Saturday, March 31, 2007

A nice bit of sarcasm from Taranto

A Scientific Survey?

Christopher Mims of Scientific American, a global-warmist magazine, trumpets as a "reality check" a new poll result:

Via the very-much-worth-checking-out Sietch Blog:

In what can only be considered a tidal wave of public opinion, a new Yale research survey reveals a significant shift in public attitudes toward the environment and global warming. Fully 83 percent of Americans now say global warming is a "serious" problem, up from 70 percent in 2004. Most dramatically, the survey of 1,000 adults nationwide shows that 63 percent of Americans agree that the United States "is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists."

In other words, 63% of the American public now agrees with the 2003 Pentagon report that, while speculative, said as much.

(The rest of the survey results are well worth reading, and demonstrate U.S. citizens' growing concern about extinction, air pollution, and other environmental issues.)

Well, if 63% of the American public says it, it must be true, right? That's how science works! So we checked the survey results (PDF), as Mims recommended, and we found another interesting finding: 58% agree that "as the Bible says, the world was literally created in six days." So according to Scientific American, the biblical story of creation has only slightly less scientific merit than global warming. And if you think the people in the survey are unqualified to weigh in on such matters, they beg to differ: 71% of them agreed with the statement "I consider myself an intellectual," and 59% agreed that "I have more ability than most people." We'll bet a high proportion of them read Scientific American.



NASA's Jim Hansen has discovered STS (science and technology studies, i.e., social scientists who study science), and he is using it to justify why the IPCC is wrong and he, and he alone, is correct on predictions of future sea level rise and as well on calls for certain political actions, like campaign finance reform. In a new paper, Dr. Hansen conveniently selects a notable 1961 paper on the sociology of scientific discovery from Science to suggest that scientific reticence can be used to predict where future research results will lead. And he finds, interestingly enough, that they lead exactly to where his views are today.

What evidence does Dr. Hansen provide to indicate that his views on sea level rise are correct and those presented by the IPCC, which he openly disagrees with, are wrong? Well, for one he explains that no glaciologist agrees with his views (as they are apparently reticent), suggesting that in fact his views must be correct (a creative use of STS if I've ever seen one;-). If holding a minority view is a standard for predicting future scientific understandings then we should therefore apparently pay more attention to all those lonely skeptics crying out in the wilderness, no?

I find it simply amazing that Dr. Hansen has the moxie to invoke the STS literature to support his scientific arguments when that literature, had he looked at maybe one more paper, indicates that Bernard Barber's 1961 essay, while provocative is not widely accepted (see, e.g., this book or this paper). And even if one accepts Barber's article at face value which argues that scientists resist new discoveries (Thomas Kuhn, hello?), what Dr. Hansen doesn't explain (as he is throwing out the IPCC model of scientific consensus) is why his views are those that will prove to be proven correct in the future rather than those other scientific perspectives that are not endorsed by the IPCC. (Dr. Hansen appears to ignore Barber's argument in the same paper suggesting that older scientists are more likely to be captured by political or other interests when presenting their science.)

If we can use the sociology of science to foretell where science is headed, we could save a lot of money not having to in fact do the research. The climate issue is full of surprises and this one just about takes the cake for me. Now I've seen everything!



Lloyd's of London, the world's biggest insurance market, on Thursday reported a pretax profit of 3.66 billion pounds (5.4 billion euros, US$7.2 billion) in 2006, a year of few global catastrophes. That reversed Lloyd's 2005 result of a loss of 103 million pounds (152 million euros, US$202 million) because of hurricane damage claims.

"During the year, we benefited from strong underlying conditions and an exceptionally low level of catastrophes," said Lord Levene, Lloyd's chairman. "However, it would be unrealistic to expect such a favorable claims experience this year."

The 2005 season was the most destructive in recorded history, with 27 named storms and 14 hurricanes, including Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in the U.S. and killed more than 1,300 people.



According to a new study, climate targets agreed in March by EU member states could result in immense costs: In the next 14 years, European Union member states would have to fork out 1.1 trillion Euro for climate protection. With reference to a study by the management consultancy firm McKinsey, the German newspaper "Die Welt" reports that the total costs are estimated between 800 billion and 1.1 trillion euro by the year 2020.

The European Union heads of state and government decided on 9 March to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. However, the summit did not consider the actual costs or concrete measures, let alone how this goal was to be achieved...

Source. (Translation by Benny Peiser)


Environmentalists and globalization foes are united in their fear that greater population and consumption of energy, materials, and chemicals accompanying economic growth, technological change and free trade-the mainstays of globalization-degrade human and environmental well-being. Indeed, the 20th century saw the United States' population multiply by four, income by seven, carbon dioxide emissions by nine, use of materials by 27, and use of chemicals by more than 100.

Yet life expectancy increased from 47 years to 77 years. Onset of major disease such as cancer, heart, and respiratory disease has been postponed between eight and eleven years in the past century. Heart disease and cancer rates have been in rapid decline over the last two decades, and total cancer deaths have actually declined the last two years, despite increases in population. Among the very young, infant mortality has declined from 100 deaths per 1,000 births in 1913 to just seven per 1,000 today.

These improvements haven't been restricted to the United States. It's a global phenomenon. Worldwide, life expectancy has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 67 years today. India's and China's infant mortalities exceeded 190 per 1,000 births in the early 1950s; today they are 62 and 26, respectively. In the developing world, the proportion of the population suffering from chronic hunger declined from 37 percent to 17 percent between 1970 and 2001 despite a 83 percent increase in population. Globally average annual incomes in real dollars have tripled since 1950. Consequently, the proportion of the planet's developing-world population living in absolute poverty has halved since 1981, from 40 percent to 20 percent. Child labor in low income countries declined from 30 percent to 18 percent between 1960 and 2003.

Equally important, the world is more literate and better educated than ever. People are freer politically, economically, and socially to pursue their well-being as they see fit. More people choose their own rulers, and have freedom of expression. They are more likely to live under rule of law, and less likely to be arbitrarily deprived of life, limb, and property.

Social and professional mobility have also never been greater. It's easier than ever for people across the world to transcend the bonds of caste, place, gender, and other accidents of birth. People today work fewer hours and have more money and better health to enjoy their leisure time than their ancestors.

Man's environmental record is more complex. The early stages of development can indeed cause some environmental deterioration as societies pursue first-order problems affecting human well-being. These include hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, and lack of education, basic public health services, safe water, sanitation, mobility, and ready sources of energy.

Because greater wealth alleviates these problems while providing basic creature comforts, individuals and societies initially focus on economic development, often neglecting other aspects of environmental quality. In time, however, they recognize that environmental deterioration reduces their quality of life. Accordingly, they put more of their recently acquired wealth and human capital into developing and implementing cleaner technologies. This brings about an environmental transition via the twin forces of economic development and technological progress, which begin to provide solutions to environmental problems instead of creating those problems.

All of which is why we today find that the richest countries are also the cleanest. And while many developing countries have yet to get past the "green ceiling," they are nevertheless ahead of where today's developed countries used to be when they were equally wealthy. The point of transition from "industrial period" to "environmental conscious" continues to fall. For example, the US introduced unleaded gasoline only after its GDP per capita exceeded $16,000. India and China did the same before they reached $3,000 per capita.

This progress is a testament to the power of globalization and the transfer of ideas and knowledge (that lead is harmful, for example). It's also testament to the importance of trade in transferring technology from developed to developing countries-in this case, the technology needed to remove lead from gasoline.

This hints at the answer to the question of why some parts of the world have been left behind while the rest of the world has thrived. Why have improvements in well-being stalled in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world? The proximate cause of improvements in well-being is a "cycle of progress" composed of the mutually reinforcing forces of economic development and technological progress. But that cycle itself is propelled by a web of essential institutions, particularly property rights, free markets, and rule of law. Other important institutions would include science- and technology-based problem-solving founded on skepticism and experimentation; receptiveness to new technologies and ideas; and freer trade in goods, services-most importantly in knowledge and ideas. In short, free and open societies prosper. Isolation, intolerance, and hostility to the free exchange of knowledge, technology, people, and goods breed stagnation or regression.

Despite all of this progress and good news, then, there is still much unfinished business. Millions of people die from hunger, malnutrition, and preventable disease such as malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea. Over a billion people still live in absolute poverty, defined as less than a dollar per day. A third of the world's eligible population is still not enrolled in secondary school. Barriers to globalization, economic development, and technological change-such as the use of DDT to eradicate malaria, genetic engineering, and biotechnology-are a big source of the problem.

Moreover, the global population will grow 50 percent to 100 percent this century, and per capita consumption of energy and materials will likely increase with wealth. Merely preserving the status quo is not enough. We need to protect the important sustaining institutions responsible for all of this progress in the developed world, and we need to foster and nurture them in countries that are still developing.

Man's remarkable progress over the last 100 years is unprecedented in human history. It's also one of the more neglected big-picture stories. Ensuring that our incredible progress continues will require not only recognizing and appreciating the progress itself, but also recognizing and preserving the important ideas and institutions that caused it, and ensuring that they endure.



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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Friday, March 30, 2007


A comment from Russia

If all ice on the earth melted, the level of the oceans would rise by 64 meters. Many coastal cities would be under water, and so would the Netherlands, a significant part of which lies below sea level. However, the Dutch and the rest of the planet may rest assured: this hypothetical catastrophe could not take place anytime within the next thousand years.

Our institute has prepared an atlas of the world's snow and ice resources, which describes all the ice on the earth and even offers a map of the world without ice. It is, however, a model, not a forecast. Yet there are forecasts warning that if the global warming seen at the end of the 20th century continues for several decades, a lot of ice in the Artic Ocean will melt.

There is, however, a subtle but important qualification: if Artic ice should melt, the sea level will not change because the volume of water created by melting ice is equal to the volume of water that ice displaces when floating. The danger is different: warming could lead to the melting of huge island and continental glaciers.

The biggest of them cover the Antarctic, where 90% of the world's ice is accumulated, and Greenland. The melting of this ice could lead to a catastrophe. But is there any reason to panic? The temperature rise of 3-6 degrees Celsius over the next century promised by pessimists could not have a significant influence on the Antarctic, where the average temperature is less than 40 degrees below zero.

The processes ongoing in the permafrost are even more complicated than those in the ice. All the winters of the last decade were more or less abnormal. Because of that, the permafrost in areas just beyond the Artic began receding and melting. The period of warming was tangible, but now it may be drawing to a close. Most natural processes on the earth are cyclical, having a shorter or longer rhythm. Yet no matter how these sinusoids look, a temperature rise is inevitably followed by a decline, and vice versa.

Studies of the ice core retrieved by Russia's Vostok Antarctic station show that this is what has been happening on earth for at least the last 400,000 years. Today, scientists say that the melting of the permafrost has stalled, which has been proved by data obtained by meteorological stations along Russia's Artic coast. We are now studying the influence of the atmosphere and snow cover on permafrost in space and time. In the permafrost zones, a layer melts in the summer, when the temperature rises above zero. However, in the winter this layer freezes again. This is a normal process: what melts, freezes. Yet if a winter is abnormally warm, this seasonal melted layer may not freeze back. Then the so-called "talik," a layer with a temperature of around zero, is formed. This is a very unpleasant thing for buildings and pipelines.

It seems that the permafrost should be melting if the temperature is rising. However, many areas are witnessing the opposite. The average annual temperature is getting higher, but the permafrost remains and has even started to spread. Why? An important factor is the snow cover. Global warming reduces it, therefore making the heat insulator for the permafrost thinner. Then even weak frosts are enough to freeze the ground deeper below the surface.

In many places, the frozen ground is 500-800 meters deep. Even if the highest warming forecast comes true and the temperature rises by 3-6 degrees, no more than 20 meters of frozen ground will melt. Some people are afraid that the melting permafrost will pollute the air with methane. However, frozen water takes up only 15% of the 20-meter layer, and the amount of gases dissolved there is insignificant. So we are unlikely to receive such unpleasant surprises from the permafrost within the next hundred years.

Today, scientists fear not so much global warming as changes in atmospheric circulation. In recent years, the so-called western shift has dominated, which means that air masses have been moving from the west eastwards. There has been little mention of the so-called meridian masses, moving from the south to the north and back. Now, however, the meridian shift has become more frequent.

If it goes south, it causes a spell of cold weather; if it goes north, it brings warm air masses with a lot of precipitation in the winter. This results in thaws and snow drifts on plains and in heavy snowfalls, avalanches and mudflows in the mountains. Meridian processes have been gaining in frequency lately, which promises different weather anomalies: unusually high and low temperatures, heavy rains and snowfalls and longer droughts, which in turn may lead to natural calamities.



A comment from Nederland: "Global" concerns are causing neglect of important local problems

Recently, the IPCC, the climate panel of the United Nations, issued a new report. It focuses on the relation between the emission of greenhouse gases and the rise in globally averaged temperatures in the next one hundred years. A few degrees centigrade are forecast; in all likelihood this must be ascribed to the burning of fossil fuels. The sea level rise expected by the IPCC is on the order of four millimeters per year.

Though it would be easy to write an extensive commentary about these predictions, I feel no need to take issue with the IPCC on this point. Taking into account that the worldwide supplies of oil and gas are shrinking, and that Mr. Putin has threatened more than once to shut off the supply of natural gas to Europe, I agree it is necessary to pay more attention to energy-saving technology. Energy policy requires a high priority, both nationally and internationally.

But this does not mean that the climate debate is over now. I just mention a few points that bug me. Assuming that the IPCC numbers are reliable, I find the doomsday picture Al Gore is painting -- a six-meter sea level rise, fifteen times the IPCC number -- entirely without merit. The IPCC would have substantially lessened the acrimony in the climate debate if it had said so explicitly. It would have credited IPCC also if it had taken issue against the pressure exerted on professionals who doubt the majority view. It is unbecoming that American television weather forecasters who express doubts about global warming are likely to lose their jobs. The planned removal of State Climatologists George Taylor (Oregon), David Legates (Delaware), and Patrick Michaels (Virginia) also does not contribute to an atmosphere of unfettered professional discourse.

I protest the tendency to simplify the climate debate to a matter of fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, and a relatively minor global temperature increase. I protest the rude way geologists and astronomers are shoved aside. Whatever the IPCC staff thinks, it is not at all inconceivable that decreasing solar activity will lead to some cooling ten years from now. And if we look at the climate with a geologist's eye, we see all kinds of changes that have no discernible origin. In the long run we will enter a new ice age, but in the mean time we may encounter all kinds of ups and downs. The climate is always changing; that happened also when there were yet no people on this planet.

I protest vigorously the idea that the climate reacts like a home heating system to a changed setting of the thermostat: just turn the dial, and the desired temperature will soon be reached. We cannot run the climate as we wish. That is fortunate, because a bad season for farmers may be a boon for the tourist industry, deteriorating conditions for French farmers may mean improving conditions for their Polish colleagues, what is good for winter wheat may make things worse for corn, and so on. We are not dealing with a machine, but with Nature herself, and she is not easily mocked.

I want some fresh air in the climate debate, free of the acrimony surrounding the IPCC report. Fortunately there is plenty room for a breath of fresh air if we stop focusing on greenhouse gases to the exclusion of other matters. We obtain that freedom if we decide to think and act not only globally, but primarily locally. My colleague Roger Pielke Sr., professor emeritus of meteorology at Colorado State University and presently senior scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, has been investigating the effects of changing agricultural and forestry practices for many years. He doesn't stop at commiserating, as so many do, the climatic effects of tropical deforestation. He has demonstrated that increasing irrigation leads to enhanced summer precipitation, for example, in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. He also charted the effects of southward moving orange plantations on Florida's microclimate and found that the frost risks for the orange crops had moved southward as fast as the plantations themselves. Local climates can change this much by aggressive farming practices.

Another perspective opened by letting some fresh air in is to consider the concrete vulnerability of societies, in particular those in poor countries, to present climate. This is the vulnerability paradigm proposed by Pielke's son Roger Jr., who is a political scientist at the University of Colorado, and his colleague Daniel Sarewitz of Arizona State University. If the present climate problems of vulnerable regions are addressed forcefully, then 90% of the future problems there have become manageable. Don't bother to ponder whether or not climate change is responsible for Katrina's destructive impact, but state boldly that local, regional, and national authorities have ignored the warnings issued by the US Corps of Engineers for some twenty years. In my little lowlands country something similar has happened. Twenty years of warnings by the engineers in the Ministry of Public Works were thoughtlessly laid aside by the Dutch government. It finally woke up when the storm surge of February 1, 1953 claimed nearly two thousand lives. Then it was too late.

Let me summarize. In the climate, much more is at stake than the probable consequences of a slight temperature rise. The dwindling supplies of gas and oil and the direct effects of greenhouse gases get more than sufficient attention from the global community. But next to that there is a wide, only partially explored territory of local and regional vulnerabilities. Due to the incessant emphasis on the global aspects of the climate problem, this territory does not receive the attention it deserves. That is a shame.

Source. Translation above from the Dutch by Hendrik Tennekes

Is this the cleverest "climate" policy yet?

Plan to rescue the world's forests

AUSTRALIA will form a global fund to fight illegal logging and forest destruction worldwide with the aim of halving the rate of deforestation and achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions 10 times greater than under the Kyoto Protocol. Along the lines of the AP6 Asia-Pacific climate pact, the $200 million Australian initiative will operate outside the Kyoto climate change protocol and will be funded by other developed nations to help developing nations preserve forests.

Germany, Britain and the US are expected soon to contribute to the fund, which will have Indonesia as its prime target. The UN has identified Indonesia as having the world's highest rate of forest clearing. Yesterday, British economist and climate change expert Nicholas Stern said Indonesia ranked third in the world as a greenhouse gas emitter, after the US and China, because of the destruction of forests.

The new world fund - with a similar structure to the six-party Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate created early last year - will give John Howard momentum on the climate change issue as Labor paints him as negative and reluctant on global warming. Labor yesterday peppered the Prime Minister with questions on global warming and promised a $50 million program to subsidise solar panels on homes to cut power consumption and greenhouse emissions.

Mr Howard responded in parliament by pointing to a split between the state Labor governments and federal ALP over compulsory targets for solar and wind power. Mr Howard and Kevin Rudd yesterday both met Sir Nicholas, who said in his report on the effects of climate change last year that deforestation in developing countries was one of the greatest contributors to global warming. Sir Nicholas's report for the British Government predicted dire consequences unless immediate steps were taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Howard will announce the start of the global fund today as the Government attempts to take the political initiative on climate change. The forest fund, to be managed by the World Bank, is designed to help developing countries start sustainable forest industries, plant new forests, stop illegal destruction of rainforests, provide monitoring of forest production, education in forest management and help communities dependent on illegal rainforest timber find alternative jobs.

Deforestation accounts for 20per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and it is estimated that a tonne of CO2 can be sequestered - or taken out of the atmosphere - through tropical reforestation for just $US2, a fraction of the cost of other technologies. The World Bank has estimated the mismanagement of forests costs the global economy $US10billion a year and says 85 per cent of the world's forests are not managed in a sustainable way.

In its submission to the Prime Minister's taskforce on global warming and emissions trading, the National Association of Forest Industries says forests "can play a significant role in addressing climate change concerns through the benefits of carbon sequestration and managed native forests and plantations".

Mr Howard told parliament yesterday that Australia would work towards achieving its target in cutting greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol but said he would not adopt policies that cost jobs. "Whilst there are quite a lot of things in Stern's report and in his work that we agree with, we will take decisions in the national interest," Mr Howard said. "History is littered with examples of nations having overreacted to presumed threats to their great long-term disadvantage."

Mr Howard highlighted a split between the state Labor governments and federal ALP over the policy on renewable energy to combat climate change. In a submission to the Prime Minister's taskforce, the state governments have recommended that mandatory targets for generating power from solar, wind and other renewable sources be phased out when anemissions trading system is introduced. The states say a market-based system of encouraging greenhouse gas reduction through emissions trading is not compatible with mandatory targets. The federal ALP's policy "supports a mandatory renewable energy target which will promote the growth of renewable energy industries such as solar and wind power". "Labor will ensure a genuine and substantial increase in the percentage of Australia's energy generated from renewable sources," the policy says.

But the states have recommended mandatory renewable energy schemes be discontinued or not renewed. When asked about renewable energy targets in parliament, Mr Howard said that as he was being asked to expand mandatory targets the states wanted to phase them out. "This is at the heart of this debate - you cannot run power stations on renewables. Yet the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him believe you can," he said.


Stern warnings on climate consensus: The thinking man's climate change extremist hits town

An editorial from "the Australian" below

BRITAIN'S climate change emissary, Nicholas Stern, has left something for everyone in his lightning visit to Australia to warn of the likely costs of not taking precautionary action on global warming. The federal Government was given a tick for considering nuclear energy as an answer to cutting carbon emissions. Labor was given encouragement for setting a target to reduce the emissions. The coal industry was assured it was a logical long-term player in the world energy business and that Australia was perfectly placed to research clean coal technology, which would make a profound impact if it proved viable.

Global warming activists, meanwhile, would be heartened by Sir Nicholas's view that Australia should sign the Kyoto climate change protocol and was morally obliged to act on cutting its carbon emissions, even though in real terms any cuts would have a negligible impact on the global situation.

Set against Al Gore's hyperbolic visions of doom, Sir Nicholas can appear to be almost a voice of reason. This is because, unlike Mr Gore, who may morph into a climate change- fuelled US presidential candidate at any moment, Sir Nicholas is a serious bureaucrat and former World Bank chief economist. This should not obscure the fact, however, that he was handpicked to undertake the review of climate change by British Prime Minister Tony Blair for political as much as altruistic reasons.

British politicians have seized on climate change with what appears an almost religious zeal. Both major parties are attempting to outbid each other with climate change responses that promise austere measures for British citizens including the possibility of rations and progressive taxes on air travel. While there have been criticisms of Sir Nicholas's research, including from this newspaper, he has succeed in engaging business in the debate. Where Mr Gore has adopted the rhetoric of zealotry and exaggeration, Sir Nicholas has employed the logic of an insurance actuary. He has persuaded business to accept it makes economic sense to address the issue of climate change now, because if the science proves true, the cost will be much higher the longer it is left. This precautionary principle is well understood by the business mind, which also sees the potential for profit in a carbon trading regime.

That said, Sir Nicholas has not been shy of indulging in a little headline-grabbing of his own, with warnings that the cost of responding to climate change will equal two world wars and a depression. However, he has not overdramatised the state of scientific confidence on the impact of global warming, or the human contribution to climate change, to the same extent as others, notably Mr Gore and Australian of the Year Tim Flannery. Nonetheless, Sir Nicholas's call for harsh carbon emission targets, with reductions of between 60and 90 per cent, are best viewed in the context of the continuing need to draw attention to the issue. A target will always only be a target, and success in meeting it will depend on the success of new technology and innovation.

In political terms, John Howard had little choice but to meet Sir Nicholas, but the Prime Minister has made it clear the Government's response would be guided by protecting jobs and safeguarding the economy. If the Opposition sees Sir Nicholas's visit as a welcome precursor to this weekend's climate change talkfest, it would be wise to take a leaf from the Stern book of diplomacy and ability to deal with business. Having succeeded in getting business to the table, Labor must now satisfying the diverse groups without wrecking its claim to economic credibility.

For a lesson in the art of clever climate change solutions and politics, it's hard to beat Mr Howard's plan to combat illegal global logging, which could deliver 10 times the carbon savings of Kyoto.


Just another end-is-nigh climate guy?

A comment from Canada

Here's the headline news from Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year: The climate is changing much faster than we thought even a short time ago. These changes will be vast and certainly catastrophic if we do not act. Thousands of species -- including our polar bear -- are headed for extinction. The collapse of the Gulf Stream could trigger a new nuclear arms race and usher in a nightmare era of global conflict. Left unchecked, climate change could well bring about the end of our civilization.

Whew. Pretty grim stuff. Yet Mr. Flannery swears he's no alarmist. "Just because the news is alarming doesn't mean the messenger is alarmist." His book The Weather Makers is riding high on the international bestseller lists, and he's a hot commodity on the speaking circuit. (He's addressing a think-tank conference for Canadian politicians today.) In Australia, where a severe drought has pushed climate change to the top of the agenda, he's at least as influential as Al Gore. The two have other things in common. Both simplify the science, cherry-pick the evidence and play down the uncertainties. They make it seem as if massive action is a no-brainer.

Too right, mate. We all want to do something. But what? How? What kinds of policies make sense? And what about the rest of the world? China, the fastest-growing carbon emitter on the planet, is building a new coal plant every week. Why should it sacrifice its prosperity to save our polar bears?

Mr. Flannery confesses that he gave short shrift to the dilemma of big developing countries. "The reason I don't talk about that is that it's a perfect formula for doing nothing." The flip side of this end-is-nigh pessimism is a remarkably cheery faith in new technologies and the prospect of global co-operation. "There is quite a significant shift even in China," he says optimistically. "They're talking a lot about renewable energy. The richest man in China makes solar panels." One day, he predicts, China could be the supplier of cheap solar panels to the world.

Maybe so. But Mr. Flannery prefers to gloss over the unpalatable economic tradeoffs that people and their governments are probably not prepared to make. For example, he thinks Australia ought to get out of the coal business. Like Mr. Gore (and unlike David Suzuki, who believes we must drastically cut our standard of living in order to avert Armageddon), Mr. Flannery basically promises climate gain without pain. He's also partial to massive social-engineering schemes. For example, he argues that the only equitable way to reduce emissions is to grant every human being an equal "right to pollute" with greenhouse gases. Under this system, developed countries would have to buy enough carbon credits from poor countries to cover their emissions. This would have the added (in his view) advantage of redistributing wealth from the greedy West to the impoverished rest. Does such a scheme have a chance? Not on this planet.

Mr. Flannery admits that emissions trading in Europe has been a flop (he blames the Italians for gaming the system, although they're not the only ones), and that the Kyoto targets are meaningless. He's for Kyoto anyway. "It's like a baby. It's useless when it's born. It needs nurturing, and then you can build it into anything you want it to be." He also points out that everything in his book is based on reputable scientific studies published in major journals, such as Nature.

What he doesn't say is that he tends to pick the most sensational studies and ignore the ones that contradict them. About the starving polar bears, he writes: "It looks as if the loss of nanuk may mark the beginning of the collapse of the entire Arctic ecosystem." Just one problem. The polar bear population is booming. And they've weathered climate changes far longer than humans have. Mr. Flannery was a bit defensive when I raised this. "You'll always find an expert to contradict any study."

Mr. Flannery is a very influential man. I hope his predictions of imminent catastrophe are wrong, because his ideas for tackling global warming are pretty lame. Do I have better ones? Nope. My point is, the real debates have only just begun.


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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Thursday, March 29, 2007


Ice-core expert, Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski [] writes from Poland below in answer to the following question: "Given the capability of the biosphere to absorb a surplus of CO2 as small as the human contribution, why do most AGW skeptics go along with the assumption that humans are wholly responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2 in the last 150 years?".

It seems that they did not spend enough time to peruse in-depth the glaciological papers on CO2, and the original papers on the carbon cycle. They rather glanced over the photos, figures, tables, and read mostly abstracts and conclusions, which tell that for the past >500,000 years almost always "atmospheric" CO2 levels were lower than 290 ppmv, even in periods when the surface temperature was higher than now.

The sceptics credulously accepted the glaciologists' claim that the proxy CO2 determinations in the ice cores, are not proxies but rather direct measurements of this gas in the original ancient atmospheric air, trapped in the allegedly closed system of ice, miraculously not changed by brutal drilling procedures, and tens of physical and chemical processes in the ice sheets and in the ice cores, to say nothing of the liquid water present in the cold Antarctic ice.

The peace of mind of sceptics was not disturbed even by a total disappearance of air inclusions in all deep ice cores. They did not notice this, or what?

The carbon cycle models were all founded on an assumption of low pre-industrial CO2 level of 290 ppmv, even before the glaciological support. A component of these models is the buffer factor, in which the assumption of a pre-industrial CO2 level of 290 is the most important parameter. Future historians of science will probably eagerly study this phenomenon of groupthink, common in evironmental research.

In the light of Prof. Beck's recent paper questioning the accuracy of ice-core data, it is interesting that Prof. Jaworowski's long-known skepticism about the same data does not appear to have been dented by recent attempts (in new drilling) to allow for his criticisms. The points he makes do appear to be powerful ones. That the pre-industrial "stability" seen in pre-industrial ice cores might be nothing more than a methodological artifact (akin to Mann's "hockeystick") seems a very strong possibility


The United Nations graph below is one of the longest time series relevant to global temperature trends that is based on actual direct measurements rather than on inferences from proxies.

You can see that there was a warming trend going on long before industrialization -- which did not hit Finland to any significant degree until the 20th century. So the warming is a natural phenomenon, not one caused by industrialization. See also the article immediately below this one for a comment on the generality of the phenomenon.



Syun-Ichi Akasofu's greatest successes in a career of studying the aurora came when he questioned the conventional ideas about the phenomenon. "I always become suspicious when many scientists agree on some interpretation," he said.

Now in retirement, the 76-year-old former director of both UAF's Geophysical Institute and International Arctic Research Center is digging in on a new idea that runs contrary to popular beliefs-that today's global warming might be more due to the planet's natural recovery from its last cold period than from our pumping of greenhouse gases into the air. Akasofu recently gave a talk at the International Arctic Research Center in which he presented evidence for how the world has warmed in a steady fashion from well before the Industrial Revolution to the current day.

"If you look back far enough, we have a bunch of data that show that warming has gone on from the 1600s with an almost linear increase to the present," Akasofu said. He showed ice core data from the Russian Arctic that shows warming starting from the early 1700s, temperature records from England showing the same trend back to 1660, and ice breakup dates at Tallinn, Estonia, that show a general warming since the year 1500.

Akasofu said scientists who support the manmade greenhouse gas theory disregard information from centuries ago when exploring the issue of global warming. Satellite images of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean have only been available in the satellite era since the 1960s and 1970s. "Young researchers are interested in satellite data, which became available after 1975," he said. "All the papers since (the advent of satellites) show warming. That's what I call 'instant climatology.' I'm trying to tell young scientists, 'You can't study climatology unless you look at a much longer time period.'"

Melting glaciers, permafrost, and other signs of warming might be Earth's natural recovery from a period known as the Little Ice Age, Akasofu said. The Little Ice Age featured several centuries of very cold temperatures. The Thames River and New York Harbor often froze, and Vikings might have abandoned settlements at the time.

Akasofu said there is no data that "most" of the present warming is due to the manmade greenhouse effect, as the members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in February. He pointed out that the atmosphere cooled from 1940 to 1975 despite a rapid increase in carbon dioxide emissions during the same period. "Nature changes all the time," he said. "The natural component is there. Until you remove it, you don't know the manmade effect."

Akasofu said he could recall in the 1960s and 1970s when some scientists were talking about an approaching ice age. In the 1980s, global warming became a popular topic. "I think the initial motivation by the IPCC (established in 1988) was good; it was an attempt to promote this particular scientific field," he said. "But so many (scientists) jumped in, and the media is looking for a disaster story, and the whole thing got out of control."

Akasofu said his tendency to go against the flow has been with him since he was a child in Japan. He looked beyond the accepted theory at the time to discover such things as the auroral substorm, the idea that the aurora explodes with activity more than once each night. In his career, he's seen many unconventional ideas become accepted theories. "Although the Anchorage Daily News called me 'Alaska's best-known climate-change skeptic,' I believe I am a critic," he said. "That is the only way science can advance."


Green Fascism just around the corner in Britain

Something disturbing and ominous is happening in Great Britain as the country embarks on an all-out fight against the threat of global warming. Intent on making Britain the world's first "green" economy, the government will soon introduce legislation designed to take SUVs and other "gas guzzling" vehicles off the road. By sharply increasing driving levies, the authorities intend to force car owners into making "more sustainable travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking and cycling."

At the same time, homeowners will be asked to make their homes "carbon neutral" and required to draw their energy primarily from low or zero carbon sources such as wave, tide, solar or nuclear power. To ensure compliance, the government will send out inspectors to scrutinize everything from how a home is insulated to the kind of appliances it uses. Those who fail to meet the decreed standards will be fined and penalized. Just how serious the government is about enforcement can be sensed from the words of Environment Secretary David Miliband who stated -- while unveiling the program -- that it would be "painful" for home owners to continue to have an "energy inefficient home."

These sentiments were echoed by a group of cabinet ministers who said that complying with the new regulations will necessitate sweeping changes in lifestyle across the board. Everybody in Britain, they concurred, will have to "live, work and travel differently."

It is essential that we see these developments for what they really are: A thinly-veiled attempt by devotees of the state to take over a western society the like of which has not been seen since the Soviet-sponsored revolutions of the late 1940s.

The practical consequence of these plans -- should they succeed -- will be a radical empowerment of the state which will end up with virtually unlimited powers to regulate nearly every facet of life. Everything from the way people travel to the manner in which they furnish and maintain their homes will now be subject to governmental decree and oversight. Those who refuse to comply will be punished -- and severely so -- if the words of Miliband are anything to go by.

This is precisely why the idea of man-made global warming so appeals to those on the political left. Being ideological cousins of erstwhile socialists, they share a desire to expand government regardless of the cause or issue they ostensibly espouse. In global warming they have sensed the perfect opportunity, for if the underlying claim is true and the planet is indeed headed for destruction, then the impending catastrophe can only be averted by united action on a grand scale. And such action can only be taken by a strong state which has been granted a wide range of powers to deal with this life-or-death crisis.

What makes the global warming scenario even more appealing is that the chief perpetrator is none other than the left's perennial villain -- the business establishment. After all, most of the pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere by unscrupulous businesses as a by-product of their relentless pursuit of ever greater profits. Close second on the list of culprits are us the people whose excessive consumption, runaway appetites and outright recklessness further exacerbate the already critical situation.

The way to safeguard our survival, then, is for government to exercise strict control over both business and the masses. This will be done through taxation and regulation, which, admittedly, will have to be severe at times. But no one should object or complain, since it is only to be expected that this extreme emergency calls for extreme measures. Thus the alleged threat of man-made global warming is used as a means of realizing the left's perennial dream of society administered by a powerful state.

Those on the left have sought to affect this state of affairs for many decades, but until now their efforts have met with vigorous resistance throughout much of the Western world. Not surprisingly, given that it is a world built on the ideals of economic and individual freedom and the principle of limited government.

But by invoking the specter of global warming, the left no longer has to fight tooth and nail for every tax increase or additional regulation. Alarmed by apocalyptic predictions, the frightened populations will now voluntarily and even eagerly turn over their money, freedoms and rights. Fearing for our lives, no tax will seem too excessive or regulatory burden too intrusive. After all, no decree or law can seem too extreme if our very survival is at stake. Believing we face an imminent doom, we shall readily submit to a governmentally mandated compact we would never agree to under normal circumstances.

This time there will be no resistance to this revolution as the state refashions almost all existing relations and usurps the rights and powers that properly belong to the private sphere. There will be no fierce street fighting such as accompanied the bloody revolutions of the past. This time around people will give up their freedoms willingly and even with gladness.

Even Karl Marx himself could not be wholly displeased with the state of affairs toward which the global warming alarmism is inexorably inclining: A vastly empowered state exercising tight oversight over virtually every dimension of life. The only departure from Marx's original vision is the means by which this will be achieved. It will not come about as a result of bitter class struggle, but of a crusade by environmental activists to save the planet.

The tremendous efficacy of the global warming frenzy in advancing the left's agenda can be seen in Britain where state zealots are in the process of taking over one of the world's oldest democracies. Above all, no one should make the mistake of assuming that this is the work of environmental extremists who have somehow managed to worm their way into positions of power and influence. Rather it is the inevitable consequence of accepting the claim of man-made global warming. As such, it is a dire warning of what lies in store for all those who receive this left-induced hysteria as unassailable truth.

When similar measures are finally proposed in America -- as they inevitably will be -- we must be prepared to expose and call them for what they really are: A ruse to bring about the socialist dream of an all-powerful state in charge of every aspect of our lives.



If you could divide Europe's nations and regions into "red" and "blue" states on the American model, very few would be colored "red" -- Poland, some other East European countries, rural regions across the continent, etc. Most nations would be cheerfully "blue." But all Europe would be ''green.'' Green is the universal sign of conspicuous virtue, of concern for planet, of a new paganism that worships the goddess Gaia and treats the Earth as itself a single living organism.

Anyone who questions this newly fashionable faith is regarded as a dangerous heretic to be cast into the outer darkness. A minister in the British government suggested to the BBC that it should not allow air time to any scientists who doubted ''global warming'' (a minority of scientists but a distinguished group). Other high priests of the creed have called for "Nuremberg trials" of "climate change deniers."

In this ovebearing moral atmosphere politicians are likely to salute any green flag that the environmentalists run up. And, sure enough, in 10 days there has been in succession:

1. A "summit" of European Union leaders that pledged to cut Europe's carbon emissions by 20 percent from their 1990 levels and, if other countries (especially America) follow their example, by 30 percent.

2. The publication in Britain of a Climate Change Bill, supported by all major parties, that would set legally binding targets to cut Britain's carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

3. A proposal by the supposedly free-market Conservative Party to "allow" every citizen one untaxed air flight a year but then to levy heavy taxes on additional flights in order to discourage air travel.

4. Leaks from Whitehall that Finance Minister Gordon Brown will double fuel taxes in Wednesday's budget as another green measure.

All this is likely to be applauded by the voters -- who are swept up in this green tornado quite as much as the media and politicians -- but will they applaud its effects, large and small, when they pinch? Take small effects first. Under the EU summit agreement, the familiar light bulb is to be outlawed in the next few years in favor of a more carbon-neutral one. Unfortunately, the new bulb is several times more expensive than the existing one and it sheds much less light. Those who can afford the (considerable) expense will use more bulbs to illuminate the same space. Poorer people will develop eye problems and push up health costs. Such are the unintended consequences of thoughtless legislation.

What of large matters? The idea underlying the EU proposals and the British climate change bill is that governments will both impose binding limits on the carbon emissions that industries emit and instruct them to use low-carbon fuels such as wind and solar power. In other words, the EU and Britain are embracing a new form of central planning based on energy-use quotas rather than output quotas. But central planning is a synonym for economic inefficiency and waste. These things happen when green daydreams encounter realities or what Al Gore calls inconvenient truths. Here are a few more of them:

* Almost all the European countries have already failed to meet much lower carbon emission targets under Kyoto than the new targets they adopted 10 days ago.

* When Brown increased fuel taxes six years ago in Britain, nationwide blockades by truck drivers almost brought down the government.

* The British economy accounts for only 2 percent of global carbon emissions. If it were to close down entirely, it would have little or no impact on the world's total carbon output -- and even less impact on the willingness of the Indian and Chinese governments to cut back on building power stations that they consider essential to their nation's prosperity but that are now the main drivers of increased carbon usage.

Britain and Europe's governments are committing themselves to systems of carbon rationing bound to run up against strong consumer and voter resistance within a few years for very little practical gain. Why? Europe's green establishment believes that global warming is caused by carbon usage and thus can be solved only by its massive reduction.

But global warming has several possible causes, some of which, such as the activity of the sun, are unrelated to humans.

While we are seeking to understand global warming scientifically, we should adapt to it -- shoring up coasts against erosion, changing the use of agricultural land to suit the changing climate, building dams, developing new technologies. Adaptation would include measures to encourage the use of cleaner fuels, notably nuclear energy. It would be a practical solution to the effects of warming, whatever science eventually established definitively as its cause.

To be sure, adaptation would be expensive. Not nearly so expensive, however, as trying to close down the free market in Europe and to reverse the Industrial Revolution in Asia. But Gaia is a jealous goddess and does not consider costs.



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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deconstructing Al

Gore Hurts Global Warming Cause

I have long suspected that Al Gore hurt the very cause - anthropogenic global warming - he is famous for espousing. Now I have some evidence of that in a new Rasmussen Poll saying only 24% percent of Americans consider the former veep a global warming expert. Furthermore, "just 36% of Americans say that Gore knows what he is talking about when it comes to the environment and Global Warming. [caps theirs]"

Gore's problem may stem from the attitude inherent in his remark before a Congressional Committee quoted further down in the Rasmussen article: "Global Warming is 'not a partisan issue; it's a moral issue.'" Wrong, Al. It's neither. It's a scientific issue.. And, considering the Rasmussen Poll, most of us apparently know it.

When I first viewed Gore's Oscar-winning movie, it was that very thing that immediately occurred to me: why am I listening to a politician talk about this? Why not a scientist or scientists? You could cut the inauthenticity of the whole enterprise with a knife, starting with pseudo-self-deprecating joke about his near presidential victory to the recitation of facts that seemed to support his cause (but perhaps didn't, we later learned). The documentary form, of course, allows for these kinds of distortions. How many serious scientific arguments can you fit in an eighty minute film? How deep can you go? Not very far. So someone must select. And with selection comes unscientific bias.

So coming back to the "deconstruction of it all," I will give my visceral reaction to the documentary. After viewing the movie I was less troubled with the global warming issue and more troubled by Gore's narcissism - not exactly the result intended. In fact, the reverse. And evidently, from the poll results, I am not alone. (Something for the Oscar documentary committee to ponder.)

And to be clear, I am personally concerned about global warming. I want to learn more. Even though I am aware of reports that Mars and other planets are currently heating up as well as Earth, this is not by itself proof that the warming cycle here does not have a significant anthropogenic component. I simply don't know. (Neither, I would wager, does Al Gore, in his heart).

So, considering that I am predisposed to worry about such things as global warming, and that I would support some government actions if I were scientifically convinced of the problem, that I might buy a hybrid car, etc.... that I responded negatively to Gore and his film should be of interest, if only because, on this subject at least, I seem to be an average American.


Impact of green hypocrisy

FORGIVE me Al Gore, for I have sinned. My last confession was 20 minutes ago, when I admitted that my need to see the planet preserved for future generations was being superseded by the overwhelming urge to take a polystyrene bat to several of my candle-burning, compost-loving, carbon-eschewing contemporaries. The inconvenient truth is this: while many of those who get a green star for living cleanly are undoubtedly doing the Earth lots of favours, their particular brand of sanctimony is starting to get up my chemically-powdered nose.

The latest in a long line of those doing their bit for the world's quota of hot air is Colin Beavan, a 43-year-old non-fiction writer from New York, who describes himself as a "tree-hugging lunatic" and whose quest to save the planet, one square of toilet paper at a time, was detailed in a US newspaper last week. Beavan, his magazine journalist wife Michelle Conlin and their two-year-old daughter Isabella (who, it must be said, bears no responsibility for the science project-like nature of her surroundings) are turning their apartment into a "no-impact" environment, which, for the uninitiated, means plenty of compost, no carbon-fuelled transport and no mod-cons. Toothpaste has been substituted with baking soda and water, lifts are off limits and then there's the whole toilet paper issue - it, too, has been banned in favour of "bowls of water and lots of air drying" for the duration of the 12-month experiment, which the family is a third of the way through.

But those planning to offer asylum to Isabella - arguably the world's first environmental refugee - should first consider that her parents have been thoughtful enough to keep the maid on at their ritzy Manhattan apartment, and the family's clothes are still being cleaned by (water-guzzling) washing machine. Aside from the notoriety, there's another pay-off involved for Beavan - he's set to chronicle the experience of going green in a book, which, presumably, will be printed on some of the toilet paper saved over the next eight months or so.

Not that he's in for the money or anything. "I am just a liberal schlub who got sick of not putting my money where my mouth was. In a way, the whole project is a protest against my highly-principled, lowly-actioned former self," he says. Oh, well, that's all right then.

But for anyone worried about missing the gory details of using baking soda as a deodorant or travelling home from work on a scooter during a snowstorm, Beavan's website contains accounts of each, which can be accessed on the last of the great environmentally-friendly mediums: the computer. The irony of this last point wasn't lost on one reader, who wrote that, "Getting people to read a blog on their 50-watt LCD monitors and buy a bound volume of post-consumer paper ... sounds like non-impact man is leading to a lot of impact." Another reader more scathingly wrote: "You'd do the world a bigger favour if you gave up smugness for a year." The frustrating part about the Beavan family is that even those who sympathise with their cause are isolated by their holier-than-thou attitude and the project's implicit contradictions, which render its objectives largely obsolete.

The same applies to Earth Hour, an attempt to get Sydney residents to show a commitment to reducing global warning by turning off their lights for 60 minutes this Saturday. On the night, celebrity chef Neil Perry has pledged to fill his restaurant with "hundreds of tea-light candles", while singer Deni Hines will perform at a concert in the Opera House. TV newsreader Tracey Spicer has also weighed in with some solemn words of encouragement for those thinking about taking part.

They are admirable gestures. However, in the lead-up to the date, ads spruiking Earth Hour have been shown on electronic billboards across the city, which begs the question: Given the efforts to reduce environment-polluting emissions, are the signs being powered by air? Hardly.

All of which brings us back to you, Gore. In a Beavan-esque nod to the screaming hypocrisy of those who shout loudest in the climate change debate, I was very sorry to learn late last week that you wouldn't be taking the challenge thrown down by your very own documentary. The 95-minute film asks the question: "Are you ready to change the way you live?" I admit that I, for one, have been slow to respond. That said, I would be broke within a week if my household's energy consumption bill was anywhere near yours, which, at nearly 221,000kW/h last year, was 20 times greater than the average American family's.

Ever the politician, you refused to take the challenge to get that figure down to something approaching normal, which strongly suggests that you and the rest of your family had better join me in the climate change confessional. The movement has found a new hero. Now Gore, repeat after me, "Forgive me, Colin Beavan, for I have sinned. My last confession was ..."


Green pain coming to Britain

Homeowners who refuse to make their properties energy efficient will face financial penalties under drastic government plans to transform Britain into the world's first 'green' economy. Ministers yesterday promised deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions that they warned would mean everyone in the country having to 'live, work and travel differently'. They compared the scale of change that was necessary to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 to the industrial revolution of the 18th century.

The Government said that every new home should be 'carbon neutral' within ten years - and existing properties subject to a 'home energy audit' to assess how green they are. Householders would be given access to 'hassle-free' renovation services to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. They would be able to 'buy now, pay later' for green improvements as their fuel bills decreased. Zero carbon homes are insulated to reduce heating costs, use solar panels, windpower or other renewable energy sources, are made with environmentally friendly materials and use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

Critics said the plans raised the prospect of 'eco-snoopers' inspecting homes. Blair Gibbs, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "It's bad enough that politicians want to take so much of our money away in tax. For them also to intrude into our homes in order to have the ability to penalise us even further is simply unacceptable."

Unveiling the plans, Environment Secretary David Miliband said it would be "painful" to continue to have an "energy inefficient home". Those that did would face higher bills, he added. Transport will also undergo radical overhaul as Britain moves towards becoming a "low- carbon economy", the Government said. Vehicles will be made more fuel efficient, effectively forcing current gas-guzzling models off the road. The Government is to work with the EU on new laws setting a new average emissions target of 130g of carbon dioxide per kilometre - well below most of today's models - with further reductions to follow.

People are to be encouraged to make 'more sustainable' travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking and cycling. The Government is also to invest in solar, wind and wave power. A draft Climate Change Bill published yesterday dismissed sceptics, insisting there was 'no longer any real debate' that climate change was happening and man-made emissions were the main cause. In a sign of the importance the Government attaches to the legislation, the Prime Minister, his expected successor Gordon Brown, and Mr Miliband, touted as a future Labour leader, unveiled the Bill together in Downing Street.

Mr Blair compared the fight against climate change to the battle against fascism. Labour's legislation sets an interim target of a 26 per cent to 32 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and 60 per cent by 2050. It will make Britain the first country in the world with legally binding targets. A panel will advise ministers on carbon targets every five years. If they miss the figure, future governments will face court action. The draft Bill will now be subject to consultation, but the Government hopes it will be law by Easter 2008. Mr Brown, who doubled air passenger duty last year, said he would not impose further 'green taxes' on aviation in next week's Budget.

But airlines suggested fares may have to rise anyway under the Government's plans. British Airways bosses told MPs ticket hikes could result from plans to include airlines in an EU emissions trading scheme - in which firms receive credits which allow them to emit specific amounts of greenhouse gases, but have to buy more if they exceed their limit.

Opposition politicians and green campaigners said the Government's proposals did not go far enough, insisting binding targets on emissions should be annual. Tory spokesman Peter Ainsworth said: "There is a danger that the fiveyear approach will enable responsibility for failure to be shunted on from one government to another."


Clean coal is all hot air

Comment by Australian economist Alex Robson

LAST month Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd announced Labor's National Clean Coal Initiative. Roughly speaking, the term clean coal refers to various technologies for removing carbon dioxide from coal when it is used to generate electricity, both before and after combustion occurs. The term encompasses carbon capture and storage technologies. Rudd's policy commits $500 million of taxpayer funds on the development of these technologies, with the proviso that each taxpayer dollar must be matched by two private sector dollars. Rudd also proclaimed that Labor would establish an emissions trading scheme, set renewable energy targets, develop plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, convene a summit on climate change and ratify the Kyoto protocol.

Apart from ratifying an obsolete international treaty and organising yet another Canberra talkfest, Labor's policy of subsidising corporations, making grandiose plans and setting impressive-sounding targets is eerily similar to existing Government policy.

The Howard Government happily boasts about Australia meeting its Kyoto targets and has already set up a taskforce to examine emissions trading schemes. Its Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund has committed taxpayer funds of $500 million for research, with the proviso that each taxpayer dollar must be matched by - you guessed it - two private sector dollars. Additional funding is planned for future years. This subsidy is simply a form of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, with no discernible benefit to Australia in terms of the effect on climate change.

Neither Rudd, Howard nor any other Canberra politician seem to be willing to admit that none of these policies will have any impact on global temperatures. Indeed, even if Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown got his wish and shut down Australia's coal industry overnight, it would not make a whit of difference to climate change.

So much for Rudd providing sensible policy alternatives. The only real difference between the two spending initiatives is that Labor will revert to its unhealthy old ways and explicitly try to pick winners by directly focusing the subsidy on clean coal technology. In contrast, the current government subsidy is neutral with respect to the technology used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

These minor differences are simply political manoeuvring. Labor is attempting to appeal to green voters, appease the coal mining unions, and shore up votes in marginal coal-producing electorates. But in the rush to get on board the clean coal bandwagon, both parties seem to have ignored the Howard battlers - ordinary taxpayers with mortgages and electricity bills.

When it comes to clean coal, there is a gigantic elephant in the room. Although $500 million is a significant amount of money to spend on corporate welfare, it is a drop in the ocean compared with the higher costs of electricity generation that are involved in the use of clean coal technology, and the effects that these higher costs will have on consumer prices. The vast majority (77 per cent) of Australia's electricity is produced using black and brown coal. As Labor's policy announcement acknowledges, CSIRO scientists have estimated that carbon capture and storage technologies are not commercially viable (and will not be for many years), and would effectively double the cost of producing electricity. It is also estimated that electricity prices could rise by 40 per cent.

There is no way that individual electricity producers will voluntarily double their generating costs unless they plan on going out of business. Thus clean coal technology will not be adopted unless governments force producers to use it, taxpayers directly subsidise it or if an artificial price (effectively a tax) is placed on carbon emissions. Forcing electricity generators to adopt this cost-doubling technology is equivalent to imposing a 100 per cent tax on the consumption of coal, without the government collecting any revenue. Both parties seem to believe that such a policy will somehow put the coal industry on a sustainable footing and protect coal jobs. This is pure economic fantasy. Doubling the effective cost of coal will likely lead to a significant reduction in coal demand and significant job cuts in the coal industry.

Similarly, the idea that such large increases in consumer electricity prices will not lead to higher inflation and higher mortgage interest rates is completely divorced from economic reality. The only alternative is to shift the costs to the taxpayer by directly subsidising clean coal electricity generation. Inevitably Howard's battlers will end up footing the bill for a bipartisan clean coal policy that will have absolutely no effect on climate change. No wonder neither side wants to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Dr Alex Robson teaches economics at the Australian National University



Post below lifted from CSM

For Warmie hysterics, there's nothing better than raising ocean levels. Tropical islands under water! Flooded coastal cities! Drowned polar bears! Good stuff for fundraising and political power -- but what if you knew that Al Gore's much-disputed 20-foot ocean increases were a mere drop in the oceanic bucket compared to what we've already been through? What if oceans had already risen 400 feet? Wouldn't Al and the Warmies just seem a bit hysterical over next to nothing?

Let's start where my paper trail started, with a FEMA report from 1991, before global warming was all the rage. The report was provided to me by my friend Neil, who is a bit of a data packrat. To my knowledge, it's not available on-line, but it worries over the insurance ramifications of a one-foot or a three-foot rise in sea level:

Based on these findings, the aspects of flood insurance rate-making that already account for the possibility of increasing risk, and the tendency of new construction to be built more than one foot above the base flood elevation, the NIFP [National Flood Insurance Program] would not be significantly impacted under a one-foot rise in sea level by the year 2100. For the high projection of a 3-foot rise, the incremental increase of the first foot would not be expected until the year 2050.

What was FEMA doing projecting a 3-foot rise in ocean levels in 1991? Neil had a simple answer:

There is global warming and there is Global Warming. The former started happening about 10,000 years ago. The latter started happening a few years ago and has reached a fevered pitch unaccompanied by a proportional increase in global temperature or sea level.

The real global warming started at the end of the last ice age and has long been recognized by the scientific community. Enough of the ocean water was trapped in continental glaciers to cause the sea level to be over 100 m (or about 400 feet) lower than now. Much of the present continental shelf was exposed dry land, and rivers cut through to reach the then-ocean shore. As global warming progressed and the ice melted, sea levels started to rise, drowning the rivers and forming some of what are now called submarine canyons. Some, but not all, of these canyons can be attributed to sea level rise. The deepest canyons, deeper than the lowest prehistoric sea level, appear to be cut by density or turbidity currents that are still occurring today. (Wikipedia)

So, sea level has been rising gradually for a long time, but the rise didn't reach Congressional radar screens until recently. That probably prompted FEMA's early work done in the pleasant interlude between initial realization and the latest shrieking.

The rise of the oceans has been occurring since long, long before SUVs and incandescent light bulbs -- it is a major, long-term force of nature that won't stop until a cooling cycle begins -- which could be soon since the Hysterics were predicting it in the 1970s.

Why should we sacrifice our quality of life, why should we short-change health and hunger fixes that are real in the name of costly global warming fixes that are specious, if this has been going on for centuries? Global warming clearly doesn't need us and isn't much impacted by us. It will march on until it stops, with or without us.

Let's let it march without us. We've got better things to do with our time, resources and emotions than fret over three feet or two, three or 20 feet of ocean level increases if the Earth has already poved its abilitity to raise the oceans 400 feet.


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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Gospel according to St. Al.

Post lifted from Classically Liberal

I’ve been searching for Al Gore’s testimony before Congress on global warming. I wanted to see what he said and report on it. Along the way I went by the doom prophets of Grist, a rather Left the-end-of-the-world-is-coming environmental web site. The sort of people who worship the water Al Gore walks upon.

I found their report prior to his testimony where they were salivating in anticipation. Apparently this was something of a Greenies wet dream. They refer to his testimony, before he gave it, as “what may be the blockbuster hit of the political season”. Yawn! They say “there’s sure to be drama”. No doubt, fiction is often dramatic. Reality, however, often isn’t. Now remember this is the very publication that printed Gore’s statement that he exaggerates the facts in order to get people’s attention.

Of course they were upset that anyone disagreeing with St. Albert of Gore is allowed to counter the prophet at the same hearing. So they run down Prof. Lomborg and make a snide remark about how the subcommittee chairman “thinks Bjorn Lomborg is of commensurate intellectual and political status.”

Interesting. Why does “political status” matter at all? This is supposed to be a scientific debate. Or is it? By now you know that I contend that many of these warming hysterics (not all) are pushing these claims because of the perceived ability to impose socialism as part of the solution. They are control freaks. Regulations, taxes, controls, are their solutions to almost every problem they invent or exaggerate. In a previous era they would be in jackboots and brown shirts. Some are sincere. But many are not. By the way the same is true on the other side of the debate though the control freak label doesn’t apply as often.

As for being of “commensurate” intellectual status let’s explore that for a second. Commensurate means of equal status. The implication is that Gore has intellectual status and Prof. Lomborg does not. Odd since Lomborg is actually a university professor while Gore is a politician. Gore was born into a political family and has basically been a politician his entire life. He entered Congress in his late 20s.

His academic career, what there is of it, was that he went to university. Not taught just attended. He first studied English and then switched to his passion “government”. He took some theology courses, and it was actually there that he became an environmental catastrophist. He studied law but dropped out to run for office. That is his academic career. Unless I missed something he earned an undergraduate degree in government and nothing else.

Prof. Lomborg received an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia (even if he is Danish). He got a Master’s degree from the University of Aarhus and then received a Ph.d from the University of Copenhagen. He was an assistant professor in statistics at the University of Aarhus then became an associate professor there. He then became an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. And in 2002 he was appointed to run the Danish Environmental Assessment Institute. It’s true Lomborg’s intellectual status is NOT commensurate with Mr. Gore, it is vastly superior. Of course the faithful won’t see it that way.

Since I reported what Lomborg said, and urged you to read the entire thing, I will do the same for Gore. (Note: PDF document.)

Now, Al, is no hysteric preaching doom. Not at all. He started out saying we face “a planetary emergency--a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth.” “Global warming is real and human activity is the main cause. The consequences are mainly negative and headed toward catastrophic unless we act.”

Next he uses the old line about the Chinese word “crisis” meaning danger and opportunity. (Is that true or an urban legend? Anyone know? UPDATE: I checked. It is basically an urban legend. The literal meaning is “dangerous moment” which make sense. Poor Al didn’t even get that right.)

St. Al warns that “Hurricanes are getting stronger”. Actually they aren’t. (Also here.) “Sea levels are rising.” Well, yes and no. In some places they are rising and in others they are not (and here) and there is no change in the long term trends. “Mountain glaciers are receding around the world.” Technically yes, and they are also expanding around the world. Some expand, some contract and they are located all around the world. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

After telling Congress that disaster and catastrophe is around the corner Gore then says: “New evidence shows that it may be even worse than we thought.” Worse than catastrophe?

Next he talks about how various political bodies are taking “action”. And he says that since “the climate crisis is, by its nature, a global problem” then “ultimately the solution must be global as well.” He next compares this to the crisis of “global Fascism” which England “and then America and our allies rose to meet”.

He told Congress that “This is not ultimately about any scientific discussion” but like the fight against Fascism “is a moral moment” “about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge.”

He assured everyone that “if we solve” this crisis “in the right way, we will save money and boost productivity.” No details about “the right way” were given. Next, he presented an image of future grandchildren begging to know why we didn’t save the planet for them, and how if we do save it, i.e. give politicians more control, they will thank us.

Odd that he compares this to fighting Fascism while simultaneously requesting greater control of the economy. Fascism is an economic system where the means of productions are privately owned but regulated and controlled by the state in the name of the “collective good”. In one sentence he invokes the moral courage of standing up to “global Fascism” while in the next he is basically advocating another form of global Fascism.

There is hyperbole, rhetoric, emotional images, sentimentality, fear mongering, etc . What is missing is science. But as he said “this is not ultimately about any scientific discussion”. Gore didn’t present testimony, not in the sense of offering evidence, he preached a sermon. Fundamentalists love sermons so the Green fundies will be shouting “Amen, brother”. The only thing missing was an altar call and the choir singing “Just as I Am” as sinners come down the sawdust trail promising to never emit carbon again.

As I’ve said repeatedly, go ahead and read the testimony yourself. Compare what Gore had to say, how he said it, and the evidence he presented (or failed to present) to that of what Lomborg said and the evidence he presented. With Lomborg’s testimony I said I left out the copious footnotes that present his sources. With Gore I didn’t but then I didn’t need to. Gore didn’t have any.

Given the quality of testimony from St. Al and that of Prof. Lomborg one can understand why Gore has refused to talk to Lomborg and why he refused to do an interview if Lomborg was allowed to forumulate any of the questions. Religion just doesn’t hold up to rational scrutiny well. And what Gore presents is apocalyptic religion at it’s best.

Britain: Any shade of politics you like, so long as it's green

The dangers of the new consensus around the politics of global warming

Listening to this week's statements about global warming made it sound as if the political climate is the one experiencing rapid change. UK prime minister Tony Blair claims his government's new Climate Change Bill is `revolutionary' and compares the challenge of global warming to the struggle against the Nazis and the Soviet Union. Prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown declares that it will require a `new world order' to save the planet from man-made global warming. David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and favourite to win the next General Election, says he will `open up a second front in the green revolution' to combat climate change. Meanwhile, commentators talk of global warming as `the key battleground in British politics' and warn that the parties are `set for war over climate change'.

Blimey. Revolutions, political wars and new world orders? Rarely do we hear such passionate talk in the dull world of managerial politics today. So what revolutionary measures are the political leaders fighting for? Behind which banners are they fighting their civil war over the future of the planet? Err, Blair and Brown's New Labour wants to abolish incandescent lightbulbs and standby switches on television sets. And Cameron's Conservatives want to tax us more for flying. To the barricades!

This week's explosion of hot air over global warming marks a new record in the denigration of political language. Behind the overcooked talk about changing the world and saving the planet, the crusade against global warming represents the latest stage in the politics of low expectations and small-mindedness. And far from climate change being a battlefield for any big political `war', the issue is being used to confine debate to an even narrower, more conformist strip of ground.

We have been told many times by political leaders that ours is the era when `choice' is king. Now we can see what they meant. We can choose any shade of politics we like, just so long as it is green. This fits into the pattern of what they call `informed choice', whereby we are expected to make the choices that they inform us are the correct ones.

If we hope to live in a democratic society, any attempt to limit political debate or banish alternative views must be seriously put to question. And there are good reasons for questioning this new political consensus that are quite separate from any debate about the science of climate change. First because, despite the bold talk of all the party leaders, it represents the abdication of political leadership. And second because it reflects an underlying anti-humanist mood in public life.

What we normally call a political consensus is not formed by different parties spontaneously reaching the same conclusions. It comes about when one party imposes its principles on the political agenda, shifting the middle ground and forcing its opponents to accommodate to its programme. That was what the postwar Labour government achieved in the 1940s, and what Margaret Thatcher's Tory governments managed in the 1980s.

Today's consensus around the politics of global warming is different. Nobody could seriously suggest that the UK's invisible Green Party has redrawn the political map. Instead the major parties have all gravitated towards greenery on global warming because they lack any political principles of their own.

With their public standing at an all-time low, politicians are attracted to the issue of climate change because it allows them to scramble out of the mire and back on to the moral high ground. Rather than fending off endless allegations of sleaze or trying to explain why they cannot run a decent health service, Blair and Brown are set free to make portentous speeches about saving the planet. And instead of tackling the tricky issues of coming up with alternative policies on the economy or Iraq, Cameron can strike statesmanlike poses while hugging a glacier.

Blair's remarks this week hinted at how he has suddenly seized upon the global warming issue to provide an ersatz sense of mission for his faltering government. `People that have been in Downing Street over the years have faced issues to do with the Cold War, the Depression and the rise of fascism', the prime minister told a group of teenagers. `Climate change is a bit of a different type of challenge, but a challenge I believe is the biggest long-term threat facing our world.' By recasting climate change as a sort of Nazi or Soviet threat facing the current generation of leaders, Blair elevates himself on to a higher plane of history.

The rise and rise of the politics of global warming also reveals another big problem with leaders today. Lacking any of the political authority of their predecessors, they are continually looking for something else to lean on as a source of public legitimacy. Here they have sought to latch on to the science of climate change. They are dragging scientists on to the stage to try to justify their own petty authoritarian policies, in an echo of the way that the tobacco industry once used men in white coats to advertise its wares.

I am all for the elevation of science and respect for scientists. But this attempt to use science to lend some respect and authority to politicians who lack it represents something far less noble: the abdication of political leadership. Rather than forging and fighting for their own political vision of the future, party leaders are hiding behind scientists and claiming that the science proves that the time for debate is over.

Let us leave aside for now the vexed and complex question of the actual science of climate change. I am no climatologist, but then you surely do not need to be to see that the simplistic, conformist politics of global warming are about something else. Even if we were to accept that some of the far-reaching expert predictions about climate change were true, there would be no necessary straight line from those scientists' estimates to the sort of policies now being proposed by Brown or David Miliband or Cameron. Instead, they are using the language of science to express their own politics of low expectations and policing our behaviour.

When humanity has been faced with great challenges in history, the solution has been to go forward, to apply human ingenuity and endeavour to overcoming problems by advancing society. There is no record of tackling future problems by going backwards or restraining development. Yet that is what is effectively proposed through the politics of global warming.

It is about rationing, giving up the gains of the past, flying less and making do and mending more - a message captured in Brown's typically penny-pinching statement that in future people will have to `count the carbon as well as the pennies'. And as for the developing world, they can forget about getting anywhere near the semi-civilised standards of living achieved in the West. It is strikingly ironic in this context to hear the likes of Cameron talk about a `green revolution' - a term which, only a few years ago, described the use of new science and technology to revolutionise industrial food production in Africa, an advance that the new green (counter-)revolution of `sustainable agriculture' frowns upon.

The adoption of these attitudes across the political class represents something far more important than the cynical tax grab which some critics have claimed it all is. The crusade against manmade global warming is underpinned by a much broader loss of faith in our manmade society and its once-proud accomplishments, from industrialised farming to flying the world. You only had to listen to Cameron, supposedly the great white hope of UK politics, sounding off this week about how many species are threatened with extinction `because of mankind's relentless grab for the finite resources of our shared home' to realise how mainstream mankind-bashing has now become.

Forget the revolutionary rhetoric; these ideas are deeply conservative, backward, and reactionary. To challenge them is not a job for scientific inquiry, since that is not really what such prejudices are based upon, but for political argument. The pressing need is to recast notions of human agency, and develop a future-oriented vision based on a belief in our ability to tackle problems through economic and social advance.

For starters, here is one straightforward historical idea that might sound `revolutionary' today: the more control humanity is able to exercise over nature, and the larger the `footprint' we make on the planet, the better the future is likely to be.



"My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it." -- Al Gore, accepting an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth"

Global warming has gone Hollywood, literally and figuratively. The script is plain. As Gore says, solutions are at hand. We can switch to renewable fuels and embrace energy-saving technologies, once the dark forces of doubt are defeated. It's smart and caring people against the stupid and selfish.

Sooner or later, Americans will discover that this Hollywood version of global warming (largely mirrored in the media) is mostly make-believe. Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despite variations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of how serious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holding action against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables (solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances would merely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason: Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energy use and emissions.

The latest report came last week from 12 scientists, engineers and social scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report, " The Future of Coal," was mostly ignored by the media. It makes some admittedly optimistic assumptions: "carbon capture and storage" technologies prove commercially feasible; governments around the world adopt a sizable charge (a.k.a. tax) on carbon fuel emissions. Still, annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 are roughly at today's levels. Without action, they'd be more than twice as high.

Coal, as the report notes, is essential. It provides about 40 percent of global electricity. It's cheap (about a third of the cost of oil) and abundant. It poses no security threats. Especially in poor countries, coal use is expanding dramatically. The United States has the equivalent of more than 500 coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 500 megawatts each. China is building two such plants a week. Coal use in poor countries is projected to double by 2030 and would be about twice that of rich countries (mainly the United States, Europe and Japan).

Unfortunately, coal also generates almost 40 percent of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2), a prime greenhouse gas. Unless we can replace coal or neutralize its CO2emissions, curbing greenhouse gases is probably impossible. Substitution seems unlikely, simply because coal use is so massive. Consider a separate study by Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm. It simulated a fivefold increase in U.S. electricity from renewables by 2026. Despite that, more coal generating capacity would be needed to satisfy growth in demand.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a bright spot: Catch the CO2 and put it underground. On this, the MIT study is mildly optimistic. The technologies exist, it says. Similarly, geologic formations -- depleted oil fields, unusable coal seams -- provide adequate storage space, at least in the United States.

But two problems loom: First, capture and storage adds to power costs; and second, its practicality remains suspect until it's demonstrated on a large scale. No amount of political will can erase these problems. If we want poorer countries to adopt CCS, then the economics will have to be attractive. Right now, they're not. Capturing CO2and transporting it to storage spaces uses energy and requires costlier plants.

On the basis of present studies, the MIT report says that the most attractive plants with CCS would produce almost 20 percent less electricity than conventional plants and could cost almost 40 percent more. Pay more, get less -- that's not a compelling argument. Moreover, older plants can't easily be retrofitted. Some lack space for additions; for others costs would be prohibitive.

To find cheaper technologies, the MIT study proposes more government research and development. The study's proposal of a stiff charge on carbon fuel -- to be increased 4 percent annually -- is intended to promote energy efficiency and create a price umbrella to make CCS more economically viable. But there are no instant solutions, and a political dilemma dogs most possibilities. What's most popular and acceptable (say, more solar) may be the least consequential in its effects; and what's most consequential in its effects (a hefty energy tax) may be the least popular and acceptable.

The actual politics of global warming defies Hollywood's stereotypes. It's not saints vs. sinners. The lifestyles that produce greenhouse gases are deeply ingrained in modern economies and societies. Without major changes in technology, the consequences may be unalterable. Those who believe that addressing global warming is a moral imperative face an equivalent moral imperative to be candid about the costs, difficulties and uncertainties.


Ways to make ethanol more practical

The obstacles are mainly political. Can you say "Farm lobby"? Post below lifted from Fausta

In The Economist, an article about ethanol, Fuel for friendship
Firms around the world are trying to make biofuel out of everything from trees to cooking oil. To make ethanol from corn or wheat, as Americans and Europeans tend to do, distillers must first convert the starch in those crops into sugars. But Brazilian distillers dispense with this expensive step, as they use sugarcane as a feedstock. So Brazil can produce ethanol for 22 cents a litre, compared with 30 cents a litre for corn-based ethanol, according to Icone, a Brazilian think-tank. That makes it cheaper than petrol, and therefore lucrative for farmers without subsidies.
U.S. sugar is too expensive to convert to fuel, thanks to a complicated system of tariffs and quotas that keeps the U.S. price of sugar artificially high, and the US can't produce enough sugar to meet an increasing demand in ethanol. Those are two reasons why import it.

However, as I mentioned in yesterday's Blog Talk Radio with WC of The Gathering Storm, the ethanol produced in Brazil is subject to a 54-cents-a-gallon US tarriff.

Since Brazil's ethanol has too much water (and is quite similar to rum), the way to get around this tarriff is for Brazil to ship its ethanol to dehidration factories in one of two dozen Caribbean countries that are exempt from the tarriff, and then take it to the US by tanker where a gasline refiner makes it undrinkable and blends it with gasoline. The blended ethanol is then shipped to gas stations.

The lobbyists and the politicians are to blame for this tarrif:
The ethanol industry not only receives billions of dollars in subsidies each year, but governmental protection from international competitors as well.
But back to The Economist,
Brazil is not the only country in Latin America that sees great promise in ethanol. Colombia now has five distilleries amid the sugarcane fields of the Cauca Valley, which produce 360m litres a year. Two more are under construction elsewhere. These producers are guaranteed a market, since regulations oblige fuel merchants to mix ethanol into petrol. By 2009 the required blend will be 10% ethanol and will gradually rise to 25% thereafter. Costa Rica has a similar policy, and Panama is contemplating one.

Indeed, since sugarcane is grown throughout the region, most Latin American countries could benefit. A recent study from the Inter-American Development Bank argued that replacing 10% of Mexico's petrol consumption with locally refined ethanol would save $2 billion a year and create 400,000 jobs. Several Caribbean governments hope that the ethanol boom could help revive their ailing sugarcane farms.

The greatest lure would be access to the American market. Various Central American, Caribbean and Andean countries can already send ethanol to America tariff-free, thanks to concessionary trade agreements. Maple, an American energy investment group, plans to spend $120m on an ethanol plant in Peru to take advantage of such a waiver. A pipeline running out into the nearby Pacific Ocean will deliver the plant's output directly to tankers bound for America. Proponents of the project say it will create 3,200 jobs. If all goes well, exports could reach 120m litres a year by 2010, and perhaps as much as 400m in the more distant future.

The United States, for its part, has several reasons to encourage ethanol production in Latin America. For one thing, it will need seven times more of the stuff than it currently produces to meet Mr Bush's 35 billion-gallon target. There simply is not enough spare land in America to grow adequate feedstock for such an amount, unless scientists find a way to make ethanol cheaply from abundant materials such as wood or grass. Although Mr Bush's ultimate goal is energy independence, he would presumably prefer to be dependent on ethanol from friendly countries such as Brazil and Colombia than on oil from hostile places like Iran and Venezuela.

An ethanol boom in Latin America would also attract investment to rural areas and create lots of jobs. That might help to reduce the steady northward stream of illegal immigrants. It would certainly burnish America's image, and stem support for anti-American tub-thumpers such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He has won friends throughout the region by selling oil cheaply. By sharing technology and promoting investment in ethanol, America would also be reducing Latin America's fuel bill. If it bought lots of ethanol from its neighbours, it would be providing them with a lucrative export of their own.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Brazilian counterpart signed an energy agreement making ethanol an internationally traded commodity.

This can be a first step that the US takes to unleash a new area of prosperity in Latin America. Let's create free markets, and create wealth by abolishing all farm subsidies and trade barriers with Latin American countries that are willing to provide property rights, democracy and the rule of law for their citizens.

President Bush went to Brazil and will also visit Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. Robert Mayer has more thoughts on the subject.


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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.