Saturday, November 24, 2007


An email from Roger Helmer [], Conservative Member of the European Parliament

You may be interested in the letter below which I sent today to the Environment Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Clover:

Dear Charles,

I was surprised to read in your piece in the DT yesterday that "no politician from a British party would side with the flat-earthers" (in your charming phrase) in the climate debate. I am afraid you are wrong. I myself have been campaigning against climate alarmism for some time. Only in April I conducted a major and very successful conference presenting the case against global warming hysteria, here in the European parliament in Brussels. My key-note speaker was former Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby, who shares my view on the issue. I also took the issue to a packed fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in October.

The evidence shows that climate drives CO2 levels, not vice versa. And as an erstwhile mathematician, I know that the climate forcing effect of atmospheric CO2 is not linear, and certainly not exponential (as hinted at in Al Gore's mendacious disaster movie). It is logarithmic. We are already well up the curve, and further increases in CO2 levels will have a marginal effect on climate.

In the eighteenth century William Herschel showed that sunspots drive the price of wheat. We can now explain this phenomenon -- sunspots lead to an increase in the Sun's magnetic field, which reduces the cosmic ray flux in our upper atmosphere and reduces cloud formation, leading to warmer weather, higher crop yields and lower grain prices. Yet now you describe those who recognise that the Sun drives climate as "flat-earthers".

You would do well to read your fellow columnist Jan Moir in today's paper. "I've yet to meet the person, politician or otherwise, who takes carbon emissions seriously". This is my experience. While organisations, companies, political parties and the media buy into climate alarmism at the official level, I am astonished by the large numbers of well-informed people who admit privately that it's nonsense. This is a scare like the Millennium Bug. We shall look back from the cold winters of the 2020s and be astonished at our gullibility.

To be fair, the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph have given a good platform to the other side of the debate. But I am disappointed that you personally seem to see no need to report in a balanced way, but have chosen to act as a cheerleader for the alarmists.


Malcolm B Duncan presents his critical analysis of Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policy Makers released by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change

Both scientific method and the law teach one to be skeptical and base one's conclusions on evidence. Steeped in both, I remain a climate change skeptic in the sense that, save for the effect of CFCs on the ozone layer, I can see no convincing evidence for human induced effects on the climate. By the same token, I remain agnostic on the issue: if there is evidence, I should like to see it. I have asked for it but not seen it. There are quite sensible things we should be doing like promoting our best renewable energy source, the sun. There are good reasons for conserving oil - we're going to need it for plastics not fuel. We can probably solve our water problems by putting some serious money into generating hydrogen from water using solar power and pumping it to where we need water. Then we burn it. Hey presto - water - as much as you want. Obviously research needs to be done into the effects of the energy use but that's what science is for. Using less coal would probably be a good idea but in order to do that we have to work out a way of replacing the revenue. We'll come to that - it's called policy. Pity none of the political parties has it.

Climate changes all the time and the planet is a dynamic system. One significant eruption would change the face of the planet entirely and there is constant production of greenhouse gas through tectonic plate movement particularly in the Pacific rift. Tim Flannery, who I find incredibly unconvincing, lets the cat out of the bag with a diagramme on p 60 of The Weather Makers. He uses ice core samples to determine greenhouse levels over time but, of course, that is only a measure of what is happening at the surface. There has simply not been a sufficient period of time for atmospheric research to show what has been happening in the upper atmosphere over centuries - we simply did not have the capacity until recently to take measurements. That means that the arguments being propounded surrounding "Climate Change" are relatively short-term.

That brings me to the Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policy Makers released by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. Now, I have little or no time for the UN. It strikes me that it is a convenient way for a lot of parasites to make a much better quid than they could at home. It certainly has not brought peace to the world or an end to poverty or suffering. Sometimes, however, it does reasonable science. Let's look at how reasonable this science is. Despite all the rhetoric, as all good science does, this document is hedged with qualifications. First there is the assertion (p 2):

Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores (my emphasis)

Yet the explanation given includes this:

The annual carbon dioxide concentration growth-rate was larger during the last 10 years (1995-2005 average: 1.9 ppm per year) than it has been since the beginning of continuous atmospheric measurements (1960-2005 average 1.4 ppm per year) although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates

That's right: they've only been doing serious continuous measurements since 1960. A footnote says:

Climate Change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

Hmmm, so we're not necessarily talking about human activity as a factor. In the rest of the report, that just gets glossed over and of course it is ignored by every Climate Change nutter activist and journalist who says anything about the issue. In discussing sea levels, the report notes (p 5):

Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.

We know, of course, sea levels change radically over time: East of Eden. The limestone in the Atherton tablelands used to be the Great Barrier Reef etc. Then there's sea ice (p 6):

Antarctic sea ice continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends

You don't read that in the newspapers. On p 8 we get this statement which I find interesting:

Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years. The last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period (about 125,000 years ago) reductions in polar ice volume led to 4 to 6 metres of sea level rise.

I can't help wondering exactly how much coal humans were burning 125,000 years ago. Oh, and its happened before has it? Happens cyclically all the time over long periods. There is no discussion of the effect the deforestation of either the Australian continent or Europe had on the planet although I should have thought, according to the current popular orthodoxy, there would have to be a significant effect from both which would show up in ice core samples if that were a valid methodology. Its one of the reasons I don't think it is. Now, here's the likely bit (p 9):

The observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is very likely due to the combined influences of greenhouse gas increases and stratospheric ozone depletion.

Conveniently, there is no attempt to attribute any percentage to either. Perhaps that's because it's not possible. Then there's the gloom and doom (p 12):

Anthropogenic warming and sea level rises would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized.

It strikes me that there are two points here. First, the idea that the dynamic system adjusts itself over centuries does not fit with a lot of the short-term measurement in the study itself and, secondly, if they're right, we're probably stuffed anyway. In the notes to the diagramme on p 16, there is this gem:

Volcanic aerosols contribute an additional natural forcing but are not included in this figure due to their episodic nature

Don't you love scientific rigour? We'll just leave out a major contributing factor that happens to be natural. Ripper. For all those reasons, I remain unconvinced.


Coffee, tea... eco-guilt?

Virgin Atlantic's attempt to shame its passengers into onboard eco-penance is the latest flight of fancy from a guilt-ridden aviation industry.

Playing on people's guilt is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to charity fundraising. But the airline Virgin Atlantic has taken the concept to the extreme by trying to shame its passengers into donating money to the Swiss-based charity myclimate. If your idea of a holiday is a guilt-free escape from everyday life, then a Virgin Atlantic flight is sure to rid you of that apparently selfish delusion.

Virgin cabin crew have been instructed to offer passengers `carbon offsets' along with the booze, perfume and other items on sale on the in-flight duty free trolleys. As a Virgin spokesman told The Times (London): `If the person sitting next to you chooses to offset their flight, it may prick your conscience and you may pay too.' (1)

Prices of offsets vary according to the distance of the journey and the class you fly in. Using tenuous calculations to assess their passengers' impact on the planet (2), Virgin has figured out how much we must cough up to cleanse the filth generated by our energy-guzzling lifestyles. An economy-class return flight from London to New York will set you back just o11.98. This money will go to myclimate, which supports projects in the field of renewable energies and energy efficiency in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

No, 11.98 pounds is not a lot of money, but that's not the point. Not only does carbon-offsetting resemble a modern form of penance, encouraging us relatively wealthy Westerners to feel guilty about our convenient lifestyles, but the charities that promote offsets apparently have little time for public engagement and activism in order to convince us of their worth. Instead, they opt for simply selling us the feelgood factor.

Moreover, rather than working for genuine global material equality, many carbon-trading organisations only work towards sustainable underdevelopment for Third World residents - effectively, as Brendan O'Neill has argued on spiked, subjecting people in the Third World to `eco-enslavement' (3). So why should we be coerced by Virgin and others into supporting them?

Many airlines now offer carbon-offset options to customers as part of their online booking procedures, but there has been a slow uptake. Apparently, holidaymakers are reluctant to spend more on their travels in order to offset their carbon emissions. Some tourist agencies are trying to get around their customers' impertinence by introducing underhand methods to get them to repent their carbon sins. The tour operator First Choice, for instance, not only donates to the Travel Foundation, a charity that supports sustainable tourism projects around the world, but has also introduced an `opt out' carbon-offset scheme for its customers. Unless they specifically request otherwise, adults pay 1 pound and children 50 pence to offset emissions from their flights. First Choice then matches all donations (4).

Yet Virgin Atlantic's scheme takes the prize, because sitting crammed in an airplane seat, buckled up and with the aisle blocked by a duty-free trolley, there isn't much you can do to avoid the imploring carbon traders. Annoying as those street `charity muggers' are, stopping us on every corner to ask leading, conscience-twisting questions like `Do you care for the elderly?' or `Are you willing to spare two minutes for cancer research?', at least you can easily brush them off. On a plane, there is no escape.

Some of the money donated by Virgin passengers to myclimate will go towards supporting a power plant in India that runs on farming waste such as sugar cane husks. The purpose of this project is to use biomass as a fuel for energy production and to avoid waste materials rotting in the fields, where they release greenhouse gases and pollute the environment (5).

Sounds harmless. Yet biomass is a medieval fuel source and is not suitable for a twenty-first century energy supply. It could be argued that as an intermediary solution for impoverished rural communities, projects such as that run by myclimate make sense. Yet there is no sign that myclimate or other environmental charities would support those communities to move towards the modern forms of energy supplies that we in the West benefit from. In the developed world, we now take things like getting light by the flick of a switch or travelling great distances in a few hours for granted. Why should we feel guilty about this - and worse offset our guilt by donating to charities that seem designed to prevent people in the Third World from having as much as we have?

Flying, once an activity associated with freedom and discovery, and later seen as an immensely practical means of transportation, is now increasingly viewed as a mode of global destruction. Those who take flights are seen as selfish or even sinful and there is an array of campaigns to reduce air travel and to encourage us to make up for our planetary impact by donating money to carbon-offset schemes. By seeking absolution for our eco-sins in this way, the logic goes, we can continue to fly and at the same time silence that niggling thought that we are contributing to climate change. I'm not a Catholic, but I'm beginning to get a sense of what it might feel like to be one.


It's time for all-out war on malaria

Bed-nets are not going to be enough if we're serious about eradicating a disease that kills a million Africans a year. Dreadful to state the obvious but bed nights only protect you at night. Pesky that mosquitoes also bite during the day, isn't it?.

If an accident kills wildlife or people, punishment is meted out and restitution made. A host of regulators, lawyers, judges, activists, journalists and politicians help bring the wrongdoers to justice.

But when it comes to policies and programmes that sicken and kill millions of parents and children a year, these ethics cops and eco-warriors are not just silent. They refuse to hold government agencies and activist groups to the same honesty and accountability standards they apply to for-profit companies. They even oppose programmes that would reduce disease and save lives.

More than two billion people worldwide are at risk of getting malaria, and 350-500million contract it every year, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease kills up to a million African children annually, making it the continent's greatest executioner of children under age five. In Uganda alone, 60million cases of malaria caused 110,000 deaths in 2005 (1). In its Apac District, a person is likely to be bitten 1,560 times a year by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites. The disease also perpetuates poverty (sick people can't work) and increases deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

Controlling and eradicating this serial killer ought to be a global priority. But far too many organisations fail to take sufficient measures, while others actively oppose critically needed interventions.

UNICEF partners with Malaria No More to raise money from donors, distribute educational materials and long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets (LLINs), provide anti-malarial drugs, and save lives. `Sometimes' they organise teams to spray insecticides on the inside walls of houses, to `kill the female mosquito after she feeds on a person' (and frequently infects him or her). Under `some special circumstances', they support treating mosquito-breeding sites, if the larvacides are `environmentally friendly'.

All these interventions will help reduce disease and death tolls. They will garner plaudits from environmental activists. But these limited measures will not result in No More Malaria. Unless and until their programmes include regular use of larvacides and insecticides to control mosquitoes, and DDT in selected cases to keep the flying killers out of houses, UNICEF and MNM will not even come close to reducing malaria cases and deaths to what a moral person would deem tolerable levels: close to zero - not 50 per cent or even 25 per cent of current levels.

Kenya claims widespread distribution of insecticide-treated nets cut malaria deaths in half, in the short run anyway, when regular compliance was monitored. But that means 15,000 people are still dying each year. For Uganda, a 50 per cent reduction via nets would mean 30million cases of malaria and 55,000 deaths. Uganda's Ministry of Health recently studied 410 children who had been given LLINs and instructed in how to use them. Within two to three weeks, 52 per cent of the children were again infected with malaria. `The use of nets relies greatly on behavioral change and compliance, while indoor spraying eliminates that factor and protects everyone in the sprayed house', noted malaria programme director John Rwakimari. And yet misguided aid agencies, radical environmentalists and pseudo ethicists are telling African nations they should be happy with nets, use of limited insecticides `sometimes', and a 50 per cent reduction in malaria cases and deaths - because these activists in malaria-free countries dislike chemicals.

Equally unacceptable, 60 per cent of African child malaria victims are still being `treated' with chloroquine, which no longer kills African plasmodium parasites. The typical justification is that chloroquine is much less expensive than Artemisia-based combination therapies (ACT drugs) that do work. In other words, medical malpractitioners are saying it is better to give millions of children cheap drugs that don't work, and let thousands of them die, than it is to give fewer children more expensive drugs that work, and ensure that they live. By failing to support chemical mosquito killers and repellants, they are also guaranteeing tens of millions of needless malaria cases every year, continued shortfalls of effective medicines, and countless unnecessary deaths.

That is unforgivable, unconscionable and immoral. To achieve moral levels of malaria, countries need comprehensive, integrated programmes that include every weapon in the arsenal. None is appropriate in all places, at all times. But all must be available, so that they can be employed at the proper time and place. That is why the US Agency for International Development, the US President's Malaria Initiative and the World Health Organisation determined that these chemical weapons are vital in the war on malaria, and safe for people and the environment. Larvacides, insecticides and DDT - in conjunction with nets and other interventions - can reduce the number of malaria victims dramatically, and ensure that people who still get malaria can be treated with ACT drugs like Coartem. These truly integrated strategies have enabled South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Zanzibar to largely eradicate malaria.

Uganda, where I just spent a week on an anti-malaria mission, is using larvacides, insecticides, nets and other interventions. It has sprayed 95 per cent of households in the Kabale District (with the pesticide Icon) - and slashed the prevalence of malaria parasites in residents from 30 per cent before spraying to 3 per cent afterwards. Three other districts have also been sprayed, and Uganda's Ministry of Health plans to spray another 15 highly endemic areas in 2008, including the Apac District. In January, it will add DDT to its programme, for indoor residual spraying that will keep at least 70 per cent of mosquitoes from entering homes for up to eight months, with a single application.

Radical environmentalists are trying to stir up opposition to DDT and other spraying programmes, and some people in USAID and WHO continue undermining efforts to utilise chemical interventions. However, Uganda is adamant about ending the needless slaughter of its children and parents. President Yoweri Museveni, director general of health services Sam Zaramba and other leaders know DDT will save lives.

Anti-pesticide activists claim insecticide spraying is not sustainable. They are wrong - on financial, practical, public health and moral grounds. What are not sustainable are nothing-but-nets programmes that require constant monitoring to ensure daily use and moderate success - while raising the risk that mosquitoes will become resistant to pyrethroid pesticides that impregnate the nets, and parasites will become resistant to drugs that by default become the primary weapon in the war on malaria. What are truly not sustainable are unconscionable malaria tolls that result from politically correct policies that are best described as lethal experimentation on African children.


Global Warming's Bottom Line

By Steven Milloy

Sen. Hillary Clinton last week proposed that publicly-owned companies should be required to disclose to shareholders the financial impacts of global warming. Financial reality, however, is already overtaking the financial fantasy of climate alarmists.

The idea behind Sen. Clinton's proposal - and other similar efforts by other Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the environmental advocacy group Ceres, to name a few - is that the alleged environmental consequences of global warming, ranging from drought and wildfires to lawsuits against energy companies and automobile manufacturers, pose significant financial risks that ought to be disclosed to shareholders.

Putting aside that weather-related events can't be tied to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), and that it's the Democrat-supporting environmental advocacy groups that are banging the drum for global warming-related litigation, Sen. Clinton's proposal completely ignores the real climate-related threats to business: the alarmism itself and attendant government regulation.

To illustrate this point, my colleague Tom Borelli and I examined some ongoing climate alarmism-related financial risks faced by the 20-plus corporate members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of corporations and environmental advocacy groups lobbying for global warming regulation. Congress and the state of California, for example, are considering legislation to ban by 2012 the incandescent light bulb, thereby forcing consumers to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Because USCAP member General Electric manufactures CFLs in China, it now faces labor problems with its U.S. employees who make incandescent bulbs. Ironically, GE is working on a more efficient incandescent bulb that is slated to be available by 2010 - just in time to be banned.

Speaking of CFLs, let's not forget the mass tort lawsuit potential against manufacturers and sellers of potentially billions of mercury-containing CFL light bulbs that require special clean-up and disposal procedures.

GE also has a business interest in coal -- a major source of CO2 emissions. The company makes turbines for traditional coal-fired power plants and is developing so-called "Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle" (IGCC) technology - a system for capturing CO2 from coal-fired electricity plants. Although GE needs greenhouse gas regulations to drive growth for IGCC, its entire coal business is threatened by alarmism and regulation that would ban or greatly reduce the use of coal-fired power plants. Recent environmental group pressure caused the cancellation of eight coal-fired power plants that TXU Corp. planned to build. The cancellation caused, in turn, TXU to cancel its orders with GE for steam turbine generators.

USCAP member PepsiCo's bottled water business is also being jeopardized by promotion of global warming alarmism. The mayor of San Francisco recently banned the purchase of bottled water by the city government because plastic bottles sold to U.S. consumers "require about 47 million gallons of oil, the equivalent of one billion pounds of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere." San Francisco is not an isolated case. The mayor of Salt Lake City is urging the U.S. Conference of Mayors to promote tap water as a way to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, if bottled water is bad for the climate, it may be tough for PepsiCo to argue that other drinks in plastic bottles aren't similarly harmful to the climate.

A recent Congressional Budget Office study that found coal production would drop by 40 percent under global warming regulation. You might think that would cause heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar - whose biggest customers include coal mining companies - to think twice before joining USCAP, but you'd be wrong. At least one coal company is now boycotting Caterpillar products because of its participation in USCAP.

Energy-intensive companies like USCAP members Alcoa, Alcan, Dow Chemical and DuPont already disclose in government filings that high-energy prices a near-certain outcome of global warming regulation are a significant business risk. While these companies may plan to offset higher energy prices and even profit by selling any carbon credits given to them for free by Congress as part of a cap-and-trade scheme, there is no guarantee that these companies will attain the favorable legislation they seek.

As the politics of windfall, pork-barrel global warming profits for special business interests become untenable, it is quite possible that Congress may decide to auction the carbon credits instead of giving them away. Companies that counted on free carbon credits may find that auctioned ones are a financial loser.

The corporate failure to disclose the risk of global warming regulation goes beyond USCAP members. Wal-Mart actively promotes the notion that action needs to be taken against global warming, despite the likelihood of high energy prices. The company's disappointing earnings in August 2007, after all, were attributed to an "increase in the cost of living and gas prices" and the fact that "many customers are running out of money towards the end of the month."

High-energy prices will significantly increase the cost of Wal-Mart's operations since it's the largest private user of electricity in the U.S. Each of its 2,074 supercenters uses an average of 1.5 million kilowatts annually - enough as a group to power some small countries. Wal-Mart's fleet of trucks is the second largest and travel a billion miles a year.

The irony in all this, of course, is that many businesses are actually pushing Congress to make global warming-related financial risks come true. Do these companies know something that we don't? Or is this just reckless political correctness? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, shouldn't shareholder be told about the risks related to global warming alarmism?



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


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