Sunday, July 22, 2007

Up against the warming zealots

Martin Durkin says his British documentary rejecting the idea of human-caused global warming has survived last week's roasting by Australia's public broadcaster

WHEN I agreed to make The Great Global Warming Swindle, I was warned a middle-class fatwa would be placed on my head. So I wasn't shocked that the film was attacked on the same night it was broadcast on ABC television last week, although I was impressed at the vehemence of the attack. I was more surprised, and delighted, by the response of the Australian public.

The ABC studio assault, led by Tony Jones, was so vitriolic it appears to have backfired. We have been inundated with messages of support, and the ABC, I am told, has been flooded with complaints. I have been trying to understand why.

First, the ferocity of the attack, I think, revealed the intolerance and defensiveness of the global warming camp. Why were Jones and co expending such energy and resources attacking one documentary? We are told the global warming theory is robust. They say you'd have to be off your chump to disagree. We have been assured for years, in countless news broadcasts and column inches, that it's definitely true. So why bother to stamp so aggressively on the one foolish documentary-maker - who clearly must be as mad as a snake - who steps out of line? I think viewers may also have wondered (reasonably) why the theory of global warming has not been subjected to this barrage of critical scrutiny by the media. After all, it's the theory of global warming, not my foolish little film, that is turning public and corporate policy on its head.

The apparent unwillingness of Jones and others at the ABC to give airtime to a counterargument, the tactics used to minimise the ostensible damage done by the film, the evident animosity towards those who questioned global warming: all of this served to give viewers a glimpse of what it was like for scientists who dared to disagree with the hallowed doctrine.

Why are the global warmers so zealous? After a year of arguing with people about this, I am convinced that it's because global warming is first and foremost a political theory. It is an expression of a whole middle-class political world view. This view is summed up in the oft-repeated phrase "we consume too much". I have also come to the conclusion that this is code for "they consume too much". People who believe it tend also to think that exotic foreign places are being ruined because vulgar oiks can afford to go there in significant numbers, they hate plastic toys from factories and prefer wooden ones from craftsmen, and so on.

All this backward-looking bigotry has found perfect expression in the idea of man-made climate disaster. It has cohered a bunch of disparate reactionary prejudices (anti-car, anti-supermarkets, anti-globalisation) into a single unquestionable truth and cause. So when you have a dig at global warming, you commit a grievous breach of social etiquette. Among the chattering classes you're a leper.

But why are the supporters of global warming so defensive? After all, the middle classes are usually confident, bordering on smug. As I found when I examined the basic data, they have plenty to be defensive about. Billions of dollars of public money have been thrown at global warming, yet the hypothesis is crumbling around their ears.

To the utter dismay of the global warming lobby, the world does not appear to be getting warmer. According to their own figures (from the UN-linked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the temperature has been static or slightly declining since 1998. The satellite data confirms this. This is clearly awkward. The least one should expect of global warming is that the Earth should be getting warmer.

Then there's the ice-core data, the jewel in the crown of global warming theory. It shows there's a connection between carbon dioxide and temperature: see Al Gore's movie. But what Gore forgets to mention is that the connection is the wrong way around; temperature leads, CO2 follows.

Then there's the precious "hockey stick". This was the famous graph that purported to show global temperature flat-lining for 1000 years, then rising during the 19th and 20th centuries. It magicked away the Medieval warm period and made the recent warming look alarming, instead of just part of the general toing and froing of the Earth's climate. But then researchers took the computer program that produced the hockey stick graph and fed it random data. Bingo, out popped hockey stick shapes every time. (See the report by Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Virginia and others.) In a humiliating climb down, the IPCC has had to drop the hockey stick from its reports, though it can still be seen in Gore's movie.

And finally, there are those pesky satellites. If greenhouse gases were the cause of warming, then the rate of warming should have been greater, higher up in the Earth's atmosphere (the bit known as the troposphere). But all the satellite and balloon data says the exact opposite. In other words, the best observational data we have flatly contradicts the whole bally idea of man-made climate change.

They concede that CO2 cannot have caused the warming at the beginning of the 20th century, which was greater and steeper than the recent warming. They can't explain the cooling from 1940 to the mid-'70s. What are they left with? Some mild warming in the '80s and '90s that does not appear to have been caused by greenhouse gases. The whole damned theory is in tatters. No wonder they're defensive.

The man-made global warming parade, on one level, has been a phenomenal success. There isn't a political party or important public body or large corporation that doesn't feel compelled to pay lip service. There are scientists and journalists (a surprising number) who have built careers championing the cause. There's more money going into global warming research than there is chasing a cure for cancer. Many important people and institutions have staked their reputations on it. There's a lot riding on this theory. And it has bugger-all to do with sea levels. That is why the warmers greeted my film with red glowing eyes.

Last week on the ABC they closed ranks. They were not interested in a genuine debate. They wanted to shut it down. And thousands of wonderful, sane, bolshie Australian viewers saw right through it. God bless Australia. The DVD will be out soon.


Carbon Offsets - Buyer Beware

A strong smell of fraud

Congress began investigating the carbon offset industry this week. The inquiry could produce some "inconvenient truths" for Al Gore and the nascent offset industry.

Carbon offsets ostensibly allow buyers to expunge their consciences of the new eco-sin of using energy derived from fossil fuels. Worried about the 8 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted each year by your SUV? Similar to the indulgences offered by Pope Leo X in the 16th century, you can absolve yourself of sin by purchasing $96 worth of CO2 offsets - typically offered at $12 per ton of CO2 emitted - from offset brokers who, in turn, supposedly use your cash to pay someone else to produce electricity with low or no CO2 emissions.

Last year, offsets representing 23.7 million tons of CO2 were sold to businesses and consumers. Sounds like a lot of CO2 emissions were avoided, except when you consider that annual natural emissions of CO2 amount to hundreds of billions of tons.

The physical world aside, the CO2 offset marketplace itself is questionable - hence this week's congressional hearing entitled, "Voluntary Carbon Offsets: Getting What You Pay For." The hearing is particularly notable since it was called by a Democrat-run Congress, concerned that global warming alarmism is being jeopardized by dubious marketing and consumer rip-offs involving offsets.

A prime example of dubious offset marketing involves Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." The movie's producers, Paramount Classics and Participant Productions, announced that they purchased offsets from broker NativeEnergy to compensate for 100 percent of the CO2 emissions from the air and ground transportation, hotel use, and production and promotional activities associated with the movie. So how many offsets supposedly compensated for the CO2 sins of Al Gore and the dozens of individuals credited with producing a movie shot in Nashville, Los Angeles, and Beijing? According to a Web site release from NativeEnergy - which has since been removed - it only cost 40 tons of offsets (worth about $480) to make "An Inconvenient Truth" carbon neutral.

It's an absurdly low figure given that the making of a 30-second television commercial can easily produce 50 tons and the movie "Syriana" - another NativeEnergy project - was supposedly offset with 2,040 tons worth of offsets. When I called NativeEnergy to inquire about the 40-ton figure and the Web page that mysteriously disappeared, I was rebuffed and told that the company "does not share information about its clients without their consent." This immediately made me wonder why the producers of "An Inconvenient Truth" either withheld or revoked their consent since so many of NativeEnergy's other clients' offset purchases are so prominently touted on the company's web site.

NativeEnergy told me I would have to go through Paramount's legal department to obtain the necessary consent. Despite repeated attempts, Paramount never returned my calls - quite odd given the Oscar-winning producers' mission and audacious self-acclaim of pioneer status as the world's first carbon-neutral documentary. NativeEnergy still boasts on its web site about offsetting "100 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution" associated with "An Inconvenient Truth" - but there's still no mention - let alone any "carbon accounting" - of what that "100 percent" actually represents.

There is reason to explore this issue further than just the spotlighting of more Al Gore-related hypocrisy - the climate alarmist community is even concerned about the offset racket. As recently reported on the left-wing web site (, it's worthwhile asking whether carbon offsets are offsetting anything at all. According to the Grist article, NativeEnergy is selling offsets that are supposed to be helping to pay for wind-generated electricity supplied by the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) to 52 Alaskan villages.

When the Grist reporter first interviewed an AVEC official, the money received from NativeEnergy was described as a "bonus" - a potential problem given that the agreement between AVEC and NativeEnergy requires that the offsets are "a significant contributor to economic viability and the seller's efforts to build additional wind capacity." AVEC and NativeEnergy have since backed off the "bonus" characterization, according to the Grist article.

While acknowledging the possibility of a slip of the tongue on the part of the AVEC official, the Grist reporter raised the salient point - presumably because of the black box-nature of CO2 offsets - that we will never actually know whether the offsets purchased through NativeEnergy were used to produce any wind power or reduce any CO2 emissions.

NativeEnergy sells offsets to the public at a cost of $12/ton. But how much of that price goes to reduce CO2 emissions versus NativeEnergy's pockets? A recent CNNMoney article reported that NativeEnergy raised $250,000 to pay for 50,000 tons of CO2 reductions on South Dakota's Rosebud Sioux tribe reservation - that is, as little as $5/ton may go toward emissions reduction. A gross profit margin of $7/ton for NativeEnergy is not bad, especially since there appears to be little follow-up and verification as to whether the consumer's goal of reducing CO2 emissions are actually accomplished.

Finally, taxpayers provide additional support for projects in which NativeEnergy is involved - the Department of Energy contributed more than $448,000 to the Rosebud Sioux project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave AVEC $2.5 million for wind turbines. A Capitol Hill staffer told me that the congressional inquiry would look into the possibility of "double-dipping" in the offset industry.

There's an awful lot of consumer and taxpayer money flying around offset-related projects with little, if any, accountability. On one hand, it's good that Congress, in the name of consumer protection, has commenced an investigation of "the efficacy and accounting of these unregulated commodities." On the other hand, only time will tell if a Congress controlled by the global warming lobby will conduct a bona fide investigation that risks discrediting one of its major themes.



U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe increased his own alert Wednesday on an ozone proposal, warning "virtually the entire state" of Oklahoma would fail to meet new air quality standards suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency. Last month, the Oklahoma Republican's initial warning covered only Tulsa and a dozen other Oklahoma counties. Inhofe announced his broader assessment at a subcommittee hearing on the proposed smog regulations whose witnesses included EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In his opening remarks, he directed Johnson's attention to a map showing the "tremendous progress" Oklahoma has made in cleaning up its air. "Not a single county in Oklahoma is in violation of the ozone standards. Not a single one, Mr. Administrator," Inhofe said. "Yet your proposal will put virtually the entire state into non-attainment. How is it that EPA last year considered states like Oklahoma to have clean air that was healthy to breathe, yet next year it will consider the air unhealthy, even as their pollution levels continue to plummet?"

In an interview following the hearing, the senator explained why he upped the ante on EPA's proposal to include the entire state. He said the original list covered only counties where monitors are located, adding those counties would be considered out of attainment immediately under the proposed regulations. "The monitors are scattered out. They are not all in one area," Inhofe said. "In almost every case, the surrounding counties (of those monitored) would be included."

He said with the possible exception of Cimarron and Texas counties, located in the state's Panhandle, the entire state would be in nonattainment. "It would happen pretty quick," the senator said. As the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe routinely takes the lead on such issues for his party. "I am embarrassed," he conceded. "You would think as the ranking member I could do something about this."

Inhofe expressed regret that he was no longer chairman of that key committee. "Quite frankly, if the Democrats had not taken control and I were still chairman of the committee I would seriously doubt we would have that problem," he said. Inhofe also accused EPA of not enforcing current regulations uniformly and pointed to the area of southern California as proof.

When asked, EPA did not respond directly to Inhofe's specific concerns. The agency provided maps that apparently indicated the number of counties with monitors that would be out of compliance if the new standards were in place today and those that would be in 2020. Tulsa County seemed to be only one that EPA could say for certain would continue to be out of compliance.

During his testimony at Wednesday's hearing, EPA chief Johnson said the current standard does not protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety and should be strengthened to provide additional protection, specifically for those with asthma and other lung diseases. If the proposed changes are put in place following public comments, Johnson said his agency would work with states on meeting the new standards.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., the subcommittee chairman, commended Johnson for proposing the new standard. A former governor, he spoke of the costs dirty air presents for the entire nation. Inhofe and Carper have each introduced clean air legislation



SENATE Democrats' first swing at national energy policy might be boiled down to a couple of broad statements: Alternative fuels are good, big business is bad and Americans stung by higher energy costs shouldn't expect help any time soon.

With the legislation's direct cost to government (read: taxpayers) at $140 billion to $205 billion over 15 years, you'd think there'd be something in it for average folk. Hardly. Democrats are putting their stock in subsidies, tax preferences and other incentives for futuristic fuels -- mandating increased use of ethanol, for example, and requiring utilities to use more wind, solar and other renewable sources in the future.

Don't get us started on ethanol, a fuel that has yet to demonstrate any real-market viability without heavy government subsidies. Renewables are fine as they go, too. Yet Democrats' lack of balance with respect to production and supply should concern every American who fills a gas tank.

Sen. Jim Inhofe's amendment to give states the option of streamlining the permitting process for building greater refining capacity was defeated on a party-line vote after Democrats complained it was a giveaway to the oil companies. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California suggested Big Oil isn't building new refineries because it makes it easier to manipulate fuel prices. Another production-side amendment, to let Virginia lift a 25-year freeze on offshore drilling, was defeated by Democrats talking of environmental concerns as if it were 1977, not 2007.

The bill would make price gouging a federal crime -- a solution in search of a real-world problem. Meanwhile, Democrats are split on increasing car fuel efficiency standards, with Michigan's senators trying to stave off standards that would damage the auto industry. Stay tuned as the legislation proceeds. But unless you're into windmills, solar panels or corn there's not much most Americans can look forward to.



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.


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