Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Australia recently had one of its recurrent doughts, though it was only really bad for about a year. The Australian public were told at the time by all sorts of wise-sounding people that it was all because of global warming -- quite ignoring the fact that Australia's worst recorded drought was around 1901, long before most of the industrial activities that Greenies identify as "causing" global warming.

For about a year now, however, Australia has been affected by more and more flooding. Dam levels have approximately doubled in many places. It rains just about every day where I am. I was moved to write this by one of our many sudden downpours, in fact. The rain has finally been enough to stop the talk of drought (which went on for some time after the floods began) but there has not been a PEEP of a suggestion in the media to say that the floods might indicate global cooling -- DESPITE the fact that the world HAS cooled recently and despite the fact that the cooling has coincided with a period of reduced activity on the sun, which could explain the cooling. So we have a new form of "logic": Drought is caused by warming but floods are not caused by cooling.

Background: I have noted here some of the many stories about disastrously cold Northern Hemisphere winters that have been appearing recently and they are very regularly noted on Astute Bloggers. One episode that I have not seen mentioned came to me in an email recently. A reader told me that earlier this month Baku (Azerbaijan) had it's coldest night for 75 years (-8.6C). There is also a report just in from China saying that China has had one-tenth of its forest resources wrecked by snow damage. And last Southern Hemisphere winter was exceptionally cold too -- particularly in Argentina.

The supposed connection between warming and drought always was a huge stretch. Warming should cause the seas to evaporate more and thus cause more rain to fall. So in a way the Greenies should be rejoicing at the current flooding. The flooding really COULD be a sign of warming. But it seems that even the Greenies are too embarrassed to turn around and march in the opposite direction straight away. No doubt they fear the ridicule that would attract. It's rather a delightful form of justice, actually. It shows how their own dishonesty ultimately defeats them

In truth, of course, Australia's cycles of drought and flood will go on as they always have. As one of Australia's best-loved poems (first published in 1908) reads:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

Leaky Jonathan is dribbling again

Below is an old and hilarious claim about James Hansen -- that the world's most vocal and visible scientific panic-merchant was ever "silenced". But it is the sort of reporting we expect from Jonathan Leake. There is an earlier example of Leake's deliberate deception on climate matters here. Hansen is a NASA employee and the truth of the "censorship" matter is as follows:

In 2006, Hansen accused the Bush Administration of attempting to censor him. The issue stemmed from an email sent by a 23-year old NASA public affairs intern. It warned Hansen over repeated violations of NASA's official press policy, which requires the agency be notified prior to interviews. Hansen claimed he was being "silenced," despite delivering over 1,400 interviews in recent years, including 15 the very month he made the claim. While he admits to violating the NASA press policy, Hansen states he had a "constitutional right" to grant interviews.

Now for Leake's dribble:
Jim Hansen has long been a thorn in the side of the White House. Now he has a stark warning for Britain. The trap was sprung in February 2006. The White House ordered that Dr Jim Hansen was to be denied the oxygen of publicity forthwith. He was to be banned from appearing in newspapers and on TV and radio. He was effectively to disappear. It was the kind of treatment that might be reserved for terrorists, criminals or, in a totalitarian regime, for political dissidents.

Hansen, however, was none of these things. The director of Nasa's renowned Goddard space science laboratories was a dry, rather self-effacing climate change scientist with a worldwide reputation for accurate and high-quality research. What had happened? "All I had done was to give a talk to the American Geophysical Union, setting out how 2005 had been the warmest year on record," recalled Hansen, in a visit to London last week. "But someone at Nasa got a call right from the top, from the White House. They were very annoyed."

It was not quite all he had done. Hansen had also e-mailed a transcript of the talk to a raft of reporters before he spoke. "I did make sure it hit the headlines," he recalls modestly. In his talk he declared that humanity, especially Americans and Europeans, were burning fossil fuels so fast that they risked transforming Earth into "a different planet".

Government scientists were not supposed to say things like that. Shortly afterwards the head of Nasa's public affairs office, one of George Bush's political appointees, banned Hansen from speaking to the media. "Then they also forced us to remove all our data about the latest temperature rises from the website," says Hansen. "I realised they really were going to stop me communicating." It looked like a classic case of a naive scientist being ruthlessly crushed by a government machine.

In reality, however, it was Hansen who laid the trap - and the Bush administration that got caught. A few more calls to the media and soon the story of the lone scientist gagged by the mighty Bush administration hit the front pages all over the world, carrying Hansen's warning about climate change with it once again.

More here

The once fact-oriented National Geographic now treats theories as facts

Remember when tornadoes used to be something that just happened along about April and we waited for that first 70-degree day in May? Now we have terrible twisters in January and February and 70-degree days to boot. Is it global warming? Who knows at this stage, but something weird is happening. Those huge swings in temperatures are dramatic, but just a little change in the average readings for the planet could cause havoc, as a National Geographic Channel documentary shows tomorrow night.

Tired of hearing about global warming? Just consider the facts laid out in "Six Degrees Could Change the World" at 8 tomorrow night. It's narrated by Alec Baldwin and is based on a book of the same name by National Geographic author Mark Lynas. Here's a summary of what it says.

Think about moving to Northern Canada. Severe droughts are going to increase in the Western United States with just a one-degree rise in temperature. We may not be able to raise grain and meat in places that are going to become deserts from Texas to the Canadian border. At a two-degree rise, most of the world's coral reefs would vanish. That's an early warning of worse things to come.

A three-degree hike would cause the Amazon rain forest, which the whole planet depends upon, to erupt into drought-and-fire cycles. Summers would be close to unbearable. The weather service would have to develop a new classification for hurricanes, moving up to a Category 6 level.

At a four-degree increase, the frozen reaches of Northern Canada would enjoy weather like what we have now in this area. We don't want to think about what it would be like here. Melting glaciers would cause rising sea levels. Add another degree and U.S. coastal cities such as New York would be mostly underwater.

With just a six-degree rise, the oceans would die. Deserts would reclaim much of the planet, and Earth would revert to the dinosaur era, when the globe was a big steam bath.

If you have a 10-year-old child, some of this could happen about the time that he or she is 50. So can it be stopped or at least slowed down? There is a lot that people can do, but the experts agree it will take a global governmental commitment to seriously change much, not to mention politicians with enough backbone to pass laws to make it happen. Either that or start thinking up some good answers for when your grandchildren ask why we let this happen.



Climate change may be a top issue in the minds of California voters, but so far it's played only a cameo role in this year's presidential race. The League of Conservation Voters has been tracking the number of questions asked of the presidential candidates on the Sunday news shows and the debates televised by the major networks. Of the more than 2,900 questions asked, only four have mentioned the words "global warming." "It's stunning," said David Sandretti, the League of Conservation Voters' chief spokesman.

But it's not the candidates' fault. Many of the top contenders have been promoting their plans to battle climate change on the campaign trail. It's the leading TV journalists - like NBC's Tim Russert or ABC's George Stephanopoulos or CNN's Wolf Blitzer - who have relegated it to a second-tier issue. "The candidates are talking about it. They're getting questions in town hall meetings about it," Sandretti said. "The only people who aren't asking about it, it seems, are the mainstream media."


Greenie priorities bad for health

All one seems to hear about climate change are essentially useless debates between deniers and skeptics, along with unrealistic and grotesquely draconian proposals that would force us back into the Stone Age in an effort to mitigate carbon dioxide production. Assertions by zealots and politicians, who should really know better, that climate change is the "most important environmental problem facing the world," ought to be subjected to the, uh, cold light of reason. Before untold resources are spent, shouldn't we at least compare climate change to other problems facing mankind?

Fortunately, someone has finally done just that. Noted scholar, Dr. Indur M. Goklany, whose resume includes stints with federal and state governments, think tanks, and the private sector for over 30 years, has released a detailed analysis-prepared for the Cato Institute- entitled What to Do about Climate Change. Goklany examined certain risks to humanity, and compared the contributory effects of climate change to non-climate change factors.

His data and projections came from two independently published reports:The "fast-track assessment" of the global impacts of climate change, sponsored by the U.K. Department of Environment, Forests and Rural Affairs and The Stern Review on the economics of climate change.Goklany's most significant conclusion is that...[T]hrough the foreseeable future, climate change exacerbates existing environmental and human health problems, but only to a modest degree relative to contributions from other factors not related to climate change. Hence, the threats posed by climate change are more robustly and cost-effectively addressed, at least in the short- to medium-term, by policies that address the underlying causes of the environmental and human health problems that are exacerbated by climate change.

Consider malaria. In the period from 1990-2085, the population at risk is projected to double-from 4.41 billion to 8.82 billion, in the absence of climate change. And, by 2085, climate change will cause an additional 256 to 323 million people to be at risk for malaria. Sounds scary, yet this number represents no more than 3.5 percent of the population at risk. 96.5% of this cohort exists because of other factors. Thus, if climate change were somehow reversed to achieve 1990 levels, only a tiny fraction of this problem is addressed.

Full adoption of the Kyoto protocol has been projected to reduce climate change by only 7 percent, at a cost estimate of $165 billion per year, for so-called Annex I countries. But, this extrapolates to 7% of 3.5%, or a reduction in the at-risk malaria population of a scant two-tenths of one percent! Yet, according the UN Millennium project, a 75% reduction in malaria deaths can be achieved for $3 billion/year, with a program focused directly on malaria prevention (not triangulated through climate change initiatives). Talk about a better bang for your buck.

Some may argue that the case of malaria is too simplistic, and we should also look at more generic ecological issues. How about terrestrial biodiversity? There is little argument that expansion of croplands represents the single greatest threat to terrestrial biodiversity and the expanse of coastal wetlands. Ironically, models with the coolest future seem to predict the highest habitat losses. Reason suggests that efforts to improve agricultural productivity and techniques for more efficient use of water in agriculture would be of extreme benefit here.

Goklany cites a paper published in Nature, that attributed 170,000 deaths to global warming in 2000, even as its authors acknowledged serious flaws in their own analysis. Taking this number at face value, compare it to the top ten global health risk factors related to food, nutrition, and environmental and occupational exposure, according to the World Health Organization (data for 2001):

* Malnutrition 3.24 million deaths

* Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and hygiene 1.73 million deaths

* Indoor air pollution from indoor heating and cooking with wood, coal, and dung 1.62 million deaths

* Malaria 1.12 million deaths

* Urban air pollution 800,000 deaths

* Lead exposure 230,000 deaths

At present, then, climate change is nowhere near the most important environmental (or public health) problem facing the world. Furthermore, as Goklany demonstrates, solving specific problems that would be exacerbated by climate change is a far more rational policy than attacking carbon dioxide production. A bonus is that these problems would be solved or diminished regardless of whether climate change occurs or not.


Plastic bag hatred

Hosking was filming a wildlife documentary in Hawaii in 2006, on how plastic pollution is killing whales, sea birds and turtles; apparently these animals are choking on our discarded plastic fragments. She then returned to her hometown of Modbury in Devon, south-west England, determined to convince the town's traders and residents to replace plastic bags with other, biodegradable and re-useable varieties. She was successful, and Modbury is now hailed as Britain's first carrier bag-free zone....

Hosking may well be a wonderful human being (though her comment about people who have second homes in Devon - `Oh, you're one of the ones I need to put a pipe bomb through your letterbox, quite frankly' - does not suggest an entirely generous spirit). But she doesn't seem to think very much of the rest of us. In an interview last year, she expressed a cynical and fashionable disdain for modern British society: `We are 60million people eating up vast amounts of valuable natural resources. this can only lead to us drowning in our own waste and cooking in our own gases. Plastic bags clogging our waterways and climate change are two symptoms of the same problem - unsustainability.'

Whatever Hosking's personal merits and flaws, there is clearly something in the issue of bags that gets people agitated. Politicians have picked up on this mood, too, and are falling over themselves to suggest bans or compulsory charging for plastic bags. Indeed, Hosking was by no means a pioneer. First off the mark was Ireland, which introduced a `plastax' in 2002. Shoppers must now pay for each bag they receive. Currently the price of a plastic bag in Ireland is 22 Euro cents (about 15 pence or 30 US cents); the introduction of this charge initially cut the number of bags handed out by 90 per cent, though bag usage has crept up again since. According to the Irish government, the proportion of litter made up of plastic bags fell from five per cent to 0.22 per cent after the tax was introduced. Other administrations - in France and San Francisco - have banned plastic bags altogether; London may soon follow suit. This month, China announced a ban on free plastic bags.

Yet contrary to the assertions of campaigners, plastic bags are a mere footnote in Britain's use of resources and production of waste. They do not contribute very much to overall waste levels. The bags handed out for free by supermarkets weigh about eight grams. We use absolutely loads of them each year: about 10billion in the UK, which amounts to 80,000 tonnes of waste. It sounds like a lot, but in fact it represents only 0.27 per cent of all municipal waste produced annually in the UK. Moreover, the bags are produced using a part of crude oil - naphtha - that generally can't be used for anything else. If naphtha wasn't used to produce bags, it would mostly be burned off.

If anything, the plastic bag is a victim of its own success. These wafer-thin carriers are durable, ridiculously cheap to mass produce and have all sorts of wonderful ancillary uses, from bin liners to bicycle seat covers. This capacity for imaginative re-use - and the irrationality of obsessing about such trivial consumption - was neatly illustrated by Louise Carpenter in her Observer Food Monthly interview with Hosking. Her Hosking-inspired aversion to plastic bags left her, almost literally, in the shit: `In the middle of our conversation, I feel a rumble in my daughter's nappy [diaper] that quickly turns into an explosion. When I get to the loo to change her, I realise with dismay that I only have a plastic Sainsbury's bag in which to contain the dirty nappy. To my shame, it is my usual method of dealing with such a business. Not only is this clearly unacceptable in Modbury but I realise that Hosking has already converted me. "I'll take that from you!" says the Modbury cafe lady when I emerge holding the un-bagged nappy.' Welcome to Brave New Modbury, where even sticking a stinking nappy in a plastic bag, and tying a very tight knot, is frowned upon.

The cost-benefit ratio of the modern plastic bag is extremely high - they cost little financially or environmentally, and they are extremely useful. That doesn't mean plastic bags are perfect, of course. If a small charge for bags reduces bag litter, it might not be a bad idea. If alternative, cost-effective materials can be found to make carrier bags, materials which do not linger in the environment, then that's all to the good. But the crusading tone of today's anti-plastic bag hysteria suggests there is something more profound going on here than the problem of litter or plastic waste on the sea shore; this has become a deeply moralistic campaign, with some worrying undertones.

UK prime minister Gordon Brown put his finger on it last November when he suggested that plastic bags are `one of the most visible symbols of environmental waste'. It is the very visibility of plastic bags, the fact that they are used to carry all that nice food and various other consumer products, that makes certain people uncomfortable. At root, the mostly middle-class activists who get excited by the detritus of everyday life, like plastic bags, are really guilt-ridden about consumption in general - which is ironic, given that the middle classes consume more than the majority of the population. While most expenditure continues to be on the necessities of life - housing, food, heating and transport - the relatively small proportion of income devoted to the non-essentials has in recent years taken on an overwhelming importance for middle-class campaigners and commentators.

The anti-bag campaign is a product of society's current impasse. In the absence of any new political vision for transforming society, greens argue that we have reached our `natural limits' and must stop, rein things in, live more humbly. Therefore, overconsumption is looked upon as downright foolhardy, even sinful; we must reduce, reuse, recycle, they say. In this narrow-minded climate, the plastic bag, and more importantly he who carries it, has become a symbol of reckless greed and waste. What's more, many people see society as lacking any moral purpose today; thus they seek out activities and campaigns that can provide them with a sense of purpose and moral bluster. Fretting about something as historically and environmentally insignificant as the plastic bag might seem mad to many of us, but it allows Moralistic of Modbury to feel as if they are doing something Important.

Above all, this new `ethical' outlook represents a psychological, sometimes even physical, retreat from modern life. Hosking's description of her return to Modbury captured many people's view of modern life these days: `I'd been running away from Modbury for about 15 years, going as far away as I could. But right now I think it's probably quite important to localise yourself, batten down the hatches and have a life where you can sustain yourself a bit.' (6) `Sustain yourself a bit' - that could be the motto of environmentalism and of contemporary society in general. What about the millions of people who expect more from life than basic sustenance and degraded debates about non-degradable bags?



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.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the ironic thing about the plastic bag ban is that plastic bags are probably the most re-used forms of garbage there is. Here’s what the ban on plastic bags means in real life: the average, bill-paying citizen will have to spend more time, money and energy carrying his/her groceries home while big oil companies continue to sell more oil than ever (in the form of gas) at whatever inflated price tickles their fancy. Banning the use of plastic bags is an environmental red-herring. so what’s worse, throwing away oil in the form of plastic bags, or pouring oil into the atmosphere in the form of car exhaust? if there’s one thing oil is good for, it’s for making plastic.