Friday, June 01, 2007

More Greenpeace deception

No admission below that global temperatures went both up and down in the 20th century and that the 60s were one of the cold periods. And glacial expansion and contraction is mainly a function of variations in precipitation (rainfall/snowfall), anyway

MOUNT Everest is suffering the effects of climate change with a picture released for the first time showing devastating effects. The image taken last month shows a dramatically different landscape to photos taken in the same spot almost 40 years ago. In a picture taken in 1968, the Middle Rongbu glacier skirts through the mountain valley with the peaks above thickly covered with snow. But almost exactly the same shot taken this year by a Greenpeace team reveals much barer peaks and a scarcely visible glacier.

Greenpeace said the radical changes are due to the effects of climate change. "The degradation of the Everest environment and glacial retreat is, Greenpeace believes, a direct result of climate change," a spokeswoman said.

A team travelled to Everest last month to see the Middle Rongbu glacier and compare its current state to how it was according to photos taken in 1968. The photo had to be taken approximately 1km away from the 1968 viewpoint instead because the glacier has retreated so much in the past 40 years. Greenpeace estimate it has moved back by 2km, raising fears millions will soon be at risk because of the Rongbu glaciers' important role as a water source to China and India's rivers.


Greenies attack bottled water

I think it's a crock myself but only because it is rarely any better than reticulated water. But each to his own

world's fastest-growing beverage is a boon to the industry but a bust for the environment and for the more than 1 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean drinking water, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute.

Excessive withdrawal of natural mineral or spring water to produce bottled water has threatened local streams and groundwater, and the product consumes significant amounts of energy in production and shipping. Millions of tons of oil-derived plastics, mostly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are used to make the water bottles, most of which are not recycled. Each year, about 2 million tons of PET bottles end up in landfills in the United States; in 2005, the national recycling rate for PET was only 23.1 percent, far below the 39.7 percent rate achieved a decade earlier.

"Bottled water may be an industry winner, but it's an environmental loser," says Ling Li, a fellow with the Institute's China Program who authored the update. "The beverage industry benefits the most from our bottled water obsession. But this does nothing for the staggering number of the world's poor who see safe drinking water as at best a luxury, and at worst, an unattainable goal." An estimated 35-50 percent of urban dwellers in Africa and Asia lack adequate access to safe potable water, according to Worldwatch's State of the World 2007 report.

Consumers in industrial countries choose to drink bottled water for taste and convenience, while in developing countries, unreliable and unsafe municipal water supplies have driven the growth in consumption. Yet many poorer people who seek improved drinking water supplies cannot afford the bottled version. Bottled water can be between 240 and 10,000 times more expensive than tap water; in 2005, sales in the United States alone generated more than $10 billion in revenue.

Global consumption of bottled water more than doubled between 1997 and 2005, securing the product's place as the world's fastest-growing commercial beverage. The United States remains the largest consumer of bottled water, but among the top ten countries, India has nearly tripled its consumption, while China more than doubled its consumption between 2000 and 2005.

In industrial countries with highly regulated water supplies, tap water has been proven to be just as safe, or safer, than its commercial counterpart. In the United States, regulations concerning bottled water are generally the same as for tap water, but are weaker for some microbial contaminants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water at the federal level, permits the product to contain certain levels of fecal matter, whereas the Environmental Protection Agency does not allow any human waste in city tap water. Bottled water violations are not always reported to the public, and in most cases the products may be recalled up to 15 months after the problematic water was produced, distributed, and sold.


Greenie dam frenzy ratchets up

Al Gore has been hectoring Americans to pare back their lifestyles to fight global warming. But if Mr. Gore wants us to rethink our priorities in the face of this mother of all environmental threats, surely he has convinced his fellow greens to rethink theirs, right?

Wrong. If their opposition to the Klamath hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest is any indication, the greens, it appears, are just as unwilling to sacrifice their pet causes as a Texas rancher is to sacrifice his pickup truck. If anything, the radicalization of the environmental movement is the bigger obstacle to addressing global warming than the allegedly gluttonous American way of life...

But tearing down the Klamath dams, the last of which was completed in 1962, will do more harm than good at this stage. These dams provide cheap, renewable energy to 70,000 homes in Oregon and California. Replacing this energy with natural gas -- the cleanest fossil-fuel source -- would still pump 473,000 tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. This is roughly equal to the annual emissions of 102,000 cars.

Given this alternative, one would think that environmentalists would form a human shield around the dams to protect them. Instead, they have been fighting tooth-and-nail to tear them down because the dams stand in the way of migrating salmon. Environmentalists don't even let many states, including California, count hydro as renewable.

They have rejected all attempts by PacifiCorp, the company that owns the dams, to take mitigation steps such as installing $350 million fish ladders to create a salmon pathway. Klamath Riverkeeper, a group that is part of an environmental alliance headed by Robert Kennedy Jr., has sued a fish hatchery that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife runs -- and PacifiCorp is required to fund -- on grounds that it releases too many algae and toxic discharges. The hatchery produces at least 25% of the chinook salmon catch every year. Closing it will cause fish populations to drop further, making the demolition of the dams even more likely.

But the end of the Klamath won't mean the end of the dam saga -- it is the big prize that environmentalists are coveting to take their antidam crusade to the next level...

Large hydro dams supply about 20% of California's power (and 10% of America's). If they are destroyed, California won't just have to find some other way to fulfill its energy needs. It will have to do so while reducing its carbon footprint to meet the ambitious CO2 emission-reduction targets that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set. Mr. Schwarzenegger has committed the Golden State to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 -- a more stringent requirement than even in the Kyoto Protocol.

The effect this might have on California's erratic and overpriced energy supply has businesses running scared. Mike Naumes, owner of Naumes Inc., a fruit packing and processing business, last year moved his juice concentrate plant from Marysville, Calif., to Washington state and cut his energy bill in half. With hydropower under attack, he is considering shrinking his farming operations in the Golden State as well. "We can't pay exorbitant energy prices and stay competitive with overseas businesses," he says.

Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club's deputy executive director and a longtime proponent of such a mandate, refuses to even acknowledge that there is any conflict in closing hydro dams while fighting global warming. All California needs to do to square these twin objectives, he maintains, is become more energy efficient while embracing alternative fuels. "We don't need to accept a Faustian bargain with hydropower to cut emissions," he says.

This is easier done in the fantasy world of greens than in the real world. If cost-effective technologies to boost energy efficiency actually existed, industry would adopt them automatically, global warming or not.

As for alternative fuels, they are still far from economically viable. Gilbert Metcalf, an economist at Tufts University, has calculated that wind energy costs 6.64 cents per kWh and biomass 5.95 kWh -- compared to 4.37 cents for clean coal. Robert Bradley Jr., president of the Institute for Energy Research, puts these costs even higher. "Although technological advances have lowered alternative fuel prices in recent years, these fuels still by and large cost twice as much as conventional fossil fuels," he says.

But suppose these differentials disappeared. Would the Sierra Club and its eco-warriors actually embrace the fuels that Mr. Hamilton advocates? Not if their track record is any indication. Indeed, environmental groups have a history of opposing just about every energy source.

Their opposition to nuclear energy is well known. Wind power? Two years ago the Center for Biological Diversity sued California's Altamont Pass Wind Farm for obstructing and shredding migrating birds. ("Cuisinarts of the sky" is what many greens call wind farms.) Solar? Worldwatch Institute's Christopher Flavin has been decidedly lukewarm about solar farms because they involve placing acres of mirrors in pristine desert habitat. The Sierra Club and Wilderness Society once testified before Congress to keep California's Mojave Desert -- one of the prime solar sites in the country -- off limits to all development. Geothermal energy? They are unlikely to get enviro blessings, because some of the best sites are located on protected federal lands.

Greens, it seems, always manage to find a problem for every environmental solution -- and there is deep reason for this... Thus, even in the face of a supposedly calamitous threat like global warming, environmentalists can't bring themselves to embrace any sacrifice -- of salmons or birds or desert or protected wilderness. Its strategy comes down to pure obstructionism -- on full display in the Klamath dam controversy. Yet, if environmentalists themselves are unwilling to give up anything for global warming, how can they expect sacrifices from others? If Al Gore wants to do something, he should first move out of his 6,000 square-foot Nashville mansion and then make a movie titled: "Damn the salmon."


Greenie claims reflect their times

It is strange, at a time when the social construction of science is an established idea (Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he describes science's progress through `paradigms', is on every undergraduate's reading list) that nobody thinks to look at the social construction of global warming theories. Global warming science is being produced in highly febrile times; and history tells us that the more the political temperature rises, the more science's view of nature is distorted.

If you look at the dates on the citations in Six Degrees that deal with carbon feedback cycles, global emissions scenarios or the impact of temperature rises on agriculture and ecosystems, then you'll see that the majority of them date from 2004-2006. It was only very recently that scientists started running the models on which Six Degrees is based, predicting the collapse of ecosystems and wild feedback loops that would take us from two degrees to apocalypse. Why was this? If we trace the development of scientific theories about global climate, we can see how they shift in predictable relation to the preoccupations of the time - which suggests that a similar thing could be occurring now.

The assumption for much of the twentieth century was that the climate system was stable, and that it would adjust to absorb imbalances. One past director general of the UK meteorology office stated: `The atmosphere is a robust system with a built-in capacity to counteract any perturbation.' (1) Where opinion differed from this, it did so in highly predictable ways, in direct relationship not to the shiftings of the planet but to the shiftings of the political zeitgeist.

We find that in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, as the world seemed to be poised on a knife's edge and total destruction a possibility, a number of climate scientists - at the same time and independently of each other - discovered instabilities in the climate system. In 1964, one ice expert discovered instability in the Antarctic, which he said `provides the "flip-flop" mechanism to drive the Earth into and out of an ice age' (2). Others came to the same conclusion, and the `flip-flop mechanism' was the subject of scientific meetings and conferences.

In the 1970s, in the context of the global slowdown and the end of the easy years of the postwar boom, climate scientists started to predict that the climate would become harsher in future. One oceanographer predicted that the `amiable climate' we had been used to would give way to a new ice age. A Time magazine article summed up that scientists disagreed over whether there would be `runaway glaciation' or `runaway deglaciation', but what was certain was that `the world's prolonged streak of exceptionally good climate has probably come to an end - meaning that mankind will find it harder to grow food' (3). So a society in the grip of the energy crisis finds that in the future it will be `harder to grow food'.

We can also see political concerns imprinted on scientists' theories of the Earth's past. In the 1980s, scientists formulated the theory that the dinosaurs had been wiped out by the striking of a giant asteroid. One scientist at the time noted that such theories should be measured not just by the facts of nature, but also against the concerns of the age. `[The asteroid theory] commanded belief because it fit with what we are prepared to believe.. Like everyone else...I carry within my consciousness the images of mushroom clouds.. [It] feels right because it fits so neatly into the nightmares that project our own demise.' (4)

Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, when scientists decided that the climate system was fragile and subject to dramatic and irreversible shifts. In 2001, one academy declared: `Geoscientists are just beginning to accept and adapt to the new paradigm of highly variable climate systems.' (5) The phrase everybody started to use was `tipping point', meaning the point where the Earth's system would reach its `limit' and tip over into an irreversible change. (This was particularly the case after the 2004 Hollywood hit, The Day After Tomorrow, which envisaged the onset of a global freeze in a matter of hours.) The question many scientists started asking of nature was `what is its tipping point?'. At what point would the Arctic and Antarctic go into irreversible meltdown? At what point would the carbon cycle go into reverse? At what point would this or that ecosystem collapse? When would extreme weather events start to increase?

Scientists started to carry out impact studies, and they started to look at feedback cycles. These are loaded concepts: impact - showing the damaging effect of temperature rise on ecosystems - and feedback - the inbuilt instabilities that could lead to `runaway' change. Nature was viewed as fragile, interconnected, and liable to spin away dramatically beyond our control. In 2005, one Russian scientist predicted an `ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climactic warming' (6). It is these studies, then, that form the references at the back of Lynas' book, and which provide the basis for his claims of the meltdown that will occur at two degrees.

You don't have to be Thomas Kuhn to read the (mixed) metaphors here. We're hitting the `ecological buffers', says Lynas, `fiddling with the earth's thermostat'. Once feedback starts, `the accelerator will be jammed, and there will be nothing we can do to cut the speed of climate change'. `[N]o one can say for sure where this tipping point might lie, but it stands to reason that the harder we push the climate, the closer we are likely to get to the edge of this particular cliff.' Just as in the 1980s asteroid theories felt `right' because of the images scientists carried in their consciousnesses, so now, too, the political climate colours models of nature. We can see how social anxieties - a fear of change, a sense of the fragility of things - guide the questions that scientists ask, and the kinds of theories that ring true.

That doesn't mean, of course, that these theories are incorrect. Every theory of nature to some extent draws its metaphors from the society of the time. In Darwin's theories of natural selection we see something of the individualistic market society of the nineteenth century, with individual organisms fighting it out and the `fittest' surviving. In the early twentieth century, when political opinion shifted away from competition and towards social reform, biologists started to focus on the cooperative relationships between organisms, founding the science of ecology and posing theories of selection `for the good of the species'. Science must draw its models from society, because after all scientists are human beings not machines; science is a model of nature reconstructed in our heads. This is not a source of inaccuracy, but the essence of intellectual enterprise: nature cannot be accessed `in the raw' but always must be described with words and reconstituted in thought.

As a rule of thumb, the more self-critical the science, and the more it tests itself against reality, the more accurate it will be. If all theories draw their metaphors from society, some do so justifiably - in a way that grasps nature's real operation - and some do in a way that merely distorts and mystifies. So, as it happens, Darwin was right and the `good of the species' theorists were wrong: their theory was based merely on wishful thinking, on how they wanted nature to behave rather than how it really did. The thing that separated Darwin from others was his systematic testing: he spent years closely scrutinising species, measuring his ideas against the evidence before his eyes. Even in his Origin of Species he raised all the facts that did not fit into his theory, and sought to adapt his ideas in order to explain them.

The less self-reflective the science, and the more it is founded on political and moral campaigns, the less reliable it is likely to be. And in Lynas, we see how global warming science has become a foil for a whole series of political and moral agendas, a way of discussing everything from the sins of consumerism to human arrogance. Outlining the effects of a four degrees rise in temperature, Lynas writes: `Poseidon [God of the sea] is angered by arrogant affronts from mere mortals like us. We have woken him from a thousand-year slumber, and this time his wrath will know no bounds.' Not only Poseidon and Gaia but also terms such as `Mother Nature' and `nature's revenge' have slipped into everyday discussion about climate change. Darwin did not, so far as we know, give names of Gods to his finches. When scientific concepts start to be discussed in such emotional terms, it suggests that they say more about wish than reality.

The scope for climatology to slip into fantasy is heightened by the fact that it is a relatively open and uncertain field. Time and again in the twentieth century, climate scientists noted how shaky their art was. It was a case of one man, one model, and everybody thought that theirs was the right one. Today's models include many interacting factors that are incompletely understood, and different models can produce drastically different results. Lynas quotes a couple of studies that found that global warming will lead to increased rainfall in the Sahel, meaning higher crop yields, but another study that found severe drought. (Needless to say, he favours the drought scenario.) When Oxford University's project asked people to download and run climate models on their home computer, each with tiny differences from the next, the results came back between three degrees and 11 degrees warming, for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Even when scientists' models agree, this could just as much indicate commonly held assumptions - for example, notions of `tipping points' - rather than scientific truth.

That doesn't mean that global warming doesn't exist, but it does mean that many of these predictive models currently being produced are likely to be extremely inaccurate, verging on total fantasy. Any form of science that is morally and politically loaded, and involves putting large numbers of variables into a computer to predict changes for 50 years hence that cannot be tested, is going to be distorted. While the world's climate does appear to have warmed - the earth is on average 0.7 degrees warmer than it was 150 years ago, before large-scale industrialisation - it's a fair leap from 0.7 degrees to apocalypse. As a non-climatologist, it seems logical to me that carbon dioxide emissions will cause global warming in some form - but if global warming meltdown starts in eight years' time, I will eat my copy of Six Degrees, appendices and all. That is a conviction founded not on an analysis of Geophysical Research Letters, but on a consideration of the circumstances in which such science is produced.

Today's preoccupation with fragility and collapse means that models take a one-sided view of nature. Feedback cycles can indeed increase atmospheric carbon dioxide, and some soils do give out methane when they warm. But feedback cycles also work the other way, too, with plants and the sea absorbing some of the extra CO2 we add to the atmosphere (indeed, for much of the 1990s, climate science was preoccupied with the question of `missing' CO2; that is, CO2 added to the atmosphere by industry that appeared to have disappeared). And while ecosystems do sometimes collapse - there have been rapid climate shifts and mass extinctions in the past - they also adapt and change, and new species benefit from the decline of the old (when the Earth was warmer, trees grew in the Antarctic). When there are rapid paradigm shifts of this kind, when scientists one year assume that nature is stable and the next that it is not, this is probably due not to a change in nature but to a change in society.

To recap, it is perhaps political rather than scientific analysis that can help us to understand the bias that underlies today's climate science. The notion of nature as fragile and subject to collapse is a relatively recent one, which is likely to owe more to the anxious zeitgeist than to climate realities. There are two more aspects of Six Degrees that are worth discussing. First, its notion that tackling climate change is an historic challenge; and second, its idea that global warming holds within it moral lessons, for humanity and for individuals. These help to explain why the idea of global warming is now so compelling and has come to dominate public life. For it provides, not just an expression of anxiety, but also a way out of that anxiety: a way of reframing the big issues of historical purpose and personal morality.

When global warming becomes so laden with moral meaning, it becomes difficult to approach it as an environmental problem - to work out to what degree it is a problem, and what would be the most appropriate response.....

When Guy Callender stood up in front of the Royal Society in the 1930s and suggested that the temperature rise of the nineteenth-century was due to burning fossil fuels, he painted a very positive picture. Indeed, in the 1950s the Soviet Union hatched plans to increase warming, by spreading soot on the Siberian snow to absorb heat and even by setting fire to unused coal seams. Other scientists thought that global warming would have a negative effect on human welfare, but this was not a political or moral divide, and they used dry terms such as `inadvertent climate modification'. The questions were: was it happening?; would its effect be good or bad?; what measures should be put in place in response? Guilt didn't come into it.

Here's the rub: when an environmental problem becomes a generational mission, nobody wants very much to solve it. Lynas criticises the notion that `the white knight of technology will come riding to the rescue' - this is in fact `the most pervasive and enduring form of denial'. There is no `miracle energy cure', says Lynas. Indeed, you often hear environmentalists say that the hopes of a `silver bullet' to solve global warming is merely `avoiding' the question. Avoiding how? What they mean is that it is not energy production that must change; it is us. Global warming is not a problem to be solved; it is a lesson to be lived.

We need a new school of thought in the global warming debate, which is founded not on scientific facts but on political critique. It is only this that can explain the way in which the issue is framed, or its hold over social life and public debate. Lynas' books suggest the attraction of the global warming issue has little to do with environmental problems. Instead, global warming appears to provide answers to life's big questions, offering a new kind of historic mission and a new structure for personal morality.

Only global warming doesn't really answer any of these big questions - it shuts them down, solving the problem of meaning by abolishing meaning itself. As we look forward to 2050, we could hope to find some more profound answers to the riddle of existence than that measured in the rise and fall of carbon atoms. We could also hope to find some more sensible (but, possibly, less dramatic) solutions to any environmental challenges we face.

We need to strip drama from climatology, and add drama to our lives. The question of how we live should be subject to mass, passionate debate, and Geophysical Research Letters should be left in the basement of the Radcliffe Science Library for the consultation of specialists.

Much more here


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 INTERNATIONAL 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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