Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nature superior to Man? What green twaddle

For some, love of Nature is the flipside of distaste for Man. This is nonsense: as the No1 species, we're in control

Sitting on a log, in a clearing by the banks of the River Matamata close to where it flows into the Amazon, Sara Bennett was encircled by her audience. This audience, too, sat on logs. We were composed of men and monkeys. The human contingent were my six travelling companions and I. The monkeys - well, they too had names, but I could no more name them than name the half-dozen different monkey species they came from.

The reddish-furred monkey in Dr Bennett's arms was a female howler monkey: this I did recognise - by the fearsome, echoing roar she made as she clung like an anxious child to her human matriarch. But as for the simian miscellany that sat solemly on logs, pretending to understand as Sara talked about her monkey rescue work, or clowned around, running up tree trunks, swinging from shrubs or playing with rocks and sticks, I cannot begin to identify them.

They ranged from something with a broken tail, the size of a squirrel, to a woolly monkey the size of a labrador, and two dark-coated creatures as big as children, their fur so long and shaggy that it fell over their eyes, while long-tailed monkeys, pale or dark, hardly bigger than cats, put on a spirited display of gymnastics. "Now stop showing off and settle down, Chimboshi," said Sara to the most extravagant performer.

Dr Bennett runs a sanctuary for orphaned monkeys in the Amacayacu National Park in Colombia. The park is enormous - nearly 300,000 hectares - reaching from the banks of the Amazon deep into primary forest; but the modest Amazon port of Leticia is only a couple of hours downriver and Leticia (though unconnected by road) is a substantial little town; so the interface between Man and monkey brings its crop of casualties on the simian side.

"People in Leticia know I look after young monkeys that have been orphaned or wounded," said Sara, "so they bring them here." Her sanctuary is not caged - just a patch of forest around her small cabin - and the animals are free to come or go. A scientist whose work is now more in conservation than pure science, people admire and respect her.

Who could fail to? But awkward questions can be the most interesting, so I asked: "Obviously you're helping the monkeys in your care, but has your work any significance for the rest of the Amazon's monkey populations?" She was honest enough, and a sufficiently good scientist, not to pretend to any easy confidence in the answer.

Perhaps I should not try to impute motives, but it was my strong impression that Sara Bennett does not measure the good she is doing in strictly scientific terms; nor is any wider contribution she may make to South American monkey populations what mainly impels her to take in and care for these creatures. I think she just loves monkeys, and in particular her monkeys. She loves them as individuals; and they fascinate her - as, indeed, she fascinates them. This struck me as a wholly and self-evidently good thing, and in need of no further justification, even if that could be provided.

At which point I can imagine a sniffy response from some of the people I have met and talked to along the borderline between science, conservation and ecological campaigning. To a way of thinking common among their mindset, Sara's continuing involvement in the lives of her orphans would be seen as a problem. According to this view, Man should so far as possible stand away from "Nature". Nature starts where the human domain ends, and the aim of serious environmental campaigners should be to withdraw so far as possible the hand of Man, and erase so far as possible the mark of Man, his stamp on the world. Man distorts. Man is bad; Nature is good; the distinction is clear, and the best among us should be on the side of Nature.

But what, then, of the isolated indigenous tribes in the Amazon part of the wild? Are they part of Nature? Environmental campaigners like to insist that such people will establish a "balance" with their environment, but what if they don't? No natural law says that an indigenous tribe may never multiply, beating the forest back. But we outside the forest almost seem to be defining indigenous tribes as part of Nature, not Man - an insult, properly considered.

The truth is that some environmentalists form the fundamentalist outriders for what, even among millions of the less zealous, amounts to a kind of religion, not a science, for it invests data with moral qualities unknown to science. To many, love of "Nature" is the flipside of distaste for Man, or an embarrassment - even shame - about being human.

At the heart of this religion sits a weird variation on the old, old story: the story of the Garden of Eden. In Genesis, God expels Man from the garden. But in the 21st-century version, Man is urged to expel himself; then declare the garden a national park.

Well, I'm not against national parks. Almost 10 per cent of Colombia is a national park. We should have more of them. And there may be places where we do wish to stop and freeze invasive environmental change; and species we do want to ring-fence and preserve from extinction, even self-inflicted. The precautionary principle, meanwhile - that we should be careful about changes that may get out of hand - is simply a matter of prudence, requiring no doctrine for its justification.

But make no mistake: this is not withdrawing from Nature. The very act of selectively extracting ourselves from chosen places, is an act - perhaps the ultimate act - of control. The Earth is our garden, our Eden. We can make new breeds, new plants. We can make lakes and level mountains. We can help to shape and tend our planet as no other species has, and the bits we choose to leave "wild" - like the classic English country garden - are part of the plan. Our plan. The plan we choose to implement.

Stewardship - control - is not an idea we can honestly duck. We must stop retreating into the metaphysical mists of a theory of division between Man and Nature, and cheerfully accept that we ourselves are "Nature", and we're in charge: the top species. We can design this garden for succeeding generations, according to our human taste, because we love our own species.

We love monkeys too, and therefore we will have monkeys, lots of them, of every kind. And we will run orphanages for them. It gives us pleasure. So hats off to Dr Bennett and her audience in that forest clearing, all of us - including the humans: so much a part of Nature that one of the bigger monkeys sat down beside our companion Karl and, in a spirit of scientific curiosity, looked into his eyes and stroked his beard.


A warming theory that has melted away

By Bjorn Lomborg

In defending his strategy for fighting climate change, Oliver Tickell abandons his entire argument...

Oliver Tickell defends against my critique his visions of 4C leading to a catastrophic future. Two casual observations lend themselves readily. First, Tickell has entirely abstained from defending his claim for human extinction from 4C. Thanks. Second, I was clearly wrong when I said that Tickell's claim for 70-80 metres of sea level rise had maxed out campaigners' scare potential because that means all ice is melted. Showing an amazing ability to raise the stakes none the less, Tickell now talks about sea level going 100m higher.

The UN climate panel (IPCC) says that 4C will lead to a rise a hundredth of that figure; but Tickell simply claims such moderate projections are "dangerously misplaced". All I can see is that such facts are terribly inconvenient.

He summarily dismisses (as "outdated econometric models") the analysis of one of the IPCC lead climate economist authors, when the model points out that the damage will be quite modest at 3.5% of GDP. He assures us this "is not to dismiss economics as a whole" - because he can find two economists who support his argument, embracing Stern and Weitzman eagerly.

It is hard not to see this as opportunistic cherry-picking: Stern might have been incomplete but his work "yielded many useful findings - not least that swift and decisive action to mitigate climate change is" the right way to go.

I will not deal with Stern here. Many others have pointed out that the Stern Report has seriously exaggerated the peer reviewed evidence and massaged the analysis to get his results (see, for example, Byatt et al, 2006; Carter, de Freitas, Goklany, Holland, & Lindzen, 2006; Dasgupta, 2006; Mendelsohn, 2007; Nordhaus, 2006e; R. S. J. Tol, 2006; R. S. J. Tol & Yohe, 2006; Varian, 2006; Yohe, 2006, see also my critique in my book Cool It). Weitzman, who Tickell likes when he agrees with him, actually criticises Stern: "As economic analysis the Stern Review dwells in a non_scientific state of limbo." Even then, Stern never did a proper cost-benefit analysis. Such analyses overwhelmingly show that strong early carbon cuts are a bad idea.

But it is interesting to assess Weitzman's argument (My arguments are partly indebted to Professor Nordhaus (pdf)). Tickell (and many other campaigners) fancies Weitzman, because his economic argument seems to support draconian climate policies.

While very technical, it relies on a fairly straightforward gist. All risks you can think of - even catastrophic ones - have non-zero risk. Thus, it is possible (if not very likely) that global warming will not only increase the planet's temperature by 4C, but 10C. Heck, it might even increase beyond 20C - which Weitzman with armchair climatology, suggests might have a probability of 1%. Since evidence for or against such extremes is scarce, accumulating evidence can only slowly close us in on their true probability. Yet, for any given amount of evidence, there will always be sufficiently outrageous risks (think 30C) that are sufficiently unbound by evidence and sufficiently close to negative infinite utility that the total net utility is negative infinity. Thus, we should be willing to spend all our money to avoid it.

Now, in principle all economists would agree that non-trivial risks should be included in the model, and for example, Nordhaus has done that analytically in cost-benefit models (they still show that large emission cuts are not warranted). However, the Weitzman result curiously means that the more speculative and fuzzy the extreme event, the more it counts in the total utility.

This is an argument driven by a technicality - essentially a claim that we are willing to pay an infinite amount to avoid even an infinitesimal risk of annihilation. Yet we demonstratively aren't - and shouldn't be. Civilization-ending asteroids hit the earth once every 100m years, but at present we only spend $4m per year to track them. Maybe we should pay $1bn. But we shouldn't spend everything.

This underscores the fatal flaw in the Weitzman argument. When we allow all scary, fuzzy concerns onto centre stage, there is no end to where we should spend all our money. Every conceivable policy measure has a non-zero risk of catastrophe and so should be avoided at any cost. Biotechnology, strangelets, runaway computer systems, nuclear proliferation, rogue weeds and bugs, pandemics, and asteroids are just a small sample of the areas each of which we should spend all our money on.

Tickell doesn't deal with these arguments at all. As with Stern, he simply picks Weitzman because the policy conclusion fits. Tickell then claims that spending $2tn annually on large-scale emissions cuts will provide the best insurance for mankind. But this ignores that investments in energy R&D will probably long-term cut 11 times more CO2. Moreover, if our goal is not just to cut CO2 but to help people and the planet, we can do even more good by focusing on simple solutions such as investing in nutrition, health and agricultural technologies. Instead of avoiding a couple of thousand extra malaria deaths in a century cases through expensive CO2 cuts, maybe we should avoid a million malaria deaths now through low-cost health policies.

Tickell's reply clearly shows what happens when policy drives the search for suitable facts. The IPCC is simply ignored, Stern is praised for his policy usefulness, Weitzman embraced irrespective of his analysis essentially leading to policy paralysis, driven by extreme and pervasive speculative risks. Not surprisingly, Tickell ends by saying - without a shred of evidence - that his policy would be the best solution, "even without the threat of global warming".

Not only does Tickell abandon his central claim of human extinction, but he also abandons his entire argument for his policy. Not much remains.


Global Warming - Geologist's point of view-II

Sea-level changes through geological history

Sea-level has been close to its present level for the past 6000 years, before which it was lower and fluctuating, last achieving its present position about 120,000 years ago. About 15,000-16,000 years ago, sea-level was 130-140 m below its present position. For the past 500,000 years it has been lower than today about 90% of the time.

These major changes coincide with the latest Ice Age, the later half of the last 1.65 million years of geological time, represents the last 10,000 years when most of the icesheets have melted. Sea-level falls coincide with periods of glaciation whereas the rises occur during interglacials -- the warmer times between ice advances, like the present day.

The onset of the Ice Age began about 40 million years when surface waters in the southern oceans suddenly cooled and the deep ocean basins quickly filled with water ~10øC cooler than before that sank because of its increased density. By about 15 million years ago, the Antarctic Icecap had formed, accelerating production of cold waters.

About 6-5 million years ago, sea-level fell by as much as 50 m, probably associated with expansion of the icecap in Antarctica. This might have caused the Mediterranean Sea to dry up over ~1,000 years, producing vast salt deposits, preserved in the sediments of the sea floor.

About 5 million years ago there followed a brief warming trend and sea-level rose again leaving shallow marine sediments inland of modern coastlines around much of the world. Fossil floras and faunas show that climates were generally warmer than today -- Iceland had a temperate climate; southern England was subtropical. Let us take a case of geological period when the climate was very close to the current climate.

Carboniferous period:

Life was at its full bloom at the age of Carboniferous period (360 MM years -300 MM years).Insects, plants, dinos and many species evolved at this time. It is associated with all the green forest correlatable to present coal deposits. Climate of this period matched today's climate.

Similarities with our Present World

Average global temperatures in the Early Carboniferous Period were hot- approximately 20ø C (68ø F). However, cooling during the Middle Carboniferous reduced average global temperatures to about 12ø C (54ø F). This is comparable to the average global temperature on Earth today!

Similarly, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Early Carboniferous Period were approximately 1500 ppm (parts per million), but by the Middle Carboniferous had declined to about 350 ppm -- comparable to average CO2 concentrations today!

Earth's atmosphere today contains about 380 ppm CO2 (0.038%). Compared to former geologic times, our present atmosphere, like the Late Carboniferous atmosphere, is CO2- impoverished! In the last 600 million years of Earth's history only the Carboniferous Period and our present age, the Quaternary Period, have witnessed CO2 levels less than 400 ppm.

Global Temperature and Atmospheric CO2 over Geologic Time

There has historically been much more CO2 in our atmosphere than exists today. For example, during the Jurassic Period (200 mya), average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 ppm or about 4.7 times higher than today. The highest concentrations of CO2 during all of the Paleozoic Era occurred during the Cambrian Period, nearly 7000 ppm -- about 18 times higher than today.

The Carboniferous Period and the Ordovician Period were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today-- 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming.

I will be presenting what is written on the rocks and what is the opinion.

Our Future Written in Stone

Today the Earth warms up and cools down in cycles. Geologic history reveals similar cycles were operative during the Carboniferous Period. Warming episodes caused by the periodic favorable coincidence of solar maximums and the cyclic variations of Earth's orbit around the sun are responsible for our warm but temporary interglacial vacation from the Pleistocene Ice Age, a cold period in Earth's recent past which began about 2 million years ago and ended (at least temporarily) about 10,000 years ago. And just as our current world has warmed, and our atmosphere has increased in moisture and CO2 since the glaciers began retreating 18,000 years ago, so the Carboniferous Ice Age witnessed brief periods of warming and CO2-enrichment.

Following the Carboniferous Period, earth witnessed predominantly desert-like conditions, accompanied by one or more major periods of species extinctions. CO2 levels began to rise during this time because there was less erosion of the land and therefore reduced opportunity for chemical reaction of CO2 with freshly exposed minerals. Also, there was significantly less plant life growing in the proper swamplands to sequester CO2 through photosynthesis and rapid burial.

It wasn't until Pangea began breaking up in the that climates became moist once again. Carbon dioxide existed then at average concentrations of about 1200 ppm, but have since declined. Today, at 380 ppm our atmosphere is CO2-impoverished, although environmentalists, certain political groups, and the news media would have us believe otherwise.

What will our climate be like in the future? That is the question scientists are asking and seeking answers to right now. The causes of "global warming" and climate change are today being popularly described in terms of human activities. However, climate change is something that happens constantly on its own. If humans are in fact altering Earth's climate with our cars, electrical powerplants, and factories these changes must be larger than the natural climate variability in order to be measurable. So far the signal of a discernible human contribution to global climate change has not emerged from this natural variability or background noise.

Understanding Earth's geologic and climate past is important for understanding why our present Earth is the way it is, and what Earth may look like in the future. The geologic information locked up in the rocks and coal seams of the Carboniferous Period are like a history book waiting to be opened. What we know so far, is merely an introduction. It falls on the next generation of geologists, climatologists, biologists, and curious others to continue the exploration and discovery of Earth's dynamic history-- a fascinating and surprising tale, written in stone.


The catastrophe behind climate change

As the estimated cost of measures proposed by politicians to "combat global warming" soars ever higher - such as the International Energy Council's $45 trillion - "fighting climate change" has become the single most expensive item on the world's political agenda.

As Senators Obama and McCain vie with the leaders of the European Union to promise 50, 60, even 80 per cent cuts in "carbon emissions", it is clear that to realise even half their imaginary targets would necessitate a dramatic change in how we all live, and a drastic reduction in living standards.

All this makes it rather important to know just why our politicians have come to believe that global warming is the most serious challenge confronting mankind, and just how reliable is the evidence for the theory on which their policies are based.

By far the most influential player in putting climate change at the top of the global agenda has been the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988, not least on the initiative of the Thatcher government. (This was why the first chairman of its scientific working group was Sir John Houghton, then the head of the UK's Meteorological Office.)

Through a succession of reports and international conferences, it was the IPCC which led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, soon to have an even more ambitious successor, to be agreed in Copenhagen next year.

The common view of the IPCC is that it consists of 2,500 of the world's leading scientists who, after carefully weighing all the evidence, have arrived at a "consensus" that world temperatures are rising disastrously, and that the only plausible cause has been rising levels of CO2 and other man-made greenhouse gases.

In fact, as has become ever more apparent over the past 20 years -not least thanks to the evidence of a succession of scientists who have participated in the IPCC itself - the reality of this curious body could scarcely be more different.

It is not so much a scientific as a political organisation. Its brief has never been to look dispassionately at all the evidence for man-made global warming: it has always taken this as an accepted fact.

Indeed only a comparatively small part of its reports are concerned with the science of climate change at all. The greater part must start by accepting the official line, and are concerned only with assessing the impact of warming and what should be done about it.

In reality the IPCC's agenda has always been tightly controlled by the small group of officials at its head.

As one recent study has shown, of the 53 contributors to the key Chapter 9 of the latest report dealing with the basic science (most of them British and American, and 10 of them associated with the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office), 37 belong to a closely related network of academics who are all active promoters of the official warming thesis. It is on the projections of their computer models that all the IPCC's predictions of future warming are based.

The final step in the process is that, before each report is published, a "Summary for Policymakers" is drafted by those at the top of the IPCC, to which governments can make input. It is this which makes headlines in the media, and which all too frequently eliminates the more carefully qualified findings of contributors to the report itself.

The idea that the IPCC represents any kind of genuine scientific "consensus" is a complete fiction. Again and again there have been examples of how evidence has been manipulated to promote the official line, the most glaring instance being the notorious "hockey stick".

Initially the advocates of global warming had one huge problem. Evidence from all over the world indicated that the earth was hotter 1,000 years ago than it is today. This was so generally accepted that the first two IPCC reports included a graph, based on work by Sir John Houghton himself, showing that temperatures were higher in what is known as the Mediaeval Warming period than they were in the 1990s.

The trouble was that this blew a mighty hole in the thesis that warming was caused only by recent man-made CO2.

Then in 1999 an obscure young US physicist, Michael Mann, came up with a new graph like nothing seen before. Instead of the familiar rises and falls in temperature over the past 1,000 years, the line ran virtually flat, only curving up dramatically at the end in a hockey-stick shape to show recent decades as easily the hottest on record.

This was just what the IPCC wanted, The Mediaeval Warming had simply been wiped from the record. When its next report came along in 2001, Mann's graph was given top billing, appearing right at the top of page one of the Summary for Policymakers and five more times in the report proper.

But then two Canadian computer analysts, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, got to work on how Mann had arrived at his graph.

When, with great difficulty, they eventually persuaded Mann to hand over his data, it turned out he had built into his programme an algorithm which would produce a hockey stick shape whatever data were fed into it. Even numbers from the phonebook would come out looking like a hockey stick.

By the time of its latest report, last year, the IPCC had an even greater problem. Far from continuing to rise in line with rising CO2, as its computer models predicted they should, global temperatures since the abnormally hot year of 1998 had flattened out at a lower level and were even falling - a trend confirmed by Nasa's satellite readings over the past 18 months.

So pronounced has this been that even scientists supporting the warmist thesis now concede that, due to changes in ocean currents, we can expect a decade or more of "cooling", before the "underlying warming trend" reappears.

The point is that none of this was predicted by the computer models on which the IPCC relies. Among the ever-growing mountain of informed criticism of the IPCC's methods, a detailed study by an Australian analyst John McLean (to find it, Google "Prejudiced authors, prejudiced findings") shows just how incestuously linked are most of the core group of academics whose models underpin everything the IPCC wishes us to believe about global warming.

The significance of the past year is not just that the vaunted "consensus" on the forces driving our climate has been blown apart as never before, but that a new "counter-consensus" has been emerging among thousands of scientists across the world, given expression in last March's Manhattan Declaration by the so-called Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

This wholly repudiates the IPCC process, showing how its computer models are hopelessly biased, based on unreliable data and programmed to ignore many of the genuine drivers of climate change, from variations in solar activity to those cyclical shifts in ocean currents.

As it was put by Roger Cohen, a senior US physicist formerly involved with the IPCC process, who long accepted its orthodoxy: "I was appalled at how flimsy the case is. I was also appalled at the behaviour of many of those who helped produce the IPCC reports and by many of those who promote it.

"In particular I am referring to the arrogance, the activities aimed at shutting down debate; the outright fabrications; the mindless defense of bogus science; and the politicisation of the IPCC process and the science process itself."

Yet it is at just this moment, when the IPCC's house of cards is crumbling, that the politicians of the Western world are using it to propose steps that can only damage our way of life beyond recognition. It really is time for that "counter-consensus" to be taken seriously.



Sales of winter clothes and thermal underwear are soaring as Britons suffer a dismal summer and prepare for a winter of high fuel bills, according to a leading retailer. Department store Debenhams said shoppers were turning their back on summer sarongs, shorts and swimwear and opting for woollens instead. Sales of thermal underwear at the store are up 54% on this time last year, winter coat sales are up 76% and warm knitwear is up by 53%. Debenhams said the figures were similar to those traditionally seen during October.

The retailer said it had expected a slight increase in sales of winter clothes during the dismal August weather, but put the "massive boost" in figures down to "hibernation hysteria". It noted the higher sales followed comments by Jake Ulrich of Centrica - the parent company of British Gas - telling consumers struggling with soaring fuel bills that "maybe its two jumpers instead of one".

Debenhams' spokesman Ed Watson said: "The awful weather clearly has something to do with this hibernation hysteria. "However with gas and electric companies turning up the heat, it looks like many people will be turning to their wardrobe rather than the central heating thermostat this winter to keep warm. "I suppose it's a reluctant thanks to Jake Ulrich as well. A full set of Debenhams' long johns and a couple of our woolly jumpers are in the post so he can follow his own advice."


The latest Greenie nonsense: No cafeteria trays

Crammed on middle linebacker Derek Walker's plate are beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, spinach and a roll. In the other hand, he balances a salad and a bottle of hot sauce. He lumbers through the small, tabled-filled cafeteria and plunks down without spilling a drop. All without a tray. "You've just got to do with what you have," Walker said. Glenville State has joined an increasing number of colleges and universities that have shed their cafeteria trays.

In drought-stricken Georgia and North Carolina, the goal is to conserve water by lightening the load on dishwashers. Other schools are trying to cut down on wasted food and conserve energy. Proponents, including major food vendors, say it also reduces the use of water-polluting detergents. But no trays?

Students will have to find another way to sled in the winter. And imagine the surprise of Bluto Blutarsky, who piled his tray high, using some of the heaping portions to start a food fight in the 1978 film, "National Lampoon's Animal House." Advocates of the trayless cafeterias say if students can't pile on the food as Bluto did, they might consume fewer calories and keep off those unhealthy pounds often gained in college. Try telling that to hungry coeds who simply make more trips to the counter. "I'll just keep coming back for seconds," said Jeff Lyke, a freshman at Glenville State, which started going trayless in April to coincide with Earth Day.

"It speaks well for our institution's consciousness in preventing an otherwise needless waste," said Glenville President Peter Barr. Convincing the central West Virginia school's nearly 1,400 students, however, could take time. "I think that's kind of ridiculous," said freshman Rebecca Riffle, who used a legal-size notebook to help carry her plate to a table. "Whenever there's a bunch of people here at one time, it gets crazy. You have people bumping into you, so if you're balancing stuff, you're going to end up dropping something or breaking something."

But students all over the country might have to get used to it. Fifty to 60 percent of Philadelphia-based Aramark's 500 campus partners and 230 of the 600 colleges and universities served by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo are expected to dump their trays, company officials said. At least 23 of the 625 schools belonging to the Okemos, Mich.-based National Association of College & University Food Services have adopted the idea so far. Most of those schools operate their food services independently.

It's too soon to measure cost savings nationwide. But five times more energy and water are consumed in dining halls than any other square foot on college campuses, said Sodexo spokeswoman Monica Zimmer. "So if a college is looking to go 'green,' they need to start looking in the dining facility," Zimmer said. Georgia Tech, enrollment 18,000, has saved 3,000 gallons of water per day without trays, she said.

The 50,000-student University of Florida estimates it will save 470,000 gallons annually. At the 2,000-student University of Maine at Farmington, which went trayless in February 2007, the tally is 288,000 gallons, said Aramark spokesman Dave Gargione. Broken dishes from a lack of trays have been taken into account at Glenville, which has bought extra plates and cups, but Gargione said he hasn't heard about such a trend nationally.

Aramark conducted a study of 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions and found that 79 percent indicated they would accept eating off plates instead of trays. Another Aramark study of 186,000 meals served at 25 institutions found that when trays weren't used, food waste per person was reduced 25 percent to 30 percent. At Glenville's Mollohan's Restaurant, one of two places to eat on campus, food waste has been reduced from three, five-gallon buckets to just one per day, said Stephen Shattuck, Aramark's food service director at Glenville.

Some schools are experimenting in a few trayless cafeterias before going campuswide. "This is gaining steam all over the country," said Gail Campana, director of publications and marketing for the food services association. "It's going faster in some places than others because you have different cultures and different ways that universities do things."

Fortunately for Blutarsky, the University of Oregon's Erb Memorial Union, where Belushi's famous food fight scene was filmed at the "Fishbowl" food court, still makes trays available.



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Saturday, August 30, 2008

GOP Nominee Palin cool on Global Warming

Some scientists believe Alaska will be among the first to feel the impact of global warming, but Sarah Palin told voters there she wasn't sure climate change wasn't simply part of a natural warming cycle. "I will not pretend to have all the answers," Palin said about global warming, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Her spokesman clarified at the time that "she's not totally convinced one way or the other. Science will tell us . . . She thinks the jury's still out."

Palin shared her views in the run-up to the 2006 governor's race, at an Alaska Federation of Natives convention, where delegates passed a resolution calling for a mandatory reduction in pollution affecting the atmosphere. Answering a question from the Daily News, Palin cautioned against "overreaction."

Those were among the comments that brought condemnation today from Greenpeace to her selection as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the Republican ticket. The environmental group's Alaska Global Warming Campaigner, Melanie Duchin, described Palin as "one of the most anti-environment records of any governor in the United States." "She has supported oil drilling in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas in Alaska, even when it meant sacrificing polar bears, beluga whales, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," Duchin's statement said. "Despite her advocacy for expanded oil and gas drilling, Palin has done almost nothing to promote the clean energy sources that can help solve global warming, which is already having major negative consequences in her state," Duchin said.

In an interview released by Newsmax magazine today, Palin said that while she recognized her state would be affected by climate change, that didn't mean humans are responsible. "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location," she said. "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."

Palin's comments stand in sharp contrast to those of McCain, who says at every campaign stop that he believes human activity is driving global warming,



Climate is always changing, and the physical and biological effects of climate change are always immensely complex, both regional and locally. There is no simple set of linear responses to world average climate change, whether `cooling' or `warming'. Moreover, what are deemed to be physical and ecological responses to average change more often than not turn out to be the product of highly-localised or regional causes, some of which may have nothing to do with world average changes.

Such complexities are perfectly exemplified by what is currently happening to sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic. The two graphs contrast the sea-ice anomalies (in million square km) for (a) the Northern Hemisphere and (b) the Southern Hemisphere respectively between 1978 and 2008/9.

In the Northern Hemisphere, sea ice is indeed declining; on the other hand, in the Southern Hemisphere [bottom graph], sea ice is clearly expanding. Both graphs can be viewed in larger versions at The Cryosphere Today, an excellent web site maintained by the Polar Research Group of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Beware The Melting Media

In the media, we hear a great deal about `global warming', melting ice, and bereft polar bears and penguins. But, as you can guess, things are not quite so straightforward. Indeed, some scientists believe that the decline in the Arctic ice must be put down to regional and local events, and not to world average changes. Possible factors include warm water intrusions from the Pacific Ocean, and more recently from the Atlantic Ocean; undersea volcanic activity, particularly on the Gakkel Ridge, where a major eruption took place in 1999; and, albedo alterations brought about by soot pollution and the spread of tundra shrubs.

Interestingly, similar Arctic `warmings' have taken place before, and are recorded for the 1800s, for the 1930s, and for the 1950s. Current warming in Greenland does not appear to have reached the levels of these earlier events. Moreover, recent work has shown that particulate pollution from mid-latitudes can aggravate warming in the Arctic. This may have had a role to play in the 1800s because, during the so-called Industrial Revolution, technologies were dirtier than they are now.

Similar complexities also attend any understanding of the extending ice in the Southern Hemisphere, with parts of Antarctica cooling and parts warming; local effects of different currents and undercurrents, colder and warmer waters; and with changes in precipitation patterns, snow, and mass balance.

Yet, with global cooling now seemingly underway, the media appear to be even more desperate than usual to continue to hype up `global warming', so expect lots more about the Arctic decline, drowning polar bears, and melting `tipping points' to keep us plebs in thrall. You should, however, take it all with a pinch of oceanic salt. The reality is a great deal more subtle and far more complex, and I suspect that, in truth, we have very little notion of what is actually happening.

Source (See the original for links, graphics etc.)


Incisive article in the Wall Street Journal today on how Russia is using energy supply as part of its strategic renaissance. An excerpt:

"Despite Russia's repeated use of energy as a political weapon in Eastern Europe, Western Europeans keep repeating the mantra that Russia has been a reliable supplier to "Europe." They also choose to ignore that natural-gas giant Gazprom serves as the Kremlin's leading foreign-policy arm. The company is primarily state-owned, and many members of Gazprom's leadership are current or former government officials. The Kremlin's present occupant, Dmitry Medvedev, until recently was the chairman of Gazprom. His replacement there is former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

The Russian plan is rather simple: Punish countries that refuse to come under its influence by building new gas pipelines that bypass them, while rewarding countries and political leaders that cooperate with Russia with lucrative energy deals. Maintaining a monopoly over the transport of Caspian gas to Europe is essential for Moscow to ensure that all those countries that have submitted to a Russian "partnership" will acquiesce to the return of the former Soviet space to the Kremlin's control."

It is vital to understand that Russia has designs on Eastern Europe and is using its energy supply to buy off Western Europe. The future looks bad if this is the case.

Yet there is a question here that needs answering first. Natural gas, while cheap to burn and an efficient form of energy, is not the only source of electricity Western Europe has. Germany and Britain both possess abundant coal. France has based its energy profile on nuclear. Both could provide Russia-free energy across Western Europe, yet both are reviled by environmentalists. Wind power and renewables, beloved by environmentalists, are simply not up to the job.

It therefore seems that when faced with a choice between empowering Russia and annoying environmentalists, Western Europeans are less afraid of the former.

Let's also remember that the Kyoto Protocol is designed to see large amounts of Western European money transferred to Russia as European nations purchase credits for emissions reductions banked by Russia following the collapse of communism. European nations can't reduce emissions on their own, for the aforementioned reasons, so they need to buy credit from elsewhere. This was the central reason behind Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. To put it bluntly, the Kyoto Protocol is subsidizing Putin's military revival. If the supposed oil wealth funding of madrassas is a problem, then I suggest this one is at least as big.

This is, needless to say, a terrible situation to be in. When environmentalists get their way, Putin gets his. If Putin's energy weapon is to be neutralized, Western European governments need to face down the environmental lobbies in their countries, and allow digging for coal and new nuclear build. Political calculus, however, suggests otherwise. And Putin knows this.


Carbon Offsets: More Harm Than Good?

A bit of realism from a Leftist site

From Coldplay to Leonardo diCaprio to Al Gore, influential environmentalists are increasingly modeling green behavior by neutralizing their carbon emissions through carbon offsets. Briefly, offsets are based on the notion that consumers can balance out carbon intensive activities, like travel, by contributing to projects that reduce greenhouse gases. Between 2005 and 2007 the market for carbon offsets grew 175%, reaching $110 million (Faris 2007). But just as buying indulgences in the Middle Ages never really erased your sins, carbon offsets rarely counteract your carbon use. Moreover, in some cases, carbon offset projects actually hurt local people. Many experts now believe that well-intentioned consumers are not just wasting their money on offsets, but that purchasing them actually does more harm than good.

How it Works

Suppose you buy airplane tickets for your family's summer vacation on a website like Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia. Somewhere in the process of taking your credit card information, the website will ask whether you would like to offset your trip's carbon emissions for a nominal fee (e.g., a roundtrip flight from NYC to San Francisco = 5,142 miles = 2,455 lbs CO2 = $17.85). Or, you can offset your car rental, hotel stay and flight (a seven day cross-country trip can be offset for $5.44/day/person). You can also offset your wedding, and, if you're feeling guilty on a daily basis, you can offset energy usage in your home, or your dorm room.

At this point, your original travel search engine will have linked you to a carbon offset company. These for-profit organizations act as brokers, channeling consumer contributions to projects that either replace atmospheric carbon (i.e., by planting trees) or promote renewable energy. Sounds promising, but is it really so easy to "zero-out" the carbon that leads global warming? The answer, unfortunately, is no.

The Trouble with Trees

Take, for example, carbon sequestration programs, which account for approximately 20% of the carbon offset market. Based on the idea that trees absorb carbon, these programs sponsor the planting of large forests designed to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For over a decade, governments and non-profit foundations in the developing world have been offering large sums of money to developing countries in exchange for tree plantations, also known as "carbon sinks".

However scientists point out that there is a major difference between the kind of carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels and the kind of carbon stored by trees. "Carbon emissions from burned oil, gas or coal cannot be considered as equal to the same amount of biological carbon in a tree," write scientists at the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN 2005). Whereas in nature, carbon moves freely between forests, oceans and air, the fossil carbon pool is inert. Once out of the ground and into the air via cars, coal extraction, etc., fossil carbon joins the active carbon pool. It will not return to the fossil carbon pool for millennia. So, the carbon absorbed by trees does not zero out the carbon emitted by airplanes.

Even if the carbon were equivalent, trees are not necessarily reliable carbon storehouses. First, scientists point out that when trees burn, rot, or are chopped down, they release any carbon they have stored (Kill 2003).

Second, according to ecologist Ram Oren, principal investigator on Duke University's ongoing Free Air Carbon Enrichment project, if trees do not receive enough water or nutrients, any extra carbon they store very quickly goes back into the atmosphere (Cropping 2007). For instance, in 2002, the band Coldplay announced it would offset the environmental impact caused by the release of its second album by planting 10,000 mango trees in southern India. More precisely, Coldplay worked with CarbonNeutral, an offset company, which in turn contracted with Women for Sustainable Development, an NGO. Eventually funds went to local farmers who were supposed to plant and care for the trees. However, four years after the album's release, many of the trees had died - a drought dried the soil, and many villagers never received funding to help them maintain their trees (Dhillon and Harnden 2006).

Carbon Offsets and Human Rights Violations

The Coldplay/Carbon Neutral project left behind more than just dead mango trees. Indian villagers, who are economically marginalized to begin with, invested time and energy that could have been directed at other, more secure income-generating projects. In fact, one of the biggest problems with Carbon offset schemes, particularly forests, is their lack of attention to the lives of local people. Frequently, carbon sinks displace local populations, generating poverty, inequality, and food and water scarcity. They also drastically reduce biological diversity. In turn, the erosion of resources at every level exacerbates local conflicts (McAfee 2003). Even more seriously, some carbon offset tree plantations have become an excuse for human rights violations.

One well-known case exemplifies the violence created by offset forests. In the early 1990s, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Face Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established by Dutch power companies, launched an initiative to plant scores of trees in Mount Elgon National Park. In order to implement the project, the Ugandan government evicted thousands of local farmers. Most have been fighting to regain their land ever since.

Two years ago, after a new government came into power, the courts granted an injunction in the farmers' favor. Almost immediately, they cut down carbon-sink trees and planted maize and other vegetables instead. In response, the paramilitary Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) began beating and shooting the farmers. Now, the perimeter of Mount Elgon is tantamount to a war zone (Faris 2007; Smith 2007; Zarembo 2007).

The Ugandan case is not the only example of violence associated with carbon offset plantations. There have been other reports in Central America, Africa and India. In general, clearing vast areas of land amid people without economic resources is always problematic.

Alternatives to Arbors

Some carbon offset companies try to steer clear of those problems by funding the production of energy efficient light bulbs, solar panels, or other alternative energy sources. Yet even these projects are rife with uncertainty. For instance, the LA Times reported on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania that received funding from Native Energy, a popular offset broker. The farm had already won an alternative energy grant from the US Department of Agriculture to capture methane and burn it to generate electricity. Just after the project began Native Energy signed a deal to pay the farmer for 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide reductions. The money did not pay for any further methane burning - in fact, in the Times article, the farmer refers to the offset deal as a "free bonus" (Zarembo 2007).

In another example, Native Energy paid $36,000 to the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, a power utility for dozens of remote Eskimo communities in Western Alaska. The cooperative had just received $2.8 million in federal funding for a $3.1-million wind turbine project. In exchange for its contribution (roughly 1% of the total project costs) Native Energy received 25 years of carbon dioxide reductions, or 100% of the project's carbon reductions. Here, consumer offset fees actually bought little except the ability for Native Energy to sell more offsets.

Examples like these have inspired a lot of buzz about ensuring 'additionality', or verifying that offset funding generates genuine and unique carbon reductions. Most offset companies now advertise that their projects' additionality is certified by "third party" experts. But critics point out that certifiers, themselves, are often consultants with their own stake in endorsing a project's success.

More generally, determining criteria for additionality can be tricky business. Some projects might be complete without offset funding, but the extra cushion it provides ensures their sustainability. Whether that constitutes additionality is open to interpretation. For instance, environmental watchdog group Clean Air Cool Planet published its own "Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers" in 2007. Native Energy ranked among the top eight providers, with especially high marks for additionality, despite the questionable examples mentioned above.

The problem is that almost every aspect of the carbon offset market is subjective and unfettered. This past January, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it will begin to take a closer look at the "booming, unregulated 'carbon offset' market" (Joyce 2008). But, in the meantime, offset companies are free to charge with the market will bear, and economists predict that the industry will grow by $40 billion by the year 2010 (Faris 2007).



UK Coal is seeking to cash in on rising energy prices through higher production and the end of long-term, low-priced legacy contracts. The company is already investing œ55m each in its collieries at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire and Kellingley in West Yorkshire to open up new reserves and is expected to decide within the next six months whether to reopen the Harworth mine near Doncaster, which has been mothballed for more than two years.

Chief executive Jon Lloyd said he believed it was accepted that in the face of higher energy prices, and despite the impact of the large combustion plants directive, which limits power station emissions, coal would play a "significant and perhaps major part in the UK's energy mix over the next two decades".

"There will be environmental challenges but frankly it's a political must to keep the lights on," Lloyd said. He said the company would decide on Harworth either late this year or in the first quarter of 2009. If it was reopened, at a cost of up to œ175m, it would eventually provide another 2.2 m to 2.3 m tonnes of coal a year. The key factors would be the geology, which would determine the cost of accessing the reserves, and their size - thought to be 25m to 40m tonnes.

More here


Who has noticed that the period 2014-2015 keeps on turning up in the debate on greenhouse science? For that is when greenhouse proponents say the long-delayed global warming apocalypse will start happening. In addition, that general date has turned up in forecasts made by an arch sceptic, and two researchers in the US have forecast that sunspot activity will cease entirely by 2014.

As the two sides do not agree on anything else at all this is odd - odd enough to be worth exploring.

One group to point at the 2015 date is led by Noel Keenlyside of the Leibnitz Institute of Marine Science in the German city of Kiel. As reported in the journal Nature (letters, May 1) Keenlyside and colleagues added the affect of climate cycles to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models to forecast that global temperatures will remain stable or perhaps even dip down for the next few years, before heading up. The paper does not give a date for the expected kick up in temperatures but in a subsequent interview with the Daily Telegraph in the UK Keenlyside stated that the earth will start to warm again in 2015.

Keenlyside was forecasting from his research into the powerful Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMO) climate cycle which, he says, has a global effect and will weaken to its long term mean. He also emphasises that his work in no way contradicts that of the IPCC - he is merely adding climate cycles on top of the panel's predictions - but his work seem to have horrified the hardliners. There have been internet reports that prominent scientists have tried to challenge the Keenlyside team to bets on temperature trends. However, other climate cycles seem to be following the AMO lead. In April, NASA announced that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation has shifted from its warm mode to its cool mode - a switch that will not be discussed here but may also result in significant cooling.

More recently, another group observing the sun has also come up with the date 2014 but for quite different reasons. As has been noted a few times in the media, the sun has gone quiet - too quiet - with the next solar cycle so far not putting in an appearance. Scientists have known for a very long time that the earth has a distinct 11-year cycle. At its height, indicated by lots of sunspots, the sun is very active giving off lots of flares and solar storms which affect satellites. At the bottom of the cycle there are few or no spots, and a marked lack of activity.

The last cycle was officially declared over by NASA in March 2006 with one group at the space agency putting out a release confidently forecasting that the next cycle would be 20 to 50 per cent stronger than the old.

The sun responded to this piece of scientific hubris by going quiet. A few spots from the new cycle have been sighted, as well as a few spots from the old - scientists can tell which spots the cycle belongs to by their magnetic polarity - but very little has happened.

At the time of writing the sun is still spot free. NASA solar physicist David Hathaway points out, quite rightly, that the sun's behaviour is within major statistical limits - just. The average solar cycle lasts 131 months plus or minus 14 months and the current cycle - the quiet period counts as part of the old cycle - has lasted nearly 143 months. The solar cycle went quiet for years at the beginning of last century before restarting, Hathaway notes, so nothing out of the ordinary has happened - at least, not yet.

Another group at the US National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, William Livingston and Matthew Penn, believe that there may be a deeper process at work. Sunspots are highly magnetic regions that are somewhat cooler than the rest of the sun's surface (they appear dark compared to the rest of the sun, but if seen separately would appear very bright) and the two researchers have been tracking both the temperature and magnetic strength of the spots. They found that the spots have been warming up and becoming less magnetic. An average of the trend is a straight line going down which hits the bottom of the graph at 2014. They have concluded that, although sun spots may appear briefly from time to time in the next few years, they will disappear by 2014.

This conclusion is in a paper submitted to the journal Science three years ago but rejected in peer review. With the sun now so quiet the paper has been resurrected from a filing cabinet in the observatory and circulated informally. Dr Livingston told me (by phone from his office in Tucson) that the paper had been rejected on the grounds that it was a purely statistical argument so it would be better to wait and see what happened, and he considered that a fair point. They are now waiting "for the right moment" to resubmit.

But what happens after 2014? Dr Livingston says that as they are using a purely statistical argument, without any theory to back it, they do not know. All they know is that the trend reaches zero in 2014. Conventional theory on the sun's inner workings never forecast anything like this - in fact, forecast the exact opposite - but has been revised to say that the sun will restart some time next year.

With the sun being quiet for a surprisingly long time, plenty of commentators are pointing to the possibility of a Maunder Minimum - a period from 1645 to 1715 with very few sunspots which is associated with a series of bitter winters known as the Little Ice Age. Although it is widely acknowledged that there must be some link between the sun's activity and climate, the nature of the link and its effectiveness is hotly debated. The IPCC models, the ruling orthodoxy, gives star billing to the effect of industrial gases in the atmosphere and places solar variations in the also ran category. However, as we shall see those models have proved largely useless for forecasting - in the short term, at least - and there are no rival climate theories. The sceptics largely decline to forecast, pointing out, with some justification as it turns out, that there is as yet no means of forecasting what the sun will do.

One sceptic who is prepared to make a forecast, and who also points to the date of 2015, is professional UK weather forecaster Piers Corbyn. The bulk of scientists have little time for Corbyn, who is a strong advocate of the link between solar activity and climate. Greenhouse proponents, in particular, detest him. For as well as stridently denouncing the IPCC whenever he can, he also appeared on the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. However, he does have a track record as a weather forecaster and, for whatever reason, is saying the same things as the Keenlyside team, at least for the next few years. He forecasts that global temperatures will decline until 2015, and then kick up briefly, before declining again....

More here


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Friday, August 29, 2008

Another Prominent Scientist Dissents from Warming Fears at an International Conference

"For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming?" - Geologist Dr. David Gee

On August 8, 2008, Geologist Dr. David Gee, the chairman of the science committee of the recently concluded International Geological Congress, dismissed the notion that the "science is settled" on man-made climate fears by asking his fellow scientists "How sure can we be?" about carbon dioxide driving global temperatures.

Note: The International Geological Congress prominently featured the voices and views of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. See Full report here

Gee was perhaps one of the most prominent and accomplished scientists attending the conference in Oslo. Gee, currently a professor at Dept. for Geosciences of Uppsala University in Sweden, was awarded the European Geosciences Union award for his scientific leadership of EUROPROBE, a multidisciplinary research project that brought hundreds of senior scientists, postdocs and doctoral students together to study tectonic structures within Europe. EUROPROBE was a project of the International Lithosphere Program and the European Science Foundation. Gee has led geologic expeditions to such locales as Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya, the Polar Urals and the Taimyr Peninsula and has authored numerous scientific papers. He also chairs a Swedish Research Council committee. Dr. Gee's full bio here

Full excerpt of Gee's presentation to the International Geological Congress on August 8, 2008:

"Here we look (at the graph) at the last 100 years and here we look at carbon dioxide climbing from about 280ppm to 380 now and we see temperature as well. And we have talked about it all day here haven't we? About the natural variation which produced the ups and downs through the 1910's 1920's, 1930's and 40's, -- increasing -- going down, apparently independent of carbon dioxide and now an increase in temperature thanks to carbon dioxide, apparently. And I think we need to have this in our minds all the time -- How sure can we be? If I could have the next slide please.

If we look at last ten years, this is the thing we have been quarrelling about. You see on left there in 1998, the temperature when we had the El Nino, and the very high peak in 1998 and then a general sinking and flattening and then two years of sharply decreasing temperatures. I don't think anyone quarrels about this; this is international data and well established graphs. You see the carbon dioxide curve going straight across that diagram from left to right, upwards. So my question is extremely simple, we know temperature goes up and down. We know there is tremendous amount of natural variations, but for how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand -- we politicians and scientists-- that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?" the scientist asked to applause from the audience."

Thirty Years of a Failed Democrat Energy Policy

By Alan Caruba

Millions will tune in to hear Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech as the Democrat Party's choice to be the next President of the United States. For Americans, the need to pay particular attention to his speech is essential if we are to escape thirty years of a failed Democrat energy policy.

From the days President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House and secured a windfall profit taxes on American oil companies, this nation has been made vulnerable to our enemies by emphasizing alternative energy and biofuels as the answer to our growing need for oil and electrical power.

The windfall profits tax led to the decline of the oil industry's investments in oil exploration and extraction in the United States, and to their understandable reluctance to invest billions in the building of much needed refineries.

Congress, since 2006, has been controlled by Democrats as the majority party. In the Senate, Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, has said that "Oil makes us sick. Coal makes us sick. Global warming makes us sick." This is such blatant nonsense that, were it spoken by anyone else, it would be easily dismissed. However, Sen. Reid controls the legislative agenda of the U.S. Senate! His counterpart in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has said that her job is to "save the planet."

We should consider the total lack of any substantive legislation the Democrat Congress has produced in the two years they have been in control. We should consider the prospects if they are permitted to continue and their candidate should become President. For this reason alone we should listen closely to Sen. Obama.

Fact: Global warming was and is a hoax. Thousands of scientists worldwide have dismissed the false computer models on which it is based, but more importantly at this time is the fact that the Earth has been demonstrably cooling for at least a decade.

Even the venerable Farmer's Almanac predicts "below average temperatures for most of the U.S." The 192-year-old publication which claims an accurate rate of 80 to 85 percent for its forecasts, prepared two years in advance, says in its 2009 edition that at least two-thirds of the country can expect "colder-than-average temperatures this winter, with only the Far West and Southeast in line for near-normal readings." "This is going to be catastrophic for millions of people," said editor Peter Geiger.

I will tell you what also will be catastrophic: the election of Sen. Barack Obama and a Democrat Congress if their thirty years of attacks on the American oil industry continue, along with their thirty years of support for biofuels, ethanol, and so-called "alternative energy" or "clean energy." As my friend, Seldon Graham, Jr., with fifty years' experience as a petroleum engineer and attorney, says, "The U.S. needs to eliminate both ethanol and foreign oil. If it is worth fighting for in the Middle East, it is worth drilling for in the United States."

You will not hear such straight talk from Sen. Obama and you have not heard it from the leadership of the Democrat Party. Instead you have heard the steady drumbeat of attacks on the American oil industry and the advocacy of failed energy policies that cost Americans millions at the gas pump and leave millions vulnerable to high costs when they heat their homes this winter.

Even Sen. McCain, who still believes the global warming hoax, has called for off-shore drilling. That is a small step in the right direction. A pragmatist, he will no doubt come to see the folly of further legislative programs to address a non-existent global warming threat, but it will be Sen. Obama's energy policies that hold the greatest threat to the nation's economy and future.


When Good Lizards Go Bad: Komodo Dragons Take Violent Turn

Indonesian villagers Blame Environmentalists for Reptiles' aggression

At least once a week, an unwelcome intruder crawls under a clapboard wall and, forked tongue darting, lumbers its way into Syarif Maulana's classroom. Then, everyone screams, there is no more school, and we all run away very fast," says the 10-year-old boy. "We are very afraid." The intruder, a Komodo dragon, is the world's largest lizard, an ancient, fierce carnivore found only on a handful of remote islands in eastern Indonesia. Reaching 10 feet in length, the dragons feed on buffaloes, deer and an occasional human. Just a year ago, a boy about Syarif's age died in a dragon's jaws, his bones smashed against rocks to facilitate reptilian digestion.

That killing, and a spate of other close encounters, has fanned a panic in the dragons' main habitat, the Komodo National Park. Touted by Indonesia as its "Jurassic Park," this rocky, barren archipelago is home to some 2,500 dragons and nearly 4,000 people, clustered in four fishing villages of wooden stilt houses. These locals have long viewed the dragons as a reincarnation of fellow kinsfolk, to be treated with reverence. But now, villagers say, the once-friendly dragons have turned into vicious man-eaters. And they blame policies drafted by American-funded environmentalists for this frightening turn of events.

"When I was growing up, I felt the dragons were my family," says 55-year-old Hajji Faisal. "But today the dragons are angry with us, and see us as enemies." The reason, he and many other villagers believe, is that environmentalists, in the name of preserving nature, have destroyed Komodo's age-old symbiosis between dragon and man. For centuries, local tradition required feeding the dragons -- which live more than 50 years, can recognize individual humans and usually stick to fairly small areas. Locals say they always left deer parts for the dragons after a hunt, and often tied goats to a post as sacrifice. Island taboos strictly prohibited hurting the giant reptiles, a possible reason why the dragons have survived in the Komodo area despite becoming extinct everywhere else. "For us, giving food to the dragons is an obligation, our sacred duty," says Hajji Adam, headman of the park's biggest village, Kampung Komodo.

Indonesia invited the Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based environment protection group, to help manage the park in 1995. An Indonesian subsidiary of the group, called Putri Naga Komodo, gained a tourism concession for the park in 2005 and is investing in the conservation effort some $10 million of its own money and matching financing from international donors.

With this funding and advice, park authorities put an end to villagers' traditional deer hunting, enforcing a prohibition that had been widely disregarded. They declared canines an alien species, and outlawed the villagers' dogs, which used to keep dragons away from homes. Park authorities banned the goat sacrifices, previously staged on Komodo for the benefit of picture-snapping tourists. "We don't want the Komodo dragon to be domesticated. It's against natural balance," says Widodo Ramono, policy director of the Nature Conservancy's Indonesian branch and a former director of the country's national park service. "We have to keep this conservation area for the purpose of wildlife. It is not for human beings."

When people hunt deer, it poses a mortal threat to the dragons, which disappeared from a small island near Komodo after poachers decimated deer stocks there, officials say. "If we let the locals hunt again, the dragons will be gone," says Vinsensius Latief, the national park's chief for Komodo island. "If we are not strict in enforcing the ban, everything here will be destroyed."

But, while the deer population remains stable in the park, many dragons these days prefer to seek easier prey in the vicinity of humans. They frequently descend from the hills to the villages, hiding under stilt houses and waiting for a chance to snap at passing chicken or goats. Much to the fury of villagers, park authorities, while endorsing the idea in principle, so far haven't acted on repeated requests to build dragon-proof fences around the park's inhabited areas. The measure is estimated to cost about $5,000 per village. "People are scared because, every day, the dragons come down and eat our goats," complains Ibrahim Hamso, secretary of the Kampung Rinca village. "Today it's a goat, and tomorrow it can be our child."

A year ago, a 9-year-old named Mansur was one such victim. The boy went to answer the call of nature behind a bush near his home in Kampung Komodo. In broad daylight, as terrified relatives looked on, a dragon lunged from his hideout, took a bite of the boy's stomach and chest, and started crushing his skull. "We threw branches and stones to drive him away, but the dragon was crazed with blood, and just wouldn't let go," says the boy's father, Jamain, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. Unlike in the U.S. and many other Western countries, park rangers here don't routinely put down animals that develop a taste for human flesh.

A few months later, Jamain's neighbor Mustaming Kiswanto, a 38-year-old who makes a living selling dragon woodcarvings to tourists, and whose son had been bitten by a dragon, was attacked by another giant lizard after falling asleep. In June, five European divers, stranded in an isolated part of the park, said they successfully fended off an aggressive dragon by throwing their weight belts at it.

One of the most famous lizard attacks occurred half a world away in 2001, when a Komodo dragon kept by the Los Angeles Zoo tried to ingest the foot of Phil Bronstein, then editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and husband of actress Sharon Stone.

To the villagers in Komodo, the recent incidents provide clear evidence of an ominous change in reptile behavior. "I don't blame the dragons for my boy's death. I blame those who forbade us from following custom and feeding them," says Jamain. "If it weren't for them, my boy would still be alive."

Officials at the Nature Conservancy's Indonesian headquarters in Bali dismiss such widespread belief about a connection between the attacks and the ban on feeding the dragons as "superstition." The group and its Komodo subsidiary reject any responsibility for Mansur's death. The boy "shouldn't have crouched like a prey species in a place where dragons live," says Marcus Matthews-Sawyer, tourism, marketing and communications director at Putri Naga Komodo. "You've got to be very careful about extrapolating and drawing any conclusions."

Despite such disbelief in the Komodo villagers' theories, executives at the Nature Conservancy's headquarters in the U.S. pledge to reach out and tackle local fears. "Any concern expressed by the villagers will be taken seriously and we will address it if we can," says Chief Communications Officer James R. Petterson. "The Komodo effort is a work in progress."

Dragon and man could coexist here in harmony in the past, Komodo park officials add, because at the time the area's human population was a fraction of today's size. Now, with local villages pushing deeper inland and attracting new settlers from elsewhere in Indonesia, conflict may be inevitable -- and even a fence won't be able to prevent dragon infiltrations. "The smell of the village -- goats, chicken, drying fish -- all this invites the dragons," says Mr. Latief. "And if the dragons can't grab the animals, they will bite the villagers."


Comment on the above from a reader in Oregon:

Actually, it is not entirely wrong to discourage feeding of dangerous predators. Just up the coast here, in Florence, they are having an awful problem with bears getting into people's homes, having to be trapped and destroyed. A lot of retired people who had moved to Florence thought it was cute to feed them, but this year on account of the cold weather (thanks, Global Warming!) the spring berry crop was poor so the bears wanted more garbage from the humans and people started finding bears on their porches, breaking their doors and windows, and eating pets. Then the trappers come in and catch or shoot the bears which is good because they should not be dependent on humans - fear them, in fact. And, of course, it is perfectly legal for homeowners to shoot threatening bears.

On the other hand, with regard to the Komodos, it sounds like the locals had a modus vivendi worked out, but here come the American earthniks who know better, and there's trouble in Komodo City. And, since apparently the earthniks outlawed dogs as well as guns, the villagers are left defenseless. The attitude of the earthniks is one I've observed before; animals come first, people we can do without. It's widespread in leftist circles.

Food shortage amelioration from an unexpected place

Now that Russia is Fascist (semi-capitalist) instead of Communist, we begin to get a glimpse of its huge agricultural potential -- even amid global cooling

Russia has harvested 75.3 million metric tons of grain to Aug. 25 on 25.7 million hectares (63.5 million acres). The total grain-planted area in Russia is 46.3 million hectares (114.4 million acres). The average yield so far has been 2.93 tons a hectare (1.19 tons / acre).

Grain harvested to date was 22 million tons more than on the same date last year, with the average yields exceeding those reported on the same date last year by 0.55 tons a hectare. Wheat harvest to date was 43.2 million tons on 13 million hectares (32 million acres), with the average yield of 3.35 tons a hectare (1.36 tons / acre). Barley harvest was 17 million tons on 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres), with the average yield of 2.84 tons a hectare (1.15 tons / acre).

The total grain planted area to be harvested this year is 47 million hectares, 2 million hectares or also 5 million acres more than last year. This year's grain harvest is expected to come in at 95 million tons in clean weight. This will be up 13 million tons on the 2007 harvest or up 16%.


Leisure time has value too

One of the things that I've been banging on about here and there recently is the way in which the costs of recycling systems are misstated. For no one ever adds in the costs of the time taken by households to sort the materials so that they can be recycled. My own crude numbers tell me that the costs of this labour are greater than the costs of the rest of the entire system put together. No, I don't think those numbers are right but I am insistent that the basic concept is correct. Which is why I've been rather blindsided by those who say that time spent not working for money doesn't actually have a value.

Eh? Of course such time has a value, there's an opportunity cost to your being forced to labour instead of doing something else. All of which rather leads me to this assertion by Robert Fogel (yet another Nobel Laureate at U. Chicago).
A reader has questioned Fogel's assertion that Americans spend only 13% of their incomes on necessities, noting that sounds low. To make meaningful comparisons across centuries, Fogel has looked at how much of the increase in incomes over a person's lifetime has gone to buy leisure - that is to work fewer hours, including more years in retirement. He put up a table at the Lindau meeting that showed that Americans used 18% of their incomes to buy time off in 1875 but 68% in 1995.

The table and argument are at page 190 of this book.

If, from the gargantuan rise in wealth over the past century and a bit we've decided to purchase more leisure rather than more goods and baubles, then we value that leisure higher than the baubles. So if someone starts telling us that we must labour, for free, to sort our rubbish, that has a cost to us as we now are spending our time on neither the leisure we prefer nor the baubles we've given up to get it. It still leaves, of course, the determination of exactly what that time is in fact worth and as I say, I know that my numbers are not right in detail. I just wish that someone would in fact let us know what are the correct numbers.

Fogel's argument does of course entirely slay another set of arguments, those of all who complain about the ever longer working hours, the way in which modernity leaves us with ever less leisure time. They are, quite literally, spouting rubbish for we've never been so rich in leisure as we are now.


Australia: Arrogant architects who think they know what's best for other people

Regardless of what the people themselves want, of course. NOTE: 1). This is just a regurgitation of the failed American "Smart Growth" strategy. 2). Low quality houses throughout the metropolitan areas are already often torn down and replaced by apartment blocks -- so that people who are willing to live in apartments can do so almost anywhere they choose

AUSTRALIA'S big cities are being urged to ban outer suburban housing estates to cut urban sprawl and be more like London and Rome. The nation's peak architectural body wants Australian cities to focus on boosting their inner and middle suburbs' density rather than release land in outer areas, to become more sustainable.

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects' new urban design policy also pushes for greater regional development, which in Victoria would mean more people to living and working in cities such as Geelong or Ballarat. However, Victoria's peak housing developer group says a move away from outer suburbs would cripple the economy and hurt families who were calling for more housing in affordable areas.

RAIA president Howard Tanner said increasing urban density to maximise efficiency and sustainability of infrastructure was the only way forward for Melbourne and Sydney. "You have got people encouraged to buy a block of land way out of the city and they are having to travel for three hours a day to commute. That's not sustainable," he said. Mr Tanner said a roads-based city like Los Angeles was seeing infrastructure crumble, and Australian cities would do better to aim for the city models of London and Rome. "People there live in town houses or terrace houses, the houses are never one-storey and you have got the population that lives closer to the city," he said. "We have to curtail land subdivisions at the extremities of the city. The other option is to put in some very fast trains to regional centres. Somewhere like Geelong could be an attractive destination for working and living."

Victoria's housing estate developers are represented by the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and executive director Tony De Domenico said banning estate developments on Melbourne's fringe was unrealistic and blinkered. "The population is still growing and there's a demand for these properties," Mr De Domenico said. "It's near impossible to dictate to the market what should happen. The thing that's keeping Victoria's economy very competitive compared to the mining states is we are very competitive in housing." Mr De Domenico said RAIA members should spend more time in outer suburbs and see what people wanted.

Victorian Council of Social Service policy manager David Imber said a sweeping ban on outer-suburban estates was wrong.



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.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A tour of the climate evidence

There is no evidence human-emitted CO2 has actually raised the earth's temperatures significantly. The evidence we have is a warming, which began about 1850, and mostly occurred too early to be blamed on human-emitted greenhouse gases. The total warming from 1850 to the present has been 0.7 degrees C-but 0.5 degrees of the warming occurred before 1940. Eighty 80 percent of humanity's greenhouse gases emissions came after that date.

The earth's net global warming since 1940, moreover, has been a barely-measurable 0.2 degrees C-over 70 years. During this time the climate forcing power of CO2 molecules has been declining logarithmically, to the point where soon additional CO2 won't make any further climate impact.

The climate warming alarmists say that our recent warming "must be caused by humans," since nothing else would account for the strong warming from 1976-1998. However, there was an equally strong global warming surge from 1916-1940, before global industrialization and auto numbers began to emit CO2 in serious amounts. The fact is that no one can diagnose a climate change on the basis of a mere 25 years of data. Climate events are too long-term, and the short-term events are too complex.

From 1940 to 1975, global temperatures actually trended down, while CO2 emissions were soaring. The alarmists blame this cooling on sulfate particle pollution from power plants, which they claim masked some of the incoming solar radiation. If that were true, however, the southern hemisphere should have warmed faster than the northern hemisphere. In fact, the temperatures rose fastest right where the power plants were located, in the northern hemisphere.

What else could have warmed the earth in our time? Our first clues come from history.

British Wine Grapes

Wine grapes are one of our important climate proxies because people have always grown wine whenever and wherever they could. The Romans wrote of growing wine grapes in England in the 1st century, when they occupied that island. They also wrote of wine grapes and olive trees gradually being cultivated farther and farther north in Italy. It seems clear that the climate was warming during the 1st century. Then the Romans left Britain, and the world entered the Dark Ages, when it was apparently too cold to grow wine in Britain.

In the 11th century, the Britons themselves were growing wine grapes. William the Conqueror's tax collectors had nearly 50 vineyards on the tax rolls of the Domesday Book.[2] After 1300, however, the European climate shifted to a cold phase and for 550 years no wine grapes were grown on the island. Londoners held ice festivals on the frozen Thames instead.

The next time British wine grapes matured was not until after 1950. Britain currently has about 400 vineyards, but almost all of them are of the hobby type. The British wine industry's website says the vintners get only about two good years out of ten, but the rising global thermometers are giving them hope for the future. They also benefit from some hybrid grapes that the Romans didn't have.

The Greenland Vikings

Another eloquent testimonial to the existence of a long, natural climate cycle comes from Greenland. Eric the Red led a group of Viking settlers there from Iceland in 982 AD. They called it Greenland because the coastal regions were then bright green with grass. They pastured their dairy cattle and thrived for at least 300 years on milk, cheese, vegetables, seal meat and codfish. Eric's son Leif even ventured to Newfoundland in search of timber, but the natives' arrows drove him away.

Then, the sea ice began to move south. The codfish moved south too, away from Greenland. The summers got shorter, making it harder and harder to grow enough hay for the cattle during the lengthening winters. Eventually, the sea ice and worse storms cut Iceland off from Greenland for a long 350 years. The last written record of its 3,000 inhabitants was a wedding in 1408. The Greenland Vikings starved or froze due to climate change.[3]

Ancient Chinese Records

China's written records, of course, go back further than those of any other country. China's climate from 1000 BC to 1400 AD has been reconstructed from palace records, official histories, and diaries. Key indicators include the arrival dates of migrating birds, the distribution of plant species and fruit orchards, patterns of elephant migrations, and the major floods and droughts. G. Yu of the Chinese National Academy of Science concludes that Chinese temperatures must have been 2-3 degrees C higher than present during the Holocene Warming 6000 years ago.

Pollen analysis reveals that the deciduous forest extended 800 km further north then than it does today, and tropical forest occupied areas that are now broad-leaved evergreens.[4] Also, Chinese wealth rose steadily from 200 BC, peaked about 1100 AD, and then entered a prolonged decline, according to Kang Chao's careful economic analysis.[5] Chao also reports that China averaged less than four major floods per century during the Medieval Warming and twice that many during the Little Ice Age. Major droughts were only one-third as common during the warm centuries as during the cold phases (the unnamed cold period before 200 BC, the Dark Ages from about 200 to 800 AD, and the Little Ice Age from about 1300 to 1850 AD).

Are we dealing with a cycle? A cycle too moderate and long-term to be discerned by primitive peoples without thermometers or written records? The answer was confirmed in 1983, by the retrieval of the world's first long ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet. Willi Dansgaard of Denmark and Hans Oeschger of Switzerland were anxious to learn what the ice could tell us about the earth's temperature history. They had learned that the oxygen isotopes in the ice layers revealed the air temperature when the ice was laid down, through the ratio of 018 "heavy isotopes" to 016 "light isotopes," which evaporate at different rates.

Dansgaard and Oeschger had expected to see the long 90,000-year Ice Ages in the ice layers, and they did. What they had not expected was a long, moderate 1,500-year climate cycle. The cycle was very regular during the Ice Ages, at 1470 years, plus or minus 10 years. It is somewhat more erratic during the warm interglacial periods, but still dominated the earth's temperatures over the past 12,000 years.[6] The cycle is abrupt, which argues for an external source. Dansgaard and Oeschger suspected the sun, partly because that's where most of our heat comes from, and partly because the "solar isotopes"-carbon 14 in trees and beryllium 10 in ice-showed the same cycles.

Within a few years after Dansgaard and Oeschger, a team led by France's Claude Lorius brought up an even longer ice core from the Antarctic, at the other end of the earth; and it, too, showed the 1,500-year climate cycle extending back nearly a million years.[7] Dansgaard, Oeschger, and Lorius shared the 1996 Tyler Prize (the "environmental Nobel").......

Climate Cycling in North America

The North American Pollen Database, previously mentioned, shows nine complete shifts in vegetation since the last Ice Age. The most recent started about 600 years ago, culminating in the Little Ice Age, with maximum cooling 300 years ago. The previous shift culminated in the maximum warming of the medieval Warm period 1,000 years ago. "We suggest that North Atlantic millennial-scale climate variability is associated with rearrangements of the atmospheric circulation with far-reaching influences on the climate," say the authors. [33]

Water levels of the Great Lakes show a strong response to the 1,500-year climate cycle, with the lake levels high during the climate coolings and low during warming periods. Todd Thompson of Indiana University and Steve Baedke of James Madison University constructed their lake-level history from the "strandplains"-shore-parallel sand ridges that have a core of water-laid sediment.[34]

In the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, foxtail pine and western juniper tree rings indicate a Medieval Warming from 1100 to 1375, and a cold period from 1450 to 1850. Tree rings from the long-lived bristlecone pines correlate statistically from 800 to the present "with the temperatures derived from central England."[35]

U.S. Forest Service researchers analyzed long-dead trees that grew above the current treeline on California's Whitewing Mountain-and concluded that temperatures must have been 3.2 degrees C warmer when they were killed by volcanic gases in 1350.[36]

This is just a sampling of the physical evidence the earth offers on past climate changes. The evidence comes from a wide variety of sources which confirm each other. The evidence is clearly global. Much of it confirms higher temperatures during past warmings than today. Dansgaard and Oeschger clearly documented much higher temperatures than today during the Holocene Warmings 8,000 and 5,000 years ago, which severely undercuts the idea that the trees and plants and birds and bees won't be able to adapt. They did. They're here......

The Sun-Climate Connection

People have known for some 400 years that there is a direct connection between sunspots and the earth's temperatures. We've been counting the sunspots since Galileo made his first telescope, and we've known for centuries that the coldest period during the Little Ice Age occurred during the Maunder and Sporer sunspot minimums, when there were virtually no sunspots at all. Britain's William Herschel said in 1801 that the price of wheat was directly controlled by sunspots, since less rain fell in Britain when there were few sunspots.

But how could the sun control the earth's climate? Fifty years ago, we spoke of the "solar constant." However, we've found in recent years that there is a tiny variation, 0.1 percent in the sun's irradiance. We've also found that the number of sunspots and the length of the sunspot cycle, which ranges from 8-14 years, have a powerful correlation with subsequent changes in the earth's sea surface temperatures.

Richard Willson, of Columbia and NASA, reports that the sun's radiation has increased by nearly 0.05 percent per decade since the late 1970s, when satellites first made it possible to monitor the sun directly. He says he can't be sure that the trend of rising solar radiation goes back further than 1978, but that if this trend had persisted through the 20th century, it would have produced "a significant component" of the observed global warming.[42] Rodney Viereck of the NOAA Space Environment Center admits that natural climate variation could account for one-third of the recent global warming. [43]

Henrik Svensmark of the Danish Space Research Institute offers a more powerful sun-climate hypothesis: that small variations in the sun's irradiance are amplified into significant climate changes on earth by at least two factors: 1) cosmic rays creating more or fewer of the low, cooling clouds that deflect solar radiance back into space; and 2) solar-driven changes in ozone chemistry in the stratosphere that simultaneously create more or less heating of the earth's lower atmosphere.[44]

The sun constantly releases a stream of charged particles, the solar wind, which partially shields the earth from the cosmic rays that are constantly emitted by distant, exploding stars. The solar wind varies with the sun's irradiance. When the sun's activity is weak, the solar wind is weakened too, so more cosmic rays streak through our atmosphere, creating low, wet clouds, which in turn increase the earth's ability to reflect more of the sun's heat away from the planet. That's a cooling effect. That's why cloudy skies predominated in the landscape paintings during the Little Ice Age.

When the sun is stronger, as it has been since 1850, the solar wind blows more strongly and the earth is shielded more effectively from the cosmic rays. That means fewer low, cooling clouds, and more warming of our planet.

Svensmark matched the data on cosmic rays from the neutron monitor in Climax, Colorado, with the satellite measurements of solar irradiance. Over the period from 1975 to 1989, he found cosmic rays increased by 1.2 percent annually, amplifying the sun's change in irradiance about fourfold. "The direct influence of changes in solar irradiance is estimated to be only 0.1 degree C," he says. "The cloud forcing, however, gives for the above sensitivity 0.3-0.5 C, and has therefore the potential of explaining nearly all of the temperature changes in the period studied."

Svensmark then filled a laboratory cloud chamber with the earth's mix of atmospheric gases, turned on a UV light to mimic the sun-and watched in fascination as the chamber quickly filled with microscopic globules of water and sulfuric acid. In the real atmosphere, these "cloud seeds" attract more moisture and create more of the low, wet clouds that cool the earth. Further experiments are planned at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory.

Helpfully, the UN's IPCC has already noted that its climate models cannot duplicate the impacts of clouds in the real world. It noted in the science chapter of its 2001 report that not only can it not estimate how much warming or cooling a given cloud might produce, it cannot even tell whether the impact of the cloud is warming or cooling! If it turns out that low, wet clouds really do act as the earth's thermostat, this cloud modeling failure could turn out to be the weakest link in the UN's whole climate science adventure.[45]

Ozone chemistry also seems to offer an amplifier of the solar variability. Joanna Haigh of London's Imperial Collage says that more "far UV" from the sun produces more ozone in the atmosphere-and that ozone absorbs more of the near-UV radiation from the sun. Her computer modeling suggests that a 0.1 percent variation in the sun's radiation could cause a 2 percent change in the ozone concentration.[46] NASA's Drew Shindell says his team confirmed that ozone is one of the key factors that amplifies the effects of solar variations.[47]

Climate warming alarmists don't like to concede that the 1,500-year cycle exists, which is ridiculous in the face of the global evidence. Or they say that the 1,500-year cycle has been superseded in our time by man-made warming. How do we know that, when none of the warming which has occurred has been outside the parameters of the past cycles?

The alarmists do not, however, offer clear evidence proving man-made warming, because they have none. They go only as far as saying that the Greenhouse Effect is "very likely" the cause of recent temperature increases. All they have are unverified climate models, which are not evidence.

If we destroy modern society on the basis of that non-evidence, we will deserve what we will surely get: chaos, poverty, and radically shortened lifespans. For openers, we'd have to give up the 80 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer produced annually with fossil fuels. Half of the world's food supply is grown using nitrogen fertilizer. Organic-only farming would either starve half the population, or force the clearing of the world's remaining forests to grow more low-yield crops.

For the determined cycle skeptics, I recommend getting a copy of "Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years". We cite hundreds of studies, by more than 450 peer-reviewed authors and co-authors who have found reason to doubt the "global warming consensus."

Much more here

The power grid and wind energy don't mesh well

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore's hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not. The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads. "We need an interstate transmission superhighway system," said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent. Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation's deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid's limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas. "The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers," he said.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles....

In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world's largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts. "If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act," he said on Capitol Hill....

The Texas Utility commission has already approved lines to transmit the power from West Texas to the municipalities. I suspect it will be a bigger problem in places like New York where regulators tend to have turf battles and throw up road blocks. New Jersey will probably be even worse. It appears that the cost of electricity from wind is going to be much more than the price of the turbines. I think the environmental lobby will also throw up road blocks. It is what they do.


Greens Against Renewable Energy

Green activists have been pushing for "renewable energy" for decades, even though it shows little promise--after billions of dollars in government subsidies--of ever being practical and inexpensive. Nevertheless, plans are springing up all over the country for large-scale solar, wind, and geothermal projects. But now, in addition to their enormous technical obstacles, these green power projects are facing fierce opposition . . . from environmentalists.

The Bureau of Land Management has reportedly received more than 130 proposals to build solar power plants on federal lands in the Southwest. New transmission lines to carry the power from the sun-baked deserts to places where electricity users actually live are also under consideration. However, the solar applications are mired in environmental impact studies, which one solar industry executive said "could completely stunt the growth of the industry." And the plans for new transmission capacity are being ferociously protested by environmentalists decrying the "permanent destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine public lands."

According to Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute: "This just shows the true objective of green activism. Environmentalists don't actually want us to find alternative ways of producing energy; they want us to stop using energy altogether. "The basic premise of environmentalism is to leave nature alone. Capturing and utilizing any source of energy--even ones that are supposedly green and renewable--will necessarily have some impact on nature, and will therefore inevitably be subject to environmentalist attacks and condemnation.

"Since the use of energy is an indispensable component of everything we do in our lives, the greens' opposition to even such ridiculous, impractical sources of energy as solar and wind reveals their basic animus against human life.

"An exasperated Arnold Schwarzenegger said 'if we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it.' But that is the whole point. On green philosophy, there is literally no place on earth for mankind."



Four current articles below:

Sign of the times or just climate porn?

By Christmas Eve in 2012, no rain has fallen in Sydney for more than 200 days and, despite its new desalination plant, the emerald city has run out of drinking water. The effects of climate change have created the conditions for a ring of bushfires that surround the city, but authorities don't have enough water to put them out.

This is the plot synopsis for the Nine Network's new tele-feature experiment called Scorched, which will screen nationally in prime time on Sunday night. Promoters have hailed the production a "major television event" with an all-star cast, fake news broadcasts from authentic Nine newsreaders and a comprehensive supporting website. "Mother nature is on the warpath. It's armageddon," the publicity kit modestly proclaims. Media previews have described the plot as "scarily plausible". Director Tony Tilse claims the idea of a city running out of water is "basically a true story, but it just hasn't happened yet".

Oh, really? Perhaps what is more scarily plausible is that the producers of the program didn't bother to speak to Sydney Water or the Sydney Catchment Authority before going to air. They would have discovered that even in the worst-case scenario, Sydney already has enough water in its huge network of catchments to meet demand until 2014. The city's new desalination plant will come on line by 2010 and will be able to supply 15 per cent of Sydney's demand, but has been designed to quickly double its capacity to a half-billion litres of water a day.

Scorched is the headline act in a wave of climate porn to hit Australia in coming weeks. In 2006, Britain's Institute for Public Policy Research reviewed media, government and activist reporting of climate change and found it to be confusing, contradictory and chaotic, leaving the public feeling disempowered and uncompelled to act. Most notable was the tendency to use alarmist language, or climate porn, which offered "a thrilling spectacle but ultimately distances the public from the problem". Scorched producer Kylie Du Fresne says the telemovie is not meant to be seen as a documentary, but admits "we were interested in blurring the lines between fact and fiction".

A water disaster of this magnitude is like being run over by a steamroller. It's possible, but only if you do nothing. Sydney Water spokesman Brendan Elliott says the plot is "truly a work of fiction". Given it's Sydney Water's primary job to make sure the city doesn't run out of water in the face of population growth and climate change, it's not surprising they have a range of strategies to keep moving in the face of the steamroller. These include desalination, increased water recycling and increased conservation programs.

Water Services Association chief executive Ross Young says he is concerned the show might spark a wave of panicked callers to water authorities on Monday morning. "It's very important that the program is clearly labelled a drama and not a documentary," he tells The Australian. "Even though the chances of climate change are significant, there are processes in place to manage the consequences. "The bottom line is our cities are not going to run out of water."

Climate porn is the latest manifestation of infotainment that flourishes in the no man's land between fiction and nonfiction: dramas loosely based on factual events and the communication of often credible and important ideas and theories sexed up with an extra dose of dramatic licence. On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles caused panic across the US when he broadcast a dramatisation of the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds. Like Scorched, the radio broadcast used simulated news broadcasts to create an aura of authenticity; some of the program's six million listeners thought there was a Martian invasion in progress.

Climate disaster movies date back to the release of Soylent Green in 1973. The dystopian science-fiction film is set in a severely over-populated and overheated (as a result of climate change) New York in 2022 facing chronic food shortages. Charlton Heston plays a detective who discovers to his horror that the newest food substitute (Soylent Green) is made by reprocessing dead people.

Then in 1995, Kevin Costner starred in the box-office flop Waterworld, a kind of climate-change crisis meets Mad Max movie set in a futuristic Earth where the polar ice caps have melted and the few survivors sail around or live on floating islands, inevitably fighting with each other.

The most explicit climate porn may well be the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow. Released two years before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, it grossed 10 times more at the box office. Melting ice sheets and glaciers caused the Altantic Ocean currents to stop suddenly, plunging the entire northern hemisphere into a deep snap-freeze. The film was derided by most climate scientists and highlighted the real problem with creating drama about the effects of climate change: in reality the changes are not sudden, but slow and insidious. In a review, US paleoclimatologist William Hyde observed: "This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery."

But even a genuine attempt to explain the science, such as An Inconvenient Truth, sailed close to the wind at times in order to sustain the level of drama in what is basically a 90-minute lecture. In one example, Gore made much of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans as a portent of increased natural disasters caused by a warming climate.

The main cause of New Orleans' flooding was a poorly maintained system of levees holding back the Mississippi River and surrounding lakes. But holding this aside, scientists are still arguing over whether Gore's claim is actually true. Despite predictions to the contrary, the two subsequent hurricane seasons on the US Atlantic coast were well below average. Climate porn is not just confined to the cinema.


Another prominent Australian scientist predicts global cooling - Dr Ken McCracken

Climate change has been the most important and complex issue on my plate in 15 years as a science and technology correspondent for The Canberra Times. So an appropriate topic for a farewell commentary for this newspaper is an emerging scientific debate with the potential to complicate the already difficult relationship between scientists and politicians on this issue.

The effect of the sun's activity on global temperatures has loomed large in arguments from climate change sceptics over the years. Several Russian scientists have argued that the current period of global warming is entirely due to a cycle of increased solar activity. NSW Treasurer Michael Costa is understood to be among a small group of Australian politicians and other opinion-shapers to embrace this notion.It is wise to be sceptical of many Russian scientists and all politicians, so I have given this ''solar forcing'' explanation of global warming little credence until I attended a forum at the Academy of Science earlier this year and heard it from a scientist of undoubted integrity and expertise in this area.

A former head of CSIRO's division of space science, Dr Ken McCracken was awarded the Australia Prize the precursor of the Prime Minister's Science Prize in 1995. Now in his 80s, officially retired and raising cattle in the ACT hinterland, he is still very active in his research field of solar physics.McCracken is adamantly not a climate change sceptic, agreeing that rising fossil-fuel emissions will be a long-term cause of rising global temperatures.

But his analysis of the sun's cyclical activity and global climate records has led him to the view that we are entering a period of up to two decades in which reduced solar activity may either flatten the upward trend of global temperatures or even cause a slight and temporary cooling.

In a paper given in 2005 to a ''soiree'' hosted by then president of the Academy of Science, Professor Jim Peacock, McCracken said the sun was the most active it had been over 1000 years of scientific observation. This made it inevitable that its activity would decrease over the next two decades in line with historically observed solar cycles. ''The reduced 'forcing' might compensate, or over-compensate, for the effects of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases,'' he said. ''It is likely that there will be a cessation of around 20 years in the increase in world temperature, or possibly a decrease by 0.1 [degrees] or more.''

I put this to Dr David Jones, head of climate analysis for the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre, whose overarching judgment is that the warming effect of fossil fuel emissions is an increasingly dominant factor on global temperature to the extent that it will not be slowed by lower solar activity.

After an email conversation, Jones said he and McCracken are in general agreement but differ on emphasis and one key judgment. ''Natural solar variability is potentially important, but the climate history and physics tell us that the probability of this factor sufficiently cooling the planet to offset the enhanced greenhouse effect is distinctly remote,'' Jones wrote.

The main point of disagreement was McCracken's view that the rate of global warming could be eased or reduced by a fall in solar activity. ''I have never seen a credible paper published using a climate model that shows this,'' Jones wrote. He points to recent data which indicates that global temperatures are probably rising faster than previously thought, raising the urgency of calls from climate scientists for political action to reduce emissions.

Yet any uncertainty over the sun's influence creates a lever that climate sceptics and developing nations will seize upon to stall such action.If McCracken is wrong and temperatures continue to climb during a decade or two of low solar activity, the need for emissions reductions will be dramatically reinforced. However, if temperatures do not rise over this period, steeling the political will for such action by all nations will be much more difficult.

The dilemma for the science sector is a classic: how to communicate uncertainty.As McCracken rightly observed in 2005, a lull in temperature rises would provide a wonderful opportunity for political and technological effort to gain the initiative in the fight against climate change by turning global emissions around and thus hopefully avoid worst-case warming scenarios when the sun's fires stoke up again mid-century.

But he also noted the risk that mainstream climate science, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be seen by its critics and others to have been ill-informed at best or misleading at worst, diminishing its credibility and eroding political commitment to emission reductions.

McCracken believes science should be upfront. ''I believe that we must state firmly that a cooling is possible in the near future, but that the warming would then resume 10-20 years hence,'' he said via email. ''It will be very hard to argue for public trust if we say nothing about the possibility, and then try to argue our way out after it happens. Using an Aussie rules analogy, that would be like giving the climate sceptics a free kick 10m in front of goal.''

Australia is definitely entering a footy finals period, and the Earth may be entering a period where human-induced global warming slows temporarily. Many scientists will not be comfortable to consider this possibility, and even less comfortable that journalists canvas it, because in good faith they want nothing to deflect efforts to combat global warming.

However, I have always aimed to tell readers what they deserve to know, not what they may want to hear or what governments, scientists or interest groups would prefer they were told. This has earned me brickbats and bouquets over the years, as it should do, and as I expect it will on this occasion.


More "contradictions" in the Greenie religion

Hybrid batteries spark waste fears. Old Marxists will know what I mean by "contradictions"

AUSTRALIA has no ability to environmentally dispose of the batteries from the Toyota Camry hybrids whose production has been championed by Kevin Rudd. Labor in Victoria, where the cars will be built, has conceded a "current hole" in the nation's recycling policies means there is no capacity to environmentally dispose of the nickel-metal hydride car batteries from the 10,000 hybrid cars to be produced by Toyota every year from the start of 2010.

Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings appeared to concede that the hybrid Camry batteries, which can weigh more than 50kg and cost several thousand dollars, "may ultimately end up within the waste stream". The admissions prompted Opposition claims that Victoria would be faced with tens of thousands of used hybrid car batteries over the next decade, with no sustainable way of disposing of them. "The Government is busy basking in the benefits of this policy while leaving the environment to pick up the tab," said Liberal MP Andrea Coote.

In June, the Prime Minister and Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced in Japan that Toyota Australia would produce 10,000 petrol-electric hybrid Camrys a year at its Altona plant in Melbourne from 2010. Mr Rudd promised Toyota $35million from its new Green Car Innovation Fund, a figure immediately matched by the state Labor Government.

Under questioning in state parliament last week, Mr Jennings said he was happy Ms Coote had "been astute enough to pick up what might be a current hole in the resource efficiency capability of not only Victoria but also the nation". Mr Jennings said he welcomed "encouragement to deal with a whole-of-life issue concerning products that may ultimately end up within the waste stream". He said the current volume of hybrid Camrys, given that production does not start until 2010, was "very low in terms of the Australian marketplace". The state Government would look at ways of tackling the issue. "I am happy to look at local-based regulation and market mechanisms, but also harmonisation with other jurisdictions across the nation, to try to make sure we have the appropriate investment and regulatory environment, whether that be most appropriate in state or national jurisdictions," he said.

Ms Coote said the Government was "clearly more focused on collecting accolades than the environmental issues associated with their policy". "In the next decade, Victoria will be faced with tens of thousands of dead hybrid car batteries, with no environmentally sustainable way of disposing of them," she said.

But Mr Jennings said the Opposition criticism showed it was opposed to the production of environmentally friendly cars. "I want Victoria to lead the way nationally in developing a clear framework for identifying when and what products require recycling at the end of their use, including car batteries, and the most appropriate market or regulatory approach to achieve that," he said.

According to Sustainability Victoria, rechargeable batteries, including nickel-metal hydride, are collected by a waste disposal company. Australia does not have the technology and services required to recycle these batteries, so they are processed overseas by a French company that "specialises in the recovery of nickel and cadmium to a strict environmental standard".

The federal Government is considering its response to former Victorian premier Steve Bracks's review of the automotive industry, handed in earlier this month. Ford, one of three companies that manufacture cars in Australia, yesterday pressed its case for a delay in tariff reductions in a private meeting at Parliament House between its global chief executive, Alan Mullaly, and Mr Rudd. Mr Mullaly was invited to make a presentation to Mr Rudd by Industry Minister Kim Carr during his visit to Detroit in June.

"The judgment was it was a good opportunity to visit Australia and to discuss what is being considered in terms of the future policy arrangements applying to the industry and the perspective of a key participant," Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said yesterday.


"Renewables" a Mirage

Press release from Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. []

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused governments and media of spreading myths on the ability of "renewables" to supply Australia's future electricity. The Chairman of "Carbon Sense" Mr Viv Forbes said there was no chance that wind, solar, hydro and geothermal could supply 20% of Australia's electricity by 2020 without massive increases in electricity costs and severe damage to Australia's industry and standard of living. "The belief that we can go further and eliminate coal from our energy supply is a dangerous delusion."

Wind and solar suffer three fatal flaws which no amount of research dollars, climate junkets, green papers, government gifts, carbon taxes, ministerial statements or imperial mandates will change. The first fatal flaw is obvious even to children at school - no wind turbine or solar panel anywhere in the world can supply continuous power. Power from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, stops when the wind drops and they have to be shut down in strong winds, storms or cyclones. Solar power stops at night or when it is cloudy, and solar panels only supply maximum power around midday, in summer, in the tropics.

The output of both wind and solar varies or shuts down with little warning; this causes big problems in maintaining stability in large power grids. Thus any power grid with more than 10% supplied by wind and solar will risk sudden blackouts or damaging fluctuations. To maintain stable power requires that every kilowatt of solar or wind is shadowed by standby power (preferably gas or hydro) ready to switch on to full power in a very short time. The capital and operating cost of these standby facilities should be added to the real cost of "green power".

The second fatal flaw with wind and solar is that the supply of energy is very dilute, so a large area of land is required to collect significant power. This causes extensive environmental and scenic damage and very large transmission and maintenance costs.

The third fatal flaw of wind and sun power is that only a few places are ideally suited to collect significant quantities of energy, and these places are often far from the main centres of population. Solar power is best collected from places like the Tanami Desert in Northern Territory, and wind power is best collected from places in the path of the Roaring Forties, such as King Island and Western Tasmania. It will be a long time before either of these sites is connected by high voltage power lines to Penny Wong's desk in Canberra or the PM's Lodge in Sydney.

Wind power is useful for providing stock water and moving sailing ships; using solar hot water heaters makes good sense; and solar energy (combined with harmless carbon dioxide from the air and minerals from the soil) provides the primary resources for all farming, forestry, fishing and grazing industries. But neither wind nor sun will supply economical and reliable base load electricity to big cities or industries.

Hydro power can provide low cost stable energy providing it is backed by a large dam in a reliable rainfall area. Finding such spots where approvals could be obtained in a reasonable time frame is almost impossible in Australia. Hydro will not keep the lights on for a growing population.

Natural gas and coal seam gas are hydro-carbon fuels which produce the same two "greenhouse gases" as coal and oil - water vapour and carbon dioxide. They too will be crippled by Emissions Trading and carbon taxes. When the Luddites realise that gas is also a non-renewable carbon fuel, it too will be taxed and regulated to death. It is not a "renewable" and it is less abundant than coal. It is far too valuable to be mandated for base-load electricity generation or city hot water systems.

This leaves geothermal. Geothermal makes good sense in places like New Zealand and Iceland with big areas of active volcanic rocks at shallow depth. But in an old, quiet, cooling continent like Australia, hot rocks are rare and deep. Here it is a totally unproven power source likely to have very high costs for exploration, development, transmission and water. It is worth investigating by people prepared to speculate their capital, but geothermal will not prevent the power brownouts on the horizon unless someone abandons the misguided "crucify carbon" campaign.

With nuclear power and oil shale banned, and plans to tax coal, oil and gas out of existence, man is headed back to the "green" energy sources of the Dark Ages - muscles, horses, firewood and sunshine. But without carbon fuels to bring heat, light, food, transport and water to our large cities, many people will not survive the transition to green nirvana, especially if the current global cooling trend continues.


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