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.


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