Monday, July 14, 2008

Global Warming for Fun and Profit?

Email from Jim Peden:

As one of the Ancient Ones - old enough to remember the Cold War, Race for Space, Missile Gap, and a dozen other high priority panics that opened the floodgates for research funding, it's easy to see how the great Global Warming Hoax has penetrated every corner of science. As Willie Sutton, the bank robber, replied when asked why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is".

Recently I stumbled across a Defense Technical Information Center paper via the web on which I was listed as co-author. I must confess I had not seen the paper in public before this year, perhaps it had been classified for many decades. What amused me was the abstract and the descriptors:
Personal Author(s) : Fite, W. L. ; Garcia, J. D. ; Gerjuoy, E. ; Peden, J. A.
Report Date : MAY 1969

Abstract : Experimental data on heavy particle collisions of relevance to atomic weapons debris motion are critically reviewed with emphasis on electron capture-and-loss cross-section measurements and possible systematic errors attending the experiments. Discrepancies of the order of 50 percent can be understood on the basis of differences in experiments. Four phenomenological theories (Rapp and Francis, Firsov, Firsov-Russek, and Classical Binary Encounter) are summarized and critically evaluated for applicability to heavy particle collisions. The predictions of these theories are compared with experimental data. A theorem pertinent to energy distributions in electron-ion collision experiments is presented. The report concludes with recommendations on future informational needs. (Author)


Atomic weapons debris motion? Nuclear Explosions? I recall not a mention of these items by anyone at the time. Oh yeah, I forget... in those days any grant proposal had to have the appropriate buzzwords relating to National Defense. Heaven forbid anyone wanting to study electron capture-and-loss cross-section measurements for the sole purpose of advancing our knowledge of those subjects.

Today there is a new Golden Fleece hanging on the tree, and anyone with half a science diploma can become a member of Jason's merry band of Argonauts. Just make sure that your proposal is directed toward finding yet another contributor to anthropogenic global warming. From Cow Farts to Whales Singing Off-Key, the field is wide open as long as you observe a few simple rules:

1. Your results must support AGW, otherwise your grant won't be renewed.
2. If your data doesn't support your predetermined conclusion, change the data.
3. The one with the shortest date to Armageddon gets the biggest bucks.

I confess I miss the good old days when the Soviet Union, not our own Government, was our official enemy. Our race to the moon ( OK, the Soviets actually didn't have a horse in that race) at least netted us a lot of great spinoffs, like freeze dried foods for our backpacking trips. The current AGW-driven system nets the ordinary taxpayer absolutely nothing except a negative feedback wallet and maybe an eventual collapse of the entire economy.

The short-term profits are enormous, and for a while at least, the incompetent and dishonest "scientists" of the world will be able to enjoy a reasonably regular paycheck. But in the end, it must all eventually collapse like the dot-com bubble, with the sad end result being that anyone wearing the title of scientist will likely be viewed with the same respect as a junk bond trader.

Maybe we few, we band of dissenting brothers and sisters will be remembered as not being part of the hoax, but I'm taking no chances. I just bought a case of potato chips, and I'm going to examine every one with a magnifying glass. Statistically speaking, there ought to be at least one chip with a reasonably credible likeness of some high-level saint I can sell for big bucks on Ebay.

Laurie David on Iceland's Polar Bears

Laurie David's major qualifications for attention seem to be a big mouth and large breasts but the media do nonetheless carry her pronouncements on climate -- while studiously ignoring the words of many highly qualified but skeptical scientists

Laurie David has a post up on the polar bears that found their way to Iceland, but before she gets to the polar bears, she has some thoughts on Iceland in general:
The most impressive fact about Iceland is that they went from a completely fossil fuel dependent nation to a completely coal independent nation. Not a single chunk of coal is burned for electricity there. Instead, they power their booming economy with renewable geothermal and hydropower (and they heat around 90% of their buildings with geothermal too). (Iceland has no nuclear plants either.) It can be done. They proved it!

Well, for one, not everyone thinks Iceland's economy is "booming." From the Financial Times:
In the second half of last year, as the subprime crisis gathered strength in the US, articles appeared in the international press about Iceland as the "canary in the mine". They suggested tiny Iceland (population: 315,000) was a leading indicator of how the crisis was mutating into something much bigger, affecting many countries beyond the US.

Since then Iceland's economy has continued to decline. Gross domestic product shrank by almost 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 compared with the final quarter of last year, when growth was barely positive. The stock market and the currency have both fallen by about a third since the start of this year.

The size of the accumulated macroeconomic imbalances beggars belief. The external deficit was 25 per cent of GDP in 2006 and 17 per cent in 2007. Gross short-term foreign debt amounted to 15 times the value of the central bank's foreign exchange reserves at the end of 2007, or roughly 200 per cent of GDP. Gross long-term foreign debt amounted to another 350 per cent of GDP. Bank assets swelled to 10 times GDP by the end of 2007. These imbalances are the other side of the Icelandic purchases of companies in Britain, Denmark and elsewhere.

Two, it's quite easy to use geothermal power to generate electricity when you live on top of a giant volcano.

And three, do you know what else Iceland uses its "green" power for? Smelters. Polluting, global-warming causing, polar-bear killing smelters. Anyone who knows anything about Iceland knows that the smelter issue is one that divides the nation:
Minister of the Environment Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir called her fellow party members in the Social Democrats to a meeting yesterday to discuss their declarations of support for aluminum smelters, which are not compatible with the party's policy on climate issues.

Before the elections in May 2007, the Social Democrats claimed there was only room for one small aluminum smelter in addition to the others within the Icelandic provision on greenhouse gas emissions, 24 Stundir reports.

Yet some ministers from the Social Democrats, including Minister of Transport Kristjon Muller, have declared their support for planned aluminum smelters in Bakki near Hesavik in northeast Iceland and in Helguvik on Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland.

Laurie David conveniently leaves this out. But back to the polar bears:
I heard about this rare occurrence of polar bears drifting to Iceland from the fly fishing guide Hallur Lund (a mechanical engineer during the off season) who thinks global warming is the reason the polar bears ended up in the wrong place. "They would never swim from Greenland to Iceland. No way," Hallur said. If two polar bears hit this tiny little island I wonder how many end up floating past, never bumping into a shore and end up drowning. You could say the two who landed were the lucky ones; at least they found land.

As we've reported, the above statement isn't true. Polar bears find their way to Iceland all the time, especially in years when it's extremely icy.

Excerpt from Seaworld: "The polar bears' southern range is limited by the amount of sea ice that forms in the winter. Polar bears prefer to travel on sea ice. In the south, polar bears are annual visitors to St. Lawrence Island, southern Labrador, and Svalbard. In heavy ice years, polar bears have traveled as far south as the Pribilof Islands,Kamchatka, Newfoundland, and Iceland. The most southerly dwelling polar bears live year-round in James Bay, Canada. The majority of polar bears are found near land masses around the edge of the polar basin".


Canada: Battling global warming leads to fewer mental health beds

- The IPCC is not objective. Indeed, chairman R.K. Pachauri declared in the 2007 edition he hoped it would shock people -- a polemical, rather than scientific goal.

- It also deals poorly with inconvenient truths. Yes, there's less ice in the Arctic: Look, look! But Antarctica is getting colder: Oh, that's anomalous.

- And warming has apparently plateaued over the last 10 years, the 1998 high, as recorded by the World Meteorological Organization, has yet to be exceeded. In a January interview with The Guardian, Pachauri speculated there may be natural factors compensating. (Interestingly, the article is no longer to be found on the newspaper's website.) Natural factors? Isn't that the line used by global-warming deniers to explain warming? As in, go check the sun spots? Ah, hogwash, said Pachauri.

- The doomsday predictions are based on computer modelling and that's only as good as the assumptions fed into the computer. We are apparently spending billions of dollars on the word of climatologists who claim to know what will happen to the weather in decades to come, when their cousins in the meteorological office can't say for sure what it will be next week.

- Some of it's just alarmist. Lomborg notes in his anti-hysteria book, Cool It, that Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth posits Florida being under six metres of water. Even the IPCC only suggests 25 cm.

- Some of it's wrong. The polar bears are doing fine. The report on which the story relies was misinterpreted.

However, even if the IPCC one day savours the sweet taste of vindication (from higher ground than Miami) Lomborg's question remains: Sea levels rise and fall, and have done so many times in the last 30,000 years. Does one sit like Canute on the shore and command the tide to recede? Or does one take that money and do what one can to make the world a better place for people today?

In Alberta, we have apparently decided to do the former. What a pity it's at the cost of mental health. It seems we have never needed treatment more.


California dreaming: its Potemkin greens

Glenn Milne meant this to sound hopeful:
The great thing about visiting California is that it gives you a sense of where Australia is probably headed. In the context of the climate change debate, this assertion stands, only more so. Remember, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is something of an environmental pin-up boy for Rudd.

Max Schulz explains why it's actually a threat:
A dirty secret about California's energy economy is that it imports lots of energy from neighboring states to make up for the shortfall caused by having too few power plants. Up to 20 percent of the state's power comes from coal-burning plants in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Montana, and another significant portion comes from large-scale hydropower in Oregon, Washington State, and the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.

Another secret: California's proud claim to have kept per-capita energy consumption flat while growing its economy is less impressive than it seems. The state has some of the highest energy prices in the country-nearly twice the national average, a 2002 Milken Institute study found-largely because of regulations and government mandates to use expensive renewable sources of power.

As a result, heavy manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries have been fleeing the Golden State in droves for lower-cost locales. Twenty years ago or so, you could count eight automobile factories in California; today, there's just one, and it's the same story with other industries, from chemicals to aerospace.

Yet Californians still enjoy the fruits of those manufacturing industries-driving cars built in the Midwest and the South, importing chemicals and resins and paints and plastics produced elsewhere, and flying on jumbo jets manufactured in places like Everett, Washington. California can pretend to have controlled energy consumption, but it has just displaced it.


Eight new nuclear power stations planned for England

Ministers are to build eight new nuclear power stations across England, the Daily Telegraph can disclose. The new nuclear plants will mainly be based alongside existing facilities and are expected to be constructed over the next decade. New planning laws will be used to fast-track approval for the nuclear plants which Gordon Brown believes are crucial in reducing Britain's dependency on fossil fuels.

However, the plans are likely to anger people living close to the new sites whose properties will now be close to nuclear plants for much of the century. Many environmentalists are also opposed to the plans. Earlier this year, the Government announced that it was committed to building a new generation of nuclear power stations to replace the existing facilities.

However, the scale of the proposed building programme has never previously been disclosed and the Government has promised to formally consult on plans before announcing the building programme. Jean McSorley, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "If there is a list that has already been signed off on for sites for new-build nuclear power stations then it makes a complete mockery of the Government's consultation on siting. It calls into question the legality of the whole process. "No doubt the various parties interested in new build and owning British Energy will be very worried about such a pre-determined list."

The locations of the new nuclear reactors are expected to include Sizewell, Hartlepool, Heysham and Dungeness. There are currently eight nuclear sites across England which may house all the proposed new reactors.

The Scottish Executive has blocked any of the new nuclear stations being built north of the border.

Mr Brown is a strong backer of nuclear energy and said earlier this year: "When North Sea oil runs down, both oil and gas, people will want to know whether we have made sure that we've got the balance right between external dependence on energy and our ability to generate our own energy within our country."

At last week's G8 summit in Japan, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for up to 1,000 new nuclear power stations around the world to supply energy during the next century. He said there should be nuclear plants on every continent. Energy prices have soared over the past few months in line with rising oil prices. Last Friday, the oil price hit a new high of more than $147 a barrel amid growing concerns over the actions of the Iranians.

The Government also signed a multi-billion pound deal with firms dealing with nuclear waste at Sellafield last week. Mr Brown hopes that oil-rich states such as Saudi Arabia may invest in new nuclear power stations in this country. The Government has already said that the private sector and energy companies must be responsible for funding the new nuclear plants. However, a number of Government subsidies to help deal with the costs of waste may be available.

Britain has pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than fifty percent by 2050 and the ambitious nuclear building plan is seen as critical to meeting the target.

Environmental groups took the Government to court last year accusing it of failing to carry out a proper consultation on nuclear plans before they were announced. The Government lost the case and pledged to carry out proper consultations on each plant before the plans are unveiled. The disclosure that ministers have decided on the eight new plants before the consultations is likely to anger environmentalists.


Poor people can't worry about global warming

Well, who would have thought it? Almost anybody actually, who had asked the question: "Who is most likely to own an older, cheaper car?" How could anyone - let alone the elected members of a governing party whose raison d'etre has been to represent the interests of the poor - not have deduced that raising the Vehicle Excise Duty on cars that had been purchased years ago would be likely to fall most heavily on those who were not rich enough to replace their cars every year?

Headline number two: the use of crops to produce biofuels is a direct cause of world food shortages and so is responsible for starvation in the developing world and escalating food prices in developed countries, thus helping to further pauperise the poor of every nation.

Who would have guessed? Well, almost anyone with even a basic understanding of how markets work - which supposedly includes every active member of the Conservative Party, and most of those who count themselves as New Labour, too.

If you introduce incentives for switching what were once staple food crops to the production of fuel - guess what? - the amount of acreage dedicated to growing food is reduced. And, all together now, what happens when you reduce the world supply of a commodity? You've got it. You've mastered the first chapter of Economics for Dummies.

Neither of these outcomes can even count as an unintended consequence of policy: so blindingly, luminously clear was their inevitability that we have to look for some explanation that goes beyond incompetence or shortsightedness among our own (and much of the Western world's) decision-making class.

What we are up against is not just grab-a-headline, ill-thought out, desperate policy-making on the hoof - although there is plenty of that. It is something larger: a crisis of political coherence is what I would call it, being of a philosophical bent. You may think that too high-flown and abstract, so let me put it in concrete terms.

There are two prevailing fashions dominating the political scene, whose aims and effects are in direct contradiction with one another. But that does not prevent virtually all of the political parties in the Western democracies from attempting to embrace both at the same time.

They are global warming and the mission to eradicate poverty. What scarcely any leader seems prepared to admit (although they are all coming bang up against the reality of it) is that the objectives and tactics involved in forwarding the cause of preventing global warming are inimical to the cause of fighting poverty on a national and an international level.

Have a look at life in a place like Glasgow East (as many goggle-eyed media types are doing for the first time) and ask yourself: "What are the people here likely to say to you if you tell them that the most important issue for life in Britain is how to get more people to recycle their rubbish?"

There is not just a question of how actual environmental legislation is likely to affect the daily lives of poorer people (making their cars, fuel, home heating and food cost more) but of the apparent disregard for what they would regard as national priorities: when you are jobless and the rising cost of transport makes it inconceivable for you to travel to look for work; when the cost of decent food is climbing out of your reach, and your household energy bills are unaffordable, you are unlikely to see the contentious arguments for long-term climate change as the most urgent item on the political agenda.

Global warming is a worry that can be indulged by the richer sections of the populations of the richer countries.

Never mind Glasgow East, there is a damned good reason why the governments of India and China, whose populations are only just discovering the joys of economic growth and the mass prosperity that it brings, should be unhelpful when their rich, self-regarding counterparts try to drag them into agreements which would trap them in the endemic poverty they have endured for generations.

A freeze on further use of the cheaper routes to wealth production (which involve the more carbon-emitting fuels) and those wasteful paths to modern development which the West was happy to tread before it scared itself silly over a slight rise in global temperature, would mean reversing the startling progress that is pulling the peoples of India and China out of material deprivation - and the despair that accompanies it.

Not to mention the peoples of Africa who have scarcely begun their journey and whose frequent descent into mass starvation is rightly seen - by the same politicians who were, until about 20 minutes ago, demanding that world food crops be turned into fuel - as the great conscientious crusade of the generation.

To bring it back to Glasgow East, and even to all those bits of suburban Britain where life is nothing like so grim, let's talk about the mundane, household level of conflict between the objectives of politicians who want to attack global warming and, at the same time, be the champions of poor families.

Who is likely to be hardest hit by higher charges for throwing away large amounts of rubbish or using more water? The young (high-earning) professional who eats in restaurants and sends his laundry out? Or the poorer family with children, who rarely go out, bathe their children every night and use their washing machine every day?

Green taxes almost always take the form of extra charges which take no account of income - whether it is vehicle excise duty or water metering - and that means that they affect the poor much more than the rich. Special compensation schemes in which the very poor get some relief simply create another poverty trap in which any improvement in earnings means a loss of benefit: the last thing we need in a country already overly dependent on benefits.

We are about to reach the end of this political game: "incoherence" may be a fancy word bandied about by political policy obsessives like me, but voters know a contradiction when they see one - especially when they end up paying for it. You can be the party of the environment or you can be the party of the poor, but you can't be both - at least not at the same time.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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