Sunday, October 28, 2007

California Fire Smokescreen

By Steven Milloy

Are climate alarmists using the Southern California wildfires to fan the flames of global warming? Are environmentalists and government bureaucrats using global warming to cover up their share of responsibility for the wildfires that have displaced more than 500,000 people and destroyed more than 1,300 homes?

The CBS news show "60 Minutes" - which has a history of promoting climate alarmism - kicked off the blame-global-warming campaign last Sunday with a segment entitled "The Age of Mega-Fires." Reporter Scott Pelley prompted chief federal firefighter Tom Boatner with the statement, "You know, there are a lot of people who don't believe in climate change." Boatner responded: "You won't find them on the fire line in the American West anymore, because we've had climate change beat into us over the last 10 or 15 years. We know what we're seeing, and we're dealing with a period of climate, in terms of temperature and humidity and drought, that's different than anything people have seen in our lifetimes."

CNN's Anderson Cooper incorporated the fires into his plug for the cable channel's alarmist program "Planet in Peril." "At the top of the next hour, as I said, the big picture," said Cooper. "These fires are really a piece of it. Fire, drought, global warming, climate change, deforestation, it is all connected. Tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern - 'Planet in Peril' starts in just 30 minutes."

It came as no surprise, then, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters this week, "One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming." Is this true?

The alarmists' line of reasoning appears to be that: one, man-made carbon-dioxide emissions increase global temperature; two, increased global temperature alters atmospheric conditions to prevent rainfall; and three, ensuing drought conditions are exacerbated by warmer temperatures that increase drying on the ground.

This line of thinking falls apart at the very beginning, of course, since it's not at all clear that global temperatures are driven by atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. But for the sake of argument, we will continue down the path of the alarmists' thinking. So does rising global temperature cause drought? In the context of what appears to have been a one-degree Fahrenheit rise in mean global temperature since 1900, the observed relationship between temperature and precipitation in North America does not favor the hypothesis. During the period 1900-2005, precipitation seems to have actually increased in areas above 30 degrees north latitude - including California and the rest of the U.S. - according to the most recent assessment from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This does not mean, of course, that droughts haven't occurred in North America over the last 100 years, but it doesn't support a link between rising global temperature and increased drought. Examining the occurrence of drought in southern California since 1900 is also illuminating. According to data maintained by the federal National Climatic Data Center, drought conditions are no stranger to southern California. During the period 1900 to 2005, moderate-to-severe drought conditions occurred in Southern California during 34 of those 106 years - that is, about one-third of the time. Comparing the southern California drought record against the global temperature record reveals the following:

- During the period 1900-1940, when most of the 20th century's one-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase occurred, there were 7 years of moderate-to-severe drought.

- During the period 1941-1975, when global temperatures cooled, giving rise to concerns of a looming ice age, there were 11 years of moderate-to-severe drought.

- During the period 1976 to 1990, when global temperatures rose back to the 1940 level, there were 8 years of moderate-to-severe drought.

- Since 1991, when global temperatures rose slightly past the 1940 levels, there have been 7 years of drought.

It's a record that would seems to largely prevent any simple conclusions from being drawn - that is, rising temperatures with few drought years, followed by falling temperatures and increasing drought frequency, followed by temperatures rising back to the original levels with increased drought frequency, followed by a leveling off of drought occurrence despite higher temperatures.

Though there is no obvious relationship between global temperature and drought in southern California, the alarmists nevertheless advocate the quixotic task of preventing drought and wildfires by controlling greenhouse-gas emissions. Global warming, it seems, also makes a good excuse for federal and state bureaucrats and politicians who have failed to properly manage high-risk areas, at least in part because of pressure from anti-logging and anti-development environmental groups.

We can be better prepared for drought and wildfires by improving forest management - as this column previously suggested in the aftermath of the deadly California wildfires of 2003. Drought and forest fires happen. We have no reason to think that we can do anything to prevent the former, but we know that can do a lot about preventing and controlling the latter - if only the environmentalists will let us.


A REAL debate at an American university: Wow!

Two internationally respected scientists with widely differing views on the controversial issue of global warming sparred with studies and charts in a debate Thursday night at Duquesne University.

The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Castle Shannon think tank, and Duquesne's Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy brought together skeptic S. Fred Singer and believer Charles Keller, and posed the question: "Is human activity causing global warming?" "It is an important question to many companies in our region," said Allegheny Institute President Jake Haulk. "There is a huge local impact because coal and hauling coal on the rivers, and burning it to make power are very important to this region."

Keller, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist whose research led to the formation of the laboratory's program on Global Climate Change, began the debate, moderated by former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey. "I don't consider there to be any debate anymore," Keller said. "Most of the global warming -- at a 95 percent confidence level -- in the last 20 years has been caused by human beings putting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

Keller presented weather station recordings dating back to the 1880s showing annual temperatures increasing dramatically since the 1980s, measurements of glacial ice melting rapidly in the last 20 years and ice core samples indicating that levels of carbon dioxide and methane echo rising and falling temperatures. He discussed the reliability of scientific models to study climate change, concluding with a chart showing concurrence among several models that show human-produced greenhouse gases increasing global temperatures.

Singer, a retired professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia and president of The Science and Environmental Policy Project, a nonprofit research group that he founded in 1990, began his presentation by saying he does not believe in models. To debunk models, he pointed to a report he said was commissioned by former Vice President Al Gore to predict precipitation patterns through 2090. Two models were created, and they showed dramatically different amounts of precipitation.

Singer then argued that weather station temperature readings are unreliable because those located in urban areas are skewed by the heat generated by cities. He also presented research linking historic temperature changes to fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field that would have allowed varying amounts of solar radiation to reach the planet.

"The cause (of global warming) is primarily natural and not human," Singer said. "The effect from greenhouse gases is minor, negligible, insignificant and, therefore, all of our efforts ... to control in some way the emissions of greenhouse gases is completely misplaced."


Gore's weak answers to criticism

KALEE KREIDER, Environmental adviser to Al Gore:
"The judge himself never used the term "errors." That was an allegation made by the plaintiff--whose motives are quite suspect. Stewart Dimmock, who brought this case, appears to have been funded by the very same fossil fuel interests who have sought to undermine the scientific consensus behind global warming in the past."

--Response to The Fact Checker, October 18, 2007.

MR JUSTICE BURTON, British High Court judge:
"There are errors and omissions in the film [An Inconvenient Truth], to which I shall refer, and respects in which the film, while purporting to set out the mainstream view (and to belittle opposing views), does in fact itself depart from that mainstream."

--Legal decision permitting the Gore movie to be shown in British schools, together with teacher guidance pointing out alleged "errors." October 10, 2007.

The Facts

Earlier this month, on the day former Vice President Gore won the Nobel peace prize, we ran an item reporting that a British judge had found various "errors" in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. We invited readers to debate the question whether Gore may have exaggerated some points in the movie to draw attention to global warming. Readers responded with more than 700 comments, many of them vituperative. The Fact Checker was accused of everything from "Nobel Prize envy" to being part of a right-wing "propaganda machine" worthy of Joseph Goebbels.

At the time, I (it's probably time to abandon the royal "we") did not take a position on the accuracy or inaccuracy of either the Gore movie or the judge's critique. Now that the smoke has cleared away a bit, I feel more confident about reaching some conclusions. I do so with no pretense of scientific expertise, merely as a detached and hopefully fair-minded non-expert who has listened to both sides make their case.

The first point to make is that I am unimpressed by ad hominem attacks of the kind that Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider engaged in above. So what if the plaintiff in the British case was "funded by...fossil fuel interests" or Gore has "ties" to the environmental lobby? What has that got to do with a factual debate about the accuracy of specific statements in a movie? In this case, it is doubly irrelevant--unless you believe that the judge is also the tool of "fossil fuel interests."

Our mission statement (the plural is appropriate here because it was endorsed by Washington Post muckety-mucks) included the following promise to readers: "We will stick to the facts of the issue under examination and pay no attention to ad hominem attacks. The identity or political ties of the person or organization making a charge is irrelevant: all that matters is whether their facts are accurate or inaccurate." If I ever break that vow, I hope that readers will call me on it.

Onto the matter at hand. Contrary to Kreider's assertion, the judge did talk about "errors" in the Gore movie, and did not always put quotation marks around the word error, as some readers maintained. See points 18 and 19 in his judgment available in full here. In deciding that the movie could be shown in British schools, he agreed that Gore's presentation was "broadly accurate." At the same time, he insisted on new teacher guidance, including the following points:

* [The movie] promotes partisan political views (that is to say, one-sided views about political issues);

* Teaching staff must be careful to ensure that they do not themselves promote those views;

* In order to make sure of that, they should take care to help pupils examine the scientific evidence critically (rather than simply accepting what is said at face value) and to point out where Gore's view may be inaccurate or departs from that of mainstream scientific opinion;

For full teacher guidance on the movie, see here.

There is little to be gained re-examining each and every disputed point in An Inconvenient Truth. By the Gore camp's own admission, some scenes in the movie have been over-simplified. As Kreider points out, science does not transfer easily to the big screen. Scientists sympathetic to Gore have effectively conceded several errors or omissions in the movie:

* The "evacuation" of Pacific atolls. Kreider acknowledges that the wording of the movie, implying the wholesale evacuation of some communities to New Zealand, was "unfortunate." As supporting evidence, she cited a 2005 report by the United Nations Environment Program of a "small community" on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. The only report that we have been able to find from this date states that the islanders were relocated "higher into the interior" after their coastal homes were repeatedly swamped by storm surges and aggressive waves linked with climate change." A later news report spoke of some Tuvalans moving to New Zealand "for many reasons - better jobs, college, overcrowding on the islands - and to escape what many see as a threat of sea level rise, caused by global warming."

* The melting of snow on Kilimanjaro and the drying up of Lake Chad. Gore supporters concede that neither of these phenomena have been conclusively linked to global warming. Jonathan Foley, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied Lake Chad extensively and admires Gore's work on climate change, said the primary explanation for the disappearance of the lake appeared to be regional climate cycles exacerbated by local irrigation practices. He said that the cycles of drought and heavy rain had been going on for "hundreds of years," and appeared unrelated to global warming. See his 2001 report here.

* Drowning polar bears. Gore cited a scientific study showing that polar bears had drowned by "swimming long distances--up to 60 miles--to find the ice." According to Andrew Derocher, chair of the polar bear group at the World Conservation Union, studies show that there is a good chance that the polar bears died by drowning but no definitive proof. Storms and hypothermia are other major concerns.


Since Kalee Kreider mentioned that Gore had relied on the research of Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University for his Kilimanjaro/global warming conclusions, I asked the professor to weigh in on the debate. His argument seems to revolve around the phrases "attributed to" and "consistent with." Here is his e-mailed reply, received this morning:
One would have to ask what in the world a judge in England would know about Climate Change or the ice fields of Kilimanjaro. It is like saying the California fires can not be attributed to human-induced climate change, while certainly they are consistent with human-induced climate change...What is clear is glaciers are being loss on Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya, the Ruwenzori's all in Africa, the tropical glaciers throughout the Andes of South America, the Himalayas and even the one remaining glacier in New Guinea. [A balance of evidence] points to human-induced climate change. What is certain on Kilimanjaro as of last week is those ice fields continue to retreat and will in fact disappear going forward. The problem with climate change research is every Tom, Dick and Harry and now apparently a judge in England has an opinion, while most have never lifted a finger toward doing the hard work to get the necessary data nor studying the science to even warrant an opinion.


Senator Inhofe Exposes Costly Global Warming 'Solutions'

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered a more than two-hour floor speech on October 26, debunking fears of man-made global warming. Below is an excerpt of his remarks about the economics of so-called global warming "solutions."


First, going on a carbon diet would do nothing to avert climate change. After the U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Al Gore's own scientist, Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, calculated that Kyoto would reduce emissions by only 0.07 degrees Celsius by the year 2050. That's all. 0.07 degrees. And that's if the United States had ratified Kyoto and the other signatories met their targets.

But we didn't and they won't. Of the 15 original EU countries, only two are on track to meet their targets. And even one of those, Britain, has started increasing its emissions again, not decreasing.

Similar calculations have been done to estimate other climate bills. The Climate Change Stewardship Act that was defeated 38-60 last year would have only reduced temperatures by 0.029 degrees Celsius, and another bill modeled on the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) report would have only reduced temperatures by 0.008 degrees Celsius. That's right - 0.008 degrees Celsius, or less than one percent of one degree......

The advances over the last Century are not simply interesting historical facts. They show us not only why we are a prosperous nation, but a roadmap to a prosperous future. Threats to prosperity have real consequences for how well and how long Americans will live. Whatever actions we take today, we must also safeguard the well-being of America's families now and into the future.

The United States Senate has acknowledged this when it passed two similar resolutions establishing a standard for passing global warming legislation. In 1997, the Byrd-Hagel Sense of the Senate, which passed 95 - 0, resolved that the U.S. should not be a signatory to any international agreement that would result in serious harm to the U.S. economy or did not mandate reductions from the developing world. Similarly, the Bingaman Sense of the Senate, passed in 2005, resolved that the U.S. should address global warming as long as it will not significantly harm the United States economy and encourages comparable action by other nations that are major trading partners and key contributors to global emissions.

Neither the Kyoto Protocol nor a single bill before Congress meets these criteria - not one. They range from costly to ruinous. But they all fail to meet the requirements of Byrd-Hagel or Bingaman.

Both the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates analyzed the costs of Kyoto when it was signed, and the costs were staggering. For instance, EIA found the annual cost would be up to $283 billion a year, and that's in 1992 constant dollars. Wharton put the cost even higher, at more than $300 billion annually, or more than $2,700 per family of four each year.

The estimated costs to comply with carbon legislative proposals in the U.S. would also be unreasonable. The NCEP approach would do nothing to lessen global warming even according to the alarmists, but according to EIA, it would still cost more than 118,000 American jobs simply to make a symbolic gesture.

And according to an MIT study, the Sanders-Boxer bill would cost energy sector consumers an amount equal to $4,500 per American family of four. The same study found the Lieberman-McCain bill would cost consumers $3,500 per family of four. Similarly, EIA found that it would have cost 1.3 million jobs. A new EPA analysis shows the Lieberman - McCain bill would cost up to half a trillion dollars by 2030 and $1.3 trillion by 2050.

Now environmentalists will tell you that's okay. Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that EPA's analysis of the Lieberman-McCain bill show "it is affordable." Although EPA finds that fuel will increase by 22 percent, he calls fuel impacts "pretty modest" - Now activists inside the Beltway may think big jumps in gas prices are no big deal, but I doubt the people living in the real America would agree.


What few Americans realize is that the impact of these policies would not be evenly distributed. The Congressional Budget Office recently looked at the approach taken by most global warming proposals in Congress - known as cap and trade - that would place a cap on carbon emissions, allocate how much everyone could emit, and then let them trade those emissions. Let me quote from the CBO report:

"Regardless of how the allowances were distributed, most of the cost of meeting a cap on CO2 emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline. Those price increases would be regressive in that poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would."

Think about that. Even relatively modest bills would put enormous burdens on the poor. The poor already face energy costs much higher as a percentage of their income than wealthier Americans. While most Americans spend about 4 percent of their monthly budget on heating their homes or other energy needs, the poorest fifth of Americans spend 19 percent of their budget on energy. Why would we adopt policies which disproportionately force the poor and working class to shoulder the heaviest burdens through even higher energy costs?


Inhofe on burgeoning scientific skepticism about global warming

Excerpt. See the original for links:

Let me repeat a key point [Ivy League Geologist Dr. Robert] Giegengack makes: "If we reduced the rate at which we put carbon into the atmosphere, it won't reduce the concentration in the atmosphere; CO2 is just going to come back out of these reservoirs." (reservoirs such as the oceans, soil and permafrost)

Giegengack is explaining the heart of the scientific skepticism about CO2's role in the Earth's climate system. But Giegengack is not finished. "In terms of [global warming's] capacity to cause the human species harm, I don't think it makes it into the top 10," Giegengack said in an interview in the May/June 2007 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. (LINK)

It is entirely appropriate that a man who supports Gore politically may be putting the final nail in the coffin of the man-made global warming fears.

`Unverified, remote, and abstract dangers'

The global warming scare machine is now so tenuous, that other liberal environmental scientists and activists are now joining Giegengack and refuting the entire basis for man-made global warming concerns.

Denis G. Rancourt professor of physics and an environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa, believes the global warming campaign does a disservice to the environmental movement. Rancourt wrote on February 27, 2007: "Promoting the global warming myth trains people to accept unverified, remote, and abstract dangers in the place of true problems that they can discover for themselves by becoming directly engaged in their workplace and by doing their own research and observations. It trains people to think lifestyle choices (in relation to CO2 emission) rather than to think activism in the sense of exerting an influence to change societal structures." (LINK)

Rancourt believes that global warming "will not become humankind's greatest threat until the sun has its next hiccup in a billion years or more in the very unlikely scenario that we are still around." He also noted that even if C02 emissions were a grave threat "government action and political will cannot measurably or significantly ameliorate global climate in the present world."

Most significantly, however, Rancourt -- a committed left-wing activist and scientist -- believes environmentalists have been duped into promoting global warming as a crisis.

Rancourt wrote: "I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized."

"Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middleclass," Rancourt added. Finally, Rancourt asserted that in a warm world, life prospers. "There is no known case of a sustained warming alone having negatively impacted an entire population," he said, "As a general rule, all life on Earth does better when it's hotter: Compare ecological diversity and biotic density (or biomass) at the poles and at the equator," he added.

Indeed, 2007 has turned into the "tipping point" for the unsubstantiated fears and gross distortion of science by activists who have committed decades trying to convince the world it faced a man-made climate crisis. Rancourt so eloquently summed up the movement as one featuring "Unverified, remote, and abstract dangers."

Renowned Scientists Convert to Skeptics

Perhaps the biggest shock to the global warming debate was the recent conversion of renowned French geophysicist Dr. Claude Allegre from a believer in dangerous man-made warming fears to a skeptic.

Allegre, a former French Socialist Party leader and a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science, was one of the first scientists to sound global warming fears 20 years ago, but he now says the cause of climate change is "unknown." He ridiculed what he termed the "prophets of doom of global warming" in a September 2006 article. (LINK)

Allegre has authored more than 100 scientific articles and written 11 books and received numerous scientific awards including the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society of the United States. He now believes the global warming hysteria is motivated by money. "The ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!" he explained.

I find it ironic that a free market conservative capitalist in the U.S. Senate and a French Socialist scientist both apparently agree that sound science is not what is driving this debate, but greed by those who would use this issue to line their own pockets.

Bravo for the growing scientific dissent. You don't have to believe me. In October, Washington Post Staff Writer Juliet Eilperin conceded the obvious, writing that climate skeptics "appear to be expanding rather than shrinking."

The Washington Post's Eilperin wrote: "In late May, Michael Griffin, administrator of NASA, which conducts considerable amounts of climate research, told National Public Radio that he was not sure climate change was `a problem we must wrestle with" and that it was `rather arrogant' to suggest that the climate we have now represents the best possible set of conditions. Alexander Cockburn, a maverick journalist who leans left on most topics, lambasted the global-warming consensus last spring on the political Web site, arguing that there's no evidence yet that humans are causing the rise in global temperature."

Left-wing Professor David Noble of Canada's York University has joined the growing chorus of disenchanted liberal activists. Noble now believes that the movement has "hyped the global climate issue into an obsession." Noble wrote a May 8 essay entitled "The Corporate Climate Coup" which details how global warming has "hijacked" the environmental left and created a "corporate climate campaign" which has "diverted attention from the radical challenges of the global justice movement." (LINK)

Geologist Peter Sciaky echoes this growing backlash of left-wing activists about global warming. Sciaky, who describes himself as a "liberal and a leftist" wrote on June 9: "I do not know a single geologist who believes that [global warming] is a man-made phenomenon." And finally, world leaders like Czech President Vaclav Klaus and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt have been outspoken in their climate skepticism.

Schmidt said on June 4 that fears of global warming were "hysterical" and "overheated" and called efforts to control the Earth's temperature "idiotic." (LINK) Another EU leader -- Spanish opposition leader Mariano Rajoy - spoke out against climate orthodoxy on October 23. Rajoy said, "No scientist has guaranteed to me what the weather will be like tomorrow" and he then asked "How can anyone know what will happen in the world within 300 years?" (LINK)

Former Vice President Gore's biggest worry is now coming true; previously committed believers in man-made global warming are now converting to skeptics after reviewing the new science.

New scientific findings changing minds

The 60 prominent scientists, many of whom advised the Canadian Prime Minister in the 1990's to ratify Kyoto, became the first to foresee 2007 as the "tipping point" for climate alarm. "Significant [scientific] advances have been made since the [Kyoto] protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary," the 60 scientists wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on April 6, 2006. (LINK)

The climate skeptics have welcomed many scientists from around the world into the fold recently. They include the previously noted Claude Allegre, top Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, Australian mathematician David Evans, Canadian climate expert Tad Murty, Paleoclimatologist Tim Patterson, Geologist Bruno Wiskel, Paleoclimatologist Ian D. Clark, Environmental geochemist Jan Veizer, and Climate scientist Chris de Freitas of New Zealand. (LINK)

And that is just to name a few. Again, please go to EPW.Senate.Gov for the full report and stay tuned for the upcoming blockbuster report detailing the hundreds of scientists who have spoken out recently to denounce man-made global warming fears.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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The country is so focused on solar energy that any one who doesn't support turning the world into a solar array is an anarchist. I fear that by the time our country wakes up it will be too late.

On June 26th 2006 my dog BooBoo died from water intoxication because living on solar energy I was unable to keep him cool. When I began to crunch the numbers I documented the fraud that the environmentalists have perpetrated on the American public. I challenge you to read the information I have put together for you. After you read this, make up your mind for yourself and I urge you to write your legislators.