Sunday, October 07, 2007


A skeptical email from Otto Wildgruber [] below regarding this report about potential environmental problems with China's huge new dam

I do have problems understanding why a dam increases pollution. So far, I thought that increased releases of pollutants increase pollution.

I do also have problems to understand the remark: "...but its fast flow, now that it is free of silt, is causing erosion". So far, I thought the slope controls the velocity of the water.

Additionally, I have problems to grasp the logic of relating the "Three Gorges Dam" to Chernobyl.

And, finally, I thought moisture penetration and slope are the controlling factors regarding landslides.

Some precedents for a tyranny that is justified by claims of "scientific truth"

Somewhere on the Internet, a t-shirt being sold that shows a picture of Che and, underneath, "Communism killed 100 million people and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." Supporters of space exploration have to accept that the two greatest historic steps towards the stars were made by two of the bloodiest regimes in human history. Why was it that Nazi Germany and the USSR both turned towards rockets? Was it because they wanted to expand humanity's presence in the solar system? If not, then why did they do it?

In both cases it was partly because they lacked the ability to bomb targets in their enemies' homeland. Germany's V-2 program never really got going until after the Luftwaffe had lost the Battle of Britain in 1940. Their inability to dominate the skies over England led Hitler to give von Braun's rocket team a major funding boost. A few years later, Stalin's lack of any effective way to fly atomic bombs across the Atlantic or over the Arctic pushed him, and later Khrushchev, to back Korolev's efforts to build the R-7 ICBM that, fifty years ago, launched the space age.

On a more basic level, what was it about these totalitarian states that made their leaders more open to the idea of rocketry than the leaders of the democracies? The US, for example, could have supported Robert Goddard's endeavors in 1942 and 1943 with far greater enthusiasm than was the case. After all, at that time the allied bomber offensive over Germany was losing aircraft and men at what seemed to be an unsustainable rate.

What distinguished the Nazis and Communists from previous tyrannies was that they did not base their rule on divine right or on tribal loyalty-though these played a role-but on their own interpretation of "scientific truth". The Nazis claimed that racial science, derived from a perverted reading of Darwin, gave them, as the master race, the right to rule or wipe out those they considered inferior. The Communists, basing themselves on Marx as well as on Darwin, claimed that "scientific socialism" gave them the right, as the vanguard of the proletariat, to impose their rule on an unwilling world. The Russian answer to this was to joke that, "Our socialist system cannot really be scientific, since real scientists would have tested it on rats first." ....



Some "Realpolitik" which comes to the reasonable conclusion that adaptation is the only reasonable response to any global warming

Environmental advocates have finally managed to put the issue of global warming at the top of the world's agenda. But the scientific, economic, and political realities may mean that their efforts are too little, too late.

As the world's leaders gather in New York this week to discuss climate change, you're going to hear a lot of well-intentioned talk about how to stop global warming. From the United Nations, Bill Clinton, and even the Bush administration, you'll hear about how certain mechanisms-cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions, carbon taxes, and research and development plans for new energy technologies-can fit into some sort of global emissions reduction agreement to stop climate change. Many of these ideas will be innovative and necessary; some of them will be poorly thought out. But one thing binds them together: They all come much too late.

For understandable reasons, environmental advocates don't like to concede this point. Eager to force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, many of them hype the consequences of climate change-in some cases, well beyond what is supported by the facts-to build political support. Their expensive policy preferences are attractive if they are able to convince voters that if they make economic sacrifices for the environment, they have a reasonable chance of halting, or at least considerably slowing, climate change. But this case is becoming harder, if not impossible, to make.

To be sure, scientific studies and news reports make it clear that climate change is already happening, with greenhouse gas emissions as a significant driver of this change. Arctic ice has now melted sufficiently to open up the fabled Northwest Passage, provoking public jockeying between Russian and Canadian officials over potential oil and gas deposits. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Interior is considering placing polar bears on the endangered species list as a result of global warming. Extreme weather events have become more common, such as flooding in Africa and forest fires in the western United States.

New emissions limits in the United States and other major emitters such as Europe's key economies and Japan may slow the processes driving these events. But the mounting scientific evidence, coupled along with economic and political realities, increasingly suggests that humanity's opportunity to prevent, stop, or reverse the long-term impacts of climate change has slipped away. In fact, while greenhouse gas intensity (emissions per unit of gross domestic product) of both developed and developing economies has decreased significantly over the past decade as a result of greater efficiency measures, overall greenhouse gas emissions have nevertheless continued to rise. That's because as economies grow, they consume more energy and produce more carbon dioxide. And, obviously, each country wants its own economy to grow.

While some might argue that great reductions can be made in greenhouse gas emissions using current technologies (particularly by increasing efficiency), this is still debated within the scientific community. This argument assumes, among other things, that companies replace their current capital stock with the most efficient available today-something that is not likely to occur in the near future even in developed countries due to its considerable cost. For this reason, even if the Bush administration has been slow to publicly admit that human-induced climate change is real, it has been fundamentally right to focus on developing new technologies that might sever the relationship between energy consumption and emissions.

Unfortunately, given the scale and complexity of modern economies and the time required for new technologies to displace older ones, only a stunning technological breakthrough will allow for reductions in emissions that are sufficiently deep to stop climate change. According to Britain's Stern report, stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million-twice pre-industrial levels, a level at which most believe there is already a higher probability of major climate disruptions-would require stopping the global growth in emissions by 2020 and reducing emissions by 2.5 percent per year after that. The longer it takes to stop the growth in emissions, the deeper the eventual cuts need to be.

And while the United States leads the world in investment in new energy technologies, spending nearly $3 billion in 2007, it would be irresponsible for us to count on an energy technology miracle to save the day. Excitement over increasingly "green" business practices is likewise misplaced; companies will do what they need to do to increase their profits and-when the cost is modest-to improve their images. This has reduced emissions and will continue to do so. But without meaningful international agreements that create both unrealistically tight limits and market mechanisms, the cuts will ultimately be marginal rather than decisive.

Without a technological or economic miracle, it would take a political miracle to reach an international agreement that would mandate the necessary emissions cuts to reverse the momentum behind our evolving global climate system. But once again, realities get in the way. The U.S. Congress is too divided to pass legislation sufficiently tough to make a major difference. And although some hope that regional or state-level cap-and trade systems could sharply reduce U.S. emissions in the absence of federal action, this is also unlikely because states face many of the same problems that challenge national governments. First and foremost, any state that imposes emissions limits that are too tight in comparison with its neighbors' are likely to simply export their emissions without it resulting in a major overall reduction.

The international political environment also makes truly significant emissions cuts very unlikely. In 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, developing countries will emit nearly 20 percent more CO2 emissions than developed countries. Indeed, only in China (and perhaps India) would emissions limits or cuts make more of a difference than in the United States. By one estimate, China has already surpassed America in emissions to become the world's leader and, with sustained high growth rates, will open the gap even further. In fact, if China grows at 8 percent for the next nine years, its economy will double in size-and its greenhouse gas emissions can be expected roughly to double as well. Moreover, as China's economy expands, it is turning increasingly to carbon-laden coal for electricity. And although China's energy intensity (energy consumed per unit of economic output) has decreased by nearly 5 percent per year for the last two decades as a result of greater efficiency, it is still nearly seven times that of the United States, according to the World Bank. At this rate, China's growth trajectory could add the equivalent pollution of another present-day United States to the climate system in a little more than a decade.

Dollar-for-dollar, the most efficient way to cut global greenhouse gas emissions would be, in theory, to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to improve China's energy efficiency. But Congress would never support such an approach. After all, which members of Congress would vote to undercut the competitiveness of U.S. companies, especially in the face of a weak domestic economy, public anger over outsourcing, China's currency value, and the U.S. trade deficit with China? More broadly, how long will voters in Europe and Japan, which have done the most to limit emissions, be prepared to make sacrifices for the global climate if they believe they are alone in doing so?

A realistic look at climate change suggests that it is time to change the debate. In 2005, a paper published by the U.N. Environment Program put average global economic losses due to "great weather disasters" at $100 billion per year, and projected that it was increasing at about 6 percent per year-enough to double every twelve years, and to total $2 trillion for the period from 2007 to 2020. Policy makers in the United States and elsewhere must start hedging their bets and prepare us to live in this new world. This emphatically does not mean giving up on efforts to slow climate change, which could still measurably reduce the costs of protecting the people and infrastructure most vulnerable to higher temperatures and new weather patterns. Nor should it suggest that the task of adaptation will be easy or cheap. World leaders will face many of the same dilemmas that complicate the current debate: Developed countries, which have produced most of the human-origin carbon dioxide in the air, will be in the best position to cope with climate change and developing countries will want them to bear a disproportionate financial burden for its consequences.

Still, we do have some of the tools we will need already. International lenders like the World Bank have only begun to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; they need to give greater emphasis to projects that limit developing countries' vulnerabilities to climate change. The scientific community will need to do a much better job of predicting climate impacts at a regional and local scale. Governments will need to support this process, to collect and assess the information that results, and develop their own plans. Riding out the consequences of a warming world will be difficult, and we need to prepare now.


UCLA Study finds Entertainment industry 2nd biggest polluter next to oil industry


From "green carpets" at awards shows to organic fruit served to actors on sets, Hollywood is going all out to promote itself as being environmentally hip. But is it all just show? No amount of public service announcements or celebrities driving hybrid cars can mask the fact that movie and TV production is a gritty industrial operation, consuming enormous amounts of power to feed bright lights, run sophisticated cameras, and feed a cast of thousands. Studios' back lots host cavernous soundstages that must be air-conditioned to counter the heat produced by decades-old lighting technology. Huge manufacturing facilities consume wood, steel, paint and plastic to build sets that are often torn down and tossed out after filming ends.

The energy guzzling continues on the exhibition side, too, with multiplexes drawing millions of kilowatts to power old-school popcorn makers and clunky film projectors that cash-strapped theater owners are reluctant to replace. A two-year study released last year by the UCLA concluded that special effects explosions, idling vehicles and diesel generators make the entertainment industry a major Southern California polluter, second only to the oil industry.


"Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide"

New paper by Dr. Art Robinson, Noah Robinson, & Dr. Willie Soon - Published in journal of American physicians and surgeons. Excerpt:

A review of the research literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the conclusion that increases during the 20th and early 21st centuries have produced no deleterious effects upon Earth's weather and climate. Increased carbon dioxide has, however, markedly increased plant growth.....

There are no experimental data to support the hypothesis that increases in human hydrocarbon use or in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other green house gases are causing or can be expected to cause unfavorable changes in global temperatures, weather, or landscape.


Gore's bonanza

Americans willing to look at the manmade global warming debate with any degree of impartiality and honesty are well aware that those spreading the hysteria have made a lot of money doing so, and stand to gain much more if governments mandate carbon dioxide emissions reductions. In fact, just two months ago, ABC estimated soon-to-be-Nobel Laureate Al Gore's net worth at $100 million, which isn't bad considering that he was supposedly worth about $1 million when he watched George W. Bush get sworn in as president in January 2001. Talk about your get-rich-quick schemes, how'd you like to increase your net worth 10,000 percent in less than seven years?

Fortunately for the world's foremost warm-monger - a term I'd love to see become part of the parlance concerning what, in the long run, will likely be viewed as the greatest con ever perpetrated on the American people - his current wealth represents a mere pittance of what it will be if governments around the world are scared into all of his preposterous recommendations.

With that in mind, Deborah Corey Barnes published a marvelous piece at Human Events Wednesday that would be rather sobering for folks on both sides of the aisle if only a global warming obsessed media would be willing to share the information with the citizenry

More here


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