Monday, October 08, 2007

Gore to join Arafat as a Norwegian "peace" nominee

FORMER US vice-president Al Gore is a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced in Norway on Friday. Key Nobel watcher Stein Toennesson, director of the International Peace Research Institute, predicts the climate change campaigner will win the coveted prize.

This year, with world attention fixed on global warming, Mr Toennesson said giving a joint prize to Mr Gore and Canadian Inuit environmental activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier might be an appealing choice for the prize committee. "It would have to do with climate change and it would be a prize that included both a man and a woman," he said.

Another possibility would be to give the prize to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, he said. Others mentioned include Finnish peace mediator Martti Ahtisaari, and activists Lida Yusupova from Russia and Rebiya Kadeer from China.

The peace award is announced in Oslo. The other prizes - medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics - are announced in Stockholm. [Not just announced: Awarded. The Norwegian awards were NOT instituted by Alfed Nobel]


An Inconvenient Expert

MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen is pushing a controversial idea: that mankind isn't to blame for global warming and that Al Gore's apocalypic warnings are mostly hot air. Right or wrong, why do so many people think he should be silenced?

WITH HIS BEARD and tweedy jacket, Richard Lindzen looks like a cheerful physics professor from the fifties, inspiring nostalgia for the age of space exploration and other grand, forward-looking American endeavors. On a cold March evening in New London, Connecticut, the 67-year-old atmospheric scientist from MIT is trying to serve up a little optimism about the gloomiest topic of our time: global warming.

Optimism? Yeah, as in: Don't worry about a thing. Just now, Lindzen is scoffing at the widely accepted view that CO2 buildup is to blame for the heat waves, prolonged droughts, and intense hurricanes that the U.S. and other countries have experienced in recent years. At a time when much of the nation's political, intellectual, and business leadership accepts the idea that people are the cause of global warming, Lindzen loudly disagrees. "All scientific issues-and this is no different-are difficult to understand," he tells a group of cadets and locals assembled in an auditorium at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. "Extreme weather events are always present. There's no evidence it's getting better, or worse, or changing."

Lindzen's relaxed delivery gives the audience a comfortable sense that they, like him, are smart enough to question the pronouncements of nervous scientists and high-octane advocates like Al Gore. Skepticism is a good idea, he says, since so many people who sound off about global warming don't bother to read the documents that supposedly forecast climate apocalypse. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, if you read it-and no one does ..." he says, and that phrase alone prompts laughter.

This ability to put people at ease helps explain why, after nearly two decades of effort, Lindzen has achieved exalted status among the current crop of global-warming doubters. He has personally briefed President Bush's top science adviser on climate change and is very popular with senior GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He publishes opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal and speaks publicly several times a month, both in the U.S. and abroad. With so many Americans searching for answers on climate change, an endowed MIT professor with pithy quotes offers a level of assurance that few can rival.

In doing so, however, Lindzen is challenging the scientific establishment, which tends to sing in scary harmony about this issue. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international scientific body, 2,500 researchers strong, that weighs in on the planet's climate health every five years or so. Earlier this year, the IPCC rolled out a series of three massive documents asserting that global warming is an established fact and outlining where it all will lead.

The reports maintain that there's more than a 90 percent chance that human activity-primarily the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in increased levels of atmospheric CO2-is responsible for the earth's recent warming, which amounts to a 1.2-degree-Fahrenheit rise in global mean temperature over the past 100 years. Noting that the current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is higher than it's been in the past 650,000 years, the IPCC predicts that human-induced climate change could spell extinction for 20 to 30 percent of the world's species by the end of this century, cause increasingly destructive weather patterns, and flood coastal cities.

Lindzen doesn't dispute that the planet has warmed up in the past three decades, but he argues that human-generated CO2 accounts for no more than 30 percent of this temperature rise. Much of the warming, he says, stems from fluctuations in temperature that have occurred for millions of years-explained by complicated natural changes in equilibrium between the oceans and the atmosphere-and the latest period of warming will not result in catastrophe.

Whether such arguments are true, false, or nuts, they seem to make an impression on the Coast Guard crowd. Edward Hug, a Massachusetts retiree who came to hear Lindzen speak, is exactly the kind of person the professor wants to sway. Hug, who used to work in underwater acoustics for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, says he's been diligently trying to educate himself about global warming.

"I've seen Al Gore's film twice, but I've also read Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which makes a compelling case on the other side," says Hug, referring to the controversial 2004 novel in which Crichton-using scientific arguments that were hotly challenged by critics-ridiculed the global-warming consensus as the work of conspiratorial alarmists.

Hug sees the IPCC as "the closest thing to a gold standard when it comes to science," but he still wants to know whether Americans have to change their lifestyles radically in order to save the planet. "The question is," he said earlier as he settled in to hear Lindzen, "is it worth making the sacrifice?"

By evening's end, he decides to join the skeptical camp. "I find him very convincing," Hug says of Lindzen, recalling how he invoked scientific data and theories to buttress his points. "He's just as good as Michael Crichton."

Much more here


Rachel Carson opened Silent Spring, her 1962 polemic against chemical pesticides, with a terrible prophecy: "Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth." She proceeded to narrate a "Fable for Tomorrow," describing a bucolic American town "where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings." The nearby farms flourished, the foxes barked, and the birds sang in a kind of pastoral Eden. "Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community." Cattle died. Children died. And the birds stopped singing. It was a silent spring.

The moral of the story was obvious: Apocalypse was imminent unless humankind stopped violating nature. And so it came to pass that the environmental movement's highest priority would be to limit our contamination of the world around us. This "pollution paradigm" worked well enough--for a time. Regulatory legislation of the 1960s and '70s cleaned up our lakes and rivers and greatly reduced smog in our cities. In the 1990s, it dealt with acid rain and phased out ozone-depleting chemicals. Given these successes, it's not surprising that environmental leaders have seen global warming, which is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, as, essentially, a very big pollution problem.

In the summer of 2006, Carson was resurrected in the form of Al Gore, whose documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, began with images of power plants belching pollution and ended with scenes from the apocalypse: hurricanes, floods, and droughts. In case viewers missed the point, Gore observed, "It was almost like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation." And he warned, "It's human nature to take time. But there will also be a day of reckoning." This narrative had dominated environmental thought for so long that few of us who grew up hearing it ever thought much about it. Nor have many of us questioned what appears to be the obvious solution to global warming: limits on pollution, especially carbon emissions.

The problem is that global warming is as different from smog in Los Angeles as nuclear war is from gang violence. The quantitative accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has created something qualitatively different from the pollution problems of old: changing temperatures, which may lead to acute droughts, new disease epidemics, and even wars over resources like water. While dealing with smog and acid rain required relatively simple and inexpensive technical fixes--such as catalytic converters on cars and scrubbers on power plants--oil and coal are central to the functioning of the economy, and their replacements remain far more expensive.

Nor should we want to dramatically curtail energy consumption. Increasing energy use is the primary cause of global warming, but it is also a primary cause of rising prosperity, longer life spans, better medical treatment, and greater personal and political freedom. Environmentalists can rail against consumption and counsel sacrifice all they want, but neither poor countries like China nor rich countries like the United States are going to dramatically reduce their emissions if doing so slows economic growth. Given this, the challenge we face as a species is to roughly double global energy production by mid-century while simultaneously cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half worldwide (and about 80 percent in the United States), so that we can avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

How could such a massive undertaking be achieved? Not, as environmental leaders insist, by limiting human power but rather by unleashing it. In terms of birthing a new energy economy, regulation is important--it's just not the most important thing. The highest objective of anyone concerned about global warming must be to bring down the real price of clean energy below the price of dirty energy as quickly as possible--most importantly, in places like China. And, for that to happen, we'll need a new paradigm centered on technological innovation and economic opportunity, not on nature preservation and ecological limits. [...]

To be sure, the effort to reduce and stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions will require a major regulatory effort to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules, provide a stable investment environment for nations and businesses, and increase the cost of fossil fuels relative to cleaner energy sources. But the conventional wisdom today about global warming is backwards. Environmentalism is not the solution to the crisis of global warming. Instead, global warming is driving environmentalism to evolve into something else.


Fallacies about Global Warming

By Climate researcher John McLean. Excerpt:

It is utterly bizarre that, in face of this reality, public funding of many billions of dollars is still being provided for climate change research. It is even more bizarre that most governments, urged on by environmental NGSs and other self-interested parties, have either already introduced carbon taxation or trading systems (Europe; some groups of US States), or have indicated a firm intention to do so (Australia).

At its most basic, if scientists cannot be sure that temperatures are today rising, nor establish that the gentle late 20th century warming was caused by CO2 emissions, then it is nonsense to propose that expensive controls are needed on human carbon dioxide emissions.

Even more alarming still is the self-sustaining nature of the IPCC and its alarmist claims. The IPCC reports determine the direction of climate research and its funding, which ultimately leads to the number of scientific papers which take a particular line, and the dominance of that line of thinking is expressed in the subsequent IPCC report. The process is one of strong positive feedback for alarmist science advice.


Astrophysicist Dr. Howard Greyber calls warming fears `unwarranted hysteria'

Smacks down International Herald Tribune for warming hysteria (in published Letter to Editor). Excerpt:

Science and global warming: When Thomas Friedman touts carbon dioxide as the cause of global warming in his column "Doha and Dalian" (Sept. 20), I respond as a physicist that he cannot comprehend that it is still not proven that carbon dioxide emissions actually are causing global warming.

Correlation does not prove Causation. The Earth's climate changes all the time. Did carbon dioxide emissions cause the Medieval Warm Period, when Vikings raised crops on Greenland's coast? What caused the cold climate from 1700 to 1850? In 1975, articles were published predicting we were entering a New Ice Age.

Reputable scientists oppose this unwarranted alarmist hysteria. If fanatic leftists who hate America's progressive capitalistic system had not opposed the building of nuclear power plants by wild allegations and interminable lawsuits, the United States could have built dozens of safe, modern reactors. These provide plentiful, reliable energy and, incidentally, emit zero carbon dioxide.

Understanding climate change is an extremely difficult scientific problem. Giant computers generating climate models cannot be trusted so far. As any computer person knows, garbage in means garbage out. If research suggests subtle variations in our Sun's radiation reaching Earth are causing global climate change, what would Friedman recommend?



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