Tuesday, November 06, 2007


If the arctic is warming and the antarctic is not, it's hardly GLOBAL warming is it? The IPCC report on the subject has now apparently passed political vetting and a summary of it is below. The article notes the difference between the two poles but does not really try to explain it. But the difference is no great mystery. It is arctic sea-ice that has receded a bit recently. The land-based ice on Greenland appears to be stable or growing, just like the antarctic ice, which is also mostly land-based. So how come THAT difference -- between different parts of the arctic? Easy. Right underneath the sea-ice is the Gakkel ridge, which is showing a high rate of vulcanism at the moment. If you had a volcano under you, you would melt too


The Antarctic will be spared the worst of global warming and its ice mass could even grow, but the Arctic will be devastated by rising temperatures, a major new scientific report will claim. In contrast to earlier fears that ice around the South Pole will suffer widespread melting, the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change says that Antarctica's ice sheets will remain too cold for widespread melting before the end of the century and are expected to get bigger as more snow falls.

The Arctic, by comparison, will suffer widespread loss of sea ice while the Greenland ice sheet will have almost completely disappeared by the end of the century. Up to half of the Arctic tundra will be replaced by forests as temperatures rise by 4degC.

In two weeks the UN panel will publish its final, most authoritative assessment of the impact global warming is having on the planet and how it can be tackled. Its conclusions contrast with fears that Antarctica was already beginning to suffer the effects of climate change, with large chunks of the continental ice shelf breaking off in recent years.

In 2002, the disintegration of Larsen B ice shelf, an area a little smaller than Cornwall, sparked alarm among scientists that the ice was disappearing. Recent research has also shown that the ice - more than a mile thick in places - is thinning out.

The UN panel faces intense criticism from environmental lobbyists who say it is down-playing global warming. Prof David Vaughan, a glacier expert at the British Antarctic Survey, said: "There are a lot of differences from year to year in the Antarctic. Some climate stations show warming and some, like the one at the South Pole, show cooling. The jury is still out on what is going to happen."



The political and literary journal n+1 was the organizer of Tuesday night's panel discussion on environmentalism. Is the environmental movement, like the war on terror, premised on a "politics of fear"? In other words, does it try to unify people by scaring them with threats to their basic survival? That was the provocative thesis advanced by Alex Gourevitch, a doctoral candidate in political theory at Columbia University, at a panel discussion on Tuesday evening at the New York Public Library. He was confronted by vigorous dissent from his fellow panelists and from some members of the audience.

The panel discussion was organized by n+1, a political and literary journal published twice a year, begun in 2004. A. O. Scott, a film critic for The Times, wrote in 2005 that the journal "is explicitly and without embarrassment devoted to the idea that thought can advance." (The journal has attracted a following on Ivy League campuses and has also become a bit of an obsession for the blog Gawker.)

Introducing the panel, Paul Holdengr,ber, who directs public programs at the main branch of the library system, described n+1 as "at times vituperative and never pusillanimous, shrewd, smart and terribly opinionated and giving the opinion of being sure of itself." Benjamin Kunkel, a novelist and co-editor of n+1, who moderated the panel, said that Mr. Gourevitch's "great polemical essay" would be a centerpiece of the journal's next issue.

Mr. Gourevitch explained his thesis: Let's say it: Environmentalism is a politics of fear. It is not a progressive politics. When I say it is a politics of fear, I don't mean that it just deploys hysterical rhetoric or that it exaggerates threats, which I think it does. I mean it in a much deeper sense.

Mr. Gourevitch did not portray himself as a skeptic of climate change, but he argued, "What the science cannot tell you is what our political and social response should be." Science cannot determine whether humans should focus on mitigation or adaptation, he said.

Mr. Gourevitch quoted Al Gore as describing the climate change not only as the most urgent issue of our time, but also as a unique opportunity for current generations to affect the course of history. Mr. Gourevitch summarized this approach as "the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the human need for transcendence."

He added: Environmentalism is not just some politics. It's a political project, a full-bodied ideology, and one that presents itself in terms of progress and aspiration. But when you look at what this ideology is built on, it's built on the idea that a collective threat that makes security the basic principle of politics and makes the struggle for survival the basic and central aim of our social and political life. This, to me, is not a progressive politics at all.

Most provocatively, Mr. Gourevitch compared the environmental movement to the war on terror, which he said relies on a unity based on fear. He continued: What is it that moves us? It's not actually ideals. We're not stirred to action by ideals. We're compelled by the force of circumstances. It's the sheer spur of necessity that drives us forward. What's more, this ostensible politics is really an antipolitics, because the idea is that we should put to one side the conflicts of interest and ideals that are the real cut and thrust of politics.

The other panelists responded to Mr. Gourevitch's arguments. Chad Harbach, the managing editor of n+1, sympathized with some elements of the argument, but disagreed with others. He cited the Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who has often argued that the development of new energy sources, and vast investments in research and technology, have the potential to create wealth and prosperity.


Pathological science

There is such a thing as pathological science. Science becomes unhealthy when its only real question --- "what is true?" --- is sabotaged by vested interests, by ideological Commissars, or even by grant-swinging scientists. Today's Global Warming campaign is endangering real, honest science. Global Warming superstition has become an international power grab, and good science suffers as a result. Freeman Dyson, one of the great physicists alive today, put it plainly enough in his autobiography:
"...all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. ... I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. ... They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in."

When the scientific establishment starts to peddle fraud, we get corrupt science. The Boomer Left came to power in the 1970s harboring a real hatred toward science. They called it "post-modernism," and "deconstructionism" --- and we saw all kinds of damage as a result. Scientific American magazine went so far as to hire a post-modern "journalist" to write for it. John Horgan became famous for writing a book called The End of Science, but never seemed to learn much about real science. It was a shameful episode.

The explosive spread of AIDS occurred when the known evidence about HIV transmission among Gay men was suppressed by the media. The medical science establishment did not speak up. HIV is most easily transmitted through anal intercourse, because the anus bleeds far more easily than the vagina. So one Gay man simply passes blood products straight on to the next. Sexually transmitted plagues have been studied scientifically ever since syphilis arose several centuries ago. We know how to limit their spread, but many Gay men have died as a result of political suppression of scientific medicine. The spread of AIDS was partly a self-inflicted wound.

Pathological science kills people and ruins lives. Such fake science is still peddled by the PC establishment in Europe and America. Global Warming is only the most recent case. Rachel Carson's screed against DDT caused malaria to re-emerge in Africa, killing hundreds of thousands of human beings. Those human-caused disasters have never been discussed honestly in the media, and rarely if ever in science journals. The DDT scandal is still suppressed.

In Britain, much of the alarmism about Mad Cow disease was never justified scientifically. It was pure, math-model-driven science fiction, just like Global Warming. But it was pushed very vigorously by the British science establishment, which has never confessed to its errors, and is therefore likely to make the same ones again. In politicized science, public hysteria actually builds careers; in real science, it tends to ruin careers. Years after the Brits realized that Mad Cow was a false alarm, the French admitted that Oui, Messieurs, we had ze Mad Cow, naturally, but we are not hysterique, comprenez vous? Besides, cow brains are a great delicacy, and one only lives once. Vive la France! Right across the Channel in Britain, farmers were required by law to destroy and bury hundreds of thousands of sheep and cows. It was an economic disaster, and all because of wildly alarmist science.

Britain is even more vulnerable to politicized science than we are, because medicine is controlled by the Left. That is a huge chunk of all science in the age of biomedicine. But the British Medical Journal and even the venerable Lancet are no longer reliable sources. Their political agenda sticks out like a sore thumb. It was The Lancet that published a plainly fraudulent "survey" of Iraqi civilian casualties a few years ago --- the only "survey" ever taken in the middle of a shooting war. As if you can go around shell-shocked neighborhoods with your little clipboard and expect people to tell the truth about their dead and wounded: Saddam taught Iraqis to lie about such things, just to survive, and the internecine fighting of the last several years did not help. The whole farce was just unbelievable, but the prestigious Lancet put the fake survey into the public domain, just as if it were real science. It was a classic agitprop move, worthy of Stalin and Lysenko. But it was not worthy of one the great scientific journals. Many scientists will never trust it again.

Pathological science has erupted most often in the last hundred years in the field of education, where "whole-word reading" fraud undermined the reading abilities of whole generations of American kids. Young adults can no longer tell the difference between "it's" and "its," even though their grandparents learned it in grammar school. The field of education is gullible and fad-prone, and is very unhealthy as a result. That's why new teachers are taught to peddle PC --- ideology is all they have.

Pathological science has erupted in fields like psychology and medicine, but not often in the hard sciences. In physics, Cold Fusion claims were discredited very quickly. Now, Global Warming is a fraud simply because climatology is not a hard science. That's what Freeman Dyson, who knows what physics can do, meant by saying that the models "do not begin to describe the real world that we live in."

The climate is not "just basic physics," as some people claim. Basic physics is great for understanding CO2 in lab jars and planets in space, but it has no complete accounting for a wooden kitchen chair, because wood is far too complex a material. Nobody has a complete physical understanding of wood --- there are too many different cellular layers, molecules, and unknown interactions, all produced by a genetic code that is just beginning to be understood. We only know the genomes for a few plants, and we don't know how their genes are expressed in cells and proteins. So forget about applying basic physics and chemistry to kitchen chairs. Plants and trees are hypercomplex, like the climate.

Modern science fraud seems to come from the Left, which makes it especially weird because the Left claims to be all in favor of science. Marxism itself was a scientific fraud, of course. In 1848 Marx and Engels claimed to have a "scientific" (wissenschaftlich) theory of history. They predicted that communism would first arise in England, because it was the most advanced capitalist nation. (Not) They predicted that centralized planning would work. (Not) They predicted that the peasants and workers would dedicate their lives to the Socialist State, and stop caring about themselves and their families. (Not). They predicted that sovietization would lead to greater economic performance. (Not). And then, when seventy years of Soviet, Chinese, Eastern European, and North Korean history showed Marx's predictions to be wrong, wrong and wrong again, they still claimed to be "scientific." That's pathological science --- fraud masquerading as science.

(Current Marxists are more anti-scientific, because they've finally figured out that the facts don't support them, but they still haven't given up their fantasy life. Millenarian cults never give up, even when the facts go against them.)

Scientists love to cite the historic "martyrs of science" --- like Galileo Galilei, a great genius who was forced late in life to recant his views on the solar system by Pope Leo X. Or Giordano Bruno, who was actually burned at the stake. But the scientific establishment itself can be easily seduced by power, just like the Church was in Galileo's time. Science is just done by human beings. So we get plainly political editorials in magazines like Scientific American and Science. They jumped on Global Warming superstition before the facts were in.

Last year MIT Professor Richard Lindzen published an amazing expose in the Wall Street Journal editorial Page. It is called "Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence." Why are real scientists not speaking up enough against the Global Warming fraud? Well, some have been fired from their jobs, and others are keeping their heads down:
"In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions."

If scientists were totally honest, they would memorialize Trofim Lysenko just like they celebrate Galileo. In some ways, Lysenko's name should be as well-known as Galileo, as a stern warning of what can so easily go wrong. There are wonderful scientists, who must be honest, or they will fail. And then there are some corrupt scientists who are not honest. It's really that simple. Scientists can be demagogues, too. We should not pretend that all are what they should be. They're not. Fortunately, healthy science has all kinds of built-in checks and balances. Pathological science circumvents those.

Some scientists rationalize this corruption of their vocation by saying that people can lie for a good cause. The record shows otherwise. Fraudulent science and science journalism has led to AIDS going out of control; to DDT being banned and malaria gaining a new lease on life in Africa; to decades of famines in Russia; to children being badly mis-educated on such basics as reading and arithmetic; to end endless slew of unjustified health scares, like Mad Cow; and to a worldwide Leftist campaign cynically aiming to gain international power and enormous sums of money, based on a simple, unscientific fraud. When the truth-tellers in society begin to sell out and tell lies for some ideological goal, people end up dying.


Proposed U.S. Climate Bill Will Cost `Hundreds of Billions of Dollars' - Lieberman Concedes

The Lieberman-Warner global warming cap-and-trade bill (S2191) would cost "hundreds of billions of dollars" to the electrical and industrial sectors of the economy, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) conceded today. Senator Lieberman made the remarks during today's Environment & Public Works (EPW) subcommittee markup on the bill. "It's hard to imagine that [Lieberman-Warner] will not cost - over time -- these two sectors (electric power and industrial), hundreds of billions of dollars to comply with the demands of this bill," Senator Lieberman said during the business meeting today.

Senator Lieberman, along with Senator John Warner (R-VA), is the co-author of "America's Climate Security Act." Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the EPW Committee, has already warned that the Lieberman-Warner bill is "real economic pain, for no climate gain." "The Lieberman-Warner bill will burden American families with additional energy costs and significantly harm the United States economy," Senator Inhofe said on October 18. "Senators are going to be asking the American people to pay more for home energy and pay higher prices at the gas pump for no climate benefit," Senator Inhofe added.

Inhofe also noted that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is very skeptical of cap-and-trade legislation. Greenspan wrote in his new book, The Age of Turbulence: "There is no effective way to meaningfully reduce emissions without negatively impacting a large part of an economy," Greenspan wrote. "Net, it is a tax. If the cap is low enough to make a meaningful inroad into CO2 emissions, permits will become expensive and large numbers of companies will experience cost increases that make them less competitive. Jobs will be lost and real incomes of workers constrained." Greenspan has also said: "Cap-and-trade systems or carbon taxes are likely to be popular only until real people lose real jobs as their consequence."

On Thursday, Senator Inhofe criticized the committee process for placing the Lieberman-Warner bill on a fast track. "This does not seem like a good faith attempt to conduct a thorough and collaborative process which is substantive. It seems like a staged process to create a sideshow at [the December UN meeting in] Bali at how far we've come in the U.S. Senate," Senator Inhofe said during today's subcommittee business meeting. "It is just checking the process box," he added.



It's happening, as it was bound to. As everyone in India is busy celebrating Dr Pachauri's share in the climate change Nobel prize team, a preliminary UN report is recommending that India and China accept some emission targets. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said much the same thing in her keynote address at Davos last year, only nobody in India picked up on the significance then.

If policy makers are just tentatively beginning to state this kind of stand, think-tanks and activists in the West have already moved from the 'If' to the 'When' stage, and 'how can we make 'em do it'.

There cannot be any doubt about it. Climate change, as an issue, is most likely to become the next outsourcing backlash, the next big WTO type North-South divide, and eventually the next big anti-globalisation weapon that rich countries can point at developing ones.

And this will be far more of an 'imperialist' threat than any nuclear deal. Right now, the moral ground beneath our feet is shifting, and we're fast on the way to being seen as the 'bad' guys - but we don't seem to realise it.

Think it through. Give up cheap flights, give up the 30 layers of plastic packaging on a biscuit, the wasteful luxury that development brings? Voluntarily return to a poorer way of life? Why would anyone in any country want to? The natural human tendency is to point fingers and say 'Joe's not doing it either'.

Since nobody can make the US budge, or China, they're gonna point fingers at you, the poor garage owner in Jaipur, or you, the first-time air traveller from Chennai on a budget flight. The more this supposed 'threat' to their children's lunches and jobs from India and China is played up, the worse it's going to get. A couple of recent surveys and studies showed that across Europe, climate change is much less of a concern than globalisation.

Unfortunately, in India, even as we're busy patting ourselves on the back about how great we are, the tendency to blindly swallow-yes, I'm going to use that harsh word-any propaganda put out by western authorities, academics, and the media hasnsn't changed since colonial times. Instead, many Indians are now parroting it.

Read between the lines. There is a mass of media reports, public policy statements, studies, polls and reams of discussion put out on climate change in Europe and US. Behind a legitimate concern, there's an underlying current of bias, a clear and present spin that India and China should 'share the blame.'

Now, despite the fact that India's emissions are still a zillion times lower than any developed country's and likely to stay so for years, the argument that no global climate change initiative can work 'unless India and China participate', is accepted conventional wisdom. An assumption that China has forcefully and effectively refused to accept, buying itself that window of 20 or 30 years it needs.

The Indian official viewpoint is perfectly cogent, legitimate, and responsible; we want the rich countries to pay for cleaning up the mess they've made, and we'll try not to make the same mess as we grow. But what's the point if this stand is disseminated to only a handful of government officials? Nobody in the UK, for example, has any idea that in India, we already recycle everything, thrice over.

I haven't, in the reams that's put out in the European media, seen much that puts forward the Indian point of view - yet, in India every word dropped by any westerner makes headlines. A recent study by HSBC internationally showed that Indians are way more concerned about climate change than Europeans; it barely made it to any western media outlet.

Instead, tales of how polluting our vehicles are, how bad the energy efficiency record is, how many more cars and planes are plying, and how emissions will grow to dangerous levels in 2050 are routine. There's no point sounding sad and shocked if the UN puts out recommendations like this.

What Indian activists, authorities and think tanks need to do is recognise the dangers, and counter them. It's critical to go through the data, and all research, every bit of it, for validity. It's critical to do independent research from the Indian standpoint. Buy that little entrepreneur in Ulhasnagar with his diesel generator time until he can prosper, or someone comes up with a clean energy breakthrough, which nobody has so far, anywhere.

And India Inc needs to get into the act, they're going to be hit the hardest, and probably have the best resources to lobby internationally. Here is an issue that does need to be taken up, and our politicians just blather on about the nuclear deal, which might have helped us off this precipice. Oh, well.


Biofuel folly

In a recent Foreign Affairs article, "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor," Runge and co-author Benjamin Senauer noted that growing corn requires large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides and fuel. It contributes to massive soil erosion, and it is the main source, via runoff in the Mississippi River, of a vast "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. (This year the dead zone, expanding with the corn crop, was the third-largest on record.) The article made the switch to corn ethanol sound about as smart as switching from heroin to cystal meth.

Biofuel subsidies might make sense, other critics say, if they favored "cellulosic" ethanol instead-fuel that comes from breaking down the cellulose in the fibrous parts of the plant, such as the corn stalk instead of the kernel. That wouldn't put direct pressure on food prices, and might even reduce them by providing a market for agricultural waste products.

Cellulosic technology is also the key to exploiting such nonfood plants as switchgrass, and it promises an improvement of more than 80 percent in greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional gasoline. But while an experimental cellulosic ethanol plant is now operating in Canada, and several others are being built in this country, most experts say it will take years for the technology to become economically competitive. There are also political realities. "Corn and soybean interests haven't spent 30 years paying campaign bills" for national politicians, says Runge, "to give the game away to grass."

Even if cellulosic ethanol becomes practical, biofuels will provide at best only part of the solution to the problems of global warming and energy supply. That's because biofuels will never match the one thing fossil fuels do brilliantly: concentrating solar energy. A gallon of gasoline represents the power of the sun gathered up and locked away by about 196,000 pounds of plants and animals. To produce all the petroleum, coal and natural gas on earth, it took an entire planet's worth of plants and animals growing and dying over about 700 million years.

Switching to biofuels means getting our energy only from what we can grow in the present day, and that's not much. In the course of a year, an acre of corn yields only as little as 60 gallons of ethanol, after you subtract the fossil fuels used to cultivate, harvest and refine the crop.

So let's flash forward five years. Twice a month you swing by the biofuels station to fill the 25-gallon tank in your sporty flex-fuel econo-car. (Pretend you've kissed the SUV goodbye.) Even this modest level of energy consumption will require a ten-acre farm to keep you on the highway for a year. That might not sound too bad. But there are more than 200 million cars and light trucks on American roads, meaning they would require two billion acres' worth of corn a year (if they actually used only 50 gallons a month). The country has only about 800 million acres of potential farmland.

What if we managed to break out of the corn ethanol trap and instead set aside 100 million acres for high-yielding cellulosic ethanol crops? That's an attractive option to almost everyone outside the corn industry, including such environmental groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council. But it would still produce only about an eighth of the nation's projected energy consumption in 2025, according to a University of Tennessee study.

One other problem with the rush to "greener" fuels is that, despite the biodiversity happy talk, wildlife is already prominent among biofuel victims. Last year, for instance, farmers were protecting about 36 million acres through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which works to restore degraded lands, reduce soil erosion and maintain wildlife habitat. CRP land is what biofuel proponents often have their eyes on when they talk about producing biofuels and biodiversity by growing switchgrass. But farmers look at the bottom line, sizing up the $21 per acre they net with the CRP payment (to take a representative example from southwest Minnesota) against the $174 they can now earn growing corn. And they have begun pulling land out of CRP and putting it back into production.

Other countries are also rapidly surrendering habitat to biofuel. In Indonesia and Malaysia, companies are bulldozing millions of acres of rain forest to produce biodiesel from oil palm, an imported species. The United Nations recently predicted that 98 percent of Indonesia's forests will be destroyed within the next 15 years, partly to grow palm oil. Many of the new plantations will be on the island of Borneo, a mother lode of biological diversity.

Apart from the effect on wildlife, critics say Indonesia's forests are one of the worst places to grow biofuels, because they stand on the world's richest concentration of peat, another nonrenewable fuel. When peat dries out or is burned to make way for a plantation, it releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide. Indonesia, despite its undeveloped economy, already ranks as the world's third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after China and the United States. When you add the peat effect into the equation, according to the conservation group Wetlands International, Indonesian palm oil biodiesel is up to eight times worse for the environment than gasoline.

Oh, and one final irony. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that because of the way U.S. biofuel laws are written, foreign tankers loaded with Indonesian biodiesel can stop briefly at an American port, blend in a splash of regular petroleum diesel and qualify for a U.S. subsidy on every gallon. It's called "splash and dash," because the tankers generally push on to Europe to collect additional subsidies there. All in the name of greener fuels.

None of this means we should give up on biofuels. But we need to stop being dazzled by the word and start looking closely at the realities before blind enthusiasm leads us into economic and environmental catastrophes. We also should not let biofuels distract us from other remedies. Conservation and efficiency improvements may not sound as sexy as biofuels. But they are typically cheaper, faster and better at dealing with the combined problems of global warming and uncertain energy supply. They also call on what used to be the defining American traits of thrift and ingenuity.

And what about Pete Bethune, gallivanting around the planet in his powerboat and telling us it's easy to be environmentally friendly in this newfangled world? I think he must be kidding. Our brief infatuation with biofuels has already taught us, with every high-priced tortilla, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.



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.


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