Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Message from Viscount Monckton [monckton@mail.com]

Coraggio! My team are quietly working on the very large errors of exaggeration in the IPCC's calculations of climate sensitivity. Even if we can't get our paper published, if our conclusions are objectively true the climate will continue to fail to warm as fast as Hansen (1988) or IPCC (1990) had predicted.

Some excellent recent work by the indefatigable Roger Pielke Jr. has established that the IPCC has had to revise its predictions very sharply downward since 1990. It will have to continue to do so. The world will warm, but very gently, and the additional warmth will be largely beneficial.

Indeed, the only truly alarming prediction of the alarmists - that Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will imminently melt, causing sea level to rise by 20ft - is no longer predicted by the IPCC, which has revised downward its high-end forecast of sea-level rise, from 3ft to less than 2ft, with a best estimate of little more than 1ft, over the whole of the coming century: and, contrary to the daily feeble-minded headlines, the contribution of the two great ice-sheets to that rise will be of the order of two and a half inches over 100 years.

Otherwise, climate will continue to be variable, and every extreme-weather event will be blamed on "global warming", until the cost to taxpayers of the mitigative measures proposed so enthusiastically but so pointlessly by the tax-gobbling and rent-seeking classes so visibly outweighs any conceivable climatic benefit that the voters will no longer tolerate the nonsense.

It will rapidly become evident that, notwithstanding the measures proposed or even adopted in mitigation of "global warming", carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to rise relentlessly, and harmlessly.

Of course, the West will suffer strategic economic damage until the day when the truth dawns on the majority, and much of the climate hysteria is being driven by forces that have long been inimical to the freedom and democracy and sheer bustling success of the West: but, a la larga, as they say in the casino counting-rooms of Puerto Rico, it will all sort itself out.

Kansas locals delve into global warming debate

The article below shows once again how an everyday Joe can have a better grasp of things than a university professor confined inside his own head. And in America, an ordinary Joe can still make a difference.

Too bad the words used in this debate haven't changed, though. Jeff Whitham said the issue boils down to, "do greenhouse gases cause global warming?" Well, implicitly, they must, by definition. Even Fox's Brit Hume, no AGW fan, recently described them as "global warming gases." Words are supposed to assist ideas. Too often they take control. That CO2 causes global warming is a theory, not a definition

Garden City resident Bob Williams learned the magic of dirt from his dad, who was in the seed business. His fascination now has evolved to include Earth science, the environment and now, researching hundreds of topics. His latest obsession -- energy and global warming, in no small part because of the state's denial of Sunflower Electric Power Corp.'s permit request to build two 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants at its Holcomb station.

"I was very upset. I decided I was going to try to understand why. What the reason had been for this permit to be denied," Williams said. "It led me into primary source energy production, and I decided it was something to become impassioned about."

Rod Bremby, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, rejected permits for the plants in October, citing an attorney general's opinion. The attorney general's opinion, issued in September, said he could deny the permit if a particular emission constitutes air pollution and presents a substantial endangerment to the health of persons or to the environment. In a release, Bremby said, "I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health."

The denial now has given Kansas, especially the southwest corner, a personal stake in a national and international debate on energy, global warming and what the country is doing about both. Those in Finney County might identify with Williams. The community speculated for about a decade about the Sunflower expansion, and its announcement in 2005 brought hope to an economy reeling since a Christmas 2000 fire put the county's second-largest employer at the time, ConAgra Beef Co., out of business. Today, the ConAgra plant still sits empty.

Williams, 59, estimates he has spent 500 hours or more in the last six to eight months, or an average of about three to four hours a day, researching climate and energy issues. Included in his information is the 109-page KDHE report detailing the project, its impact and comments from various organizations. He also has a spreadsheet of the about 640 coal plants in the United States and their emissions, eight of which are in Kansas. Of those Kansas coal plants, Sunflower's 360-megawatt Holcomb plant is the newest and cleanest, he notes.

But it doesn't take sifting through the 60 megabytes worth of Sunflower information on Williams' computer to know the debate on global warming is a controversial one. Questions abound -- the most basic of which is whether man-made activity is contributing to global warming, or if it's natural. Answers also abound and vary wildly based on the potential bias of who is providing the information. Some say global warming is the single greatest challenge of this century. Others say it's the single greatest hoax.

Scientists still disagree. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works issued a release Dec. 20, 2007, that said "more than 400 scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced objections to major aspects of the so-called 'consensus' on global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore."

The United Nations' IPCC, a scientific intergovernmental body, often is cited as the authority on climate change. The IPCC was established to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change, according to the IPCC Web site. But Williams didn't need a scientific intergovernmental body to come to his own conclusion. "I believe there's a lot of overreaction," Williams said. "People have really stirred this debate up and been successful about promoting a certain point of view. "The global warming issue is being treated as a catastrophic and eminent threat. You don't have to get very far into researching to find there are scientists out there that take a much more moderate viewpoint about it and the future of our planet."

Bob Kreutzer, who worked to promote the expansion as a part of Kansans for Affordable Energy, said he hasn't researched the issue, but the global warming debate reminds him of Michael Crichton's novel "State of Fear." The book describes the theory that someone can take a particular piece of information and extend it anyway one wished to get a particular outcome, he said. Kreutzer said the global warming debate seems to be "a combination of science and politics, and they make kind of strange bedfellows." "There are large numbers of scientists on both sides of this discussion so it's far from consensus, so it has to be far from scientific fact," Kreutzer said.

He said he questions whether "mankind can reach up there and change the weather. Some say we've always had global warming and global cooling. We've always been in a pattern, and we may or may not understand what that pattern is." Of the global warming debate and how Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," has played a part, Kreutzer said, "I think it has been the main impetus that moved this from a small voice into an international situation. The fact there can be awareness is good. The fact that you can take bits and pieces of information and create a whole new science and a whole new way is disturbing to me."

Williams said he believes there has to be some middle ground, and it's not going to come in the form of cutting off a reliable, affordable source of electricity in coal-burning power plants. One of his ideas is to create a reasonable regulation for carbon dioxide emissions and give existing coal plants a reasonable amount of time in which to comply. "Man with ingenuity and an open mind can solve all the problems we've created," he said.

State Rep. Jeff Whitham, R-Garden City, said he has read a book on the issue of climate change, nearly a dozen articles as well as unverified reports on the Internet, trying to understand the various sides. He said the issue boils down to, "do greenhouse gases cause global warming?" "I don't think we know," Whitham said. "To make the significant decision to build no more coal plants with no more proof than we have about the cause of global warming" seems off, he said. "My concern as I look around and in trying to figure out what's occurring is Sunflower has to have additional power generation to meet the growing demand of businesses and residents in its service area," Whitham said. He said that most agree that wind power will be part of an energy policy, but it's more expensive than coal-generated power and electric rates should be kept in check.

To reasonably meet the country's energy demands, Kreutzer said, all forms need to be included in the mix, from renewable energy in wind to coal, natural gas and nuclear power. "I really believe we need to use all of those resources to optimize the impact on generating cost and availability," he said.

Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller said the cooperative is in the business of producing electricity, not debating climate change. He said Sunflower invested millions of dollars into the denied air permit and worked to meet or exceed all of the requirements and is going to implement the most affordable and reliable technology for its customers. If the United States bans coal-fired plants, but still has 1/3 of all the world's coal, Miller suggests the coal would be mined and sent to countries like China, which has fewer controls on emissions. "So we'll have all the pollution, and none of the jobs or the investment in the community. It doesn't make sense that that should be our policy choice," he said.

Meanwhile, Sunflower's $3.6 billion expansion project sits in the hands of the Kansas Supreme Court and perhaps, the Kansas Legislature, which is in the process of drafting bill language regarding the state's energy policy. Spring is the soonest the Kansas Supreme Court is expected to take up Sunflower's case, Miller said.


And Now, A Bear Market In Oil

A key Democrat wants the polar bear to be declared an endangered species to block offshore oil development in Alaska. The only thing endangered by drilling there is our dependence on foreign oil.

Energy independence rivals weather as the thing everybody talks about but nobody does anything about. Particularly Democrats. President Bush, recently seen asking the Saudis to increase their oil production, is at least trying to do something. Despite signs that polar bears are thriving, photos of them stranded on ice floes are the norm.

His administration plans on Feb. 6 to sell oil drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, an area off the Northwest coast of Alaska. The Chukchi Sea is believed to contain 15 billion barrels of badly needed oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But it's also home to polar bears, and Rep. Ed Markey says "we shouldn't be selling the drilling rights in this important polar bear habitat before deciding how we are going to protect them." The Massachusetts Democrat is chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

He charges that the Interior Department, specifically the Fish and Wildlife Service, is dragging its feet on a request to declare the polar endangered under the Endangered Species Act because of melting polar ice due to global warming.

If oil and gas development in the Chukchi Sea is allowed, Markey claims, "we will be accelerating the day when the polar bear will be extinct."

The alleged harm to local wildlife is what has blocked oil and gas development in the frozen tundra of a small portion of the nearby Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Never mind that three decades of oil production, more than 15 billion barrels, have not rendered the caribou extinct. In fact, they are thriving.

Randall Luthi, director of the Minerals Management Service, which is conducting the oil lease sales, testified at a hearing Thursday that the bear is already adequately protected against harm from oil and gas development under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The lease sales include provisions to mitigate any impact on the bear population, he said.

We suspect Markey and his brethren aren't really interested in that. What they're interested in is shutting down domestic energy production at the same time they give lip service to energy independence. They will use every bogus argument, including global warming and endangered polar bears, to accomplish that.

On Jan. 9, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall postponed a decision on listing the polar bear as endangered. "It's not just making the decision," he said, "it's making it clear and why." More time is needed to examine thousands of comments on the issue, he concluded.

Some of those comments are from Mitch Taylor, a polar bear biologist with the government of Nunavut, a territory in Canada. According to Taylor and contrary to greenie hype, climate change, particularly in the Arctic, is not pushing bears to the brink of extinction. They have and will continue to adapt to their environment. In a 12-page report to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Taylor stated: "No evidence exists that suggests that both bears and the conservation systems that regulate them will not adapt and respond to the new conditions." Taylor emphasized polar bears' adaptability, saying they evolved from grizzlies about 250,000 years ago and developed as a distinct species 125,000 years ago when natural climate change occurred.

Writing in the Toronto Star recently, Taylor opined: "Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or are increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present."

The current population of polar bears is said to be "dwindling" at 22,000 to 25,000. A half-century ago, before SUVs doomed the planet, polar bears numbered only 8,000 to 10,000, according to science writer Theo Richel. They, too, seem to be thriving.

Taylor says that "it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria." It's even sillier to base our energy policy on it.


Environmental control

In the very near future, environmentally conscious Americans may have to ask themselves if individual and economic freedom matters. Even those who accept the apocalyptic narrative of global warming may wonder if government should be permitted to dictate personal behavior and individual choice. How many mandates are enough? How many coercive policies are acceptable?

Then again, maybe any government intrusion is tolerable as long as the cause is laudable. After all, what is one to make of the newest travesty that the California government has inflicted on its oppressed citizens? Next year, state government will likely take over "emergency" powers to control individual thermostats in many houses via a radio-controlled device. Even if you happen to ride a bike to work, compost religiously, recycle and offer carbon dispensations to the altar of Mother Earth, California government - or, more precisely, some pinheads in the energy commission - will still dictate what level of power is acceptable in your abode.

It's been called Orwellian. It is. And the rationalization offered by good-intentioned supporters of these crass controls often goes like this: "Yes, we believe in personal freedom . . . except when it comes to global warming. This is a crisis." Crisis - or the "endless series of hobgoblins," as H.L. Mencken put it - is typically the justification to expand power by any means necessary. It's similar to the rhetoric liberals accuse George Bush of abusing. If you don't know what I mean, try substituting the word "terrorism" for "global warming" when you make the case for CAFE standards that will put you behind the wheel of a fiberglass orb with a lawnmower engine.

Meanwhile, as the market works hard to meet the demand of consumers who want more efficiency, new energies and smart solutions, government uses global warming as a means to further silly ideas - all the time disregarding economic realities and undermining the spirit of the Constitution. Take, for instance, the massive energy bill recently passed by Congress and signed by the president. Brimming with subsidies for flawed energies like ethanol, it also bans the perfectly harmless incandescent light bulb by 2014. The federal government has determined that fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient and a smarter choice for consumers.

Funny, there was a time consumers were allowed to make those decisions for themselves. Now, corporations are free to ignore upgrades or unanticipated technologies while consumers have no choice but to pay $3 a pop for the everlasting gobstopper of light bulbs. And what, one wonders, happens if we find out those fluorescent light bulbs aren't all that was promised? Too bad, I guess.

There is more needless meddling in the works. Nearly every presidential candidate promises "bold" initiatives in the area of energy, which should send shivers down our collective spine. Centralized planning on this scale historically offers nothing more than piecemeal solutions, counterproductive schemes, waste and corruption.

But this is about the environment. So back to my original question: Where is the line? Is there a line anymore? If light bulb bans and government-controlled thermostats are acceptable, why not the rationing of gas? Why not "manage" the times Americans vacation abroad? Why not dictate how many miles a person can live from his or her job? Why not decree that we all use public transportation? Why not mandate that businesses use teleconferencing instead of attending those conventions in the Bahamas or Las Vegas? Why are you living in such a large house? Do you really need all that space?

If freedom doesn't matter, let's do this thing the right way. If it does, let's - at the very least - include the idea in the discussion.


I love plastic bags

Comment from Australia

Is anyone else irritated by the teenage lass at the supermarket showing her disdain when you opt for a free plastic bag over her suggestion of a purchased green bag to ferry home your groceries? Or is the lack of intellectual rigour in the whole debate about plastic bag use annoying you? Of course, it is politically correct not to like them; to front at the shops with a handbag full of crisp green or red or yellow or purple bags to carry your purchases. And it's politically incorrect to argue what I'm about to do here: that perhaps plastic bags might not be the environmental bogie we claim.

But in the absence of cold, hard facts about how people are using plastic bags, and what alternatives they are using to replace them, people who choose to use them should be left alone. And certainly not made to feel bad by someone trying to shame them into buying another green bag.

New Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who his friends would say had a lack-lustre election campaign, hasn't helped the debate by rushing in and demanding all sorts of things. Especially since he is still to receive the report that reviews options to reduce plastic bag litter from a working group set up last year by environment ministers. But until that report brings down a stronger case, those looking down their noses at their neighbours using the bags should read the Productivity Commission's report on the issue. It, in short, suggests policy makers should examine whether other options - such as tougher anti-litter laws - would be more effective than banning plastic bags.

It does this in a weighty report that looks at all sides of the argument. It says that while plastic-bag litter could injure marine wildlife, claims at least 100,000 animals are killed each year are not supported by evidence. It says research commissioned by the Australian Government shows only 0.8 per cent of plastic bags become litter, that plastic bags account for only 2 per cent of all litter items, and about 2 per cent of annual expenditure on cleaning up litter is attributable to plastic bags. Given that, it is fair to ask why asking for a plastic bag at a supermarket now appears a more heinous crime than throwing a cigarette butt out the window of a moving car or dumping picnic wrappers at the beach. And if plastic bags represent only 2 per cent of all litter items, why are they getting all the attention over the other 98 per cent?

Back to the Productivity Commission report, which finds that smaller retailers have signalled they would switch to paper bags if a ban was imposed on plastic bags. But this is what the commission says: "Again, this could lead to unintended environmental costs. For example, the greenhouse gases emitted in producing a paper bag have been estimated to be around five times greater than those from producing a plastic bag."

The issue of what people use instead of plastic bags has been raised elsewhere, too, with suggestions the reduction in use of plastic bags has led to an increase in kitchen tidy bags and bin liners - which use much heavier plastics. That's relevant given some research suggests two-thirds of all plastic bags taken from supermarkets are being used for kitchen rubbish. Those who don't use them in kitchen rubbish could be risking the ire of the water commissioner if they're hosing out their bin too often.

The Productivity Commission makes many other points: that consumers want them or wouldn't use about 4 billion of them each year; that a ban could cost retailers; and that any ban would need to include exemptions on health grounds, to pack meat, for example. The commission closed its report suggesting an investigation into the environmental impacts of plastic-bag litter and consideration of why the big reduction in bag use in recent years had not translated into an environmental improvement.

Banning plastic bags or introducing a tax on them might make Garrett feel warm and fuzzy, but that's not the best way to move forward on policy. What he needs to do is wait until he receives a report from environment ministers, probably in April, investigate those areas suggested by the Productivity Commission and put forward a plan based on facts, not rhetoric. No one doubts plastic bags cause environmental damage - but there are usually two sides to every story. As politically incorrect as it may sound, the bags might not be deserving of the bad wrap they're getting.



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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