Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lindzen totally squashes the alarmists

By James Delingpole

Professor Richard Lindzen is one of the world's greatest atmospheric physicists: perhaps the greatest. What he doesn't know about the science behind climate change probably isn't worth knowing. But even if you weren't aware of all this, even if you'd come to the talk he gave in the House of Commons this week without prejudice or expectation, I can pretty much guarantee you would have been blown away by his elegant dismissal of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

Dick Lindzen does not need to raise his voice. He does not use hyperbole. In a tone somewhere between weariness and withering disdain, he lets the facts speak for themselves. And the facts, as he understands them, are devastating.

Here is how he began his speech, which was organised on behalf of the Campaign To Repeal the Climate Change Act:
Stated briefly, I will simply try to clarify what the debate over climate change is really about. It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is. It is not about whether CO2 is increasing: it clearly is. It is not about whether the increase in CO2, by itself, will lead to some warming: it should. The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes. The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest.

You can read a full version of his speech here. The Bishop has it up here.

But don't take my word for it. Simon Carr of the Independent (not a publication hitherto noted for its rampant AGW scepticism) was sufficiently impressed to write a blog on the subject headlined Is catastrophic global warming, like Millennium Bug, a mistake?

I think we know the answer to that one, eh?


Global Warming Is about Social Science Too

Who's in denial?

Both sides in the debate over global warming are known for calling their opposition all kinds of derisive names. Perhaps the worst is “denier” to describe those who allegedly deny that global warming is “real.” The echoes of Holocaust denial are indeed offensive, particularly because the debate over global warming often conflates science with social science. This matters because one could accept that science has established global warming but still reject for social scientific reasons the claim that the policies normally associated with environmentalism are the proper way to address its effects. Does that make one a “denier?” It is that question I hope to answer indirectly below.

To help clarify what’s at stake, I offer a list of questions that are (or should be) at the center of the debate over anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. I will provide some quick commentary on some to note their importance and then conclude with what I see as the importance of this list.

1. Is the planet getting warmer?

2. If it’s getting warmer, is that warming caused by humans? Obviously this is a big question because if warming is not human-caused, then it’s not clear how much we can do to reduce it. What we might do about the consequences, however, remains an open question.

3. If it’s getting warmer, by what magnitude? If the magnitude is large, then there’s one set of implications. But if it’s small, then, as we’ll see, it might not be worth responding to. This is a good example of a scientific question with large implications for policy.

Matters of Science

All these questions are presumably matters of science. In principle we ought to be able to answer them using the tools of science, even if they are complex issues that involve competing interpretations and methods. Let’s assume the planet is in fact warming and that humans are the reason.

4. What are the costs of global warming? This question is frequently asked and answered.

5. What are the benefits of global warming? This question needs to be asked as well, as global warming might bring currently arctic areas into a more temperate climate that would enable them to become sources of food. Plus, a warmer planet might decrease the demand for fossil fuels for heating homes and businesses in those formerly colder places.

6. Do the benefits outweigh the costs or do the costs outweigh the benefits? This is also not frequently asked. Obviously, if the benefits outweigh the costs, then we shouldn’t be worrying about global warming. Two other points are worth considering. First, the benefits and costs are not questions of scientific fact because how we do the accounting depends on all kinds of value-laden questions. But that doesn’t mean the cost-benefit comparison isn’t important. Second, this question might depend greatly on the answers to the scientific questions above. In other words: All questions of public policy are ones that require both facts and values to answer. One cannot go directly from science to policy without asking the kinds of questions I’ve raised here.

7. If the costs outweigh the benefits, what sorts of policies are appropriate? There are many too many questions here to deal with in detail, but it should be noted that disagreements over what sorts of policies would best deal with the net costs of global warming are, again, matters of both fact and value, or science and social science.

8. What are the costs of the policies designed to reduce the costs of global warming? This question is not asked nearly enough. Even if we design policies on the blackboard that seem to mitigate the effects of global warming, we have to consider, first, whether those policies are even likely to be passed by politicians as we know them, and second, whether the policies might have associated costs that outweigh their benefits with respect to global warming. So if in our attempt to reduce the effects of global warming we slow economic growth so far as to impoverish more people, or we give powers to governments that are likely to be used in ways having little to do with global warming, we have to consider those results in the total costs and benefits of using policy to combat global warming. This is a question of social science that is no less important than the scientific questions I began with.

I could add more, but this is sufficient to make my key points. First, it is perfectly possible to accept the science of global warming but reject the policies most often put forward to combat it. One can think humans are causing the planet to warm but logically and humanely conclude that we should do nothing about it.

Second, people who take that position and back it up with good arguments should not be called “deniers.” They are not denying the science; they are questioning its implications. In fact, those who think they can go directly from science to policy are, as it turns out, engaged in denial – denial of the relevance of social science.


Another climatologist says global warming is bunk

The former Oregon State Climatologist says he's a denier when it comes to thinking humans can make a big impact on Global Warming. He also says he disputes many of the views of Al Gore and others who support the Global Warning theory.

George Taylor, who was the State Climatologist under Governor Kulongoski, said his opinion is that the biggest human effect on climate is land use.

Taylor spoke to the Douglas Timber Operators Thursday morning, and says the alarmists who claim the statistics show the earth is warming are using only the part of the data that supports their decision.

He says if you look at the bigger picture, the climate goes in cycles and there is virtually no trend at all. "When you start a trend on the snowiest year on record, and when we're en route through a dry period that was really a drought, but you know if you show the whole data set you don't see any trend."

Taylor says the data also shows that there is also no obvious trend in severe weather patterns increasing. "There's busy years, there are quiet years, is there any trend over time? Wow, if there is, I'm sure not seeing it," he said.

Taylor is a professor at Oregon State University and was the State Climatologist before a disagreement with Governor Kulongoski. He now owns his own consulting firm in Corvallis.


Why Doesn’t Greenpeace Demand a Congressional Probe of James Hansen’s Outside Income?

The Heartland Institute plans to pay Indur Goklany, an expert on climate economics and policy, a monthly stipend to write a chapter on those topics for the Institute’s forthcoming mega-report, Climate Change Reconsidered 2012. Earlier this week, Greenpeace and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) called for a congressional investigation of Goklany. In addition to being an independent scholar, Goklany is a Department of Interior employee. Federal employees may not receive outside income for teaching, writing, or speaking related to their “official duties.”

But as I pointed out yesterday on this site, climate economics and policy are (to the best of my knowledge) not part of Goklany’s “official duties.” It would be shocking if they were. Goklany is a leading debunker of climate alarm and opposes coercive decarbonization schemes. Why on earth would the Obama Interior Department assign someone like that to work on climate policy?

Greenpeace and Grijalva have got the wrong target in their sites. The inquisition they propose might actually have some merit if directed at one of their heroes: Dr. James Hansen of NASA. Hansen has received upwards of $1.6 million in outside income. And it’s not unreasonable to assume that most or all of that income was for teaching, writing, and speaking on matters “related to” his “official duties.”

My colleague Chris Horner laid out the juicy details last November in a column posted on Watts Up With That. In “Dr. James Hansen’s growing financial scandal, now over a million dollars of outside income,” Chris argued that Hansen gets substantial outside income for activities related to his official duties and does not always comply with federal financial disclosure regulations:
NASA records released to resolve litigation filed by the American Tradition Institute reveal that Dr. James E. Hansen, an astronomer, received approximately $1.6 million in outside, direct cash income in the past five years for work related to — and, according to his benefactors, often expressly for — his public service as a global warming activist within NASA.

This does not include six-figure income over that period in travel expenses to fly around the world to receive money from outside interests. As specifically detailed below, Hansen failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in global travel provided to him by outside parties — including to London, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Tokyo, the Austrian Alps, Bilbao, California, Australia and elsewhere, often business or first-class and also often paying for his wife as well — to receive honoraria to speak about the topic of his taxpayer-funded employment, or get cash awards for his activism and even for his past testimony and other work for NASA.

Ethics laws require that such payments or gifts be reported on an SF278 public financial disclosure form. As detailed, below, Hansen nonetheless regularly refused to report this income.

Also, he seems to have inappropriately taken between $10,000 and $26,000 for speeches unlawfully promoting him as a NASA employee.

There’s more in Chris’s post, but you get the drift.

Now, I wondered whether Hansen, an employee of NASA, an independent agency, is subject to the same outside compensation rules as Goklany, an employee of an Executive Agency. The answer is yes. NASA’s guidelines on “outside employment” state that ”Employees should refer generally to the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR Part 2635,” and must comply with Subpart H.

CFR Part 2365, Subpart H bars an employee from receiving compensation for speaking, teaching, or writing “that relates to the employee’s official duties.” Quite sensibly, though, the employee may receive compensation for speaking, teaching, or writing not related to his official duties:
Note: Section 2635.807(a)(2)(i)(E) does not preclude an employee, other than a covered noncareer employee, from receiving compensation for teaching, speaking or writing on a subject within the employee’s discipline or inherent area of expertise based on his educational background or experience even though the teaching, speaking or writing deals generally with a subject within the agency’s areas of responsibility.

This language seems to fit Goklany to a tee. The proposed chapter for Heartland on climate economics and policy is within Goklany’s discipline and area of expertise but it is not related to his official duties.

Can anyone with a straight face say the same about Hansen? How could Hansen’s teaching, speaking, and writing about climate change not be related to his official duties? How then could the outside income he has received for those activities not be unlawful?

Rep. Grijalva’s demand for a House Resources Committee “hearing” on Goklany is preposterous. A letter of inquiry would suffice even if there were evidence of improper conduct, which there is not.

My unsolicited advice to Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) is to politely reject Grijalva’s request but also to ask Grijalva, just for the record, whether he and Greenpeace think the Committee should investigate James Hansen’s million dollar-plus outside income.


Rio+20 Alert

The UN’s Rio+20 meeting will take place in June of this year, and already the propaganda machine is at work. The UN’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, has just issued its report on sustainability. A single line in the report establishes its intent: “Achieving sustainability requires us to transform the global economy.”

The word government(s) was repeated 193 times in the 99-page report.

While issues such as social justice and inequality are continuously mentioned in the report, energy is central to what the report requires governments to do. Two of the goals in the report are:

* Incorporating social and environmental costs in regulating and pricing of goods and services.

* Expanding how we measure progress in sustainable development by creating a sustainable development index.

Both of these goals are to allow governments to manipulate the free market economy by establishing costs and indexes relying on people’s opinions. GDP is no longer an appropriate measure. Both goals have their greatest effect on energy development and use.

For example, the report says, in two locations, “A tax on the most important energy-related greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, would be another economically efficient means of addressing externalities." The report says:

* “Integrating environmental and social issues into economic decisions is vital to success.” And

* “[It’s time] to bring the sustainable development paradigm into mainstream economics.” And for “a new political economy”

Incorporating the concept of externalities into cost structures has been the dream of environmentalists for decades.

Externalities are theoretical costs that aren’t included in a financially based, cost structure. CO2 emissions are one such fabricated cost, as is damage to the landscape from mining. But, one wonders whether eye-sores created by wind turbines will be included as an externality cost? Obviously, attempting to include externalities in a cost structure is speculative, largely based on opinions and prone to abuse.

Stopping CO2 emissions and preventing climate change is a major part of the sustainability report.

The old idea of resource scarcity is also a central part of the report … in spite of the fact that we have always found more resources, or developed alternatives when needed. The Malthusian doctrine is alive and well in the eyes of the United Nations, though now it is referred to as the framework of “planetary boundaries” designed to define a “safe operating space for humanity”.

The report seems to cast a very wide net in so far as to what issues are included in sustainability. They include:

Universal health care
Social assistance
Fighting corruption
Employment guarantees
Equal rights

The report also raises the old canard that increased extreme weather has caused increased financial losses, even mentioning Katrina. It’s well documented that increased financial losses are due, not to increased extreme weather events, but, rather, to growing populations, building in areas subject to threats, such as next to the ocean, and the increased cost of construction.

It also repeats the need for developed countries to contribute $100 billion annually to a development fund.

Prerequisites for sustainable growth are identified in the report as: “Democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and equality for women and men, as well as access to information, justice and political participation.”

But the UN report omits a key prerequisite for economic development: Property rights. Without property rights, people cannot benefit from their efforts. Why does the report omit Property Rights, an essential prerequisite for economic growth?

It’s interesting to look at the authors of the report. Out of 20 members of the UN Panel that prepared the report, only one was from the United States … and she was Susan Rice, a member of the current president’s cabinet. Seven of the 20 were at some time, environmental ministers or proponents of green growth.

Only one, James Laurence Balsillie, former Co-Chief Executive Officer of Research in Motion, had any connection to business.

The report says that a “new global sustainable development council” should be established under the UN General Assembly.” Its duties will include having the United States explain its Policies.

The United States has only one vote in the General Assembly, and is repeatedly outvoted there.

Rio+20 could result in actions that severely restrict the ability of the United States to develop and use its energy resources.

The 1992 Rio conference created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty that WAS ratified by the United States, and where the UN holds UNFCCC meetings every year at which the United States is consistently outvoted.

It’s not certain what will evolve from Rio+20.


British government's energy plans could cost UK billions if gas price falls, warns Policy Exchange

The Government's energy plans could cost the UK billions of pounds if a shale gas boom brings down the price of gas because current policy is predicated on high prices, a think tank has warned.

Policy Exchange argued that the government's "flawed strategy towards the electricity generation market" is "unnecessarily gambling with bill-payers' money".

"The view that future gas prices are likely to be high was a key driver of the government's Electricity Market Reform (EMR) proposals," it said. "No one can predict future gas prices but shale gas developments suggest prices may be lower than previously assumed."

The think tank argues that EMR directs money to technologies such as wind power in preference to gas, and that if the price of gas comes down the UK would therefore no longer have the gas-fired generation flexibility to fully benefit, potentially meaning it would lose out on billions of pounds.

It said: "The Department for Climate Change's own figures show that the costs of its electricity market plans will be £22bn higher if future gas prices are low, than if they are high."

The think tank did not estimate future gas prices and said shale gas potential was uncertain, but there was a real prospect of gas being cheaper than previously expected. In a new report, it urges the government "to recast EMR to allow the market to discover and invest in the cheapest emissions reductions, whether gas or other technologies".

The warning came as manufacturers' organisation EEF claimed that Government plans to double the Carbon Price Floor could push up industrial electricity prices by more than 6pc and cost the UK economy £300m.

The government had previously indicated the Carbon Price Support levied on fossil fuels used for power generation would increase from £4.94 per tonne of CO2 in 2013/14 to about £7.24 per tonne in 2014/15.

However, the manufacturers' organisation understands that the Government is planning to increase that to £10 per tonne in the Budget next month.

Steve Radley, EEF Director of Policy, said: "Yet another unilateral increase on this scale, coming at a time when the economy is still in recovery, would only serve to widen further the gap between electricity prices in the UK and those in our competitors in Europe.

"The more government policies push up the cost of operating in the UK, the harder it will be for manufacturers to invest, create jobs and compete in global markets."



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, 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 are mirrors of this site here and here


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