Monday, January 30, 2023

Partisan ‘Fact Checkers’ Spread Climate-Change Misinformation

By Bjorn Lomborg

Partisan “fact checks” are undermining open discourse about important issues, including climate change. Earlier this month I wrote an accurate post on Facebook about the growing polar-bear population. The post undercut alarmist climate narratives, so it was wrongly tagged as a falsehood.

Activists have used polar bears as an icon of climate apocalypse for decades, but the best data show that far from dying out, their numbers are growing. The official assessments from the leading scientists who study these animals—the Polar Bear Specialist Group within the International Union for Conservation of Nature—peg the global population today at 22,000 to 31,000. That’s higher than the 5,000 to 19,000 polar bears scientists estimated were around in the 1960s.

The main reason has nothing to do with climate. An international agreement enacted in 1976 limits polar-bear hunting, always the key threat to polar bears’ numbers. Polar bears survived through the last interglacial period, 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when it was significantly warmer than it is now.

None of that means climate change isn’t real or doesn’t affect people or the planet. But to deal effectively with these problems, we need to use good data rather than defaulting to ideologically inspired narratives. It does more good for polar bears, and the rest of us, if those trying to help them use accurate facts.

Agence France-Presse, the world’s oldest news service, has found new relevance in marketing itself as an online “digital verification service.” It stamped “MISLEADING” over the top of my post and declared I’d used “unreliable data.” Other media platforms quickly followed suit, with Facebook flagging multiple posts and newspaper columns in which I made these points as “partly false” and “could mislead.”

But the AFP is verifiably wrong. It based its finding almost entirely on an interview with a retired scientist, Dag Vongraven. He accepts that I referenced the correct findings, but claims that because of the scientists’ limited ability to track animals back then, the 1960s data are “guesswork” that can’t be trusted. The implication is that the rise in the estimated number of polar bears reflects improved tracking, not real population growth.

That’s a politically convenient smoke screen. The 1960s data come from the First International Scientific Meeting on the Polar Bear, in 1965, and are based on three peer-reviewed estimates that extrapolate their totals from well-documented regional populations of polar bears. The pattern is borne out in other data, including a 1970 finding from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and five other sources I referenced. All show that the number of polar bears has risen. AFP and Mr. Vongraven never offer up an alternative estimate; they simply reject the best data available because they don’t match their political narrative.

Even if you throw out all the 20th-century data, the Polar Bear Specialist Group in its latest (2021) report documents that polar-bear numbers have increased over the past two decades. AFP simply ignores this, and instead emphasizes that estimates are difficult.

Yet AFP quickly loses its sense of caution about data extrapolation as soon as it’s politically convenient. Midway through the article, the outlet inserts a huge graphic that declares that polar bears “could be extinct by the end of the century.” AFP doesn’t clearly indicate a source for this claim, but it likely comes from a 2020 article in Nature that was widely reported as demonstrating the potential extinction of polar bears. Here, again, AFP oversteps the data. Even in its worst-case scenario, the Nature article doesn’t show that polar bears would become extinct.

Relying on the data I referenced used to be uncontroversial. When a CNN science journalist did an investigation similar to AFP’s in 2008, he spoke to numerous scientists and they agreed “that polar bear populations have, in all likelihood, increased in the past several decades.” When polar bears in 2008 were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the decision noted that the population “has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960’s to a current worldwide estimate of 20,000-25,000.” The data here haven’t changed, only the media’s willingness to disregard annoying facts.

The result is that the public is denied access to accurate data and open debate about these very important topics. Ridiculous points on one side are left standing while so-called fact-checking censors inconvenient truths. If we’re to make good climate policy, voters need a full picture of the facts.

Besides, even today some 700 polar bears are killed by hunters each year. If we want to help polar bears, why not stop shooting them?


North Asia cranks coal imports to fuel industrial reboot

Thermal coal imports into China, Japan and South Korea - three of the world's largest coal users - hit their highest combined total in 16 months in December as the North Asian manufacturing powerhouses primed their economies for growth in 2023.

Economic momentum in these countries - which collectively accounted for nearly half of all thermal coal imports in 2021 - was subdued in 2022 as China's strict zero-COVID measures stifled industrial activity across the world's largest manufacturing base.

Japan and South Korea have extensive supply chain ties with China which meant that each country suffered slowdowns in both productivity and demand growth in 2022 as China's COVID-19 curbs stifled movement of goods and people over much of the year.

But thanks to a slew of stimulus and easing measures passed by Beijing that are designed to kickstart a revival in China's economy this year, factories and industries throughout North Asia are now also primed for a pick up.

To feed that anticipated sustained rise in output and consumption, each country has stepped up imports of thermal coal, which generates power for electrical grids as well as plants producing everything from cement and ceramics to refined metals, chemicals, heavy machinery and fertilizers.

Combined thermal coal imports by the three countries totalled 43 million tonnes in December 2022, the highest monthly tally since August 2021, ship-tracking data from Kpler shows.


A Sorry Set of Anniversaries That Will Cost Americans

Many if not most Americans were up in arms when news broke that an obscure federal regulatory agency was considering a ban on natural gas stoves. Rightly so. A government that meddles in Mama’s kitchen for no good reason clearly has gotten too big

But here’s the problem: This kind of regulatory activity is now happening almost every day, whether it makes headline news or not.

Two years ago, on Jan. 20 and 27, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders—EO13990 and EO14008—to deploy an “all of government” regulatory agenda designed to rapidly phase out the production and consumer use of conventional energy. The goal is to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels) and ultimately reach “net zero” emissions by 2050.

If that still sounds obscure, think about how your phone alarm woke you up on time, how you made breakfast, got to work or school today, and enjoyed entering a temperature-controlled room. Every step (and dozens more) required energy, and it’s only the start of the day.

Nearly 80% of Americans’ total energy needs are met by coal, oil, and natural gas—the very energy resources targeted by Biden’s executive orders.

With those two orders in the first week of his term, Biden could take his hands off the wheel and let regulatory agencies do the rest of the job via even more obscure rule-makings, guidance, reports, standards, and bureaucratic forms.

Creating Climate Agencies

Perhaps the most obvious upshot of the two executive orders: the immediate cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline’s cross-border permit and new lease sales for oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.

But between then and the recently considered, infamous gas stove ban have been dozens of regulations targeting private sector investment, exploration, production, distribution, and consumer use of conventional energy in the long term.

Environmental Protection Agency (not one, not two, but three).

Executive Orders 13990 and 14008 have turned the Pentagon, Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission, and others into climate agencies that regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

These regulations are designed for the long term—that is, to keep new energy infrastructure and use from being “locked in.” At some point, the effect will catch up with Americans.

The Heritage Foundation attempted to model these effects using a replica of the Energy Department’s energy model and found the Biden administration’s climate commitment would reduce the nation’s gross domestic product by $7.7 trillion by 2040. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

That reduction in GDP is about $87,000 in lost income for an average family of four. Importantly, it will do nothing to reduce global temperatures by the end of the century.

The “net zero” climate policy unleashed by Biden’s two executive orders isn’t possible or desirable. The same wrongheaded perspective created Europe’s catastrophic dependency on Russian energy and energy infrastructure.

The Deeper Problem

As a presidential candidate, Biden made clear he was running to “eliminate fossil fuel.” Americans shouldn’t be surprised this is exactly what they’re getting.

But here’s the deeper problem that should concern all Americans, be they conservative or liberal, climate catastrophist or realist: Nearly every agency has become a climate agency, regardless of its statutory mission established by Congress.

Some agencies are stretching their statutory authority beyond recognition to become climate regulators.

Queue up, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s infamous proposed rule on disclosing greenhouse gas emissions. What do emissions have to do with the SEC’s mission “to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation,” anyway?

Other agencies are ignoring the job that Congress tasked them to do. For example, although the Interior Department is required by law to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales, it took many rounds of court cases and another act of Congress just to get a modicum of compliance from the Biden administration.

Outskirts of Lawlessness

“Lawless” is a strong word that should be used judiciously, but this kind of regulatory activity is approaching it. The Supreme Court and Congress will have to decide.

Most Americans wouldn’t have a clue what “EO13990” and “EO14008” refer to, for good reason: They are busy living their lives and being productive.

Without a single act of Congress or even a debate by their elected representatives, Biden’s two executive orders put in motion an all-of-government regulatory agenda that is only just beginning to impact Americans’ everyday lives.


Activism as a performance, a hideous theatre of the absurd

Activists’ sound and fury signify that the world is being overrun by posturing idiots.


The idea that the world is a stage upon which we mortals act out our lives is an ancient one, popularised by Shakespeare. In the digital age, we seem to have flipped this, so that instead of attempting to solve even the world’s most complex problems, we turn them into endless pantomimes and sideshows, just for entertainment and self-­aggrandisement.

Those who claim there is an ­existential threat to life on this planet bely their own alarm by ­expressing it through confected theatre sports. Stunts and memes have replaced rational debate; slacktivism has usurped real commitment and practical efforts.

Imagine, for instance, that an inspired satirist might attempt to mock the global elite and their climate fearmongering. Could you conceive of a better spoof than sending an Al Gore impersonator to the climate-controlled luxury of the World Economic Forum’s annual talkfest in the Swiss alpine village of Davos, where billionaires and politicians turn up in private jets to lecture the world on what sacrifices others must make.

You could just see this impersonator of the multi-millionaire former US vice-president (a man with a vast carbon footprint whose alarmist predictions have stubbornly failed to materialise) portraying him getting ever angrier and more hysterical. He might have Gore equating our carbon emissions to “600,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every single day on earth” and ranting about “boiling the oceans, creating these atmospheric rivers, and the rain bombs, and sucking the moisture out of the land, and creating the droughts, and melting the ice and raising the sea level and causing these waves of climate refugees predicted to reach one billion in this century”.

Apart from having your audience falling in the aisles, this act would expose the hypocrisy and hysteria of the self-appointed ­climate elites. But I guess you know where this is going – yes, that is exactly what the real Gore did, and said, last week.

These people are beyond ­parody.

Greta Thunberg, the teenage activist who passed out of her teens earlier this month, turned up at Davos just days after being ­arrested at a coalmine protest in Germany, where she posed, smiled, and joked with the arresting officers while the media got their pictures. Theatre.

At Davos, Thunberg rattled off all the well-worn socialist cliches that might have been uttered by her parents in the 1960s or 70s: “self-greed”, “corporate greed”, “short-term profits”, and “profits before people”. Thunberg said the people at Davos were the same ones “fuelling the destruction of the planet”.

Sitting there, as she was, in the Swiss ski village, Thunberg noted that “the people who we really should be listening to are not here”. You can say that again.




No comments: