Saturday, March 17, 2007

Washington State truth-teller penalized for refusing to be gagged

These censorship attempts alone tell you all you need to know about the shakiness of global warming theory

The number is eye-popping, and it was repeated so often it became gospel. The snowpack in the Cascades, it was said, shrank by 50 percent in the last half-century. It's been presented as glaring evidence of the cost exacted by global warming - the drying up of a vital water source. That statistic has been repeated in a government report, on environmental-advocacy Web sites and in media coverage. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently mentioned it in a guest column in The Seattle Times. Here's the problem: The number is dead wrong.

The debunking of this statistic, and the question of just how much the state's snowpack shrank, is stirring up a heated debate among the region's climate scientists. On Monday, it escalated further when University of Washington researcher and State Climatologist Philip Mote stripped a colleague of his title as associate state climatologist, triggering concerns that scientific dissent is being quashed. Losing the title doesn't affect the man's employment at the UW.

The affair might be dismissed as a tempest in an ivory-tower teapot. But it comes at a time when the science of climate change is getting more attention from policy-makers and the public. University of Washington scientists are in a tense dispute over what has happened to snowpack in the Cascade Mountains, considered a critical potential effect of global warming.

The arguments and who's behind them:

50 percent decrease since 1950: Widely used as recently as this year, now dismissed by scientists on all sides as a major overstatement.

35 percent decrease since the mid-1940s: Offered by Washington State Climatologist and UW climate scientist Philip Mote.

30 percent decrease since 1945: Professor Dennis Hartmann, chair of the Atmospheric Sciences Department, after a meeting with the different sides and consultations with other scientists.

10 to 15 percent decrease since the mid-1940s: Professor Cliff Mass, in association with meteorologist Mark Albright

It illustrates the challenge of teasing apart how global climate change affects a small region like the Northwest. It shows how a single statistic can take on a life of its own in this politically charged debate, batted around from politicians' speeches to newspapers (including information from a Seattle official in a May 2006 story in The Seattle Times). And it reflects the pressures and scrutiny surrounding politicians' use of science as global warming gains more attention. Recently, some scientists have been criticizing claims in the Oscar-winning climate-change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which stars Al Gore.

Shrinking, sure, but ...

The debate in Seattle started with Mark Albright, a part-time UW meteorologist and, until this week, the associate state climatologist. After reading Nickels' February essay in The Times, Albright sent an e-mail to colleagues saying he didn't see evidence that snowpack was steadily shrinking, much less by 50 percent. A back-and-forth ensued, involving Albright, co-worker and meteorologist Cliff Mass, and several scientists with the UW's Climate Impacts Group, a federally funded team of researchers that plays a prominent role analyzing climate change in the Northwest. All quickly agreed that the 50 percent number was wrong. It may have originally come from an editing error in a 2004 report issued by an Oregon panel of scientists. "No one believes in this 50 percent number anymore," Mass said.

The mistake doesn't discredit projections that the state's snowpack will shrink in the future due to climate change, Mass and Mote agree. But Mass said it underscores the uncertainty around predicting what will happen. And it leaves people like Nickels vulnerable to attack from people questioning the importance of climate change. "To allow him [Nickels] to be out there with numbers that are unsupportable, it's setting him up to walk the plank," Mass said.

Todd Myers, a critic of Nickels' global-warming strategy and director of the local free-market policy group the Center for Environmental Policy, said this shows the danger of science getting distorted for political goals. "If you have people who are campaigners in one direction or the other, you're going to get data out there that's used incorrectly," Myers said.

So what is the right number? That's where things have gotten testy. On one side, Mass, who is working with Albright, said they see only a small downward trend in Cascade Mountain snowpacks, perhaps 10 to 15 percent since the 1940s. The measurement can be exaggerated by starting during a time of high snowfall, in 1950, and ending at a time of low snowfall in the mid-1990s, Mass said. But snowfall has increased again in recent years, and there is little overall change in snowpack in the past 30 years, Mass said. Mass stressed that he is not one of the small number of scientists disputing that humans are causing the planet to heat up.

Albright, in an e-mail, said the evidence doesn't support claims of a dramatically shrinking snowpack. But he didn't answer questions on his disagreements with Mote. Mote, meanwhile, questioned the methods Albright and Mass are using to analyze data, mostly gathered from weather stations in the mountains that track snowfall. Mote, a member of the Climate Impacts Group who rose to prominence partly due to his work documenting shrinking snowpack around the West, said the decline is more like 35 percent.

In late February, professor Dennis Hartmann, chair of the UW Atmospheric Sciences Department, stepped in to referee. After a meeting with the researchers, Hartmann issued a statement saying that snowpack appears to have dropped 30 percent, and that warming in the future will likely affect snowpack, particularly at lower elevations.

Since then, the debate has gotten more heated. Mote, upset that Albright was broadly distributing e-mails about the issue, last week told Albright that he would have to let Mote preview any e-mails before sending them out, if he was tying his work to the state climatologist's office. Mote's position as the state climatologist is a volunteer job that doesn't carry any official recognition or rules. Mote agreed to do the job several years ago, and his colleagues accepted it. The office collects and disseminates climate information and advises the state on climate-related issues. When Albright refused Mote's ultimatum, Mote barred him from associating himself with the state climatologist's office.

Mote said Albright was sending out messages showing just his side of the story, and airing an analysis that hadn't gone through proper quality checks. As a representative of the climatologist's office, there needed to be standards, he said. "I'm not trying to squelch debate by any means," Mote said. [Except that he is]

But Mass said Albright was doing nothing wrong - simply airing his analysis and seeking feedback as he researched further. "In all my years of doing science, I've never seen this sort of gag-order approach to doing science," he said. Meanwhile, Nickels' office has switched to using the 30 percent figure announced by Hartmann, the department chair. "Obviously we're going to use whatever number the scientists at UW say is accurate," Nickels spokesman Marty McOmber said.


Those who cry global warming often have a political agenda

Now that Al Gore has his Oscar, the truth of catastrophic manmade global warming surely has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, right? Sure, just ask noted climatologist Leonardo DiCaprio. I have to admit, I find myself resisting to much of the message of the global warming activists because the global warming crowd exhibits a political agenda and a sort of radical fanaticism that is troubling. Even to a simple layman like myself, they appear to ignore and misrepresent any evidence that may call into question the conclusions of the global warming orthodoxy.

In fact, without a lot of study or research, I have found examples of data being covered up. For instance, in a nonfiction appendix to his novel "State of Fear," Michael Crichton reveals that after the hardcover publication of the book, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies actually changed its Web site to withhold data that creates some doubt regarding global warming. Crichton writes, "GISS changed its Web site to show less data. The station data no longer goes back before 1880 and thus heightens the appearance of a steady rise in temperature." That's hard to believe, but check it out in Appendix II of the paperback publication of "State of Fear," by Michael Crichton. If the scientific conclusions of the global warming activists are true, then data should not have to be covered up or hidden. There should be no need to hide any facts.

If you do a little research on the subject -- honestly, it doesn't take much -- you find there really is not a scientific consensus regarding global warming and its causes. You find there are facts about the history of the Earth's climate that often don't get mentioned because they are, ironically, inconvenient for the global warming crowd. And you find that there seem to be out-and-out political bullying tactics within the scientific community toward those who question the politically correct position on the subject.

If some of the scientific data seems to point toward global warming caused by human activity and some of it does not, then, the solution would be to maintain a genuinely open and curious mind while further research is conducted. Politically motivated bully tactics and celebrity endorsements will not change scientific facts. Although, I understand Britney has released a statement regarding her opinions on the "medieval climate optimum," and I'm dying to read it.

I remain much more skeptical of the global warming message when it appears that the global warming activists are more interested in pushing an agenda and achieving a mission -- a political one -- than pursuing the truth.


Offsetting your "carbon footprint" takes decades

SCHEMES used by environmentally conscious consumers to cut their "carbon footprint" could take up to a century to deliver the promised benefits, a study has suggested. Researchers found it takes that length of time for "carbon offsetting" - which often involves the planting of trees in the developing world - to absorb the greenhouse gases emitted by a single flight. Dozens of fortunes have been made in recent years by entrepreneurs offering people and businesses the chance to neutralise their carbon emissions for a fee.

The new research, carried out by scientists at the Tyndall Centre, based at the University of East Anglia, and Sweden's Lund University, suggests that such schemes may, in fact, do little more than salve the consciences of those paying for them. "What we are seeing here is the emergence of a new and completely unregulated financial market," said Lund's Professor Stefan Gossling, who led the study. "These schemes may eventually recapture the carbon people emit now but will only finish the job after most of them have died. That is too long."

The schemes studied by Gossling included one offered by British Airways to its passengers through Climate Care, a British carbon offsetting company. It found that an offset bought through the scheme would take about 100 years to recapture the carbon emitted by a flight. This is because Climate Care includes forestry in its offsetting portfolio, meaning that carbon emitted can be recaptured only as fast as a tree can grow.

The research coincides with a sharp rise in the political temperature over climate change. Last week EU leaders agreed to cut European carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. The voluntary carbon offsetting market has sprung from the same global concern over carbon emissions. There are now dozens of companies charging fees to help people and organisations deal with their carbon emissions. One of the richest is Climate Change Capital, a merchant bank specialising in low-carbon investments, which controls funds of more than 500 million pounds and has made millionaires of its founders, James Cameron and Lionel Fretz. The firm specialises in big industrial projects. Most offsetting companies prefer, however, to support smaller energy-efficiency projects and renewable energy schemes.

A favourite is to buy low-energy lightbulbs for distribution in developing countries. Such schemes can take years to recover the carbon emitted by, say, a flight, but when forestry is the chosen offset mechanism this can stretch into decades. "When companies offer to offset a single flight over a period of 100 years then the schemes lose credibility," said Gossling. "How can anyone predict the fate of a forest? A hundred years from now it could burn down and all that carbon would be released."

Some forestry projects have ended in spectacular failures. Coldplay, the rock group, sponsored 10,000 mango trees in southern India to offset the environmental impact of its 2002 album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. By last year, however, the trees, supplied by Future Forests, now The CarbonNeutral Company, had withered and died. Jonathan Shopley, chief executive of The CarbonNeutral Company, said the firm had since moved out of forestry and in to schemes such as wind farms and low-energy lighting. "Any offsets taken out with us in future will recover the relevant carbon emissions within four years," he said.

The turnover of the CarbonNeutral Company has risen sharply to 4 million pounds a year and it has just signed up Silverjet, a new air-line dedicated to business class passengers. It charges an average 999 for a return flight between New York and London - of which 11 goes towards offsetting each passenger's carbon emissions. David Wellington, managing director of Climate Care, said: "Many of the criticisms raised over offsetting were valid. This is a young industry and it is still settling down, but the standards are improving very fast. For example, we have already moved out of forestry into renewable energy projects that reduce the time over which offsets take effect."

But others believe that carbon offsetting is deeply flawed. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University, said it was little more than a mechanism to allow rich westerners to ease their consciences. "What we are really doing is paying poor people to reduce their carbon emissions so that we can maintain our luxury lifestyles. If we really want to live sustainably we are going to have to accept the knocks and give up things like flying. In the end they are unsustainable," he said.


Skeptical New Zealanders

Angry forest owners have dominated meetings held by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry around the country to receive feedback on proposals the Government has put up to deal with climate change in the farm and forestry sectors. It is plain many of the hundreds who have turned up are not interested in the proposals. Instead, they have passed resolutions calling for the Government to leave the Kyoto Protocol immediately and dismissed climate change science as "bullshit".

One old-timer says he hasn't seen this much passion at farmer meetings since the Rogernomics roadshows of the mid-80s. This time it is the forest owners who are leading the charge. But as in the mid-80s, the calls for U-turns will be ignored and the farmers will have missed a chance to influence climate change policy. A Labour-led government will not turn its back on Kyoto and though National has indicated it would review the Kyoto commitment it would be a big call to repudiate a big international treaty.

What the big forest owners regard as particularly iniquitous is the Government's decision to claim an estimated $2.5 billion in carbon credits from forests planted after 1990, the start of the Kyoto agreement. They are further incensed by one proposal that would see them penalised if deforested land is converted to farming use. In particular, this would hit a few corporate investors in the central North Island who want to convert their forests to dairying.

The Government has responded by saying its preference is for tradable permits that would involve no taxation and allow foresters to trade among themselves to set their own value on deforested land. For farmers, the most likely policies won't have a harsh impact. The cutting of small forestry blocks would be exempt from a permit regime, though where the line would be drawn hasn't been spelled out. It's too early to be sure, but some observers are picking the Government will settle on a two-pronged attack.

One would be the linked proposals to provide an incentive to use sprays and additives that reduce nitrous oxide emissions from animal waste and fertiliser and at the same time to place a charge on the use of nitrogen fertiliser. While this will affect dairying, it won't mean much to sheep and beef farmers. These farmers will be hoping for a minimum threshold on the use of nitrogen as small dressings are a valuable pasture tool and cause few extra emissions.

The other prong and the big hope in reducing farming's high rate of greenhouse gas emissions will lie in results from animal and plant research, which till now have made slow progress. The Government will want to invest more money in this but will expect farmers to contribute too. The last time this was proposed, farmers marched on Parliament and the Government backed away from the so- called fart tax.

This time, public support isn't so well-assured and farmers may have to foot the bill. Another proposal of trading permits that farmers could buy from each other to offset gas emissions would prove exorbitantly expensive and cumbersome to administer. If this is favoured by the Government it can expect a tidal wave of farmer protest, justifiably angry at the imposition of the mother of all compliance costs.


CSR and Global Warming Economics

Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated

While Harold was talking about the perils of a pool table in River City, today the "Music Man" would be talking about the perils of global warming. In fact, these lines could easily appear in the musical sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth" - sung by Al Gore of course. But just as Harold was a con-artist, the global warming activists have their own cure-all scheme that warrants the same skepticism given to the snake-oil salesmen of old.

The global warming scam has nothing to do with the science behind global warming. It has everything to do with the economics. Oil, coal, or any other energy source is an economic good that is no different than any other product or service. Issues of supply and demand dictate the quantity and price of current energy sources as well as the incentive for suppliers to create viable energy alternatives.

Then there are externalities. An externality is defined as a cost (or benefit) that is imposed on somebody that is neither the seller nor the purchaser of the product or service in question. The pollution and greenhouse gases emitted from energy use are negative externalities. However, the economic growth, wealth, and poverty reduction that individuals leverage from energy use are a positive externality. Perhaps more importantly, economic growth and pollution are inter-twined in complex ways. There is ample evidence from recent history that greater economic growth, past a certain threshold, can actually reduce the amount of pollution a society creates.

Appropriately incorporating these externalities is no simple affair. Blind demands to force nations and companies to exclusively focus on reducing the negative externality, while politically popular, may cause more harm than good.

Despite these complexities, the business leaders embracing the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement are getting into the act. Several of these executives are supporting global warming regulations through a movement called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). The USCAP alliance boasts major corporate members such as GE, Alcoa, BP, Caterpillar, DuPont, Lehman Brothers, and PG&E. One of the basic principles of the alliance is to encourage the U.S. to impose a carbon emissions cap and trade scheme.

Because major corporations, under the guise of CSR, have joined the alliance, there is a false impression that the free-market system has given the new regulatory regime its blessings and that the economic costs from capping carbon emissions is small. According to the USCAP report, "In our view, the climate change challenge, like other challenges our country has confronted in the past, will create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S. economy."

Espousing such "cost-free" rhetoric is the essence of the global warming scam. Perhaps man-made global warming requires drastic action. Nevertheless, these actions will not come without economic consequences and attempting to sell the regulations as if they "create more economic opportunities" than costs is disingenuous.

Energy use and economic growth go hand-in-hand. Carbon-based energy still supplies the vast majority of our current energy needs. Restricting our energy options by meaningfully capping the amount of carbon the U.S. emits will raise the country's energy costs, at least in the short-run. As the recent rise of oil to over $80 a barrel attested, higher energy costs impose a net cost on our economy, and can be particularly painful for poorer families that are already having a difficult time making ends meet.

The Carbon emission regime could also backfire. Even if the U.S. implemented a carbon cap, worldwide carbon emissions may not be reduced; instead, the likely outcome is that carbon emissions will be simply redistributed from the U.S. to places like China and India. The economic costs borne by U.S. residents will consequently be borne in vain as there would be no net positive impact on the environment from the carbon cap policy. In fact, to the extent that the industrialized countries use cleaner technologies, the regulations could actually have a net negative impact on the environment.

In order to ensure that there is not a net negative impact on the environment, it will be necessary to impose carbon emission caps on the developing countries as well. Such a policy endangers the economic growth these countries so desperately need. China is a classic example. China's economy has been growing at a furious pace. As a result, millions of people have been lifted out of desperate poverty. Capping emissions in China jeopardizes its economic growth and with it the country's ability to further reduce the extreme poverty that still afflicts far too many of its citizens.

These trade-offs must be a central part of any global warming debate. Simply advocating for emissions caps while ignoring the real economic costs the caps create will not lead to sustainable environmental or economic policies. CSR is dangerous in this realm because it provides a credibly-viewed messenger that we can cap our carbon emissions without cost. We cannot.

Instead, we must ask some fundamental questions about our environmental policies: What is the problem? What are we asking for? Does this make sense? What are the implications? Are the tradeoffs worthwhile? With such basic questions answered, we will be empowered to intelligently design environmental and economic policies that do the most good. However, just as the typical "snake oil" customer discovered, if we don't ask the right questions upfront, then we shouldn't be surprised when the product fails to deliver on its promises.



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.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


O.k., so you haven't seen it yet? And you think it's no longer available? Well, maybe by now it isn't, but as of when I watched it you could still view and/or download the clip.

You can get the URL from the clip-info in the (not in-page) RealAudio viewer and use a download program (like FreshDownload) to acquire it. As far as I know that's legal, but if I find out it isn't, I will delete it. I won't be happy about that, but, if I have to ...

Anyway, here's the page link.

And, here's the clip URL, if you want to jump right in

If you use FireFox, just click on their Download Helper to acquire the clip with a minimum of effort.

Oh, and I didn't use Google to find it. I used Yahoo.

Did you know Big Bad Boring Al used to be a memeber of the board of Google? I don't know if that's why they pulled the clip that was on their site or the links to several other independent sites that HAD the clip, but Google does have a pattern of pulling conservative anti-anything that questions P.C.-think, so I wouldn't be surprised if there is a connection.