Monday, July 02, 2007

Global warming as a hook you can hang anything on

The global warming craze is a bonanza for scientists. If you can find some connection to global warming for what you want to research, your chances of getting funding are much increased. The story below is an example of that in action. The justification for the research in terms of global warming is however deeply flawed -- but flawed in a way that few non-scientists would recognize. Even assuming that global warming will continue, see if you can see at least two flaws in the proposal below. Answers at the foot of the article.

Australians could soon be eating the seeds of native grass as scientists search for crops with greater resistance to the effects of global warming. Researchers from Southern Cross University in NSW say dozens of native grasses could provide a good alternative to traditional plants such as wheat, rice and sorghum.

And Queensland's farmers could be the big winners as predicted increases in drought conditions across the southern states push crop cultivation further north. "There have been pest and climate issues in the past with growing cereal crops in northern Australia and that's where native crops may fare better," said Professor Robert Henry. "They should be better suited to our climate and soils. "If we can produce successful domestic crops, we can also look at exporting crops in the same way we have been importing them."

Prof Henry, director of the university's centre for plant conservation genetics, is heading the $1 million initiative run in partnership with Victorian-based Native Seeds Pty Ltd. "It's a great project. We are quite optimistic we are going to make some real progress." The aim is to have the first varieties available for small to moderate-scale planting in about two years, near the end of a three-year program which is also being supported with a $403,000 grant from the Australian Research Council.

About 10 per cent of the world's 10,000 grass species are native to Australia. The team is focusing on a few dozen which are closely related to species such as rice and sorghum. One of the main criteria is that they have large seeds which do not fall off easily in wind so they can be harvested and used for flour, cereals and other foods.

"We would expect that all of these species will allow production with less water than conventional crops and that will be an enormous advantage for the environment," said Prof Henry. "There is also a potential that these crops could be grown in areas in Australia where you can't grow traditional crops." He said while other countries had domesticated crops such as barley thousands of years ago, the cultivation of native grasses was "quite radical" for Australia. "We only need to get one species over the line to have a great outcome," Prof Henry said.

The above story by DARYL PASSMORE appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 1, 2007. Two major flaws in it:

1). The major grain crop in the Western world is wheat and wheat is already a dry-climate crop. It can be grown in many places but it grows best in areas of low rainfall. In some parts of Australia it is grown commercially with less than 10 inches of rain per year -- semi-desert, in other words. So reduced rainfall should EXPAND the area suitable for growing it. There is no need to invent new dry-climate grain crops.

2). Global warming would warm the oceans, thus causing them to give off more water vapour -- which then comes down as precipitation (rain or snow). So, OVERALL, global warming should increase rainfall, not reduce it. But more rainfall will EXPAND production of most crops -- including many grain crops -- such as rice. So there is no need for new types of grain crop under those circumstances either

Global Warming, Depletable Resources, Inconsistent Beliefs

A recent post on FuturePundit cites some interesting calculations by CalTech professor Dave Rutledge. Using the estimation approach on which current, widespread concerns about running out of petroleum are based, he finds that the IPCC global warming calculations overestimate future hydrocarbon burning by a factor of at least three or four--because the hydrocarbons are not there to be burned.

We have here two different arguments leading to the same conclusion and believed, on the whole, by the same people. One argument is that we are running out of hydrocarbons and should therefore reduce our use of hydrocarbons, reduce energy consumption and switch to alternative energy sources. The other argument is that we are, by burning hydrocarbons, increasing the amount of CO2 in the air and warming the planet, and we should therefore reduce our use of hydrocarbons, reduce energy consumption, and switch to alternative energy sources.

Both arguments claim, with some justification, to be based on scientific calculations. Both are, on the whole, believed by the same people. But, if Rutledge is right, the two sets of calculations are inconsistent with each other. Nobody who believes one ought to believe the other. Which may reflect the fact that, once you know what conclusion you want to reach, there is always some way of getting there.


'Big Oil' in the real world

Fellow gas-guzzlers, rejoice. ExxonMobil -- the world's best-run, most underappreciated and most foolishly hated energy company -- did exactly the right thing last week at its annual shareholders meeting in Dallas. When climate cranks came to whine about ExxonMobil's alleged corporate irresponsibility and try to get the company to accept the Gospel of Global Climate Change according to Al Gore, the oil behemoth's bosses told them to go fly a kite in a wind farm.

The hero was CEO Rex W. Tillerson, a business exec with old-fashioned testosterone who deserves every dime of the $8.4 million pay package he took home in 2006. He stood up to dissident shareholders (climate cranks) who wanted his company to invest more heavily in alternative energy and to stop giving money to think tanks that question the shaky scientific and political tenets of catastrophic global warming

ExxonMobil, Tillerson reminded everyone, was in the business of finding, drilling, refining and selling oil and natural gas -- not in the business of risking money to save the planet from bogeymen. Anyway, he said wisely, what's wrong with a little debate on climate change?

So say "Hallelujah!," lovers of Big Oil. For another year, at least, ExxonMobil will remain Great Satan Oil Co. -- a mischaracterization that environmentalists and their equally irrational co-religionists in the media have worked overtime to promote. The company has flaws, not the least of which is its annual acceptance of a couple billion in unnecessary government subsidies. But any schoolboy can see it is an amazingly efficient, productive business in a highly competitive and technologically trying industry.

Despite booming demand and ever-elusive oil supplies, ExxonMobil (and its smaller Big Oil siblings) keeps us supplied with the energy our advanced economies and lofty standards of living are built on -- and which our children and the Third World will need for decades. But the prowess of ExxonMobil, which employs 82,000 worldwide, benefits not just consumers. More than 2 million individuals own at least one share of its stock, which has climbed from $56 to $84 since last June. About 52 percent of the company's 5.6 billion shares are held by 1,528 mutual fund companies and institutions like CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, which owns 30 million shares of ExxonMobil for its 1.43 million active and retired members.

The value of CalPERS' stock has climbed about $900 million in the last year to $2.4 billion. Yet its idiotic officials still went to Dallas last week to complain about ExxonMobil's failure "to address the business risks from climate change." Everyone over age 3 has heard that ExxonMobil made world-record net profits last year of $39.5 billion. That's incredible -- and red meat to U.S. senators and socialists of other stripes. But on gross revenues of $377 billion, it was a modest return: 10.5 percent.

For the perspective that too few mainstream media stories provided: The average S&P 500 company netted 13.4 percent of revenues last year; PNC Financial Services netted 32 percent. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil invests $20 billion a year in capital spending for things like deep-sea oil platforms. ExxonMobil won't change much. My hero Tillerson will see to that. And no matter how hard climate cranks cry, that's good news for those who live in the real world.



Just before the July 4 deadline she set for coming up with an "energy independence" package of legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to pull together the pieces of an energy bill from 10 committees and warring Democratic leaders. As committees raced to wrap up bills yesterday before Monday's recess, the Democratic strategy remained unclear.

The energy bill under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, omitted any mention of vehicle fuel efficiency standards or mandates for massive biofuels production, major elements of the Senate bill adopted last week. That will make negotiating a final bill with the Senate tricky.

Furthermore, Democratic leaders said yesterday that they would push for a climate change bill later this year, raising further uncertainty about what items would be added to an energy bill now and which ones might be left for the climate change bill.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (Mich.) yesterday urged lawmakers to leave tough issues -- such as motor vehicle fuel economy, coal-to-liquids incentives and a renewable portfolio standard -- out of the current bill. "These issues will be addressed in the fall in the context of comprehensive climate change legislation," he said. He pledged to set goals later for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2050.


Euro backdown on GM

The European commission is about to give the go-ahead to the first commercially grown genetically modified crops since a public outcry nine years ago halted their cultivation, writes Jonathan Leake. The commission has begun the final approval stages for at least four applications by biotech companies to let farmers grow GM potatoes and maize in British and European fields. The first crop is expected to be given the go-ahead by the end of this month. “We hope that it will have been approved . . . so that it will be ready for planting next year,” said a spokesman for BASF, the German company that created the potato.

Such a move could reignite the pan-European backlash against GM crops of the late 1990s, which forced the European Union to impose an effective moratorium on the crops in 1998. Since then no crops have been approved for cultivation, although permission has been given to import some varieties for animal feed. However, it has now emerged that dossiers on another three crops, all modified forms of maize, are being prepared by the commission, which will recommend they be approved for cultivation. They could be given the green light in time for next year’s planting season. Applications for other crops, including rapeseed, are in the pipeline.

The acceleration of the process for approving GM crops follows mounting pressure from the American government. It has accused the EU of blocking free trade and threatened to take Europe to the World Trade Organisation. A commission spokesman said: “All the crops being recommended for approval have been scientifically assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. If the science supports the application we have no grounds for rejecting it.”

The GM potato produced by BASF has novel mixtures of starch and would be grown purely for industrial uses such as making paper, not human consumption. Most of the other GM crops under consideration by the commission are, however, designed for food or animal feed and are not very different to those that sparked the original consumer backlash. ["Consumer" backlash? Greenie backlash would be more like it]



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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