Tuesday, July 25, 2017

America’s climate of crisis

Patrick Allitt looks at the emergence and development of the idea of environmental crisis

Patrick Allitt, Cahoon family professor of American history at Emory University in Atlanta, is a man abroad. Not just as an Oxford-educated Englishman teaching and researching in an American university, but as a sceptical interloper in the world of American environmentalism. The result, A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism, is an illuminating history of the emergence and propagation of the idea of environmental crisis. So what led this expert in the history of religion and conservatism to turn to the study of climate-change activism? And what does he make of the apocalyptic nature of its claims? Here’s what Allitt had to say…

spiked review: As someone who has previously focused on American religious history and the history of conservatism, what drew you to the history of environmentalism in the US?

Patrick Allitt: Having been an undergraduate in England, I came to America to be a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1980s. And one of the great pleasures of living in California is its setting. I belonged to a river-rafting co-op and I went hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I just loved everything about living in the Californian outdoors, not least because the sun shines for 330 days out of every year – the contrast with England was exhilarating. So, right from the start, I was interested in the actual environment in America.

At first I was struck by the contrast between what seemed to me to be a paradise and what a lot of Americans talked about as a catastrophe. I used to chide my graduate-student friends, saying ‘it’s not all that dreadful is it – and, by comparison with Britain, just look how underpopulated it is’. At first it was just an interest because I was writing about the history of conservatism and the history of religion. Then, in 1988, I was hired by Emory university in Georgia, and the department was looking for somebody to teach environmental history. So I said to my departmental head, ‘I’ve always had an interest in this, maybe I can make a course out of it’. He was enthusiastic about this, so I started teaching a class on American environmental history in the mid-1990s. And, by about 2007, 2008, I became keen on writing about it as well. So that’s what led to me writing A Climate of Crisis, which is a kind of intellectual history of environmentalism.

review: What was your own relationship to environmentalism?

Allitt: I didn’t begin as a critic of the environmental movement. I became steadily more critical as I became more confident. That’s one of the things about living in Berkeley: you’re living in a world that’s miles to the left of centre, and there’s a little bit of an orthodoxy there. And one of the characteristics of that orthodoxy, at least in the 1980s, is that the world was in a catastrophic environmental mess. Things were rapidly getting worse, and we were standing on the brink of disaster. At first I didn’t have the intellectual confidence to say, ‘that’s not true’. But, over time, particularly with the repeated failure of predictions of disaster to eventuate in actual disaster, I started having the assurance to say ‘that’s not true’.

After 1945, it became possible to imagine that the world would come to an end, not through divine intervention, but through human folly

review: A Climate of Crisis really begins with the dropping and high-profile testing of the atomic bomb. Why do you think ‘the bomb’ was so culturally important for the eventual development of the idea of environmental crisis?

Allitt: I think it’s because, certainly in Western history, going right back to the origins of Christianity, there’s always been a fascination with the end of the world. For most of that time, the end of the world has always been something that God will make happen. But after 1945, it became possible to imagine that the world would come to an end, not through divine intervention, but through human folly, or human violence, or human greed. And ever since then we’ve lived in the shadow of nuclear war, and the possibility of a human-induced apocalypse. That certainly led some people to say, ‘yes, that might come about through nuclear weapons, but it might also might come about through environmental blundering’.

Think, for example, of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, and the use of the word ‘bomb’ in the title. He’s clearly making an analogy between the atomic bomb and human fertility, claiming that each one in its own way is potentially destructive.

review: What do you make of the paradox of environmentalism’s emergence during the 1960s and 1970s – that at a time of unprecedented improvement in Westerners’ lives (living standards rising, life-expectancy lengthening, infant-mortality falling etc), an influential section of society seemed more disillusioned than ever with industrialisation and economic growth?

Allitt: I think it’s partly because people have short memories. The more you study history, the more you realise how horrible conditions have been in the past, even in what we think of as civilised places today. And the reason that conditions have become so much better is because of industrialisation, which generates the possibility of universal wealth, and a huge decline in death rates, a huge decline in infant mortality and all the rest. Industrialisation does, of course, have dirty side effects. But, by the 1960s, Americans and Western Europeans had reached a degree of affluence and material comfort, that enabled them to look around and ask what is it that now impairs the quality of our life. And one of the answers they came up with was a dirty environment. And that’s when they start trying to improve its quality.

review: Do think environemtnalism is inseparable from a disillusionment with the broader gains of modernity?

Allitt: Not really, no. Environmentalism has an optimistic side, and a pessimistic side, and I’m on the optimistic side. I’m interested in it because I’ve got a great love and enthusiasm for the natural world. I’m also convinced that we’re able to address environmental problems because we’re wealthy. In other words, when you say to desperately poor people, let’s save the environment, they couldn’t care less, because they have a desperate need to find enough to eat and to live. Environmentalism is itself a luxury. We can afford to indulge in it because we’ve solved so many of the more basic problems. And one of the things I try to do in my teaching and in my writing is to try to convince people that it’s a highly desirable luxury, and one that we’re succeeding in bringing to ourselves.

Allitt: It’s clearly an important moment, because the hippy movement and the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and 1970s were based on the idea that there is something discreditable about devoting yourself to the pursuit of wealth – that it’s somehow ignoble, a bit shabby, disgraceful. I think it’s clear to me that the people who were attracted to those movements were those who didn’t have to worry about money. They were mainly middle- and upper middle-class people who lived lives of real abundance in the 1940s and 1950s, when they were growing up, and they didn’t foresee the possibility of ever being reduced to starvation or near starvation. And because they didn’t know a lot about the history of the world in earlier ages, they didn’t take seriously just what an incredible struggle it has been simply to keep ourselves fed. I think they underestimated how difficult it is to make food grow out of the ground, especially when you don’t have artificial fertilisers and machines. So the counterculture is wonderfully bracing, and enjoyable, but it’s also disastrously naive.

review: What about the new left? What was its relationship to environmentalism?

Allitt: Interestingly, in the 1960s, the new left was very sceptical towards environmentalism. They felt that there were more pressing problems in America – terrible race relations and the Vietnam War, for instance. They felt that all this ‘all breathing the same air’ stuff was a waste of time. One new left writer called environmentalism a ‘genteel rest home for exhausted liberals’. So the new left was initially contemptuous towards environmentalism. But then, in the 1970s, there’s a realignment, with the new left becoming very pro-environmentalist, and the new right becoming strongly anti-environmentalist. And I think the reason for this is that the obvious villains for environmentalists are big corporations, who are the polluters, so it’s easy to say ‘we condemn capitalism’, and then say ‘we condemn the bi-products of capitalism’. That’s very different from earlier generations of Marxists who took the view that industrialisation was good, but the distribution of its benefits was very bad.

review: It does seem to be quite a shift. Proto-environmentalist views tended, historically, to be associated with the right, that is, with those seeking to preserve the status quo against the forces they saw overturning their ways of life. What do you make of this shift?

Allitt: The decline of class politics plays a role here. It became harder and harder in the late 20th and early 21st century to talk about something called the American working class. Nobody here says that they’re working class. In Britain and most of Europe, it’s still just about a living tradition, although an endangered one. But in America, already by 1950, trade unions were in decline and very, very few people thought of themselves as working men. And also very few people thought of themselves as the upper class. Even people like Bill Gates will say ‘I’m middle class’. So the language of class is just not used in America, and so the left was looking for ways to relocate itself. They tried it with racial minorities, and with women and with young people. And then they tried it with the endangered environment. The environment is a tempting object for the left-leaning. It allows them to say, ‘look at the way capitalism is endangering nature, and therefore endangering everyone whose lives depend on it’.


America Needs More Pipelines
The domestic energy production landscape has changed markedly in recent years. America surpassed Russia to become the world's top producer of natural gas in 2009. The Environmental Information Agency recently announced that U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products have more than doubled since 2010. Despite such increases in domestic production, the development of transportation energy infrastructure has not kept pace. Oil and gas need to travel from the wellhead to their final destination, whether that is storage or processing plant, or customers at the end of the chain.

A more robust pipeline infrastructure would make transportation of oil, natural gas and their products more efficient by reducing transportation costs and offering a more reliable mode of transportation. A well-developed energy transportation network would also reduce regional price differences.

One concern with pipeline projects is safety, specifically the rate of incidents, accidents and casualties. These concerns are part of the reason that increases in pipeline capacity have fallen behind growing energy production.

What happens when existing pipeline infrastructure is insufficient to meet the needs of developing energy production in new locations? Either projects are rendered unprofitable, or producers turn to alternative modes of transportation, often road and rail. These alternative modes will continue to be a part of the energy transportation infrastructure, but from a safety perspective they both have higher incident rates than pipelines.

From 2007 to 2016, per billion ton-miles of oil and gas products transported, there were 0.66 incidents for oil pipelines (i.e., the fewest accidents), 0.73 for natural gas pipelines, 2.20 for rail and 7.11 for road.

Pipelines have been getting safer over time. The rates of "serious" pipeline accidents – those that result in a fatality or an injury requiring inpatient hospitalization – per 1,000 miles of pipeline have fallen substantially. Looking at annual averages over 5-year periods to minimize 1-year fluctuations, the average from 1997 to 2009 was 0.025 accidents per 1,000 miles. This rate halved during the period 2012 to 2016. Operators, in conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which monitors and administers pipeline safety, have made considerable progress in pipeline safety and oversight of pipelines and should continue to work towards further improvement.

Even these rates understate the safety of pipeline materials and operations. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration supplies data on the underlying causes of serious pipeline incidents. For the longer-range gas transmission pipelines, the leading cause of accidents is excavation damage, generally the result of an agent other than the pipeline operator or a contractor excavating and damaging the pipeline. "Other outside force damage" is tied for the second-leading cause, of which vehicular damage accounts for the vast majority. While "incorrect operation" accounted for 16 percent of these incidents, there were no associated fatalities. The equipment and operation of pipelines is safer than the top-line incident rates suggest, based on the underlying cause data provided. Further gains in pipeline safety could come from developing methods to reduce third-party contact with them.

Interstate natural gas pipelines fall under the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but in recent months the commission board has not had a quorum. This inhibits the agency's ability to review and decide on major pipeline projects. Restoring a quorum to the board has bipartisan support and would allow the agency to resume normal operations. Until that time, more than 30 major natural gas projects are in a regulatory limbo, and there is a further chilling effect on other would-be projects.

In March, April and May, when the agency was operating without quorum on the board, it certificated no additional pipeline capacity. Before it lost a quorum, the agency had been able to certificate eight projects in February that added more than seven million cubic feet per day of capacity.

Across the different regulatory agencies that affect pipeline proposals, the combination of market forces and the regular review and oversight process should determine the viability of these projects. Ad hoc or irregular delays increase regulatory uncertainty and could deter future development.

The growth in U.S. oil and gas productions represents a substantial economic opportunity for America. However, if pipeline development stalls, America will not be able to monetize all the gains. Some production facilities will no longer be viable or producers will switch to more incident-prone and costly transportation alternatives. That is why it is vital that pipeline proposals be evaluated without delay.


Why Are Older Scientists More Likely to Doubt Climate Alarmism?

Back in 1984, Richard Lamm, then-Democratic Governor of Colorado, gained infamy for having said the terminally ill elderly have “a duty to die and get out of the way.”

Such disrespect for age persists among progressives. Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” a major proponent of global warming alarmism, blames climate skepticism on age.

“Climate change deniers, by way of example, are older. It’s generational,” Nye told the Los Angeles Times, adding, "We’re just going to have to wait for those people to ‘age out,’ as they say.“

Nye might be acting more scientifically if he were to ask himself, "Why are older scientists more likely to doubt climate alarmism?” It is, after all, not quite a rule of thumb that the older you get, the dumber you get. Age has a tendency to bring with it an accumulation of experiences and lessons that enhance rather than diminish discernment.

Had he asked that question, he might conceivably have contemplated the effect of a major change in the process of scientific education that happened in the 1970s and 1980s.

Before that time, computers were huge, fantastically expensive, and, though faster than humans with calculators or slide rules, incredibly slow by today’s standards. The vast majority of a scientist’s education, particularly for advanced degrees, took place working with physical objects, whether in the natural world or in laboratories. Scientists understood that hypotheses must be tested by comparing predictions with real-world observations.

But as computers got smaller, cheaper, and faster in the 1970s through 1980s, science students, especially as they worked on their graduate degrees, spent more and more of their time modeling what they understood about natural phenomena on computers and less and less time working with physical objects in laboratories or natural settings. The result was a high risk of neglecting the need to test hypotheses against observations.

Not having studied other fields of science at equally great depth, I can’t speak with confidence about them, but I can certainly speak with confidence about climate scientists when I say that those who earned their advanced degrees in the 1970s or later are highly prone to that lapse of scientific practice.

 Indeed, as Myanna Lahsen observed in her seminal paper “Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution around Climate Models,” climate modelers have a difficult time remembering that their modeled oceans and atmosphere aren’t the real oceans and atmosphere. Like kids (and all too many adults) trapped in the virtual realities of their computer games, these scientists, too, inhabit a virtual reality that must not be mistaken for the real thing.

The older scientists are the ones who keep pointing out that the models cannot retrodict global temperature without a large number of ad hoc adjustments, that their predictions of future temperature call, typically, for two to three times more warming than actually occurs, and that none predicted the complete absence of statistically significant warming from early 1997 through late 2015 (a stasis that, though interrupted by the warming caused by the unusually strong 2015–2016 El Niño, appears to have resumed from late 2016 to now, stretching it to over 20 years). The inability to accurately predict future temperatures, these scientists point out, reveals a lack of understanding of how the climate system really works.

One more point: Nye’s quip has the characteristics of two logical fallacies. First, his apparent eagerness for older climate scientists to “age out” so they won’t be around to question younger climate scientists’ alarmism smacks of argumentum ad bacculam, appeal to force, for of course the intent of punching one’s opponent in the nose is to shut him up, and what shuts someone up better than death?

Second, it is an instance of argumentum ad futuram, an appeal to the future — “You just wait, in another 20 years when all these old guys have aged out, climate alarmism will have won the day!” But of course we cannot know that alarmism will have won the day. Some of those young alarmists might, with age, gain enough humility (something from which Nye might benefit) to dig deeply into their elders’ critiques and discover their own errors, becoming climate skeptics in the process.

Nye’s contempt for the insight of the older climate scientists and his referring to them pejoratively as “climate change deniers” (with the implicit allusion to Holocaust deniers) are evidence not of his brilliance but of his lack of understanding of how real science works — or should.



Three current articles below

Piers Akerman: Climate change is being served up to unsuspecting Australians

IN August 1973, the term Stockholm syndrome was coined after four hostages who had been held in a bank vault during a failed robbery later ­refused to testify against their captor Jan-Erik “Janne” ­Olsson, who, as it happens had been “on leave” from prison when he attempted the heist.

Nils Bejerot, a Swedish criminologist and psychiatrist coined the term.

Brainwashing was not unknown but the manner in which the hostages developed positive feelings toward their captors and negative feelings toward the police or authorities, was something new, Beje-rot guessed. The term took off.

A year after Olsson’s crime (for which he served a term and later committed further crimes), Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst, was taken and held hostage by a drug-addled crew of misfits who called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Hearst was filmed denouncing her family as well as the police under her new urban guerilla name, “Tania”, and was later seen working with the SLA to rob banks in San Francisco. She publicly asserted her sympathetic feelings towards the SLA.

However, after arrest following a fiery shootout in 1975, her celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey said his client was suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

But, until now, the greatest example of Stockholm syndrome was the mass suicide by followers of American cult leader and Communist Jim Jones, who was the founder and leader of the People’s Temple, another loopy group with strong ties to the Democratic Party and the Californian counter-culture.

Jones took his flock to an old plantation in Guyana but when reports of human rights abuses started emerging, he had his followers drink poison, flavoured by the soft drink mix Kool-Aid.

Among the 918 dead were nearly three hundred children.

Stockholm syndrome plus Kool-Aid was a potent ­combination.

But not as potent as the ­global warming — now called climate change — mixture that is being served up to the Australian public by the Greens, Labor and now the Turnbull faux Liberal government.

Swept along by the global hysteria generated by the UN and a claque of compromised scientists who have been ­exposed as manipulating temperature modelling, Australians are in the process of committing mass suicide as they sip the Kool-Aid sweetener of renewable energy.

South Australia — remember Snowtown, the mysterious disappearance of the Beaumont children, the other creepy instances of unsolved crimes involving children — has long worn a reputation for weird but with its closure of its coal-powered fire stations and its embrace of a huge battery to meet its risky energy supply needs, is leading the way in this suicidal endeavour.

Believe me, the world is not following South Australia or Australia, in this insane folly.

Research from the Global Coal Tracker via the Comstat Data Portal uploaded on January 12, 20017, shows that there were 5973 coal-fired power station units globally. A unit is considered to be one or more boilers where coal is burned to create steam, plus one or more turbine generators which convert the steam’s heat ­energy into electricity of a minimum 30MW (megawatts).

NSW’s Liddell power station, for example, has four 500MW units.

Australia has in total 73 units, according to the Comstat Data, China has 2107.

Germany, where we have seen anti-coal demonstrators rioting in recent days, has 155 units. India, who the Adani mine will service with coal, has 877, and Indonesia has 125, while there 783 operating in the US.

The numbers that really highlight the futility of the South Australian lunacy and the madness of Australia signing up this psychosis are those which reflect where the world is heading — the number of coal-fired power units under construction.

China, for example, has 299 power stations in preparation or under construction. India has 132, Indonesia has 32, the Philippines has 22, Vietnam has 34.

In all, the data lists more than 30 nations actively ­engaged in building 621 new coal-fired power units.

That’s more than 10 times more power than the current 26,783MW produced by ­Australia’s 73 units. South Australia’s moonstruck Premier Jay Weatherill thinks that ­installing Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s battery will solve the problems created by his government’s destruction of its coal-fired power plants and its embrace of erratic wind and solar plants.

It won’t. At best, the big battery may have sufficient reserves to power around 30,000 homes while repairs are made to the network.

There are about 730,000 homes in South Australia, almost all of which lost their power last September. The big battery will be connected to a big wind farm but wind is notoriously variable and South Australia consistently records the highest power prices in the nation ­because of its foolhardy reliance on renewable energy.

In fact, it relies on the coal-fired power plants in the rest of the country for constant power. The federal government knows this, that’s why its building a $50 million generation plant to give the submarine building program a reliable ­energy source.

But for South Australians, and the rest of the nation, the Kool-Aid is kicking in.

Despite the flawed data on which the global warmists rest their case, Australia is still ­closing coal-fired power plants as our economic competitors build their coal-fired capacity.

The big battery may ­become a tourist attraction in South Australia but so, in time, will be the mass grave that ­buries Australia’s industry and the economic fortunes of ­future generations.


No Australian weather site has recorded a daily max of 50° this century


I had Lance staying overnight and this subject came up – me opining after watching too much ABC TV news for years – that some site must have hit the 50° in the last several years. When Lance pointed out on BoM pages that the last 50° plus was in 1998 – I felt somewhat conned.

We searched Google and sure enough we found this article “The proof Australia is getting hotter” – which includes this rather specific claim – Quote “While Western Australia had a cooler than average year in 2016, some parts of the giant state did hit 50 degrees, Australia’s observation of such heat a first in two decades.”

Well if 50 was hit it was not noticed in official BoM daily data. Screen saved. What an amazing lie – “fake news” indeed. Part of my conning was BoM news early in 2013 of the extension of temperature scales up into the 50’s. Oddly this neat animated map from Feb 2016 does not extend to cool temperatures around -10 that are quite common this winter. What other plus 50’s (122F) are there that the BoM should recognize?


Climate change scaremongering based on ‘minuscule’ sea level rises

THIS weekend on Sky News, Connie Fierravanti-Wells, the Liberal minister for International Development and the Pacific, having just returned from a junket handing out vast sums of our money to beautiful Pacific Islands to “combat climate change”, said: “It’s interesting to see that, according to real data, the changes to (sea) levels are actually very, very minuscule.”

That’s right. Very, very minuscule. Or, perhaps what she really meant to say was “non-existent”. The whole climate-change hype about rising sea levels, as being touted by the likes of Al Gore and his new horror flick – er sorry, “documentary” – about climate change, simply doesn’t tally with reality. This has been confirmed by climate scientists themselves, who are sitting around scratching their heads trying to work out why reality doesn’t match their alarmist modelling.

Here’s my bet: these measurements that show “very, very minuscule” rises in sea levels actually mean nothing out of the normal is happening in the oceans.

Climates do change, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are handing hundreds of millions of dollars (that we don’t actually have, by the way) to our dear Pacific neighbours for no genuine reason at all.

Also last week, another Liberal MP, Sarah Henderson, mocked the idea that elderly Australians would die this winter because they couldn’t afford to pay their heating bills. This came after one of the only sensible Liberal MPs, Craig Kelly, pointed out on Sky News – to me, as it happens – that our renewables energy policy would kill people.

Mr Kelly, who is chairman of the backbench energy committee, caused a furore by stating what is backed up by real data: more people die in Australia during July and August (the coldest months) than at any other time of the year, and that the numbers have been increasing in direct correlation to rising electricity prices. Those price rises, which ultimately stem from both Liberal and Labor policies demonising coal and making it too expensive to be worthwhile, have seen a record number of household disconnections.

Even the ABC admits: “The first detailed analysis of electricity disconnections in four states paints a grim picture of areas under extreme financial stress, with hundreds of households unable to pay their bills.”

What makes the situation even more maddening is that the Government’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, admitted to Parliament that all of Australia’s efforts to combat climate change will, in the end, make virtually no difference to global temperatures. So why on earth do we bother?

Five weeks ago, writing on this page, I upset some people by linking climate change zealotry to deaths.

“It’s not climate change that kills. It’s the zealotry of those who believe they are on a Gaia-given mission to save the planet that is capable of causing economic mayhem, poverty, and even death,” I wrote, using the ghastly Grenfell Tower fire in London as “an extreme, but apt, metaphor for climate change alarmism”.

My point – that thanks to excessive climate change alarmism, energy-efficiency (or “green”) requirements tend to get prioritised over safety measures – has yet to be refuted.

My thinking was also driven by Queensland’s horrendous “pink batts” scandal in 2010. I hardly need remind readers that when Kevin Rudd embarked on a harebrained scheme to “save the planet” by installing pink batts into Australian rooftops, four young men tragically lost their lives.

Recently, The Australian reported that: “The owner of a Sydney-based solar-panel maintenance company said he had seen ‘hundreds’ of fires caused by solar panels in the past five years.”

Mercifully, nobody appears to have yet died from such fires, but that doesn’t make the danger of household solar panels, installed again to “save the planet”, any less real.

John Howard – viewed correctly by many as one of our greatest prime ministers – recently confirmed that he remains sceptical about climate change. Who can blame him?

Mr Kelly’s comments not only had Sarah Henderson mocking him by claiming he was “killing her with his humour”, they had Labor minister Mark Butler calling for his sacking “because of his scaremongering”.

Hang on a tick! Labor, the Greens, and even the bedwetters of the Turnbull Coalition, have been “scaremongering” us silly about climate change for the past decade and longer. The entire energy policy of both major parties is built on unproven, scary predictions of catastrophic rising sea levels, deadly droughts, killer storms, fatal floods, murderous cyclones, dying coral, and a whole host of terrifying disasters, all of which rely on the claim that, at some distant point in the future, “people will die”.

Now we learn that rather than being terrifying, those very same impacts from climate change are, in the minister’s own words, “very, very minuscule”. What a joke.




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


24 July, 2017

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