Thursday, April 18, 2019

Critical Australian academic’s firing was ‘unlawful’, court finds

He dared ridicule the Global Warming messiahs in his university who said that climate change was devastating Australia's Great Barrier Reef.  He showed clear evidence that they were deceptive.  So his university was out to "get" him by hook or by crook, mostly crook.  They are now more furious  with him than ever. Liars hate being exposed

A Federal Court judge has ruled James Cook University acted unlawfully when it sacked physics professor Peter Ridd after he publicly criticised the institution and one of its star scientists over claims about the global warming impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Ridd last night welcomed the decision and called on the university’s council, its governing body, to make vice-chancellor Sandra Harding accountable for the legal defeat. “The university has broken the law. What is the university council going to do about this? The vice-chancellor has brought the university into disrepute,” he said.

In his verdict, judge Salvatore Vasta said the university’s grounds for dismissing Professor Ridd — that he breached the university’s code of conduct — were improper. He found that all 17 findings used by the university to justify the sacking were unlawful.

Judge Vasta found that a clause in the university’s enterprise agreement, which upholds academic freedom, justified Professor Ridd’s conduct. “This trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement,” he said.

Judge Vasta also said the university had misunderstood “the whole concept of intellectual freedom”. “In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset,” he said.

A penalty hearing will be set for a later date.

At a three-day hearing last month, barrister Chris Murdoch, representing the university, argued Professor Ridd went beyond his right to intellectual freedom by personally attacking his colleagues, threatening to “hurt” the university and breaching confidentiality directions.

In 2016, Professor Ridd emailed a journalist to allege images given to the media by university colleagues were misleading because they showed poorly affected corals, which were selected over nearby healthy coral and used to show “broadscale decline” of reef health.

Professor Ridd claimed the use of the images was “a dramatic example of how scientific organisations are happy to spin a story for their own purposes”.

He also said his colleague Professor Terry Hughes, the head of JCU’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, would “wriggle and squirm” when asked to explain discrepancies in the images.

Professor Ridd was censured again in 2017 when he repeated the claims on Sky News.

After a third alleged violation of the code of conduct, including allegedly leaking confidential university information, Professor Ridd was sacked in April 2018.

James Cook University last night challenged Judge Vasta’s ruling in a lengthy statement from its provost, Chris Cocklin, which accused the media of inaccurate reporting on the case.

“We disagree with the judgment and maintain we have not taken issue with Dr Ridd’s nor any other employee’s rights to academic freedom,” Professor Cocklin said.

Professor Cocklin, who was involved in Professor Ridd’s disciplinary process, said the university was “considering its options” on the matter.

“We disagree with the judge’s comments and are also troubled by the fact he fails to refer to any legal precedent or case law in Australia to support his interpretation of our enterprise agreement, or academic freedom in Australian employment law,” he said.

Professor Ridd’s legal action was partially funded by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and a GoFundMe web page which raised $260,000 from 2500 donors.

IPA policy director Gideon Rozner said the judgment was proof that Australian universities were confronted by a “free speech crisis”.

“This judgment should rightly send shockwaves through Australian universities regarding their commitment to academic freedom and how they deal with academics who hold a contrary view to established group think,” Mr Rozner said.


We should end tax giveaways to electric vehicle owners

It’s no secret that America’s highways and bridges are crumbling and that federal and state Highway Trust Funds are underfunded, wasteful and raided frequently to finance other pet projects, such as California’s ill-conceived "bullet” trains.

Many major highways, such as I-95 between New York and Washington, I-90 in Chicago and I-5, I-10 and I-405 in Los Angeles, barely can handle current traffic. More vehicles are added every month, making congestion worse. Continuing deterioration of the roads means more traffic jams, driver stress, road rage and accidents.

Yet the owners of electric vehicles (EVs), who drive on the same roads as everyone else, are exempt from paying the taxes earmarked for building and maintaining transportation infrastructure.

That is no surprise, since the taxes are levied on gasoline purchases and EV drivers don’t buy gasoline. But it doesn’t make sense when you consider the fact that electric vehicles, because of their weight, cause just as much — if not more — road damage than conventional vehicles. It is unfair, therefore, that only drivers of conventional cars must contribute to repairing roads and bridges — and financing new ones — while EV owners get free rides.

Equally problematic is the $7,500 federal tax credit that’s available when a new EV is purchased. The tax credit (or “tax expenditure” in Washington-speak) essentially is a subsidy that encourages upper-income Californians and other well-heeled individuals, to purchase electric vehicles; it already has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Some states have sweetened the subsidy, adding up to $5,000 in income-tax credits for buying electric vehicles, exacerbating the shortages in their state highway funds.

As of this writing, the federal tax credit applies to the first 200,000 EVs sold by an auto manufacturer. Both Tesla and GM have reached that limit, but a coalition of EV companies and environmental activists is seeking to expand the credit.

As is so often the case, the cost of the credit is borne mainly by the majority of drivers who can’t afford to buy expensive EVs and rely on conventional gasoline-powered vehicles to commute to and from their jobs. Most of the beneficiaries of the tax credit are upper-income individuals who purchase EVs for environmental reasons and would do so with or without the tax credit.

The net result is that highway trust funds, already underfunded, are being shortchanged further, as government entices more drivers into EVs.

The shortfalls emphasize the political influences under which the trust funds operate, namely concessions to “greens” at the expense of everyone else.

Given the expected increase in the number of EVs in the years ahead, America’s roads and bridges likely will deteriorate even more and perhaps more rapidly, without meaningful changes to the funding system.

As a matter of fairness for all drivers, the federal tax credit for EVs should be eliminated and EV owners required to pay a tax that would go toward supporting federal and state highway trust funds. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has introduced a bill that would establish an annual tax for EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles to replace lost revenue from the gasoline tax.

The nonpartisan Manhattan Institute estimates that ending the federal tax credit for electric vehicles would save taxpayers $20 billion over the next decade.

Given that the number of EVs sold last year in the United States reached 361,300, or 2 percent of total cars sold nationwide, it is clear that a road-use tax on EVs — paid either at the time of purchase or annually — would do much to improve the financial condition of the highway trust funds. It’s astonishing that Congress hasn’t demanded such a change.

For reasons of equity alone, highway funding should be the responsibility of EV owners and drivers of gasoline-powered cars alike. They share the roads; they need to share the costs.


The Province of Alberta Shows Dangers of a Carbon Tax ‘Deal’

The Fraser Institute in Canada recently released my study critiquing the province of Alberta’s approach to carbon pricing.

My analysis for Fraser confirms what I’ve been arguing here on the pages of IER for years: in the United States, conservatives and libertarians should run from any “carbon tax deal” that promises to shrink the size of government while battling climate change. No matter their promises, in practice government-imposed “carbon pricing” schemes never live up to the guidelines for “efficiency” laid down by their proponents. In this post I’ll illustrate myth vs. reality in the case of Alberta.

The Climate Leadership Plan (CLP)

As I explain in my Fraser study, the province of Alberta implemented a Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) in November 2015. It included a carbon tax (at CA$30/ton which will increase to $50 by 2022).

Yet the CLP includes more than just a mere “price on carbon.” It allocates a third of the carbon tax revenue to “green” investment projects, designed to promote a transition to a low-emission economy. It also includes specific climate objectives, such as an annual cap (100 megatons) on oil-sands emissions, and phasing out coal-fired electrical generation by 2030.

The CLP Fails on Textbook Carbon Tax Reform

Even if we stipulate the standard argument for a “market-based carbon tax reform,” the CLP fails on several fronts. First, it is not revenue neutral, even though its official website—in a move that would warm George Orwell’s heart—proudly proclaims that it is. To support this claim, they are merely reinventing definitions, such that “revenue neutral” means “the government will spend all the money in some fashion.” Some of the money is rebated to households, but (as I explained in the previous section) a third or so is earmarked for “green” projects. This is of course not what “revenue neutral” means.

A second problem is the specific objectives superimposed on top of the carbon tax. In principle, a carbon tax levied at the correct level is supposed to “internalize the externalities” and correct the “market failure” of greenhouse gas emissions. It is redundant—even on the terms of the carbon taxers—to levy specific mandates on top of this external “price.” In my study, I referred to another Fraser publication that estimates that the cap on oil-sands emissions would reduce emissions at a marginal cost of more than $1,000 per metric ton! That is about 20x the standard estimates of the “social cost of carbon,” which shows these policies have little to do with the “scientific” case for pricing carbon.

The Problem of Leakage

Yet even the basic concept of a carbon tax levied at the provincial level is quite dubious. The problem is what economists in the literature refer to as “leakage,” where businesses and households can (over time) shift their emissions out of regulated jurisdictions into regions where there are lower (or no) government constraints on emissions.

For example, suppose the province of Alberta implemented a draconian $500/ton carbon tax, and enforced it ruthlessly. That would certainly cause measured emissions from Alberta to fall quickly, and after a decade (say) of this new regime, we would expect to see very low emissions from the province.

However, that doesn’t mean global emissions would have fallen the same amount, relative to the original trend. This is because many Alberta residents (or those who had been considering moving there) would avoid the province, because they wouldn’t want to live in a region with such high taxes on gasoline and electricity.

When all was said and done, the effect of a draconian carbon tax levied just in Alberta would be to wreck the Albertan economy, while having little long-run impact on global carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, to the extent that some manufacturing operations relocated out of Alberta and into China, you might see emissions (for those operations) increase, since foreign production is often more carbon-intensive.

The way to incorporate the above reasoning into the standard framework is like this: When computing the “social cost of carbon,” analysts are implicitly considering a globally enforced carbon tax. That’s really the only way to make sense of the number, even on its own terms. But instead when we ask, “What should the ‘optimal’ carbon tax be at the provincial level?” we have an entirely different situation. Even if we stipulate the standard approach that justifies carbon taxes, the actual size is much lower than the “social cost of carbon” when we are talking about small jurisdictions.


If Canadian provinces (or U.S. states) implement a regional carbon tax, they shouldn’t fool themselves that they are “doing the right thing.” Even on their own terms, the most they can argue is that they are sacrificing their own economies through a symbolic gesture that by itself isn’t worth the cost, but which might encourage others to follow suit. Yet if framed that way, most of the public would run for the hills.

In this post I have focused on Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) and shown how it fails to live up to the promises of those selling a “carbon tax reform” package. In practice, a carbon tax will not be revenue neutral, and it won’t be set at the “correct” level as determined by academics. Households and businesses will suffer from higher energy prices and slower economic growth, with very little to show for it in terms of environmental benefits—even stipulating the basic framework of human-caused climate change.


The Question of Sea Level Rise


Sea level has risen about 400 feet since the last glacial maximum of ~18,000 years ago (see fig. below).

Currently, sea level is rising at the rate of 1-2mm per year—and has been rising at that rate for the past several centuries.

At that rate, sea level will be about six inches higher by 2100—a long way from Al Gore’s 2006 estimate of a 20-foot rise.

By choosing a short interval, 1910–1942, of certified warming, I can show the lack of any acceleration (see below). SLR does not depend on ocean temperature—or CO2.

Every one of the individual records of SLR shows this constancy of SLR.

But water expands when heated, so why doesn’t SLR accelerate as temperature rises? I assume that evaporation of sea water offsets the expansion, with increased humidity and precipitation. I fully expect to see more ice deposited on the Antarctic continent—probably too hard to measure accurately.

But the long-term rise in global S.L. is caused by the average, slow melting of glaciers and ice sheets around the world, which adds water to the ocean. (See fig. of Sea Level versus Time. Note also that the melting of floating [polar] ice doesn’t add water to the ocean and therefore does not affect sea level.)

I published this research in the Wall Street Journal on May 15, 2018. I fully expect that the IPCC will reflect my thinking after an appropriate delay. IPCC estimates are decreasing in successive reports. So the IPCC seems to be moving in that direction, as explained, in Nature Rules the Climate, comparing successive Assessment Reports.


Big Donors Pave Youth Group’s ‘Road’ to Green New Deal

A self-described army of young people devoted to climate change activism are taking their show on the road to build support for national Democrats’ Green New Deal and to counter business interests that favor fossil fuel use.

The Sunrise Movement first attracted media attention when hundreds of its followers organized sit-ins at congressional offices following the 2018 midterm elections. The movement’s network of activists is touted as including teenagers and college-age students and graduates.

In a widely reported encounter in February, elementary school children from San Francisco urged Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to support the Green New Deal. The Sunrise Movement posted a video of the spirited exchange, which also included middle and high school students, on its Facebook page.

Beginning April 18 in Boston, the environmental advocacy group will go on a speaking tour, called “Road to the Green New Deal,” that will visit nine major U.S. cities. The tour is set to conclude May 13 in Washington.

The group’s stated goal is to make the 2020 elections a referendum on climate change and to implement the hotly debated Green New Deal as policy in 2021.

“Sunrise hopes the media falls for its image of itself as a youth-led grassroots activism for the Green New Deal, springing up naturally,” Scott Walter, president of Capital Research Center, told The Daily Signal. “In fact, the group is a creature of the professional left.”

The Green New Deal has not yet been folded into a legislative proposal, but exists in the form of nonbinding resolutions before Congress.

On Feb. 7, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced House Resolution 109 while Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, introduced Senate Resolution 59. Both call for a “10-year national mobilization effort” to completely end the use of fossil fuels in the U.S. and transition the nation’s economy to so-called renewable energy sources.

The Sunrise Movement has an entire website devoted to the Green New Deal, including a strategy page that describes the major goals of the proposal. A total of 91 co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate have signed up, according to the latest figures. 

The feasibility of the Green New Deal has become a point of contention between climate change activists with the Sunrise Movement and elected officials in the Democratic Party.

Feinstein released a statement on the “small group of children, young adults, and parents from the Sunrise Movement” who encountered the California Democrat in her San Francisco office.

“Unfortunately, it was a brief meeting, but I want the children to know they were heard loud and clear,” she said.

Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, has expressed opposition to the Green New Deal because she does not view it as affordable.

Nicolas Loris, an economist with The Heritage Foundation who focuses on energy and environmental issues, wrote a report that finds the Green New Deal would prove costly to taxpayers, consumers, and the economy. Loris co-authored a commentary with Kevin Dayaratna, a statistician with Heritage, that begins to calculate the costs of the Democrats’ proposal by 2040.

So did the youth advocacy group come together out of spontaneous enthusiasm for the Green New Deal?

Although the Sunrise Movement has been described as a “grassroots” group in favorable profiles appearing in Rolling Stone, The New Republic, and other liberal media outlets, it received critical financial and organizational support from some of the most well-funded, well-established environmental advocacy groups, according to the Capital Research Center, a Washington-based nonprofit that examines how foundations and charities spend money.

The Sunrise Movement was founded in April 2017 as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit under the tax code and as an extension of  Sunrise Movement Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2014, according to Influence Watch, a project of the Capital Research Center. Sunrise Movement Education Fund is also known as U.S. Climate Plan Inc.

Sunrise Movement co-founders include Varshini Prakash, the lead spokesperson, and Sara Blazevic, the group’s managing director.

Prakash attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was a leader of the Fossil Fuel Student Divestment Network. Blazevic also worked on that campaign while attending Swarthmore College.

The students advocated that colleges and universities pull any investments from producers of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Two former Wesleyan University students, Matthew Lichtash and Evan Weber, are also co-founders. Weber, now political director for the group, took part in the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement.

The only nonstudent co-founder is Michael Dorsey, a former board member of the Sierra Club who served on the EPA’s National Advisory Board under President Barack Obama.

Dorsey became acquainted with Lichtash and Weber while he was a visiting professor at Wesleyan. The connection marked a key turning point as the professor and the two students worked together to secure a grant of $30,000 to craft an action plan for climate change that evolved into the Sunrise Movement Education Fund.

Follow the Money to Big Green

So where does the money come from for the upcoming speaking tour, as well as other Sunrise Movement initiatives aimed at advancing the Green New Deal?

The group’s 2017 IRS filing shows that it earned $72,902 and spent $31,210. Weber has said in media reports that the Sunrise Movement received a $50,000 donation from Sierra Club Foundation.

The group rents office space from the Sierra Club in the nation’s capital, according to Influence Watch.

The Fossil Fuel Student Divestment campaign that drew in Prakash and Blazevic also shines light on the connection between Sunrise activists and some of the largest environmental advocacy groups.

The campaign originated at Swarthmore College, according to a 2015 report from the National Association of Scholars, a network of academics and private citizens committed to academic freedom.

From there, the student divestment campaign grew with financial assistance from, a Brooklyn-based environmental advocacy group with a presence in 188 countries.

Influence Watch describes as holding an “uncompromising stand against oil, gas, and coal, the industry, and its leaders.” Bill McKibben, an environmental activist and former journalist, founded the organization in 2008.

Walter, the president of Capital Research Center, said in an interview with The Daily Signal that the Sunrise Movement’s close association with outfits such as Sierra Club and belies its claim to grassroots status.

Walter said that the Sunrise Movement Education Fund, which is responsible for fundraising for the Sunrise Movement, has its own palpable connections to well-endowed environmental advocacy groups.

For starters, Influence Watch notes, Sunrise Movement Education Fund shares the same street address in Washington as the U.S. Climate Action Network. Public records show the network itself is backed by some of the wealthiest left-leaning foundations, including the Sea Change Foundation, the Energy Foundation, Kendeda Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Tides Foundation, and Oxfam America.

The Sunrise Movement is listed as a member of the U.S. Climate Action Network.

“Sunrise rents office space from the Sierra Club, an advocacy group that spends over $107,000,000 a year,” Walter said, adding:

Sunrise is in the same building that houses the activist group U.S. Climate Action Network, which last year gave Sunrise an ‘Empowerment Grant’ of an unknown amount. Sunrise’s board of directors includes representatives from other well-heeled environmental groups including Michael Dorsey, a former Sierra Club national adviser, and Betamia Coronel, national organizer for the radical agitation group

The Sunrise Movement held its first sit-in in November in partnership with Ocasio-Cortez, then an incoming congresswoman, at the offices of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then the incoming House speaker.

In December, other sit-ins took place at Pelosi’s offices and those of Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., now House majority leader, and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., now chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Inside Philanthropy, in a published profile of the Sunrise groups, identifies the Wallace Global Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Winslow Foundation as major backers of the organizations.

The Daily Signal last week sent a request for comment to the Sunrise Movement, asking whether its close association with environmental advocacy groups such as Sierra Club,, and U.S. Climate Action Network in any way compromises the group’s appeal as a grassroots organization that represents average Americans.

Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for the Sunrise Movement, had not responded by publication time.

The Daily Signal also sought comment from the Sierra Club,, and U.S. Climate Action Network. None had responded by publication time.

The Sunrise Movement says on its website that public opinion is on the side of its policy stances. But Walter said he sees the group as advancing narrow special interests that are losing public support.

“The left specializes in creating networks of groups designed to look like they were born out of spontaneous civic activism,” Walter told The Daily Signal. “In reality, they’re often led by the same D.C. lobbyists and influencers pushing an unpopular agenda.”

On March 26, the Senate voted 57-0 against proceeding to debate on the Green New Deal, with most Democrats voting “present.” Sixty votes were needed to begin debate.

All 53 Senate Republicans voted against the nonbinding resolution. Three Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Angus King of Maine—also voted no.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined the other 42 Democrats in opting to vote “present.”



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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