Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The new Australian government and Kyoto: A brief comment

The new Australian government is remarkably conservative for a nominally Leftist government so it is likely that its Leftist moves will be more token than significant. And the resolve of Prime-minister-elect Kevin Rudd to sign the Kyoto treaty is a good example of such tokenism. Australia's emissions of carbon dioxide are already in line with what most of Europe has achieved so the signing will make little difference.

It should also be noted that Rudd will have to get the treaty through the Senate and, in a quirk of Australian politics, he is unlikely to be able to do that until July, 2008. Senate membership does not change until then and the present Senate is conservative-dominated. So Rudd's talk of "immediate" action is just the usual political flim-flam.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper dubs Kyoto accord a mistake at end of Commonwealth summit

Stephen Harper concluded a Commonwealth summit Sunday by bluntly describing the Kyoto accord as a mistake the world must never repeat. The prime minister characterized the landmark climate change deal as a flawed document and served notice that Canada will not support any new international treaty that carries its fatal flaw. Harper said the key error of Kyoto was slapping binding targets on three-dozen countries but not the rest, including some of the world's biggest polluters like the United States, China and India. So Canada will enter key negotiations on a post-Kyoto deal next month with a relatively simple position: all major polluters must be included, or there's no deal.

Harper came under fire from some quarters for promoting that view at the Commonwealth summit but was adamant that the everyone-in approach is the only solution. Harper's stance places the bar for success extremely high at upcoming United Nations talks in Bali, Indonesia, but he said it's better than the incrementalist approach of the past. "This was the Kyoto mistake," Harper told a news conference at the summit's conclusion. "We already did the 'One-third of the countries will take binding targets and let's hope the rest fall into line."' "We're already there. That hasn't worked."

Harper's remarks on Kyoto offer the latest in a series of public stances he has taken on the treaty, which demands six per cent emissions cuts below 1990 levels by 2012. Five years ago he described it as a money-sucking socialist scheme and ridiculed the science of global warming when the previous Liberal government ratified the treaty. More recently, he's simply described its targets as unattainable because of the Liberals' well-documented failure to cut emissions, a view that was reflected in his government's policy-setting throne speech.

On Sunday, he suggested Kyoto was flawed all along. "We already saw Kyoto," he said. "If we get a third of the world to sign on first and wait for the other two-thirds, it's never going to happen."

Harper says he has helped to achieve something that's never been done before: Getting the United States, China and, now, India, to agree to tackle climate change at successive international summits. At the G8, at APEC, and now with India at the Commonwealth, he got the world's biggest economies to agree to the general principle of cutting emissions. Just a few days ago at an Asian summit, India refused to endorse a resolution that called for it to strive toward undefined, so-called "aspirational" goals on greenhouse emissions. But this week, the Indians and the entire 53-member Commonwealth did sign on to such an agreement. Harper was a key player in making that happen, and some other countries were furious at Canada as a result.

To procure India's approval, the Commonwealth had to strip out any reference to binding targets in a resolution that had the support of almost any country. Some foreign diplomats were so disgusted that they sought out Canadian journalists to tell them what their country was doing behind closed doors. One called the Harper approach a perfect recipe for making sure nothing happens.

Canada was among the only countries to oppose a resolution that had called on developed countries to meet binding targets, without making any reference to developing ones like India. The other major holdout, Australia's government led by John Howard, was turfed from office in an election during the summit. Howard's successor, Kevin Rudd, has promised to sign the Kyoto accord immediately upon taking office.....

But the prime minister disputed reports that Canada was isolated at the summit and pointed out that his government helped write the climate change deal that was ultimately adopted. "For the first time in a very long time Canada's voice is being heard. And the consequence of our voice being heard is we're getting the changes we want to see," he said.


UN climate circus rolls in on CO2 cloud

IT HAS been billed as the summit that could help save the planet, but the latest United Nations climate change conference on the paradise island of Bali has itself become a major contributor to global warming. Calculations suggest flying the 15,000 politicians, civil servants, green campaigners and television crews into Indonesia will generate the equivalent of 100,000 tonnes of extra CO2. That is similar to the entire annual emissions of the African state of Chad.

When it was first conceived, only a few thousand politicians civil servants and environmentalists were expected to attend the conference - about normal for such an event. The meeting, which runs from December 3-14, aims to create the framework for a successor to the Kyoto treaty on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, which expires in 2012. However, climate change's growing political importance has led to a surge in interest in the conference, which is being held in the luxury holiday resort of Nusa Dua on Bali's palm-fringed southern coast.

Attendees are expected to include celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, and Al Gore, the former US vice-president. Many are merely "observers" who have no formal role to play in the talks, which largely involve government ministers and officials. Among these observers are 20 MEPs and 18 assistants whose itinerary includes a daytrip to the idyllic fishing and surfing village of Serangan. The UN has also recently received thousands of new registrations from groups campaigning for the environment or fighting against poverty. WWF, one of the largest, is sending more than 32 staff to the meeting. Thousands more are coming from businesses, especially the burgeoning carbon trading sector, which already carries out global transactions worth œ12 billion a year and has an acute interest in the outcome of Bali.

Indonesian officials say the final tally could reach 20,000 - and fear it could stretch the resort's infrastructure to the limit. About 90% of the emissions will be generated by delegates flying thousands of miles to Bali, with the rest coming from the facilities they will be using. Chris Goodall, a carbon emissions expert who did the calculations for The Sunday Times, estimated that each person flying to Bali would, on average, generate the equivalent of 6.48 tonnes of CO2. If 15,000 people attend, this adds up to over 97,000 tonnes of CO2. To this must be added about 13,000 tonnes of CO2 from the conference venue and hotels - a total of 110,000 tonnes. Goodall, author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, said: "One wonders how many people would have gone if the conference had been held in a wet October in Pittsburgh." ....

Three ministers in the British delegation are staying in 330 pounds-a-night suites at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua hotel, each with their own bedroom, living room and dining room. Such apparent luxury is justified, say aides, by their need for somewhere to hold private meetings.

One of the biggest delegations is being assembled by the European Union, which is expected to send Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, and 90 officials. In addition, all 27 EU countries are expected to send separate national delegations. Germany has one of the biggest, with around 70, and France follows close behind with 50. Even Latvia will be represented by four delegates, while Malta, an island populated by 400,000, will have two.


Another comment on the Oppenheimer admissions

Michael Oppenheimer admits consensus skews science: 'Setting aside or minimizing the importance of key structural uncertainties in underlying processes is a frequent outcome of the drive for consensus'

In a Policy Forum article inspired by the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Oppenheimer et al. (2007) write in the 14 September issue of Science that "with the general credibility of the science of climate change established, it is now equally important that policy-makers understand the more extreme possibilities that consensus may exclude or downplay." Why is that? Because, as they continue, "setting aside or minimizing the importance of key structural uncertainties in underlying processes is a frequent outcome of the drive for consensus."

In light of this illuminating admission, we note that the setting aside of key uncertainties in the climate modeling enterprise could well lead to more extreme possibilities at both ends of the climate prognostication spectrum, such that not only may earth's surface air temperature rise somewhat more than is predicted by the current IPCC consensus, it could equally as easily rise somewhat less than that august group has opined. And for the IPCC's current full range prediction of 21st century warming (1.1-6.4øC), somewhat less warming could well turn out to be indistinguishable from no warming at all.

But how could this possibly be? The answer may well be found in the implementation of another important principle enunciated by Oppenheimer et al., i.e., their contention that the basis for quantitative uncertainty estimates "must be broadened [our italics] to give observational, paleoclimatic, or theoretical evidence of poorly understood phenomena comparable weight with evidence from numerical modeling."

As a prime example of important paleoclimatic evidence that has been largely ignored by the IPCC, we cite the stunning results of the many studies we continue to identify and analyze in our Medieval Warm Period Project, where each week we highlight the findings of a different paleoclimatic study that reveals the time domain and various climatic characteristics of this probably warmer-than-present century-scale period of a thousand years ago, when the atmosphere's CO2 concentration was only about 70% of what it is today.

A repeat performance of whatever caused that earlier warm period (it was clearly not a spike in the air's CO2 concentration) may well be what brought about the Little Ice Age-to-Current Warm Period transition; and its possible full or partial reversal some time over the next 93 years could well result in the mean global air temperature in AD 2100 being equal to -- or even less than -- today's mean air temperature.

Likewise, an example of a poorly understood phenomenon of truly huge climatic significance is the means by which small changes in solar activity are able to bring about significant changes in climate. As Lean (2005) describes it, "a major enigma is that general circulation climate models predict an immutable climate in response to decadal solar variability, whereas surface temperatures, cloud cover, drought, rainfall, tropical cyclones, and forest fires show a definite correlation with solar activity."

In a display of open-mindedness uncharacteristic of most climate alarmists, Oppenheimer et al. go on to suggest that "a special team of authors could be instructed to examine the treatment of unlikely but plausible processes," stating that such analyses might even be conducted by "competing teams of experts."

Unfortunately, past findings of the IPCC are already driving massive political and governmental actions throughout the world; and backtracking -- which is what the implementation of Oppenheimer et al.'s suggestions would effectively constitute -- simply cannot be tolerated by those who have invested so much political and economic capital in the reigning climate-change paradigm of CO2-as-global-warming-demon ... unless, of course, people suddenly come to their senses and begin paying attention to all of the pertinent scientific literature, as we attempt to do here at CO2Science.


The grinch who stole Christmas cards

Grade school pupils in Wales have been banned from exchanging cards in the name of saving the planet and its `wretched' Africans.

In recent years, as the festive season draws closer, stories inevitably emerge about how `political correctness has gone mad', with council officers censoring Christmas carols on the grounds of `religious preference', re-branding Christmas `Winterval' and preventing people from hanging up decorations or bringing home-made food to school Christmas parties in the name of `health and safety' (1). But for evidence that environmentalism is now overriding `PC' favourites like multiculturalism and health and safety, look no further than Evan James Primary School in Wales, which has banned Christmas cards - on environmental grounds.

`The reasons for not having cards are endless', head teacher Nicholas Daniels claims. Although one could speculate that a big motivating factor was to remove the crushing burden of handing out the cards from teachers (`We are a big school. We have 68 pupils in two classes in year six. The magnitude of cards is horrendous'), Daniels' argument was explicitly moral. `We did take a strong moral ground on the matter. We knew we would face opposition but we decided to do this on moral and environmental grounds. Cards in school cause litter problems and can become a popularity contest about who gets the most.' (2)

Evan James Primary School pupils are therefore prevented from handing out their own cards on school property. The head teacher at the neighbouring Parc Lewis Primary School has followed suit by discouraging cards and urging parents to `donate one pound (instead of cards) for Oxfam and we will send the money to purchase a goat or mosquito net (for a family in Africa)'. This was explicitly `to help us get the Eco School Gold Award-Green Flag' (3).

School kids are already regularly being fed alarmist stories about the coming climate apocalypse, not least through the dissemination of Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth to all schools, despite its well-understood inaccuracies. Now children are being told that even the simple pleasure of exchanging Christmas cards with their friends is sinful, and re-educated to redirect their desires away from warm human interactions to winning an `Eco School Gold Award-Green Flag'.

If the report earlier this year which suggested that half of children often lose sleep from worrying about climate change is anything to go by (4), rather than lying awake in excitement waiting for Santa Claus, children will be kept up by scary visions of climate catastrophe.

The Welsh schools' policies neatly express the general hectoring, moralising tone of environmentalists, and they show how firmly `green' ideas have taken hold in our public institutions. The message being conveyed here is, first, that regardless of how much pleasure we might get from it, consumption is wasteful, and, second, that it is even morally degenerate, since there is an implicit trade-off between Western consumption and the well-being of the world's poor. So parents are implored help `a family in Africa' instead of buying cards for their own kids.

The idea that it might be possible to expand consumption, and hence improve living conditions, in both the West and the developing world is simply not considered. Rather than being taught that the problems we face are social, and amenable to being overcome through concerted collective action, kids are being taught the reactionary dogma that society has limitations that cannot be transcended. The only way to deal with inequalities is for us Westerners to stop consuming and to donate pittances to the poor (in both senses of the word) Africans.

Imploring us to buy goats or mosquito nets for Africans instead of cards or gifts for each other does not just further a miserabilist attitude to the festive season over here, but a patronising attitude to Africans. As Sadhavi Sharma has pointed out before on spiked, rather than helping fulfil Africans' own aspirations for a developed society where they, too, can enjoy high levels of consumption, these `gifts' reinforce the image of the developing world as just a huge farm and subsistence farming as a `way of life' rather than an undignified activity that no one would engage in out of choice (5). Mosquito nets, too, are, at best, a second-best solution to a malaria pandemic that is killing a million Africans a year (6). If the schools really want to help Africa, why not raise money for the electricity, transport and communications infrastructure that would really lift communities out of grinding poverty?

There is one last twist to the story. One of the `countless reasons' given by Nicholas Daniels for banning cards was that not all children get the same amount'. So handing out cards `can become a popularity contest about who gets the most, with the risk some children could be left out' (7). So now even distributing Christmas cards has a potential `risk' attached to it. But schools cannot shield children from every potential threat to their self-esteem, and nor should they. Children don't all have the same number of friends, but no one is (yet) suggesting that we should ban friendships for fear of a negative impact on the self-esteem of those children who have few friends. Coddled children will never become sufficiently robust to deal with the fact that differences in personality and popularity are simply a fact of life.

It seems, that in the run-up to the festive season, children will just continue to learn all the wrong `facts of life': that consumption is bad, that the `poor little black babies' in Africa need you to sacrifice your Christmas cards so they can have a goat, that the environment poses absolute limits to human development, and that normal human interactions pose a threat to our basic sense of well-being. Merry Christmas, everyone.



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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


1 comment:

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Great blog. Good to see someone in Australia can see through the media hype. I linked to your post here.