Thursday, December 01, 2011

David Attenborough is accused of climate change sensationalism by Lord Lawson

Lord Lawson has accused David Attenborough of sensationalism and alarmism over the environment. The former Tory chancellor, who is a climate change sceptic, said the broadcaster’s claims about global warming were sheer speculation.

In the final episode of his natural history series Frozen Planet, which is broadcast next Wednesday, Sir David is expected to suggest the Arctic could be free of ice by 2020.

In a piece written for Radio Times, Lord Lawson said: ‘Sir David Attenborough is one of our finest journalists and a great expert on animal life. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to global warming, he seems to prefer sensation to objectivity.

‘Had he wished to be objective, he would have pointed out that, while satellite observations confirm that the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining over the past 30 years, those satellite observations show that overall, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding over the same period.’

Sir David – in the same edition of Radio Times – said that ‘data from satellites collected over the last 40 years show a drop of 30 per cent in the area of the Arctic sea ice at the end of each summer’. He added that the ice was ‘almost half as thick as it was in the 1980s’ and that animals such as polar bears were in jeopardy.

Sir David wrote that the loss of sea ice in the north affected the whole planet because it acted as ‘a huge reflector, bouncing 85 per cent of the sun’s heat back into space’. He warned of devastating effects in coastal areas as sea levels rose.

Lord Lawson has claimed that the polar bear population was rising and that while there had been a ‘modest increase’ in the mean world temperature in the final quarter of the 20th century, the Met Office had confirmed there had been no further global warming.

The former Conservative minister said: ‘Two things are clear. First, that Sir David’s alarmism is sheer speculation. Second, that if there is a resumption of warming, the only rational course is to adapt to it, rather than to try (happily a lost cause) to persuade the world to impoverish itself by moving from relatively cheap carbon-based energy to much more expensive non-carbon energy.’

It has already been revealed that the BBC is offering Frozen Planet to broadcasters in other countries without the controversial climate change episode.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, most populations of polar bears are declining.

Sir David has been vocal about his concerns over climate change for many years and in 2006 he warned that the issue was the biggest challenge facing the world. He has said: ‘If we do care about our grandchildren then we have to do something.’


An Alternative Agenda For The Durban Environmental summit

Global leaders are set to meet in Durban, South Africa, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9, in an attempt to figure out how to continue their fight against "climate change" when the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period ends in 2012. Since I'm currently sitting here in the dark with the heat off, perhaps they'd grant me the temporary moral authority to offer a few suggestions for their agenda.

-- Don't waste any time fiddling with the planet's thermostat. So the big achievement of the previous summit in Cancun was agreeing that the Earth's temperature must not be permitted to increase by 2 degrees Celsius? Look, I've been in European gyms with air conditioning that can't even be controlled within the space of a few thousand square feet, despite regular intervention by head-scratching specialists. Usually the excuse is that the "ceiling is too high." Well, guess what? The Earth's ceiling is really, really high. Give it up already and move on to something you can realistically control.

-- Nuclear energy is the future. Nuclear energy: good. Nuclear bomb: bad. It's that simple. Now can we move on to a less silly debate? Oh, you say you're worried about a nuclear energy facility going all Chernobyl on you? While you're at it, why don't you also avoid getting your hair cut for fear the hairdresser will stab you in the eye with the scissors while trimming your bangs? The odds are about the same for both. Great Britain has already found out what happens when nuclear is replaced by much dirtier coal: The prices go up and no one is any happier. Speaking of which ...

-- Imposing green alternatives almost always results in dirtier ones. When I go to the supermarket and am told the plastic bags cost money, it isn't ever going to force me to carry around loose groceries. I'll always pay the extra money and tolerate the cashier's dirty looks in exchange for the Earth-murdering plastic bags, which I will then recycle as garbage bags at home before throwing them in the trash, where they will hopefully be recycled by a seagull who will recoup them from the landfill and use them in a nest or maybe even as a stylish necklace that would make Charles Darwin proud. When enviro-fascists succeed in removing those bags from stores and I'm expected to carry loose groceries, I will then rely on grocery delivery -- meaning a gas-guzzling truck will deliver my groceries and someone will carry them to my door in bags or boxes.

Likewise, what do people do when heating their home gets too expensive? They throw wood on the fire. And that's pollution we can actually see --- not just "faith-based" pollution.

-- Oil is the future. At least it's your future and that of your kids. Beyond that, come on -- do you really care anyway? It won't be running out anytime soon, so how about embracing it so we don't lose an economic advantage to those who already accept this fact?

-- Excessive tree-hugging is suffocating the foliage. Plants need carbon dioxide to live and produce oxygen. Humans need oxygen and need to eat plants. One of the biggest issues facing humanity now and increasingly in the future is food security, particularly in Africa and the Arab world, where we're already seeing uprisings. Why would anyone want to risk further stoking food shortages and political instability in the interest of stopping an abstraction like "climate change"? Let's get our priorities straight.

-- Innovation can't be forced; it needs to emerge organically. Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein weren't successful as inventors because some world governing body held a gun to their heads -- or to their wallets. Encourage "green" invention by promoting scientific education and critical thinking rather than indulging the ongoing epidemic of ensconcing kids in liberal arts programs to educate them far beyond their intelligence. A focus on technological education will lead to the emergence of "green alternatives" that don't need tons of government cash to get an inch off the ground.


China decries Canada's "bad example" in climate talks

China profits greatly from Greenie nonsense -- providing the toys that Greenies think they need -- like solar panels

Canada's failure to deny reports that it is about to ditch the Kyoto Protocol is "setting a bad example" to other developed nations as global climate change talks enter their third day, China's official news agency said on Wednesday.

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said on Monday that Kyoto was "the past," but he would not confirm media reports that Ottawa was planning to formally withdraw from the treaty, one of the main topics of global climate talks now under way in Durban, South Africa.

Canada says it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations, including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets.

The commentary published by Xinhua news agency accused Canada of undermining global efforts against climate change and damaging its own reputation in pursuit of short-term interests.

"While delegations from every country attend the Durban climate conference to discuss a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, one can imagine the damage done by this 'rumor'," Xinhua said.

"Some are angry and some are depressed, but whatever the expression made by each delegation, they are united in their criticism of Canada."

The commentary said Canada's failure to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets had encouraged it to write off the protocol and thereby "smash a pot to pieces just because it is cracked."

The Kyoto Protocol obliged signatory countries from the developed world to make mandatory cuts in their total greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, when the first commitment period ends.

Canada was obliged to slash CO2 by 6 percent compared to 1990, but by 2009, the total was still 17 percent higher.

Canada was also likely to be using the rumors to try to secure a favorable breakthrough during the Durban talks, Xinhua said, and "as soon as the negotiations do not meet its expectations, it will allow the rumors to become reality."

If Canada pulls out of Kyoto, it will join the United States on the sidelines of a treaty originally designed to force rich nations with far higher historical levels of greenhouse gas emissions to take on most of the burden when it comes to handling climate change.

Developing nations like China and India were not under any obligation to make binding CO2 cuts under the treaty, and also received funding for clean projects through Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism.

Russia and Japan have refused to support an extension of Kyoto beyond 2012, saying that the treaty is meaningless if the biggest emitters -- China and the United States -- do not sign up for binding cuts.


Energy Innovations in Louisiana Could Guide Policy Changes in the Northeast

Manufacturing jobs are coming back to Louisiana thanks to innovations in the energy industry that pressure groups in the northeast are attempting to block. The substantial deposits of natural gas that are now available could create about 35,000 jobs in the state as key industries mobilize to exploit these resources, according to the American Chemical Council (ACC).

Shale gas “provides the opportunity for what will be a renaissance in chemical manufacturing in the United States, and Louisiana is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that,” ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley, has been quoted as saying. “The $5.4 billion investment in expanded ethylene production capacity in Louisiana will generate a total of $10.9 billion in additional chemical industry output, bringing the state’s industry revenues to $56.9 billion and maintaining it as the country’s second-largest chemical-producing state.”

Natural gas supplies that were previously beyond human reach can now be extracted from layers of shale rock located deep below earth’s surface. This has industry officials excited, but environmental pressure groups are in a state of panic. Additional natural gas production works against their policy schemes built around the idea of forcing the federal government to restrict fossil production. The idea here is to force the public onto alternative or renewable energy sources.

In the more industrialized areas of the country that are reliant on cheap, affordable energy, the “fracking” revolution has meet up with little resistance. The story is much different in the liberal northeast where the political class is succumbing to pressure groups.

In June, the New Jersey state legislature voted 32-1 in the Senate and 56-11 in the Assembly to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing. In response, Gov. Chris Christie agreed to a one-year moratorium on the process. Meanwhile, New York’s department of environmental conservation appears poised to implement a regulatory scheme that will ban, restrict and manage various forms of fracking in that state. Anti-drilling activists are also stepping up efforts in Pennsylvania, according to a report from the Commonwealth Foundation.

The green movement is upset because a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, is open to new development, thanks to “fracking.” Even worse, from their point of view, a group of Penn State economists have concluded that development of the Marcellus Shale has helped to alleviate the current recession.

The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has launched a projected called that was made possible with an endowment from the Heinz Foundation. The site includes an anti-drilling blog.

The future is there for new manufacturing, and new job creation in the northeast. But it’s clear that business groups and average citizens have a much tougher fight on their hands given how potent and well-funded the environmental groups are in their part of the country.


The Great Global Warming Fizzle

The climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom

How do religions die? Generally they don't, which probably explains why there's so little literature on the subject. Zoroastrianism, for instance, lost many of its sacred texts when Alexander sacked Persepolis in 330 B.C., and most Zoroastrians converted to Islam over 1,000 years ago. Yet today old Zoroaster still counts as many as 210,000 followers, including 11,000 in the U.S. Christopher Hitchens might say you can't kill what wasn't there to begin with.

Still, Zeus and Apollo are no longer with us, and neither are Odin and Thor. Among the secular gods, Marx is mostly dead and Freud is totally so. Something did away with them, and it's worth asking what.

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.

This week, the conclave of global warming's cardinals are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for their 17th conference in as many years. The idea is to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire next year, and to require rich countries to pony up $100 billion a year to help poor countries cope with the alleged effects of climate change. This is said to be essential because in 2017 global warming becomes "catastrophic and irreversible," according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the climate apocalypse. Namely, the financial apocalypse.

The U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the EU have all but confirmed they won't be signing on to a new Kyoto. The Chinese and Indians won't make a move unless the West does. The notion that rich (or formerly rich) countries are going to ship $100 billion every year to the Micronesias of the world is risible, especially after they've spent it all on Greece.

Cap and trade is a dead letter in the U.S. Even Europe is having second thoughts about carbon-reduction targets that are decimating the continent's heavy industries and cost an estimated $67 billion a year. "Green" technologies have all proved expensive, environmentally hazardous and wildly unpopular duds.

All this has been enough to put the Durban political agenda on hold for the time being. But religions don't die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.

That's where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the "hide the decline" emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place.

But the real reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, weren't going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to rise—if much at all. Greenland isn't turning green. Florida isn't going anywhere.

The reply global warming alarmists have made to these dislosures is that they did nothing to change the underlying science, and only improved it in particulars. So what to make of the U.N.'s latest supposedly authoritative report on extreme weather events, which is tinged with admissions of doubt and uncertainty? Oddly, the report has left climate activists stuttering with rage at what they call its "watered down" predictions. If nothing else, they understand that any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.

Meanwhile, the world marches on. On Sunday, 2,232 days will have elapsed since a category 3 hurricane made landfall in the U.S., the longest period in more than a century that the U.S. has been spared a devastating storm. Great religions are wise enough to avoid marking down the exact date when the world comes to an end. Not so for the foolish religions. Expect Mayan cosmology to take a hit to its reputation when the world doesn't end on Dec. 21, 2012. Expect likewise when global warming turns out to be neither catastrophic nor irreversible come 2017.

And there is this: Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that's another way religions die.


Malcolm Gladwell, tipping points and Climategate

How a marketing buzzword changed the world

By Andrew Orlowski

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell had a powerful impact on the way climate change was marketed to the public, without even knowing it. Gladwell's marketing book, published in 2000, embedded the phrase "tipping point" into the public's imagination, and this in turn was used to raise the urgency of climate change.

It seems ridiculous today, with climate sensitivity models being tuned downwards, natural variability recognised as increasingly important, and climate institutions talking about a period of long-term cooling. Much of the urgency went out of the window after countries failed to agree on a successor to the Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen in 2009, and the costs and taxes of "low carbon" strategies are political poison.

But back in the mid-noughties, it was very different. The idea that the climate was reaching a "tipping point", and that global temperature would runaway uncontrollably, was rife. It created a sense of urgency that helped pass legislation such as the UK's Climate Change Act in 2008.

This story emerges from the FOIA2011 archive – the so-called Climategate 2.0 emails released last week. Although it hasn't had the immediate and dramatic impact of the first leak two years ago, the breadth of social networks uncovered in these emails will keep historians busy for years – and whets the appetite for the 95 per cent of UEA emails still under wraps.

The idea of climatic tipping points is fascinating for several reasons.

The question of whether ecosystems are inherently stable – or unstable – preoccupied biologists for much of the last century – and was the subject of Adam Curtis's film The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts, in a BBC series for which I was assistant producer, and which Curtis summarised here. Fashions change, and so do myths. Arthur Tansley, who invented the word "ecosystem", believed in "the great universal law of equilibrium", and this was pursued for decades. Today, the idea that ecosystems are delicate and unstable instead dominates.

The idea also divides scientists. Geologists, for example, point to evidence of long-term cycles, and stress continuity and predictability. For example, we roughly know how long interglacial periods last – we're in one now, which is due to end fairly soon. And the idea also divides us. If you are of the view that mankind is a disturbance to a natural order, you're much more likely to believe in runaway effects. If you're of the view that nature is here to be tamed for our benefit – an idea born out of the Enlightenment – you're more likely not to panic.

In 2000, New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell published a mish-mash of ideas that nevertheless spawned a buzzword. Gladwell found a common metaphor that could describe – but importantly, not quite convincingly explain – things as different as the spread of diseases, social behaviour (crime waves) and best-selling products. The phrase "tipping point" was everywhere.

Both Gladwell and Tansley were really making grand, metaphorical generalisations. Gladwell borrowed his idea from epidemiology, Tansley from the idea of the human brain as an electrical circuit. Both became universal "theories of everything".

Into our story comes the magnificent Hans Joachim "John" Schellnhuber CBE, a German physicist and social networker, whose stratospherically high opinion of himself is not, it seems, shared by the climate scientists at the University of East Anglia. Today Schellnhuber is climate change advisor to the president of the EU Commission, and boasts of regular chats with Chancellor Merkel. He was a climate advisor to Tony Blair.

By the late 1990s Schellnhuber was a powerful and influential figure. Having founded the Potsdam climate research institute he was able to influence the establishment of a UK equivalent, the Tyndall Centre, and UEA was bidding to host it.

On his blog, Andrew Montford relates the tale of how Schellnhuber helped hand the Tyndall award to UEA, then took a post as its research director. This was a full-time job, but Schellnhuber concurrently held a full-time job at Potsdam – leading to incredulity from his new colleagues at UEA. "Even a very competent person could not possibly hold down two responsible, full-time jobs like this," writes former CRU director Tom Wigley, in amazement.

Schellnhuber had become fascinated by complex systems and non-linearity, particularly the work coming out of the New Age-y Santa Fe Institute. (He formally joined the Institute last year.) This was deeply influential. What he saw terrified him: a world out of control. Let this hagiographic profile of Schellnhuber pick up the tale.

"After many successful, and some failed, attempts to explain climate change to political leaders and CEOs, Schellnhuber has a good sense of what works and what does not. As the lead author of the chapter on 'large-scale discontinuities' in the third report produced by the IPCC, he used the phrase 'tipping point', which has wide currency in the business world," we learn.

“In a conversation with a BBC journalist, I said ‘these are, more or less, tipping points’ [in climate change]. He immediately understood," Schellnhuber told his profiler.

Schellnhuber capitalised on this with a paper, Tipping Elements in the Earth's Climate System co-authored with several others. Despite its speculative nature – "subsystems indicated could exhibit threshold-type behavior in response to anthropogenic climate forcing", we learn. It has been cited over 500 times.

The death of the planet has been greatly exaggerated

Amongst the subsystems discussed are the Arctic sea ice, which could take 10 years to disappear, the collapse of the Gulf Stream (10 years), and the greening of the Sahara Desert (10 years). None look likely today, with global temperatures fairly static (or falling slightly – depending on how you fit the curve) for 15 years.

It was a deeply pessimistic point of view. But Schellnhuber welcomed the climate apocalypse, because he saw human beings as the planet's enemy – and the planet must come before human life.

“In a very cynical way, it’s a triumph for science because at last we have stabilised something – namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people,” Schellnhuber told a conference in March 2009. Such a neo-Malthusian vision could only be turned into reality with unprecedented coercion and repression.

Earlier I referred to two competing views of the relationship between man and nature: the enlightenment view of optimism, of taming nature (and looking after it responsibly), and man as a destroyer. Schellnhuber's pessimism belong firmly in the latter school, and that's the view that's dominated policy-making for 40 years. There's a problem, in that it isn't one shared that's by the public; few parents or grandparents pray for their offspring to be worse off, or more less free.

There is little doubting Schellnhuber's success both as a social networker and an influencer. At the height of the climate panic a few years ago, the sense of urgency became all encompassing, and convinced politicians and the media that these were extraordinary times, requiring extraordinary measures.

He was able to do so because of the media's familiarity with a book aimed at the marketing business – and some sweeping generalisations. The irony of the story is that by over-dramatising the climate change debate, Schellnhuber may have had the exact opposite that he intended.



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1 comment:

slktac said...

Perhaps worse yet for the environmental movement, there is some evidence that natural gas is not a fossil fuel, but rather is currently being produced. A company called Luca is experimenting with injecting coal bed methane water that contains microbes that cause more methane to be formed. If successful on a commercial scale, that could put methane in the "renewable" catagory.