Thursday, November 13, 2008

Arizona might be able to initiate the debate that Al Gore says is over

An interesting email from Russell Cook below

See my story in American Thinker on how Arizona might be able to initiate the debate that Al Gore says is over.

It's a simple story - To make sure this debate doesn't happen, it appears an attempt was made to get a highly funded pro-Al Gore candidate (with ties to billionaire George Soros??) into our Arizona Corporation Commission, an agency with elected members who regulate our local electric utility companies - and who will decide if a huge cap-and-trade plan is credible or pointless.

Since the pro-Al Gore candidate lost his election, Arizona's Republican legislature leaders and Republican majority in the Corporation Commission can simply ask the WCI planners, Al Gore and the IPCC, "You say humans are causing global warming. Can you prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt?"

It's entertaining to think about: In the case of the eastern/mid-atlantic US states, they accepted the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's plan with no question of the underlying science whatsoever. If Arizona rejects the Western Climate Initiative's plan, the next 'dominoes' to fall might be Utah and Idaho, rejecting the same plan. Wouldn't that undermine the RGGI to the point of collapse? And if it collapses, how angry would the people living in the eastern/mid-atlantic US states be about their own utility regulators' ability do things right, and their Governors' failure to understand all sides of the issue?

Record snow falls in Europe and North America mean ski resorts open early

Ski resorts across Europe and North America have opened early this season after heavy snowfall in the last month. A series of snowstorms since early November in North America and late October in Europe has enabled several resorts to open ahead of schedule. The Italian resort of Bormio has opened a month early after heavy snowfalls at the end of October and start of November delivered 50ins to the resort's upper slopes.

More heavy snow is forecast for many resorts across Austria, Switzerland and Italy this week. Hintertux, in Austria, which already boasts 60ins of snow, is expecting a further 30ins over the next few days. Obergurgl, which is expecting 25ins of snow midweek, is set to open on Friday.

In Switzerland, Zermatt already has more than two metres of snow on its upper slopes, while Saas Fee has 75ins. Both resorts expect a further 20ins this week. Geilo, in Norway, has also opened three weeks early with a 25ins base.

The Scottish resorts of Cairngorm and The Lecht have also seen some early flurries and were briefly open at the start of November. However, Cairngorm is now closed for annual maintenance work and mild and wet conditions has seen The Lecht shut down again.

The U.S. resort of Snowbird, in Utah, opened last Friday - the second earliest start in the resort's 38-year history - after 35ins of snow fell the weekend before. 'The west coast of America has received some significant snowfalls recently and it looks like mid-winter rather than autumn in many resorts,' said a spokesman for the Ski Club of Great Britain. 'While in Europe, a good amount of snow has fallen in recent weeks with more snow forecast,' he added.

Other resorts to open early include Mammoth, in California, which has opened 10 days early. Skiers who headed to its slopes last weekend were rewarded with 15ins of fresh powder; Mount Norquay, in Canada - which forms part of Banff's Big Three ski area, along with Lake Louise and Sunshine Village - has opened almost three weeks early



Saving energy? No thanks! Originally, the EU had intended to cut its energy consumption by 20% by 2020. But that's not going to happen after all as a draft plan by the European Commission on energy policy makes clear. It is scheduled to be published on Thursday.

The problematic calculation is well sheltered in a pile of data. When the EU Commission presents its second strategic energy plan on Thursday, it will become evident that its ambitious energy targets will not be met.

Originally, in March 2007, the heads of state and government of the 27 EU member states, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had agreed to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020. And in principle, this targets remains part of the new plan. But in the appendix, which puts the data of forecasts and the goals side by side, completely different values are found.

The German press agency quotes from the draft of the Commission's resolution and writes, depending on different computer models, the set of figures for a decrease of consumption only range from between 12 and 15 per cent.

In recent days, experts from the International Energy Agency had already declared that the EU's target to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is unrealistic.

More here (In German. Transl. BJP)

Australia: "Green" State government puts crocodiles before people's lives

The fewer the people the better, from a Greenie viewpoint

A CROCODILE that killed a man in far north Queensland three years ago was returned to the river by the State Government - which said it had been shot. The disclosure is the latest controversy over relocations of the dangerous reptiles. Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara yesterday made the admission in the case involving Townsville man Barry Jefferies - who died at Lakefield National Park in 2005 - after a letter from a whistleblower was tabled by the Opposition in State Parliament.

The letter, authored by a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officer, alleged a "culture of secrecy, deceit and intimidation" within the agency covered up two human deaths after bungled croc relocations. "Both fatal attacks were both closely connected with QPW's ill-conceived, unnecessary and poorly managed crocodile research/relocation management decisions," the officer wrote. The case - and another involving the disappearance six weeks ago of war veteran Arthur Booker in Cooktown - were referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission yesterday.

The Government denies the crocodile in the latest incident had been relocated. The revelations come amid a review of relocation policies following a furore last month when a crocodile was removed from Magnetic Island after being relocated to an area near the tourist mecca.

Mr Jefferies was dragged from a canoe at Lakefield National Park in August 2005. QPW later claimed the suspected crocodile had been shot dead. However, the whistleblower's letter yesterday forced Mr McNamara to admit the wrong crocodile had been shot. He admitted the offender, known as Midway, had been moved back to the national park before the attack after problems at Cape York's Kalpowar Station. "That was at the request of the local traditional owners who said they wanted to return it to its existing home," he said. Mr McNamara said Mr Jefferies's widow requested Midway not be killed, prompting its journey to Australia Zoo.

The Sunshine Coast zoo yesterday denied the crocodile was displayed for tourists but the whistleblower said that while at the park it had "disgorged a dental plate that presumably belonged to Barry Jefferies".

Demanding a public inquiry, Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the revelations showed the relocation programs had to be abandoned. "These are absolutely goofy scientific experiments," he said.

The whistleblower also claimed material related to the cases had been destroyed or "lost" following the receipt Freedom of Information applications.


If famine-hit Africa is to benefit from GM crops, Europeans must accept them

As you leave Oxford station heading for London, there is an Oxfam advert that says: "Thanks to rising prices, some people can't afford fuel. Rice, bread, stuff like that."

In the past 12 months there has been a sharp reversal of the 30-year trend of steadily declining global food prices. It has been called the "silent tsunami" and experts agree on three things. First, price increases were driven by a complex mix of factors including rising oil prices, the switch to biofuels, increased demand in China, poor harvests in Australia and commodity market speculation. Secondly, the steep and sudden increases are temporary, because farmers will increase output in response. Thirdly, in the long term the era of cheap food is over. Irrespective of short-term ups and downs, prices will rise in the future.

This last ineluctable conclusion is a consequence of supply and demand. The "green revolution" in agriculture has, since the 1960s, produced a staggering increase in output through plant-breeding, use of fertiliser and pesticides, and irrigation, albeit at huge environmental cost. But this revolution has reached a plateau, while the number of mouths to feed continues to grow, and people demand more food: not just the nearly one billion not getting enough to eat, but those in transition economies shifting from subsistence, plant-based diets to the more profligate food habits that we enjoy in the UK.

This is why the scientist Gordon Conway has argued that the world needs a "doubly green revolution" - in which agricultural output increases without further damage to the environment. Projections from climate-change models also suggest that it will become much harder to grow crops in some currently productive parts of the world.

Should our response to these challenges include genetically modified (GM) crops? Most agricultural scientists say yes. So far the European consumer has said no. For the scientist, GM is an extension of the past 10,000 years of genetic modification by agricultural selection. It is precision engineering as opposed to the blunderbuss of conventional breeding, and has the potential to transform agriculture in regions left out of the green revolution, such as sub-Saharan Africa, by creating crops that are more nutritious, resistant to disease or drought, and can grow without chemical fertilisers. In other words GM could help to produce more and better food with less environmental damage.

But as Robert Paarlberg so eloquently explains in his book Starved for Science, the tragedy is that Africa has, in large degree, been discouraged from adopting GM through the combined impact of European regulation, lobbying by NGOs and the media in Europe. During a severe drought in 2002 President Mwanawasa of Zambia rejected US food aid in the form of GM maize saying: "Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health." There is no evidence that the GM maize was dangerous. Any Times reader who has been to the US has probably eaten plenty of the same maize, but it is easy to see why Zambia was suspicious, given that Europeans are so pernickety about it.

Is it time for a change of heart in Europe? The first GM food sold in Britain, in the late 1990s, was Sainsbury's GM tomato paste, clearly labelled as such. It was cheaper and outsold the non-GM equivalent. Then various NGOs, combined with the media, turned against GM with the brilliant invention of the term "Frankenfoods", and all supermarkets quickly declared a GM-free policy for fear of losing customers. Properly constructed opinion surveys show that the consuming public is by no means uniformly hostile to GM, but pressure groups have driven it out of the market in Europe, and the European Commission has supported this, introducing bizarre and unenforceable regulations on labelling.

Almost all first-generation GM foods (the tomato paste was an exception) benefited producers rather than consumers. Crops were engineered to resist pests or herbicide. The argument goes: "This is a new technology, perhaps there is a risk, so if there is no benefit to me why should I accept it" - and it has some force.

Wherever they are developed in the world, GM crops should be assessed for risk before they are used on a large scale. There are two possible risks - to the environment and to human health. The environmental safety of GM crops is, and should be, a concern, demanding a precautionary approach, with proper risk assessments before a crop is grown commercially.

All GM foods in Europe and North America are carefully assessed for health risks before they are allowed on the market - which is more than can be said for conventionally bred foods. Take, for instance, the familiar Braeburn apple that appeared, by chance and of uncertain parentage, about 50 years ago. No one knows how much genetic modification was involved and, as with all other new varieties of foods produced by conventional breeding, it has never been assessed for safety.

But we are now seeing a second generation of GM foods that could bring direct benefits to European consumers. For us, price and security are less critical than for sub-Saharan Africans, but GM tomatoes with enhanced anti-cancer properties or GM soya with fish oils that are good for your heart, might change people's view. Parents who have resolutely rejected GM food might think again if there were direct benefits for their children: no one objects to GM medicines such as human insulin produced by bacteria. Once when I was explaining this point to Dan Glickman, then the US Agriculture Secretary, he said: "I see what you mean, John. We need the tomato with the Viagra gene."

Returning to the Oxfam advert, what should we do for the poorest countries? One answer is to support agricultural research and development. Bilateral aid from the world's leading economies for agricultural development has been slashed in the past 20 years. If GM is to contribute to the doubly green revolution and empower local people, we should not leave it to the biotech industry alone. The necessary research should be done in these countries by their own scientists, for their own people, with our support.



I feel sorry for Barack Obama. Notwithstanding his comfortable victory last week and his remarkable oratory skills, he does not have a hope in hell of living up to the "supernova" expectations that now engulf him... Looking at energy, and climate change policy, to which it is joined at the hip, I wonder how Obama can emerge from the next four years pointing to genuine "success."

The early - and essentially meaningless - bit will be embracing the Kyoto treaty, but even here Obama won't find things all that easy because he cannot bypass the US Senate for ratification. What people who rave against Bush don't seem to understand is that Clinton would not even take the Kyoto treaty near the Senate, having been warned off by a 95-0 vote masterminded by Democrats led by the formidable Senator Robert Byrd (who is still there at age 90).

More recently a 2007 vote in the House of Representatives on an attempt to legislate on climate change policy attracted only 155 supporters, all Democrats, well below the 218 needed for passage - in a chamber with 435 members. The manufacturing wing of the Democrats is strong in the House.

Democratic Rep Mike Doyle, a member of the lower house's energy committee, said last week that it would be a mistake to see fast Congressional passage of climate-related legislation as a "slam dunk." That committee, after dozens of hearings in the past 12 months, seemed to support the notion of a levy on electricity utilities to create a fund for new coal generation technology.

A Senate ratification vote in Obama's first year - and the debate that will surround it - will set out the political realities by which the new president's negotiators (including Al Gore?) will be constrained by at Copenhagen 13 months from now.

How far the developing nations, led by China and India, will be prepared to go in agreeing to a new climate change protocol will be very dependent on how much pain the US, Canada, the EU and countries like Australia are prepared to wear. And it will be influenced by whether or not Obama carried his campaign hostility to free trade - and therefore to Chinese, Indian, Brazilian imports - into the presidency.

With Congressional elections to be held in 2010, the chance that Obama will embrace any high cost, radical stance on climate change is already zero.

Some idea of the political difficulty involved may be appreciated when you learn that, as part of this month's national elections, a proposition in California to require the state's power utilities to source half their supplies from renewable energy by 2025 (instead of the current 20 percent by 2010) was rejected by 66 percent of those who voted. And this is a state where Obama won 61 percent of the presidential vote.

Political hardheads among the Democrats already know that implementation of Obama's promised emissions trading scheme would require a carbon cost of about $US25 per tonne. This would translate, according to recent research, into an increase in electricity prices of between a quarter and a third in the predominantly coal-fired 24 states in the midwest and south-east US.

What Obama proposed during the election campaign, apart from emissions trading, was massive support for energy research, new fuel standards to drive transport-related abatement and a big increase in subsidies for renewable energy. He played the game of sounding supportive of extractive and energy-intensive industries in swing states while running a broader message that he will pursue clean energy and a large long-term cut in US emissions.

High on the agenda for the renewable energy sector will be a move away from the current tax credit scheme for wind and solar that has to be renewed by Congress every year, creating sleepless nights for investors as the annual deadline approaches. Obama has promised to come up with a scheme to provide $US150 billion over 10 years for low-carbon energy supply, claiming this would deliver five million jobs. How soon this can be implemented when the US is confronting a massive federal deficit is problematical. Perhaps the big hint has been Obama's repeated statements that a new energy policy will be his administration's first priority - once the economic mess is cleaned up.

Meanwhile a safe bet would be for most of the Washington DC action on the energy and emissions issues in the next four years to be taking place on Capitol Hill rather than in the White House.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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