Monday, January 21, 2008


I think that this is basically nonsense. Food GLUTS will remain the problem, as they have for many decades. But it's an interesting bit of backlash. Sometimes you need one bit of nonsense to counteract another -- as we have seen with the revival of nuclear power as an "answer" to so-called global warming

A WORSENING global food shortage is a problem far more urgent than climate change, top Australian scientists have warned. The Australian Science Media Centre briefing heard why prices for some staple foods had risen by as much as 60 per cent in the past year, and how dramatic price rises are expected to sweep across all staples in the near future.

Executive director of the Australian Farm Institute Mick Keogh said dairy products, grain and poultry had seen the strongest price rises in recent months. Beef and lamb were forecast to follow, with nationwide livestock shortages taking the average price for a cow from $700 a head 12 months ago to $1400 a head going into autumn.

Key speaker at the national science briefing Professor Julian Cribb said the security of our food supply is "the global scientific challenge of our time". The problem was more urgent even than climate change, said Professor Cribb, from the University of Technology in Sydney, because it will get us first . . . through famine and war. "By 2050 we will have to feed the equivalent of 13 billion people at today's levels of nutrition," he said. "This situation brings with it the very real possibility of regional and global instability. Investment in global food stability is now defence spending and requires proportionate priority."

A "knowledge drought" - the lack of innovation to address farm productivity challenges - had added to the crisis, Professor Cribb said. He called for a massive increase in public investment in agricultural research and development.

Farmers face challenges posed by drought, climate change, rising oil prices, erosion and nutrient loss combined with more demand for food stocks and biofuels. Global grain stocks have fallen to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1960, while Australia's sheep flock is at its lowest since the mid-1920s, with about 86 million. In September last year 2007 the Australian Bureau of Statistics found consumers were paying 11.9 per cent more for basic food items than they were two years before. That is almost double the Consumer Price Index rise of 5.9 per cent during the period.


"400 skeptics" report gets into the cartoons

There is a page of anti-Greenie cartoons here with the strip above at the bottom of the page. So the U.S. Senate `Consensus Busters' report of over 400 scientists who recently dissented from the Al Gore/UN IPCC `consensus' on global warming has just crossed a new threshold of cultural impact.

The "Mallard Fillmore" strip appeared on January 13, 2008. The Senate 400 plus report's impact is being felt around the world as it literally redefines the climate change debate. Even readers of the comic pages are now learning about how man-made global warming fears are collapsing.

It is comical that comic strip readers are finding out about the Senate report while viewers of NBC, CBS, ABC, News are all still in the dark, as they have yet to cite the report.

Bear litigation a ploy, say Inuit groups

Environmentalists' lawsuit "is not very constructive, but meant for publicity."

The push by environmentalists to have polar bears declared a threatened species by the U.S. is a cynical ploy that puts politics ahead of science, says Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapariit Kanatami.

Three environmental groups announced last week they would sue the U.S. government for missing its deadline to decide whether polar bears should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. In response, ITK and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference issued a joint press release Jan. 14 that condemns the groups. Simon said environmentalists are "using the polar bear for political reasons against the Bush administration over greenhouse gas emissions, and as Inuit we fundamentally disagree with such tactics."

On Jan. 7 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it needed another 30 days to decide whether polar bears should be classified as "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace USA, said "the science confirms that the polar bear is endangered, but the Bush administration continues to downplay the danger of global warming and delay any action to address the issue."

Dale Hall, director of the USFWS, said the agency needs more time because of the enormous complexity of the problem, and the huge public response - they have received more than 500,000 letters on the matter.

Duane Smith, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, said he'd prefer the USFWS spend another month deliberating than make a hasty decision, "which is why this lawsuit is not very constructive, but meant for publicity."

If polar bears receive the "threatened" designation, they would be the first species to receive endangered species protection due to climate change. Such protection would likely prevent U.S. sport hunters from returning home from Nunavut with a polar bear trophy, and end an industry worth about $2 million each year to Inuit guides.

Smith said the polar bear sport hunt provides much-needed money to some of Nunavut's smallest communities, and allows Inuit to keep their culture alive by supporting dog team owners and distributing meat to the community. "We are able to continue with our culture, enjoy the benefits of what we use, and ensure that this is done in a responsible and sustainable manner."

Simon also defended the management regimes used by Nunavut and other jurisdictions to limit the number of bears hunted.

Last year the Nunavut government flip-flopped when it finally acknowledged that polar bears on the western Hudson Bay were declining in number. Canadian Wildlife Service studies had said this much for years, but Nunavut had long sided with local hunters, who continue to insist there are lots of bears in the area.

Among the information considered by Hall and his scientists is a series of reports prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, which warns that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will die off in the next 50 years due to melting sea ice. If this grim prediction comes true, the only polar bears remaining in the world by 2050 would live in Canada's Arctic archipelago and on the west coast of Greenland. Those in Alaska and Russia, and in much of Nunavut and all of Nunavik, will have perished.

These predictions are based on mathematical projections that assume that, as sea ice melts, polar bears will lose their platform to hunt seals, which is their primary food source. Over time, they predict bears will lose weight, have trouble reproducing, and dwindle in number.

Canadian Wildlife Service researchers working on the western Hudson Bay have already found polar bears matching this description. The bear population in that area has been declining for a number of years - although bears appear to be thriving in an even more southern area, Davis Straight, according to Nunavut researchers.

And some contrary evidence suggests that polar bears may have survived past Arctic thaws. In December, researchers from Iceland and Norway announced they discovered the ancient jaw of a polar bear buried in an island of Svalbard. They say the jaw is at least 100,000 years old - a time before the last ice age, even warmer than the present.

There are believed to be 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears alive today. Two-thirds of them live in Canada. Another side-effect of the "threatened" designation, which is one step below listing polar bears as "endangered," could be the imposition of limits on the development of oil and gas in Alaska.


Statisticians' global warming plea: don't forget about us!

Who doesn't love to read about statistics and statisticians? That's a rhetorical question, my friends, so don't bother answering. But I will allude to an answer, by telling you that I begin the statistics classes that I teach by asking the students whether they'd like to learn a magic trick. They always say yes. It goes like this: Next time you are at a social gathering and somebody introduces themselves to you and asks what you do, say these magic words, "I am a statistician." And.Poof! They will vanish before your eyes! It never fails. So it's not surprising that some of us feel left out from time to time. Which explains why the American Statistical Association (of which I am a member) has issued this statement "endorsing" the conclusions of the IPCC report while also admonishing climatologists to include more statisticians in their work.

The ASA recently convened a meeting of statisticians to ask them how they can be more involved with climate change. The statement was their answer. These sort of meetings do not always go well. The ASA had another such confab back in `95 and invited Chicago high school students to listen to the delights that awaited them if they chose a career in statistics. The lecture was by the distinguished ASA president, who was thorough, as all statisticians are. At the end of his talk, he opened the floor for questions. There was a period of silence when, finally, one brave young man shouted out, "Yeah. Why are you so goofy?" So you can see the danger.

Anyway, except for the blanket political* "endorsement", given only to show that we're willing to play along, the rest of the statement is pretty good, including this, "Over the course of four [IPCC] assessment reports, a small number of statisticians have served as authors or reviewers. Although this involvement is encouraging, it does not represent the full range of statistical expertise available." And this, "Even in the satellite era -- the best observed period in Earth's climate history -- there are significant uncertainties in key observational datasets. Reduction of these uncertainties will be crucial for evaluating and better constraining climate models."

Most importantly, this, "The design and analysis of computer experiments is an area of statistics that is appropriate for aiding the development and use of climate models. Statistically based experimental designs, not currently used in this field, could be more powerful. It is also important to understand how to combine the results of experiments performed with different climate models. Despite their sophistication, climate models remain approximations of a very complex system and systematic model errors must be identified and characterized."

The main thrust is that climate scientists have not done as well as they could quantifying the uncertainty in their models, results, and speculations, and that statisticians should be more frequently consulted, because if we're good at anything, this is it. We're also not too bad at magic.

*Of course it's political, because you cannot simultaneously have a plea for statistical analysis of climate models while at the same time concluding those analyses are proper.


McCain's Costly Tax on Energy

What do John McCain, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pew Center on Climate Change have in common? They have united to support a massive new tax increase on energy - which will raise costs throughout the economy and threaten the vitality of, among others, the oil and automobile industries.

I suspect that many who would be significantly harmed by McCain's wrongheaded tax plan - say, blue-collar workers in Michigan - have never heard of it. The Arizona senator's position on federal tax cuts is better known. Nearly all of his opponents in the presidential campaign have criticized him for voting against both of President Bush's tax-reduction plans.

What is not widely understood is that he is currently sponsoring legislation that, in the name of fighting global warming, would dramatically raise the tax on all carbon-based fuels, including gasoline, home heating oil, coal, and to a lesser extent, natural gas

The proposed bill, co-sponsored with Joe Lieberman, mandates an energy-rationing scheme that all economists acknowledge is equivalent to a broad-based energy tax which is similar to Bill Clinton's 1993 Btu tax proposal. Energy would be taxed through the back door by placing a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that energy-producing companies can emit. It puts a legal limit on the amount of energy that can be drawn from conventional sources such as oil, coal, and natural gas.

McCain's energy tax would kick in whenever an energy-producing company wants to expand its output above the cap. If, for example, a utility company that is bumping up against its emissions cap wants to increase its production of electricity generated from coal, oil, or natural gas, it will have to buy permission to do so by purchasing unused permits from other companies. The same would be true of an oil refiner that wants to increase its output of gasoline or home heating oil, possibly to meet new consumer demand. The purchase price of the permits is a tax, and will have the same effects as a tax on the market; it would raise the price of the energy source, i.e. coal, oil, etc., and therefore, it would likewise raise the costs of all production that relies on those sources, as well as the price of all goods and services that those production processes generate.

The EPA has estimated what the McCain energy tax would mean to consumers. Since the bill's provisions are phased in, the full cost of the tax would not be felt for a number of years. But in a letter to Senator McCain dated July 2007, the EPA estimated that the tax will be about $.26 cents in current dollars per gallon of gasoline by 2030 and $.68 cents per gallon by 2050. For electricity, the EPA estimates that the McCain energy tax would increase individual's electric bills by 22 percent in 2030 and 25 percent in 2050. The effect on the economy of the McCain tax would be similar to any other broad-based tax. In the EPA's own words:

The present value of the cumulative reduction in real GDP for the 2012-2030 period ranges from $660 billion to $2.1 trillion.the cumulative reduction in the present value of real GDP for the 2012-2050 period ranges from about $1.6 trillion to $5.2 trillion.

The real surprise is that in a Republican primary in which Senator McCain's anti-tax credentials are in question, none of his opponents have even mentioned his advocacy of this new broad-based energy tax. I will leave it to political pundits to speculate on the reasons why. But if it is thought that the climate change benefits will be worth these significant new costs on consumers and producers - think again. Over the next 100 years, the CO2 reductions from the tax will result in a temperature change that even its proponents concede, is so small as to be virtually undetectable by current technologies.

Higher energy costs will, among other things, raise the cost of manufacturing big-ticket items in American factories. And higher gas prices will likely raise demand for those classes of automobiles that tend to be manufactured overseas.



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1 comment:

Bird of Paradise said...

Always note that the ones who do most of the yammering about Global Warming(Gore,DiCaprio,Luarie David Reboert Redford Etc)all live in big fancy homes fly in private jets(Travolta has a 707)have their big limos and yatchs and even submarines and no solar panels on their homes