Thursday, January 03, 2008


"The Skeptical Inquirer" was once a useful publicaltion that debunked magicians, frauds and scientific quacks. It has however now joined the ranks of those it once tried to police -- as police often do. It has become an evangelical promoter of the Warmist religion. See here, for example.

I think it is time therefore that I re-ran an article I wrote about them in 2003 so that readers have some ammo if they encounter supporters of this once creditable publication. What I said then -- that they had abandoned scrutiny of the facts in favour of head-counting -- remains true to this day -- as we see in this article by their leading evangelist of the moment, Dr. Stuart D. Jordan, a retired NASA scientist. Dr Jordan thinks that being in the majority makes what you say correct.

The fact that the organization behind the magazine has recently changed its name and dropped the word "scientific" from it is rare honesty, though. But even Leftists get tired of sailing under false colours eventually, I suppose. I wonder will they next be applying to become a diocese of the Episcopal church? As the second article below shows, they would feel perfectly at home there.

By John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)

It is sad to see a voice of reason fall silent but exactly that seems to have happened over at "The Skeptical Inquirer". They quite rightly say that limitless skepticism leads nowhere. To be precise it leads to solipsism -- doubting everything but your own existence -- but the means they propose to limit skepticism are astounding.

They seem to want to decide scientific truth not on the facts or on the balance of the probabilities but by majority vote! If you had taken a majority vote among the learned men of Galileo's day you would have "discovered" that the sun rotated around the earth. And you would be WRONG!

The example they give is instructive. They say that because 2500 "scientists" signed a document saying that mankind is causing global warming therefore it must be true. No weighting to the degree of expertise of the "scientists" involved is given nor is any account taken of how many of them stand to lose their research grants if the theory is disproven. But above all, no weighting is given to the many discordant FACTS -- such as evidence that global warming is occurring on Mars too. Did mankind cause THAT? Or did solar variability do it? So many might want at this stage to rename them "The Credulous Inquirer".

But it gets worse: There is a 19,200 name long petition here -- signed by "17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees... Signers of this petition so far include 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists..who are especially well qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide on the Earth's atmosphere and climate. ..(and) ..5,017 scientists whose fields of specialization in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and other life sciences"

There have of course been attempts by environmentalist true believers to sabotage the petition drive. However the organisers have, to their credit, made efforts to ensure its validity. "Of the 19,700 signatures that the project has received in total so far, 17,800 have been independently verified and the other 1,900 have not yet been independently verified. Of those signers holding the degree of PhD, 95% have now been independently verified. One name that was sent in by enviro pranksters, Geri Halliwell, PhD, has been eliminated. Several names, such as Perry Mason and Robert Byrd are still on the list even though enviro press reports have ridiculed their identity with the names of famous personalities. They are actual signers. Perry Mason, for example, is a PhD Chemist. "

So even by their own ridiculous "majority rule" criterion, "The Skeptical Inquirer" was showing no skepticism at all.

But it gets worse again: It really looks like they were not credulous but straight-out dishonest in their support for the global warming theory. They depicted their favoured report on global warming as the outcome of a standard scientific peer-review process. As this report from notes, it was nothing of the sort. What was published was a totally distorted version of what the scientists had said:
Frederick Seitz, former president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, claimed that he had "never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer review process than the event that led to this IPCC report." Seitz went on to charge that nearly all of the editorial changes made by the report's lead author, Benjamin Santer, "worked to remove hints of the skepticism with which many scientists regard claims that human activities are having a major impact on climate in general or global warming in particular." Others, including the independent but industry-backed Global Climate Coalition (GCC) went so far as to claim that the report had been "scientifically cleansed" in a political effort to emphasize alarm about global warming while deleting references to uncertainty.

And the second report that the Skeptics quoted also said nothing like what they claim:
"Last week the National Academy of Sciences released a report on climate change, prepared in response to a request from the White House, that was depicted in the press as an implicit endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol... As one of 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asks that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them."

Clearly, the Skeptics have been taken over by Greenie propagandists, with their characteristic disregard for the truth. Sad indeed. I think a lot of people might now want to rename them as "The Dishonest Inquirer".


The above words were written in 2003 and resulted in a short correspondence with the magazine. By 2007 the credulity had deepened -- as we see here. The Skeptics had become evangelists in fact! An average temperature rise of a fraction of one degree across the entire 20th century got them panicked! NO skepticism there whatsoever.

Unhand my patio heater, archbishop

British skeptic Jeremy Clarkson takes on the Church of the Environment in his usual mocking style. I have added as picture of His Grace below so that all readers will understand Clarkson's satirical allusions to beards and eyebrows

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the faithful on Christmas Day that unless human beings abandon our greed, we will be responsible for the death of the planet. Hmm. I'm not sure that I can take a lecture on greed from a man who heads one of the western world's richest institutions. As we huddle under a patio heater to stay warm while having a cigarette in the rain, his bishops are living in palatial splendour with banqueting halls, wondering where to invest the next billion.

And are the churches open at night as shelter for the homeless and the weak? No, they are locked lest someone should decide to redress the inequalities of western society by half-inching a candelabra and fencing it to buy Christmas presents for his kiddies.

Then we must ask how much old Rowan really understands about the implications and causes of global warming. He thinks that taking a holiday in Florida and driving a Range Rover caused the flooding in Tewkesbury this summer. But then he also believes it's possible for a man to walk on water and feed a crowd of 5,000 with nothing more than a couple of sardines.

Hmm. Well here are some facts that Rowan might like to chew on over his fair-trade breakfast cereal. The Alps are enjoying good snowfalls this year, in much the same way that the Alps in New South Wales enjoyed healthy snowfalls last summer. The hurricane season finished a couple of weeks ago and, contrary to all the scaremongering from Al Gore's mates, the number of severe storms, for the second year in a row, was slightly below average.

Closer to home, Britain did not, as was predicted by the BBC's hysterical internet news site, bake this summer under record-breaking temperatures. It was wet and soggy, much like in all the summers of my youth. And the only reason Tewkesbury flooded is because we've all paved our drives and built houses on the flood plains so the rainwater had nowhere else to go apart from Mrs Miggins's front room.

In the light of all this, I would like Rowan Williams to come out from behind his eyebrows and tell us how many people have been killed by greed-induced global warming. Because even the most swivel-eyed lunatic would be hard pressed to claim it's more than a few dozen.

Meanwhile, I reckon the number of people killed over the years by religious wars is around 809m. I tell you this, beardie. Many, many more people have died in the name of God than were killed in the name of Hitler.

Between 1096 and 1270, the Crusades killed about 1.5m. Way more than have been killed by patio heaters and Range Rovers combined. Then there was the 30 years' war, which reduced Europe's population by about 7.5m. And the slaughter is still going on today in Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine and Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was killed by a religious nut, not a homeless polar bear.

We have been told by those of a communist disposition that if we return to a life of sackcloth and potato soup (bishops excepted) and if we meet all the targets laid down by the great scientist John Prescott at Kyoto, then Britain will be a shining beacon to the world. Others will see what we have done and immediately lay down their 4x4s.

Rubbish. America and China and India will ignore our lunacy and our economic suicide and continue to embody the human spirit for self-improvement (or greed, as Rowan calls it).

No matter. Old Rowan will doubtless applaud the move. This is a man who was arrested in the antinuclear protests of the 1980s. Who refused to call the 9/11 terrorists evil and said they had serious moral goals. Who thinks that every single thing bought and sold is "an act of aggression" on the developing world. Who campaigns for gay rights but wouldn't actually appoint a homosexual as a bishop. And who recently said in an interview that America was the bad guy and that Muslims in Britain were like the good Samaritans. In other words, he's a full-on, five-star, paid-up member of the loony left, so anything that prevents the middle classes from having a Range Rover and a patio heater is bound to get his vote.

If, however, he really wants to bring peace and stability to the world, if he really believes Britain can be a force for good and a shining beacon in troubled times, then I urge him to close the Church of England. If we can demonstrate that we can survive without a church - and when you note 750,000 more people went online shopping on Christmas Day than went to church, you could argue we already do - then, who knows, maybe the mullahs and the left-footers will follow suit.

Daft? Not as daft as expecting the government in Beijing to renounce electricity because everyone in Britain has swapped their Range Rover for a mangle.

But better? Well yes. I genuinely believe we are born with a moral compass and we don't need it reset every Sunday morning by some weird-beard communist in a dress. I am, as you may have gathered, completely unreligious, but it doesn't stop me trying to be kind to others, and I'm never completely overwhelmed with a need to murder madmen in pulpits. Slightly overwhelmed sometimes, but never completely.


NY Times tells it readers that Global Warming claims are bogus

Critics are calling it clear evidence that the climate of opinion on alleged global warming is shifting in favor of skeptics, especially since it comes from the New York Times, until now a fervent acolyte of climate change guru Al Gore and his doctrine of ongoing and disastrous climate change.

In his Times column for the first day of the new year, "In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm," columnist John Tierney took a close look at the global warming debate and found that the climate change scenario being peddled by Mr. Gore and his legion of followers is anything but the settled scientific fact they claim, with the sole doubters being the equivalent of those who believe the earth is flat. Tierney, critics say, has nailed the climate alarmists and exposed their propaganda!

Tierney begins his myth shattering column by telling his readers: "I'd like to wish you a happy New Year, but I'm afraid I have a different sort of prediction. You're in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change - and that these images are a mere preview of what's in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet."

Tierney cautions that he cannot be more specific. "I don't know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather."

Noting that "there's bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn't ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah's sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard)."

Those interpreting the weather nowadays, Tierney explains "are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness -- burning fossil fuels."

Tierney recalls that last year British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year's end, however, he writes that "even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record - it was actually lower than any year since 2001 - the BBC confidently proclaimed, '2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.'

"When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed."

He cites claims by Global warming theory promoters that 2005's Hurricane Katrina was supposed to be "a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers." To the contrary, he recalls "when the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm - by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades - the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all)."

Slow warming, he explains "doesn't make for memorable images on television or in people's minds, so activists, journalists and scientists have looked to hurricanes, wild fires and starving polar bears instead. They have used these images to start an "availability cascade," a term coined by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and law at the University of Southern California.

The "availability cascade," Tierney writes, "is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and 'The China Syndrome,' minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy."

Once such a cascade is under way, he adds "it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there's not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting - or why the globe's other pole isn't melting, too."

While Global warming has an impact on both polar regions, he explains, "they're also strongly influenced by regional weather patterns and ocean currents." He cites two studies by NASA and university scientists last year that he reports "concluded that much of the recent melting of Arctic sea ice was related to a cyclical change in ocean currents and winds, but those studies got relatively little attention - and were certainly no match for the images of struggling polar bears so popular with availability entrepreneurs."

Tierney writes that Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, "recently noted the very different reception received last year by two conflicting papers on the link between hurricanes and global warming. He counted 79 news articles about a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and only 3 news articles about one in a far more prestigious journal, Nature.

"Guess which paper jibed with the theory - and image of Katrina - presented by Al Gore 's 'Inconvenient Truth'?"

The answer: "the paper in the more obscure journal, which suggested that global warming is creating more hurricanes. The paper in Nature concluded that global warming has a minimal effect on hurricanes. It was published in December - by coincidence, the same week that Mr. Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize.

Tierney recalls that in his speech accepting the Peace Prize, Gore "didn't dwell on the complexities of the hurricane debate." Nor, did he mention how calm the hurricane season had been in his roundup of the 2007 weather. Instead, Tierney notes, "he alluded somewhat mysteriously to 'stronger storms in the Atlantic and Pacific,' and focused on other kinds of disasters, like 'massive droughts' and 'massive flooding.'

"In the last few months," Mr. Gore said, 'it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter.' But he was being too modest," Tierney says, adding, "Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier."


Why won't Al Gore debate?

When Al Gore ran for U.S. senator from Tennessee he debated - repeatedly. When he ran for president he once more debated frequently. Why is it that as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for his theorizing about global warming Mr. Gore has refused repeated and prominently published challenges to debate this issue with scientists?

Is it possible Al thinks that the Nobel (also awarded to the late Yasser Arafat) makes him morally and scientifically impervious? Or does he believe it would be unbearable for a Nobel Prize winner to lose a debate on the issue for which he was awarded?

Among the more than 400 scientists from all over the world who have challenged our one-time vice president on this issue is Hendrik Tennekes, former research director at the Netherland Royal National Meteorological Institute: "I find the doomsday picture Al Gore is painting - a six-meter sea level rise - 15 times the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change number - entirely without merit. I protest vigorously the idea that the climate reacts like a home heating system to the changed setting of the thermostat. Just turn the dial and the desired temperature will soon be reached."

Then there is environmental scientist David Schnare, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who declared he is skeptical because "conclusions about the cause of the apparent warming stand on the shoulders of incredibly uncertain data." Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, who compiled this report of more than 400 scientists, said: "This report debunks Mr. Gore's claim that the debate is over. The endless claims of a 'consensus' about man-made global warming grow less and less credible every day."

Dr. Nathan Paldor, professor of dynamical meteorology and physical oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noted: "Many of my colleagues with whom I spoke share these views and report on their inability to publish their skepticism in the scientific or public media." At that United Nations Conference in Bali, Indonesia, 100 scientists - 77 of them Ph.D.s - warned the U.N. that attempting to control the Earth's climate is, in their words, "ultimately futile." In an open letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, they questioned the scientific basis for climate fears and the U.N.'s so-called solutions.

"Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity's real and pressing problems," the letter signed by the scientists read. Signatories included: Dr. Anthony Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists; Dr. Reid Bryson, dubbed the "father of meteorology"; MIT atmospheric scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen; U.N. scientist Dr. Vincent Gray of New Zealand; French climatologist Dr. Marcel Leroux of the University Jean Moulin; World authority on sea level Dr. Nils-Axel Morner of Stockholm University; and physicist Dr. Freeman Dyson of Princeton University.

In their letter, the scientists wrote: "It is not possible to stop climate change, a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages. Geological, archaeological, oral and written histories all attest to the dramatic challenges posed to past societies from unanticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, winds and other climatic variables." "In stark contrast to the often repeated assertion that the science of climate change is 'settled,' significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming," the open letter added. "Recent observations of phenomena such as glacial retreats, sea-level rise and the migration of temperature-sensitive species are not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability."

"The U.N. climate conference in Bali had been planned to take the world along a path of severe CO2 restrictions, ignoring the lessons apparent from the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, the chaotic nature of the European CO2 trading market, and the ineffectiveness of other costly initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Balanced cost/benefit analyses provide no support for the introduction of global measures to cap and reduce energy consumption for the purpose of restricting CO2 emissions.

Furthermore, it is irrational to apply the 'precautionary principle' because many scientists recognize that both climate coolings and warmings are realistic possibilities over the medium-term future."

This letter's final paragraph noted the following: "The current U.N. focus on 'fighting climate change,' as illustrated in the Nov. 27 U.N. Development Programme's Human Development Report, is obstructing governments from adapting to the threat of inevitable natural climate changes, whatever forms they may take. National and international planning for such changes is needed, with a focus on helping our most vulnerable citizens adapt to conditions that lie ahead. Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity's real and pressing problems."


Communist-run China has REAL pollution problems

In 2005, there were nearly 1,000 pollution-related protests a week in China, and the numbers have only increased since. The protesters run the social gamut, from impoverished villagers to the urban middle class. The government's response has been similarly varied, ranging from killing and beating protesters to launching investigations into the worst offenders.

Spring 2005: 30,000 villagers overturn buses, beat officials, and burn squad cars after police dismantle barricades set up by elderly protesters on a road to 13 polluting chemical plants.

July 2005: Protesting a pharmaceutical plant, hundreds of residents of the booming factory province Zhejiang riot for three nights. "They are making poisonous chemicals for foreigners that the foreigners don't dare produce in their own countries," a demonstrator tells reporters. "It is better to die now, forcing them out, than to die of a slow suicide."

December 2005: In the fishing village of Dongzhou, police kill up to 30 residents protesting a new coal-fired power plant.

January 2006: During weeklong riots against preferential zoning for chemical and garment factories, 60 Guangdong Province villagers are injured and one—a 13-year-old girl—is killed by police toting automatic weapons and electric batons.

Fall 2006: Villagers from seven Gansu Province towns protest for months against local zinc and iron smelters; half of the 5,000 villagers exhibit high levels of lead in their blood.

June 2007: Up to 20,000 middle-class Chinese congregate outside the city government headquarters in Xiamen to protest a proposed chemical factory. The protesters were alerted by an anonymous cell phone text message (rumored to have been sent by Xiamen University professors and students). The city cracks down on anonymous web posting.

July 2007: Farmers near Mount Emei in Sichuan Province block a highway, demanding $1.1 million in damages from an aluminum company they claim contaminated crops. Ten are injured and five detained when police clear the road.

The emergence of China as a dominant economic power is an epochal event, as significant as the United States' ascendancy after World War II. It is in many ways an astonishment, starting with the ideological about-face that enabled it, the throwing over of Maoist values for plainly capitalist ones starting in the late 1970s. So thorough is the change that the 19-foot-tall portrait of a stolid, potato-faced Mao Zedong that still looms over traffic-choked, commerce-suffused Tiananmen Square looks paradoxical, even startling, in seeming need of an update in which Mao winks—or sobs—in blinking neon. Meanwhile, inside Beijing's Forbidden City, the heart of old China, buildings with such intoxicating names as Hall of Preserved Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity bear signs reading, "Made Possible by the American Express Company." ...

The catch is that China has become not just the world's manufacturer but also its despoiler, on a scale as monumental as its economic expansion. Chinese ecosystems were already dreadfully compromised before the Communist Party took power in 1949, but Mao managed to accelerate their destruction. With one stroke he launched the "backyard furnace" campaign, in which some 90 million peasants became grassroots steel smelters; to fuel the furnaces, villagers cut down a 10th of China's trees in a few months. The steel ultimately proved unusable.

With another stroke, Mao perpetrated the "Kill the Four Pests" campaign, inducing the mass slaughter of millions of sparrows and a subsequent explosion in the locust population. The destruction of forests led to erosion and the spread of deserts, and the locust resurgence prompted a collapse of the nation's grain crop. The result was history's greatest famine, in which 30 to 50 million Chinese died.

Yet the Mao era's ecological devastation pales next to that of China's current industrialization. A fourth of the country is now desert. More than three-fourths of its forests have disappeared. Acid rain falls on a third of China's landmass, tainting soil, water, and food. Excessive use of groundwater has caused land to sink in at least 96 Chinese cities, producing an estimated $12.9 billion in economic losses in Shanghai alone. Each year, uncontrollable underground fires, sometimes triggered by lightning and mining accidents, consume 200 million tons of coal, contributing massively to global warming. A miasma of lead, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other elements of coal-burning and car exhaust hovers over most Chinese cities; of the world's 20 most polluted cities, 16 are Chinese.

The government estimates that 400,000 people die prematurely from respiratory illnesses each year, and health care costs for premature death and disability related to air pollution is estimated at up to 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Four-fifths of the length of China's rivers are too polluted for fish. Half the population—600 or 700 million people—drinks water contaminated with animal and human waste. Into Asia's longest river, the Yangtze, the nation annually dumps a billion tons of untreated sewage; some scientists fear the river will die within a few years. Drained by cities and factories all over northern China, the Yellow River, whose cataclysmic floods earned it a reputation as the world's most dangerous natural feature, now flows to its mouth feebly, if at all. China generates a third of the world's garbage, most of which goes untreated. Meanwhile, roughly 70 percent of the world's discarded computers and electronic equipment ends up in China, where it is scavenged for usable parts and then abandoned, polluting soil and groundwater with toxic metals.

Though government-run and heavily censored, the English-language China Daily has reported that pollution problems caused 50,000 disputes and protests throughout China in 2005. (See "The People's Revolution".) If unchecked, the devastation will not just put an abrupt end to China's economic growth, but, in concert with other environmentally heedless nations (in particular, the United States, India, and Brazil), will cause mortal havoc in societies and ecosystems throughout the world.

The process is already under way. During the Mao era, the People's Liberation Army ritualistically fired shells at the Taiwan-controlled island of Quemoy; now, the mainland spews garbage that floats across the mile-and-a-quarter-wide channel and washes up on Quemoy's beaches at the rate of 800 metric tons a year. Acid rain caused by China's sulfur-dioxide emissions severely damages forests and watersheds in Korea and Japan and impairs air quality in the United States. Every major river system flowing out of China is threatened with one sort of cataclysm or another, including pollution (Amur), damming (Mekong, Salween), diverting (Brahmaputra), and melting of the glacial source (Mekong, Salween, Brahmaputra). The surge in untreated waste and agricultural runoff pouring into the Yellow and China Seas has caused frequent fish die-offs and red-tide outbreaks, and overfishing is endangering many ocean species.

The growing Chinese taste for furs and exotic foods and pets is devastating neighboring countries' populations of gazelles, marmots, foxes, wolves, snow leopards, ibexes, turtles, snakes, egrets, and parrots, while its appetite for shark fin soup is causing drastic declines in shark populations throughout the oceans; according to a study published in Science in March 2007, the absence of the oceans' top predators is causing a resurgence of skates and rays, which are in turn destroying scallop fisheries along America's Eastern Seaboard. China's new predilection for sushi is even pricing Japan out of the market for bluefin tuna. Enthusiasm for traditional Chinese medicine, including its alleged aphrodisiacs, is causing huge declines in populations of hundreds of animals hunted for their organs—including tigers, pangolins, musk deer, sea horses, and sea dragons. Seeking oil, timber, gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, and other natural resources, China is building massive roads, bridges, and dams throughout Africa, often disregarding international environmental and social standards.

Finally, China overtook the United States as the world's leading emitter of CO2 in 2006, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

All this is common knowledge among the scholars and activists who follow Chinese environmental trends. The news, however, has not yet shaken China out of its money-induced euphoria. One indication is that China's 10 percent growth rate takes no account of the environmental devastation the boom has caused. In June 2006, an official at China's State Council said environmental damage (everything from crop loss to health care costs) was costing 10 percent of its gross domestic product— in other words, all of the economy's celebrated growth. Vaclav Smil, a highly respected China scholar at the University of Manitoba, pegs the environmental-damage rate at between 5 and 15 percent, with 7 percent a "solid, defensible figure." Smil says that shorn of hype, China's growth rate is also likely 7 percent, "so basically every year environmental damage wipes out the gdp growth." ....

No sector better illustrates the vast reach and explosive impacts of China's manufacturing dominance than logging. At one end are the consumers in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China itself, who are mostly oblivious to the social and environmental destruction left by the Chinese-made furniture, plywood, moldings, and flooring they buy. At the other end are the wood suppliers, almost all poor countries with weak or corrupt law enforcement and a flourishing trade in illegal lumber. Among China's leading wood importers, Thailand and the Philippines have already been stripped of their natural forests; Indonesia and Burma are projected to lose theirs within a decade. Papua New Guinea's will succumb within 16 years, and the vast forests of the Russian Far East will survive no more than two decades. Even so, Forest Trends, a Washington-based nonprofit, estimates that China's wood imports will probably double over the next decade. Chinese manufacturers are already developing replacement sources in Africa, and South America's forests are under threat for a different reason: China's growing consumption of pork and chicken is fed by soybeans grown on newly cleared Amazonian land; by one estimate, 30 percent of the jungle could eventually be transformed into soybean fields.

Until 1998, China fed its wood mills trees from its own forests. That year, the middle reaches of the Yangtze River swelled with the region's biggest flood in more than 50 years, killing 3,000 people, destroying 5 million homes, and engulfing 52 million acres of land. As winter approached months later, 14 million were still homeless. The land, it turned out, had no defense against erosion left. Lakes and wetlands that once would have absorbed some of the rain had been drained to create farmland, and the forests that once held topsoil in place had been harvested. Torrential rainwater carried the topsoil to the river and then down it, until its bed swelled with new sediment and the floodwater rose above its banks. As a result, China declared a logging ban on what little remained of its old-growth forests. Most environmentalists applauded the ban until they grasped its corollary: Chinese companies began harvesting other countries' trees on an even grander scale.

Half a century ago, the world was much less dusty. Dust, after all, is nothing more than fine particles of soil, in contrast to larger particles known as sand. Many deserts are basins filled with dust and sand held in place by a protective crust of mosses, lichens, and soil bacteria. But modern civilization has exposed the fragility of these crusts as the human population has pushed impoverished migrants and profiteers onto marginal land. As the deserts deteriorate, they expand: Overgrazing of cattle, sheep, and goats causes grasslands to collapse, baring the underlying dust and sand to the mercy of wind. Sand is too heavy to travel more than a few miles, but dust can fly farther than many birds. If a storm system sucks it upward into the troposphere a few miles above the earth, it reaches a conveyor belt of powerful currents that can carry it across oceans and continents.

China now rivals North Africa as the world's leading producer of border-crossing dust. It has always been generously endowed with deserts—including the Gobi, Asia's largest (which China shares with Mongolia), and the forbidding Taklimakan, the world's largest sand dune desert—which cover more than a fourth of Chinese territory. Until recently, when programs to combat desertification began to make some progress, it lost a Rhode Island-sized parcel of land to desert each year.

Dust storms that now debilitate Beijing appear in records from as long ago as the 1200s, but they occurred less than once a year on average then; today they come at least 20 times a year. At their worst, the storms drape Beijing in a yellowish cloak that blots out the sun, shuts down air and road traffic, clogs machinery, and makes seeing across the street nearly impossible. Each year, they blow a million tons of dust through Beijing and several tens of millions of tons as far as the western Pacific Ocean, 7,000 miles away. Dust particles are so small—at most a seventh of the diameter of a human hair—that human lungs are defenseless against them. Frequent inhalation can cause coughing, painful breathing, bronchitis, asthma, permanently decreased lung function, and premature death.

Dust storms also set off ripples of harm. "When dust blows, what you are seeing are nutrients leaving a system—the ability of the soil to support agricultural crops is leaving," says Jayne Belnap, a research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. "So you're setting up a dynamic that causes people to starve or to add more fertilizer to their soil. If they add more fertilizer, then the water becomes eutrophic, and it flows into the ocean and screws that up. It's just this huge hunk of 'uh-oh' on a massive scale. And every time we have an 'uh-oh' in a country, it doesn't matter where, it comes back and hits us."

That became clear in April 2001, when a satellite photograph showed a vast, perfectly coiled cyclonic spiral of white clouds intertwined with brown dust plumes centered over Inner Mongolia. Joseph Prospero, a leading atmospheric researcher at the University of Miami, called it "the most remarkable dust-storm image that I have ever seen." Visibility soon dropped close to zero in Beijing and driving was nearly impossible. Satellites tracked the dust as it moved across eastern China, the Yellow Sea, Korea, the Russian coast from Vladivostok to the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Sea of Japan, and Japan itself. In less than a week, it crossed the Pacific Ocean, and produced thick haze as far east as Denver. High concentrations of dust were found as far away as Maine and Georgia and eventually in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa. Dan Jaffe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington-Bothell, calculated that only a 20th of the storm's dust reached the United States, but that amount, 50,000 metric tons, was two and a half times as much as all U.S. sources typically produce in a day.

For all that, dust storms are merely the most dramatic example of an array of pollutants that Asian winds deliver to other countries. In 2003, Siberian forest fires covered 73,000 square miles, an area larger than North Dakota, and sent up a smoke plume that drove ozone levels above epa limits in Seattle, 5,000 miles away. The fires are assumed to be the work of arsonists intent on supplying Chinese sawmills with logs. A year later, clouds from Asia carried enough industrial pollutants across the Pacific to produce a sudden spike in measurements of mercury, ozone, and carbon monoxide at a monitoring station at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon. Analysis of the pollutants revealed a chemical signature with what Jaffe calls "a very robust China fingerprint."

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