, as industries and localities besieged Washington for exceptions and special treatment. Hello, influence-peddling and sleaze.

What we really need is a more urgent program of research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, there's no guarantee that socially acceptable and cost-competitive technologies will result. But without them, global warming is more or less on automatic pilot. Only new technologies would enable countries -- rich and poor -- to reconcile the immediate imperative of economic growth with the potential hazards of climate change.

Meanwhile, we could temper our energy appetite. I've argued before for a high oil tax to prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. The main aim would be to limit insecure oil imports, but it would also check CO2emissions. Similarly, we might be better off shifting some of the tax burden from wages and profits to a broader tax on energy or carbon. That would favor more fuel-efficient light bulbs, appliances and industrial processes. It's a debate we ought to have -- but probably won't. Any realistic response would be costly, uncertain and no doubt unpopular. That's one truth too inconvenient for almost anyone to admit.



It is 25 degrees below freezing and work is going at full pace on a huge construction site on the west coast of Finland. Ice and snow crunch underfoot and the workers have a grim, focused look on their faces as they move between huge cranes and concrete slabs in their bright orange jackets and safety helmets.

This particular morning is not cold enough for work to be called off - that would take minus 30C - but it is cold enough to send Finland's national electricity consumption to its highest recorded level. That record surge was set last Wednesday as millions of homes and workplaces struggled to warm up, highlighting the importance to Finland of the construction project at Olkiluoto, a small island that used to be covered in coastal pines.

The orange-clad workers are building a nuclear power plant that is crucial to Finland - which has no oil, gas or coal of its own - and is seen by many experts as the future of the country's power industry. Of the 450 commercial reactors around the world, this is the one being most closely watched as Australia and other countries contemplate nuclear power as at least part of the solution to reducing carbon emissions and slowing climate change.

The first nuclear power station built in Western Europe since the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago, the Olkiluoto III plant will be one of the largest in the world and the first "third generation" pressurised water reactor. With a price tag of well over E3 billion ($5billion), it will produce 1600 megawatts, close to the combined output of the two nuclear stations already operating at Olkiluoto. The new plant will alone account for about 15 per cent of Finland's electricity needs.

The sheer ambition and cutting-edge technology of the plant have already drawn Prime Minister John Howard's nuclear energy adviser Ziggy Switkowski and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to the island, with Switkowski using his visit to help conclude that Australia should go nuclear.

When Inquirer visited the site last week, its most striking feature was its remoteness. While Switkowski recommended the construction of up to 25 Australian plants "only tens of kilometres" from major centres - prompting Labor to warn of plants on the edges of capital cities - the Finnish plants are about as remote as southern Finland gets. Only 33 people live within 5km of the site.

A thin metal shelter has been built to keep the weather off the main reactor site, where workers have just finished laying the main base slab of concrete (3m deep and 60m in diameter) and have started on outer walls that will eventually rise 20 storeys. There will actually be two enormous outer walls, designed to withstand severe earthquakes or a direct hit by a commercial airliner fully loaded with fuel.

Most of the 1100-plus workers keep busy indoors, and the surprising quiet of the construction site is matched inside the nearby Olkiluoto I station, where even the main reactor hall is monitored electronically. The nearest town, Eurajoki (population 5800), is 15km away. The smokestacks of Rauma (pop 37,000), an industrial port about 20km away, can just be seen from the top of the power plants, and Pori (pop 76,000) is 30km to the north. With no big cities and with electricity-hungry timber mills spread through its north, Finland has a large grid and a far-flung network of power stations that do not need to sit near their consumers.

Those timber mills and the harsh climate make Finland one of the world's largest electricity consumers on a per capita basis. Its 5.3 million people use more than twice the electricity of nearby Denmark, which has 5.4 million. The Finnish people's awareness of their energy problems has helped to build support for the nuclear industry, and Howard's team might take heart from the fact that even the nearest neighbours of the Olkiluoto plants seem more interested in the economic benefits of the industry than the potential dangers.

The present construction workforce of 1180 will rise to 3000, and as many jobs again are believed to have been created in the local area. In the long term there will be about 150 people employed to operate the plant. Where the Finnish experience is less encouraging for Howard is in Switkowski's conclusion that Australia could have commercial plants up and running in as little as 10 to 15 years. Finland's politicians and voters have been through years of consultations, studies and debates but nuclear power is still a tough political and regulatory issue, and that is without the obstacles presented by ALP premiers determined to block the industry.

Environmental studies for Olkiluoto III began in 1998 and preparation of the site got under way in 2003, but civil construction did not begin until 2005 and it is not expected to be operating until 2011. That is a timeline of 13 years despite the fact that there were already nuclear plants at the site and that Finland has nuclear expertise dating back to 1977, when the first of its four plants came on line. Construction has fallen 18 months behind schedule due to delays that have left the owners and builders pointing fingers and fighting over money.

TVO, the Finnish energy company that owns the plant, has blamed the French-German builders Areva-Siemens, accusing them of design mistakes, poor supervision of sub-contractors, shoddy training and construction mishaps such as the use of the wrong concrete. The builders claim the schedule they were given was unrealistic, but TVO points out that the builders approved that schedule before starting work. Jorma Aurela, senior engineer in the Ministry of Trade and Industry's nuclear energy division, says both sides are to blame for the delays. "They did not estimate the length of the project properly. TVO, the main contractor Areva and all the sub-contractors made the same mistake," says Aurela, who writes Finland's nuclear power plant licences. "But every power plant in Finland has been built late, that's why the public is not that surprised or upset about it. What is important is that safety is OK."

In 1982, with four plants up and running, a Gallup poll found that just 24 per cent of Finns approved of nuclear power and 38 per cent were opposed. By 1985, approval had climbed to overtake opposition (35-32) - but then Chernobyl sent support plummeting and in 1993, parliament rejected a proposal for a fifth plant. It was not until 2002 that a fifth licence squeaked through on a vote of 107-92. Support has since climbed steadily so that 50 per cent now approve and only 20 per cent do not. Aurela says the key is that Finns believe they must diversify their sources of energy. "Australia is like Norway, you are lucky enough to be able to choose between various types of energy but we have to get it where we can," he says. "Right now our energy mix is very good as we have a variety of sources, but each source has its own problems."

Wind power, for instance, provided just 0.1 per cent of electricity generation in 2004 and offers little hope of growth as Finland has weak winds, especially in winter. Hydro provided 17 per cent of the country's electricity but it, too, has little potential for growth. Timber made up 12 per cent and peat another 7 per cent. Imported coal provided another 18 per cent, gas 12 per cent and oil 2 per cent but Finland's Kyoto commitments mean its coal usage must fall. Nuclear plants were the largest single source of electricity with 25 per cent, and the new plant will provide the equivalent of 15 per cent of current consumption.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen told The Australian last week climate change had been the big driver of public acceptance of nuclear fuel because global warming was no longer a debate, "it is a fact". But Halonen, who was in Australia this week, also said nuclear power risked distracting funds from renewable energies, a concern echoed by the Greens. "The greatest environmental hazard posed by nuclear power is that nuclear energy is being marketed as a magical solution to climate change, so that we would not really have to change anything," says Tapio Laakso, chairman of the Greens' youth organisation.

Aurela briefed Switkowski last year and warned that public acceptance can never be taken for granted by the industry. "An accident in any of the 450 plants in the world would jeopardise public support and could have the same effect on your industry that Chernobyl did on ours," he says. Aurela also said that if there is to be a nuclear power industry in Australia it must be driven by the private sector. "The industry should have no future in Australia if it is dependent on government money. Nuclear energy has to survive on its own commercial merits or it has no future," he says.

Another innovation that some in Australia would like to copy is unfolding just over a kilometre from the new plant. A plain two-lane road dips into a tunnel entrance running under a pine forest and disappears into the bedrock. The tunnel already reaches a depth of 180m and will eventually grow into a 42km maze. With a price tag of E2.5 billion, this will be the world's first permanent dump for the most dangerous of nuclear wastes, spent fuel rods.

All nuclear plants now use interim dumps but the Finns are working to bury their spent fuel under 520m of bedrock. The Swedes and Americans are planning to do the same thing and there have been determined calls in Australia to set up a dump as a money-making venture. Aurela says Finland sees the dump as one of the costs of nuclear fuel, not as a way of generating profits, and only Finnish waste will be stored there. While Britain and many other countries are facing taxpayer bills of billions of dollars to clean up power stations, the Finns decided back in 1983 to set a levy on nuclear fuel to fund a permanent dump. Some 5500 tonnes of spent fuel will be packed into 2800 airtight steel containers about 4m long and then encased in copper. They will then be placed in holes drilled a few metres apart in the floor of the new tunnels and surrounded with bentonite clay to protect the copper from salty groundwater. The tunnels will finally be filled in with a mixture of clay, sand and rock.

Aurela says the dump would be easier to build in Australia. "We have very old and stable bedrock but we do have groundwater. For Australia this waste question would not be that difficult. You have a huge country with plenty of desert and dry bedrock." However politically radioactive the idea of such a dump might be in Australia, it has been calmly accepted in Finland. And yet there is one part of the nuclear cycle that much of the Finnish public is balking at - uranium mining.

Recent proposals for mining leases have been opposed by environmentalists and local communities, with Antti Kokkonen, political editor of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, explaining that Finns are much more relaxed about nuclear dumps and power plants than they are about uranium mining. "Some of the uranium deposits are near populated areas and people seem to think that digging it up would be dangerous."



Czech MEP Miroslav Ouzky (Civic Democrats, ODS) is the first Czech to head the EP's environmental committee as he was elected its chairman in Brussels today. Ouzky replaced Christian Democrat Karl-Heinz Florenz, according to agreements within the conservative EP's group European People's Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) of which ODS MEPs are members. Some MEPs, however expressed fears about Ouzky's qualification for the new post... Asked about global warming, Ouzky admitted the problem of greenhouse gases, but he said he cannot say to what extent they affect global warming. He, however added that the world must fight with this problem.


Global warming goes to court in Australia too

THERE are some decisions that are too important to be left to the judiciary. And a carbon tax is one of them. But while governments debate the issue and agonise about the details, green activists are working through the courts to bypass the democratic process and force such a tax on the coal industry. Unlike governments, judges and tribunal members cannot equip themselves with sufficient information to make an informed decision about how to deal with climate change. For this reason, they must be stripped of the power to intervene in this area before the environmental lobby persuades activist judges that they alone can save the world.

There is another reason why judges should bow out of this area. And it was spelt out as recently as last week by High Court Chief Justice Murray Gleeson. Judicial officers risk a loss of public confidence if their rulings are considered to be no more than the imposition of their personal social goals. The green campaign, which started in NSW, received a welcome setback in Queensland this week. A tribunal headed by Greg Koppenol exposed the flawed logic of those who wanted to use Mr Koppenol's tribunal to force a coalmine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Had they succeeded, it would have had the same effect as a carbon tax: the cost of the mine's coal would have risen and consumers would have bought their coal elsewhere. And it would have been a tax that would have been passed without a single vote by a representative body. Mr Koppenol made the right call. But that's not the point. Unless the states prevent judges and tribunals from venturing into this area, the nation is at risk of being lumbered with an inconsistent network of court-imposed carbon taxes.

For proof, just look at last year's loopy decision by NSW Land and Environment Court judge Nicola Pain. She ruled that an environmental impact statement for the Anvil Hill coalmine in the Hunter Valley was invalid because it failed to consider the emission of greenhouse gases. Ms Pain was an environmental activist before she was appointed to the bench by NSW Attorney-General and Environment Minister Bob Debus.

On this issue, the NSW Labor Government has betrayed the coal industry. Coalmining jobs are now at risk because of the actions of the state Labor Government. Instead of legislating to overturn Ms Pain's ruling and seeking a consistent national approach, the NSW Government has embraced her mad plan. It has asked the mine to respond to a Greens suggestion that factor into its costbase $109 a tonne for carbon dioxide emissions. Such a tax, which was calculated according to data in the much-criticised Stern review of climate change, would render the mine economically unviable. The issue of climate change demands a national approach, not an ad hoc network of inconsistent state taxes. Despite what some governments might think, taxes are not the solution to all the world's problems.



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 generally 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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