Monday, April 09, 2007


The White House acknowledged yesterday that the "global challenge" posed by climate change "requires global solutions", but once again sought to play down some of the most apocalyptic forecasts. The comments from Sharon Hays and Jim Connaughton, senior White House officials on the environment, represent the latest evidence of a gradual recalibration of President Bush's position towards the issue. For much of his presidency he has cast doubt on scientific evidence that mankind is responsible for global warming and even now he still rejects the imposition of greenhouse gas controls on US industry.

Dr Hays had led the US delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and, it is alleged, watered down draft versions of yesterday's report. Other delegates said that a paragraph stating that North America was "expected to experience severe local economic damage and substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption" was removed at the behest of the US.

In a morning conference call, Dr Hays was asked whether she had made changes. "The US and many other nations were very much engaged in making sure that we took our role very seriously in getting a summary document that accurately reflects the underlying science . . . I think we helped craft a report that robustly reflects. . . this underlying, very long technical document," she said.

Dr Hays suggested that "most impacts of climate change will be felt very regionally. . . some parts of the world are more vulnerable than others - for example, Africa, small islands, the Polar regions and so forth". She said it was not true that "all projected impacts are negative" although she did concede that at "particularly higher potential future temperatures, the range of projected impacts becomes increasingly negative".

Mr Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, dismissed a question about the US's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as a "gross mischaracterisation" and claimed that Mr Bush's pledge this year to cut US petrol consumption by 20 per cent over the next ten years was a "mandatory cap" on emissions. The US was in the vanguard, he said, of developing new technologies with "key countries like China and India to try to find low-carbon coal". He referred to possible positive outcomes from climate change on US agricultural yields but added: "On the negative side, the very real prospect of more coastal flooding is something of high concern."



Editorial from "The Times" below

Facts, not emotion, should inform discussion of climate change. Few scientists or rational politicians doubt that global warming is a serious issue that poses long-term dangers to the planet. The scientific evidence that the world's climate has changed and that this change is accelerating is convincing. But it is also beyond doubt that the world is in danger of being held captive by powerful lobby groups that have distorted data, made unjustified extrapolations and attempted to stifle debate on one of the most important issues of our time.

The warnings issued by the Intergov-ernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Brussels yesterday are a collection of worst-case scenarios. The report, approved by 130 governments and endorsed by 2,500 scientists (few of whom probably had any hand in writing it), makes scary reading. It predicts a catastrophic future for millions of humans and other species. Global warning will bring hunger, floods and water shortages. Greenhouse gases will change rainfall patterns, intensify tropical storms, accelerate the melting of Arctic ice and mountain glaciers. Africa faces starvation, coastal cities will be swamped and China will see the rapid advance of the desert.

Some of these dangers may well be real. But many are deliberate exaggerations, as the IPCC's mandate was to highlight the dangers if global temperatures were to rise by up to 4C (7.2F). That assumption is far from proven. But it is enough for some environmental groups to speak of "an apocalyptic future", a "nightmare vision" and a "humanitarian catastrophe".

Every group is entitled to lobby hard for its cause. But to jump on a band-wagon and blame everything on climate change is neither good science nor sound lobbying. China's deserts have been threatening its cities for hundreds of years. Africa cannot be simultaneously threatened by endless droughts and by a rapid increase in malaria. Children are threatened by global warming, but they have also been helped by the economic development that some lobbyists seem to regard as a criminal activity. Tens of millions of children in India and China who would have died 30 years ago are not dying because increased wealth has brought better food, cleaner water and improved access to healthcare.

Companies and individuals have a responsibility to examine their behaviour and reduce their impact on the planet. But that self-examination should be rational and real and not debased by left-leaning fear-mongers, whose social agendas are recipes for impoverishment and hardship.

The real danger of the zealots is that they brook no argument. This does not mean that scientists should take a myopic view of figures that point to danger, such as the rise in carbon dioxide levels to about 380 parts per million, far exceeding the "natural" range for the past 650,000 years. But even to ask what is the natural range is regarded as some sort of heresy, and to ask questions about the precise contribution of anthropogenic influences is to commit a thought crime.

There have already been examples of environmental scientists hounded out of their jobs for daring to question the prevailing orthodoxy. The IPCC summary is inevitably a political narrative, one in which each word and phrase will be endlessly and selectively parsed by the likes of Greenpeace and friends.

The planet deserves the benefit of the doubt. Climate change is serious and must be a political priority. But the arguments must be subject to free and rigorous debate and the facts separated from fanciful predictions - the environment is too important to be bequeathed to the hysterical.


Hot Air is Bad for Us

Rather surprisingly, the article below is by the generally far-Left Alexander Cockburn. I suspect that he knows a bit about science

The current uproar over the posture of the Bush administration on global warming and, most recently, on power plant emissions vividly illustrate the political hypocrisy and opportunism imbuing debates on environmental issues.

Take first global warming. The charge that the current phase of global warming can be attributed to greenhouse gases generated by humans and their livestock is an article of faith among liberals as sturdy as is missile defense among the conservative crowd. The Democrats have seized on the issue of global warming as indicative of President Bush's wilful refusal to confront a global crisis that properly agitates all of America's major allies. Almost daily the major green groups reap rich political capital (and donations) on the issue.

Yet the so-called "anthropogenic origin" of global warming remains entirely non-proven. Back in the spring of this year even the International Panel on Climate Change which now has a huge stake in arguing the "caused-by-humans" thesis admits in its Summary that there could be as one in three chance its multitude of experts are wrong. A subsequent report issued under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences is ambivalent to the point of absurdity. An initial paragraph boldy asserting the "caused-by-humans" line is confounded a few pages later by far more cautious paragraphs admitting that the thesis is speculative and that major uncertainty rules on the role played in climate equations by water vapor and aerosols.

It's nothing new to say the earth is getting warmer. I myself think it is, and has been for a long, long time.On my shelf is an excellent volume put out in 1941 by the US Department of Agriculture called "Climate and Man ", which contains a chapter acknowledging "global warming" (that same phrase) and hailing it as a benign trend that would return the earth to the normalcy in climate it enjoyed several hundred thousand years ago.

Anything more than a glance at the computer models favored by the "caused by humans" crowd will show that the role of carbon dioxide is grotesquely exaggerated. Indeed the models are incapable of handling the role of the prime greenhouse gas, water vapor (clouds etc), which accounts for 25 to 30 times as much heat absorption as carbon dioxide.

Similarly the International Panel on Climate Change admits to a "very low" level of scientific understanding on an "aerosol indirect effect" that the Panel acknowledges is cooling the climate system at a hefty rate. (Aerosols are particles that are so fine they float in air.)

In a particularly elegant paper published last May in Chemical Innovation, a journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Robert Essenhigh of Ohio State University reminds us that for the last 800,000 years global temperature and carbon dioxide have been moving up and down in lockstep. Since 799,700 of these years were ones preceding any possible human effect on carbon dioxide, this raises the question of whether global warming caused the swings in carbon dioxide or vice versa. Essenhigh argues convincingly that the former is the case and as global temperatures warm a huge reservoir of carbon dioxide absorbed in the oceans is released to the atmosphere. Clearly this is a much potent input than the relatively puny human contribution to global carbon dioxide. Thus natural warming is driving the raised level of carbon dioxide and not the other way round.

But science can barely squeeze in the door with a serious debate about what is prompting global warming. Instead, the Europeans, the greens and the Democrats eagerly seize on the issue as a club with which to beat President Bush and kindred targets of opportunity.

Now take the latest brouhaha over emissions from coal-fired plants. The industry wants what is coyly called "flexibility" in emission standards. EPA chief Christy Whitman is talking about "voluntary incentives", and market-based pollution credits as the proper way to go. Aware of the political pitfalls, the Bush administration has recently been saying that it is not yet quite ready to issue new rules.

Now, there's no uncertainty about the effects of the stuff that comes out of a power plant chimney. There are heavy metals and fine particles that kill people or make them sick. There are also cleaning devices, some of them expensive, that can remove these toxic substances. Ever since the 1970s the energy industry has fought mandatory imposition of such cleaners. If Bush and Whitman enforce this flexibility they will be condemning people to death, as have previous footdragging administrations, both Democratic as well as Republican.

Both political parties have danced to the industry's tunes. It was with the propagandizing of Stephen Breyer (now on the US Supreme Court, then a top aide to Senator Teddy Kennedy), that the trend to pollution credits began. And after the glorious regulatory laxity of the Reagan/Bush years the industry was not seriously discommoded in Clinton Time. Ask the inhabitants of West Virginia and Tennessee whether they think that the coal industry lost clout in those years.

The sad truth of the matter is that many "big picture" environmental theses such as human-caused global warming afford marvelously inviting ways of avoiding specific and mostly difficult political decisions. You can bellow for "global responsibility" without seriously offending powerful corporate interests, some of which (like the nuclear power industry) now have a big stake in promoting global warming. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill loves the "caused by humans" warming thesis and so does the aluminum industry in which he has been a prime player. On the other side we can soon expect to hear that powerful Democrat, Senator Bobby Byrd arguing that the coal industry is in the vanguard of the war on global warming, because the more the more you shade the earth perhaps the more rain you cause. So burn dirty coal and protect the earth by cooling it.

The logic of the caused-by-humans models installs the coal industry as the savior of "global warming"? You want to live by a model that does that?


Global Warming and the Supremes

The Supreme Court attempted to insert itself in the global warming debate this week with its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which gives the Federal Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. "This is a landmark decision," former Clinton administration EPA Chief Carol Browner said on PBS' "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer." Unfortunately for the court and Ms. Browner, but fortunately for the rest of us, its decision will have little, if any, practical impact on the ever-intensifying climate controversy.

The controversy began on Oct. 20, 1999, more than a year after the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol-, when 19 environmental activist groups petitioned the Browner-led EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobile tailpipes. But the global warming-believing Browner failed to act on the petition as of the November 2000 presidential election, possibly presuming that an ensuing Al Gore administration, which she likely would have been part of as a long-time Gore acolyte, would grant the petition and commence a rulemaking.

But when Gore's presidency was thwarted by the December 2000 Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, the Clinton EPA scrambled in its waning days to launch a regulatory process for regulating carbon dioxide from automobile tailpipes, issuing an eleventh-hour "request for [public] comment," one week before the inauguration of President Bush. Though President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, his EPA nonetheless continued the regulatory process, ultimately denying the petition in September 2003.

The Bush EPA said that it did not believe it had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from tailpipes and, even if it did, such regulation would be unwise at the time, and the petitioners, now joined by several states and local governments, including Massachusetts, sued the EPA.

Before we get to the court's decision, it's worth noting that Browner and the Clinton EPA had plenty of opportunity to grant the petition and commence a rulemaking to regulate carbon dioxide from autos. But for whatever reason, the Clinton EPA chose not to take action despite believing, as Browner admitted on "The News Hour," that the EPA already had the legal authority to act. It was particularly ironic that Browner repeatedly and arrogantly slammed the Bush administration for not acting on the petition while sliding over her own failure to act.

Despite the court's dramatic recitation of the dogma of global warming alarmism at the opening of its decision, its ruling will have little impact on the global warming debate simply because the debate has moved way beyond the EPA. In 1999, environmentalists were just about the only special-interest group clamoring for greenhouse gas regulation and such regulation - that is, straightforward, mandatory emissions reductions under the Clean Air Act - is what they wanted given that the Senate wasn't going to ratify Kyoto without the participation of China, India and other developing nations.

Since that time, however, the spectrum of special interests clamoring for global warming regulation has significantly expanded, most importantly to big businesses that are now driving the debate - in Congress and not at the EPA. Through its legislative power, Congress can not only mandate emissions reductions, but more importantly, it can also dole out the global warming pork. Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley want Congress to establish a so-called cap-and-trade system so that they can profit from the trading of greenhouse gas emissions permits. Industrial giants such as Dupont and Alcoa want Congress to give them "carbon credits" - essentially free money - for greenhouse gas emissions reductions already undertaken. Solar and wind energy firms, as well as the ethanol lobby, want Congress to award them subsidies and tax breaks.

All the new climate piggies that want to gorge themselves at the public trough have crowded out the environmentalists, transforming the global warming issue from an ostensibly serious save-the-planet crusade into a financial orgy complete with taxpayer pinata.

Despite that the Supreme Court remanded the environmentalist petition back to the EPA for reconsideration, the reality is that Congress is where the real action (money) is. While EPA action tends to cause businesses pain, Congress tends to dole out pleasure; moreover, given that it took eight years from petition-filing to Supreme Court decision, few in the vast global warming lobby will want to risk another protracted and uncertain EPA rulemaking with its attendant litigation risks. The value of the court decision to the global warming lobby, it appears, is merely psychological, to be used in public relations efforts.

No doubt from now on, global warmers will spin the court's actual decisions - limited to whether Massachusetts had standing to sue the EPA and to whether the EPA complied with the Clean Air Act in rejecting the petition - into spurious declarations that the court ruled that manmade global warming is real and that something must be done about it. But even that is of limited value. Congress is already furiously working away on climate legislation, trying to juggle the various political interests and picking economic winners and losers.

The fate of global warming legislation will depend on the ultimate balance of power between the Congress' designated winners and losers. It's difficult to see how the Supreme Court decision will even slightly matter in this Darwinian legislative free-for-all.



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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