Monday, January 20, 2014

Another year of global cooling

Falling temperatures are giving climate alarmists chills

By David Deming

Global warming is nowhere to be found. The mean global temperature has not risen in 17 years and has been slowly falling for approximately the past 10 years. In 2013, there were more record-low temperatures than record-high temperatures in the United States.

At the end of the first week in January, a brutal spell of cold weather settled over most of the country. Multiple cold-temperature records were shattered across the country. Some sites experienced frigid conditions not seen since the 19th century. Chicago and New York City broke temperature records set in 1894 and 1896, respectively. These extremes were not singular, but exemplary of conditions throughout much of the continent. Temperatures in Chicago were so cold that a polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo had to be taken inside.

The onset of polar conditions over the United States was also a reminder that cold weather in general is more inimical to human welfare than warm weather. The operation of power grids, gas pipelines and oil refineries was disrupted. Passengers on Amtrak trains were left stranded, and thousands of flights were delayed or canceled. By Jan. 7, the media were reporting at least 21 deaths directly related to the cold.

The January freeze caused $3 million in damage to vineyards in Ohio. Citrus crops in Florida apparently escaped damage, but California growers were not so lucky. A weeklong spell of cold weather in early December damaged up to half of the state’s $1.5 billion citrus crop. California farmers may (or may not) take consolation in the fact that their state government is attempting to further cool the climate by mandating a reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions.

As frigid conditions settled over the nation, global-warming alarmists went into full denial mode. We were emphatically lectured that singular weather events are not necessarily indicative of long-term climate trends. True enough, but haven’t we been repeatedly told that weather events such as hurricanes Sandy and Katrina are unequivocal proof of global warming? If we’re really in the middle of a “climate crisis,” is it not remarkable that low-temperature records from the 19th century were shattered?

Weather extremes also seem to bring out the lunatic fringe. Of course, when we’re discussing global warming, it’s difficult to tell where the mainstream stops and the fringe begins. We were subjected to the oxymoronic explanation that frigid weather was, in fact, caused by global warming. According to Time magazine, cold temperatures in the United States were a result of global warming forcing the polar vortex southward. But in 1974, the same Time informed us that descent of the polar vortex into temperate zones was a harbinger of a new Ice Age.

It is true that the extent of sea ice at the North Pole is slightly below the 30-year average. However, an event near Antarctica reminded us that sea ice there is near an all-time high. In late December, a ship of global-warming researchers became stuck in Antarctic sea ice. The ice was so thick that two icebreakers sent to rescue the scientists were unable to break through. Passengers had to be removed by helicopter. Despite all the claims that the poles are melting and polar bears drowning, the global extent of sea ice remains stubbornly and significantly above the long-term mean. Apparently, the buildup of heat from global warming is producing more ice, not less, in defiance of both the laws of physics and common sense.

It seems now that everyone is qualified to have an opinion on global warming. In a recent column, theology professor Susan Thistlethwaite explained that “frigid weather” was an “example of the kind of violent and abrupt climate change that results from global warming.” Sometimes, I just feel so stupid. I thought cold weather was attributable to the annual phenomenon known as “winter.” The good professor also claimed that cold weather in the United States is a punishment sent by God for “our sinful failure to take care of the Creation.”

If the current cooling trend continues for a few more years, the theory of global warming faces imminent extinction. It will then join a long list of other expired environmental doom-and-gloom predictions, including overpopulation, peak oil and nuclear wint


Democrats Plan to Pressure TV Networks Into Covering Climate Change

Senate Democrats pledging to get more aggressive on climate change will soon pressure the major TV networks to give the topic far greater attention on the Sunday talking-head shows.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, are gathering colleagues' signatures on a letter to the networks asserting that they're ignoring global warming.

"It is beyond my comprehension that you have ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, that their Sunday shows have discussed climate change in 2012, collectively, for all of eight minutes," Sanders said, citing analysis by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America.

Sanders mentioned the letter during a press conference with most other members of Senate Democrats' new, 19-member Climate Action Task Force, and he elaborated on it in a brief interview afterward.

"Sunday news shows are obviously important because they talk to millions of people, but they go beyond that by helping to define what the establishment considers to be important and what is often discussed during the rest of the week," he said.

It's unclear how many senators will ultimately sign the letter.

Sanders said lawmakers plan to send the letter within days. The amount of Sunday TV coverage is way out of whack with the topic's weight, he added.

"What [the networks] are saying is, climate change is a non-important issue, it is an irrelevant issue, and yet the scientific community tells us that it is the greatest crisis facing this planet," he said.

Democratic members of the new task force say they'll embark on a wide array of activities to raise the visibility of climate change.

Members' goals include battling GOP efforts to block federal carbon emissions standards for power plants, and, longer term, creating political space for major climate legislation that's currently going nowhere in Congress.


Karl Popper and the Ideology of Global Warming

It's about 4 degrees this morning--at least that's the temperature where I live.  Wilmington, Delaware seldom sees temperatures that low.  There's frost on the outside storm window for the first time in years.  Brrrr.

As I enjoy a hot cup of coffee, I find myself thinking about global warming, Karl Popper and his theory of falsifiability.  Popper wrote that an important tenet in the philosophy of science was that a theory is not really scientific if it doesn't admit that there is always the possibility the theory may be false.  Any scientific theory that does not allow the possibility it may be false is no longer science, but is ideology, a belief system taken entirely on faith.

I'm remembering a discussion with my eldest son, who says the theory of global warming is non-falsifiable and therefore an ideology rather than true science.  He said the problem with global warmists is that no matter how climate actually behaves, all data ostensibly proves the overall temperature of the earth is continually rising.  It follows that the recent deep freeze temperatures crippling large parts of our nation are proof of global warming just as the inevitable heat waves coming this summer will also be proof of global warming. Popper would call such a line of reasoning a "closed circle."

Sounds like a religious cult to me.  C.S. Lewis would agree, as he was one of the first to name such cults branches of "scientism," a belief system that sees scientific theory as infallible and therefore a handy substitute for traditional religious beliefs that see only the almighty and all wise God as infallible.  

The warmist cult resembles religion in another sense, too.  There is penance and redemption possible.  According to the warmists, in order to avoid catastrophe, we humans must change our way of living and decrease the heat by abandoning fossil fuels and reducing our carbon footprint.  Self-flagellation involves penitent actions such as reducing our standard of living and getting rid of sinful objects such as the incandescent light bulb.  We can and must save ourselves and the planet.

So as you deal with Siberian temperatures, whether trying to start your car, wrestling with your house-bound kids who are out of school all day, or sleeping at the airport because your flight has been cancelled, remember the earth is actually warming up.

Use the time you and yours are grounded by sub-zero temperatures thoughtfully.  Make a list of how you can do penance for contributing to the earth's death by heat.


Russia going shale

A joint venture between Shell and Russia’s Gazprom Neft has begun drilling in a Siberian shale formation that is believed to hold one of the world’s largest shale oil deposits.

The joint venture, Salym Petroleum Development (SPD), is eying the Bazhenov shale as a play potentially similar to the highly prolific Bakken shale in the US.

The Bazhenov is located in Western Siberia, and covers 2.3 million square kilometers or 570 million acres, which is the size of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico combined, an area 80 times bigger than the Bakken.

The drilling announcement follows a memorandum signed in April last year to explore and develop shale oil and Arctic offshore projects in Russia.

Oleg Karpushin, SPD’s chief executive officer, said the appraisal program will give his company an edge in developing hard-to-recover resources.

"We hope that the pilot project will allow us and our shareholders to make a decision about moving to a large-scale development," he said.

SPD said it plans multi-stage fractures of all five wells in Upper Salym, West Siberia in a bid to tap shale oil potential in the prospective Bazhenov formation.

The first horizontal well follows three years of study on the prospect, which included three vertical wells, 3D seismic, coring and well logging in the Upper Salym area.

The Bazhenov layer has attracted Shell and Exxon because it is said to be similar to the Bakken shale, a key venue behind the North American shale boom.

Exxon will also start a $300 million pilot project drilling in a different part of the Bazhenov with Russia’s Rosneft this year.

The Bazehnov region has many cracks and fractures which could make its oil flow more readily, and therefore production could come in at a lower cost. So far, test wells in the region have operated at 400 barrels per day, on line with Bakken test well averages.

Moscow has introduced tax breaks to incentivize exploration of the Bazhenov and other shale plays.


Alarmists: Americans Too Stupid to Understand Climate

New polling data show the American public is growing increasingly skeptical of an asserted climate crisis. Alarmists have responded by claiming Americans are not smart enough to make proper decisions on climate policy.

The Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication released a survey showing only 15 percent of Americans are “very worried” about global warming, compared to 23 percent who believe global warming is not happening at all. A plurality of Americans – 38 percent – believe global warming is happening but are only “somewhat worried” about it.

Most Americans don’t expect to be personally affected by global warming. Only 38 percent of Americans believe they will personally be harmed a “great deal’ or even a “moderate amount” by global warming.

Survey author Edward Maibach bemoaned the results and claimed Americans do not understand global warming issues.

“Our findings show that the public’s understanding of global warming’s reality, causes, and risks has not improved and has, in at least one important respect, gone in the wrong direction over the past year,” said Maibach.

Meanwhile, Christiana Figueres, executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, blamed America’s democratic institutions for blocking progress on global warming. Figueres said political gridlock in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to reducing America’s carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, Figueres praised China and its totalitarian regime as “doing it right” to address global warming.

According to the U.S. Energy Information administration, Chinese carbon dioxide emissions have tripled since 2000. U.S. emissions, by contrast, have declined by nearly 10 percent since 2000.


Spotted owl follies still going on

In the latest chapter in the quarter-century-old dispute over how to save northern spotted owls (top), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is now carrying out selective killings of the winged predator’s arch rival, the barred owl (bottom).

FWS biologists shot 26 barred owls on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northeastern California in late 2013, the first step in a 6-year, $3.5 million plan to “remove” 3,600 invasive barred owls in Oregon, Washington, and California. The government-sanctioned killing of one species to benefit another is not unusual.  As the Associated Press (Dec. 23) points out, sea lions and cormorants (coastal seabirds) are sometimes killed in order to protect certain species of salmon.

FWS officials refer to the latest action as an “experiment’ that is being performed because other federal efforts to reverse the decline in the numbers of spotted owls have failed.  Indeed, FWS’s low-key move represents a radical departure from its high-profile policy of the late 1980s and early1990s that devastated wide swaths of the rural Pacific Northwest and, ultimately, did nothing to help the spotted owl.

Anatomy of a Hoax

The story unfolded in the late 1980s when several environmental organizations embarked on a mission to “protect’ forests in the Northwest from logging.  Much of the area in question is federal land that is either under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service or the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Throughout most of the 20th century, the Forest Service and BLM sponsored periodic timber sales on these lands that provided local communities with jobs, and consumers in the U.S. and abroad with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of wood products.

Disrupting this long-standing relationship between producers and consumers wouldn’t be easy, but environmentalists seized on the almost limited opportunities the Endangered Species Act (ESA) offered them, and, before long, the spotted owl obtained celebrity status.

In 1987, a newly formed consortium calling itself the Ancient Forest Alliance, which included the Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and other like-minded organizations, filed a petition with the FWS to have the northern spotted owl listed as an endangered species.  FWS rejected the petition, citing a lack of evidence that the owl was endangered.  Undaunted, local chapters of the Audubon Society filed separate suits against the Forest Service and BLM questioning whether the owl could survive planned timber harvests on lands under their jurisdiction.

The environmentalists’ argument rested on the assumption that the northern spotted owl, strix caurina occidentalis, was in danger of going extinct because its primary habitat, old-growth forests, was threatened by commercial logging.  Spotted owls, however, not only inhabit old-growth forests, where flying squirrels are their favorite prey. They also are found in younger forests, where flying squirrels and other rodents are on their menu.  That the owl’s survival depended on millions of acres being made off-limits to logging was an unfounded notion spread by environmentalists.

The emphasis on old growth was all about stirring up emotions.  In the hands of skilled PR people, old growth quickly became “ancient,” inspiring even more reverence and awe in a public unfamiliar with the intricacies of forestry. Time magazine devoted a cover story to the owl, and actor Paul Newman told a “World of Audubon” audience on PBS that the fate of the forests and the owls goes to “the heart of society’s values.”

With the public sufficiently aroused, federal judges William Dwyer and Helen Frye, responding to petitions from the Audubon Society and its allies, issued orders halting hundreds of timber sales on Forest Service and BLM lands in 1989.  In May 1990, the inappropriately named Interagency Scientific Committee to Address the Conservation of the Northern Spotted Owl, composed of scientists selected by FWS, BLM, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service, issued a report concluding that the lack of a consistent planning strategy had resulted in a high risk for extinction for the northern spotted owl.

The panel offered no evidence that old-growth forests were essential to the owl’s survival or even that its numbers were declining.  It relied instead on what is known as the “Delphi approach,” which involves taking polls among scientists and making predictions based on the results. One month after the release of the report, FWS, reversing its 1987 decision, listed the owl as “threatened.”

Over the next five years, timber harvests in the Pacific Northwest fell by 80%.  A U.S. House Resources Committee (now Natural Resources Committee) report put the job losses in the region at 130,000, after 900 saw mills, pulp mills, and paper mills closed in the wake of the federal government’s moves to save the spotted owl.

Full Circle

With its “experiment” designed to cull barred owls from the forests of the Pacific Northwest, FWS is now tacitly acknowledging that the government’s grand scheme to save the spotted owl by reducing logging in the region was a dismal failure.   Timber-dependent communities were devastated, and the spotted owl is no better off now than it was 25 years ago.   Even at the time, ornithologists and other biologists warned that the spotted owl’s problem was the larger barred owl, which had been migrating west for decades and was out-competing its smaller cousin for prey.

If rural communities in the Pacific Northwest and the spotted owl were the losers, then environmentalists were the clear winners.   Using the spotted owl as a “surrogate,” in the telling words of Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund attorney Andy Stahl, Green activists demonized loggers and wrecked the region’s rural economy. And that was their goal from the outset.  It was never about the owl.



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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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