Thursday, December 05, 2013

Law professor doesn't care about reality

Since there has been no climate change for 17 years, none of the events she describes can be attributable to it

 Climate change has negatively affected people around the world, but it has hit native and indigenous populations especially hard, driving them from their homes, altering their ways of life and threatening their survival. A University of Kansas law professor has submitted an amicus brief to one of the nation’s top courts on behalf of several native organizations. In the underlying litigation, children are, in essence, suing the federal government for failure to take action on climate change.

On Nov. 12, Elizabeth Kronk Warner, associate professor of law and director of the Tribal Law and Government Center at the School of Law, who wrote the brief, and Michael Willis, counsel of record, submitted an amici curiae brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Filed on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Forgotten People Inc., National Native American Law Student Association and several other organizations and law professors, the brief chronicles the extreme impacts of climate change on native nations. The brief also discusses how federal law applies different to federally recognized tribes.

The underlying action seeks to hold the federal government responsible for failure to take meaningful measures on climate change. This legal action is the first at a federal court to argue that the federal government has not protected the public trust by failing to protect natural resources and air quality. The U.S. Supreme Court has established that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gases, and the agency began efforts to start regulating such gases several years ago. Because of the EPA’s efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court held that litigants could not sue private parties under federal public nuisance common law in 2011.

“This is a friend of the court brief to show how people in indigenous nations are disproportionately affected by climate change even though they contribute little, if any, to the problem,” Kronk Warner said. “We’re trying to find a way to get a viable climate change claim in front of the federal courts.”

The brief has been submitted, but oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. Once the arguments are made, the court will make a ruling. If the brief is unsuccessful, the parties will need to decide whether they want to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. If it is successful, the defendants will have the opportunity to do the same. Kronk Warner said she hopes the court will make a decision by the end of 2014.

She compares the process to the suits brought against big tobacco in previous decades. It took many years of legal arguments before tobacco companies were found liable for the negative health effects their products caused and were required to pay compensation.

Kronk Warner was approached by Our Childrens Trust to write the brief. An expert in federal Indian law, tribal law, environment and natural resources and property, she co-edited the book “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies” with Randall Abate, professor of law at Florida A&M University. The book was released earlier this year.

The book examines how climate change has affected native populations around the world. In the United States, native nations in Alaska have been especially hard hit as rising temperatures have melted permafrost, endangered animals that tribes depend on to subsist, flooded villages and hindered tradition and customs. The petitioners in the case are all children, and the brief shares stories of young people who have lived with the reality of climate change.


Why climate change is (still) far too important to be left to scientists

By James Delingpole

Like Anthony Watts, I have only recently discovered the best, funniest and truest ever thing written about Climategate: an hilarious essay, published in 2009, by author Michael Kelly.

It begins:

    "Like an Aristophanes satire, like Hamlet, it opens with two slaves, spear-carriers, little people. Footsoldiers of history, two researchers in a corrupt and impoverished mid-90s Russia schlep through the tundra to take core samples from trees at the behest of the bigger fish in far-off East Anglia. Stepan and Rashit don't even have their own e-mail address and like characters in some absurdist comedy must pass jointly under the name of Tatiana M. Dedkova. Conscientious and obliging, they strike a human note all through this drama. Their talk is of mundane material concerns, the smallness of funds, the expense of helicopters, the scramble for grants. They are the ones who get their hands dirty, and their vicissitudes periodically revived my interest during the slower stretches of the tale, those otherwise devoted to abstruse details of committee work and other longueurs.

'We also collected many wood samples from living and dead larches of various ages. But we were bited by many thousands of mosquitos especially small ones.'

They are perhaps the only likeable characters on the establishment side, apart from the exasperated and appalled IT man Harry in the separate 'Harry_read_me' document, and I cheered up whenever they appeared. 'Slaves' is horseshit, and 'footsoldiers' insulting, but if scientists are allowed to put a creative spin on facts, I can certainly do so.

They are respected scientists: in fact, it emerges, eminent or destined to be eminent. But they talk funny and are at the beck and call of CRU, are financially dependent on them; when the film is made they will be comedy relief, played by Alexei Sayle and the dopey one out of The Fast Show.

    In the early parts of the story those who are to become the bigger players are not much better off, though. The mails start in 1996 when they have not yet attained world fame and the ear of statesmen, and often do not know where their next grant is coming from. There are moments of poignance:

        "As always I seem to have been away bullshiting and politiking in various meetings for weeks! I try to convince myself that this is of use to us as a dendrochronological community but I am not so sure how much that is really true these days."

After an intro like that, how could you possibly not want to read on? And just in case you foolishly don't, let me at least treat you to Kelly's riff on the absurdity of warmism:  The real ending is up to us.

    At this point we are already guaranteed to be the laughing stock of the future, for having entertained this nonsense for even a single year. A cautionary tale of mass hysteria, comparable to the witch-burners or the millenarian doom-cults, all the more so because we were more technologically advanced and fancied ourselves so superior to them.

    If you're a fairly youngish person reading this, you can expect one day to have bratty grandkids dancing around you taunting you about it. 'Ha ha ha! In Granddad's day they were afraid of carbon dioxide! Ha ha ha!' They will breathe on you. 'Look, look, I'm poisoning Granddad! Look, I'm destroying the planet with my poison breath! Oh no, Granddad – I think I'm going to fart – shall I put a cork in? Granddad, there's a cow in the field going to fart – shall we kill it? Granddad, do you think Mummy will burn in hell for driving a car? Do you call them the Devil's Chariot, Granddad? Do you think light-bulbs are sinful, Granddad? Do you flog yourself when you turn one on? Do you think Mummy was sinful for having children, Granddad? Should I not have been born, Granddad? Granddad … you're choking me…'

And also to his wise, measured, summation of what it is we really learn from the Climategate emails:

    The scientists depicted in the CRU mails have little directly to do with all that. They are just doing their job. They are deluded, some have crossed the line between scientist and lobbyist, but, based purely on the evidence of these mails, they are not deranged misanthropists and haters of civilisation like many of the people who have enthusiastically embraced their theory.

    I think only a couple of them are anything close to conscious and deliberate f-words. Only a couple of them are genuinely unpleasant people, and even they would be genuinely surprised if you told them that. 'Seems like we are now the bad guys,' Phil Jones says wonderingly after the 'Kinne character' of Climate Research refuses to bow to all their demands. They genuinely believe their theory is correct and that they are doing right in bending all the rules to serve it. It has been an idee fixee with them since before the mails open; and of course their careers are now built upon it. They are a clique, not a conspiracy.

    They should be objects of pity, for the most part. Anyone can be wrong. Their failings are human ones of seeing what you want to see, preferring your friends to strangers, not going out of your way to do the right thing if it will harm your career. But these failings and the behaviour they have indulged in have absolutely no place in science or the determination of public policy.

    'Climate science' is rotten, a joke. But the real rot is in the media. All through these mails there are examples of scientists doing the right thing, standing up against groupthink, calling their friends to account, sometimes even among the inner circle. But the honourable ones have had to fight not only the zombie scientists but the journalists who unquestioningly arrayed themselves with them. Save for a few loose-cannon columnists the media by and large have been a bloody embarrassment, acting as unpaid flacks to zealots, hysterics and hucksters.

    Where were you? Where are you now? This used to be the stuff that Pulitzers were made of. The thing is, there is much that is shocking and outrageous but so far little that is actually really new in these files. It's just all the things skeptics have been saying for years, but straight from the guilty parties' mouths.

    There is no shame in having been deceived or mistaken. The shame would be in failing to admit that when it stares you in the face. If someone like George Monbiot has the integrity and courage to admit these revelations are appalling, there is no excuse for anyone else not doing so.

    I used to groan at people who thought the net could, would or should take over from the mainstream media. But it looks as though it may have to do so. There are stories that can only be covered properly by a big organisation's resources, but I for one am not going to pay to be lied to and treated like an idiot. What are you for, if not to be on the people's side in cases of this kind?

    But the net can only take us so far. We aren't going to fix this by sitting mesmerised in front of a screen compulsively clicking on links and reading about it. There need to be letters and faxes, angry and unequivocally demanding phone calls to politicians, above all demos. Where are our marches? Where's our ten tons of shit dumped on someone's lawn? Why are the other side always making all the noise?

This essay is gold, I tell you, gold. What makes it so is the way it combines close textual analysis with a broader appreciation of the overarching narrative; the way it employs witty analogies, tropes, digressions, asides, high and low cultural references, complex structure, colourful turns of phrase to lure the reader in and make the argument more attractive, readable, comprehensible, enjoyable, worth pursuing right to the end…  Maybe – contra some of our more rabid trolls – non-scientists do have something to contribute to our understanding of the climate debate after all….


Property values are the new front line in the war over wind turbines

Property values are the new front line in the war over wind turbines in Vermont. And town listers are the new arbiters of just how much impact commercial wind turbines are having on neighbors.

From Georgia to Lowell to Sutton, local town officials are being asked to put a dollar value to the impact that noise, flickering shadows and altered views of recently installed wind projects is having.

“This is new territory for us,” said Sutton lister Mary Gray, who said she has heard that town residents near the Sheffield wind project plan to challenge their assessments in the spring.

The strategy is divisive.

Town officials who lower property assessments because of wind projects are misguided, said Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, an industry advocacy group.

“It would be wiser if they looked at data. If there’s no data really verifying what they’re doing, ultimately they’re just reducing their operating revenue,” she said. “I think in five to 10 years, the data will show it’s not based in fact.”

Stebbins pointed to national studies that find wind projects elsewhere have had no discernible effect on real estate prices. Critics of wind power argue those studies take in too broad an area, whereas the real impact on property values is closer to the towers.

Regardless, real-life real estate data have yet to be generated around Vermont’s three largest wind projects — in Georgia, Lowell and Sheffield — both because the projects are too new, and because the number of properties involved were too few to generate many sales. Some argue that the lack of sales also is an indication that the turbines are having an impact.

Appraisers, however, warn that data are necessary to make valid adjustments to property values.

Bill Hinman, a professional property appraiser who is Georgia’s town assessor, rejected requests by the McLanes and another couple on their road to lower assessments, because there were no comparable real estate sales to judge whether the value of the property had changed, and if so, by how much. He’s bound by state law to base his decisions on market evidence, he said.

“We do not have any direct evidence,” Hinman said. “As an assessor, I would never be able to change an assessment unless I had direct evidence.”
Board appeal

The McLanes appealed Hinman’s decision to the Georgia Board of Civil Authority, made up of publicly elected town officials who are not bound by the same rules as assessors. A six-member panel agreed that the noise from the four turbines was a detriment. The board lowered the McLanes’ assessment from $409,900 to $360,712.

“It was a really difficult decision,” said Don Vickers, chairman of the Board of Civil Authority.

The six board members — three Democrats and three Republicans — visited the McLanes’ house as many as five times to experience life near the turbines, Vickers said. They each came away persuaded that the sound of the turbines hurt the value of the property, he said.

The real debate, he said, came in figuring how much the turbines hurt. The panel looked at property assessments that were adjusted in Williston near Burlington International Airport and tried to make comparisons, he said. Those properties were reduced up to 15 percent, he said. Although airplanes are louder than the turbines, they also pass quickly and don’t fly all night, and people living near them expect some noise, Vickers said.

The board settled on a 12 percent reduction for the McLanes and an 8 percent reduction for their neighbors, Andrew Thompson and Erica Berl, who can hear the turbines but have no direct view, Vickers said.

“I like wind power, but I think we realized any time you put a commercial development nearby, there should be some compensation,” Vickers said. “This is a property on 15 acres on a dirt road with a beautiful mountain view. You don’t expect to have a commercial installation.”

Hinman disagreed with the board’s decision, but he said the 12 and 8 percent reductions were not substantial enough for him to appeal them to the state Board of Appraisers. If the local board had made a 40 percent reduction, as the McLanes had sought, he might have, he said.

The McLanes, who have lived on Georgia Mountain Road for 25 years and raised four sons there, cited several factors for seeking a reduction: their altered view, the flickering shadow effect of the turbines and the noise.

Vickers said the board decided that virtually the whole town was affected by the site of the turbines, that the flickering was difficult to pin down, but that the sound uniquely affected homeowners closer to the turbines.

The McLanes were satisfied with a 12 percent reduction. “We felt almost fortunate that we got anything, because nobody has ever acknowledged anything,” Melodie McLane said. “The validation is valuable to us.”

The McLanes, who have no desire to move, will pay about $700 less a year in taxes, she said, but the real value was an official recognition that sitting on their porch was less appealing, and sleeping with the windows open was more difficult when the turbines were rumbling. They aren’t loud all the time, McLane said, but when a southwest wind is blowing, the turbines sound like an airplane going overhead that never passes.

“We live in the country so we wouldn’t have noise from an industrial plant. That’s been taken away from us on some days,” McLane said. “This has turned us into people we’re really not. We’re not complainers.”

Martha Staskus, manager for the Georgia Mountain Community Wind project, said the project has been well-received overall and has operated within the state-required 45-decibel sound limit. Of the town’s decision to lower assessments, she said, “What the town does is the town’s business.”


Britain's £85 billion bill for climate policies

A new study claims Britain's climate change initiatives are both 'staggeringly costly and excessive'

Climate-change policies are expected to cost Britain more than £80 billion by the end of the decade, as critics warn that the global-warming industry is spiralling out of control.

Vast sums are being spent on initiatives ranging from climate-change officers in local councils to the funding of "low carbon" agriculture in Colombia at a cost of £15 million alone. Billions of pounds are also being added to fuel bills to pay for green policies.

The full cost is contained in a study published on Monday by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank founded by Lord Lawson, the former chancellor.

Its analysis puts the cost to the British public of climate- change policies at £85 billion in the 10 years to 2021. More than half - about £47.6 billion - will have gone on funding green levies, such as subsidies for wind farms, added to consumer fuel bills.

A further £17 billion will have been spent by government departments and quangos, according to the study.

The rest - about £20 billion - will have gone to the European Union for global-warming initiatives.

Last month, the EU's commissioner for climate action said that a fifth of the EU's £805?billion budget from 2014 to 2020 would go on "climate-related spending". Britain contributes about an eighth of the total EU budget.

Benny Peiser, the foundation's director, who compiled the report, said: "The public has absolutely no idea how staggeringly costly and excessive the Government's climate initiatives are. Even we were shocked when we discovered the astronomical funding streams and added them up.

"Britain's climate policies combine to a mind-boggling amount of subsidies and departmental spending, which will drastically increase in the next few years."

Dr Peiser said Britain needed urgently to rethink its climate policies. "Major economies such as Canada, Australia and Japan have now begun to curtail and abandon their unilateral climate policies and targets," he said. "It does not make any sense that the UK alone is accelerating its exorbitant spending."

Although the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) sets policies on green levies, much direct spending comes from other departments and quangos, such as the Department for International Development (DfID), which the foundation estimates spends £610 million a year on climate initiatives overseas.

The study also found more than £2 billion is being spent by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs on climate-change policies over a decade; £1.5 billion by the Department for Transport; and £1.3 billion by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Quangos spending millions include the Committee on Climate Change and the Carbon Trust, the study says. Ofgem, the energy regulator, is investing nearly £100 million over three years in "contributing to the achievement of a low-carbon sector" and delivering of government programmes "for a sustainable energy section".

An EU database of UK schemes details 185 payments totalling £1.5 billion to overseas projects.

By contrast, France's spending totals £275 million.

British spending includes:

 * about £135,000 a year by local authorities on climate-change officers;

* a £15?million grant over four years in Colombia to "reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, improve the livelihood of farmers, protect local forests and increase biodiversity";

 * £323,000 on a pilot programme for "climate resilience in Tajikistan";

 * £7?million on a "Carbon Markets Readiness Fund", to give grants to "middle-income" countries, such as China, to develop policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions;

 * £35,000 on a report on how climate changes might affect the Caribbean tourism sector.

A DECC spokesman said: "The evidence for climate change is clear, and we need to act now. Alongside this, the Government needs to ensure security of energy supply, whilst ensuring consumers get the best deal.

"Our long-term economic and climate security depends on developing countries being more low-carbon and adapting to the impact of climate change. Climate investments in developing countries represent about 0.05 per cent of UK gross national income."


Majority Rules on Climate Science?

Jeff Jacoby

Back in 2006, around the time Al Gore's global-warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," was released, I started a file labeled "What Climate Consensus?" Gore was insisting that "the debate among the scientists is over," and only an ignoramus or a lackey for the fossil-fuel industry could doubt that human beings were headed for a climate catastrophe of their own making. But it didn't take much sleuthing to discover that there was plenty of debate among scientists about the causes and consequences of global warming. Many experts were skeptical about the hyperbole of alarmists like Gore, and as I came across examples, I added them to my file.

The thicker that file grew, the more shrilly intolerant the alarmists became.

Over and over the True Believers insist that their view is not just widely accepted in the scientific community, but virtually unanimous apart from some crackpots. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has likened doubters to members of a Flat Earth Society. CBS news reporter Scott Pelley, asked why his "60 Minutes" broadcasts on global warming didn't acknowledge the views of skeptics, reached for an even more wounding comparison: "If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?"

It seems to make no difference that those challenging the doomsday narrative include some of the world's most distinguished scientists, or that numerous experts in climatology and related earth sciences have repeatedly gone public with their critiques. To climate ideologues, they're invisible. "Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous," President Obama tweeted in May.

Really? That's not what the American Meteorological Society learned from a recent survey of its professional members. Only a bare majority, 52 percent, said that climate change is mostly being driven by human activity. Scientists with a "liberal political orientation" were much more likely to regard global warming as human-caused and harmful, the survey's authors found — in fact, as a predictor of respondents' views on global warming, ideology outweighed greater expertise. "This would be strong evidence against the idea that expert scientists' views on politically controversial topics can be completely objective," the authors observe.

In that light, consider the findings of a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Of 117 global warming predictions generated by climate-model simulations, all but three "significantly" overestimated the actual amount of warming that occurred during the past 20 years. The models typically forecast that global surface temperature would rise by more than twice as much as it did.

Why would so many scientists have relied on models that turned out to be so wrong? The authors propose several plausible explanations — volcanic eruptions? solar irradiation? — but their bottom line is that climate science still has a long way to go: "Ultimately the causes of this inconsistency will only be understood after … waiting to see how global temperature responds over the coming decades."

That understanding won't be advanced one millimeter by ideologues who thunder that the "science is settled" and that anyone who challenges the current consensus is no better than a flat-earther or a Holocaust denier. Perhaps all those climate models wouldn't have been programmed to overpredict global warming if the pressure to conform to the alarmists' view weren't so pervasive.

In a classic 1955 lecture on "The Value of Science," the celebrated physicist (and future Nobel laureate) Richard Feynmann warned that science would be hobbled if it tried to stifle its doubters and skeptics. "If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar…. [D]oubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed."

Science isn't settled by majority vote, and invoking "consensus" to shut off debate is authoritarian and anti-scientific. There are always inconvenient truths to challenge what the majority thinks it knows. Ninety-seven percent of experts may be impressed with the emperor's new clothes. That's no reason to silence those who insist he's actually naked.


New Research Challenges Global Warming Theories

The role of natural cyclical weather trends has been underestimated, while the effects of greenhouse gases have been greatly exaggerated, two experts on global warming write in the peer-reviewed "Climate Dynamics."

The paper by Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Dr. Marcia Wyatt, an independent scientist who earned her degree at the University of Colorado, challenges the conventional view, held by most scientists associated with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that the planet is getting inexorably hotter due to greenhouse gas emissions.

The new research raises the possibility that orthodox climate models are fundamentally inadequate – which would explain the divergence between U.N. climate simulation models and actual observations, Curry said.

Wyatt and Curry point to an oscillating natural phenomenon. They call it a "stadium-wave" – like a crowd rising to cheer at a football game – a three-hundred year-long cycle that explains why earth is currently experiencing a pause in the rise of temperatures. Now into its 17th year, the hiatus may continue for decades to come.

The paper analyzed atmospheric, oceanic and sea ice data since 1900.

Actual temperatures are now lower than predictions made by most models used by the UN panel. Yet the North Atlantic Ocean continued to warm and Arctic sea ice continued to decline. The two scientists hypothesize that, like a "stadium-wave," the North Atlantic Ocean will now begin to cool and sea ice in the Arctic will begin to rebound.

"Current climate models are overly damped and deterministic, focusing on the impacts of external forcing rather than simulating the natural internal variability associated with nonlinear interactions of the coupled atmosphere-ocean system," Curry wrote.

In other words, said Curry, the new research provides a very different view to the orthodox claim  that "we are toast by 2047."



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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