Friday, July 20, 2007

Economic climate changes

Congress is considering global warming legislation to require substantial cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the inescapable byproduct of the fossil fuels -- coal, oil, and natural gas -- that supply 85 percent of the world's energy. China, India, and every other developing country refuse to limit their emissions because they fear CO2 controls more than global warming. What do they know that our lawmakers don't?

National Review's Jonah Goldberg notes that that Earth warmed about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century while global GDP increased by some 1,800 percent. For the sake of argument, he says, let's agree that all of the warming was anthropogenic -- the result of economic activity. And let's further stipulate that the warming produced no benefits, only harms. "That's still an amazing bargain," Goldberg remarks.

Average life expectancies doubled during the 20th century. The world's population nearly quadrupled, yet per capita food supply substantially increased. Literacy, medicine, leisure, and "even in many respects the environment hugely improved, at least in the prosperous West."

This suggests a thought experiment that I recently posed to Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

Suppose you had the power to travel back in time and impose carbon caps on previous generations. How much growth would we be willing to sacrifice to avoid how many tenths of a degree of warming? Would humanity be better off today if the 20th century had half as much warming -- but also a half or a third or even a quarter less growth? I doubt anyone on this committee would say "yes." A poorer planet would also be a hungrier, sicker planet. Many of us might not even be alive.

So, how much future growth are Boxer and company willing to sacrifice to mitigate future warming? That is not an idle question. Some people believe we're now smart enough to measurably cool the planet without chilling the economy. But Europe is having a tough time (PDF) meeting its Kyoto commitments, and Kyoto would have no detectable impact on global temperature.

Three of the main climate bills introduced in the Senate this year would require CO2 emission cuts of about 60 percent (PDF) by 2050. Yet the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that in 2030 U.S. emissions will be about 33 percent above (PDF) year 2000 levels. Nobody knows how to meet the targets in those bills without severe cuts in either economic growth or population growth.

But won't the bills' carbon penalties make deep emission reductions achievable by spurring technological change? Don't bet on it.

European countries have been taxing gasoline for decades at rates that translate into carbon penalties of $200 to $300 per ton of CO2. (A $1.00 a gallon gasoline tax roughly translates into a $100 per ton CO2 penalty, and Europe taxes gasoline at rates of $2.00 to $3.00 (PDF) a gallon or more.) Where in Europe is the miracle fuel to replace petroleum? Where are all the zero emission vehicles? Europe is not one mile closer than we are to achieving a "beyond petroleum" transport system. On the contrary, European Union transport sector CO2 emissions in 2004 were 26 percent higher than in 1990.

The EIA analyzed the market impacts of the relatively modest -- $7 per ton -- CO2 emission cap in "discussion draft" legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). The bill's proposed cap would cut projected investment in coal generation by more than half (PDF). However, it does not make carbon capture and storage (CCS) economical. Would a bigger regulatory hammer do the trick? No, it would just drive more investment out of coal generation.

An MIT study (PDF) finds that it will take billions of dollars over a decade to find out whether CCS is economical under a $30-per-ton CO2 penalty. Note that even if CCS is determined to be "economical," the MIT study estimates that coal generation over the next five decades grows by less than 20 percent of what it would in the absence of a carbon penalty.

Regulatory climate strategies put the policy cart before the technology horse. Not until markets are capable of producing vast quantities of affordable energy without emissions would it be reasonable for Congress to consider mandatory emission cuts.

Policy makers concerned about global warming should do three things. First, as Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg recommends (PDF), encourage worldwide R&D investment in non-carbon-emitting energy technologies. This -- not tougher CO2 controls -- should be the focus of post-Kyoto diplomacy.

Second, eliminate tax and other political barriers to innovation and capital stock. A recent study (PDF) by the American Council for Capital Formation shows that the United States lags behind many of our trading partners in capital cost recovery for investment in electric power generation, transmission lines, pollution control equipment, and petroleum refining capacity.

Third, as economist Indur Goklany recommends (PDF), for a fraction of Kyoto's cost, target international assistance on those threats to human health and welfare where we know how to do a lot of good for each dollar invested. This would not only save millions of lives today, it would also help developing countries become wealthier and less vulnerable to climate-related risk.


Peer Review

Post lifted from Prof. Brignell. See the original for links. Before the most recent IPCC report, Warmists often used "peer review" as alleged proof that the journal articles they relied on were correct. As anybody who has been involved in the process knows, however, it is no such thing. I personally often got the impression that reviewers did not even read what they purported to review -- and with over 200 papers published in the academic journals I am an unusually successful academic author so speak from some experience and am clearly not speaking from sour grapes. Since peer opinion as expressed in the body of the most recent IPCC report (as distinct from the non-scientific summary) has turned against alarmism, however, we hear rather less about peer review these days.

It is perhaps rather curmudgeonly to add a few "yes buts" when someone has paid you a bit of a compliment, but more needs to be said on the subject of peer review and editors, as raised by Charles Warren Hunt in Greenie Watch. There is certainly no question that the system is corruptible and has been corrupted, as ancient memories related in these pages have testified. Those were the days when science was free from the pressures of the new religious elite, and the situation is far, far worse now.

It is, however, difficult to see how modern scientific publication can exist without some form of specialist review system. Time was when one person could have a working knowledge of the whole of a subject area and would therefore make a competent journal editor. Scientific activity has expanded so much in the last half century that such a function is beyond one person. The danger before about 1980 was that journals could be effectively cornered by coteries who were promoting one particular theory. Now, of course, that small danger has become a universal threat, and even common practice.

It all comes down to the integrity of the editor. Under Sir John Maddox, for example, Nature maintained its reputation as the world's leading science journal. It was an honour to have results published therein. The present day Nature is just a bad joke among those who still value the integrity of science. You only have to look at the extraordinary shenanigans its editors indulged in to avoid publishing valid criticism of the bogus "hockey stick" to see an example of corruption at the top.

When you have refereed thousands of papers for various journals and conferences, sat on editorial boards and adjudicated in refereeing disputes, you develop a pretty good overview of the problems of the system. There are too many papers offered for a start. Many of them are trivial, unoriginal or provably wrong. Some of the would-be authors are even clearly insane. A journal will quickly lose its reputation and readership if it fills its pages with self-evident trash. Just coping with the significant new results in most fields is a demanding onus on those working in them and they do not welcome the wasting of their precious time. There will always be referees who abuse that position, but most of them do an honest job for no pay. The bonus is that they have a more up-to-date knowledge of their field than others. If you become known for doing a good, conscientious job, the demands on your time grow and grow until eventually you have to call a halt. Finding suitable referees is a nightmare for editors and their boards.

But, of course, all of that has changed. People driven by quasi-religious belief go to great lengths to gain positions of power, such as editorships, and to recruit their kind. There are very few journals left that you could trust to take a balanced view on a subject such as climate without resorting to dogma-based censorship. Though the refereeing system had major intrinsic problems, like democracy it was the least bad system we have.

The big change we are now faced with is that "Peer Review" has now become one of the religious mantras used to impose censorship. Although the internet has removed the exclusivity of control that existed in scientific and other publication, the opposite has happened in the so-called main-stream media. Peer Review now often means that a paper has been subjected to censorship by a close-knit community of like-minded believers. As Wegman so powerfully demonstrated, we have a situation in which a relatively small circle of intimates are reviewing and quoting each other's work and, worse, excluding others who do not conform to their dogma. There is nothing new in this, except perhaps the sheer scale of it and the potent social and economic consequences.

"Peer Review" is now a phrase bandied about by people who quite clearly have no idea how science in general and refereeing in particular are supposed to work. It is used to condemn ideas purely on the basis of whether they conform to the prescribed dogma. Although the content of the internet is almost all rubbish, it is also where you can find the best of scientific thinking. Let us hope that that small element can be preserved should humanity eventually return to sanity.

The truth is, we can't ignore the sun

By Dr David Whitehouse -- an astronomer, former BBC science correspondent, and the author of "The Sun: A Biography". Dr Whitehouse makes a similar point about recent solar activity to the points made by myself and Prof. Brignell but since Dr. Whitehouse got his comments into the mass-circulation "Daily Telegraph", they will undoubtedly be much more influential

According to the headlines last week, the sun is not to blame for recent global warming: mankind and fossil fuels are. So Al Gore is correct when he said, "the scientific data is in. There is no more debate." Of that the evangelical BBC had no doubt. There was an air of triumphalism in its coverage of the report by the Royal Society. It was perhaps a reaction to the BBC Trust's recent criticism of the Corporation's bias when reporting climate change: but sadly, it only proved the point made by the Trust.

The BBC was enthusiastically one-sided, sloppy and confused on its website, using concepts such as the sun's power, output and magnetic field incorrectly and interchangeably, as well as not including any criticism of the research.

But there is a deeper and more worrying issue. Last week's research is a simple piece of science and fundamentally flawed. Nobody looked beyond the hype; if they had, they would have reached a different conclusion. The report argues that while the sun had a significant effect on climate during most of the 20th century, its influence is currently dwarfed by human effects. It says that all known solar influences since about 1990 are downward and because global temperature has increased since then, the sun is not responsible.

No. The research could prove the contrary. Using the global temperature data endorsed by the Inter-national Panel on Climate Change, one can reach a completely different conclusion. Recently the United States' National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said that 2006 was statistically indistinguishable from previous years. Looking at annual global temperatures, it is apparent that the last decade shows no warming trend and recent successive annual global temperatures are well within each year's measurement errors. Statistically the world's temperature is flat. The world certainly warmed between 1975 and 1998, but in the past 10 years it has not been increasing at the rate it did. No scientist could honestly look at global temperatures over the past decade and see a rising curve.

It is undisputed that the sun of the later part of the 20th century was behaving differently from that of the beginning. Its sunspot cycle is stronger and shorter and, technically speaking, its magnetic field leakage is weaker and its cosmic ray shielding effect stronger. So we see that when the sun's activity was rising, the world warmed. When it peaked in activity in the late 1980s, within a few years global warming stalled. A coincidence, certainly: a connection, possibly.

My own view on the theory that greenhouse gases are driving climate change is that it is a good working hypothesis - but, because I have studied the sun, I am not completely convinced. The sun is by far the single most powerful driving force on our climate, and the fact is we do not understand how it affects us as much as some think we do. So look on the BBC and Al Gore with scepticism. A scientist's first allegiance should not be to computer models or political spin but to the data: that shows the science is not settled.


Australia: Global cooling now hits Queensland too

Queensland breaks all-time cold weather record

SOUTH-EAST Queenslanders have woken to a record-breaking cold morning. The Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures fell to a record low at Brisbane Airport shortly after sunrise today, with a temperature of -0.1 degrees celsius recorded at 6.39am (AEST). The previous record for the airport was 0.6 degrees, recorded in 1971 and 1994. Elsewhere in the region, Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, recorded a low of -4.8 degrees overnight, just 0.1 degree short of the lowest temperature recorded there, in 1995.

There have also been reports of -7 degrees in Stanthorpe, in Queensland's south, while nearby Warwick recorded a temperature of -6.4 degrees. Kingaroy, north-west of Brisbane, plunged to -3.2 degrees, while Amberley, in Brisbane's south-west, fell to -1.9 degrees. Brisbane itself was slightly warmer at 3.9 degrees, while the Gold Coast got to a low of 3.1 degrees about 7am (AEST) and the Sunshine Coast recorded 1.4 degrees.

The cold weather is a result of a combination of dry air and clear night skies as well cold air being pushed up from the south by a strong low pressure system in the Tasman Sea, a bureau spokesman said. Cold temperatures are expected to continue tomorrow but should return to average by the weekend, the spokesman said.



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 INTERNATIONAL, 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.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hug coal all you like, but the financial markets are getting the message. There is no financial future in coal.

"The analyst noted elevated coal stockpiles are more likely to linger if the situation remains until fall. That could perpetuate a standoff with utility providers over coal contracts, while the regulatory environment is turning more unfavorable - due to greenhouse gas concerns - for coal producers."

Anyone with a US 401K with lots of coal is about to lose their shirts.