Sunday, June 10, 2007

More on global warming as an explanation for all ills

Post lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Why should we care about global warming? The Associated Press reports it is "threatening cultural landmarks from Canada to Antarctica, the World Monuments Fund said Wednesday":

New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged historic neighborhoods, the Church of the Holy Nativity under Palestinian control in Bethlehem, cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary in Peru are among the locations listed on the fund's top 100 most endangered.
The U.S. locations also include historic Route 66, the fabled east-west highway flanked by eccentric, deteriorating attractions, and the New York State Pavilion, a rusting remnant of the 1964 World's Fair in New York City's Queens borough.

Surely it's oxygen and water, not CO2, that are causing the World's Fair pavilion to rust. And if Machu Picchu (elevation 7,710 feet) is in danger pavilion rising sea levels, we're all doomed anyway. But then there's this:

In Antarctica, a hut once used by British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott has survived almost a century of freezing conditions but is now in danger of being engulfed by increasingly heavy snows.

If too much snow is endangering the hut, maybe we should encourage global warming.

Gasoline refining forced offshore by Greenie restrictions

With gasoline prices averaging $3.22 for a gallon of regular nationwide over the Memorial Day weekend, traditional economic logic might suggest that this would be a good time to invest in new U.S. oil refineries and increase the supply of gasoline.

Yet no new refinery has been built in the United States in three decades, only one is in the works and oil companies are scaling back planned investments in new, expanded or modernized U.S. refineries rather than increasing them. Overseas, however - where it's generally cheaper and easier to build refineries - a boom in construction is under way to meet the growing demand for gasoline in the United States and in big developing countries such as China and India. That means that Americans increasingly will be filling their tanks with imported gasoline.

In 2005, imported liquid fuels - mostly oil and an increasing amount of gasoline - accounted for about 60 percent of U.S. consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department. In a long-term assessment this month, the EIA said that figure could grow to 67 percent by 2030. "We are outsourcing refining," said Severin Borenstein, an economist and energy expert at the University of California-Berkeley. "I think that this is primarily because of community resistance ... people don't want to live by refineries, but they still want the gasoline."

Refineries are being built in Saudi Arabia, India and China. For Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil producer, tight refining capacity amounts to a brake on its oil sales. In 1970, global refining capacity was about 47 million barrels per day. Today it's about 83.5 million, but only 17.5 million is refined in the United States. The Paris-based International Energy Agency projected last year that the world's refining capacity will have to grow to 93 million barrels per day in 2010 and to 118 million by 2030 to meet demand.

The growth of global refining capacity will determine whether gasoline prices moderate, stay high or rise even higher. Many energy experts think that crude oil may be more available by 2010, but more barrels of oil won't help reduce prices unless there's more refining capacity to turn it into gasoline. Congress passed legislation in 2005 to streamline the permitting process, hoping to encourage new investment in U.S. refineries. President Bush offered military bases to house them. Yet only one new U.S. refinery is planned, in Arizona, and it's been in the works for a decade. "There are just a vast number of barriers for a start-up oil refinery in the United States," said Ian Calkins, a spokesman for the Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma project, which has faced environmental and community hurdles and now a lawsuit over former American Indians tribal lands.

The $3.5 billion refinery, planned for 100 miles southwest of Phoenix, would process a modest 150,000 barrels of oil per day when it comes online in 2011. Still, investors who're willing to plunk billions into a project that offers only long-term returns must be found. "It's almost a non-starter to the vast majority of investors," Calkins said.

The cost of meeting state and federal regulations also drives refinery expansion overseas. The American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry, said its members had spent $50 billion over the past decade to comply with environmental, safety and other regulations - about the cost of building 10 big refineries. "Environmental regulations ... play a large role in restricting the development of new refining capacity and the loss of some existing capacity," said Robert Dauffenbach, an economist and associate dean of the University of Oklahoma's Price College of Business.

President Bush's goal of a 20 percent reduction in gasoline use by 2020 also has U.S. refiners scaling back investment plans from $1.8 billion over the next five years to about $1 billion.


British residual pollution falling

But don't worry! Now that the real pollutants have just about been defeated, there's always an imaginary pollutant to worry about -- CO2!

Britain's green and pleasant land has just got that bit pleasanter, researchers have concluded after measuring pollution levels. Levels of a group of toxic chemicals polluting gardens and fields have fallen to their lowest point for more than 100 years, a nationwide survey has revealed. Emissions of dioxins from factories and power plants have been stemmed so effectively by bans and caps that contamination levels in soil have fallen for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

The most comprehensive survey of toxic chemicals polluting Britain's towns and countryside has revealed that carcinogenic dioxin levels have fallen by 70 per cent since the late 1980s. "Britain is definitely a pleasanter land than it was 30 years ago," said Declan Barraclough, of the Environment Agency, who led the research that measured toxins at 200 locations across Britain. It showed that while dioxin levels rose steadily from 1850 to 1985, they have fallen sharply in the past 20 years. However, researchers found that while levels have fallen, they are still twice as high in urban and industrial areas as they are in rural locations. Previously, levels of dioxins in the atmosphere have been shown to have fallen but the survey was the first to address soil contamination levels, where the toxins last much longer.

Dioxins are an unwanted byproduct of combustion processes involving organic material, including fossil fuels, with traces of chlorine. They have been linked to several cancers. Dr Barraclough said: "These are the big, bad boys of the environment. These are the mafia of contaminants - you don't want them round for dinner, they're not nice. "A lot of them are either toxic to us or to wildlife. A lot of them are carcinogenic. They hang around for years and accumulate in the body. "But they've fallen very significantly and this is hugely important. It means by regulating dioxin emissions we've reversed an upward trend that went on for more than 100 years."

Other toxins were assessed by the researchers, including poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Concerns about the toxicity of PCBs first emerged in the 1960s. By the early 1990s, the levels found in soils had been cut to one eight-hundredth of their peak. The UK Soil and Herbage Pollutant Survey published yesterday showed that levels have fallen slightly further in the past 15 years, but towns and industrial areas contained up to twice as much as rural parts of the country. Researchers were concerned to find more PCBs than were expected still in the soil, and said it is likely that the toxins, which are similar to dioxins and are carcinogenic, are still escaping from sources such as window sealants.

Dr Barraclough said of PAHs, which are another cancer-causing contaminant and can be found in cigarette smoke, that levels appear to be falling, but more research needed to be done to be sure.

The risk to human beings from such pollutants is thought to come from inhaling them after they break free from substances containing them, and from eating plants that absorb them from the soil.

Though contaminant levels were within acceptable levels, it remained important to monitor them, he maintained, especially as they can damage wildlife. "We know PCBs can cause deformities in bird chicks, particularly herons, and we can still pick them out in birds of prey," he said. "We don't want another peregrine falcon crash."

The researchers measured levels of 12 metals, arsenic, 22 PAHs, 26 PCBs and 17 dioxins.



The leaders of five major developing nations on on Thursday signalled they would not bow to pressure from the Group of Eight to commit to binding targets in the fight against global warming. Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa insisted ahead of talks with G8 leaders on Friday that their "different capacities and interests" must be considered when tackling climate change.

The leaders of the G8 on Thursday agreed to seek "substantial" cuts in global emissions and "seriously consider" the target of cutting climate-changing gases by at least half by 2050. "We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour," the most industrialised countries said in declaration issued at their summit in Heiligendamm in northeastern Germany.

After a meeting in Berlin to agree their position, the so-called Plus Five group of emerging nations said they needed help from more developed nations in combatting the pollution caused by their rapidly expanding economies. "Regarding matters that will be discussed in Heiligendamm with the G8 countries, the leaders were pleased to note opportunities for joint collaboration in the fields of cross-border investment, research and innovation, climate change, energy and development," a statement from the leaders said. "The consensus view was that all of these challenges must be addressed from a multi-lateral regional and bilateral perspective taking into consideration the interests and capacities of different states."

India said it would not waver in its refusal to accept mandatory restrictions on its output of greenhouse gases. "India's position on climate change has not changed," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told AFP. Both India and China, which have a combined population of 2.4 billion and rising pollution levels, reject restrictions on emissions because for fear that it would slow their economic growth and affect efforts to fight poverty.

An advisor to South African President Thabo Mbeki said African nations "by and large agreed" with the position that the industrialised world must take the lead in slashing emissions. Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticised the G8 agreement in Heiligendamm for setting a too-distant goal on capping emissions. "What is happening with this long deadline is that nobody will do anything until the last minute... We will arrive in 2049 without having done anything," he said. "It is necessary to have a shorter horizon."

The stance of the Plus Five nations poses another challenge for German Chancellor Angela Merkel after her tenacious battle to secure a G8 accord on climate change in the face of strong reservations from the United States.......


The Bored Whore of Kyoto

Nothing drove home Russia's place in the growing pollution-trading business better than what one carbon finance guy told me at a conference last month sponsored by Gazprom and the World Bank. We were on drink number three or four at the reception when he dropped the green pretense and came clean. "I don't know if climate change is caused by burning coal or sun flares or what," said the Moscow-based carbon cowboy. "And I don't really give a shit. Russia is the most energy inefficient country around, and carbon is the most volatile market ever. There's a lot of opportunity to make money."

This is what all the PowerPoint arrows and boxes had been spelling out in bureaucratese during the conference entitled "Kyoto: Carbon Market Opportunities for Russian Enterprises," but it was nice to hear it in plain English. I toasted the fellow's honesty and promised not to use his name. Some of his colleagues, he explained, were "first generation" carbon finance types. More idealistic, they don't appreciate the crass cash take on the business.

For two days I listened to speakers probe the dry nexus between development finance, commodity trading, and environmental policy. It didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, but it did open a window into how the architects of Kyoto imagined Russia's role in the treaty. Boiled down to its essence, they scripted Russia as a poor dirty whore in need of a shower and some nice new clothes. These were treats European governments, financiers, and carbon traders could provide, in exchange for a little something.

The purpose of the Gazprom/World Bank event was to introduce Russia to these Kyoto-era carbon suitors, and to educate local industry about how best to profit from the growing trade in carbon credits. Because what's climate change about if not profit? The global market for carbon reduction credits is worth more than $20 billion and booming. The business bustles at the heart of "market-friendly" Kyoto.

Carbon trading is basically a loophole -- a "flexible mechanism" in Kyoto-speak -- that allows developed nations continue with business as usual while claiming to address the climate crisis. Because most industrialized Kyoto signatories won't sacrifice short-term economic growth to cut emissions at home -- best accomplished by mandatory absolute cuts accompanied by a draconian carbon tax -- Kyoto lets them instead make efficiency investments in places like Russia and China, where it's cheaper to reduce CO2 and where there's plenty of low-hanging fruit. How many tons of CO2 countries save abroad equals how many carbon credits they get toward meeting their own national targets. Targets that they are in reality missing, in some cases by a wide margin.

The idea is similar to the one behind the trendy personal "carbon offset" industry, but transferred to the international level. Just as Brad Pitt and Al Gore can invest in some reforestation project in Tamil Nadu and then declare themselves "carbon neutral" without changing their carbon-intensive lives, so too can France invest in Russia and claim Kyoto success without cutting its domestic CO2 output. Critics of personal offsets and Kyoto's credit scheme have compared them to the medieval Church practice of selling Indulgences to sinners. It's a good analogy. Kyoto's carbon-trading game allows signatory nations to think they're going to heaven while we continue slouching toward likely global warming hell.

With Kyoto driving carbon's growth as a hot commodity, and with negotiations on Kyoto II slated to start later this year, it can be easy to forget that just a few years ago the treaty was headed for the dustbin. With Washington on the sidelines, the principal nations fell short of representing the 55 percent of global emissions needed for Kyoto's activation. For seven years the treaty languished. When Bush was reelected in 2004, the coffin and nails came out.

And then Vladimir Putin, of all people, saved the day. After years of playing behind-the-scenes hardball with Europe, Putin agreed to suppress his visceral hatred for a global environmental treaty perceived as limiting Russia's sovereignty. It was a clean trade: He would sign Kyoto in exchange for favorable treaty terms and strong European support for Russia's entry into the WTO. As a bonus, Putin also received a miasma of environmental credibility, which suited the Russian president like a negligee on Andre the Giant.

Russia's signing onto Kyoto didn't signify any real interest in climate change. The only cost to the Kremlin was a bit of pride, as Russia received the sweetest Kyoto deal of all. Because the benchmark year for measuring reductions was set at 1990, the collapse of Russian industry after Perestroika guaranteed that Russia would not be close to that level by 2012, Kyoto's deadline. Depending on the breaks, Russia may not approach 1990 levels for another 20 years. Thus not only does Russia not have to make any cuts in its emissions during the next four years, but it was handed thousands of Kyoto-stamped "emission reduction credits" -- basically carbon stock that can be sold on the international market or saved for an unseasonably rainy day. Europe was so desperate for Putin's signature it also gave Russia millions of "carbon sink" credits for its vast tracts of virgin forests.

Far from the "economic Auschwitz" former Putin advisor Andrei Illiaronov claimed Kyoto would be for Russia, it turned out to be an economic pinata. Russia hasn't seen this many gift certificates since the last time the World Bank was in town.



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

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