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31 August, 2006

California: Another enviro-scare campaign

State global-warming bill addresses problem that isn't

Is water vapor is a "pollutant"? Yes, according to the California Climate Action Team Report. Prepared in support of pending state "global warming" legislation, it recommends 45 emission-reduction measures intended to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions toward 1990 levels by 2020.

Amazingly, the report fails to tell us the predicted reduction in future temperatures if 1990-level emissions are achieved. So we have done that analysis here. If California were to achieve the carbon-dioxide reductions, the predicted decline in world temperatures in the year 2100 would be thirteen one-thousandths of a degree Celsius. If the entire U.S. were to achieve those reductions, the decline would be sixteen one-hundredths of a degree Celsius. The figure for the 34 most-developed economies would be one-third of one degree Celsius. If we add China, the figure is forty-five one-hundredths of a degree Celsius. Such changes are far too small to matter.

The global-warming horror stories in the CCAT report - flooding, fires, heat waves, drought, insects - truly are biblical, but its proposals never would be approved for such tiny effects. Moreover, the CCAT free-lunch claim that the regulations would impose no economic costs is preposterous. The real question is: What does the science actually tell us?

A paper published in the journal Science last summer showed that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing mass, while the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (three times as large) is gaining mass. Another paper published in Science last fall reported that the ongoing trend for the Greenland ice sheet is an increase of 5.4 centimeter per year, almost all of which is at elevations above 5000 feet. Other research yields different findings because there is great uncertainty about new measurement techniques. But there is no dispute that Greenland was warmer in the 1930s than it is today and was much warmer 1,000 years ago.

Hurricane activity (frequency and wind speeds) has increased over the past decade, but a substantial body of scientific literature shows that this phenomenon is related to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation - water-temperature changes that shift about every decade - around Greenland and the tropical Atlantic. The AMO warmed around 1995. Hurricane activity has increased, and Greenland glaciers below 5,000 feet have been depositing more ice into the ocean. There is little need to invoke SUVs and the other purported sins of mankind to explain this.

There were no small glaciers 5,000 years ago in what would become the Western United States. Surface temperatures 3,000 years ago were about 2 degrees Celsius higher than today, abnormally low 1,500 years ago, and over 1 degree Celsius warmer in places 1,000 years ago. The Earth then entered the so-called Little Ice Age during about 1850-1900. Satellite measurements show an increase in lower tropospheric temperatures of 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade from 1979 through this March, or 1.3 degrees if extrapolated for 100 years.

So much for Gov. Schwarzenegger's argument that "The debate is over." No one disputes that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations will create some warming, but the magnitude is disputed, well, hotly. Will the warming be observed everywhere, or mainly in Siberia in the winter? (Likely answer: the latter.)

More fundamentally, there can be no "consensus" about future emissions because they will be determined largely by world economic growth conditions. There has never been a consensus among economists about economic forecasts even for the United States only five years in the future; is there a forecasting consensus about worldwide economic growth 50, 60, 80 years from now? Please.

The CCAT report fundamentally is a political document far less concerned with environmental quality than enhancing the political power of the Left to subsidize its constituencies. Recall the myriad other environmental scare campaigns. The pesticide Alar. Global cooling. The northern spotted owl. Power lines and childhood cancer. The population bomb and worldwide famine by the 1980s. The worldwide depletion of most natural resources by the year 2000. And so on. It is time to just say no.



The Greenies are gradually discovering methane

Research on ocean sediments near Santa Barbara suggests that climate change could be accelerated by methane gas stored in oil deposits on the seafloor. The work by Tessa Hill, an assistant professor of geology at UC Davis, documents a new source of methane gas that has not yet been factored into previous analyses of historic climate change. The findings are potentially troubling because methane is at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so it has the potential to make the planet hotter faster if released to the atmosphere.

Hill is the lead author of the research, published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. She cautioned, however, that more study is needed before her findings can be applied globally. For instance, it isn't clear how the methane would be released during climate change, and it is far from certain that similar methane stores worldwide would be freed up as sea temperatures rise. "We need to learn more about this process, about how globally widespread it is," said Hill, who did the research for her doctoral dissertation at UC Santa Barbara. "But I think we can certainly say this methane seepage out of this source clearly responds to climate warming."

Climate researchers have long been concerned about methane hydrate, a form of frozen methane widespread on the seafloor. If ocean temperatures rise enough to thaw this methane, it could have devastating effects on the climate. But methane stored as a gas in natural offshore petroleum deposits has not yet been figured into climate change. Hill theorizes that melting methane hydrate could free up the second supply of methane in oil deposits by causing underwater landslides and sinkholes as it melts. But she said this theory requires more research.

Hill and her co-authors looked at ocean sediments in the Santa Barbara Channel, and measured the amount of tar left behind after methane seepage. They compared this with global temperature records, obtained by analyzing oxygen isotopes in the shells of tiny fossilized sea animals. They found that methane emissions from natural offshore petroleum sources peaked between 16,000 and 14,000 years ago, and again between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago. Both were periods when glaciers melted and the ocean became warmer.

Keith Kvenvolden, a retired geochemist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, also has studied methane seepage. He praised Hill's work for connecting the phenomenon to periods of historic climate change. But like Hill, he cautioned that more research is needed. "Their basic observations are unique and very interesting," he said. "But I don't think you can tie it into what's happening over the whole world. Maybe in time it will be shown to be true. But right now it's a big leap in faith."

Petroleum deposits and methane gas are locked together in sediments all over the Santa Barbara Channel -- a fact well-known to area surfers and beach lovers. As the oil rises to the ocean surface, it releases methane bubbles locked in the gooey mass. On the surface, the petroleum degrades and leaves behind tar, which falls back to the ocean floor. This happens in many other locations around the world. But the present rate of methane emissions by this natural process is unknown, and it's also unknown how this rate would change if ocean temperatures increased. "It appears as though this source of methane reacts dynamically to climate change in the past, and we would expect that it might in the future as well," Hill said. "I can't tell you how big the problem is, because this is the first time anyone has ever reconstructed petroleum seepage over time."


Leftist Australian State governments are desperate to placate the Greens

When you see a pack of suits in the midday sun on Sydney's Bondi Beach it's safe to assume they are either real estate agents or politicians. Either way, they're selling something. And so it was when NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Victorian Deputy Premier John Thwaites were joined by South Australian Premier Mike Rann to launch a discussion paper on a state-based greenhouse gas emissions-trading scheme. In hindsight, they might have been better off parading their latest green credentials in the grungy inner-west of King Street, Newtown, or its parallel universe on Brunswick Street in Melbourne. Because their carefully weighted support for emissions trading is pitched squarely at the inner-city latte belt of Australia's two biggest cities, where the Greens are eating Labor alive.

Arresting and reversing this urban greenslide without causing collateral damage to their suburban heartland is a tricky but increasingly important objective for the Steve Bracks and Iemma governments as they head to the polls. As social commentator and author Bernard Salt observes, the social, economic and environmental aspirations of the suburban majority and the vocal minority of the progressive inner-city elites are diverging at such a rate that it is becoming impossible for any one political party to appeal to both. "By the next decade I think the divisions would have (become) too big," Salt says. "The weight of numbers over time will mean the two will make uncomfortable bedfellows, and that means there must be divorce. This can only augur well for the Greens."

This divide is no more apparent than on the landmark environmental issue of climate change. However you cut it, reducing greenhouse emissions will increase the cost of energy. Lower-emission energy sources and technologies are all more expensive than existing ones. If they were cheaper we would switch today. The discussion paper estimates the price of capping emissions to 1997 levels will result in higher domestic electricity bills of more than $100 a year. Beyond these household impacts, the national impact of emissions cuts is likely to be uneven: acute in industrial regions such as the La Trobe Valley and Geelong, the Hunter and Illawarra, and less noticeable in the inner cities.

Largely bereft of airconditioners and mostly detached from industrial Australia, the relatively affluent progressives from the inner city are demanding accelerated action on greenhouse gases, among other issues. They are venting at the ballot box and switching their allegiance from Labor to the Greens. As ABC election analyst Antony Green points out, the Greens are hurting Labor in a multitude of ways. Their primary vote in both states is tracking at nearly 10 per cent. In the mortgage belt it is in single digits, but in inner Melbourne and Sydney it is nearly 30 per cent. Labor candidates in these seats are fending off the Greens as their No.1 rival or dependent on Greens preferences to get over the line. Green said that as the Greens devour Labor's inner-city heartland, they are also siphoning active and educated Labor members and campaign workers while delivering a big chunk of the votes needed to establish themselves as a genuine force in each state's upper house.

Election analyst Malcolm Mackerras predicts the Greens will win three seats in the next Victorian Legislative Council and four in NSW. So while Bracks (almost certain) and Iemma (increasingly likely) appear set to be returned to power, both face the uneasy prospect of seeing the Greens holding the balance of power in their upper houses. Green says the Greens are likely to be increasingly prickly customers to deal with because their policy positions are simultaneously unfettered by having to govern and contrary by nature. "They are the party of permanent opposition," he says.

An added concern is the optional preferential voting system in NSW which means that Green preferences do not automatically flow back to Labor, as they tend to in other states. Sustaining sufficient appeal to these dissatisfied Labor voters to hang on to their preferences will be an important part of Labor's election strategy. Former Labor national secretary Bob McMullan observed the best way of marginalising the rise of independents and minor parties was to maximise the difference between the major parties on defining issues, including climate change. "When people say there is no difference between Labor and Liberals then this is a good climate for independents and minor parties," McMullan says. "If the contrast between Labor and Liberal on global warming is so stark then being the third force becomes less relevant."

Which brings us back to Bondi. While implementing a state-based emissions-trading scheme would be complex, dependent on protracted negotiations over a number of years and not without considerable political and economic pain, talking about one is a lot easier. For Iemma and Thwaites, the elegant political theatre of Bondi was all about staging a noble defeat. Without the support of Canberra, implementing such a scheme at the state level would require the unanimous backing of every state government. Even one dissenter would be enough to ensure the discussion would be short. The blueprint of a state-based scheme took the National Emissions Trading Taskforce more than two years to develop, and the two resource-rich fast-growth states of Queensland and Western Australia less than four hours to kill.

Cue WA Premier Alan Carpenter. With the very first dorothy dixer in his parliament's question time that afternoon, he threw the switch. "If it is regarded as disadvantaging Western Australia, we will not be a part of it. I believe there is at least one other state that has the same view," he said. "I would want an assurance that any trading scheme would not negatively affect the state's capacity to rely on energy sources such as coal ... I have not seen that level of support indicated so far."

The other state was, of course, Queensland. Premier Peter Beattie, already a self-confessed troglodyte on the issue, said that afternoon that he supported emissions trading in principle, but only on the impossible proviso that clean coal technology was in place and would mitigate against electricity price increases and therefore job losses for Queenslanders. Beattie neatly sidestepped the practical reality that clean coal technology is still under development, with 2015 touted as its earliest commercial start date possible in Australia. He also carefully ignored the other fundamental about clean coal: that like all other lower-emission technologies, its use would still cost considerably more than Queensland's present electricity supply. As politely as he put it, that was still another no.

The Greens are causing headaches for Labor in the run-up to the September 9 Queensland election. On Sunday they announced they would deny preferences to Labor in key marginal seats because of their displeasure over some headline environmental issues. Optional preferential voting in Queensland means the Greens vote in these seats will not flow to Labor. In 1995, a similar tactic contributed to the defeat of the Wayne Goss government.

Of course, the states had already played their hand at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in July. To ensure the issue wasn't going to awkwardly bind any state government position, the original emissions-trading green paper owned by them had been downgraded to a more theoretical discussion paper owned by the taskforce. Timing was also key. Comments on the paper are due before Christmas, just after the Victorian poll in November and before the NSW election in March. Enough time to have a discussion but nowhere near enough time to make a decision.

The politicisation of emissions trading in Australia has elevated it to watershed status in the present environmental vernacular. Like the Kyoto Protocol before it, there is a perception that support or opposition casts protagonists on to either side of some apparent greenhouse policy divide. This is somewhat overstated. Placing a cap on emissions and trading the right to emit them is widely considered the most efficient and lowest cost method possible to achieve a specified national rate of emissions.

Prime Minister John Howard does not oppose emissions trading in principle. After presenting his energy plan at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch in Sydney last month, he said what he was opposed to was Australia heading down this policy path without the rest of the world. This was echoed by the Allen Consulting Group report in March in its assessment of the impacts of deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions commissioned by the Business Roundtable on Climate Change. The report stated that "any large-scale unilateral action by Australia would constitute bad policy in that it would impose significant costs on the community while having a negligible impact on climate change".

As the European Union has discovered the hard way, getting political support for emissions trading is a snack compared to the operational difficulties of making it work. In 2000 the EU voted to start trading in January 2005. At least, that was the idea. It was hoped trading would help EU member states meet emissions targets, but while it is early days, its scheme has to date proved both expensive and ineffective. In the first three-year phase, national laws have been implemented piecemeal, while the complex regime of registries to track and monitor the emissions and trades are still, at best, partial. Several member countries arbitrarily increased the number of emissions permits to such a degree that allocations exceeded emissions in 2005.

The big loser was Britain, which was silly enough to set tough targets from the outset while its continental neighbours have been far more lenient. As a result, it is estimated Britain will need to spend pound stg. 1.5billion ($3.74billion) over three years to buy surplus permits from across the channel.

Compliance with the administrative and regulatory targets for the second phase, supposed to start in 2008, is also falling behind schedule. There have been further concerns about the high administrative cost of the scheme, particularly for smaller companies, and complaints from all sides about how the emissions permits have been allocated. Architects of the domestic states-based scheme claim they have had the benefit of learning from Europe's many mistakes in drafting their model. Importantly, both industry and environmental groups agree that whatever the political motives behind its release or its likelihood of success, the indigenous discussion paper has served to advance thinking about how Australia might manage its greenhouse gas emissions in the future.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


30 August, 2006

Let's look on the sunny side

A comment from "The Times" of London

That round yellow thing in the sky may have more influence on climate change than man’s activities. Writing about the Sun at the end of August this year might seem ironic, even sadistic. As a reminder, especially for readers in the East and South East of England, the Sun is the big round yellow thing in the sky that made a robust appearance in July, but that has largely absconded since.

The Sun will, however, be enjoying some company soon. Next month, Nasa will launch the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Stereo). This consists of two probes, one just ahead of the Earth’s orbit and the other behind it, which will examine coronal mass ejections, or solar flares. Coronal mass ejections really are, well, massive. The Sun can throw out eruptions consisting of ten billion tons of its atmosphere, measuring six million miles across, or well over five times its own width, at a speed of approximately a million miles an hour. That is one hell of a celestial fireball.

This is all very fascinating, you might respond (a little bemused that there seem to be two Science Notebooks on these pages today), but should Stereo interest me? An awful lot as it happens. For if this Ł250 million, two-year project produces the evidence that some scientists hope and believe it will, it could transform the raging debate about global warming.

There has long been a minority school of thought that is deeply sceptical about the extent to which rising temperatures on this planet can be explained, and blamed, on human activity. The most persuasive subsection of this community is convinced that the principal cause of climate change on Earth is the intensity of solar activity.

This argument is virtually unknown to the wider public. In part this is because the data required truly to prove the case have not been available, although Stereo should change that. It is also because the control exercised in this area by those who contend that global warming can only be man-made resembles that which the Roman Catholic Church once held over the character of the solar system. Public discussion is dominated by those inclined to the most doom-laden predictions, and this lobby is not that wild on the notion that astronomy may come up with a compelling alternative hypothesis. And it probably has not helped the proponents of solar influence that one of their most prominent advocates rejoiced in the name Harry van Loon.

There are, nonetheless, three sound reasons to be open to this explanation. The first is that the conventional global warming stance has huge limitations. It is widely accepted that the average surface temperature on Earth has risen by about 0.5 degrees centigrade over the past 125 years or so. Yet if man’s activities were driving this warming process then one would expect the rate of that increase to have accelerated in modern times in response to increasing industrialisation, aircraft flights and so on. This evidence has singularly failed to materialise, despite satellites having been available to measure the Earth’s temperature since the late 1970s.

This conundrum is compounded by the knowledge that dramatic climate change on Earth has occurred in the relatively recent past, but well before contemporary inventions came into play. Examinations of ancient tree rings and other data show that temperatures cooled in the 11th century, but rose quite sharply in the 150 years after that, when the Vikings were able to settle in Greenland. Then temperatures slumped again, so much so that the period 1645-1715, when the Thames froze solid most winters in London, is now referred to as “the little ice age”, only to reverse course after 1800. None of this could possibly have been triggered by the deeds of low-cost airlines.

Finally, there is what we can already ascertain about the Sun itself. Solar activity has short-term fluctuations such as the familiar sunspot cycle with a duration of about 11 years, and much longer term patterns of solar flares about which we understand less.

There is little doubt that daily atypical solar activity can have an impact on our climate. That is hardly surprising as total solar irradiance (TSI) can vary as much in a space of time as short as a week as the total energy used by humans beings, globally, for a year. The overall energy output of the Sun is far greater in a single second than all human activity could produce in a million years. To the layman such as myself, the claim that the big round yellow thing in the sky may have more influence on the condition of this planet than the 10.45 easyJet flight from Stansted to Palma does have a kind of logic. We laymen are not alone.

In 2003 a team from Columbia University reported that the Sun’s heat had increased by 0.05 per cent a decade since the 1970s, the point when completely reliable data started to be collected. This would be enough to have a big influence on the Earth’s climate if it were a trend that had continued for many decades. The Columbia team believed that the pattern could be traced back to the mid-19th century at the very least. Others, working with carbon data material, insist that the Sun has been more vigorous in the past six decades than at any time in 8,000 years. It defies reason, surely, to conclude that this would be irrelevant to the climate. Indeed, there is a deep arrogance implicit in the sentiment that if anything on Earth is changing, human beings must be responsible.

A decade ago, H. N. Priem, the Dutch geologist, predicted: “The current and anticipated fleet of spacecraft devoted to the study of solar and solar-terrestrial physics will probably prove to have more bearing on the understanding and forecasting of climate change than the orchestrated assessments by politically motivated international panels biased towards global warming exclusively by the enhanced greenhouse effect.”

Stereo should shed illuminating light, in more ways than one, on this matter. It will provide real fuel for this discussion.


Meat is a global warming issue

An amusing bit of nuttiness from a vegetarian below

There are many human activities that contribute to global warming. Among the biggest contributors are electrical generation, the use of passenger and other vehicles, over-consumption, international shipping, deforestation, smoking and militarism. (The U.S. military, for example, is the world's biggest consumer of oil and the world's biggest polluter.)

What many people do not know, however, is that the production of meat also significantly increases global warming. Cow farms produce millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane per year, the two major greenhouse gases that together account for more than 90 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions, substantially contributing to "global scorching." According to the United Nations Environment Program's Unit on Climate Change, "There is a strong link between human diet and methane emissions from livestock." The 2004 State of the World is more specific regarding the link between animals raised for meat and global warming: "Belching, flatulent livestock emit 16 percent of the world's annual production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas." The July 2005 issue of Physics World states: "The animals we eat emit 21 percent of all the CO2 that can be attributed to human activity." Eating meat directly contributes to this environmentally irresponsible industry and the dire threat of global warming.

Additionally, rainforests are being cut down at an extremely rapid rate to both pasture cows and grow soybeans to feed cows. The clear-cutting of trees in the rainforest -- an incredibly bio-diverse area with 90 percent of all species on Earth -- not only creates more greenhouse gases through the process of destruction, but also reduces the amazing benefits that those trees provide. Rainforests have been called the "lungs of the Earth," because they filter our air by absorbing CO2, while emitting life-supporting oxygen. "In a nutshell," according to the Center for International Forestry Research, "cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out of Brazil's Amazon rainforests."

Of course, the U.S. should join the other 163 countries in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, we should sharply reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and shift towards renewable sources of energy. Of course, we need to stop destroying the rainforests. Of course, we need to stop the war in Iraq and drastically reduce the U.S. military budget (presently at half of the entire world's total military spending), which would increase, not decrease, national and global security. But as we're struggling and waiting for these and other structural changes, we need to make personal changes.

Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin from the University of Chicago concluded that changing one's eating habits from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a vegetarian diet does more to fight global warming than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a fuel-efficient hybrid car. Of course, you can do both. Where the environment is concerned, eating meat is like driving a huge SUV. According to Eshel, eating a vegetarian diet is like driving a mid-sized car or a reasonable sedan, and eating a vegan diet (no dairy, no eggs) is like riding a bicycle or walking. Shifting away from SUVs and SUV-style diets, to much more energy-efficient alternatives, is key to fighting the warming trend.

Global warming is already having grave effects on our planet. Vegetarians help keep the planet cool in more ways than one. Paul McCartney says, "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do." Andrea Gordon, in her article "If You Recycle, Why Are You Eating Meat?" agrees: "There is a direct relationship between eating meat and the environment. Quite simply, you can't be a meat-eating environmentalist. Sorry folks."

Vegetarianism is literally about life and death -- for each of us individually and for all of us together. Eating animals simultaneously contributes to a multitude of tragedies: the animals' suffering and death; the ill-health and early death of people; the unsustainable overuse of oil, water, land, topsoil, grain, labor and other vital resources; environmental destruction, including deforestation, species extinction, mono-cropping and global warming; the legitimacy of force and violence; the mis-allocation of capital, skills, land and other assets; vast inefficiencies in the economy; tremendous waste; massive inequalities in the world; the continuation of world hunger and mass starvation; the transmission and spread of dangerous diseases; and moral failure in so-called civilized societies. Vegetarianism is an antidote to all of these unnecessary tragedies.

The editors of World Watch concluded in the July/August 2004 edition that "the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease." Lee Hall, the legal director for Friends of Animals, is more succinct: "Behind virtually every great environmental complaint there's milk and meat." Global warming may be the most serious global social problem threatening life on Earth. We need to fight global warming on the governmental and corporate levels, and we also need to fight global warming on the everyday and personal levels. Now we need to fight global warming -- with our forks.



Thousands of wheelie bins have been secretly fitted with bugs as the Government comes under increasing pressure to charge households for collecting non-recyclable waste. The penny-sized electronic chips could be used to fine homeowners who exceed any weight restrictions imposed on rubbish. They have been fitted to about 500,000 bins across England. Their existence was revealed as the Institute for Public Policy Research urged the Government to start billing households according to how much waste they produce. Britain has the third worst recycling rate in the European Union, according to figures published yesterday by the institute, an influential centre-left think-tank.

Its warning was backed by the Local Government Association (LGA), which threatened to increase council tax bills if recycling did not improve. It said that this tariff would be needed to cover EU fines. Councils face penalties of up to 150 pounds per tonne of rubbish if they fail to meet recycling targets set under the EU landfill directive. This could lead to a bill of 230 million pounds.

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the LGA chairman, said: "For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about the consequences. Those days are now over. "There needs to be a radical overhaul of the way in which rubbish is thrown away, otherwise there is a real danger that council tax bills will have to rise and the environment will continue to suffer."

The tag is screwed into a recess under the bin's lip. It contains a silicon chip with a serial number identifying the home to which it belongs. This is detected by a sensor on the truck as the bin is lifted for emptying. The weight of the rubbish it contains is calculated by equipment on the truck. This information is then transmitted to a central computer.

Plans to charge for the collection of non-recyclable rubbish have already been mooted. David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, indicated last month that he backed a tax on household rubbish. He said that he was interested in an idea suggested by Sir Michael Lyons, as part of his inquiry into local government finance, which involved a system of variable waste-charging. The research institute said that a "pay as you throw" system was the only way of improving Britain's poor record of recycling - which accounted for only 18 per cent of its municipal waste in 2003-04.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


29 August, 2006

Russian scientist predicts global cooling

A Russian scientist predicts a period of global cooling in coming decades, followed by a warmer interval. Khabibullo Abdusamatov expects a repeat of the period known as the Little Ice Age. During the 16th century, the Baltic Sea froze so hard that hotels were built on the ice for people crossing the sea in coaches. The Little Ice Age is believed to have contributed to the end of the Norse colony in Greenland, which was founded during an interval of much warmer weather.

Abdusamatov and his colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences astronomical observatory said the prediction is based on measurement of solar emissions, Novosti reported. They expect the cooling to begin within a few years and to reach its peak between 2055 and 2060. "The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said. "The global temperature maximum has been reached on Earth, and Earth's global temperature will decline to a climatic minimum even without the Kyoto protocol."


Global Warming Sickness: The Medicine Will Hurt More

By George Runner, a California State senator

A magazine news article warned of the impending doom of climate change: "There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production, with serious political implications for every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. ... The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."

You might be surprised that this gloomy scenario refers to global cooling, and comes from a 1975 Newsweek cover story that helped give rise to congressional hearings that warned of an impending Ice Age that would result in worldwide famine and poverty. A mere three decades later, climate change is back in the news, and we hear similar predictions of devastation and calamity - yet now the culprit is global warming. In fact, many of the same alarmists who once advocated global cooling now suddenly embrace the theory of man-induced, catastrophic global warming.

There is no doubt that media hysteria is fueling this global warming debate. However, when formulating public policy, it is best to rely on objective science rather than the latest Hollywood movie. It is generally accepted that the Earth is in a warming trend. However, we are led to believe the cause is human behavior - that it's our businesses, our cars and our power plants that are inducing the change, and that immediate action is necessary to save our planet.

On this point, more than 17,000 national and international scientists have signed a petition to demonstrate the lack of scientific consensus on the theory of man-induced, catastrophic global warming. The petition reads, in part: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of greenhouse gases is causing catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics recently completed a study indicating that a review of more than 200 climate studies determined that the 20th Century is neither the warmest century nor the century with the most extreme weather of the past 1,000 years.

It must also be noted that our planet is subject to natural, periodic shifts in climate. Just in the last century, we have seen three distinct periods of atmospheric climate change: warming in the early 1900s, cooling in the mid 1900s, and warming toward the end of the century. This hasn't deterred the environmental extremists in Sacramento, who have blindly accepted the global warming theory as fact, and put forth a package of legislation ostensibly to solve the problem. The most far-reaching is Assembly Bill 32, grandly titled the "Global Warming Solution Act." It imposes mandatory caps on carbon emissions in California, and gives the Air Resources Board carte-blanche authority to monitor and enforce emission levels.

AB 32 would impose massive costs and burdens on California businesses and devastate our state's competitiveness. The cement manufacturing industry, for example, is poised to experience a surge in production with the Legislature's recent focus on infrastructure. A hard emissions cap will force these businesses to shift their production to neighboring states, most of which are not as energy-efficient as California. When we consider the additional emissions generated to import the product, the net effect will be harmful to the environment.

In fact, a recent report from Gov. Schwarzenegger's Climate Action Team warns of this unintended consequence of California's "go it alone" approach, stating that "emissions may decline in the state, only to increase in neighboring states." Not surprisingly, the bill's proponents have yet to acknowledge or address this glaring problem.

The proposal would also cripple California's energy market and drive gas and electricity prices even higher. Because electricity generation represents about 40 percent of the state's carbon emissions, it would be forced to incur a significant portion of the cuts. The state is already struggling to keep pace with a growing energy demand, and this takes us down the road to another energy crisis.

Unfortunately, the result of such legislation that is not based on science will leave us with a potential energy crisis, higher taxes, and more businesses and jobs leaving California. And what would we get in return? Very little if any change to the environment. This is the wrong proposal for California.


The good old far-Left 9th circuit court stops work on a water conservation project

And Greenies love it!

In a move that surprised water officials and their environmental foes alike this week, a federal court banned all further work on a $251 million canal-lining project expected to bring San Diego County residents billions of gallons of water every year for more than a century. Two judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a terse emergency injunction against the long-discussed Imperial Valley canal-lining project, barring all work until the appeals court could hold a formal hearing. The ruling leaves the project in limbo until Dec. 4 at the earliest, according to the court.

Environmentalists and Mexican business groups who sued the project immediately hailed the injunction. They said it proved that there was merit to their twice-rejected arguments that the project would harm the desert's residents and habitat and would steal water from Mexican farmers and wetlands. A Superior Court judge ruled against those arguments in June. "We're happily surprised," said attorney Claire Hervey Collins, a spokeswoman representing an environmental coalition. "We fought hard to achieve this result and we're delighted. ... We thought we were entitled to this all along."

But Imperial Valley and San Diego County water officials just as immediately said they were "surprised and disappointed" ---- and predicted that construction delays would cost taxpayers millions of dollars. "I think we're both surprised and disappointed because of the careful ruling of the trial court judge and because of the significance of this project to Southern California and the Western United States," said Dan Hentschke, general counsel of the San Diego County Water Authority. Hentschke and others said they were confident that the appeals court would eventually rule in their favor.

Serious construction on the All-American canal lining project wasn't expected to start for a couple of weeks, and was scheduled to take up to two years to complete. But Imperial Valley officials said preliminary work that required teams of workers had already begun. Those crews will now be sent home.

The canal-lining project was scheduled to be a concrete-lined replacement for a 23-mile stretch of Imperial Valley's earth-lined, 82-mile All-American Canal. It is one of two canal-lining projects, along with one in Imperial Valley's neighboring Coachella Valley, that the state and San Diego County Water Authority are funding. Discussion about the projects dates nearly 20 years. The two projects are part of a complex series of agreements among San Diego County, Imperial Valley, Coachella, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state of California, the federal Bureau of Reclamation ---- and, indirectly ---- six other Western states that share the Colorado River.

Lining the canals is expected to save the river water that now seeps from the earthen bed of the two canals. The "saved" water ---- enough to sustain 154,000 households a year ---- would be shipped to San Diego County residents for 110 years. The state, meanwhile, is helping to pay for the projects because they will also slash the amount of Colorado River water that the state uses ---- a condition of a historic deal the state reached with six other Western states at the prodding of the federal government in 2003.

But an unusual coalition of California environmentalists and Mexican businessmen filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the project last year. The coalition argued that the water that has been seeping through the canal bed for decades supplies groundwater that sustains Mexicali farmers, wetlands and endangered animals.

Hervey Collins also said the lawsuit challenged the federal government's environmental study. The suit alleged that the study did not adequately address the argument that dust from digging up 25 million cubic yards of desert in Imperial Valley to build the concrete canals would further harm the valley's already poor air quality.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


28 August, 2006


Britain has had one of the most volatile climates on earth with up to 10 ice ages forcing early settlers into exile, leaving the land uninhabited for periods of up to 110,000 years, researchers have found. A study - led by the Natural History Museum - of 700,000 years of human attempts to settle in Britain found that the Gulf Stream, which keeps the British Isles warm, kept collapsing, plunging them into Arctic cold. The lurches from temperate to freezing sometimes took as little as 10 years, says Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins in the museum's paleontology department, in a new book, Homo Britannicus, to be published in October.

After the last ice age humans returned to Britain only 11,500 years ago. Stringer said: "We might think that the roots of the British people lie deep in British soil but they can be traced back less than 12,000 years, far more shallow than those of our continental neighbours."

His book summarises the findings of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project, a six-year study of thousands of artefacts and other remains left behind by prehistoric man during successive colonisations. Thirty archeologists, paleontologists and geologists from institutes across the country worked together to construct a detailed calendar of early humans' arrivals and departures.

They concluded that the present temperate climate is an anomaly and steamy heat or bitter cold are far more typical. Stringer said: "We have evidence that between 500,000 and 12,000 years ago humans were only in Britain for about 20% of the time. Between 180,000 and 70,000 years ago Britain was abandoned, completely empty of people." Such findings imply a major rewriting of British prehistory. It has long been known that climatic changes forced early humans out of Britain but not so many times.

There were other surprises, too. Until recently it was thought that the first humans arrived in southern Europe about 800,000 years ago but that none made it to Britain until 500,000 years ago. But Stringer says: "We have remarkable new evidence from East Anglia showing that humans arrived here 700,000 years ago, earlier than anyone believed. They lived in an environment with a balmy climate like that of southern Europe."

Their stay was, however, not destined to last because about 470,000 years ago a huge ice cap spread across northern Europe, reaching the outskirts of what is now north London. That glaciation was to be the first of many. By the time it receded, about 400,000 years ago, Neanderthals had evolved in Europe and it was they who recolonised Britain.

However, they too were driven out when the ice returned 380,000 years ago, a pattern that was to be repeated many times. The most prolonged and enigmatic evacuation of Britain began with a new ice age that peaked about 140,000 years ago. When it finished, about 20,000 years later, many animals quickly returned to Britain, including deer, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and hyenas - but no humans. They remained absent for more than 100,000 years, says Stringer.

Eventually, about 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals did return to Britain, only to become extinct 30,000 years later. Modern humans have proved better than Neanderthals at withstanding climatic changes but they, too, were driven back from Britain as a mile-thick ice-cap built up over Scotland 25,000 years ago, returning only 10,000 years later. The last ice age began 13,000 years ago and lasted 1,500 years.


Should Coke Be Banned in India?

Several provinces in India have recently banned sale of Coca Cola and Pepsi. The reason: they are claimed to contain a higher level of pesticides than is acceptable in Europe. It is as if the cola companies have been adding pesticides to poison Indians.

Here is the story. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a top non-governmental organization, has been in the forefront of the environmental movement in India. When CSE came into existence, smoky chimneys were shown around India - in propaganda and educational material - as a sign of development. How could a factory be in operation if it was not sprinting towards growth taking the nation with it? How could it be sprinting if it was not spewing black soot? In short, India needed environmental education, and CSE did a fabulous job of providing it. Unfortunately, many activist institutions like these have a tendency to lose track completely, particularly when the original founders have passed away and the limousine-liberals have taken over.

Somewhere down the line, CSE intuitively realized that making the poor aware of real environmental concerns was politically incorrect: tell the poor about the dangers of burning wood in tiny one-room houses and the poor would fight for much greener, cheaper, and healthier gas and electricity. Consequently, big power plants would need to be set up. For sure, these plants would produce a lot of pollution, but nothing compared to the gross pollution from burning wood in all those millions of one-room houses, not counting an unnecessary destruction of forests.

But being pro-development is suicidal for activist organizations! They survive on the lethargic pseudo-intellectualism of those who have no interest or capacity to understand a situation in any real detail. Alas, it is such people who have mostly hijacked the environmental and charity organizations in the West. Pro-development activism would be at odds with warm-hearted Western environmentalism. And this would mean that tons of money that flow to organizations like CSE would dry up.

Conveniently, CSE dumped its basic purpose of working for the environment and the poor - and started to work against them, instead.

In the past, whenever we traveled, we made sure we knew someone wherever we went, to ensure that we had access to relatively safe food and water. Serious sicknesses from water-borne diseases are very common in India, as any one who has ever been there would attest. When multinational companies brought bottled water to India, they took it to the furthest of places, even hundreds of miles from decent roads. They made it possible for people like me to travel and be confident we wouldn't die from water poisoning and that we had access to packaged food products. Pepsi and Coca Cola set up distribution systems in India, literally in months, something that is a supreme case of efficiency and human capabilities. As a businessman, I am still amazed.

Many decades of substantially subsidized pesticides and fertilizer have led to their heavy usage, completely polluting Indian water systems. You never see clear water in India. It comes in all kinds of colors and viscosities. It stinks of rot. You drink water from ponds that serve as bathing places for buffaloes, and rivers that get sewage discharge. Really, I would not be surprised if colas made from Indian water did contain pesticides. But who in his right mind would want Indian colas to adhere to European standards? At least these colas were made from filtered water and were reasonable well processed, something much healthier than what we had been accustomed to. Not everyone can afford imported mineral water from Switzerland and Canada.

But the crooked Indian politicians, after a news release from CSE, saw a cause and started banning the colas, bypassing the judiciary. (Really, I can imagine big money exchanging hands.) Instead of fighting CSE on moral grounds, Pepsi and Coca Cola challenged the position of CSE by saying that their colas did meet European standards. This way of working, unfortunately, is so much easier for the masses to digest. Also, the cola companies apparently used some Indian politicians to fight for reinstating the sale of their products. They even used the US government to pressure the Indian government to comply.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for the Fraser Institute on how McDonalds was making a significant contribution to India, on how they were challenging the caste system there by offering food with a smile to the lower castes, by making upper-caste employees clean the toilets, and by showing Indians that food did not need to be covered with flies. A Canadian national newspaper wanted me to write a more extensive story. I contacted the Indian offices of McDonalds, Pepsi, and Coke. To my surprise, they did not want to touch me, even with a barge pole.

The people who work there are not entrepreneurs. They have a tendency to accommodate and please the activists. They freely provide money for anti-development activism. They lobby with politicians. The world's hypocrisy continues and builds. No one here is fighting for the right causes. Apart from the saving grace that the companies are adding value to the society, it is a jamboree of politically correct, anti-development, guilty, and dishonest people - those who have no concept of how wealth is created. They have no interest in the environment or the poor. It is not misguided idealism; it is plain crookedness. Anyone who has ever been to India - someone with eyes and a heart and some sort of brain - would take no time to understand what I am saying.


Environmental what ifs

One of the most dangerous trends today, as far as our right to liberty is concerned, is the environmental movement. I am not talking about their worries, of which some are surely justified. But like so many zealous people, environmentalists tend, in the main, to urge greater government powers and invasion of individual rights, especially the right to private property, in support of dealing with their concerns. But if we think about this a bit, it becomes clear that the greatest friend of the environment, including endangered species, is the principle of private property rights. One way to appreciate this fact is by considering what would have happened if in the past the principle had been firmly adhered to.

For one, road building would have been curtailed. Indeed, all transportation that had expanded by leaps and bounds relied on the taking of private property, something that the U.S. Constitution permits if it concerns some public use. Had it been strictly implemented, the takings clause of the Constitution would never have permitted the violation of the right to private property since "public use," properly understood in a free country, means only whatever is required for the administration of the legal system, such as a court house or police -- or military -- station. Every other purpose would have had to be achieved without violating anyone's property rights.

This constraint would have required virtually all road and rail building, as well as all building of dams, sports stadiums and similar massive projects, to be carried out on a relatively smaller scale than what government sponsored projects that violate private property rights involve. Sure, some of them could have been carried out by the benign means of purchasing land from those who owned them. But the cost in many cases would have been prohibitive and would probably have induced those embarking on these projects to pursue alternatives.

Take, for example, the expansion of the use of the automobile and of airplanes. Without the government's power to take land so as to build, for example, the Interstate Highway system and huge airports, some alternative modes of transportation might have developed because entrepreneurs would have sought out less expensive ways to proceed with their projects.

Counterfactual history is always highly speculative but not impossible. It is often the stuff of science fiction, as when an author imagines what would have happened had Hitler won World War II or had we had to go without penicillin. In one's personal life, too, one can speculate, often enough, about what might have happened had one driven more carefully when one had an accident or stayed in school instead of rushed into family life.

The exercise I am recommending shouldn't be all that different from such "rational reconstruction." In other words, had the political system that held sway in a country been more strictly consistent with the principles of justice, including the principle of private property rights, we would probably not face many of the environmental problems we do face now.

Consider, as another case in point, pollution. One of the main causes of it is dumping -- manufacturing firms or even individuals disposing of their waste without respecting private property rights and legal authorities failing to step in when this happens. Those "negative externalities" that so many refer to as they badmouth capitalism would be, in fact, systematically prohibited in a fully free, capitalist economic system because they involve the violation of private property rights. Instead of reasoning on the basis of some pseudo-utilitarian calculation, according to which it is OK to violate our rights if only some great project is helped by it, a strict adherence to a system of individual rights would have served as a powerful restraint against irrational development, namely, development that encroached upon the rights of people who did not want the kind of development in question.

So what's the lesson here? I suggest that it is "better late than never." If one wishes to organize human communities sensibly and justly, respecting and protecting individual, including private property, rights is still the right approach.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


27 August, 2006


How often have we seen melting glaciers pointed to as evidence of global warming? So what if lots of glaciers are actually growing (which has been long known)? Does that DISPROVE global warming? No way!

Global warming could be causing some glaciers to grow, a new study claims. Researchers at Newcastle University looked at temperature trends in the western Himalaya over the past century. They found warmer winters and cooler summers, combined with more snow and rainfall, could be causing some mountain glaciers to increase in size.

The findings are significant, because temperature and rain and snow trends in the area impact on water availability for more than 50 million Pakistanis. Researchers focussed on the Upper Indus Basin, which is the mainstay of the national economy of Pakistan and has 170,000 sq km of irrigated land - an area two-thirds the size of the UK. Dr Hayley Fowler, senior research associate at the university's school of civil engineering and geosciences, said: "Very little research of this kind has been carried out in this region and yet the findings from our work have implications for the water supplies of around 50 million people in Pakistan." Co-researcher David Archer added: "Our research is concerned with both climate change and the climate variability that is happening from year to year. "Information on variability is more important for the management of the water system as it will help to forecast the inflow into reservoirs and allow for better planning of water use for irrigation. "However, information on the impacts of climatic change is important for the longer term management of water resources and to help us understand what is happening in the mountains under global warming."

The findings are published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.


Sea Change in Global Warming?

For years now, we have been deluged with the news that the earth's oceans are warming as a result of atmospheric changes due to the combustion of fossil fuels. Typical of these was a 2005 story titled "Where's The Heat? Think Deep Blue," from United Press International, describing a recent paper in Science by NASA climate modeler James Hansen. UPI's "Space Daily" wrote that "Over the past ten years, the heat content of the ocean has grown dramatically."

Hansen's study covered more than just the ocean surface temperature, which can fluctuate considerably from year to year. Rather, by considering a much deeper layer of water (the top 2,500 feet), Hansen actually calculated the increasing amount of heat being stored. According to the UPI story, this provided "a match" with computer model projections of global warming.

The ocean is a huge tub that integrates and stores long-term climate changes. Consequently, when computer models are based on ever-increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the deep oceans warm, warm, and warm. Like a big pot on a small burner, it takes time to start up, but once the process starts, nothing should be able to stop it.

That's the conventional wisdom of our climate models, but like the conventional wisdom on so many other aspects of life, it's not true to nature. In the next few weeks, John Lyman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will publish a paper in the refereed journal Geophysical Research Letters showing that, globally, the top 2,500 feet of the ocean lost a tremendous amount of heat between 2003 and 2005 -- in fact, about 20% of all the heat gained in the last half-century.

Needless to say, Lyman's figures have climate scientists scratching their heads. No computer model predicts such behavior. And further, the changes in surface temperatures haven't corresponded (yet?) to the average changes at depth, although deep-water temperatures have also dropped some. Nor has the sea level dropped by an amount commensurate with the cooling (water volume varies slightly with temperature).

This last observation has led scientists to speculate that much more ice must be melting into the ocean than they normally assume -- but no one has been able to find it, and it's not for a lack of looking.

There's another hypothesis out there that has received very little attention. It has to do with the amount of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere. If carbon dioxide increases at a constant rate, basic physics -- as understood since the 1860s -- says that surface temperature will rise, but that the rate of heating will become lower and lower. In other words, in order for temperatures to increase at a constant rate, as has been observed since 1975, carbon dioxide would have to go up at an ever-increasing rate.

But the ocean is so vast and slow to change that it takes several decades to realize the heating caused by carbon dioxide. Consequently, a change in the rate of carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere wouldn't be noticed for 30 to 60 years, depending upon whose calculations one believes.

Between the time atmospheric carbon dioxide was first directly measured, at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in 1957, and 1975, it clearly increased exponentially. And once the ocean temperature began to rise, it did so at a constant rate.

Then, about 30 years ago, something very peculiar began to occur. Since 1975, it has been impossible to tell whether the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing at an exponential or simply a constant rate.

Because of the lag time required for the oceans to register the change in carbon dioxide, it may not be a surprise that an interval of cooling has been detected. The timing is about right: around 30 years.

But that's just another climate change hypothesis that time will test. Be forewarned, though. As we've learned from the completely unexpected cooling of the deep ocean that began in 2003, we know a lot less about climate change than we think.


Open letter urges action

Dear Congressman:

Rising energy costs are taking their toll on millions of American households. Price increases for natural gas in particular have created an enormous burden on the over 60 million American homes that depend on natural gas for heating, as well as the 90 percent of new power plants that depend on natural gas.

Increased energy production in the Outer-Continental Shelf would lead to lower energy prices and help strengthen the American economy. These are goals that every member of Congress should be fighting to achieve.

According to the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service, the offshore areas currently banned from development likely contain a mean estimate of 18.92 billion barrels of oil and 85.79 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are technically recoverable. Yet the United States is the only developed country in the world that bans development of most of its offshore gas resources.

This self-imposed ban has put our nation at a competitive disadvantage with Cuba and China. Cuba recently announced that it has negotiated lease agreements with China to explore oil and gas production just 50 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida. The United States can't develop resources in the Florida Straits, yet Cuba and China can.

For too long the federal government has tied the hands of state governments that wish to permit oil and natural gas leasing in their adjacent offshore zones. Congress should remove the moratoria on offshore gas production and share the federal royalties with the States that decide to allow offshore production, just as they share the royalties from production on federal lands with the States.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


26 August, 2006

More pesky research results for the Greenies

Researchers working at a Duke University outdoor test facility found commercially important loblolly pines, growing under carbon-dioxide levels mimicking those predicted for the year 2050 -- roughly one and a half times today's levels -- fared somewhat better during and after a major ice storm than did loblollies growing under current concentrations of the gas.

The results came as a surprise, the researchers said. "Before the storm, I was absolutely certain the pines would be more susceptible to ice damage under elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide," said Ram Oren, a Duke ecology professor. "My impressions were absolutely wrong. Instead of increasing the sensitivity to ice-storm damage, carbon dioxide decreased the sensitivity."

The scientists cautioned, however, they were not able to identify the actual mechanisms that helped to protect the trees grown under elevated carbon-dioxide conditions. "We just couldn't tease out anything obvious," McCarthy said. The findings are reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.



Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas but there is still no solid explanation for its natural fluctuations -- or why it was higher BEFORE the modern era. Journal abstract below

Ice Record of delta 13C for Atmospheric CH4 Across the Younger Dryas-Preboreal Transition

By: Hinrich Schaefer et al.

We report atmospheric methane carbon isotope ratios of delta 13CH4 from the Western Greenland ice margin spanning the Younger Dryas-to-Preboreal (YD-PB) transition. Over the recorded ~800 years, delta 13CH4 was around -46 per mil (%); that is, ~5% higher than would be expected from budgets without 13C-rich anthropogenic emissions. This requires higher natural 13C-rich emissions or stronger sink fractionation than conventionally assumed. Constant delta 13CH4 during the rise in methane concentration at the YD-PB transition is consistent with additional emissions from tropical wetlands, or aerobic plant CH4 production, or with a multisource scenario. A marine clathrate source is unlikely.

Science 25 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5790, pp. 1109 - 1112

Cooler heads on global warming

There's a storm brewing over global warming--or, more accurately, storms aren't brewing, and that's causing a storm in itself. People preaching the dangers of global warming predicted that warmer air meant more and bigger hurricanes, and pointed to 2005's record-breaking number of storms as evidence of their theory. But now it's 2006, and there hasn't even been a single hurricane in the Atlantic yet. We're below the historical average since 1944. Our chances of another year like 2005, or even 2004, are practically nil. The big storm is turning into a big bust.

Even more interesting, the current explanation for the lack of storms is ocean cooling, as in the surface temperature of the Atlantic is too low to create and sustain hurricanes. This would be truly inconvenient for Florida State University geography professor James B. Elsner, who is about to publish a study this week in the Geophysical Research Letters journal predicting that warmer air creates warmer oceanic temperatures, which is central to the theory that global warming will mean more storms.

So, is the air cooling? Is Elsner's theory wrong? Are melting polar icecaps lowering the Atlantic's temperature? What's the deal? As a lay person, my guess is no better than anybody else's. But one thing that seems pretty consistent so far is that our ability to predict the weather hasn't improved much since the Farmer's Almanac. The science of global warming isn't nearly as settled or simple as the alarmists would like to believe, and cooler heads are needed to counter the overheated claims of a global apocalypse.

The simplicity of the global warming theory is in itself deceptive. Greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide, help trap the sun's warmth to keep the temperature of the Earth tolerable for life. Since the rise of modern industry, humans have been adding these gasses to the atmosphere, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels, thereby increasing the greenhouse effect and further warming the Earth. All of this is quite true. And yet, it's not the whole truth. These greenhouse gasses are responsible for a small percentage of the overall reason for the Earth's temperature. The lion's share is caused by water vapor--cloud cover, in other words. So even though carbon dioxide levels have increased roughly 20 percent over the last 45 years, according to some measurements, relatively minor changes in water vapor levels could easily negate or overpower that effect, without any human action at all.

It's true that the Earth's temperature has been rising recently. But it's also true that for millions of years during the time of the dinosaurs, the Earth was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today, and was about 4 degrees warmer a mere 5,000 years ago. The Earth has also been through crippling Ice Ages with much cooler temperatures, with the last ice age abating roughly 10,000 years ago. We'll be due for another ice age eventually as the Earth naturally shifts in its tilt and orbit, in what are called "Milankovitch cycles," that greatly affect how much sunlight reaches the planet. All without human involvement.

Simply put, humans are putting greenhouse gasses into the air, which causes warming, but that's not the end of the matter. Natural events also cause warming and cooling, and on far greater scales than what human activity affects. And our understanding of these natural events is still spotty. After all, there was significant global cooling from the 1950s to the 1970s, enough so that people predicted an oncoming ice age, despite steady increases in greenhouse gas production during that period. This is why apocalyptic predictions of rampant global warming always fall short: they assume human action within a stable environment. But nature is not stable.

Predictions of the dire effects of global warming also fall short in that they neglect another crucial piece of information: the dire effects of global cooling. After all, the alternative to global warming is not global "room temperature." If global warming is supposed to give us bigger and more plentiful hurricanes, what would cooling give us? Shorter growing seasons resulting in less food, for one. More illness from longer winters. Less farmable land as glaciers advance. Ecosystems would still change, just like with warming, only in opposite directions. Instead of polar bears facing shrinking habitats, fennec foxes would suffer. There are tradeoffs either way.

What doesn't help is the storm of morality-driven condemnation peddled by activists like Al Gore who preach that the human sin of economic success is causing a backlash of nature's justice. If we're better off with cooler weather, then let's do something about it. But is that the case, or are alarmists merely taking advantage of climate change to push their agenda?

We will continue to strive to understand what makes the weather change, but the fact that it is changing doesn't mean that human involvement alone is to blame. The Earth could be warming regardless of human action, or it could be that we're helping stave off the next ice age. But one way or the other, looking into the quiet Atlantic, it's certain that the Earth isn't sitting on its heels while we play with the controls.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


25 August, 2006


Drivers are to be offered a new fuel made from crops grown in Britain that will be less harmful to the environment - but there will be no need for them to modify their engines. Sugar beet grown in East Anglia will be fermented to produce butanol, which will be blended with petrol and sold at more than 1,200 filling stations.

The Government plans to accelerate the introduction of butanol and other biofuels by setting oil companies tough targets for producing renewable fuels that have much less impact on the environment. Ministers are considering doubling the target for biofuels from the current requirement for 5 per cent of all fuel sold by 2010 to 10 per cent by 2015. Companies will pay a penalty for failing to hit the target.

The Energy Saving Trust, the government-funded environmental body, said butanol was more promising than other biofuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, because it does not rely on drivers buying special cars or spending hundreds of pounds adapting their engines. Car manufacturers currently permit drivers to fill up with fuel that contains a maximum of 5 per cent biofuel and 95 per cent ordinary petrol or diesel. They impose the limit because of concerns that biofuels can corrode tubes and gaskets in engines. But butanol has a less corrosive effect than other biofuels, allowing suppliers to create a blend that contains only 80 per cent petrol. Butanol also has a much higher energy content than other biofuels, delivering 10 per cent fewer miles per gallon than conventional fuel, compared with 30 per cent for ethanol.

Richard Tarboton, the trust's head of transport, said: "Butanol is a big step forward because motorists won't need to worry about what is going into the tank. They can fill up their cars as normal." He said that some biofuels were struggling to make an impact on the market because they were more expensive. He added that drivers who bought specially adapted cars, such as the Saab 9-5 BioPower, which can run on 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol, also paid a penalty in company car tax and vehicle excise duty. This is because both these taxes are based on tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions, not on the whole life cycle of the raw material making up the fuel. Biofuels reduce total CO2 emissions because the crops that they come from reabsorb the gas as they grow.

British Sugar, which is building Britain's first butanol plant near Downham Market in Norfolk, plans to produce 70 million litres of the fuel a year. Testing will begin at the end of next year and butanol is expected to be introduced in all 1,250 BP filling stations by 2010. BP and British Sugar are also undertaking a feasibility study into building several more butanol plants with a capacity of 300 million litres a year. Phil New, BP's head of biofuels, said the Norfolk plant would use surplus sugar beet that can no longer be sold abroad under EU rules. He admitted that Britain did not have enough spare agricultural land to supply all vehicles, but BP is experimenting with other crops that could produce much more of the fuel...

Biofuels have been granted a 20p per litre discount on fuel duty, but this does not cover all the extra production costs, meaning that they are slightly more expensive at the pump than conventional fuels



Post lifted from Cheat-Seeking Missiles

So they found some tritium in water samples under the San Onofre nuclear power plant in the very pretty beach town of San Clemente.


San Clemente officials shut down a water well because "we owe it to our residents" reports a breathless LA Times, which goes on to report:
Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that can cause not only cancer but also miscarriages and birth defects, is increasingly stoking fears in communities near nuclear plants across the country.
Yeah, stoked by irresponsible reporting.

Let's see ... we have to amble our way through 15 paragraphs until we get to the tritium concentrations, past tales of sea lions and endangered sea turtles caught in San Onofre's intakes and the "fact" that "nearby residents also have grown wary of the plant as a potential terrorist target that stores highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel." Prove it, Bubba. Where's your data?

Oh, and that tritium? Samples of groundwater contained 50,000 to 330,000 picocuries (pCi) per liter. Picocuries, you ask? My friend Neil fills us in:
Millicurie: 0.001 Ci - one thousandth of a Curie
Microcurie: 0.000001 Ci
Nanocurie: 0.000000001 Ci
Picocurie: 0.000000000001 Ci
So 330,000 picocuries ain't a whole lot of curies. Curie-ous, isn't it? Neil goes on:
Just because more energetic ionizing radiation can cause [miscarriages and birth defects], it does not follow that the exceedingly low beta energy from tritium can do the same. Tritium as tritiated water by itself does not come in natural or manmade concentrations high enough to cause the general public to achieve the cancers and birth defects, even if they drank the stuff.
OK, we get it, but it's kind of dry, Neil, even with that "drink the stuff" line. Can you give us something a bit more real-life for those of us who have never been certified by the NRC to handle radioactive materials?

Being of exceptional (and decidedly weird) good humor, Neil provides:
Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) contain Radium-226 (a radioactive material that is 10,000 times more hazardous) at concentrations up to 7,000 picocuries/kilogram. Put on an equal-hazard scale, the liter of tritiated water would have to contain 70,000,000 picocuries to be as hazardous as the same weight of Brazil nuts.

During the holiday season, I used to keep a sack of Brazil nuts on my gamma spectral analyzer. When people noticed the rapid accumulation of gamma "counts" on the computer screen, they would ask what was in the sample. I would open up the shielded door, pick out some nuts, and eat them. Sometimes people went into conniptions of cognitive dissonance.
Heh. Good stuff. Too bad more people read the LATimes than C-SM.

Crocodile Tears, Tuna Edition

Post lifted from Cheat-Seeking Missiles

The law-breaking environmental group Greenpeace got a taste of its own medicine -- thanks to a gang of French fishermen. Agence France Presse reports (via Nexis):
Fishermen in the southern French port city of Marseille on Wednesday used Greenpeace's own tactics against it by preventing the environmental activist group's flagship from docking.

An AFP journalist saw 21 tuna fishing vessels circling Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior II and stopping it from moving into Marseille's harbour.

The fishermen oppose Greenpeace's plans to campaign in Marseille against overfishing of bluefin tuna. [That would be "alleged overfishing," please!]

Rainbow Warrior II initially obtained permission to dock in Marseille's historic port close to the centre of the city, but that was retracted on security grounds. ...

[Greenpeace] said the blockade was preventing the Rainbow Warrior II from making a an authorised brief stop in the port to fill its water tanks and obtain equipment.

But Mourad Kahoul, a municipal councillor and the head of a tuna fishermen's union involved in the protest, said they would give the Greenpeace vessel just "two hours" to get out those provisions.

"And then -- happy sailing for its next propaganda port of call," he said.
Here's the juicy part: Greenpeace's director of campaigns Pierre Ramel told AFP, "This is an illegal act, breaking several laws."

Boo hoo. Welcome to your own game, Pierre. Try to take it like a man.

Oh and by the way, that study showing bluefin tuna is being overfished? It was by the French Research Instititue on Exploitation of the Sea. No agenda there, eh?


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


24 August, 2006


If you live in any state but California, this might be a good time to prepare for the arrival of new businesses. The Golden State's politicians think they're going to lead the world again. All they think they need to do from Sacramento is command the planet's climate to cease that infernal warming we've heard so much about. What they'll end up doing is command people to live in much more primitive ways.

Unless these politicians actually want to expel entrepreneurs, most businesses are expected to stay home and perform obediently under a new regulatory regime. Some even expect that, under new legislation known as Assembly Bill 32, now destined for passage in the state Senate, a new generation of small, green businesses will multiply. Why, they might even bring Big Oil to its knees. The thinking, endorsed by the state's political class, its ever-trendy academics and its leading media, goes like this: Global warming is a crisis demanding emergency action. The Bush administration, having rejected the Kyoto agreement to reduce fuel emissions to Third World levels, simply won't do the enlightened thing. So it's time for California, being the font of popular culture and political wisdom, to seize the initiative and do to the world's sixth-largest economy exactly what its lagging competitors want it to do.

And if you're thinking all these overheated Democrats might be thwarted by a cooler Republican governor, think again. Arnold Schwarzenegger already has approved of the general objective. Offering modest modifications in a bill by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, he's agreed that the state must enforce the emissions standards of 1990 by 2020. Basically, it means California will join with the other Kyoto signatories even if the U.S. will not.

The hardship to consumers and small businesses, to which the political class and the state's dominant media remain unfazed, could be dismal by Golden State conventions. The state chamber of commerce figures the legislation could reduce energy supplies by 17%. Even allowing for some business lobby alarmism, the obvious direction of energy costs under this plan will be dizzying. This is a state where often a citizen commutes more than 100 miles a day. The Nunez-Schwarzenegger plan - and we might as well affix the governor's name to it - will likely send businesses fleeing to other states. Or even other countries where pollution standards are lax. It's reasonable to expect measurably more global pollution as a result. We doubt the Golden State's green leadership is prepared for that.

Some small businesses around San Francisco do expect to benefit from the new emissions-saving technologies they envision developing as legislators wave their magic wands. It's their chance to set themselves apart from Big Oil and the chamber. But theirs is a fool's errand, a wager on illusory hopes. The more direct impact: higher energy costs, a grinding economy and a more Spartan lifestyle.



Neal Boortz comments:

What bad news? The hurricane season. Things aren't quite going the way the global warming crowd predicted. There have only been three tropical storms thus far. This is about average for the short term, but if you average it out over multiple years this would be below average. Hurricanes? Thanks for asking, but there hasn't been one as of yet. None. Nada. Zip. Nunca. Averaging between 19044 and 2005 we would have seen about 1.5 hurricanes thus far. Again ... we've seen none.

According to the National Weather Service predicted 12 to 15 named storms by December of this year. There were 27 last year. Now it looks like the 12 to 15 prediction may be a bit high. OK ... so the global warming nuts were wrong. They predicted a horrible hurricane season. It isn't happening. So ... what's different? What happened? Here's where you global warmistas need to sit down. Surface temperatures on the world's oceans are getting ...... cooler. According to a paper to be published next month in Geophysical Research Letters, between 2003 and 2005 globally averaged temperatures in the upper levels of the ocean have cooled. They've cooled not just a little ... but dramatically. Sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic .. where hurricanes are fueled ... are now slightly below normal.

Oh well. Whatchagonna do! There's always the glaciers you can go to in order to prove your global warming scenario. More news. A soon-to-be released study by a Danish university says that Greenland's glaciers have been shrinking for most the past 100 years. The study of 247 of the 350 glaciers on Disko island shows that 70% of these glaciers have been retreating at a rate of about 8 meters a year since the end of the 1880s. There was apparently a real surge in glacier melting caused by a warming of the earth's atmosphere during the 1920s. Damned SUVs. The 1920 General Motors Yukon is being cited as a significant cause.

OK you global warmistas. Back to the drawing boards. Surely you'll find something new to use in your efforts to slow down the economy of the United States.

Source. The research Boortz refers to is reported below:

New data shows ocean cooling

The world's oceans cooled suddenly between 2003 and 2005, losing more than 20 percent of the global-warming heat they'd absorbed over the previous 50 years. That's a vast amount of heat, since the oceans hold 1,000 times as heat as the atmosphere. The ocean-cooling researchers say the heat was likely vented into space, since it hasn't been found stored anywhere on Earth.

John Lyman, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, says the startling news of ocean cooling comes courtesy of the new ARGO ocean temperature floats being distributed worldwide. ARGOs are filling in former blank spots on the world's ocean monitoring system – and vastly narrowing our past uncertainty about sparsely measured ocean temperatures.

Lyman says the discovery of the sudden ocean coolings undercuts faith in global-warming forecasts because coolings randomly interrupt the trends laid out by the global circulation models. As Lyman puts it, "The cooling reflects interannual variability that is not well represented by a linear trend."

The new ocean cooling also recalls several NASA studies in the past five years that found a huge natural heat vent over the Pacific ocean's so-called warm pool, a band of water thousands of miles wide, roughly astride the equator. Studies coordinated by Bruce Weilicki, of NASA's Langley Research Center, found that when sea surface temperatures rise above 28 degrees C, Pacific rainfall becomes more efficient. More of the cloud droplets form raindrops, so fewer are left to form high, icy, cirrus clouds that seal in heat. As a result, the area of cirrus clouds is reduced, and far more heat passes out into space. This cools the surface of the warm pool, the world's warmest ocean water.

Weilicki's research teams say that the huge natural heat vent emitted about as much heat during the 1980s and 90s as would be expected from a redoubling of the carbon dioxide content in the air. They used satellites to measure cloud cover and long-range aircraft to monitor sea temperatures.

Layman says the sudden ocean coolings particularly complicate the problem of separating natural temperature changes from man-made impacts on the Earth's temperature. The impact of human-emitted CO2 has been assumed to accumulate in a straight-line trend over many decades.

Meanwhile, since the 1980s, the Earth's ice cores, seabed sediments and cave stalagmites have been revealing a moderate, natural 1,500-year climate cycle linked to solar irradiance. Temperatures jump suddenly and erratically 1 to 2 degrees C above the mean at the latitude of Washington, D.C., and New York City for centuries at a time, and more than that at the Earth's poles.

Temperatures vary hardly at all at the equator during the 1,500-year cycle, and Bruce Weilicki's NASA heat-vent findings seem to indicate why. The warm pool of the Pacific acts like a cooking pot, with its "lid" popping open to emit steam when the water gets too hot. The more we look, the more we learn about the Earth's complex climate forces – though not much of the new knowledge comes from the huge, unverified global circulation models favored by the man-made warming activists.

Source. (Hat Tip to Cheat-Seeking Missiles)


It was a protest that could have flared up in thousands of streets across the country. Fed up with rubbish not being collected because of baffling rules that dictate what they can and cannot recycle, the residents of Davy Avenue decided to confront their binmen. But as the bin lorry turned into the street, their demonstration mushroomed. "We wanted a silent protest, but more frustrated people from neighbouring streets arrived with black bin bags full of rubbish and threw them in the back of the truck," said father of three Mark O'Keefe, 27. "Then the lorry pulled away, leaving behind the waste from our street."

The incident in Scunthorpe last Friday reflects the growing frustration of millions of householders as council recycling schemes become ever more confusing and draconian, as highlighted last week on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Examples of recycling madness include:

* North Lincolnshire council asking residents to cut the sticky strip from envelopes and remove the plastic 'windows'. It says that these 'contaminate the recycling process'.

* Ipswich council workers leaving behind a bin full of recyclable waste because it contained a single supermarket bag.

* Confusing rules for recycling plain cardboard and printed cardboard in St Edmundsbury, Suffolk. The plain sort can either go in the brown bin for composting or the blue bin for dry recyclables. But printed cardboard can go only in the blue bin.

* Reading Borough Council refusing to take glass in case it gets broken in the back of the collection lorry.

* People in Lichfield, Staffordshire, who leave the 'wrong rubbish' in a recycling bin risk having the entire contents left behind or simply buried in a landfill site, ruining their recycling efforts.

North Lincolnshire Council responded to the Davy Avenue protest by calling the police. A spokesman claimed that refuse workers had been intimidated, and threatened to take legal action against residents for fly-tipping. But this is the same council that cut the collections of normal rubbish from weekly to fortnightly in June to meet the costs of its recycling scheme. Since then residents have complained about rubbish piling up in their gardens, attracting flies and rats.

Samuel Dent, 70, of Scunthorpe, said: "This is the first time in 36 years living here that I have had maggots in my bin. I have disinfected it many times and I recycle everything I can, but I still have this problem." Mother-of-seven Joanne Pollock, 45, said: "The rubbish is only collected every two weeks and within days the recycling bin is full, creating problems with flies and maggots. It is disgusting."

The situation has been made worse by the council's refusal to empty overflowing bins because the lids can't be closed. Scunthorpe resident Tracey Hunter, 34, said: "They said they wouldn't empty my bin because the lid was not down properly and that it was dangerous. I am registered disabled and can't empty it myself." Hayley Marsden, 33, said: "The bins are often full well before collection day. But if we put out extra bags on top of the bins, the binmen just leave them on the street." The proportion of rubbish recycled varies dramatically across Britain, from 51 per cent in St Edmundsbury to six per cent in Newham, London.

Councils are left footing the bill for the schemes. A survey by The Mail on Sunday found costs ranging from Reading Council's 412,000 pounds to Kensington and Chelsea's 2.3 million. Often the money made from selling the scrap paper, glass, metal or plastic is not passed back to the council but is kept by the recycling contractor. Two of the biggest firms are owned by French industrial giants Groupe Tiru and Suez Environment. Recyclable material is reused in the UK or sold on the global market and shipped as far afield as Pakistan, Argentina and China.

Despite the huge profits that recycling generates, in Reading, Berkshire, the council bans yoghurt pots from its plastic collection for being too light and rejects bins if they are contaminated with other rubbish and will visit the offending household. Local resident Elizabeth Day, 58, said the system needed to be simplified. "I agree that we should all do our part, but I do have to keep asking myself what can be recycled and what cannot. "We are not supposed to recycle microwave meal packaging, for example, but we can put out plastic bottles. It would be much easier if you could put out all plastic."

If people put their rubbish in the wrong containers, all of it may be left behind. Lichfield District Council will only remove rubbish left in bins and refuses to take extra bags placed at the side. Even more worryingly, people can face hefty fines for oversights or mistakes. Several councils, including Barnet, Harrow, Hackney and Bromley have introduced 'compulsory schemes', threatening to fine people up to 1,000 pounds for putting recyclable waste in their normal bin.

Donna Challice of Exeter, the only person to be prosecuted for putting the wrong rubbish in her recycling bin, was acquitted after a 6,000 pound court case because the council could not show she was responsible. The push for recycling comes from a 1999 EU ruling that set a limit on how much waste each country could bury in landfill. In turn the Government set councils the target of recycling one quarter of the 25 million tons of household waste they collect each year. Other European countries are far ahead of the UK. Germany recycles 57 per cent of its waste, the Netherlands 64 per cent and Denmark 41 per cent.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


23 August, 2006


I am no anthropologist but, because I knew of the history of pygmies in areas in and around Northern Australia, even I suspected from the start that the newly-discovered "Hobbits" of Indonesia were not at all a new species. The article below would seem to vindicate my conclusion. So where were the referees who passed the original incautious article for publication in "Nature"? Maybe "Nature" used the same referees it uses to evaluate articles on global warming!

Fossilized remains which Australian researchers hailed as a previously unknown species of miniature human probably belonged to a disabled caveman, a new study has concluded.

The discovery by Australian and Indonesian archaeologists of a skull and bones on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004 was thought to be a major development in tracing human evolution. Nicknamed the Hobbit, the 1m skeleton was by far the smallest ever found, with a brain the size of a grapefruit.

However, a new study contends the remains probably belonged to an early human suffering from microcephaly, a condition that causes an abnormally small head and other deformities, London's Sunday Times reports. The paper quotes a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of America's most respected scientific institutions, as suggesting the initial evaluation of the remains was flawed. "The skeletal remains do not represent a new species, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today," the report said. "The individual exhibits a combination of characteristics that are not primitive but instead regional and not unique but found in other modern human populations."

The original team was co-directed by Michael Morwood, from Australia's University of New England at Armidale in NSW, and Professor Radien Soejono of the Indonesian Research Centre for Archeology.

Pennsylvania State University professor of developmental genetics and evolutionary morphology Robert Eckhardt, who was part of the new team, criticised the original study for comparing the skeleton with those of homo sapiens primarily from Europe. He said a more accurate understanding of the "Hobbit" emerged when compared against humans from the same region. Several researchers had already expressed doubts over the original findings, which were published in leading British science journal, Nature, in October 2004. In March last year Adelaide University professor of anatomical sciences Maciej Henneberg said he believed the hominid was suffering from some variation of microcephaly.


Glaciers 'shrinking for 100 years'

Greenland's glaciers have been shrinking for the past century, according to a Danish study published today, suggesting that the ice melt is not a recent phenomenon caused by global warming. Danish researchers from Aarhus University studied glaciers on Disko island, in western Greenland in the Atlantic, from the end of the 19th century until the present day. "This study, which covers 247 of 350 glaciers on Disko, is the most comprehensive ever conducted on the movements of Greenland's glaciers," glaciologist Jacob Clement Yde, who carried out the study with Niels Tvis Knudsen, said.

Using maps from the 19th century and current satellite observations, the scientists were able to conclude that "70 per cent of the glaciers have been shrinking regularly since the end of the 1880s at a rate of around eight metres per year," Mr Yde said. "We studied 95 per cent of the area covered by glaciers in Disko and everything indicates that our results are also valid for the glaciers along the coasts of the rest of Greenland," he said. The biggest reduction was observed between 1964 and 1985.

"A three-to-four degree increase of the temperature on Greenland from 1920 to 1930, and the increase recorded since 1995 has sped up the ice melt," he said. The effect of the rising temperatures in the 1920s and 1930s was "visible dozens of years later, and that of the 1990s will be (visible) in 10 or 20 years," Mr Yde said, adding that he expected Greenland's glaciers to melt even faster in the future.

The shrinking of the glaciers since the 19th century is "the result of the atmosphere's natural warming, following volcanic eruptions for example and greenhouse gases, created by human activities, which have aggravated the situation further," he said.



Trilby Lundberg, the nation's guru of gasoline prices, has no idea how many miles her new Mercedes-Benz gets per gallon. When she has to fill the tank, she's more concerned with convenience than price. Yet for decades, the nation has turned to the assertive, 57-year-old cat lover and her twice-monthly Lundberg Survey of gas stations to keep track of the fluctuating price of gasoline....

Watching the oil industry has led Lundberg to some interesting conclusions. She condemns the "overzealous meddling" of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, and said government-mandated reformulation of unleaded gas and engine modifications aimed at curtailing emissions are more to blame for gas price increases than the worldwide Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

She also criticized the "woefully ignorant" media and public perception about gas prices. "It is wild-headed and often destructive," she said of the reporting. "The explanation can be boring, it can be a little bit dry, it takes a long time, and the majority of folks simply do not have that time and do not have the interest."

Lundberg has strong opinions on other issues. For instance, she calls global warming a "boogeyman for political opportunism." Those who promote the theory are trying to create a power base and "believe global warming is a reason to hike taxes and hike prices," she said.

Lundberg balks at suggestions that she is a tool of the oil industry. "What hurts me is those who call me an oil apologist or self-styled consumer advocate. I'm not," she said. "I do have passionate feelings about that."

Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical & Refining Association, said Lundberg is highly respected in the industry. "She's a character," he said. "She's first there with a national gasoline price and I think everybody from the media to (Wall) Street to the oil industry looks forward to hearing from her."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


22 August, 2006


It was supposed to launch a revolution in personal transport but has been stopped in its tracks by a strict interpretation of a 170-year-old law. The Government has declared that the Segway Human Transporter - a 3,000 pound self-balancing scooter - cannot be used in any public place. The scooter, which has been described unkindly as a Pogo stick on wheels or a motorised Zimmer frame, arrived with great fanfare in 2001. Dean Kamen, its American inventor, suggested that it would be the solution to all transport woes. Queues of exhaust-belching cars would soon be replaced by squadrons of Segway riders gliding silently along at 12mph.

Mr Kamen said then that it "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy". The hyperbole provoked a backlash in the media, which largely ridiculed the invention and ignored the technical genius of the gyroscopes and microprocessors that keep it upright. However, after a slow start, sales have picked up in dozens of countries. France, Spain and most US states permit it on pavements; Austria and the Netherlands allow it on cycle paths, and in Italy it can trundle on both. On pavements, the limit in Italy and France is 6kmh (3.7mph).

In Britain the Department for Transport has welcomed the scooter with a double- whammy, invoking the Highway Act of 1835 to ban it from pavements and EU vehicle certification rules to keep it off roads. In a document, Regulations for self-balancing scooters, the department says: "You can only ride an unregistered selfbalancing scooter on land which is private property and with the landowner's permission." It rejects proposals that the Segway should be treated like the faster electric bicycle. It says: "A self-balancing scooter does not meet requirements [for electric bicycles] as it cannot be pedalled." The document also advises Segway users to wear "appropriate safety clothing at all times".

Bae Systems, which developed the Segway gyroscopes at its Plymouth research centre, accused the department of failing to test it properly. Andy Hughes, a spokesman, said that four officials attended a testing session, three of whom refused to ride it. The fourth travelled only 100 yards. "The department seems reluctant to accept new technology and there is a degree of arse-covering in the regulations," he said.

Those regulations have also angered a small but determined group of Segway commuters, who insist that they will continue to ride to work, saying they pose less risk to pedestrians than a clumsy jogger. Isidore Margaronis, 56, the director of a shipping company, has commuted by Segway for the past three years from Notting Hill in West London to his Piccadilly office. He said: "The department is taking a bureaucratic and pernickety attitude. If we have to wear protective clothing to do 12mph then joggers should have to wear motorcycle leathers." His journey takes 20 minutes by Segway or 40 minutes by bus or Tube. "I prefer the Segway because, unlike with a bike, you don't arrive in a lather. I can wear a suit and go straight into a meeting, taking my Segway up in the lift."

Jeremy Greaves, an executive for EADS, the aerospace company, said: "How can Tony Blair trumpet Britain's environmental commitments when the Government tries to stop people using such a clean and sustainable mode of transport? I'm going to carry on using it." Mr Greaves, 38, added that the only requirement for riding a Segway was to be thick-skinned. "Some people sneer but they are probably jealous that I am getting to my destination faster and having fun."

A study by Kaiserslautern university in Germany found that it took a few minutes to grasp the basic skills of Segway riding and three hours to become proficient. A rider simply leans forward to move forward and back to stop. On the original model, steering is controlled by twisting a handlebar grip. On a newer version, riders push the column left or right. The German study found that learners had a slight tendency to topple backwards if they stopped too quickly.

A department spokesman hinted that the regulations might be reviewed, adding: "We are still in contact with the company and keeping up to date with developments."



Work to clear a beauty spot of the longest stretch of the most invasive weed in Britain gets underway today when contractors start injecting every single stem with poison. Japanese knotweed has taken over a seven-mile stretch of the Tregeseal river and its tributaries in the Kenidjack Valley in Cornwall. The valley is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, but has been overwhelmed by the densely growing knotweed, which can reach 12 ft tall. Native plants and animals have been driven away by the knotweed, which has spread so widely across the county that it is estimated to cover a total of 250 hectares.

The warmth of Cornwall makes perfect for a host of invasive plants originally imported from abroad, including the Hottentot fig, New Zealand pigmy weed and Rhododendron ponticum. But it is the knotweed that is regarded as the worst of them all and the National Trust will today begin work on a ś20,000 initiative to return the valley to its natural state.

Japanese knotweed is notoriously difficult to kill. Its roots can go 10 ft beneath the surface and it can regenerate from a missed or dropped segment as small as a drawing pin. Contractors will tackle the Kenidjack Valley invasion near St Just by hacking down the stems and then injecting almost every stump with a herbicide. The herbicide, a specially licensed glysophate, is drawn down to the roots of the plant and kills it, though the process needs to be repeated for up to three years to be fully effective. A small percentage of the plants - the knotweed has spread up to 80 ft on either side of the river - will be sprayed, but most will be injected by hand to avoid poisoning the river. It is illegal to transport Japanese knotweed or to propagate it, so the contractors will stack the cut stems on polythene until they have dried out and then burn them on the site.

Simon Ford of the National Trust, said: "The knotweed in the valley is a major problem. It's a nightmare. We've tried everything we can think of in the past to get rid of it. We've tried pulling it up, we've laid carpets of over it, all to no avail. "The normal method of control is cutting it and coming along with major amounts of herbicide, but that feels like flinging Agent Orange about - there's nothing left. "That's why for environmentallty sensitive areas like Kenidjack Valley we've developed this method of injecting herbicide in each of the hollow stems. It's laborious but seems to work."

Among the plants that have been driven out of the valley where the knotweed has become established are bluebells, thrift, sea campion, kidney vetch, yellow flag and purple loosestrife. Similarly, the knotweed monoculture drives out dippers, grey wagtails and Daubenton bats. Mr Ford added: "When you have cleared away a patch of knotweed you find that pretty well everything else has been destroyed. Nothing can compete with it. It's the most pernitious plant there is."


Australian taxpayers pay to re-create a swamp

Taxpayer funds will be used to buy back environmental water flows from irrigators to help restore one of Australia's most environmentally significant wetlands. Federal Parliamentary Secretary Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced the allocation of $13.4 million from the Water Smart Australia scheme to free about 15,000 megalitres of water for the internationally recognised Macquarie Marshes in central NSW. The funding will be matched by the NSW Government, which in July allocated funds to buy back 30,000 megalitres of water for the marshes.

The marshes have become little more than semi-arid bush as water flows have dwindled through the 150,000ha of river red gums and reeds since 2001. They are the victim of competition for land and water from the nearby grazing and cotton industries coupled with drought. As the drought has worsened, the two primary producers have been feuding over who is to blame for the environmental mess. Graziers are accused of over-stocking and siphoning off water for their own use without paying for it, while cotton growers are accused of coveting an over-allocation from the upstream Burrenjong Dam.

Mr Turnbull was joined yesterday by local MP and former National Party leader John Anderson to seek a compromise that will effectively mean taxpayers fund the water flows needed to help the marshes. Mr Turnbull said the scheme would provide a model for the Water Smart program to address other environmental problems around the nation. "Our landscape is designed to cope with significant fluctuations in rainfall, but there is no doubt we are going through a drying and heating period that means we are going to have the problem of coping with less rain. We've got to be careful not to exacerbate it."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


21 August, 2006


A federal judge has ruled that U.S. agriculture officials violated environmental laws in permitting four companies to plant genetically modified crops in Hawaii to produce experimental drugs. The order involves plantings of corn or sugarcane on Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu between 2001 and 2003. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright said the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service flouted both the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act by not conducting preliminary environmental reviews before issuing the planting permits.

The islands are home to 329 rare species _ a quarter of all threatened and endangered species in the nation, the judge noted in the order issued late last week. Even if the inspection service is correct in its assertion that no habitats or species listed as endangered were harmed by the plantings, the agency's actions still are "tainted" because it failed to comply with a basic procedural requirement, Seabright said. EarthJustice, which represents plaintiffs in the cases, said in a news release Monday that the decision is the first federal court ruling involving biofarming.

Rachel Iadicicco, a spokeswoman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the agency can't comment on pending litigation but has established procedures to guide it in complying with federal environmental laws.

The four companies issued the permits were ProdiGene, Monsanto, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and Garst Seed. All of the companies' plants used to make pharmaceutical crops already have been harvested and the companies have stopped planting the crops under the permits. The practice of using genetically engineered food crops to produce proteins that can be turned into medicines has faced growing opposition from farmers, environmentalists and big-time corporate food interests whose businesses might be affected by crop contamination. Concerns center around the fear that the altered crops will crossbreed with conventional crops and thereby make it on to the plates of unknowing consumers. But there is also the concern that such crops could hurt local endangered species.

In his order, Seabright said the service skipped the mandatory step under the Endangered Species Act of gathering information about local listed species and critical habitats. The National Environmental Policy Act also requires federal agencies to evaluate the impact of their actions on the environment. Both sides of the case have been ordered to appear in court on Aug. 22 to discuss remedies for the violations.



MARK COLVIN: There are few people more controversial in the environmental world than the Danish economist and writer Bjorn Lomborg. His book The Sceptical Environmentalist caused a firestorm with its contention that many of the claims of the environmental movement, including much of the case for global warming, were exaggerations. He came under strong counter-attack in the scientific press, in a fight that continues to this day. Mr Lomborg is in Australia at the moment talking about a new book he's edited, called How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place . He invited a panel, including four Nobel Prize-winning economists to write about the priorities involved in such an exercise. And once again, tackling global warming was low on the list. I asked Bjorn Lomborg this week what were the priorities his experts had recommended.

BJORN LOMBORG: What they told us was that the best investments the world can do, is to prevent HIV/AIDS, to prevent malnutrition with micronutrients, to ensure free trade, and to prevent malaria. Those were the top four things that the world should do.

MARK COLVIN: Is all of this basically a big agenda to back up your ideas about global warming?

BJORN LOMBORG: No, it's not about validating my personal discussion, but it's much more about saying, isn't it curious that we've had the UN for more than 50 years, yet we have never asked ourselves, what should be our top priorities? We're a little bit like the people who walk into a restaurant and look at this big menu card and say, wow lots of different things to do, but we have no idea of what the prices are. We have no idea of the sizes of the menus that we're going to get. What the Copenhagen Consensus essentially does is, it gives you a sense of what do you get for your money? Do you get an enormous amount of good or do you get little good? And what the economists told us was, if you put a dollar into prevention of HIV/AIDS, you end up doing $40 of social good in those areas where you do it. That's a great investment.

MARK COLVIN: How do you sell a list of priorities like this to people say in Tuvalu or Kiribati who are worried about the waters lapping around the foundations of their houses?

BJORN LOMBORG: Well, of course they're concerned, and that's entirely right of them to be so. But there are many people concerned about many things. I'm sure if you go to some places, people whose mum and dad are dying from HIV/AIDS, they also have a very convincing argument. What the Nobel's told us was, if you spend a dollar on Kyoto, you will do good. But you'll only do somewhere between 2 and 25 cents worth of good. Now, in my world, I would rather spend that dollar, and do $40 worth of good, rather than spend it and just do 2 cents worth of good...

MARK COLVIN: Was Kyoto the only choice you gave them? Because everyone knew that Kyoto was a massive compromise...

BJORN LOMBORG: Oh, absolutely...

MARK COLVIN: You said it's Kyoto or...


MARK COLVIN: AIDS, or Kyoto or malaria?

BJORN LOMBORG: No, no. We also gave them other opportunities, for instance carbon taxes, which is a more efficient way of doing climate change regulation, and it came out higher. But still, it's not a very good investment. Now, low carbon tax, to $5 carbon tax. It's probably a good idea, it's not a tremendous idea, but it's probably a good idea. But the carbon tax that most people talk about, which is in the 30's, or even hundreds of dollars, that's certainly not a good idea.

MARK COLVIN: If climate change came, according to the worst forecasts, there are going to be millions and millions of refugees, environmental refugees.


MARK COLVIN: Surely that's going to be a bigger problem than any of the problems you're trying to address?

BJORN LOMBORG: Yeah. It's important to say, we don't look at what are the biggest problems in the world, because if there's not a good solution to it, it really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, you could say the biggest problem in the world is that we all die. But we don't have a good technology to avoid that. So we start at looking at, what are the solutions? Now, reasonably we can expect, as the Kyoto Protocol shows us, we can expect perhaps to cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent from what they would otherwise have been over the next 10, 20 years.

The problem is, that will do virtually no good. So if we get the worst-case outcomes, with millions of people for instance, being refugees, and a lot of people in the developing world having huge problems from climate change, the real question is, would we have spent a lot of money doing fairly little good for these people anyway in 100 years? Or would we rather have given them clean drinking water, sanitation, basic healthcare, education and done a lot of good, and made them better able to deal with the problems that they will have in 100 years?

MARK COLVIN: So are you not going to address the problem of whether there will be massive climate change or not? I mean, do you address that?

BJORN LOMBORG: We look at the standard forecasts of what is going to happen. It is important to say a lot of the things that you hear, for instance from Al Gore's movie is vastly overblown, in the sense that it's, in my understanding, beyond worse-case scenario analysis. For instance, Al Gore will show us what happens if the water level will rise seven metres. But the UN Climate Panel is telling us it'll rise somewhere between 30 and 50 centimetres. Now, there's a huge difference. Thirty to 50 centimetres will be a problem, but it will be a problem that we will deal with. So the argument again is to say do you want to spend a lot of money doing very little good, or do you want spend the same amount of money and do an incredible amount of good? I think that is the bottom line that we try to get people to focus on.


An interesting Leftist comment on Australia's Federal environment policies

With its strongly pro-business orientation, the Howard Government has found it difficult to gain credibility for its environmental policies. It has nevertheless made considerable headway through the use of a clever and aggressive strategy of dividing the environment movement by cultivating friendly organisations and individuals and punishing those that refuse to fall into line.

WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature) is the foremost of the friendly organisations. It is close to the Government, providing a stream of favourable commentary on its policies and bestowing several awards for the Government's environmental achievements, including three "Gift to the Earth" awards, which the Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, displays in his office. In return, the Government has been generous, sending tens of millions to the fund for various programs.

The force behind the emergence of the organisation as the leading group backing the Government's environment policy is the businessman Robert Purves. He has made a very large donation to WWF and is now its president. Purves has drawn Tim Flannery into the orbit of conservative environmentalism by funding the preparation of Flannery's book on climate change, The Weather Makers. Flannery, who came late to the climate change debate, has eloquently summarised the work of hundreds of climate scientists and his book has undoubtedly raised public awareness and understanding of the threats posed by global warming. Purves is said to have spent $1 million promoting Flannery's book, including costly backlit billboards outside Qantas Club lounges around the country.

But isn't there an inconsistency here? Why would Purves, sympathetic to the Government, spend large sums funding and promoting a book that rings alarm bells about climate change, which can only make life more difficult for the Government? The answer is that Flannery's book does not make life harder for the Government, but sends the sort of message the Government wants us to hear.

Flannery is an advocate of individual consumer action as the answer to environmental problems. Instead of being understood as a set of problems endemic to our economic and social structures, we are told we each have to take personal responsibility for our contribution to every problem. Flannery concludes his book by arguing that "there is no need to wait for government action" - voluntary action by well-meaning consumers is the only way to save the planet. "It is my firm belief that all the efforts of government and industry will come to naught unless the good citizen and consumer takes the initiative, and in tackling climate change the consumer is in a most fortunate position." He then lists 11 things concerned citizens can do to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, urging each of us to "do the right thing" in the belief that these noble appeals will transform the market: "If enough of us buy green power, solar panels, solar hot water systems and hybrid vehicles, the cost of these items will plummet."

This is music to the Government's ears. The assignment of individual responsibility is consistent with the economic rationalist view of the world, which wants everything left to the market, even when the market manifestly fails. Yet it is at best a naive, and at worst a reckless, approach to the looming catastrophe of climate change. The world did not eliminate the production of ozone-depleting substances by relying on the good sense of consumers in buying CFC-free fridges. We insisted governments negotiate an international treaty that banned CFCs. We did not invite car buyers to pay more to install catalytic converters, the greatest factor in reducing urban air pollution. We called on government to legislate to require all car makers to include them.

When pressed, Flannery will call on government to act, too, but his consistent headline message is an appeal to consumers. Thus, when accepting a prize for his book recently, he gave a four-word acceptance speech: "Install a solar panel." Green consumerism such as that advocated by Flannery privatises responsibility for environmental decline, shifting blame from elected governments and industry onto the shoulders of individual citizens. The cause of climate change becomes the responsibility of "all of us", which, in effect, means nobody. It is obvious why a government that wants to do nothing finds such an approach appealing: it can pretend to be concerned while protecting powerful business interests.

Flannery's "firm belief" that we can be saved only if consumers take the initiative is one he shares with the ideologues of the right-wing think tanks who argue that environmental problems should be left to the unfettered market. If consumers don't make green choices then it is obvious they don't care much about the environment. But it is not just his advocacy of do-nothing green consumerism that endears Flannery to the Government. Alone among Australian environmental advocates, he has declared his support for the development of a nuclear industry. The Prime Minister, John Howard, now regularly buttresses his nuclear push by saying that even some environmentalists "like Tim Flannery" support nuclear power.

Even Howard knows it would be folly to build nuclear power plants in Australia, a fact that his nuclear inquiry will conveniently affirm. The Prime Minister's game is to provide cover for his plan to expand uranium mining and get an enrichment industry established. Flannery is now part of the climate change debate, and whether he likes it or not, has become a trump card in Howard's hand.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


20 August, 2006


Environmental groups plan to file a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court today claiming that flood-control officials violated state law by allowing major levee modifications in San Joaquin County without considering the effect of global warming. The groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, assert that the sea level rise associated with climate change could eventually overtop those levees, putting thousands of people at risk. The suit targets a permit approved June 26 by the state Reclamation Board that cleared the way for the River Islands project to build 224 luxury homes on top of a 300-foot-wide "superlevee" on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Eventually, River Islands plans to build 11,000 homes on the island, which lies within the Lathrop city limits.

Barry Nelson, a senior policy advocate at NRDC, claims the board violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to examine how sea level rise will affect those levees. Other plaintiffs include the Natural Heritage Institute and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "This (governor's) administration has made climate change a priority, but the Reclamation Board just hasn't read the memo, because they're still refusing to even analyze that issue," Nelson said.

The majority of the world's climate scientists agree that the Earth's temperatures are rising, and that human activities are partly to blame. Burning coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which traps more of the sun's heat. Computer modeling by climate experts shows that this warming effect could raise California sea levels more than 2 feet by the end of this century. This would affect not just ocean-front communities, but also the Delta and its 1,100-mile network of levees. A study by the state Department of Water Resources last month estimated that a sea level rise of just 1 foot would likely flood the three westernmost Delta islands: Jersey, Twitchell and Sherman. Many Delta levees may have to be raised in response to sea level rise. But higher levees were not part of the Reclamation Board's discussion about River Islands.

Board member Butch Hodgkins declined to comment on the case Thursday, citing the threat of pending litigation. The board's attorney, Scott Morgan, and its president, Ben Carter, could not be reached for comment. Nor could River Islands Project Manager Susan Dell'Osso. DWR is working on two major studies that examine the future of the Delta in the face of climate change, partly in response to a directive by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has made climate change a priority and who appointed the current Reclamation Board. But it is still rare to see the threat of rising seas filter down to routine decision-making at any government agency.

Nelson said the lawsuit could change that. "This is potentially an important precedent because it is the Reclamation Board's job to protect Californians from flooding, and climate change has the potential to significantly increase flooding risk," he said. Jeffrey Mount, a former Reclamation Board member, said it is absolutely part of the board's job to consider sea level rise. Mount, a geology professor at UC Davis, co-authored a 2004 study that found a 2-in-3 chance for multiple levee failures in the Delta by the middle of this century. The cause: a combination of sea level rise, earthquakes and subsidence, the process in which soil loss causes the interior of Delta islands to slowly sink below surrounding water levels. "The decision that the Reclamation Board is making today may not be durable in the face of climate change," Mount said. "People should be factoring that into their thinking when they're building these projects."



Soaring oil prices, uncertain Russian energy supplies and fears of global warming are fuelling a European and global nuclear renaissance just two decades after the Chernobyl disaster shook faith in atomic power. Fears of energy shortages appear to be trumping anti-nuclear sentiments - even in Germany despite its decision to close all nuclear power stations by 2021. Most surveys show a 50-50 split and some polls even show a majority of Germans in favour of nuclear power, compared to 65 per cent opposed after the 1986 accident. 'There's a lot more approval for nuclear power than there was 15 years ago,' said Christian Woessner, a spokesman for the German Atomic Forum, a pro-nuclear lobby group. 'We are at the start of a new investment cycle (in Europe.)'

Nuclear power is getting a hard second look not only because of oil prices and alarm over Russia's strong-arm tactics in cutting off natural gas to Ukraine last January. It also could provide a way to cut greenhouse gases blamed in part for global warming. Andris Piebalgs, the European Union Commissioner in charge of energy, says nuclear power needs to be regarded as part of an 'energy mix' to ensure security for the 25-nation bloc. 'The EU must continue to develop its expertise in the field,' insists Piebalgs.

Numerous European countries are already watering down or reversing laws intended to curtail or abolish nuclear plants. That means many of the 170 nuclear stations operating on the continent, up to the Russian border, will operate far longer than anticipated. Sweden, 47-per-cent dependent on nuclear power, has repeatedly delayed plans to shut down all its stations, extending some lifelines to 2050, well beyond a 2010 target date. 'Under Swedish law the plants cannot be closed until there is a viable alternative,' explains Woessner.

Switzerland, 32-per-cent dependent on nuclear power, has overturned a moratorium on new nuclear plants. Belgium, 56-per-cent dependent on nuclear power, has extended its phase-out period for at least another 20 years, although it is unclear if new plants will be built. 'There is a clear and visible change of mood - most governments and political parties are now seriously reconsidering nuclear power,' said an economist at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who asked not to be named.

That means new nuclear plants are again being built across Europe, mirroring trends in the US, where 14 new plants are planned after a 30-year hiatus, and China, where nearly three dozen are set to be built. New plants are slated to open in Finland in 2009; Romania in 2007, 2013 and 2014; and Bulgaria in 2013. The Czech Republic could build at least two more plants if needed.

The Baltic states, still not connected to the European electricity grid, are determined to pursue self sufficiency because they fear Moscow's political blackmailing tactics. Lithuania, supported by Latvia and Estonia, is expected to approve a new nuclear station to replace the Chernobyl-type reactor at Ignalina by 2015. Part of the current plant was closed in 2004 and block two will be shut in 2009. Lithuania is 71-per-cent dependent on nuclear power.

Even Ukraine, home to the ill-fated Chernobyl plant and 50-per- cent dependent on nuclear power, is considering a big expansion in the field. Although critics note that Kiev's financing remains totally unclear, the government says it wants to build up to 20 new nuclear power stations.

France, which generates a whopping 78 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, under President Jacques Chirac wants to build third and fourth generation plants to keep its position as the world's top civil nuclear power. A new reactor is slated to open in 2012 in the northern town of Flamanville. In addition, France is home to an international effort to build the world's biggest experimental fusion reactor. The International Thermonuclear Reactor (ITER) - which is supposed to produce less waste and be safer than normal nuclear plants - has support from the EU, US, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

France also provides a lightning rod for environmental protests over nuclear waste, a hotly contested issue at Germany's Gorleben facility, for example. It has a reprocessing industry that not only handles waste from abroad, including Germany and Japan, but also helps fund the French nuclear programme.

Britain, after years of backing away, appears poised to join the trend and increase its 20-per-cent dependence on nuclear power. Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to to call on private energy companies next month to build the country's next generation of nuclear stations. However, Europe's largest economy - Germany - is still holding off. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives support nuclear power but, under the government's grand coalition accord with the Social Democrats (SPD), the ban on new plants and a phase-out of 17 generators by 2021 remains. But that could change if Merkel is re-elected at the head of a centre-right government without the SPD in coming years.



Excerpt from "Energy Economics"

On the sources of technological change: Assessing the evidence

By: Leon Clarke, John Weyant and Alicia Birky


This paper uses a selective review of the economic literature on technological change to support four points that are important for interpreting and incorporating technological change into formal models of energy and the environment. The review (1) supports the notion that no single source dominates the process of technological change. It supports roles for R&D and learning-by-doing within an industry, as well as for spillovers from other industries engaged in both of these activities. The literature also (2) supports a strong role for spillovers; (3) indicates that these spillovers are often indirect, requiring own-industry activities to utilize; and (4) indicates that simple experience curve calibrations often used in formal models likely include a range of sources of technological change in addition to learning-by-doing, some of which might not be induced by the sorts of policies typically considered in the climate context.

1. Introduction

A range of studies have demonstrated that technological change can reduce the costs of stabilizing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (GTSP, 2000 and Weyant, 2004). Influencing the rate and direction of technological change has become a cornerstone of government policies toward climate change (see, for example, Abraham, 2004). Not surprisingly, renewed policy interest in technological change has been accompanied by increased interest in more effectively representing the process of technological change in computer-based models of the economic, energy, and other interactions that underlie the emissions of greenhouse gases (henceforth referred to as "formal models").1 Enhanced representations of technological change, along with enhanced interpretation of these representations, can increase the policy-relevance of modeling exercises.

The fundamental challenge modelers face in this regard is that of meaningfully representing a variegated and interacting set of sources of technological change in simplified modeling frameworks. Technological change is a multi-faceted and complex process. It arises from a variety of interacting activities, including publicly funded R&D, privately funded R&D, and learning-by-doing. In addition, much of the change in technologies relevant in the climate context may arise through spillovers arising from activities undertaken in largely unrelated sectors. Models that miss critical pathways or ascribe influence inappropriately could potentially arrive at erroneous, incomplete, or misleading policy conclusions.

A companion to this paper (Clarke et al., in press) explores the question: what approaches are used in formal models to represent the sources of technological change and what do these approaches correspond to in terms of real-world sources of change? That paper puts forth a framework for linking the representations in formal models to the real-world sources of technological change, which we will briefly preview in Section 2.2 as a means to motivate the central issues of this paper. The framework is based on understanding (1) the activities that are used in models to drive technological change, with the two primary options being R&D and production or use of a technology, and (2) the "location" of these activities, either within the industry in question or outside the industry in question, with extra-industry activities being equated with spillovers.

This paper raises the follow-on question: how important are the different sources of technological change? A best case basis for answering this question would be a set of comprehensive studies that consider all the possible sources in concert, balancing them against one another and exploring their interactions in the sort of mathematical fashion that is needed to support computer-based modeling. While the empirical economic literature on technological change is extensive, it does not include such comprehensive analyses. Instead, it includes a multitude of partial analyses, each considering one or several aspects of the question.

In this paper, we will selectively draw on this literature to emphasize four points that, while they are not a full answer to the driving question, we believe are critical to interpreting and representing technological change in formal models. First, there is ample evidence that a range of sources - learning-by-doing, R&D, and spillovers - all play roles at different times and for different technologies. Further, there is little compelling evidence that one or two sources are dominant. In fact, one of the fundamental lessons of the empirical literature on technological change is that single-source or simplistic, additive models of technological change can be misleading. Second, studies suggest that spillovers account for a substantial component of technological change. This provides an important counterpoint to modeling efforts in which all change arises through own-industry effects, and it provides a justification for exogenous specifications of technological change in some cases. Third, studies also suggest that spillovers are often "indirect" - rather than directly influencing change, they create a pool of opportunity that can be exploited by activities undertaken in the home industry. This implies that modeling the interactions between own-industry effects and spillovers is an important area for model development. Finally, while statistical studies indicate a robust correlation between production and technological change, there is little evidence that this correlation is primarily a function of learning-by-doing. Factors such as R&D and spillovers play an important role in technological change and therefore in these correlations, particularly over long time frames and broad technology definitions. Consequently, simple experience curve studies should be interpreted and applied with caution.

The remainder of this paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 summarizes the material in Clarke et al. It provides a brief background discussion of R&D, learning-by-doing, and spill overs, and it summarizes the framework for classifying sources of technological change. Section 3 presents the selective literature in support of the four main points. Section 4 provides closing thoughts.


4. Summary

The objective of this paper has been to comment on the question: how important are the various sources of technological change? We have selectively reviewed the economic literature on technological change to put forth and provide support for four general points that we believe are important for interpreting and incorporating technological change in formal models.

(1) Our review supports the notion that no single source dominates the process of technological change. The literature supports roles for R&D and learning-by-doing within an industry, as well as for spillovers from other industries engaged in both of these activities. In particular, (2) the literature supports a strong role for spillovers; (3) it indicates that these spillovers are often indirect, requiring own-industry activities to utilize; and (4) it indicates that simple experience curve calibrations likely include a range of sources of technological change in addition to learning-by-doing.

The lesson from these observations is to be cautious in interpreting the policy conclusions of models that assume only a single source of technological progress or that neglect critical factors such as spillovers. This includes virtually all formal models in use today, implying a need both for more comprehensive treatments of technological change and more research to understand the nature and magnitude of any distortions of policy conclusions from models with limited representations of technological change. It is not possible to fully represent the process of technological change, just as it is not possible to fully represent the complete set of economic forces that influence decisions made by those whose behavior is represented in formal models. However, it is productive to continually move toward more complete representations of technological change and to understand the effects of limited representations.

We close by noting that, from a broader perspective, the importance of extra-industry sources of technological change calls for a broad view of the climate change technology development enterprise. Applied energy R&D and technology deployment are not the only long-term means of supporting climate change technology development. The value of a broad and robust technological and scientific enterprise, including goal-driven basic research, should not be ignored. Our selective review finds no strong evidence to indicate that this broader enterprise is of lesser importance over the long term than are applied energy R&D and the deployment of newly emerging technologies.

More here

Greenie-inspired land-use restrictions under fire in Australia

State governments must release more land or housing affordability will remain a problem, Prime Minister John Howard says. Mr Howard said state governments are using the housing development process as a money-maker. "The cost of land is the problem," Mr Howard told the South Australian Liberal Party annual general meeting in Adelaide today. "Until state governments around Australia start releasing more land and stop using the development process as a method of raising revenue, we are going to continue to have a problem with the affordability of housing.

"I don't suggest that interest rates are irrelevant, not for a moment. "But if we are to have a proper debate about the cost of housing, state governments have got to face the need to release more land." Mr Howard said security for families depended on good job prospects and housing affordability. "Having interest rates at a low level are important to that," he said. "But even more important is to make sure that the ordinary economy of supply and demand are in better balance than they are at the present time."

He said unless state governments addressed the issue "we will continue to have this difficulty with the affordability of housing". "I do worry about that," he said. "I worry about the affordability of housing for young Australians, it's all right for those of riper years but it's not good for young people. "It's very important we give attention to this issue and it's very important we have an honest debate and an honest discussion about the fundamental causes of the problem."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


19 August, 2006


Sometimes what is not said can be very interesting. The journal abstract below is a case in point. It is allegedly an attempt to explain the increase in wildfires in the USA in recent times. The authors looked at various possible causes but overlooked the really obvious cause -- the onset of Greenie opposition to conventional forestry management techniques -- small preventive burns during winter in particular. Stopping managed burns has simply caused huge uncontrolled summer burns

Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity

By: A. L. Westerling, H. G. Hidalgo, D. R. Cayan, T. W. Swetnam

Western United States forest wildfire activity is widely thought to have increased in recent decades, yet neither the extent of recent changes nor the degree to which climate may be driving regional changes in wildfire has been systematically documented. Much of the public and scientific discussion of changes in western United States wildfire has focused instead on the effects of 19th- and 20th-century land-use history. We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.



But will it get past the Greenies? They routinely oppose crop improvements on one pretext or another

As lifeguards say: If you're in trouble in the water, don't panic -- you'll tire yourself out. Turns out, the same advice works for rice. If submerged, the staple crop for half the world's population will use up energy reserves trying to grow above the water and die in a matter of days. That's a big problem in many parts of Asia, where deep flooding damages an estimated 25 million acres of rice each year.

Now, a team of scientists, including several researchers at the University of California, Davis, has bred a rice that "knows" to save its energy when underwater. It can wait out floods of two weeks or longer. The new breed's special ability also could prove useful in California by giving rice farmers another tool for killing weeds without using herbicide. Most weeds, like most standard varieties of rice, can't survive for long underwater. With the new flood-tolerant rice variety, farmers could drown their weeds without killing their crop.

The submersible rice marks one of the first successful uses of a new plant-breeding method that may someday allow researchers to develop food crops able to withstand not only flooding, but also cold weather, drought, disease and salty soil -- without the use of controversial genetic engineering techniques.

Here's how the flood-tolerant rice knows to stay calm under water: When rice is submerged, the gas ethylene builds up around the plant. In most varieties of rice, ethylene triggers a series of reactions that cause the plant to grow rapidly toward the surface. But if the water is too deep, the rice will exhaust its energy reserves and die before it can reach the water surface. Being underwater inhibits photosynthesis, meaning that the rice plant has a hard time generating more energy for itself.

The new rice variety contains genes that keep the plant from responding to the buildup of ethylene. Instead of growing rapidly, it shuts down for two weeks or more, conserving energy until -- it is hoped -- the water subsides and photosynthesis can start up again. The idea to develop a flood-tolerant rice sprouted about 50 years ago, when researchers realized that a variety grown by farmers in eastern India could survive long periods under water. But it tended to yield only a small amount of poor-quality grain. So plant breeders tried to cross it with higher-yielding rice varieties to create a new, best-of-both-worlds strain.

For decades, though, scientists couldn't manage to breed in the submersible trait without also bringing along the eastern Indian rice's undesirable traits. That's a common problem in plant breeding, said Pam Ronald, a UC Davis plant pathologist who began working on the problem a decade ago. A paper she co-authored describing the rice research appears in the Aug. 10 issue of the scientific journal Nature. "Using traditional breeding, it takes a long time to get rid of the traits that you don't want," she said. Enter the new technique: marker-assisted breeding.

With this method, pioneered by a Cornell University plant scientist, researchers first identify the genetic "fingerprint" of the genes that they'd like to bring from one variety to another. Then, just as in traditional plant breeding, the two varieties are cross-pollinated, producing many offspring. Next, the breeder identifies which of the offspring appears to have the desirable trait, but not the undesirable ones, and then the process is repeated, over and over.

Without the genetic fingerprint, selecting for complex traits is extremely difficult. With the new technique, though, researchers look directly at the DNA of the offspring to determine exactly what has been inherited. "If you can do that in the lab, it's very helpful -- instead of having to flood a rice field 4 feet deep" to see if the offspring resist flooding, said Kent McKenzie, director of the nonprofit Rice Experiment Station in Biggs in Butte County. McKenzie did not work on the submersible rice project. It's similar to what viewers see on the television show "CSI," he said, "where you can apply a (test) and tell how people are related," he said.

Marker-assisted breeding is important because it is considered by most countries to be an extension of conventional plant breeding. So-called genetic engineering is much more controversial. While researchers have used genetic engineering to develop many rice varieties, none is widely planted.

The flood-tolerant genes have been bred into two varieties of rice, one popular with California farmers, the other grown in south Asia. It will likely take several more years of testing before California farmers adopt the new rice, Ronald said. But farmers in India and Bangladesh already are using the Indian variety, said David Mackill, a plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and a former UC Davis professor. Its ultimate success, Mackill said, will depend primarily on whether farmers find its special ability useful, and, of course, whether it tastes good. "When you release a new variety, you just cross your fingers and hope that the farmers will like it," he said.


How Green Is Your Church?

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are commanded to "tend and keep" the Garden of Eden, as well as to "fill the Earth", and "subdue" and "have dominion" over the creation. It is clear that mankind is given a dominant role in the biblical creation, with God's permission to use the Earth's natural resources to serve our needs.

Yet, we now know that it is possible to damage the creation in ways that makes portions of it unfit for further use for many years. Some chemicals we have developed are very hazardous to humans. For instance, the generation and safe storage of nuclear waste from power plants remain challenges. The Earth is marvelously resilient, constantly cleansing our air and water, yet we know from experience that there are limits to this resiliency.

The tension over what constitutes environmental "stewardship" has led to a wide range of opinions within the Christian church on the subject. Some churches have been actively involved in the environmental movement since the 1970's. The concern has been expressed in ways as small as recycling waste, to what can only be called "Earth worship", elevating the value of the creation to a position above that of mankind.

The past several months have had considerable activity in the Christian church on the subject of climate change. On February 1st of this year, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) announced that they would not adopt a position statement on global warming that they had been considering since 2004. The NAE, which claims to represent 30 million church members, noted that there is considerable disagreement within the church regarding the causes and severity of, as well as the responses to, the global warming threat. The NAE decision greatly disappointed environmentalists. Then, later in the month, 86 evangelical leaders calling themselves the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) issued a statement at a press conference that called for action to fight global warming. The ECI claimed that the threat from global warming was greatest for the world's poor, and so Christians must be involved in the issue. The diverse approaches represented by the positions of the NAE and ECI illustrate the wide range of views within the church on the subject of global warming.

Meanwhile, a new group calling itself the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) has joined the fray by calling for prudence in how the global warming threat is approached. The ISA, in which I participate, tries to point out that the biggest threat to the poor is, not surprisingly, poverty. Inexpensive forms of energy are required for the poor of the world to have just the basic necessities of life (clean water, refrigerated food, etc.). The ISA believes that approaches to fighting global warming that end up making energy more expensive will actually hurt the poor before the poor ever become aware of climate change. We adhere to the "Cornwall Declaration", which folds in the economic realities that must be considered before one can truly 'help the poor' without doing more harm than good.

Indeed, the developed world has made itself relatively immune from most of nature's threats through advanced technologies in home construction, heating and cooling, refrigeration, medicines, transportation, agriculture, and a wide variety of modern amenities that we take for granted. Would you rather live where the women spend most of their day walking great distances to carry water, firewood, and dung home so that food can be prepared in a smoke-filled hut, where everyone then breathes in a variety of life-threatening contaminants? This is how much of the undeveloped world lives.

Now, as a result of the recent heat wave in the eastern U.S., Pat Robertson has joined those who consider manmade global warming to be a serious problem, even though the country has experienced higher temperatures in the 1920's and 1930's. It seems to be human nature for people that experience some perceived weather change over their lifetime to think that the change is not only real, but is part of a long-term trend. Even James Hansen has admitted that the global warming signal is still not big enough to reliably discern in the presence of natural climate variability.

All Christians are united in the belief that the poor should be helped. But in today's world, with a global economy, what constitutes 'help' can be muddy. Sending millions of dollars in aid to an African country where most of the funds are siphoned off to help keep a tyrant in power is one illustration of the complexities involved in simple applications of Christian charity. Farm subsidies in the United States have the unintended consequence of making the price of produce in poor countries uncompetitive, perpetuating poverty in those countries.

Bjorn Lomborg, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, assembled a panel of experts in economics who were charged with determining -- given a fixed amount of money to be dedicated to improving the human conditions -- what actions give the biggest returns for the least money. The result was the "Copenhagen Consensus", with over a dozen policy approaches prioritized in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Fighting climate change was at the bottom of the list. Fighting malaria, AIDS, provision of clean water and other sanitation measures were a few that were at or near the top of the list.

As has often been the case where economics and policy intersect, good intentions are not enough. The lesson for the church is, while it is one thing to agree to "help the world's poor", it is another thing entirely to determine how to best spend limited financial resources. Unless we examine the consequences of our charitable efforts, it is entirely possible to inadvertently make matters worse, rather than better.


Australian farmers campaign to reverse knee-jerk Greenie bans

Farmers in the Nyngan, Cobar and Tottenham districts of western NSW are celebrating a win in their campaign to sway public opinion about the clearing of native invasive scrub in order to have native vegetation regulations changed. A national current affairs television program aired a story filmed in the far west yesterday morning which challenged claims by green groups that land clearing is damaging the environment.

The chairman of the Regional Community Survival Group, Doug Menzies, says it was a real victory for farmers. "I think it should go a long way to debunking the myth that western New South Wales or the so-called hot spot for clearing in western New South Wales is not tearing the environment apart or anything and quite the contrary, in fact," Mr Menzies said.

The Opposition spokesman on Natural Resources, Adrian Piccoli, says he is hoping the revelations about flaws in land clearing policy will mean a return to science-based decisions. He says locking up land that is now being invaded by woody weeds was driven by emotion because the Labor Government has had to mould policy to secure Green preferences. Mr Piccoli says the story on the Sunday program has now taken the debate to a wide metropolitan audience. "Farmers have had a lot of difficulty getting the message across to the media about the good things that some of those farm practices achieve and what are some of the negative consequences of current government policy," he said. "I think the Sunday program illustrated that this sentimental notion that you can just lock up areas of land and it will return to some sort of pristine environment is not in fact correct."

Mr Menzies says his group will maintain its community-funded PR campaign until next year's state election. "I think it's going to take us a little while, the Greenies have been working on this for 30 years so we're not going to catch up overnight," he said. "But we've got to keep plugging, keep telling the truth, you know, we've got problems that we can demonstrate but that's something the other side doesn't have, they've got to rely on rhetoric and nonsense."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


18 August, 2006

WashPost Highlights Argument That Heat Wave 'Linked to Global Warming'

Post lifted from Newsbusters

Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin puts the pedal to the metal in her Friday story, "More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming." We're told "scientists who have studied decades of weather records and computer models" are connecting the heat to Al Gore's favorite bogeyman.

Eilperin lines up all the studies promoted by global-warming salesmen, and the skeptics aren't granted an appearance until˙the end, in paragraph 18: "Some climate experts and industry lobbyists, however, question the correlation between global warming and heat waves."

But here's one place where I just start to choke on the panicked claims.

Since July, 179 Americans, most of them Californians, have died in the current heat wave; more than 52,000 died during the 2003 episode in Europe, where air conditioning is less common.

Excuse me? A heat wave with the death toll of˙an Indonesian tsunami? Where does this number come from? Eilperin has no footnote. The data comes from the Earth Policy Institute, a group of hard-core greenies run by Lester Brown. Janet Larsen crunches her questionable numbers this way:

Of the new information that has trickled out over the last few years, the biggest surprise has come from Italy. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the summer of 2003 yielded more than 18,000 excess deaths when compared with 2002. In August alone, 9,700 fatalities were likely connected to the high temperatures, which in parts of Italy averaged 16 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the preceding year. These elevated numbers far exceed the Italian Health Ministry's early assessment that some 4,000 people died from heat country-wide during the hottest days.

The Italian site is here, although I can't find this data easily. But notice how much guesswork seems involved in this, that 10,000 fatalities were "likely" connected to the heat? And how can an Italian health ministry underestimate the number of heat-wave deaths by 14,000 people?

Reporters like Eilperin ought to note to readers that groups like the Earth Policy Institute are putting out their data with the intention of scaring people into liberal political action. As their own website explained their mission:

The Earth's capacity to support the economy continues to deteriorate. The gap between what we need to do to arrest the deterioration of the Earth and what we are doing continues to widen. Somehow we have to turn the tide. There is a need for a new initiative, a new organization, and a new organizational model, one engaged in a research program and research products that are designed for use by the media and that are directed at policymakers. The goal of the Earth Policy Institute is to raise public awareness to the point where it will support an effective public response to the threats posed by continuing population growth, rising CO2 emissions, the loss of plant and animal species, and the many other trends that are adversely affecting the Earth. The dissemination of information from the Institute is designed to help set the public agenda.

There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to set the public agenda. But it ought to make reporters more skeptical when they're dealing with scientific claims, especially big heat-wave death counts that suddenly spurt upward dramatically two or three years after the fact.

Natural fertilizer rejected

The Chinese and Indians wouldn't believe it!

Los Angeles is challenging a new voter-approved ban that will soon block the city from dumping almost all of its treated sewage on rural farm fields near Bakersfield. The lawsuit also contends the ban is forcing the city to seek alternative ways to dispose of the sludge "at a cost of millions of dollars and great environmental harm." Two Southern California sanitation districts, farmers who spread the biosolids on their land, and businesses that transport the sludge are also listed as plaintiffs.

Even though the waste isn`t spread on land where food is grown for market, the ban was overwhelmingly approved in June by Kern County voters who were convinced that the unsavory mixture fouls the air and endangers the groundwater in the area, about 115 miles north of Los Angeles. The ban takes effect at the end of the year.

The Environmental Protection Agency decided in the early 1990s that spreading treated sewage waste over farmland was preferable to sending it out to sea or pouring it in landfills. Since then, urban centers have trucked their sewage to rural areas, where the waste primarily is used as fertilizer for animal feed crops. Southern California sewage districts trucked about 470,000 tons of sewage sludge last year to Kern County, one of the nation`s most productive farming regions.


New Alaska oil leases being offered

The Interior Department is set to open a vast area of environmentally sensitive wetlands in Alaska to new oil drilling, even as opponents point to corroding pipelines to the east at Prudhoe Bay as a reason to keep the area off-limits. The lease sale, opposed by environmentalists and some members of Congress, comes as federal regulators and a House committee investigate inspection and maintenance programs of BP-Alaska where widespread pipeline corrosion forced the partial shutdown of Prudhoe Bay oil production Aug. 6.

Government geologists believe at least 2 billion barrels of oil and huge amounts of natural gas lie beneath the coastal lagoons, river deltas and sedge grass meadows - an area also where caribou give birth to their calves and thousands of geese migrate each summer to molt. The lake and its surrounding wetlands are within the federal National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), a vast area of 22 million acres set aside in 1923 by the federal government for its oil and gas resources.

They contend that the risks to the environment were reinforced by the recent disclosure of shoddy maintenance, inadequate inspections and corroded pipes that led to the partial shutdown of North Slope oil production. BP Alaska has said it is replacing two thirds of its 22-mile Prudhoe Bay feeder pipeline system because of corrosion. But the oil industry says it spends tens of millions of dollars for environmental protection on the North Slope and using modern technology can explore and develop oil fields in sensitive areas without a risk to wildlife and the environment.

Recently, 19 senators and 66 House members separately urged Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to reconsider offering leases in the Lake Teshekpuk area. Interior`s Bureau of Land Management said that in its upcoming lease offering it will limit the surface areas within the nearly 500,000 acres to protect geese molting and caribou calving areas. The restrictions apply to roads and drilling pads, but not to elevated 30-inch pipelines.

Edward Bovy, a spokesman for BLM-Alaska, said the agency`s restrictions on surface activity are aimed to protect the environment, but that pipeline safety and integrity "are separate issues" and do not affect leasing decisions.


Australia to expand its nuclear industry

The Bush administration has indicated it will support Australia developing a uranium enrichment industry, despite the White House's policy to restrict new entrants to the world nuclear club. In response to John Howard's campaign to ensure the existing nuclear powers do not lock Australia out of future nuclear development, a senior US official has said "special rules" apply to Australia and Canada. Dennis Spurgeon, assistant secretary for nuclear power at the US Department of Energy, said Australia and Canada were likely to be given special consideration because they would play a pivotal role in a new nuclear suppliers club the US is trying to establish. "I think Australia, and Canada for that matter, play a special role in world nuclear affairs because obviously you are two countries that have the majority of economically recoverable uranium resources," Mr Spurgeon said in an exclusive interview with The Australian yesterday.

Asked if this gave Australia and Canada a strong bargaining chip in negotiating their entry into a new nuclear club, he replied: "Exactly. So in any discussion, you have to take into account the facts as they lay." "I think Australia is viewed as a totally reliable and trustworthy country, so I don't think there is any issue there whatsoever."

The Government has launched an inquiry, headed by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, to examine the economics of expanding Australia's uranium mining sector, becoming involved in uranium enrichment and establishing a domestic nuclear power industry. It comes after the Bush administration unveiled last year the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which is designed to restrict the number of countries enriching uranium to existing players such as the US, Britain, China, Russia and France.

But under the GNEP, nuclear fuel would be shipped to feed energy-hungry developing countries and the spent fuel taken back to the supplier so it could not reprocessed and used for weapons. Its clear aim is to prevent nuclear proliferation as witnessed in rogue states such as North Korea and as fears grow that Iran's civilian nuclear push is simply a cover for nuclear weapons manufacture. It is also designed to promote a fuel source that does not produce greenhouse gases.

But the plan caught the Howard Government off guard and it was one of the main issues the Prime Minister raised with US President George W.Bush on his trip to Washington in May. Mr Howard then travelled to Canada to discuss the GNEP program with counterpart Stephen Harper. Last month, Mr Howard told The Australian he was not suspicious of the initiative "but I'm keen to keep an eye on it and keen to ensure it doesn't damage Australia's position".

The GNEP policy, as it stands, would freeze Australia out of the enrichment club and presents an awkward policy conflict between Australia and the US. Mr Spurgeon admitted the GNEP policy as envisaged presented an "unusual situation" in relation to Australia and Canada. "Any time you make a general rule you always find maybe it doesn't apply in all circumstances," he said. "The United States depends on, and wants to continue to have, a very close partnership and working relationship with Australia. "We end up with a little bit of an unusual situation here because the policy is really designed to try to help countries like Vietnam, for example, to be able to have the benefit of nuclear energy without needing that kind of enrichment plant and without needing a reprocessing facility."

Keen to assuage fears that Australia would not be dealt a bad hand in the program, Mr Spurgeon added that future discussions with Australia "comes down to the way in which we might jointly agree on a path forward for implementing the principles contained in GNEP". "But it is just that. It's a discussion. It's not a dictation in any manner of speaking. "We are pleased Australia is looking at nuclear energy and does want to be an active partner as we attempt to increase the use of nuclear energy worldwide in a responsible way." He stressed he was not in a position to make a definitive comment on what the administration's position would be on Australia enriching uranium, saying that was for the State Department to comment on. However, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Non-proliferation declined to comment.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


17 August, 2006

New Report Challenges 'Oil Addiction' Warning

The "rational choice" for meeting America's growing energy needs is to expand domestic oil exploration and production, says a new report released by The National Center for Public Policy Research. According to Dana Joel Gattuso, senior fellow at the National Center and author of the study, alternative energies - such as wind, corn, solar and hydrogen - are not viable replacements for a growing fossil fuel based economy that President Bush has warned is "addicted to oil." The study, titled "Oil Addiction Fiction: Bush's 'Addiction' May Be Rational Choice," examines the relatively high production costs and low energy return of several alternative fuels:

* Ethanol: Gattuso cites scientists David Pimentel of Cornell University and Tad Patzek of The University of California - Berkley who found that ethanol, a corn-based fuel, requires 29 percent more fossil fuel energy to make than it yields in energy use. Moreover, current levels of domestic corn production could not meet both America's food and energy needs.

* Biomass: Fuels converted from such sources as wood chips and switchgrass are "prohibitively costly to produce, require massive amounts of land, and are still experimental," writes Gattuso.

* Wind and Solar Power: Despite 40 years of development, wind power accounts for only less than one percent of total electric power capacity; solar power accounts for only one-tenth of one percent of all electric capacity.

Not only are alternative energy sources speculative for meeting America's future energy needs, they also cost taxpayers millions of dollars in subsidies each year to compete. President Bush's FY 2007 budget includes $150 million in earmarks for biomass fuels, as well as a 78 percent increase in research and development subsidies for solar energy.

Gattuso argues that instead of squandering millions of taxpayer handouts on speculative fuels, Congress should instead focus its efforts on furthering domestic oil exploration and production. "Even with energy prices moving upward and Chicken Little-like speculations that we're tapping out supplies, oil is still abundant and relatively inexpensive compared to alternative sources of energy like ethanol, solar & wind and hydrogen technology," writes Gattuso.

Tapping into domestic energy sources such as a small section of the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would likely yield some 10.4 billion barrels of oil, which would help bring down rising fuel prices. The U.S. imported roughly the same amount of oil from Saudi Arabia over a 25-year period. "The majority of Americans are calling for more oil production here on our own turf, and someone should be listening. President Bush might call it 'addiction;' others call it 'rational choice,'" says Gattuso.

This National Policy Analysis paper is available online here



The U.S. wine industry has entered the world of genetic engineering as some vintners experiment with a strain of yeast designed to eliminate chemicals in red wine that are believed to trigger headaches, including migraines, in some people. Scientific research, much of it conducted at the University of California, Davis, has long played an important role in improving the quality of grapes and wines produced in California and around the world. But genetic modification -- in this case inserting two genes into the DNA of a yeast species -- marks a new threshold for the industry.

As a result, the new biotech yeast is getting a wary reception in a wine industry that sells itself on its artisan reputation and is anxious not to ruffle export markets touchy about genetically modified foods. Experts also say the new yeast alters the flavor of wine. "As an industry, we're definitely interested in research when it comes to genetic engineering. But I don't think we're prepared to look at genetically modified products yet," said Paul Dolan, a winemaker and chairman of the Wine Institute, the California industry's leading advocacy group.

Still, the new yeast offers a promising way around the wine-headache problem. About 13 percent of Americans suffer migraines, according to the National Headache Foundation. Migraine patients are commonly told to avoid red wine, said Marco Vespignani, a naturopathic doctor at the Institute for Restorative Health in Davis.

At least a few wines made with the so-called ML01 yeast already are reaching consumers this year, according to Jason Rodriguez, wine products specialist for American Tartaric Products Inc., the California distributor of the yeast. He declined to identify any specific brands, though, and the wines aren't required to carry a special label.

In Northern California and Europe, where genetically modified foods have sparked controversy and strict regulation, a move to the new yeast could simply be trading one headache for another. The growing of genetically modified crops has been banned by voters or county supervisors in Mendocino, Trinity, Marin and Santa Cruz counties. And in Europe, nearly all foods made with significant amounts of genetically modified ingredients must carry a label. That requirement has driven U.S. food companies to avoid the use of such ingredients in products exported to EU countries. U.S. regulations don't require labels detailing whether a food contains genetically modified ingredients.

Wary of backlash in sensitive export markets, Australia's wine industry -- a key international competitor with California -- in November took an official position against the use of the new genetically modified yeast. On Monday, the Wine Institute, which represents many, but not all, of California's wineries, did the same, issuing a statement declaring "that no genetically modified organisms be used in the production of California wine." The institute, however, does not have the authority to keep wineries from using the new yeast.

California wine exports totaled $625 million in 2005, according to the Wine Institute. Six of 10 California winemakers contacted for this story knew of the new yeast, but none said they were using it. Outside the United States, only Moldova, in Eastern Europe, allows its winemakers to use the new yeast. Regulators in several other winemaking countries are reviewing it. The yeast's manufacturer, Lesaffre Yeast Corp. of Milwaukee, did not return calls seeking comment.

Here's how the ML01 yeast works:

Making red wine from crushed grapes usually involves two fermentation steps. In the first, yeasts convert the sugar in crushed grapes into alcohol. In the second, bacteria transform harsh malic acid into relatively mild lactic acid. Headache-causing chemicals can appear in the second step. If the wrong type of bacteria grow, they produce chemicals called amines. These cause reactions, such as headaches, in some people.

The ML01 yeast is able to perform both the first and the second fermentation steps, meaning that bacteria aren't needed at all. Thus, there's little chance of producing the undesirable amines. To give the ML01 yeast the special ability to perform both types of fermentation, researchers inserted a gene from a bacteria species and a second gene from a wild yeast strain into the DNA of a strain of a commercial wine yeast.

Linda Bisson, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, said the biggest winemaking change in the use of ML01 is the elimination of bacteria from the fermentation process. The tradeoff: Those bacteria add new flavors and aromas to the wine. She said skilled winemakers can avoid creating the headache-causing amines without sacrificing flavor.

The scientist who developed the ML01 yeast, University of British Columbia Professor Hennie van Vuuren, said wines made with it have fared well in taste tests against wines made from the same grapes using conventional fermentation techniques. "The quality of the wine was found to be higher -- it was more full," he said from his home in British Columbia.

Researchers around the world have developed a variety of other genetically modified yeasts, but ML01 is the first on the market. Grapevines, too, have long been a target for genetic engineering, with researchers hoping to give the plants desirable traits such as resistance to fungus and disease. It likely will be years, however, before genetically modified grapes are grown on a production scale.

Van Vuuren spent 16 years developing ML01. He receives no royalties from its commercial sales, and said his motivation to develop the yeast grew from personal experience: Red wine gave him headaches, and he wanted to change that. "I didn't do it for a big corporation," he said. "I did it because I loved wine."


Where's global warming when you need it?

Global warming should cause more avaporation off the oceans and hence more rainfall. But all we read of at the moment is the opposite v-- drought. There are severe water restrictions because of drought in Britain and Australia and now we read (below) of drought in China

YI Mudan sighs as her flock of sheep and goats push their way to the water troughs after a morning grazing on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. "We try to use our well water but there isn't enough," she says. "We have to ask for tankers to come from the town to make sure the animals have enough."

Drought is making itself felt across China. Horses, cattle and sheep are already beginning to starve in some parts of Inner Mongolia's grasslands. In central Sichuan province, China's grain basket, vast tracts of crops have withered. Across the country, more than 2.4million hectares have been ruined - an area 21 per cent larger than in previous years. Water levels along the mighty Yangtze, China's longest river, have dropped sharply, falling more than 10m in a matter of weeks. Where the river flows through the huge city of Chongqing, the water level is just 3.5m - its lowest in a century.

Across southwest China 17million people no longer have access to clean drinking water. Worst-hit is Suining, in northern Sichuan, where just 3.3cm of rain fell between June 21 and July31 - the smallest amount recorded since 1947. The only source for these poor farmers is water trucks sent by local officials. Animals are starting to die.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has called a special meeting and ordered officials in affected provinces to take urgent measures to reduce the impact on farmers. The ruling Communist Party has repeatedly voiced concerns about the livelihood of farmers, who make up about two-thirds of China's 1.3 billion people.

As economic reforms bring prosperity to residents of cities and coastal regions, the hundreds of millions who still make their living from the land are being left behind. The widening income gap has led to increasing discontent and incidents of unrest have been rising.

Yi farms her 1200 sheep and 200 goats across 690ha of grassland but she has rented additional land from neighbours because the deteriorating grass can no longer sustain her animals. "When my children were young, the grass was so long that the only way to find them was to stand on a wall and where I could see the grass moving was where they were playing," she says. "Now you could find a needle on the ground." Such natural disasters may no longer bring famine to China. But the spectre of farmers with barely enough to eat and dying animals is a huge anxiety for the nation's leaders in their attempt to avoid political instability.


WWF Too Close To Tim Flannery & Government?

Post lifted from Jennifer Marohasy

Clive Hamilton, Executive Director of The Australian Institute, has written a rather pointed piece for today's Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that Tim Flannery, author of a recent book on global warming, is "a trump card" in Prime Minister John Howard's "nuclear power play". It also suggests that the government has bought off environment group the WWF:

"WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature) is the foremost of the friendly organisations. It is close to the Government, providing a stream of favourable commentary on its policies and bestowing several awards for the Government's environmental achievements, including three "Gift to the Earth" awards, which the Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, displays in his office. In return, the Government has been generous, sending tens of millions to the fund for various programs.

The force behind the emergence of the organisation as the leading group backing the Government's environment policy is the businessman Robert Purves. He has made a very large donation to WWF and is now its president.

Purves has drawn Tim Flannery into the orbit of conservative environmentalism by funding the preparation of Flannery's book on climate change, The Weather Makers. ... Purves is said to have spent $1 million promoting Flannery's book, including costly backlit billboards outside Qantas Club lounges around the country."

This is not the first time Clive Hamilton has thrown mud at WWF, his first shot was perhaps publication of a report titled 'Taming The Panda' just a couple of years ago.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


16 August, 2006

The case for neglecting global warming

In the July 30 edition of The New York Times, Gina Kolata reports on recent research findings on the health of modern citizens of industrialized countries. You might expect that this research reveals us denizens of early 21st-century capitalist economies to be staggeringly unhealthy -- our physiques so obese and flabby, our arteries so clogged with cholesterol, our lungs so inundated with pollutants and our brains and spirits so burdened with stress that we are aging faster and suffering more than ever before. In fact, the opposite is true. The great majority of us today enjoy unprecedented good health. According to The Times:

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone "a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today.

The closest this long report comes to offering up bad news is to acknowledge that some experts believe that today's childhood obesity will eventually negate, or seriously subtract from, these remarkable health gains. But this prediction seems silly in light of the colossal, documented health gains that people in the West have enjoyed over the past five or six generations.

And although The Times' report avoids firmly answering the question "why?," the reason for this much-improved health isn't hard to find given that these health gains have been greatest in the industrialized world and that they started within the past two centuries.

The answer, in a word, is "capitalism." Capitalism produces so much food that we are never malnourished; it produces ample clothing and sturdy homes to protect us from the elements; it produces the soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and detergents that we use every day to cleanse our bodies and living spaces of bacteria and other dirt. And by continually substituting machines for human labor, capitalism progressively makes our work less backbreaking and less perilous. These gains are significant and real. And they are continuing; no one knows where, or even if, they will stop.

Those of us who recognize these important benefits of capitalism -- those of us who understand that capitalism's true greatness lies not (as many critics insinuate) in producing oceans of pointless trinkets and baubles but in making the lives of ordinary people richer and fuller and longer -- are reluctant to yield power to governments to tackle global warming. We worry that this power will kill the goose that's laying this golden egg.

If you think that such a worry is exaggerated, recall the language Al Gore used in his book "Earth in the Balance." The former Vice President asserted that we are suffering an "environmental crisis" that can be avoided only if we "drastically change our civilization and our way of thinking."

"Drastically change our civilization." Hmmm. This sounds like a call to significantly scale back markets, trade and industrial activities in order to lessen humankind's "footprint" on the Earth and its environment. We can, no doubt, make our environmental footprint smaller -- but how great a benefit will this achievement be if it returns us to the ages-old condition of high mortality and morbidity?

Undoubtedly, most people who seek government action to fight global warming are "reasonable." They envision no drastic changes to our civilization. And I concede that, in principle, cost-effective steps to reduce global warming are possible. But I'm sure that it's also true that most of the "reasonable" people who demand action against global warming are unaware of the critical role that capitalism plays in improving the lives of ordinary men and women.

So given this fact along with the hysterical language used by the likes of Al Gore -- who, after all, is not on society's fringes -- it's a perfectly legitimate stance for truly reasonable people to conclude that the best policy regarding global warming is to neglect it -- and let capitalism continue to make us healthier and wealthier.



Yesterday I had the opportunity of going to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. This is a beautiful show of art and music, explaining the history of art, though the paintings have live people in them. Unless you knew that in advance, you would think it was just a blow up of the painting. This is a wonderful experience and a chance even for those of us that don't understand art to gain an appreciation of the colors and the stories behind each rendition and the artists values, motives and history--I could pass a test, if this was the way art history was taught.

While I knew this was going to be an exciting evening, I also dreaded going to the event. I live in Simi Valley, about 100 miles from Laguna. Even on a Sunday afternoon, you need to give yourself significant extra time, just to make sure you weren't caught in a traffic jam. Sure enough, once we hit the Westside of Los Angeles on the 405 Freeway, we came to a halt. This went on for several miles. No accident, no "lookie lou's", no animals on the freeway. Instead, lots of work NOT BEING DONE on the freeway, to expand lanes and repair a system not fixed in years. At one point the freeway goes from five lanes to three lanes--imagine the bottleneck that creates--I know, I was in it. For several miles you can see gigantic equipment and pick up trucks, bulldozers and other equipment all meant to make the 405 somewhat workable again.

But, on a Sunday afternoon, not a soul working, just the results of the potential to see.

Earlier last week I was driving on the 23 Freeway, which connects the 101 with the 118. It is a short freeway, maybe eight or nine miles. It is four lanes, two each way. But an expansion is going on. A local newspaper noted that this should be completed by 2010 (not a typo). The 118 is also adding a lane--no one knows for sure when that effort will be completed. I am sure in your area, the same. Lots of disruptions, bottlenecks and construction that will go on for years. But the work week is five days (if that) and the hours are maybe 7:00am till about 2:30pm.

The upshot is higher costs, cars burning gas in traffic jams and an increase in "greenhouse" gas causing more Global Warming ( for those that believe in this). Not to speak about roadrage being created, grumpy people showing up at events and work and some, just not going to places they absolutely don't have to go. In almost every other place in this country, when you ask people how far is it, from here to there, they tell you in miles. In California, we answer with minutes and hours--miles don't count. Try going from Danville to San Francisco at 7:00am on a Wednesday morning--will you have any sanity left when you arrive?

That is why I nominate Governor Pete Wilson as one of the all time great governors of California. He proved that government can work, when we must make it work. When the January 17,1994 earthquake hit, the 118, the 405, the 5 and other freeways in the Los Angeles area had huge sections that had totally collapsed. The first estimates were a minimum of three years to fix the roads--and at an outrageous cost. This would destroy the Southern California economy, jobs lost, businesses closed and an exodus that had not happened in California before.

Instead of raising taxes, bemoaning his bad luck, not blaming the Federal government for not acting quickly enough, Gov. Pete Wilson, like the Marine he will always be, took action.

By Executive Order he temporarily ended many environmental laws that were only meant to slow the building process and to make it more costly. He put aside the phony "prevailing wage" laws that are meant to provide unions with tribute for their donations to hack politicians. Then he did what private industry does--he gave a bonus to construction firms that finished ahead of schedule. Most government contracts have penalties for finishing late. Wilson understood that the public was being inconvenienced and business could not operate without a solid freeway system. Instead of three years, almost all the needed work was completed in eight months, and the most needed in less than three months. Businesses made money, union workers and non union workers got paid premium wages, yet the State of California saved money. It was a win win situation for all.

Instead of taking over 2 years to fix the 10 Freeway, it took 66 days. Here is an article written by Gov. Wilson on how he did it: Three shifts, working 24/7 made the completion in a little over two months, not two years! Reason magazine did a complete analysis of how Wilson repaired the freeways, this is a must read for those that say we need a $20 billion bond, what we need is a system that works today, not a repair schedule that goes out twenty years

Yesterday I saw empty, non working equipment on the 405--Wilson would not allow that. I contend we are in a freeway crisis as bad, if not worse than the 1994 earthquake disaster. Instead of saving money, government wants to throw money at the problem. Instead of fixing it today, they want to take twenty years (which means they really don't want to fix it). Instead of saving gas, they want to continue gridlock. Instead of handling greenhouse gases, they have no problem promoting policies that grow the problem, and then create legislation that harms families and business.

The answer is simple. Governor Schwarzenegger should make former Governor Pete Wilson the czar of fixing the freeways. Allow him to use the same methods and via Executive Order, use the same powers he used in 1994, to fix the freeways. Either take the crisis serious or don't wring your hands about gridlock, freeways that don't work, hours lost in traffic and folks "cocooning" even more because they can't get anywhere.


Deep-sea sediments could safely store man-made carbon dioxide

Deep-sea sediments could provide a virtually unlimited and permanent reservoir for carbon dioxide, the gas that has been a primary driver of global climate change in recent decades, according to a team of scientists that includes a professor from MIT. The researchers estimate that seafloor sediments within U.S. territory are vast enough to store the nation's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for thousands of years to come.

"The exciting thing about this paper is that we show that CO2 injected beneath the seafloor is sequestered permanently," said Charles Harvey, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Harvey is a co-author of a paper on the work that appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "CO2 injected underground on land is buoyant, and hence has the potential to escape back to the surface," Harvey said. "This is not the case under the deep ocean. Because the ocean floor is so cold, liquid CO2 stored beneath the floor is denser than water and will not rise to surface. Furthermore, the top of the injected CO2 plume will form a hydrate, an ice-like solid that plugs up the pore spaces, 'self-sealing' the injected CO2 plume into the deep sea sediments."

The leader of the work, Daniel P. Schrag, said, "Supplying the energy demanded by world economic growth without affecting the Earth's climate is one of the most pressing technical and economic challenges of our time." Schrag is a professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. "Since fossil fuels -- particularly coal -- are likely to remain the dominant energy source of the 21st century, stabilizing the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide will require permanent storage of enormous quantities of captured carbon dioxide safely away from the atmosphere," Schrag said.

The scientists say an ideal storage method could be the injection of carbon dioxide into ocean sediments hundreds of meters thick. The combination of low temperature and high pressure at ocean depths of 3,000 meters turns carbon dioxide into a liquid denser than the surrounding water, removing the possibility of escape and ensuring virtually permanent storage. Injecting carbon dioxide into seafloor sediments rather than squirting it directly into the ocean traps the gas, minimizing damage to marine life while ensuring that the gas will not eventually escape to the atmosphere via the mixing action of ocean currents.

At sufficiently extreme deep-sea temperatures and pressures, carbon dioxide moves beyond its liquid phase to form solid and immobile hydrate crystals, further boosting the system's stability. The scientists say that thus stored, the gas would be secure enough to withstand even the most severe earthquakes or other geomechanical upheaval.

Other researchers have proposed storing carbon dioxide in geologic formations such as natural gas fields, but terrestrial reservoirs run a risk of leakage. "Deep-sea sediments represent an enormous storage reservoir," said Kurt Zenz House, a Harvard graduate student involved in the research. "Some 22 percent, or 1.3 million square kilometers, of the seafloor within the United States' exclusive economic zone is more than 3,000 meters deep. Since we estimate that the annual U.S. emission of carbon dioxide could be stored in sediments beneath just 80 square kilometers, the seafloor within U.S. territory could store our nation's excess carbon dioxide for thousands of years to come."

Outside the United States' 200-mile economic zone, the scientists write, the total carbon dioxide storage capacity in deep-sea sediments is essentially unlimited. The scientists note that thin or permeable sediments are inappropriate for carbon dioxide storage, as are areas beneath steep deep-sea slopes, where landslides could free the gas. They add that further assessment of the mechanical feasibility of delivering carbon dioxide to the seafloor, as well as study of possible effects on sea levels, is needed.


Farmers vs. Greenies in Australia

My mother is from a West Australian farming family, so we all grew up believing farmers to be the ultimate environmentalists. They know the land better than anyone and are motivated to care for it because they depend on its health for their livelihood. True to her roots, my mother was recycling, conserving and composting for years before it became fashionable. She walks around the house turning off lights and wears layers of jumpers before turning on a heater. She can't venture into the street without picking up litter and pulling up stray weeds. And yet she is completely alienated by the big city green movements.

It has dawned on me, from talking to green group spokespeople over the years, that the feeling is mutual. Greenies feel towards farmers the way Hezbollah does towards Israel. No mercy, no compromise. Farmers are environmental vandals who must be driven off their land - compensated, if need be, with taxpayer money, like the loggers driven out of once thriving timber towns.

There is no better example of this attitude than the Wilderness Society's campaign on land clearing, complete with heart-tugging posters of trees and the slogan: "It's like bulldozing Waltzing Matilda". It claims farmers are damaging the environment by illegally clearing the equivalent of six cricket grounds every hour in western NSW. It has been pressuring the Government to introduce increasingly draconian regulations controlling native vegetation, to the point at which farmers can't work their land any more. The result has been an effective state seizure of private land on the western plains to create cheap national parks.

Apart from the injustice to farmers, the problem is that much of the native vegetation is invasive scrub, what farmers call "woody weed", which has smothered other species, including native grasses that had held the soil together for thousands of years.

Aborigines used to manage the land by periodically burning it, to keep the invasive scrub at bay. But now, with the greenies in charge, the weeds are on the march. So instead of buying a new tractor this winter, the farmers and small businesspeople of Nyngan and Cobar have hired a Sydney public relations firm to run a counter-campaign they hope will save their farms.

The Wilderness Society shows aerial photos of the western plains showing what looks like thriving new tracts of native vegetation, while, on the ground, the farmers respond with press releases and photos to show the reality - parched, bare and badly eroded soil. As Cobar farmer Alastair McRobert told Channel Nine's Sunday program last week: "They're not forests. They're weeds. They have encroached on beautiful native grasslands and taken it over, smothered them out and they're degrading the soil."

Farmers such as McRobert have to fill out 70-page forms and work through all sorts of bureaucratic green tape to beg for permission to rehabilitate their own land and stop the soil erosion. It is a surreal situation, but the purpose of the native vegetation regulations was never really about the environment. It was all about winning Green preferences in inner-city seats. And as long as they get rid of farmers, true greenies don't care if they wreck the environment in the process.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


15 August, 2006


Below is an excerpt from the conclusions of a report by The Institute for Public Policy Research -- A British "Progressive" think-tank, showing the usual Leftist preference for propaganda over facts. Their dishonest approach is already evident in the media

Treating climate change as beyond argument

Much of the noise in the climate change discourse comes from argument and counter-argument, and it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. This must be done by stepping away from the `advocates debate' described earlier, rather than by stating and re-stating these things as fact.

The `facts' need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.The certainty of the Government's new climate-change slogan - `Together this generation will tackle climate change' (Defra 2006) - gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality.

Where science is invoked, it now needs to be as `lay science' - offering lay explanations for what is being treated as a simple established scientific fact, just as the earth's rotation or the water cycle are considered....

Inevitably, these conclusions lead us to treat climate-change communications in the same way as brand communications: we have to approach positive climate behaviours in the same way as marketeers approach acts of buying and consuming. This is the relevant context for climate change communications in the UK today - not the increasingly residual models of public service or campaigning communications. It amounts to treating climate-friendly everyday activity as a brand that can be sold........


And the evils of dandelions

There may be plenty of unwanted fish in the sea for government ecologists, but often those invasive aquatic species are a boon to local anglers. Take the brown trout. A European native, the trout was introduced into America in the late 19th century and can now be found in bodies of fresh water from coast to coast.

Though they may might provide tasty meals after lazy summer afternoons, new fish species come at a cost greater than a bucket of worms. "There's a number of either purposely introduced, or accidentally introduced, species that have provided quite a recreational resource," said George Madison, fisheries supervisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the Western Upper Peninsula. "So while smelt can be desired by people, or brown trout or rainbow trout, it's very clear that they out-compete the native species."

In the Great Lakes region, the introduction of salmon has changed the aquatic landscape, displacing native fish such as the coaster brook trout, a minnow forager. As larger fish destroyed the vegetation, the minnow population declined, spelling doom for the coaster brook trout.

Near Provo, Utah, residents stocked Utah Lake with carp in the 1890s for fishing. "Now they make up well over 90 percent of the biomass of that lake," said Scott Root, the conservation outreach manager at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. His agency actively looks for ways to get rid of them.

Carp also cause headaches for Bob Davis, an area fisheries supervisor at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "That's the single biggest problem with invasive species that we have," Davis said. "The carp really has no natural enemies. With its feeding habits, it uproots the established vegetation in the lakes and streams and clouds the water and makes things undesirable for many other species."

Stocking your pond with an exotic fish might make for a fishing challenge, but it's also likely to cause an epic ecological battle that may never be won. "I'm always reminded of dandelions," Madison said. "Evidently they were brought over by a European who wanted to enjoy dandelions when he came to the United States - and you see the great field of dandelions we have now."



Post lifted from FuturePundit

The use of thorium to power nuclear reactors holds out the prospect of a huge reduction in nuclear wastes, a nuclear fuel cycle that is much more proliferation resistant, lower costs, and a fuel that is many times more plentiful than uranium. Australian science writer Tim Dean examines the prospects for thorium reactors in a recent article and finds two avenues of technological advance that might make thorium powered nuclear reactors feasible. The more immediately promising approach uses a mixture of thorium with other radioactive materials.

The main stumbling block until now has been how to provide thorium fuel with enough neutrons to keep the reaction going, and do so in an efficient and economical way.

In recent years two new technologies have been developed to do just this.

One company that has already begun developing thorium-fuelled nuclear power is the aptly named Thorium Power, based just outside Washington DC. The way Thorium Power gets around the sub-criticality of thorium is to create mixed fuels using a combination of enriched uranium, plutonium and thorium.

At the centre of the fuel rod is the 'seed' for the reaction, which contains plutonium.

Wrapped around the core is the 'blanket', which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium. The seed then provides the necessary neutrons to the blanket to kick-start the thorium fuel cycle. Meanwhile, the plutonium and uranium are also undergoing fission.

The primary benefit of Thorium Power's system is that it can be used in existing nuclear plants with slight modification, such as Russian VVER-1000 reactors. Seth Grae, president and chief executive of Thorium Power, and his team are actively working with the Russians to develop a commercial product by the end of this decade. They already have thorium fuel running in the IR-8 research reactor at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.

The potential to use existing reactors to burn thorium lowers the barrier to use of thorium. Success in existing reactors could catalyze the construction of new reactors designed to use thorium from their start.

He also goes over Carlo Rubbia's proposal to use a particle accelerator to shoot a stream of protons into a thorium reactor.

AN ALTERNATIVE DESIGN does away with the requirements for uranium or plutonium altogether, and relies on thorium as its primary fuel source. This design, which was originally dubbed an Energy Amplifier but has more recently been named an Accelerator Driven System (ADS), was proposed by Italian Nobel physics laureate Carlos Rubbia, a former director of one of the world's leading nuclear physics labs, CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

An ADS reactor is sub-critical, which means it needs help to get the thorium to react. To do this, a particle accelerator fires protons at a lead target. When struck by high-energy protons the lead, called a spallation target, releases neutrons that collide with nuclei in the thorium fuel, which begins the fuel cycle that ends in the fission of U-233.

Governments should accelerate research into new nuclear reactor designs that promise to lower wastes and reduce costs.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


14 August, 2006


August 2006 journal abstract from here

By Andrew J. Monaghan et al

Antarctic snowfall exhibits substantial variability over a range of time scales, with consequent impacts on global sea level and the mass balance of the ice sheets. To assess how snowfall has affected the thickness of the ice sheets in Antarctica and to provide an extended perspective, we derived a 50-year time series of snowfall accumulation over the continent by combining model simulations and observations primarily from ice cores. There has been no statistically significant change in snowfall since the 1950s, indicating that Antarctic precipitation is not mitigating global sea level rise as expected, despite recent winter warming of the overlying atmosphere.

(IF the planet is warming up there should be MORE snow falling)


One of the better spoofs of Ecoenquirer

(Washington, DC) The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to classify water vapor as a pollutant, due to its central role in global warming. Because water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for at least 90% of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect, its emission during many human activities, such as the burning of fuels, is coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators.

Until now, the carbon dioxide produced during the burning of fuels has been the main concern. The extra carbon dioxide causes a manmade enhancement of the greenhouse effect. But water vapor is also produced by combustion of most fuels, as well as by industry and utilities that use water for cooling. The EPA would be able to regulate its manmade sources if it is classified as a pollutant.

EPA Director of the Department of Pollutant Decrees, Ray Donaldson, said, "Back before carbon dioxide was dangerous, we simply assumed that water vapor was also benign. But all reputable scientists now agree that the increased water vapor content of the atmosphere from such sources as burning of fuels and power plant cooling towers will also enhance the greenhouse effect, leading to potentially catastrophic warming."

If successful, the push to classify water vapor as a dangerous pollutant would impact virtually everyone. For instance, homeowners could see a wide variety of common activities that cause evaporation being regulated: watering the lawn, or using a hot tub or swimming pool.

"Right now, we are not so concerned about the water vapor exhaled by people. That is low on our list of priorities", said Mr. Donaldson. "We'll tackle that manmade source at a later time." One likely result of such regulation would be an additional tax on fuels used by cars, trucks, passenger jets, and a wide variety of industries and utilities.

Predictably, the Bush Administration has voiced opposition to any regulation of water vapor emissions. White House staffer Lew Moninsky told ecoEnquirer, "This is simply ridiculous. The EPA wants to regulate all human activity out of existence. What about the massive amounts of water vapor being evaporated from the world's oceans every second? That's OK?, but human production of small amounts of vapor isn't? If it weren't for water vapor, there would be no rainfall! Give me a break!"

"Well, of course the Administration would say that...", said Mr. Donaldson, "..they're in the pocket of 'big oil' anyway."

The EPA is rumored to have a rather extensive list of potential pollutants in addition to water vapor, and some insiders claim that all known chemical compounds are targeted for future regulation. When informed of the rumored list of chemicals, Mr. Moninsky asked, "Well, since everything is made of chemicals, I guess that means that even every molecule of your body will be subject to regulation as well, doesn't it?"

Asked for their position on the matter, Greenpolice spokesperson Rainbow Treetower stated, "Our basic policy is, if it's good for people, it's bad for the planet."


In the past few decades, a handful of scientists have come up with big, futuristic ways to fight global warming: Build sunshades in orbit to cool the planet. Tinker with clouds to make them reflect more sunlight back into space. Trick oceans into soaking up more heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Their proposals were relegated to the fringes of climate science. Few journals would publish them. Few government agencies would pay for feasibility studies. Environmentalists and mainstream scientists said the focus should be on reducing greenhouse gases and preventing global warming in the first place.

But now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming. Worried about a potential planetary crisis, these leaders are calling on governments and scientific groups to study exotic ways to reduce global warming, seeing them as possible fallback positions if the planet eventually needs a dose of emergency cooling. "We should treat these ideas like any other research and get into the mind-set of taking them seriously," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

The plans and proposed studies are part of a controversial field known as geoengineering, which means rearranging the earth's environment on a large scale to suit human needs and promote habitability. Dr. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist, will detail his arguments in favor of geoengineering studies in the August issue of the journal Climatic Change.

Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Cicerone is also encouraging leading scientists to join the geoengineering fray. In April, at his invitation, Roger P. Angel, a noted astronomer at the University of Arizona, spoke at the academy's annual meeting. Dr. Angel outlined a plan to put into orbit small lenses that would bend sunlight away from earth - trillions of lenses, he now calculates, each about two feet wide, extraordinarily thin and weighing little more than a butterfly. In addition, Dr. Cicerone recently joined a bitter dispute over whether a Nobel laureate's geoengineering ideas should be aired, and he helped get them accepted for publication. The laureate, Paul J. Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, is a star of atmospheric science who won his Nobel in 1995 for showing how industrial gases damage the earth's ozone shield. His paper newly examines the risks and benefits of trying to cool the planet by injecting sulfur into the stratosphere.

The paper "should not be taken as a license to go out and pollute," Dr. Cicerone said in an interview, emphasizing that most scientists thought curbing greenhouse gases should be the top priority. But he added, "In my opinion, he's written a brilliant paper." Geoengineering is no magic bullet, Dr. Cicerone said. But done correctly, he added, it will act like an insurance policy if the world one day faces a crisis of overheating, with repercussions like melting icecaps, droughts, famines, rising sea levels and coastal flooding. "A lot of us have been saying we don't like the idea" of geoengineering, he said. But he added, "We need to think about it" and learn, among other things, how to distinguish sound proposals from ones that are ineffectual or dangerous.

Many scientists still deride geoengineering as an irresponsible dream with more risks and potential bad side effects than benefits; they call its extreme remedies a good reason to redouble efforts at reducing heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. And skeptics of human-induced global warming dismiss geoengineering as a costly effort to battle a mirage.

Even so, many analysts say the prominence of its new advocates is giving the field greater visibility and credibility and adding to the likelihood that global leaders may one day consider taking such emergency steps. "People used to say, 'Shut up, the world isn't ready for this,' " said Wallace S. Broecker, a geoengineering pioneer at Columbia. "Maybe the world has changed."

Michael C. MacCracken, chief scientist of the Climate Institute, a private research group in Washington, said he was resigned to the need to take geoengineering seriously. "It's really too bad," Dr. MacCracken said, "that the United States and the world cannot do much more so that it's not necessary to consider getting addicted to one of these approaches."

Martin A. Apple, president of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, said of geoengineering at a recent meeting in Washington, "Let's talk about research funding with enough zeroes on it so we can make a dent."

The study of futuristic countermeasures began quietly in the 1960's, as scientists theorized that global warming caused by human-generated emissions might one day pose a serious threat. But little happened until the 1980's, when global temperatures started to rise. Some scientists noted that the earth reflected about 30 percent of incoming sunlight back into space and absorbed the rest. Slight increases of reflectivity, they reasoned, could easily counteract heat-trapping gases, thereby cooling the planet. Dr. Broecker of Columbia proposed doing so by lacing the stratosphere with tons of sulfur dioxide, as erupting volcanoes occasionally do. The injections, he calculated in the 80's, would require a fleet of hundreds of jumbo jets and, as a byproduct, would increase acid rain.

By 1997, such futuristic visions found a prominent advocate in Edward Teller, a main inventor of the hydrogen bomb. "Injecting sunlight-scattering particles into the stratosphere appears to be a promising approach," Dr. Teller wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "Why not do that?"

But government agencies usually balked at paying researchers to study such far-out ideas, and even ones that were more down to earth. John Latham, an atmospheric physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told how he and his colleagues had unsuccessfully sought for many years to test whether spraying saltwater mists into low ocean clouds might increase their reflectivity. "We haven't found a way in," Dr. Latham said of government financing. "It's been a bit dispiriting."

Other plans called for reflective films to be laid over deserts or white plastic islands to be floated on the world's oceans, both as ways to reflect more sunlight into space. Another idea was to fertilize the sea with iron, creating vast blooms of plants that would gulp down tons of carbon dioxide and, as the plants died, drag the carbon into the abyss.

The general reaction to such ideas, said Alvia Gaskill, president of Environmental Reference Materials Inc., a consulting firm in North Carolina that advocates geoengineering, "has been dismissive and sometimes frightened - afraid that we don't know what the consequences will be of making large-scale changes to the environment." Dr. Gaskill said small experiments would let researchers quickly pull the plug if such tinkering started to go awry.

Critics of geoengineering argued that it made more sense to avoid global warming than to gamble on risky fixes. They called for reducing energy use, developing alternative sources of power and curbing greenhouse gases. But international efforts like the Kyoto Protocol - which the United States never ratified, and which China and India as members of the developing world never had to obey, freeing the current and projected leaders in greenhouse gas emissions from its restrictions - have so far failed to diminish the threat. Scientists estimate that the earth's surface temperature this century may rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Geoengineering's advocates say humankind is already vastly altering the global environment and simply needs to do so more intelligently.....

More here


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


13 August, 2006


Paper from here

Early Holocene climate variability and the timing and extent of the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM) in northern Iceland

By Chris Caseldine, Peter Langdon and Naomi Holmes


The magnitude and timing of Holocene maximum warmth in the Arctic and sub-Arctic has been the subject of considerable recent interest, particularly in the context of future climate change. Although lying at a crucial location in the North Atlantic close to significant atmospheric and oceanic boundaries, terrestrial Holocene climatic data from Iceland are few and predominantly derive from glacial and palaeoecological evidence. Here we present new datasets from Trollaskagi, based on chironomid-inferred temperatures (CI-T), using sub-fossil chironomids from the same lake sediments supplemented by pollen data. July air temperatures have been derived using an Icelandic training set, and the data suggest optimal temperatures at sea level up to 1.5 degrees C above current levels around 8 k cal. yr BP, a time when birch woodland was well developed in Trollaskagi, but when woodland had still not fully developed in the more isolated NW peninsula. Our data thus suggest that optimal summer warmth did not occur in Iceland until 8 kcal. yr BP at the earliest, possibly lasting until 6.7 kcal. yr BP. The amount of warming for July was therefore at least 1.5 degrees C, but possibly up to 2-3 degrees C higher than the 1961-1990 average on the basis of the tree-line data. Comparison with data from elsewhere in adjacent Arctic regions, Greenland and Eastern Arctic Canada show peak warmth to be later in Iceland, and less pronounced. It also appears that there were enhanced temperature gradients during the first half of the Holocene between the two study areas Trollaskagi and the NW Peninsula and that they influenced patterns of vegetation colonisation, with current spatial temperature patterns only developing as Holocene climate deteriorated after around 6 kcal. yr BP.


In my work, I look at how societies throughout history have dealt with climate change. Britain has gone through extreme cold periods like the Ice Age. Then we had warm periods in the Middle Ages, cold periods again, and we are now in a warm period. All societies have different experiences with the weather. The question is: how can they become less vulnerable to climate change and build up their resilience? We have to look at coping with and adapting to these weather events, because - in the short term at least - we will not be able to change it.

I do not think anyone is questioning we are now in a period of global warming, so we should expect summers to get hotter. But there is no way that, in the next one or two generations, we will be able to do anything about global warming. Although Britain is trying to do something, most countries cannot. Even Europe as a whole is failing to control carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, in the Far East, China is building one coal-fired power station a week.

There is still a debate on how much of global warming is due to human input and how much is simply a case of natural warming cycles. However, we should forget about the science behind global warming - that is irrelevant. What matters is what people do to protect themselves when a hot summer is on the way. People say this is the hottest summer since 1911. All that means is they must have had a terribly hot heat wave 95 years ago. What caused that? There was no global warming in 1911 and carbon dioxide emissions were far below today's. Who did they blame back then? Perhaps God. Or maybe they just put it down to freak weather.

We have had periods in the last few thousand years where it was much warmer than it is today. It is nothing people cannot cope with. It is just unusual because individuals have such short memories.

Many years ago, societies were more rigid and could not cope with climate change. Many were agricultural, and if they had a drought, a failed crop could lead to starvation. But this is nothing we are concerned about today. A lot of people are not that unhappy about the warm climate. Older people suffer if they have not got support. But, by and large, children and normal people love it, and it is not causing an economic or social disaster.

I personally think, from a scientific perspective, it is irrelevant whether the current heatwave is due to a freak weather event or caused by a general warming trend, because there will always be heat waves. In the near future, whether global warming is man-made or not, we will still have to deal with the consequences. It is an illusion to think we can reverse that trend. To cut a long story short, people need to live with hot summers.


Antarctic Snowfall Snafu Derails Climate Models

An improved method of measuring Antarctic snowfall has revealed that previous records showing an increase in precipitation are not accurate, even over a half-century. In the August 10 edition of Science magazine, researchers explain that their analysis of ice cores and snow pits revealed that precipitation levels in the Antarctic have in fact remained steady. The upshot of the study is that models assessing climate-change may need to be revised, as they can no longer be deemed accurate.

The multinational Antarctic team comprised 16 researchers who wanted to amass snowfall data going back 50 years to the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The data taken from the IGY is regarded as the first real study of the Antarctic, which has been ongoing ever since. This time around, however, the team found that their data contradicted computer models used to calculate global climate change, where most predict an increase in precipitation as atmospheric temperatures increase. "There were no statistically significant trends in snowfall accumulation over the past five decades, including recent years for which global mean temperatures have been warmest," said lead author Andrew Monaghan, a research associate with Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center.

During the expedition, the team used data from ice core samples, networks of snow stakes and meteorological observations. Not satisfied with this data alone, the team also included ice core records from the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), another multinational research program that began in 1990 in order to reconstruct the continent's climate history. The latest team's voracious accumulation of data coupled with a thorough analysis provides the most accurate study to-date of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and the thicker East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS).

Recent observations of the WAIS, a marine ice sheet with a base below sea level, show that vast quantities of ice are melting at a faster rate than previously recorded. Many observers consider this and an increase in calving icebergs along the Antarctic's margins to be evidence of global warming. The team's findings also counter climate-change skeptics who consider a thickening of Antarctica's enormous ice sheets has stemmed the gradual rise in global sea levels.

The new study shows that current climate-change models need to be revamped if scientists are to have a more accurate representation of Antarctic weather patterns. "The year-to-year and decadal variability of the snowfall is so large that it makes it nearly impossible to distinguish trends that might be related to climate change from even a 50-year record," said Monaghan.


Getting off on global warming

A new report labels alarmist reporting about the environment as 'climate porn'. But it takes a missionary position on changing our lifestyles.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently commissioned Linguistic Landscapes, a consultancy specialising in applying discourse analysis to business and marketing issues, to analyse current conceptions of climate change in the UK and to stimulate ‘climate-friendly behaviour’. The conclusions were summarised in the report Warm Words: how are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?

The authors of Warm Words, textual analysts Gill Ereaut and Nat Segnit, were surely aware that their characterisation of alarmist climate change stories as ‘climate porn’ would generate headlines. They must be pleased to have made a rather dry and academic paper so newsworthy, even though the main message passed unnoticed by the general public.

Pornography literally means the writing of harlots. However, Ereaut and Segnit would not go so far as to say that the green doom mongers are in it for the money. After all, the authors appear to have signed up to the cause themselves. Instead, they believe the problem is with the level of excitement that climate porn creates. While ’secretly thrilling‘, climate porn ’excludes the possibility of real action or agency by the reader or viewer‘. Ereaut and Segnit do not have a problem with the content of climate porn, rather their concern is that it doesn’t elicit the right response.

For the IPPR, the time for talking about climate change has come to an end; the arguments have been won, the matters have been settled and now it’s a question of manipulating people to follow the message. That’s why the IPPR have employed textual analysts to write about climate change policy, rather than experts who might actually know something about it. But in doing so they’ve exposed the flaw in their own position – there isn’t a consensus on climate change. A minority of people continue to challenge the basic theory and scientific evidence of climate change and others challenge the evidence that humans are a factor in it. Even after dismissing these views, the IPPR paper lists the many and varied options of what to do about them, analysing the various ‘linguistic repertoires’ in debates around climate change.

There is ‘settlerdom’ – represented by the Daily Express and the Daily Mail - where climate change is taken as so large and fantastic that it cannot be part of people’s lives, which are based on everyday experience and common sense. For ‘settlers’, climate change will only be worth addressing when it has a direct and tangible impact on their lives and until then there is no need to do anything.

There are those who are concerned about the negative effects of measures to counter climate change; people such as Bjorn Lomborg whose argument goes something like ‘in the sum total of human well-being, money spent on battling climate change could be better spent elsewhere’. Ereaut and Segnit characterise this stance as ‘free market protection’, which is disingenuous as one doesn’t have to be a free marketeer to be concerned about humanity’s best interests.

Another ‘repertoire’ is ‘warming is good’, which displays ‘apparently informed optimism’ with a tendency to construct a model of continuity, rather than sudden and violent change. There is also ‘techno-optimism’ according to which technological answers will be found either from existing or new interested parties. And then there are a whole range of active mitigation approaches such as, ‘David and Goliath’ and ‘small actions’.

However, rather than recognising that the existence of these different positions show a lack of consensus on climate change, the authors criticise them for being ’unproductive‘. Presumably they mean unproductive to the IPPR’s message, which is right, unlike the others, which are wrong. As the paper states, ’the facts need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken‘. This Orwellian doublethink is remarkable for an institute which claims on its own website that ’deepening democracy underpins all of IPPR’s work’.

The IPPR’s message is that ’if dangerous climate change is to be avoided, the public’s contribution to it will need to be reduced dramatically‘, and Warm Words shows the insidious campaign being waged to change individuals’ expectations and attitudes. With climate porn doom-mongering we at least know where we stand but this new campaign is designed to get under our skin and into our heads.

‘Warm Words’ starts by saying: ’Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind this century‘. It has surely overtaken some pretty big concerns, including unemployment, disease, the secularisation of society, communism and poverty to name a few. This can be seen as a generational change, embodied by the different worldviews of Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband’s, with his concern for class-consciousness and his son, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, David Miliband’s concern for carbon consciousness.

Last month, Miliband proposed that we should all carry carbon swipe cards to tot up and moderate our individual carbon emissions (1). We have been told that carbon must dominate every aspect of our lives. Recent examples include being urged give up cheap flights (2), pop stars worrying about making their gigs carbon neutral (3) and suggested carbon audits for our homes (4). We have reached a point where the only good thing we discuss about nuclear power is its low CO2 emissions, and where you can worry about the carbon footprint of your doorbell (5).

It is generally presented as unquestionable that carbon must dominate our lives and that we don’t need evidence or arguments to decide whether this will be an effective or appropriate thing to subject ourselves to – and we certainly don’t need a vote on it. As Warm Words has it, the ‘facts’ shall be unspoken.

The energy we access through carbon-based fossil fuels has taken us a long way from pre-industrial life. The energy that fossil fuels contain will still make a tremendous difference to people’s lives around the world. Even though we can’t use them forever, and whether or not a change is required sooner or later, a celebration of what they’ve given, and continue to give, would be apposite. Most people choose to continue with life despite the climate change doom-mongers. But life with carbon swipe cards will encourage a sense that we should apologise for everything we do, to be meek and make acts of contrition by planting trees when we go on holiday. At least climate porn allowed for some guilty pleasure. This is a whole lot worse.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


12 August, 2006


Letter from Christopher C. Horner ( regarding the recent rise in CO2 emissions by the EU

The EEA has now updated its priceless 21 June 2005 chart which causes equally priceless expressions among Kyotophiles when I present it across the continent. See here

One year does of course not make a trend, though had emissions fallen it doubtless would have been reported as such. The actual trend remains obvious: EU emissions continue to rise. [Paging Dr. McCain, Dr. McCain, you are needed in the reality-check room].

At least the press account wasn't as misleading as last December's, pushed out to divert attention from the decision in Montreal to NOT amend Kyoto per Article 18 to make it binding, which said "on track to meet commitment to reduce emissions"; which is of course absurd but ritually accepted by outlets such as Reuters which took that a step further as cheerleader, and wrote a headline "Europe well ahead of track". Seriously. Find that trend in this data and there is a job in government waiting for you in Brussels.

Of note: I have previously written about those curiously changing (typically upward) 1990 EU baselines -- 15 years later (See here PDF) -- via which to date individual member states have fudged a cumulative total of 3.4% upward, or almost half of the EU-15 bubble obligation.

Given this, see the Note following the second chart on the EEA release:

"The base year emissions in this table are preliminary and the final emissions will be agreed in 2006 within Council Decision (2002/358/EC)....."

This, doubtless, will be worth the price of admission. "OK, gentlemen, how far out of compliance shall we agree we are, and how shall we allocate the violations? Who can afford what amount of credits?" Hold on to those old copies of prior baselines linked to in my paper, they'll be something to compare. Regardless, see the various baselines to date and await their "final answer" later in the year.

A REALLY drastic climate change -- just before written history began

The Sahara suddenly got a lot wetter about 8500 BC and then dried out again about 5300 BC -- all due to NATURAL climate fluctuations (unless those prehistoric Saharans had SUVs) and all very RECENTLY in geological terms. See the latest journal abstract on the subject below

Radiocarbon data from 150 archaeological excavations in the now hyper-arid Eastern Sahara of Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Chad reveal close links between climatic variations and prehistoric occupation during the past 12,000 years. Synoptic multiple-indicator views for major time slices demonstrate the transition from initial settlement after the sudden onset of humid conditions at 8500 B.C.E. to the exodus resulting from gradual desiccation since 5300 B.C.E. Southward shifting of the desert margin helped trigger the emergence of pharaonic civilization along the Nile, influenced the spread of pastoralism throughout the continent, and affects sub-Saharan Africa to the present day.

Abstract from "Climate-Controlled Holocene Occupation in the Sahara: Motor of Africa's Evolution" by Rudolph Kuper and Stefan Kropelin

A Cartel Worse Than OPEC

At this moment, America faces one of the greatest threats to its economy and perhaps its very survival as a world power. A war is under way in the Middle East, source of 50% of the world's petroleum energy, which, if distribution were disrupted, could cause a world recession or worse. Terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, are waging war against Israel from bases in Lebanon and Palestine. Cross-border support is coming from Iran and Syria. Add to this the threat of Iran's development of nuclear weapons. To expect Hezbollah and Hamas to negotiate is hope in the extreme. The governments of both Lebanon and Palestine are powerless to reign in these two terrorist groups.

The entire region is at a flash point. A single spark could ignite this tinder box, wreaking havoc upon the U.S. economy, perhaps even its ability to wage war. An all-out war in the Middle East could seriously disrupt the 25% of total U.S. oil imports which comes from the Persian Gulf region. At best $100 per barrel oil is predicted by year's end. No one really knows.

There is one thing we do know. Congress has done absolutely nothing to develop domestic resources, to make America energy independent. The President presents energy plans which Congress rejects, summarily. And there is no executive follow-through. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil per day. Of this, 12 million barrels are imported.

The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve stands at 727 million barrels, providing enough oil, at 12 million imported barrels per day, for 60 days. According to an agreement with the International Energy Agency, all 26 members must have a strategic petroleum reserve equal to 90 days of oil imports. The United States falls 30 days short. Canada, America's largest supplier of crude oil, has no reserve and in time of crisis would withhold exports. U.S. petroleum reserves accounted for as much as 3% of all known world reserves in 2004. That percentage places U.S. reserves at about 340 billion barrels of oil. To be totally self-sufficient, the United States, at the present rate of consumption, would have to use some 12 million barrels a day from the reserve. At that rate the reserves would last 75 years. In 75 years alternative resources for oil certainly will be found. As little as 2% of world oil reserves would replace imported oil for 45 years at today's rate of consumption.

New discoveries of oil reserves are reported regularly. On a trip in September 2005, this writer visited the oil rich country of Azerbaijan, along the Caspian Sea. News articles of the day reported enormous reserves found under the shallow Caspian Sea, reported to equal some of the oil rich areas of Saudi Arabia. This year a very large reserve was located in the Gulf of Mexico, some distance from the shore line of Texas. There is no shortage of oil or gas around the coast of the United States. Some 20 years ago, Phillips Petroleum sought permission to drill wells in the Bridger-Teton National Forest (gasp!) in Wyoming. The wells were to be capped and used only in case of a national emergency. Wyoming is one of America's richest states in energy resources. The request was denied.

Those who remember the 1973 Arab-Israeli War will recall the energy crisis that developed and the long lines at the gas pumps. The United States had joined in support of Israel. Nearly all Middle East oil imports were cut off. When the oil started flowing again, the price of crude oil was no longer $4.50 a barrel. It rose to $40 per barrel, causing a world recession.

Today the United States faces a cartel far more destructive of America's energy independence than OPEC's nine nations. This new cartel is composed of an assortment of envirocrat groups posing as environmentalists, endangered species advocates, animal rights promoters, property rights destroyers and assorted ice-age fanciers turned global warmers. Leaders among these envirocrats are Greenpeace, the Green Party, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Earth First, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, to name a few. Individuals such as former Presidential candidates Ralph Nader and former Vice President Albert A. Gore, Jr. are prominent spokesmen for the envirocrat causes.

What has become the obvious intent of this cartel is the destruction of America's access to its own resources. Examples are: "protection" of a spotted owl despite near destruction of the timber industry in Oregon and Washington; desperately needed petroleum reserves set aside in Alaska to protect the sex habits of the caribou; the set-aside of vitally needed sulfur-free coal reserves in Utah; and denial of offshore drilling for a number of reasons, including the spoiling of the view of a few people by rigs 15 miles away. This list could continue for a full column.

This cartel of envirocrat groups is permitted by both political parties in Congress to disrupt America's access to its own natural resources. Kneeling at the feet of the envirocrat intimidators, Congress accepts the barrage of false and phony claims that, if examined closely, would reveal the fraud.

When the lines get blocks long at the gas pumps Americans will give thanks to the OPEC cartel for providing the only gasoline available, even at prices over $5 per gallon. Appeals to the envirocrat cartel will get them nothing.



The adage "like a kid at heart" may be truer than we think, since new research is showing that grown-ups are more immature than ever. Specifically, it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth. As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry. Among scientists, the phenomenon is called psychological neoteny.

The theory's creator is Bruce Charlton, a professor in the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Medical Hypotheses, which will feature a paper outlining his theory in an upcoming issue. Charlton explained to Discovery News that humans have an inherent attraction to physical youth, since it can be a sign of fertility, health and vitality. In the mid-20th century, however, another force kicked in, due to increasing need for individuals to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends. A "child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge" is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, "unfinished."

"The psychological neoteny effect of formal education is an accidental by-product - the main role of education is to increase general, abstract intelligence and prepare for economic activity," he explained. "But formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity to new learning, and cognitive flexibility." "When formal education continues into the early twenties," he continued, "it probably, to an extent, counteracts the attainment of psychological maturity, which would otherwise occur at about this age."

Charlton pointed out that past cultures often marked the advent of adulthood with initiation ceremonies. While the human mind responds to new information over the course of any individual's lifetime, Charlton argues that past physical environments were more stable and allowed for a state of psychological maturity. In hunter-gatherer societies, that maturity was probably achieved during a person's late teens or early twenties, he said. "By contrast, many modern adults fail to attain this maturity, and such failure is common and indeed characteristic of highly educated and, on the whole, effective and socially valuable people," he said. "People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact."

Charlton added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, "immature" people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift. The faults of youth are retained along with the virtues, he believes. These include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness. At least "youthfulness is no longer restricted to youth," he said, due to overall improvements in food and healthcare, along with cosmetic technologies.

David Brooks, a social commentator and an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, has documented a somewhat related phenomenon concerning the current blurring of "the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture," which Charlton believes is a version of psychological neoteny. Brooks believes such individuals have lost the wisdom and maturity of their bourgeois predecessors due to more emphasis placed on expertise, flexibility and vitality.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


11 August, 2006

A true inconvenience

President Bush has announced that our nation is addicted to oil, but that isn't true at all. I am addicted to cigarettes, I am not addicted to water. Yet if I had to choose between the two, I'll pick water every time -- I need it to survive. We need energy to survive, and for now that means we need dirty fuels like oil and coal. We fear that our use of fossil fuels changes the climate, and the result is a debate between societal survival and, well, societal survival.

When it comes to global warming, it is both useless and unnecessary to quibble about disputed facts, such as whether human activity is a significant factor. For the purposes of this column, I will simply accept all of the assumptions of the Green Movement. Global warming is real, and we are a significant cause of the problem. (Hell, if Pat Robertson can buy into it, why can't I?). So what does man-made global warming mean for us? We will face warmer weather, more droughts, higher sea levels, more precipitation, et cetera. Under the more extreme scenarios, some parts of the planet would become uninhabitable -- although it is probably safe to imagine that some uninhabitable areas would become more livable, especially up North. Generally, though, we can assume that human life will be affected negatively by the warming trend. Our way of living will dramatically change.

Forget New England

The Green Movement wants to do something about that. The argument basically goes like this: if we suffer now by dramatically changing the way we live, then maybe we can avoid suffering later by dramatically changing the way we live. Put that way, it doesn't sound like a winning proposition. But will we really suffer now because we act in a fashion dramatic enough to avoid climate change? The beginning of the answer lies with the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international treaty that would require the U.S. and several other industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases -- especially the ubiquitous carbon dioxide -- by meeting emissions targets.

What exactly would it mean to meet the Kyoto targets? Let's look at the numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States generated 5,802 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 in 2003. Naturally, this number has grown over the years as our economy has expanded. In 1990 we emitted just 4,969 MMT of carbon dioxide. If we had ratified the Kyoto treaty, we would have committed to cut emissions to levels 7% below that 1990 level -- or to about 4,620 MMT.

Can we cut emissions by that much? Sure we can. I'm looking at the Energy Information Administration's table of all 50 states' levels of carbon dioxide emissions. If we shut down all industry and electric generation in the 14 "Blue" States (the ones that went for John Kerry in 2004) east of the Mississippi River, then seize all automobiles, airplanes, and private land there, we would slightly overshoot the Kyoto goals.

Of course, I'm being somewhat ridiculous here (besides, that solution didn't work when they tried it in Cambodia). So let's try to spread the burden of Kyoto compliance around. In 2003, gasoline use in the U.S. accounted for 1,141 MMT or 20 percent of our total carbon dioxide emissions. If Congress acts today to outlaw the use of gasoline for all uses -- automobiles, lawn-mowers, generators, et cetera -- we'd be within just 40 million metric tons of reaching our Kyoto goals. And that's great, unless you like being able to drive, or having food brought to your grocery store, or having ambulances and fire trucks that can respond to emergencies.

It is true that we don't have to meet the Kyoto goals tomorrow -- but we would have to meet them by 2008, which is not much better if you think about it. Even 2018 would not be much better. We are a growing population that needs more energy every year to sustain life and comfort.

This is not a simple case of adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees, driving fewer miles this summer, or even buying a hybrid. Even gradual Kyoto compliance would require much more drastic action than that. You would have to stop heating and cooling your office -- perhaps your home as well. You would have to take the bicycles on your family vacation this summer -- not on top of your car, but instead of your car. Forget about using that microwave -- and probably best to turn off that power-sucking computer of yours as soon as you're done reading this.

Given what it would take to comply, it's no wonder that the signatories of the Kyoto treaty are mostly failing to meet the targets, many of them (notably Canada, but especially Spain) doing far worse than the non-signatory United States. Even the countries that have kept emissions in check since 1990 (such as Germany) have largely done so because of a one-time event -- the collapse of Eastern Bloc industry at the end of the Cold War -- and not through significant, sustained reductions in energy use.

`Kyoto Is Not Enough'

But the picture is actually much bleaker than all that, because an important Green Movement tenet is that compliance with the Kyoto treaty is only the first baby step toward changing the warming trend. In November 2005, Professor Guy Brasseur, a Belgian scientist who runs the National Center for Atmospheric Research, addressed members of the European Parliament to inform them that "Kyoto is not enough." "If we stopped all CO2 emissions today, the temperature would continue to rise for between 200 and 300 years," said Brasseur, who also noted that in order to stop human activity from raising the temperature, "we must reduce emissions not by five to ten percent, but by eighty to ninety percent."

Someday, that may become possible: it will happen as soon as we develop a new, cost-efficient technology that satisfies our needs for energy with minimal pollution. But it's very safe to say that such dramatic reductions are impossible any other way. Right now, even a 20 percent reduction in emissions would probably be more traumatic and destructive to our civilization than twenty more years of high emissions and global warming -- especially considering that such a relatively large emissions reduction still would not put a dent in the problem. And that is to say nothing of the effect a 60 percent or a 90 percent reduction in CO2 emissions would have on how we live.

The sages of The New York Times editorial board deride the technological development approach as a "Hail Mary" solution, and of course blame the idea on President Bush (who is responsible for every other evil in the world, so why not?). But this is simple blindness to reality. For normal people who drive cars and refrigerate their food, the "Hail Mary" approach is infinitely more effective and preferable to the approach that represents a slow death for the world economy.

The Green Movement, unfortunately, opposes the cost-effective, emission-free technologies we have already developed -- namely, hydroelectric and nuclear power.

The main point is that, accepting the premises of the Green Movement at face value, there is no reason to make society suffer, just to bring about minor reductions of emissions that won't make a difference. If the climate keeps getting hotter, as the Greens predict, I'm certainly not going to be the one to sacrifice my air conditioning now so that maybe it cools off in a few centuries. My thermostat stays on 68.


Environmental Bounty-Hunting

How Earthjustice and other green groups abuse the legal system.

Private prosecution of crimes has a long and sordid history, and that history isn't over. Bounty hunters no longer hound innocent people to death as some did in England in the mid-18th century, but environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have modified the tactic. They use "citizen suits" to reap rich rewards for themselves with little positive impact on the environment.

Most federal environmental statutes allow citizens to sue individuals or companies for violating the laws. Indeed, from 1993 to 2002, more than 75% of all environmental federal court decisions started as citizen suits, reports James May. Writing the Widener Law Review, he concludes that citizen suits are "the engine that propels the field of environmental law."

But most of these suits are brought by environmental organizations, not individuals, and most of the filings don't end in a court decision; they end in settlements. From 1995-2002, there were 4,438 notices of intent to sue under four environmental statutes--6.6 times more than actual federal court decisions in citizen suits. Presumably most of the others were settled. Why the settlements?

My research indicates a clear and compelling reason: settlements bring in money environmental groups can use to pursue other goals. Although statistics are hard to come by, most citizen suits appear to be filed under the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). Provisions in these laws enable citizen prosecutors to craft settlements that compensate them generously for legal costs (amounts well above actual costs) and that channel funds into pet environmental projects (called "supplemental environmental projects.")

These laws make prosecutions easy because they require companies to keep detailed records of their activities; in other words, evidence of technical violations is provided by the companies themselves! Furthermore, the laws saddle "violators" with very heavy penalties (up to $25,000 per day), but these penalties can be waived if the case is settled. And RCRA even allows citizens to prosecute past violations, not just ongoing ones.

Many of the violations are trivial and technical. Defendants who have not even minimally harmed the environment are roped in. One commentator points out that the Atlantic States Legal Foundation has frequently sued over paperwork violations under the Clean Water Act, but "not over violations of substantive environmental standards." Companies settle simply to avoid expensive litigation.

An indication that self-interest, not environmental stewardship, propels these suits comes from comparing citizen suits filed under two different laws. Between 1995 and 2002, 1,371 citizen suits were filed under the under the Clean Water Act but only 143 under the Clean Air Act. Do environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund think that water violations are more serious than air pollution? Probably not. They do know, however, that the Clean Water Act mandates record-keeping that makes suing under it easy and allows large fines that make settlements lucrative; the Clean Air Act does not.

Another sign that the goals are financial, not environmental, is that the Clean Water Act suits are disproportionately targeted at private firms, not municipal governments. Yet municipal governments generate much more water pollution. Current statutes thus create a moral hazard, distorting the incentives of environmental groups. As Michael Greve wrote some years ago, "In purpose and effect, citizen suit provisions are an off-budget entitlement program for the environmental movement." Repealing these provisions, particularly those in laws that authorize large monetary fines, would help some environmental groups refocus on activities that actually enhance environmental quality.



Al Gore establishes his environmental credentials straight away in his global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. When he stands by a river, sees the leaves, feels the river bank give a little beneath his feet, hears a cow in the distance, he feels all gooey inside. This profound revelation sets the scene for his deeply manipulative movie.

We first see the man who was almost the US president stride onstage to give a PowerPoint presentation claiming the global warming apocalypse is nigh. That presentation - boring graphs, pie charts, diagrams and all - is the movie, interspersed with footage of Gore strolling around his family farm in Tennessee, chatting about himself, and dragging his suitcase from airport to airport. Next month, Gore will bring his Apple Mac to Sydney to launch the movie and, judging by a preview audience this week, he is in for a rapturous reception.

The "inconvenient truth" that Gore has selflessly dedicated his life to warn us about is that "humanity is sitting on a time bomb". We have "just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet's climate system into a tail spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heatwaves beyond anything we have ever experienced - a catastrophe of our own making". Humans have polluted the atmosphere so much in the past 50 years that diseases and parasites are spreading, from lice and ebola to malaria. He provides no evidence, and doesn't mention that the rise of malaria coincided with the banning of the pesticide DDT, the most effective weapon against mosquitoes.

Gore's movie lingers on images of destruction and human misery from Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans last year. Global warming is the culprit, he says, with hurricanes at record levels last year. Like everything else in his movie, he presents it as incontrovertible fact, without mentioning that hurricane experts from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the evidence linking hurricane activity and global warming is inconclusive.

He makes curious claims such as "Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand" because the sea level has risen so much. Really? [Sure will be news in both the Pacific island nations and New Zealand!]

He shows scientists examining ice cores from the Antarctic, which he claims show changes in the atmosphere over two years resulting from a political act in the United States, much like a ring in a tree trunk: "Right here is where the US Congress passed the Clean Air Act. It's very distinguishable."

At one point Gore, the one-time US vice-president, stands on a moveable platform next to a screen showing a graph of carbon dioxide and temperature over time. The two lines mirror each other until, suddenly, the temperature line stops and the carbon dioxide line takes a drastic turn upwards, climbing off the chart and a couple of metres up the wall, with Gore in hot pursuit. This carbon dioxide line shows the effect of human activity over the past 50 years and projected into the future, he says. The frightening implication is that temperature will mirror this increase, incinerating us in a flash, but where is the rest of the temperature line? Just as the audience is pondering this mystery, the scene ends. Forget the evidence, just trust Al Gore.

The next scene gives us a reason for this leap of faith as the camera pans over old newspaper headlines from 1989, when Gore's six-year-old son was badly injured in a car accident. "It turned my world upside down," he says, making him ask: "How shall I spend my time on this earth." Of course, he will save it.

After all the panic, the final credits present an odd logical leap with a long list of simple domestic tasks we can perform to prevent the global catastrophe: buy energy-efficient light bulbs, drive a hybrid car, get our parents to come to the movie, and pray.

Gore presents as a missionary, the font of sacred scientific information known to only a privileged few which he is now sharing person by person with his audiences. For all its ostentatious stodginess and earnest-university-lecture style, the movie is sophisticated propaganda, full of hyperbole, misleading and incomplete information, and vicious about non-believers. It is aimed at children, and its distributors will provide an interactive online study guide for 39,000 teachers around Australia. But as the geologist Professor Bob Carter, of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, has said: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic." We have more to fear from another ice age, he claims.

The problem with Gore's approach is that he makes the threat of man-made global warming seem so certain, so enormous and so insoluble that most people turn off. Visiting Sydney last year, Johan Norberg, the author of In Defence of Global Capitalism, pointed to one effect: a recent survey in the once deep-green Sweden showed that people thought the environment was in crisis at the same time as their interest in environmental issues had fallen from 30 per cent to 5 per cent. "Everyone thinks the environment is falling apart but they're not going to do anything about it," Norberg said.

The apocalyptic way in which climate change is so often presented by green groups, the media and on government websites is a kind of "climate porn", according to a report, Warm Words, released this month by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank. "Sensationalism . serves to create a sense of distance from the issue." It argues: "Alarmism might even become secretly thrilling - effectively a form of 'climate porn' rather than a constructive message. All of this serves to undermine the ability of this discourse to bring about action." It is human nature when faced with a problem too large to solve to simply ignore it in the hope it will go away. Funnily enough, the other eco catastrophes so confidently predicted 30 years ago - acid rain, nuclear winter, species extinction, the population bomb - never did eventuate.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


10 August, 2006


An Australian economist points out some unpopular truths:

One thing I hate about politicians is the way they pretend to indulge us rather than level with us. They rarely tell us the unvarnished truth about what problems they can fix and what they can't, preferring to string us along. They act as though they can fix everything, which encourages a culture of complaint and a focus on the alleviation of symptoms rather than a search for fundamental solutions.

Take all the whingeing about the price of petrol [gasoline]. No pollie's prepared to tell us that since the problem is a global shortage of oil, the rise in price is a healthy development because, by encouraging both producers and consumers to adjust their behaviour accordingly, it offers the best solution to the problem. Fortunately, neither side of politics is silly enough to embrace the populist cry for the temporary relief of symptoms that would come from cutting the tax on petrol - which would increase local demand without adding to supply.

A related issue on which the pollies have always lacked frankness is traffic congestion. They won't admit there are no painless answers to peak-hour delays. It's not practically possible to eliminate congestion. The best we could hope for is to slow down the rate at which it's getting worse. In his book Still Stuck in Traffic, Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution in Washington reveals just how ignorant of the nature of the problem politicians have allowed us to be. He argues that traffic congestion isn't the problem. Actually, it's the solution to the problem - the only solution the public finds acceptable.

The real problem is that we all want to live together in big cities and travel to and from work or school at pretty much the same time of day. Now, it makes economic sense for us to live in cities and it makes social as well as economic sense for us to want to work when others are working. But the problem is greatly compounded by our desire to live in low-density suburbs and to travel in our own cars - by ourselves. So the demand for road space at peak times of the day greatly exceeds the supply of space available. The result is traffic congestion, which is merely a way of rationing the space on a first come, first served basis. It's a queue, in other words.

We all think of ourselves as having a democratic right to drive to work if we want to, but what the pollies never have the courage to point out is that, by exercising our private right to drive, we impose "social costs" on other people. There are costs for other motorists - in the form of slower journey times and increased fuel consumption - and costs on the rest of the community, in the form of air and noise pollution.

The standard economists' solution to this is to make private individuals bear the social costs of their actions by charging them to use main arteries at peak times. You'd keep increasing the charge until you'd eliminated the congestion. But no government in the world has done this. That's partly because technology hasn't yet advanced to the point where a fool-proof charging system is practical. Mainly, however, it's because the public would vigorously object to such a charge. We hate the idea because it would disadvantage people who couldn't afford the charge (which is true), because we believe we're already paying enough tax and because we much prefer to leave the cost of congestion hidden from view.

See the point? When demand exceeds supply we have to ration. And when you won't ration by price (which is what economists advocate) you have to ration by queue. So congestion isn't the problem, it's the solution to the problem - the only solution we're prepared to accept, our unending complaints notwithstanding. By hiding the cost of congestion - by paying it in time rather than money - we understate the cost of our preference for living in low-density patterns and we end up overinvesting in highways. Both things lead to urban sprawl, which increases energy costs, infrastructure costs, vehicle kilometres travelled and air pollution.

In theory, the problem of excess demand for peak-hour road space can be tackled either by reducing demand or by increasing supply. As we've seen, the public shies away from demand-side solutions because they impose costs directly on the individual. We prefer supply-side solutions because they impose costs on the community (and we can kid ourselves that others will pay, not us). Hence the perennially popular solution of trying to reduce congestion by building more tunnels and expressways. The problem with it is that any success you have in reducing congestion and travel time is soon lost because it induces more demand from people who'd prefer to drive to work. There must be some ultimate limit to this additional demand, but to reach it would require a huge expansion of expressways, involving the disfiguring of many landscapes and the destruction of thousands of homes. It would also be impossibly expensive and wasteful (because of all the hours of the week when the extra expressways were underutilised).

So building better roads offers no realistic solution to congestion - a conclusion both public and pollies seem to be coming to in reaction to the modern practice of allowing private operators to build the new expressways and then charge directly for their use.

What about reducing road congestion by increasing the supply and quality of public transport? Not a bad idea, particularly since it's been so long neglected and in view of our need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the dearth of public transport in outer suburbs suggests it would be an expensive business to make more than a modest impact on road congestion. And to some extent you'd be shifting the congestion from road to rail and bus.

So what hope is there? Well, it turns out that a lasting rise in the price of petrol might have a significant effect in reducing the demand for peak-hour road space by shifting people to public transport and encouraging ride-sharing. Downs says in his book that cutting the number of lone drivers would reduce congestion more than any other single change



Cheap journalism at the Associated Press reveals little about accuracy. "The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy," announces the Associated Press. But what does that really mean? Well, for starters, it's the polling equivalent of grade inflation as five stars doesn't mean 100 percent accuracy.

"The former vice president's movie - replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets - mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press."

But that's small potatoes when forced, by implication, to accept that there are only 19 "top climate scientists" in the entire United States. The AP, apparently, "contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book."

So why doesn't the headline say - "nation's top climate scientists have not seen Gore warming movie" - which is the salient lede in this bit of amateur polling? Or even "some climate scientists ok Gore movie's accuracy." The answer is that neither of these headlines makes for a compelling story.

But even if you accept the newsworthiness of 19 climate scientists, it is important to ask what is the probability that this very low response rate has resulted in selection bias? In other words, were those scientists who read the book or saw the movie more likely to agree with it from the outset - especially as Gore's position is no secret?

It's hard to imagine those who disagreed with the movie's widely-publicised claims lining up to pay for a lecture on science from an ex-politician. And the impression that the AP succeeded in polling only those who agreed with Gore's arguments is underlined by the quote from one scientist who, after watching a special presentation of the movie said, "Al, I'm absolutely blown away."

STATS is not in a position to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of what Gore claims, or what those scientists who gave it two thumbs almost vertical said in response. But we know a meaningless poll when we see one.

And the AP's story follows on an op-ed in the June 26 Wall Street Journal by Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, which was both critical of Gore's movie and the idea of a consensus among scientists about the causes and nature of global warming.

Given that Lindzen has long criticized the consensus view of global warming, one wonders whether he was among the AP's list of the 100-top climate scientists. If so, one would have expected him to have had something to say about the movie. And if he was not on the list, then why not?

Statistical Assessment Service


Galileo got crosswise with Pope Urban VIII. Robert Oppenheimer didn't see eye-to-eye with Edward Teller. Every original thinker has a bete noire who torments and goads him. For William Gray, a lean, six-foot-five emeritus professor at Colorado State University and one of the world's leading experts on tropical storms, the bugaboo on the horizon is another tall, charismatic fellow named Albert Arnold Gore Jr. You can call him Al.

Sitting in his office on the northwest edge of Fort Collins, Gray thumbs through Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, the coffee-table companion book to the documentary of the same name. Gore has been making the rounds of talk shows and bookseller conventions promoting both efforts. Turn on cable news and there he is, reciting the we're-in-deep-shit message he's been delivering by slide show for years, now bolstered by a website ( and startling computer graphics that depict the earth being ravaged by a gauntlet of man-made catastrophes over the next few decades.

Gray doesn't believe in the planetary emergency. Never has. Still, he picks his words carefully. A few weeks ago, a Washington Post article quoted him comparing Gore's convictions about global warming to Hitler's beliefs about the Jews, a burst of rhetorical overkill he says he sincerely regrets. So he's going to try to sound a diplomatic note here, even though the book, which some colleagues have asked him to review, strikes him as a piece of outright hysteria. "I admire Al Gore," he says. "There's no doubt, with over six billion people, we have a lot of environmental problems in this world. He's pointing them out. That's fine. But that doesn't mean it's all due to global warming, or that you're going to solve these problems by cutting back on fossil fuels."

The tone seems conciliatory enough. But soon Gray is out of his seat, pointing out features on a map of the world pinned to the wall, reading passages from Gore's book aloud, scribbling lines of convection on a yellow legal pad. "This is a slick propaganda book," he declares. "The pictures are very good. But there are factual errors."

He's off and running. The people who are spreading the global-warming alarm, including the scientists, just don't understand the way the atmosphere works, he says. The ones who see a link between increasing ocean temperatures and more intense hurricanes in recent decades don't understand the ocean or hurricanes. The global computer models projecting that heat-trapping greenhouse gases will warm the earth between three and seven degrees Fahrenheit in the next hundred years -- melting polar ice, flooding shorelines and disrupting weather patterns everywhere -- are fatally flawed.

Now 76 years old, Gray is an old-school meterologist who prefers observational data to computer modeling. "I could assemble fifty of my colleagues who are very skeptical about global warming," he says. "The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] never talks to us, but I have a bit of an obligation, at my age -- I was trained to tell the truth. There's a lot of hogwash in this. If I don't speak up, I'm not doing my job."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


9 August, 2006


When Elk Grove established its own transit system 19 months ago, it was hailed as another first for a city that prides itself on maverick moves. A hybrid-powered commuter bus fleet -- the cleanest in the nation -- would be the heart of what's called the e-tran. But now, Elk Grove's path to clean-air mass transit has taken a detour. Diesel buses, both chartered and purchased, currently make up nearly half of e-tran's 42-vehicle fleet and most of the daily commute buses to downtown Sacramento.

Instead of cruising into the nation's history books, the hybrid fleet has had trouble accelerating into the fast lanes of the freeways. Instead of comfortable rides, hybrid bus air conditioners have quit in triple-digit temperatures, leaving passengers sweating in ovenlike heat. Now, only five of the city's 21 hybrids are used on freeways. "In the quest to be leading edge, you have to take chances at times on new technology," Mayor Rick Soares said. "We took that chance."

No one is saying that the hybrid purchases, at a cost of $434,300 each, were a waste. The city, once served by Sacramento Regional Transit, has seen a huge growth in demand for rides within Elk Grove, and that's where most e-tran hybrids now operate. But there is disappointment. "Hybrid may not be the way to go for commuter service," said e-tran Transit Manager Carlos Tobar, who was hired to run e-tran more than a month after the start of the new service. "Live and learn."

So, what's the problem with the hybrids? They perform best during stop-and-go traffic, Tobar said. The hybrid's electric energy booster, an ultra capacitor, works in tandem with a 145-kilowatt generator. That booster is recharged every time a driver applies the brakes. That's great for intercity transit, but is troublesome on freeways where brakes are less often applied. "At highway speeds, many of the systems are stressed," Tobar said.

Among the stresses are air conditioners that switch off on ultra-hot days during freeway travel. To relieve passengers, Tobar either pulls buses from service or delivers bottled water in ice buckets to buses on afternoons hotter than 105 degrees. Still, passengers have been howling. With sunlight beating into bus windows, the hybrids have been compared to rolling hot houses. "Last night, you were sweating in there," Fred Burriell said of his commute home to Elk Grove during the latest heat wave. "You didn't need a sauna."

This isn't the first year the fledgling bus service has had these problems. Last year customers had similar complaints about air-conditioning breakdowns.... The sources of maintenance problems also aren't easy to detect, Tobar has said. Last month, he called in experts from both ISE Corp. of San Diego and Complete Coach Works of Riverside to solve the air-conditioning problems. ISE provided the hybrid system to Complete Coach, which remanufactured the buses for sale to Elk Grove. "I still believe that Elk Grove made a visionary decision" in purchasing the hybrids, Complete Coach's Macy Neshati said Friday, noting the company believes the fleet will improve.

And Elk Grove is still committed to its goal for lower-emission buses. "We really care about our riders," Tobar said. "We have had our challenges. But, like any champ that is knocked down, we get up and continue to fight."



Reuters report below from June, which blames GW for both heavy rain AND record cold. On the other side of the Atlantic, global warming has been causing causing drought and now from Britain to California it's causing record heat! Sure is pesky stuff!

Images of swamped homes in the U.S. Northeast deepened suspicions over global warming, giving ammunition to scientists and others who say greenhouse gas-spewing cars and factories are fueling extreme weather. Meteorologists cautioned that no one should read too much into one storm. But the Atlantic Ocean is unusually warm for this time of year, they said, creating excess moisture in the atmosphere that can swiftly build a powerful rainstorm.

Paul Epstein, associate director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, said the Atlantic is warming faster than scientists projected even a decade ago, and he expects such storms as the one seen this week from Virginia to New York to become common. "Scientists and climatologists are looking at one another and we're just stunned because no one, even in the 1990s, projected the magnitude of the storms and degree of warming in the Arctic that we are seeing," he said.

Epstein sees a clear pattern: rain has increased in the United States by 7 percent in three decades; heavy rain events of more than 2 inches a day are up 14 percent and storms dumping more than 4 inches a day rose 20 percent. The floods that forced up to 200,000 evacuees from a historic Pennsylvania coal town on Wednesday followed a year of erratic weather in other parts of the region, including record rainfall in May and June in Massachusetts, a spring-like January in Maine and Vermont's worst autumn foliage in memory.

On February 12, Boston dug itself out of its largest snowfall for a single day when 17.5 inches fell -- an abrupt change from the second-warmest January on record in much of New England. Rhode Island's January was the warmest in 56 years. In Maine, lakes froze later, then thawed, faster than many could remember.

Most scientists say greenhouse gases could cause huge climate changes like floods, heat waves, droughts and a rise in sea levels that could swamp low-lying Pacific islands by 2100. But not everyone blames human pollution for drenching the U.S. Northeast. "The climate is warming," said Bernie Rayno, senior meteorologist at "The real question is: 'Are humans causing it or is it occurring because of natural cycles?' We believe that we are in a natural cycle like we were back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. And that was a time of big climate swings."

Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists sees a gradual shift over the past 50 years toward heavier rain and more violent weather, including the record-shattering hurricane season that produced 28 storms last year. "We do expect to see an increase in the intensity of rainstorms particularly in the Northeast," she said.

Reuters, 29 June 2006


Big natural fluctuations in recent times? There are clearly both "good" ice-cores and "bad" ice-cores

For the first time, glaciologists have combined and compared sets of ancient climate records trapped in ice cores from the South American Andes and the Asian Himalayas to paint a picture of how climate has changed - and is still changing - in the tropics. Their conclusions mark a massive climate shift to a cooler regime that occurred just over 5,000 years ago, and a more recent reversal to a much warmer world within the last 50 years.

The evidence also suggests that most of the high-altitude glaciers in the planet's tropical regions will disappear in the near future. The paper is included in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Lastly, the research shows that in most of the world, glaciers and ice caps are rapidly retreating, even in areas where precipitation increases are documented. This implicates increasing temperatures and not decreasing precipitation as the most likely culprit.

The researchers from Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center and three other universities combined the chronological climate records retrieved from seven remote locations north and south of the equator. Cores drilled through ice caps and glaciers there have captured a climate history of each region, in some cases, providing annual records and in others decadal averages. "Approximately 70 percent of the world's population now lives in the tropics so when climate changes there, the impacts are likely to be enormous," explains Lonnie Thompson, professor of geological sciences at Ohio State.

For the last three decades, Thompson has led nearly 50 expeditions to remote ice caps and glaciers to drill cores through them and retrieve climate records. This study includes cores taken from the Huascaran and Quelccaya ice caps in Peru; the Sajama ice cap in Bolivia; the Dunde, Guliya, Puruogangri and Dasuopu ice caps in China.

For each of these cores, the team - including research partner Ellen Mosley-Thompson, professor of geography at Ohio State - extracted chronological measurements of the ratio of two oxygen isotopes - O18 and O16 - whose ratio serves as an indicator of air temperature at the time the ice was formed. All seven cores provided clear annual records of the isotope ratios for the last 400 years and decadally averaged records dating back 2000 years.

"We have a record going back 2,000 years and when you plot it out, you can see the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA)," Thompson said. During the MWP, 700 to 1000 years ago, the climate warmed in some parts of the world. The MWP was followed by the LIA, a sudden onset of colder temperatures marked by advancing glaciers in Europe and North America . "And in that same record, you can clearly see the 20th Century and the thing that stands out - whether you look at individual cores or the composite of all seven - is how unusually warm the last 50 years have been. "There hasn't been anything in the record like it - not even the MWP," Thompson said. "The fact that the isotope values in the last 50 years have been so unusual means that things are dramatically changing. That's the real story here."

While the isotope evidence is clear throughout all of the cores, Thompson says that the more dramatic evidence is the emergence of unfossilized wetland plants around the margin of the Quelccaya ice cap, uncovered as the ice retreated in recent years. First discovered in 2002, the researchers have since identified 28 separate sites near the margin of the ice cap where these ancient plants have been exposed. Carbon-dating revealed that the plants range in age from 5,000 to 6,500 years old. "This means that the climate at the ice cap hasn't been warmer than it is today in the last 5,000 years or more," Thompson said. "If it had been, then the plants would have decayed."


(Benny Peiser cautions: "It should be pointed out that there are serious questions about whether oxygen isotopes O18 and O16 are reliable proxies for air temperature (let alone growing doubts about statitical accuracy of alleged proxy-disasters). Anyone unfamiliar with the scientific debate on these and other proxy claims may wish to consult Steve McIntyre's "Climate Audit")


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


8 August, 2006


From the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR)


(Translation: Julian Ross)

There are strong indications that the climate is undergoing change, partly under the influence of human activity. A substantial reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases is needed in order to slow down the rate of climate change sufficiently. However, while the total global volume of CO2 emissions needs to fall sharply, in reality it is more realistic to expect them to increase steeply as a result of rising prosperity and population growth.

There are considerable uncertainties and all manner of complicating factors which make it difficult to formulate an effective climate policy. The magnitude of the climate effects (and sometimes the direction in which they operate) is difficult to predict. There are large gaps in our knowledge about the climate system, partly due to the extreme slowness of that system. This raises the danger of setting in motion irreversible changes. The problem of policy formulation is also exacerbated by the global setting in which it has to be achieved. Different countries have widely diverging interests and consistently place the emphasis on economic growth, leading to an increase rather than a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the international coordination of the emission reduction efforts is problematic, raising the danger of inadequate policy. These uncertainties and complicating factors could lead to high costs. Given these uncertainties, climate policy ought to focus not only on optimisation, but also on robustness. A robust strategy is aimed at achieving success in a wide variety of potential scenarios. Difficult judgments

There are wide differences in the way individual countries view the climate issue. The global divergence in perceptions, interests and preferences can make it difficult or even impossible to formulate an effective climate strategy. The effectiveness of that strategy depends on the goals that countries strive to achieve, and reaching agreement on this (in the sense of hard commitment) will not be easy. Differences in perceptions and preferences can lead to unbridgeable differences in the degree of willingness to bear the costs. One of the problems when deciding on the cost distribution is that both the costs of adaptation and of reducing the rate of climate change are unclear. Moreover, policymakers have to weigh those costs against completely different objectives which also require government intervention (economic growth, education, health care, infrastructure, pensions, military spending, and so on); the emphasis given to these objectives also varies considerably from one country to another.

Applying the prudence principle does not offer an immediate solution, because high costs have to be weighed against risks which are to some extent still unknown. This raises the paradox of trying to estimate the unknown. The prudence principle can therefore not provide an answer to the question of what constitutes a sensible mix of emission reductions and adaptation. The lack of an optimum policy mix also implies that the principle of intergenerational burden-sharing does not offer a firm basis for a solution. No effective policy to date

The European Union (EU) determined in 1996 that the increase in global temperatures as a consequence of climate change had to be limited in the present century to 2 řC relative to pre-industrial levels. This standpoint was reaffirmed in 2005, when it was also stipulated that the attainability of the reduction targets needed to be reviewed in the light of costs/benefits aspects. The EU has a well-developed emissions trading system, putting it at the head of the field. At the same time, the EU pursues a specific climate policy on various fronts. The Netherlands has played a pioneering role in this climate policy. At global level, under the Kyoto protocol the signatory countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012 to at least 5% below the level in 1990.

The policy pursued thus far has not proved effective, either in the EU or globally. On the contrary, policy activism in the EU has led to fragmentation, and in the Netherlands to a plethora of changes of direction. The potential for cost-effective domestic climate policy appears to be limited, and much of the effort will therefore have to be directed towards achieving objectives outside the Netherlands (and even outside Europe). Globally, the targets set by the Kyoto protocol are too limited, cover a very short period and apply only for a select group of developed countries which already have relatively CO2-efficient economies. The policy to date - both globally and at the level of the EU and the Netherlands - lacks a global, long-term perspective. A new climate strategy

This WRR report sets out a climate strategy which gives both a rationale and direction to the Dutch policy within the EU and to the EU policy in a global context.

The Council took the following question as its starting point:

How can the Netherlands, as a member of the European Union, pursue an effective climate policy from a global and strategic perspective?

Key notions which characterise this strategy are: a global and long-term approach as inalienable principles; effectiveness of emission reduction by 2050; cost minimisation in the choice between options available now and the choice between options over a period of decades; damage limitation through timely adaptation to a climate which is undeniably changing; unflagging and energetic promotion of low-emission technology and innovation; a strategic approach to global coordination; and finally robustness, in view of the major uncertainties. The proposed climate strategy is based on three solution pathways: (1) adaptation to climate change; (2) reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and (3) effective global coordination. (1) High priority for adaptation

Adapting to a changing climate can reduce or prevent later damage. While adaptation policy cannot and must not replace internationally coordinated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, for many countries - and in any event for the Netherlands - it is considerably easier to achieve. It is not an acceptance of defeat, but is in fact an attractive option because the fruits of local efforts are also enjoyed locally, something which applies to only a very limited extent for emission reductions. Adaptation is not always possible globally, or can be so costly and disruptive that ultimately total emigration becomes unavoidable in certain localities. Adaptation can therefore not be viewed at the purely local level in all cases. The world community can reinforce or supplement the adaptive capacity of poor countries, and will sooner or later have to address vulnerabilities that can threaten the existence or cohesion of entire regions or peoples.

For the Netherlands, the most relevant climate changes from a policy perspective are the prospect of a wetter climate and higher sea levels (+20 cm to +110 cm by 2100). In the first place, therefore, adaptation will be focused on water policy in relation to flood protection; this is of great importance for four reasons:

* Climate change will still occur if emission reductions are successful, albeit in milder form.

* The credibility of coordinated global emission reductions is (so far) low.

* Successful adaptation will improve the Netherlands' international negotiating position.

* There is ground to be made up in the area of cost-effective flood protection.

In addition to attention for flood protection, consideration also needs to be given to natural assets and ecology. Climate change not only brings threats to the natural landscape, but also opportunities, and to some extent these opportunities can be created in the wake of the measures taken. Synergy can often be found between flood protection and housing construction or natural recovery. This synergy can be exploited to broaden the support for adaptive measures.

The main concern in Dutch adaptation policy is to keep options open. Flood protection measures demand major investments and are long-term in nature. A phased approach could be chosen for these investments; however, the same cannot be said for the creation of space for storing any surplus river water, when it is not certain whether these reserves will ever be used. There are three further problems: first, developed areas cannot be de-urbanised, or at least only at extremely high cost; second, there is insufficient administrative impetus to push through the reservation of space; and thirdly, public support for measures to protect against the flood risk is low. Flood protection is a national interest which needs to be fitted into the local context by seeking optimum solutions, not by watering down the national objectives. In some localities water will need to be given priority over construction, and vice versa. A higher priority for water management demands the adoption of a stronger position by national government at the expense of the position of lower administrative echelons. The importance of the flood protection offered by the primary flood barriers will benefit from a greater awareness of the flood risk. (2) Reduction of emissions: routes and timeframes

In order to achieve the EU's 2řC target, a considerable reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions will have to be achieved in the coming decades, of the order of 10-11 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC) per year in 2050 compared with a 'business as usual' scenario. The fuels to be used to play a decisive role here. There is no time to wait for a transition in the energy system; for the moment existing, mature technologies must be used. Modern renewable energy sources (sun, wind, hydropower and modern biomass) offer too little potential to achieve a globally adequate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the period up to 2030, quite apart from the question of the relative costs. Fossil fuels will therefore continue to dominate the world energy supply until at least 2050. Coal in particular will continue to play an important role. A dozen coal-based economies, which together account for roughly two-thirds of the world population, will undoubtedly exploit the existing cheap and well-distributed coal reserves. A global climate strategy will therefore inevitably have to focus its emission reduction efforts on coal ('clean fossil energy').

In the period to 2050, the required global emission reductions (10-11 GtC per year by 2050) could be achieved via four main routes:

* Energy efficiency (3.4 GtC per year). This option saves fuel (often referred to as a 'no regret' option) and is therefore attractive, but this does not mean it comes without cost. The emphasis will have to be placed on electricity consumption, electricity generation and heating. The greatest savings are to be made in the emerging economies.

* Energy mix (4 GtC per year). This route entails CO2 sequestration and storage in combination with gasification technology and the use of biomass. The transport sector could make a significant contribution to this in the longer term, among other things by using biofuels.

* Photosynthesis (2 GtC per year). This route entails the curbing of deforestation, an acceleration in afforestation and reforestation, better utilisation of timber in products and buildings, and more sustainable agriculture. The potential of this option is of limited duration.

* Reduction of other greenhouse gases (1 GtC per year), primarily methane and (industrial) N2O.

In addition to these main routes, there are additional options for reducing emissions, such as nuclear energy and wind energy.

The emission reduction routes use mature technology, but are not enough to achieve the further emission reductions that will still be needed after 2050. By that time, the energy supply will have to undergo a transition to emission-free energy. This can only be achieved if the wealthy nations invest in a large-scale and long-term research and development effort. The Council recommends the founding of a Top Technology Institute for emission-free energy for the development of this knowledge. Precisely because of the wide distance between the existing and desired situations, a clear distinction needs to be made between technology development and technology diffusion. In the present policy of the EU and the Netherlands this distinction is not made adequately, and this in turn pushes up costs. (3) Effective global coordination

The greatest task in the coming decades is to ensure that industrialising and poor countries realise their economic growth in an emission-efficient way. The marginal costs of emission reduction will remain low in these developing countries for several decades to come, but the reduction in CO2 emissions will only be achieved if the wealthy OECD countries meet all or part of the costs. The Council therefore believes that the Netherlands needs to focus its emission reduction efforts as a priority on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), if necessary in combination with development work.

The emissions trading system set out under the Kyoto protocol is a valuable instrument for the leading countries, but suffers from the effectiveness paradox: what is achievable is not effective, what is effective is not achievable. The small group of participating countries cannot develop an effective global policy without the countries which do not or are not willing to participate in Kyoto in the foreseeable future. Often, the reluctance of non-participating countries is based on fears of low economic growth and a desire to secure energy supplies. This means that, in addition to the Kyoto approach, a 'multicoloured flexibility' is needed in the array of initiatives designed to meet the interests of these countries. This will make it easier to create support for the development of technologies which facilitate the climate-friendly exploitation of coal than for the creation of emission ceilings which could put a brake on the economic growth of emerging economies. When it comes to energy efficiency, the interests of the climate and of a secure energy supply are parallel, making energy efficiency a promising policy focus.

The common interests form the starting point for the establishment of coalitions which will tackle whole or partial problems jointly. These coalitions could focus on different domains, and could for example consist of coalitions of nations (e.g. heavy polluters which together can have a decisive influence on emissions), as well as corporate coalitions (e.g. companies which agree a joint sectoral standard for energy efficiency in the market, which can be tightened up further as time progresses).

The required 'multicoloured flexibility' can take on divergent various forms, varying from a 'no-regret' policy (with enormous potential in developing countries), a 'no-lose' policy (which provides incentives to reduce emissions but imposes no sanctions if they are exceeded), technology development and diffusion and intensity targets, to self-imposed climate policy involving accountability and an emissions trading system or carbon price. As with the trade policy, it is both possible and attractive in some areas to stimulate emission reductions bilaterally and regionally, for example as part of existing special relations or development policy. In addition industry, knowledge institutions and NGOs need to be actively involved in climate policy. Interesting developments are going on at this more horizontal transnational level which should be encouraged where possible.

The UNFCCC does not offer a suitable framework for multilateral coordination; in order to make the coordination more effective, a World Climate Organisation (WCO) needs to be set up, as a permanent organisation backed by fixed diplomatic missions. This is necessary in order to create a degree of problem-ownership, so that decisions are taken and implemented. The WCO would need to act as an executive body (Special Climate Council) for permanent and rotating national members, with a gradual increase in its powers. The WCO could then in time take over the leadership from the de EU, which also implies that the EU and Japan would then no longer be setting (or be able to set) the agenda. Until then, leadership by the EU is both desirable and necessary in order for it to play a catalytic role.

FULL DOCUMENT (in Dutch): here


Even greater food surpluses on the way?

Israeli researchers from the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, have succeeded in isolating a gene that withstands salinity. "The research will contribute to a significant increase in the amount of arable land available for agriculture," said the institute's director Professor Eviatar Nevo, who initiated and spearheaded the pioneering research.

Of the earth's 57 million square miles of land, approximately 12 million square miles are arable - meaning land that can be used for growing crops. However, arable land is being lost at the rate of over ten million hectares per year. Nevo's research will make it possible to grow plants, including crops, in saline earth, a development that will contribute in the future to a true revolution in saline agriculture throughout the world.

Saline agriculture is the production of crops on land that is affected by salt. Too much salt in soil or in irrigation water will inhibit the growth of most crops, or may even kill them. Saline soils are found in arid lands, in coastal deserts, and where arable land has been ruined by poor farming practices.

Modern methods of irrigation and fertilization of crops has caused much of the arable lands around the world to become saline. This is especially true in drylands because of the high rate of evaporation, which leaves the salt behind. More and more farmers are forced to plant crops on marginal lands and to use soil that was once arable but now has a high saline content.

To prove their research, Nevo's team went to the mother of saline content - the Dead Sea - one of the most hypersaline bodies of water in the world with a saline concentration ten times that of the oceans. "Back in 1998, we discovered 77 different types of filamentous fungi in the Dead Sea, some were rare and sporadic, and others were much more common and even reached the bottom of the sea 300 meters down," Nevo told ISRAEL21c. "We became interested in the fungi's genetic resources - what made them thrive in the salty Dead Sea."

In the current study, Eurotium herbariorum, a common fungal species, was isolated from the lake. One of Nevo's doctoral students, Yan Jin, from China, then isolated and sequenced the HOG gene that is responsible, in concert with other genes, for the fungus' ability to defend itself from the salinity of the Dead Sea.

The gene was introduced into 'saccharomyces cerevisiae' - better known as baker's yeast - and the team observed that resultant transgenic yeast was able to tolerate more salt than normal, especially in resisting large temperature changes. The researchers found that in comparison to yeast that was not genetically engineered, the yeast that had been genetically transformed by the insertion of the HOG gene was more durable in saline or highly oxidative environments and also able to better withstand extreme heat and cold. "The gene helps the fungus to balance the internal salt content of the cell through the production of the alcohol glycerol and thus prevents the fungus from drying out and helps it defend itself against salinity," said Nevo. "I expected the gene transformation to increase the salt tolerance of the yeast. But the tolerance to high and low temperatures proved to be a surprise," he added.

The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS] of the United States. It was another feather in the cap of the institute, which Nevo founded in the mid-1970s. Consisting of 25 research laboratories, the University of Haifa facility covers all aspects of evolutionary biology, from ecological modeling and ecological-genetics, to molecular evolution and cytogenetics, associated with the twin evolutionary processes of speciation and adaptation? and everything about evolution from bacteria to humans. "We cut across the life spectrum," Nevo said with a laugh.

A foreign associate of the National Academy of Scientists in the US, Nevo began his career as a geologist, but switched to the field of dynamic evolutionary biology in 1964. "Even as a child, I was interested in this. I'm a born naturalist."

Today the Institute of Evolution also hosts an international graduate center of evolution, which currently houses 70 PhD students from 10 countries, including Yan Jin from China. "We also have another unit with 80 masters students and 1,300 undergraduates. We have collaborations with 500 labs in over 50 countries. Essentially we investigate all the problems connected to evolutionary biology, both theoretical and applicative," said Nevo, with no small amount of pride.

Having devoted 30 years of his life to building the institute into a world-class center of learning, Nevo has no intentions of slowing down, and he's as enthusiastic as a 20-year-old about the salinity gene research. "I've got no plans to retire ? on the contrary, I plan to continue onward," he said.

Since the study was published, Nevo said that the team has gone a step further by also transferred the gene into the model plants Arabi-dopsis and have succeeded in making it salt-resistant. "The genetic salt resistant resources of the Dead Sea could be very important for revolutionizing saline agriculture around the world. If we can transform this gene and other genes we've cloned, we'll be able to improve crop production by making them salt tolerant and enable the growth of crops like wheat in a tepid desert area. Our goal is to develop a battery of salt resistant genes to be used for crop improvement."



User-pays works, as Milton Friedman said it would

Here in this country of nature-lovers, berry-pickers, and climate-change activist weathermen, you would think that the introduction of a modest toll imposed on cars driving into the capitol city -- enacted with the intention of reducing rush-hour traffic, improving air quality and health, increasing use of public transportation and multiple other benefits -- would experience political smooth sailing. Especially after a similar initiative in London has worked beautifully, while charging more than twice the proposed toll at rush hour. Not so. Or at least, not at first.

Last year, the politics around the planned "congestion tax/environmental fee" got so heated that Stockholm's normally calm radio channels began to sound more like America's whiniest call-in shows. Friendships strained under the divide between the "Ja" and "Nej" side of the equation, and many commentators predicted that Stockholm's currently left-leaning city government would experience a crushing defeat on the strength of its support for this issue. There were even open calls for civil disobedience from car-owner support groups, who made it possible for members to purchase special license-plate "protectors," plastic covers that would foil the cameras designed to snap a picture of your car's license plate and ding you for the toll. All that is behind us now. Because the toll works. And the people like it. he plan all along. The backstory of why that was (as I understand it) goes like this: the original idea was promoted by the Swedish Green Party, which meant that it was automatically opposed (or at least, less than enthusiastically supported) by nearly everyone else. Unfortunately, Green support is often the political kiss of death here, even for ideas that everyone agrees are quite good. The political compromise that got the idea through (it was actually forced on the city by the national parliament, not the city council) involved framing it as an experiment, the "Stockholm Trial" in official talk. Stockholm would try it for seven months, and look at the data, and then the people of Stockholm would vote about whether to turn the system back on, or dismantle it.

And that's where we are now. The toll system, which worked nearly flawlessly since being inaugurated on 1 January, was turned off on 31 July. The very next day, traffic jams reappeared on the major arteries that had, magically, been free of such jams for the previous half-year. Here are some of the early results from the Stockholm Trial, which involved a tax of between US $1.50 and 2.75 or so per car, depending on time of day and prevailing exchange rate:

1. The Trial reduced traffic even more than expected. Planners expected 10-15% reduction, and they got about 22% -- nearly a quarter, on average.

2. Mobility improved significantly. The data showed this, and everyone talked about it: it was a lot easier to get around, and you could more reliably predict that you would arrive at your destination on time.

3. Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced 2-3% overall in Stockholm County, just as a result of this one policy. Reductions were around 14% in the inner city, compared to pre-toll levels.

4. Particulates, NOx, and other noxious pollutants were also (rather obviously) reduced, and science-based cost-benefit calculations show the policy would save a number of people from early death with this policy -- in fact, it would save about 300 cumulative life-years. Probably about 25 people were spared the agony of a traffic injury, as well, just during the short period of the trial.

5. Public transport use increased by about 6% (but about 1.5% of that is credited to higher fuel prices during this period). And we got new buses.

6. At the start of the trial, 55% of Stockholmers thought the trial was a "bad decision." That number fell to 41% after just a few months, as people experienced the effects directly, and the number calling it a "good decision" of course rose. Even those whose travel habits forced them to pay the toll showed an increase in approval for it.

With all this positive news about a working strategy, one might assume that the political battle is over, and that the referendum will be a kind of formality. Au contraire. Already the local scribes are beginning to write fascinating things, such as (according to my wife's paraphrase translation of a recent lead news editorial), "Yes, it's all very well that the thing worked as planned and made life significantly better ... but since the political process that originally introduced it was flawed, we should reject it now." Such arcane reasoning is being countered by comely columnists in the free daily papers who say (in a typical example) that they will vote yes "for the environment, for myself, for my daughter."

The vote is 17 September. I will be watching it like a hawk, because if even highly educated Swedes -- living in green-city Stockholm, in a country with a whole Ministry for Sustainable Development and a national policy of becoming fossil-fuel free by 2020 -- won't vote "Ja" for a demonstrably effective policy that has obviously improved their quality of life ... well, we will all have go back to the sustainability strategy whiteboard.

I should add that the Stockholm Trial was not just a new toll, but included also an increase in the region's already-excellent public transportation options, including even a significant reduction in price for single trips. You can get the whole story, in the form of a detailed evaluation report, in English.

Oh, and did I confess yet that I never once paid the new toll? I avoided it completely ... by driving an ethanol-fueled car (and commuting by bus). Environmentally-certified cars are exempt. We get our license tags photographed like everyone else when we pass the payment stations around the city -- big brother is watching your driving habits -- but the computers just ignore us. Partly as a result of this intentional loophole, sales of cars like mine have increased dramatically in Stockholm.

Congestion pricing is, by the way, one of the first dozen "Policies to Change the World" selected for promotion by the newly formed World Future Council. Maybe it's time your city tried this policy, too. Just don't bother with the turning-it-off part.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


7 August, 2006

"Water, water everywhere, but ..."

As Summer temperatures are set to be some of the hottest on record, and much hyperbole is written about whether this is influenced by man's activities, Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomberg, is about to set off to Australia to promote his new book, How to Spend $50 billion - a book on how to get the best bang for the buck on interventions in the developing world. One of his simple conclusions is that trying to correct human-induced climate change is not a cost-effective intervention, whereas improving water supply is a far better initiative. And in the heat, ready access to water, whether in California or the Sahel, or the most arid continent on earth (Australasia), is vital. Unfortunately Lomborg's analysis doesn't address the world's largest water problem -- gross misallocation of agricultural water. This is a pity because his destination, Australia, has a well-honed solution -- the market.

The Problem

Alarmists have been crying wolf about water wars for years, but like many green exaggerations they have a kernel of truth. Freshwater is being overused and polluted in many parts of the world. Aquifers from as far afield as Beijing and Dallas will last only another two or three decades; perennial rivers in many places are now often running dry at least during some parts of the year. In short, we have a problem: there is enough water but it is being used inefficiently almost everywhere and at current rates it will run out soon.

In India over one million children die due to diarrhea and other easily preventable water-borne diseases every year. Few Indians (perhaps 30 percent) have close access to decent sanitation and high quality drinking water. Not only does this expose the majority to dangerous dysenteries and other water-borne disease, but it provides requires back-breaking toil for those (usually women and children) who have to make long journeys to collect it every day. The indirect costs are even more staggering with salinity levels rising in so much irrigation water that crops fail, farmers commit suicide and thousands of the poorest starve.

The main water allocation problem is the result of Soviet-style management over agricultural water. In most places around the globe, governments decide who gets how much water, when they can use it and often what for, and if they don't use their allocation (regardless of how they use it) they will lose it. Once governmental allocations are made, officials rarely reallocate, even when massive changes in agriculture, industry, mining, domestic and rural demand occur. The result is politically favored allocation and grotesque situations where farmers often pay 100 times less than other types of users, and the poorest in slums often pay 10 times what rich domestic consumers pay, and for unsafe water.

While human access to drinking water and sanitation is obviously vital, far more water is used -- about 70 percent of globally withdrawn freshwater -- and vastly more water wasted in agriculture than in any other allocation. Improving agricultural water allocation use and assigning flexible rights to it can result in more efficient outcomes and ultimately fairer allocations to the world's poor in the aridest parts of the world.

Water reallocation is also becoming vital in the fastest growing areas of South East Asia. Due to burgeoning agriculture, China's surface water is rapidly depleting, and according to the respected think tank the Rand Corporation, water shortages could indefinitely lower annual growth by as much as 2 percent. India's quasi-illegal water rights trading system was valued at over US $1 billion a year in 1999 by the World Bank. While this questionable system is improving agricultural output, it is also leading to even faster aquifer depletion and pollution than in China. China needs to adopt individual and communal water rights, and India should legalize its own system, in order to prevent an ecological and health-related disaster in the coming decades; both nations can learn a lot from Australia's rights trading system as well as from successes elsewhere.

A partial solution

Countries and regions that have redefined and traded water rights have seen water access for the rural poor increase in volume and fall in price. All users -- agricultural, industrial and domestic -- have seen their supplies increase in reliability and quality with infrastructural improvements. Aside from making economic sense, there is a moral imperative for pushing for such a reform of water rights -- access to better quality water reduces disease and death.

Chile, South Africa and Australia provide the best examples of how trading can take place, improving farm output while benefiting the poor. Chile's trading has increased access to water for the vast majority of poor rural users. Meanwhile, the US has lost its way: Its western states initially led the pack with legal structures to encourage trade but overburdening federal environmental regulations and perverse litigation against market trades by environmental groups have limited flexible allocation.

Australia's trading system along the hundreds of miles of the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is now the most sophisticated and effective in the world and should be analyzed closely by all countries where agriculture dominates water usage. Progress is perhaps best exemplified by the 'Watermove' website now operating in the MDB. This sophisticated system allows users to trade water on the internet. Moreover, it breaks down the right to water into its constituent parts, including access and distribution.

Trading has promoted a reduction in low-value cropping activity like cereal production; it has encouraged non-farming enterprise owners (including municipalities for domestic water use) to buy traded water in the very arid state of South Australia. Trading has lowered water use and increased farmer productivity; as some farmers leave the business others flourish and choose crops more suitable to the climate (including grapes to make great Australian wines). But regardless of which specific sector buys the water, the clear pattern has been a shift to higher value production and more efficient water use.

Only time will tell whether China and India, and western US states, which within 20 years will also have chronic and acute water problems, will adopt the sophisticated trading techniques of Australia, but it will be a great deal better than decision by government fiat. Water trading allows time for individuals to adapt to changing conditions -- man-made or natural -- and the conditions are changing. Sticking one's head in Gobi or Mojave sand won't help future Chinese or Californians.


OK coral

Weeks after the National Science Foundation released a report about the connection between increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the acidity of the oceans, doomsayers continue to prophesy that global warming will kill the coral reefs off our picturesque Florida coast.

The NSF study, released with two other federal research entities and entitled "Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs," landed with a thud, and it is remarkable how the press has received it. Writers have editorialized about it, literally with one voice, without any critical fact-checking. In a July 11 editorial, the editors of the Cincinnati Post wrote, "This report is a fraction of the available evidence indicating anthropogenic climate change....The evidence is clear and convincing. The global-warming critics are neither." On July 12, the Albuquerque Tribune, in its own in-house editorial, printed the same words (without attribution).

It could have done something more original and scrutinized the NSF report. There's a major problem with it, right at the beginning. Its first paragraph states correctly that, as a result of the burning of fossil fuel and other activities, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is rising. From there, however, the report loses its way. "Rates of increase," it says, "have risen from 0.25% [per year] in the 1960s to 0.75% [per year] in the last five years."

Really? The standard reference for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is that registered at Mauna Loa Observatory, beginning in 1958. The average rate of change in the 1960s was 0.30% per year, and in the last five years, it was 0.55%. This last value is not statistically distinguishable from the average rate for the past 25 years. The real change from the 1960s to the last five years is 0.25% per year, while the NSF-sponsored report gives it as twice that.

The precise figure is important, because the rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide is directly related to the amount of warming it creates and to changes in the acidity of the oceans; computer models using a carbon dioxide increase rate twice that which is observed show twice as much warming. And that is precisely what has occurred: there are now four separate, taxpayer-supported reports "intercomparing" the dozens of climate models for global warming that have evolved in recent years. Each one uses a carbon dioxide increase of 1% per year, or twice the real rate. Ever wonder why they predict so much warming?

It gets better (worse). The coral report then states that "The current atmospheric CO2 expected to continue to rise by about 1% [per year] over the next few decades." "Continue"? The average increase for the last decade was 0.49 per year, for the decade before that was 0.42%, and for the decade before that was 0.43%. Again, about half of what the report expects to "continue." The current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 380 parts per million. Before we industrialized -- back when life expectancy was in the 40s -- the concentration was about 280.

Fewer than 100 million years ago, or 400 million years after corals first arose, the carbon dioxide concentration was a bit less than 3,000 ppm. Around 175 million years ago it was pushing 6,000. If there was that much more carbon dioxide around, the oceans would have been that much more acidic, which would have killed the corals. And yet they lived.

How does the report take this problem into account? It balances the increase in acidification that these concentrations of carbon dioxide would bring about with some countervailing change in its opposite, alkalinity. So the report speculates that "ocean alkalinities could have been higher during periods with high CO2 levels." (Emphasis added.)

Then there's the problem of identifying a definite decline in corals. The report says that it is "difficult" to find this effect, and that "on average" it does not exist, because the rates of coral growth are controlled by many other factors that are apparently obscuring their decline.

How on earth did all of this make it through peer review? Or do we no longer care enough to get the facts right before expressing opinions under the mantle of scientific authority? To many editorialists, when it comes to global warming, facts don't matter. But here are a few: corals have been around for half a billion years, on a planet that was much, much warmer, had much more carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, got hit by an asteroid or two, experienced ice ages and is now in the midst of a slight warming trend. You can bet that they'll be around a long time after humans have come to the end of the evolutionary road.



Plans to exempt new power stations from the next phase of the EU's CO2 trading scheme could lock Germany into highly polluting coal-fired power plants for many years, warn researchers and NGOs.

The German government on 28 June 2006 submitted its national allocation plan to the European Commission for the second phase of the EU's CO2 emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS) covering the period 2008-2012 (see EurActiv 30 June 2006). The ETS is the EU's flagship instrument to fight climate change and meet Europe's Kyoto pledge to reduce its emissions of global warming gases by 8% by year 2012. Germany's national CO2 reduction pledge amounts to a 21% cut because of the sheer size of its economy. Its emissions are currently about 17% lower than in 1990, the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol.

Planned exemptions under the second phase of the EU emissions trading scheme mean a new breed of cleaner coal-fired power stations are on their way in Germany, according to Christian Egenhofer, a senior researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. But it could also lock the country into high carbon fuels for many years to come, he warns.

Under Germany's draft National Allocation Plan, which was submitted to the Commission on 28 June, every new power station built between 2008 and 2012 would be allowed to opt out from carbon emission restrictions for a period of 14 years (EurActiv 30 June 2006). Egenhofer says the opt-out would allow investments into cleaner yet more expensive coal-fired power stations to become economically viable, thus helping the country meet rising demand for electricity. "There is a rational reason for the Germans doing this, it is the security of supply," says Egenhofer. "The German fuel mix is perfectly balanced at the moment, one third gas, one third coal, one third nuclear. So it seems to be a deliberate choice".

The EU carbon trading scheme tends to favour electricity produced from natural gas because it emits lower levels of carbon dioxide. Coal, on the other hand, has higher carbon intensity, which means coal-fired power stations need to buy pollution credits on the market to be able to operate. This in turn pushes their costs up, eventually forcing electricity produced from coal out of the market in the long run. "If you let the market unfettered, then you go towards gas," Egenhofer says. "And all of it will have to come from Russia so you might run in over-dependence. Again, [Germany's] fuel mix may not end up as balanced as it is at the moment".

So is Germany taking the right option in asking to let new coal-fired power stations out of the ETS? "It is a double-edged sword," says Egenhofer. "In the sort term, it helps to move to a cleaner technology within the fuel in question. If you give this 14 year opt-out, you may get this investment because it is a good economic deal. But [the Germans] may at the same time put themselves off-track if you look beyond the Kyoto Protocol," he warns. "From an economic incentive perspective it is a non-sense," Egenhofer says. "If you really want to bring down emissions you want to move to low-carbon fuels. If you get all new installations based on coal, they may be very efficient but they are still very high in carbon intensity so you lock yourself on a certain track. That is a risk."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


6 August, 2006

A little eco-nomics never hurt

Technological advancements have elevated mankind to its healthiest and wealthiest level in history. Our lives are longer, our health is greater, our food is more plentiful, and modern conveniences are now so affordable that even the poor among us own what only the rich could afford 50 years ago. It is against this backdrop that we now find ourselves debating the merits of many of these conveniences and advancements. From the chemical scares of the 1960's and 1970's (e.g., DDT, dioxin, food preservatives), to the fear of runaway population growth and rapidly dwindling petroleum supplies, the very people that have been blessed with the prosperity that unbridled human ingenuity brings are increasingly anxious about the world we have created for ourselves.

Fear of the ultimate environmental threat, global warming, is now striking at the very heart of modern life, casting doubt upon the future availability of inexpensive energy that is necessary to keep society running. Al Gore's movie 'An Inconvenient Truth', Discovery's recent special 'Global Warming: What You Need to Know with Tom Brokaw', and a deluge of media stories and editorials are all dedicated to convincing you that we need to be saved from ourselves.

And while it is true that there are potential negative side effects of our use of fossil fuels (as well as most other natural resources), little attention is ever paid to the practical question: what should be done about it? It is much easier to point out a problem than it is to actually fix it....and 'fixing problems' too often leads to unintended negative consequences.

A century ago people would be too busy working -- trying to stay fed, clothed, and sheltered -- to worry about any ill effects from the industrial revolution. Today, though, we have enough wealth to not only support ourselves and clean up most of our messes in the process, but to donate to causes that claim to be 'making things better' by lobbying for ever-increasing levels of cleanliness and safety in our environment.

What reasonable person could be against 'clean water', 'clean air', and 'clean renewable sources of energy'? Who dares argue with politicians, scientists, and other pundits who lead the fight against global warming? The dangerous illusion underpinning many environmental efforts is that it is both possible and preferable to keep pushing toward a 100 percent clean and safe existence. Those of us who try to point out that there are practical limits to cleanliness and safety are immediately branded as shills for big business. Meanwhile, environmentalists and politicians get to hold the high ground of altruism and concern for the public's interest.

P.J. O'Rourke once said, "Some people will do anything to save the Earth...except take a science course." To that I would add, "...or a basic economics course". If for a reasonable cost we can remove 98 percent of the contaminants in our drinking water and make it quite safe, is it then a good idea to spend ten times as much to push that purity from 98 percent to 99 percent?

In the real world, there are only limited resources to accomplish everything we want to do, and resources diverted to wasteful ends are no longer available to tackle more pressing problems. Only in the imaginary world of the environmental lobbyist, pandering politician, or concerned journalist is it a public service to keep pushing toward 100 percent purity. Occasionally, the light bulb will go on, and someone realizes the practical limits that (thankfully) keep "Earth saving" goals from rarely being achieved. This happened to '20/20' consumer advocate John Stossel in 1994, with his special "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?". For me, it was about 1985, when I started reading about -- and understanding -- basic economics.

While most people are out making the system work, others are devising ever more alarmist ways to make it look like the latest drought, flood, or hurricane is mankind's fault. The implication is that, if only enough of us can agree that something bad is happening, we will then be motivated into action. And we indeed should do those things that make the most economic and scientific sense -- for instance national investments in energy research.

But when the pundits push for solutions that will not work (the Kyoto Protocol, or the rapidly failing EU carbon trading scheme), one begins to wonder about either their intelligence or their motives. In the end, these efforts do little more than redistribute wealth and let their proponents feel good about themselves. Could redistributing wealth be the true motive? Disdain for 'wealth' and 'big business' arises when people neglect the fact that these conditions only occur when someone figures out a better way to provide more desirable goods and services, at a lower cost, that people want. Economic transactions benefit the seller and the buyer, otherwise they would not occur.

But instead, our language belies persistent beliefs in economic myths: 'workers' versus 'management' (as if managers have no economic value), or 'price gouging' (when gasoline supply is disrupted, or has a threatened disruption, and prices rise, we somehow expect the laws of supply and demand to be repealed). We may be envious of those that have more than us, but it is misguided to believe that if they had less, that we would have more.

Everyone benefits from the promise of profits that motivates investors to risk their money on better ways to provide what people want. You say you don't like the disparities in wealth that a free market generates? I would be glad to have my wealth increase by only 40 percent as the rich see a 200 percent increase in their wealth. The alternative is for all of us to be equally poor and miserable. If you must, think of profits as a necessary evil...but for the good of all of us, profits (as well as the risk of losses) are a necessary part of our high standard of living.

As long as the media continues to portray the global warming issue (as well as other environmental threats) as an ideological battle between politicians and scientists who are trying to save humanity on the one hand, and evil petroleum-pushers bent on maintaining our 'addiction to oil' on the other, we will be no closer to solutions to our energy problems. Journalists have the power to frame the debate, and so far that power has been, at best, misused. At worst, it has been abused.


Clinton unveils global warming initiative

On a stage of political all-stars Tuesday afternoon at UCLA, former President Clinton announced a new initiative to help cities combat global warming. Joined by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Clinton laid out the challenges ahead. "We have to reduce about 80% of our greenhouse gases over the next 10 years," said Clinton What a moron! Does he realize that doing so would take us back to the caves?] , whose foundation sponsored the initiative. "It sounds like a daunting task. I don't believe it is." The burning of fossil fuels is blamed for creating most greenhouse gases, which in turn are blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the Earth, leading to an array of problems.

Clinton offered a three-prong plan: Use a consortium of large cities to leverage their purchasing power for energy-saving products; offer expert technical assistance to cities trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions; and create better measurement tools to ensure that progress is being made.

As of last month, 164 nations had signed the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. The United States has not signed the treaty, leading a number of cities and states - including Los Angeles and led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels - to declare they were forging ahead on their own. At the same time, a group of cities from around the globe, led by Livingstone, is also tackling the problem. He detailed some of the drastic and politically unpopular steps that he took to pry motorists from their cars in London - most prominently a huge increase in downtown parking fees.

Villaraigosa promised the invited crowd at UCLA's Anderson School of Management that Los Angeles would not shy from making reductions. "We can't think about global warming as some faraway problem of melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and distant hurricanes," he said. "It's our problem here in the city of Los Angeles." Villaraigosa noted programs already in place, including getting ships to use electric power while docked at the Port of Los Angeles, planting 1 million trees to absorb carbon dioxide and pushing the Department of Water and Power to secure 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. About 5% of Los Angeles' power now comes from renewable sources. The DWP relies heavily on coal-burning power plants, considered to be a significant source of greenhouse gases.


New York Times Op-Ed Heat Wave Hype Melts Under Scrutiny

The August 3 New York Times op-ed by Bob Herbert titled "Hot Enough Yet," makes several dubious global warming claims. See: Herbert promotes the idea that the recent heat wave that has swept across the United States is another example of human caused catastrophic global warming. But the facts do not support this latest example of climate hysteria.

Claim: Herbert implies that the recent heat wave hitting the eastern United States is somehow evidence of global warming. Fact: The recent heat wave hitting Mid-Atlantic States is nowhere close to breaking record temperatures set in 1930 - 50 years before fears of human cased catastrophic global warming began. "That summer has never been approached, and it's not going to be approached this year," said the state of Virginia's climatologist Patrick Michaels. See:

In addition, even climate alarmist, NASA scientist James Hansen, rebuffs any attempts to tie any single weather event to global warming. "I am a little concerned about this, in the sense that we are still at a point where the natural fluctuations of climate are still large -- at least, the natural fluctuations of weather compared to long-term climate change," Hansen, director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters in April 2006.

Claim: Herbert wrote: "We should keep in mind, as Al Gore has pointed out, that of the 21 hottest years ever measured, 20 have occurred within the last 25 years. And the hottest year of this recent hottest wave was last year." Fact: According to official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005. ".this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," noted paleoclimate researcher and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia in an April 2006 article titled, "There is a problem with global warming... it stopped in 1998." See:

Claim: Herbert wrote: "But with polar bears drowning because they can't swim far enough to make it from one ice floe to another." Fact: Polar Bears are not going extinct because of the supposedly melting ice, according to a biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor from the arctic government of Nunavut. "Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present," Taylor wrote on May 1, 2006. See here:

Claim: Herbert wrote: ".with the once-glorious snows of Kilimanjaro about to bring down the final curtain on their long, long run." Fact: A New York Times recent article debunked Herbert's claims, noting that there is `dubious evidence' that Kilimanjaro is melting due to global warming. "The ice on Kilimanjaro has been in retreat since at least the 1880's, with the greatest decline occurring at the beginning of that period, when greenhouse gas concentrations were much lower," says the New York Times article of July4, 2006 by Philip M. Boffey. "The National Academies panel judged that Kilimanjaro's glaciers "may be shrinking primarily as a continuing response to precipitation changes earlier in the century," Boffey noted.

Claim: Herbert wrote: ".with the virtual disappearance of Lake Chad in Africa, which was once the size of Lake Erie, it may be time to get serious about trying to slow this catastrophic trend." Fact: The disappearance of Lake Chad primarily has been caused by human overuse of water, not global warming. "The lake's decline probably has nothing to do with global warming, report the two scientists, who based their findings on computer models and satellite imagery made available by NASA. They attribute the situation instead to human actions related to climate variation, compounded by the ever increasing demands of an expanding population," according to the April 26, 2001 National Geographic titled "Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources." See: ).

Claim: Herbert wrote: "I think the single most effective thing most ordinary Americans could do to become more informed about global warming - and the steps we need to take to fight it - is to go see Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," and read his book of the same title." Fact: Gore has been criticized by many scientists for his incorrect and misleading presentation of science in his movie. "A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse." - wrote Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, in an op-ed in the June 26, 2006 Wall Street Journal. For more scientific critique of Gore see here:

In April, 60 scientists wrote a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister questioning the basis for climate alarmism. The letter noted, "'Climate change is real' is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural "noise." See web link:


Windmills versus birds -- the right decision for the wrong reason

The Australian government banned a windfarm because it might kill a rare parrot. But Greenies want their windmills back and who cares about the parrot? The parrot was probably not endangered but so are many of the things that Greenies want to protect. Maximum disruption is all that the Greenies really want

So, the Orange-bellied Parrot might yet be forced to fly the gauntlet of the deadly wind turbines of Bald Hills. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell yesterday set a course for abandoning the quixotic avian rescue mission he launched in April by blocking the $220 million Bald Hills wind farm. But, with his legal defence looking ever more wobbly, the minister yesterday invited the Bald Hills developers to resubmit their application to build 52 wind turbines in South Gippsland.

Campbell's dilemma illuminates both the dangers of belief politics and the end of certainty within the environmental lobby. The minister's problem is that he really seems to believe at least one or two of the rare parrots will be sliced and diced by the twirling blades of Bald Hills.

Had Campbell merely been wedging species-green against climate-change-green against renewable-committed state government, then John Howard might well be preparing to strike a medal in his honour. Instead the PM could soon be looking for a replacement. Because, whatever the outcome of his ministerial review, Campbell looks as endangered as his pretty parrot.

If, in the name of the parrot, Campbell sticks to his ban, then he will cop it from state governments committed to ambitious renewable energy targets and the developers riding on that policy. Less predictably, Campbell will also get it in the neck from elements of the environmental lobby who now reckon solutions to climate change take precedence over limited species protection.

For example, Greenpeace has called for the parrot-saving minister to be sacked. And not because he has opened the way for the extinction of the parrot. No, Greenpeace says Campbell must go for the flimsy evidence supporting his stand against wind power taking its proper place on the national energy horizon. The irony of Greenpeace's position will be naked to all those who, over the past 25 years, have spent millions defending projects from environmental challenges based on similarly gossamer evidence.

But a Campbell backflip, for all its intellectual necessity, will make him look even sillier than he did in April. Not only will he look weak but the Howard Government will become politically liable for every chopped-up parrot found at the foot of a Bald Hills turbine.

The sad twist in the debate is that the minister made the right decision but for all the wrong reasons. The Government should stop Bald Hills but only because it, like any other wind farm, fails any test of economic viability. Australia's commitment to wind power is little more than an expensive expression of feel-good politics. And power consumers will directly pay the price of the renewables policy.

There is no particular government subsidy available to the wind power industry. Rather, there are federal and state government targets that force power distributors to take whatever wind power is produced. This means the wind generators sell their power into the grid at the going price paid to all other generators. The renewables producers then receive a credit for each megawatt hour they produce. That credit is then sold for about $43 a megawatt hour to the distributors. That is then added to our power bills.

That is the untold story of wind power. In June, Access Economics estimated Victoria's then policy of producing 10 per cent of the state's power from renewables by 2010 would add about 10 per cent to the wholesale price of power. And yet, even in those states with the most ambitious renewables targets, South Australia and Victoria, the net effect of wind power on carbon dioxide emissions will be negligible, if not illusory. According to another recent study, if Victoria reaches its target of 1000 megawatts of renewable generation capacity by 2016 (the state currently boasts about 120MW of wind capacity), its share of national greenhouse gas emissions will fall from 32 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020. But in raw numbers, Victoria's power plants will be pumping out 24 per cent more carbon dioxide by 2020 than they do in 2006 because, quite simply, Victorians will be using much more power.

Interestingly, that same report, prepared for Sustainability Victoria, found flaws in the Government's greenhouse gas abatement model because the Government was assuming wind power would replace, predominantly, brown coal fuelled electricity. But the flukey nature of wind power, combined with the low-cost base of brown coal, means wind is far more likely to replace gas and black coal fired power. Both, but gas in particular, produce lower emissions than Victoria's brown coal. "Thus, a more sophisticated approach is required to estimate the level of abatement from wind generation," the report suggests. I would argue that a greater level of sophistication is needed at all levels of this debate.

Because the answers to our national greenhouse challenge do not lie in the wind. There is no way either wind or solar power can produce the levels of base load electricity capacity we need. The big solutions lie elsewhere and can only emerge from a broad and cohesive national energy policy directed at finding cleaner ways of producing base load power from known technologies. That means embracing the work being done on clean coal and low-emission power plants. And probably investigating nuclear options.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


5 August, 2006

Foolish fight against natural selection in Britain

Japanese knotweed was named yesterday as the most invasive and unwanted of all the imported species in Britain. Fallopia japonica headed a list of the ten most unwanted invasive species compiled by the Environment Agency, which spends thousands of pounds each year trying to eradicate it. So tenacious is the variety, originally imported from Japan as an ornamental garden plant, that it can cause damage to buildings and roads and chokes native species as it spreads. It is particularly common along riverbanks and roadsides but is also found in suburban gardens. It is causing such problems that it is illegal to plant it and there are strict rules on its removal. This summer the agency will issue guidelines for land developers on how to get rid of the plant. The new approach is expected to halve the cost of clearing the weed, which can cost 50,000 pounds per acre. It is estimated that attempting to clear it from Britain would cost 1.56 billion.

American signal crayfish came second in the list of unwanted invaders. They were introduced in the 1970s for farming, but are deadly to native white-clawed crayfish because they carry the fungus Aphanomyces astaci, known as crayfish plague. A family of the American variety can spread more than half a mile along a canal or river in a year. It can causedamage to riverbanks as it digs a complex of burrows that cause them to collapse. At present they are common in freshwater lakes and rivers across England and Wales and if caught by anglers must be killed. But they have the advantage, a spokesman for the agency said, of being "tasty in a bisque". They were introduced in the 1970s for commercial farming.

Mink, Mustela vison, is another species that was brought to Britain to be farmed - in this case for fur - but which now thrives in the wild and has become a pest. It has devastated the numbers of some native creatures, most notably the water vole and moorhen, which are easy prey.

Among the lesser-known invasive species highlighted yesterday is parrot's feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum, a plant that chokes waterways by forming dense mats of vegetation and has adapted to become more frost resistant than in its native central South America. It is known to be in 150 sites in the wild, mostly in southern England, but conservationists fear that it will move north. A spokesman for the agency said: "These invasive species have been identified by the Environment Agency as the biggest threat to safeguarding native species and biodiversity. Japanese knotweed at No 1 is not surprising, given its impact on the natural and built environment. "This is why a new control programme has been developed that will help developers identify the knotweed and choose the most cost-effective way of destroying it. "Parrot's feather is increasingly regarded as a problem. This species is largely confined to the South, but is likely to move northwards due to milder winter temperatures."



Apocalyptic visions of climate change used by newspapers, environmental groups and the UK government amount to "climate porn", a think-tank says. The report from the Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says over-use of alarming images is a "counsel of despair". It says they make people feel helpless and says the use of cataclysmic imagery is partly commercially motivated. However, newspapers have defended their coverage of a "crucial issue".

The IPPR report also criticises the reporting of individual climate-friendly acts as "mundane, domestic and uncompelling". "The climate change discourse in the UK today looks confusing, contradictory and chaotic," says the report, entitled Warm Words. "It seems likely that the overarching message for the lay public is that in fact, nobody really knows."

IPPR's head of climate change Simon Retallack, who commissioned the report from communication specialists Gill Ereaut and Nat Segnit, said: "We were conscious of the fact that the amount of climate change coverage has increased significantly over the last few years, but there had been no analysis of what the coverage amounted to and what impact it might be having."

They analysed 600 newspaper and magazine articles, as well as broadcast news and adverts. Coverage breaks down, they concluded, into several distinct areas, including:

* Alarmism, characterised by images and words of catastrophe

* Settlerdom, in which "common sense" is used to argue against the scientific consensus

* Rhetorical scepticism, which argues the science is bad and the dangers hyped

* Techno-optimism, the argument that technology can solve the problem

Publications said often to take a "sceptical" line included the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph. Into the "alarmist" camp the authors put articles published in newspapers such as the Independent, Financial Times and Sunday Times, as well as statements from environmental groups, academics including James Lovelock and Lord May, and some government programmes. "It is appropriate to call [what some of these groups publish] 'climate porn', because on some level it is like a disaster movie," Mr Retallack told the BBC News website. "The public become disempowered because it's too big for them; and when it sounds like science fiction, there is an element of the unreal there."

No British newspaper has taken climate change to its core agenda quite like the Independent, which regularly publishes graphic-laden front pages threatening global meltdown, with articles inside continuing the theme. A recent leader, commenting on the heatwave then affecting Britain, said: "Climate change is an 18-rated horror film. This is its PG-rated trailer. "The awesome truth is that we are the last generation to enjoy the kind of climate that allowed civilisation to germinate, grow and flourish since the start of settled agriculture 11,000 years ago."

Ian Birrell, the newspaper's deputy editor, said climate change was serious enough to merit this kind of linguistic treatment. "The Independent led the way on campaigning on climate change and global warming because clearly it's a crucial issue facing the world," he said. "You can see the success of our campaign in the way that the issue has risen up the political agenda."

Mr Retallack, however, believes some newspapers take an alarmist line on climate change through commercial motives rather than ideology. "Every newspaper is a commercial organisation," he said, "and when you have a terrifying image on the front of the paper, you are likely to sell more copies than when you write about solutions."

Mr Birrell denied the charge. "You put on your front page what you deem important and what you think is important to your readers," he said. "If our readers thought we put climate change on our front pages for the same reason that porn mags put naked women on their front pages, they would stop reading us. "And I disagree that there's an implicit 'counsel of despair', because while we're campaigning on big issues such as ice caps, we also do a large amount on how people can change their own lives, through cycling, installing energy-efficient lighting, recycling, food miles; we've been equally committed on these issues."

The IPPR report acknowledges that the media, government and NGOs do discuss individual actions which can impact greenhouse gas emissions, such as installing low-energy lightbulbs. But, it says, there is a mismatch of scale; a conclusion with which Solitaire Townsend, MD of the sustainable development communications consultancy Futerra, agrees. "The style of climate change discourse is that we maximise the problem and minimise the solution," she said. "So we use a loud rumbling voice to talk about the challenge, about melting ice and drought; yet we have a mouse-like voice when we talk about 'easy, cheap and simple' solutions, making them sound as tiny as possible because we think that's what makes them acceptable to the public. "In fact it makes them seem trivial in relation to the problem."

Mr Retallack believes his report contains important lessons for the government as it attempts to engage the British public with climate change. "The government has just put 12m pounds into climate change communication initiatives," he said, "including teams which will work at the local level. "It's vital that this motivates and engages the public."



Or so the article below tries to claim. They are right that desertification in areas near or around the Sahara is an underlying problem but blaming it on global warming rather than on the well-known cause -- overgrazing by goats and other domestic animals -- is just another Greenie absurdity

Though a sudden agreement gave hope for peace in Darfur, the lack of support from small anti-government groups, the spillover of refugees into Chad and the opposition of the central government to UN peacekeepers mean that the conflict drags on. Lost in discussions about ending the Sudanese government's attacks on its people, however, is the acknowledgment of how the dispute began: Darfur may well be the first war influenced by climate change.

In recent years, increasing drought cycles and the Sahara's southward expansion have created conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over shortages of water and land. This scarcity highlighted the central government's gross neglect of the Darfur region-a trend stretching back to colonial rule. Forsaken, desperate and hungry, groups of Darfurians attacked government outposts in protest. The response was the Janjaweed and supporting air strikes.

Though a sudden agreement gave hope for peace in Darfur, the lack of support from small anti-government groups, the spillover of refugees into Chad and the opposition of the central government to UN peacekeepers mean that the conflict drags on. Lost in discussions about ending the Sudanese government's attacks on its people, however, is the acknowledgment of how the dispute began: Darfur may well be the first war influenced by climate change.

In recent years, increasing drought cycles and the Sahara's southward expansion have created conflicts between nomadic and sedentary groups over shortages of water and land. This scarcity highlighted the central government's gross neglect of the Darfur region-a trend stretching back to colonial rule. Forsaken, desperate and hungry, groups of Darfurians attacked government outposts in protest. The response was the Janjaweed and supporting air strikes.

"The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor. We should see this as a warning sign."

The theory that current climate change will result in resource scarcity that could spark warfare has gained traction in the past decade, with research on the topic commissioned by organizations ranging from the United Nations to the Pentagon. In March, British Home Secretary John Reid publicly fingered global warming as a driving force behind the genocide in Darfur. "[Environmental] changes make the emergence of vio-lent conflict more rather than less likely," he said. "The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur. We should see this as a warning sign."

Desertification and increasingly regular drought cycles in Darfur have diminished the availability of water, livestock and arable land. "The effect of climate change on these resources has been a latent problem," said Leslie Lefkow, an expert on Darfur with Human Rights Watch. "And instead of addressing the cause of that tension and putting money into development of water resources...the government has done nothing. So the tensions have grown. And these tensions are one of the reasons why the rebellion started."

Chalking the Darfur conflict up to climate change alone would be an oversimplification, argues Eric Reeves, a leading advocate and a professor of English literature at Smith College. "The greater cause, by far, lies in the policies of the current National Islamic Front regime," he said. Marc Lavergne, a researcher with the French National Center for Scientific Research and former head of the Centre D'Etudes et de Documentation Universitaire Scientifique et Technique at the University of Khartoum, agrees. "The problem is not water shortage as such, and water shortages don't necessarily lead to war. The real problem is the lack of agricultural and other development policies to make the best use of available water resources since colonial times."


Windy idea blows itself out in Australia

The company behind the South Gippsland wind farm that fell victim to the orange-bellied parrot has scrapped plans for one near Ballarat. Wind Power has axed plans for a 14-turbine farm at Haddon, 15km west of Ballarat, known as the Bo Peep wind farm. The company yesterday cited lack of financial viability and local opposition as among the reasons for the about-face. Wind Power is fighting federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell in the Federal Court over his controversial decision to blackball the Bald Hills project.

Wind Power director Andrew Newbold said a pre-feasibility study found that Bo Peep would not make money. "The studies show it could only sustain three or four (turbines), which is not commercially viable," he said. "This is just part of what we do, (it is) a decision we take quite often." The wind farm would have had turbines almost 100m tall with blades up to 55m long.

Mr Newbold said the company was conducting pre-feasibility studies for two sites in the Lexton area, about 47km northwest of Ballarat. He said Wind Power had considered local opposition against the Bo Peep farm. "It was not a determining factor, but certainly a factor we took into account," he said. A study found the area could only take three or four turbines, a big reason for ending the project. The State Government would not comment on the axing of the Bo Peep farm yesterday. Bo Peep would have generated less than 30 megawatts of electricity, which means that Ballarat Council, not the State Government, considers the planning permit.

Wind Power's fight against Senator Campbell will return to the Federal Court this month. It is seeking to overturn a decision that banned construction of the Bald Hills wind farm, about 20km southeast of Inverloch, because of the danger it posed to the orange-bellied parrot. But a report showed the wind farm would possibly threaten one parrot every 1000 years.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


4 August, 2006

California AG Puts Climate Skeptics on Trial

Post lifted from Steven Milloy

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is apparently trying to position California as a leader in the movement to silence scientific debate. The State of California has filed a request in federal court to force auto makers to disclose all documents and communications between the companies and the so-called "climate skeptics." California accuses the climate skeptics of playing a "major role in spreading disinformation about global warming."

The underlying litigation is a lawsuit by General Motors, DaimlerChrysler Corp., and the Association of Automobile Manufacturers against the state of California challenging the state's greenhouse gas emissions limits for new cars, light-duty trucks and sports utility vehicles (Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep Inc. v. Catherine Witherspoon, No. 04-6663).

California has been joined in the lawsuit by environmental activist groups including, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense.

In a pre-trial discovery motion, California and the environmental groups asked for:

All DOCUMENTS relating to both GLOBAL WARMING and to any of the following individuals: S. Fred Singer, James Glassman, David Legates, Richard Lindzen, Patrick J. Michaels, Thomas Gale Moore, Robert C. Balling, Jr., Sherwood B. Idso, Craig D. Idso, Keith E. Idso, Sallie Baliunas, Paul Reiter, Chris Homer [sic], Ross McKitrick, Julian Morris, Frederick Seitz, Willie Soon, and Steven Milloy, including but not limited to:

  1. All DOCUMENTS relating to any communications between YOU and these individuals, and
  2. All DOCUMENTS relating to YOUR relationship (or the relationship of any automobile manufacturer or association of automobile manufacturers) with any of them, including but not limited to payments directly or indirectly from YOU or any other automobile manufacturer or association of automobile manufacturer to any of them.

The state then goes on to quote from Ross Gelbspan's book entitled, "The Heat Is On":

Ever since climate change took center stage at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Pat Michaels and Robert Balling, together with Sherwood Idso, S. Fred Singer, Richard S. Lindzen, and a few other high-profile greenhouse skeptics have proven extraordinarily adept at draining the issue of all sense of crisis. They have made frequent pronouncements on radio and television programs, including a number of appearances by some of them on the Rush Limbaugh show; their interviews, columns, and letters have appeared in newspapers ranging from local weeklies to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. In the process they have helped create a broad public belief that the question of climate change is hopelessly mired in unknowns..

The tiny group of dissenting scientists have been given prominent public visibility and congressional influence out of all proportion to their standing in the scientific community on the issue of global warming. They have used this platform to pound widely amplified drumbeats of doubt about climate change. These doubts are repeated by virtually every climate-related story in every news-papers and every TV and radio news outlet in the country.

By keeping the discussion focused on whether there really is a problem, these dozen or so dissidents-contradicting the consensus view held by 2,500 of the world's top climate scientists-have until now prevented discussion about how to address the problem.

California then asserts that:

As set forth above, Defendants are entitled to review the documents most likely to contain internal dissent at the manufacturers and the most likely such documents are those dealing with the tactics of entities like the GCC and individuals like the "climate skeptics."

The automakers responded by stating that:

The so-called "climate skeptics" are not on trial in this case, and the court should resist defendants' attempt to put them on trial. Nor does this case require the court definitively to resolve questions regarding "GLOBAL WARMING" writ large. At most, as Plaintiffs have stated before and will state again at the risk of redundancy, the only relevant issue in this case with respect to global warming is the much narrower issue of what impact, if any, the A.B. 1493 Regulations will have on global warming. To adjudicate this issue, the court will need to assess the greenhouse gas reductions that the A.B. 1493 Regulations will cause and then compare these reductions to the proffered experts' view about how much this level of reduction will affect the global climate. In the context of this battle-of-experts, Defendants' attempt to plumb the plaintiffs' files for documents regarding Defendants' hit-list of "climate skeptics" is beside the point.

There are at least three points to make here.

First, California and the global warming lobby doesn't like what the skeptics have to say and, by virtue of this sort of intimidation, is apparently out not only to silence the skeptics but to make sure that no one dare support the skeptics lest supporters be implicated as aiding and abetting thought-crimes against California-approved, politically-correct global warming science.

Next, I wonder whether Attorney General Lockyer disclosed to the judge that Gelbspan is a rather dubious character - for example, he misrepresented himself as a Pulitizer Prize winner on the jacket of his book, entitled "The Heat Is On." Gelbspan never won a Pulitzer, nor was he ever even nominated. Click for more on Gelbspan

Finally, AG Lockyer has a track record of trying to silence scientific debate. In 2001, for example, the pro-gun control Lockyer gagged California state experts who opposed Lockyer's dubious plans for pre-sale ballistics fingerprinting.

The so-called "climate skeptics" are all that stand between junk science-based global warming alarmism and higher energy prices, reduced economic growth and increased Green political power.

Global warming, 1948 style

Post lifted from The Corner

A scientist friend discovered an article from 1948 entitled "The Present Climatic Fluctuation." Written by Professor Hans Ahlmann of the University of Stockholm, it begins:

The present climatic fluctuation has been discussed since the 1920's almost exclusively in scientific circles, although it has recently become a subject of more than academic interest...Ordinary people are beginning to realize that something has happened and is happening which is of great interest to themselves. The last dry summer, which transformed large parts of Western Europe into a virtual steppe, increased this interest and also caused anxiety, though this drought cannot be said with any certainty to belong to the present climatic fluctuation.

Sound familiar? All that is missing is adocumentary by Thomas E Dewey on the subject. Anyway, Ahlmann documents rapidly rising temperatures, glaciers melting like crazy, atmospheric circulation changes, species shifting, sea level rise, and so on from all around the world. But he concludes:

If we find in the Antarctic similar evidence of the present climatic fluctuation as has been found in other parts of the world, we shall be justified in concluding that the present fluctuation is a world-wode phenomenon and probably the result of variations in solar activity which, slow as they may be to take effect, are actually resulting in an improvement in the climate of our world.

How times change!

More Comes From Knowing More

Ideas have consequences, which Malthus never quite understood and which Greenies still don't understand

For a long time, economists believed that much of their job was to analyze a world of scarcity, the grim business of harvesting limited resources and distributing too few goods to too many people. And then there was the matter of decreasing returns to additional investment. Such returns were once "a familiar topic in economics," David Warsh tells us in "Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations." After all, "even the richest coal vein plays out."

Decreasing returns and scarcity animated the doomster wing of economics, of which Thomas Malthus was the principal architect. It was he who lamented overpopulation so famously, even ahead of Paul Ehrlich, and predicted bouts of "periodical misery" to adjust human numbers downward, putting them, at least now and then, in equilibrium with the world's limited riches.

Mr. Warsh, a former economics reporter for the Boston Globe, does not intend to mock earlier theories of political economy but to tell the story of their gradual refinement over time--especially as "one system of thought replaces another." He notes, for instance, that anti-Malthusian concepts central to the understanding of modern economic growth--abundance and the notion of "increasing returns"--came to compete with the scarcity school of thought. It is axiomatic to us, not least because of technology's marvelous effects, that "the same amount of work or sacrifice produces an increasing quantity of goods." But it was an idea that required special attention when it was first considered plausible.

The worry at first was that, in theory, increasing returns--where they proved possible--would create monopoly power. In Adam Smith's famous pin factory, division of labor and specialization yielded increasing returns. But why wouldn't the pin factory, or any other enterprise generating increasing returns, increase itself (so to speak) at the expense of every other enterprise of lesser aptitude and slower growth? Monopoly power would then undermine the competition that, in Smith's view, put markets on their virtuous path.

It remained a worry--and a conceptual conundrum--for a long time to come. Fifty years ago, the economist George Stigler framed the problem this way: "Either the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market, and, characteristically, industries are monopolized; or, industries are characteristically competitive." If they are indeed characteristically competitive, then the monopoly-threatening aspect of Adam Smith's view is, as Mr. Stigler noted, either "false or of little significance." Like many modern economists, he sided with the reliably competitive nature of industrial growth, and the fate of modern economies has borne him out.

But what about growth itself--especially the sustained economic growth that we now take for granted (however sluggish it may be at times)? At an informal academic conference in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1988--assembled by Jack Kemp, then a member of the House--the Stanford economist Paul Romer presented a paper that ultimately turned the economic thinking on its ear. In Mr. Romer's work, as Mr. Warsh puts it, "the concept of intellectual property was, if not exactly 'discovered,' then formally characterized for the first time in the context of growth." Mr. Romer saw that knowledge was "both an input and output of production."

Thus instead of land, labor and capital--the traditional inputs of economic theory--it was "people, ideas and things" that mattered, driving technological change and entrepreneurial creativity. "No longer were the advantages of technical superiority to be understood as a case of 'market failure,'" Mr. Warsh writes. "They were part of the rules of the game." Such superiority was by its nature temporary--i.e., nonmonopolistic. New knowledge constantly trumped old, and the law (rightly) gave ideas only limited property-protection.

More and more, economists came to see that it was knowledge that made the difference in modern societies--e.g., in software, drugs, industrial processes, biotechnology and other parts of the economy where the upfront costs were large, the payoffs enormous and the benefits widespread. Economists inevitably turned their attention to the institutions or invisible structures--constitutions, customs, property rights, cultural sentiments (like trust)--that help to generate knowledge and sustain its effects.

In his admirably compelling account of economic thinking over time--from Adam Smith to the present day--Mr. Warsh shows a certain partiality to abstract mathematical theory. He might have given more credit to the thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, the great philosopher of freedom and opponent of central planning; or to historians such as Joel Mokyr, who has chronicled the effects (as the subtitle of one of his books has it) of "technological creativity and economic progress"; or to popularizers such as George Gilder, who has documented (and celebrated) the role of knowledge in economic growth, especially in our computer age.

Mr. Warsh does, though, quote the great British economist Alfred Marshall, who observed as early as 1890 that "knowledge is our most powerful engine of production; it enables us to subdue nature and force her to satisfy our wants." More than a century later, knowledge is still the true wealth of nations.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


3 August, 2006


Even "The Guardian" is realizing that if global warming did happen, it would have pluses and minuses.

Climate change could "dramatically" change the face of British tourism in the next 20 years, with European tourists flocking to the UK to escape unbearably hot continental summers, experts say. Research shows that European tourists may choose to holiday in Britain as resorts nearer to home become too hot.

Weather changes may provide revival opportunities for northern seaside towns such as Blackpool and put new strains on roads and development in southern coastal resorts, a study in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism said.

Academic David Viner, a researcher at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Norwich, produced the report after analysing the work of experts around the globe. "The likelihood [is] that Mediterranean summers may be too hot for tourists after 2020, as a result of too much heat and water shortages," the study said.

There were "opportunities for the revival of northern European resorts, including Blackpool, in the next 20 years, as climate change and rising transport costs offer new holiday opportunities," it said. The study added: "Climate change will impact on many holiday destinations. For many this will be problematic, for others it will produce benefits."



Declaring California and the United Kingdom partners in an international fight against climate change, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a unique accord Monday to develop plans to curb pollution and avert global warming. The unusual summit, between the British leader and the governor of a state accounting for the world's sixth-largest economy, was hailed in a joint mission statement as a commitment to "urgent action to reduce greenhouse gases" and promote cleaner technologies. "I think the evidence of climate change and its danger is overwhelming," Blair said, appearing with Schwarzenegger at the Port of Long Beach. "I think it is now very hard for anyone to dispute it."

Officially, California has no authority to enter into treaties with foreign governments, and the agreement announced by Blair and Schwarzenegger includes no binding requirements to reduce pollution. Instead, it is a joint pledge by Britain and California to share expertise, ideas and business strategies to respond to climate change.

But the announcement of a shared United Kingdom-California effort to combat the problem appeared to bypass -- and upstage -- the Bush administration in planning ways to cut carbon dioxide and other pollutants scientists blame for global warming. "We're collaborating on a long-term challenge . on the single most important issue we face as a global community," Schwarzenegger said. "California is like a nation-state and when we act, the world takes notice." Schwarzenegger added: "There is not great leadership from the federal government in protecting the environment and that's why we as a state are moving forward."

More here


Mosquito control officials have scheduled aerial pesticide spraying in urban Yolo County this week, saying they want to prevent an epidemic of West Nile virus. The treatment is planned for Thursday and Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight over 15,000 acres in Davis and 13,000 acres in Woodland. All 28,000 acres are set to be sprayed the first night, with a repeat application the second night. David Brown, manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, said the agency also may spray Galt and Elverta in far southern and northern Sacramento County, respectively, but no definitive plans are in place.

This is the second year in a row that the mosquito district has opted to deliver chemical insecticides by aircraft over urban residential areas to combat West Nile virus, which has an unpredictable ability to cripple and kill. Some people can be infected and never know it, while others develop symptoms ranging from body aches and fever to paralysis. Last year's aerial spraying over 110,000 acres in Sacramento County triggered vociferous protest.

On Monday, Jack Milton, an organizer of a group called Stop West Nile Spraying Now, presented more than 400 letters to the Davis City Council from residents opposed to spraying. He and others propose a resolution asking that Davis be allowed to opt out of the spraying. They also want a moratorium on spraying while that resolution is considered. Milton said he realizes the resolution wouldn't be binding -- the Mosquito and Vector Control District, not the City Council, decides when spraying is necessary -- but that it would send a strong message. "We're astonished at what is happening," said Milton, a math professor at the University of California, Davis. "They don't have any evidence to do what they are doing."

Mosquito district and state health department officials have said last year's spraying was effective. Following the treatments, which occurred on seven nights in August, the mosquito population shrank and no new human cases of West Nile virus were reported in the county. Sacramento was the nation's epicenter for the virus in 2005, with 177 cases and one death. California as a whole logged 935 cases, with 19 deaths. So far this year, Sacramento has reported no cases; Yolo has two. Both involve men, one 18, the other 36, according to Yolo County Health Officer Bette Hinton. She said Monday that both patients are recovering.

District officials said they don't want to see a repeat of last year's epidemic. "Are we spraying too early?" Brown, the district manager, asked rhetorically. "We could say we sprayed too late last year." Brown said he is particularly concerned that during the current cool spell, people are more likely to spend time outside, increasing their exposure to mosquitoes. West Nile virus is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

Normally, the district controls mosquitoes by treating standing water with larvicides or mosquito-eating fish, with the aim of preventing juvenile mosquitoes from becoming flying adults. Spraying pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes, or "adulticiding," is considered a less-effective last resort. Brown said the number of infected mosquitoes in urban Yolo County, along with rising numbers of dead infected birds and the onset of human cases, calls for emergency measures.

Hinton appeared at a mosquito district news conference Monday to show her support for the spraying. "The risk of the disease is hugely larger than any risk of the (pesticide) product," she said.

The district is using the same pesticide as last year, EverGreen Crop Protection EC 60-6. It contains two active ingredients: pyrethrins, which are extracted from chrysanthemums and attack some insects' nervous systems, and piperonyl butoxide, or PBO, a "synergist" that impedes the ability of an insect's body to break down pyrethrins. Pyrethrins break down quickly in sunlight and moisture, and are considered a relatively benign choice among pesticides. PBO is more insidious. A UC Berkeley study published online last week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology found that PBO from last August's treatments doubled the toxicity of pesticides that had already accumulated in local creeks.

More here


Famed global warming activist James Schneider and a journalist friend were both found frozen to death on Saturday, about 90 miles from South Pole Station, by the pilot of a ski plane practicing emergency evacuation procedures. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing", recounted the pilot, Jimmy Dolittle. "There were two snowmobiles with cargo sleds, a tent, and a bright orange rope that had been laid out on the ice, forming the words, 'HELP-COLD'".

One friend of Prof. Schneider told ecoEnquirer that he had been planning a trip to an ice sheet to film the devastation brought on by global warming. His wife, Linda, said that she had heard him discussing the trip with his environmental activist friends, but she assumed that he was talking about the Greenland ice sheet, a much smaller ice sheet than Antarctica. "He kept talking about when they 'get down to chili', and I thought they were talking about the order in which they would consume their food supplies", Mrs. Schneider recounted. "I had no idea they were talking about Chile, the country from which you usually fly or sail in order to reach Antarctica".

Apparently, while all of Prof. Schneider's friends were assuming that the July trek would be to Greenland, during Northern Hemisphere summer, his plans were actually to snowmobile to the South Pole - which, in July, is in the dead of winter.

Mr. Dolittle related how some people do not realize that, even if there has been warming in Antarctica, the average temperature at the South Pole in July still runs about 70 degrees F below zero. "Some people think that July is warm everywhere on Earth." "And I was surprised to see how close they got to South Pole Station. They ran through all of their gas supplies for the snowmobiles", explained Doolittle. "They had cold weather gear and clothes, but during this time of year you just don't go outside unless it is an emergency." "At least James died for something he believed in", said Mrs. Schneider. "He died while trying to raise awareness of the enormous toll that global warming is taking on the Earth."



I only glanced at the above story when I first put it up but, on reflection, it is probably a spoof. Interesting that it is hard to satirize Greenies without it seeming totally believable!


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


2 August, 2006

The EPA's Polluted Science

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to tighten air pollution standards again. What we really need, however, is an effective program to control the EPA. The EPA is facing a legal deadline of September for deciding whether to make the federal standards for fine particulate matter (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog) more stringent. While this may sound like a laudable goal on the surface, the absurdity of the process becomes readily apparent once you learn that the EPA’s air quality standards for soot and smog issued in 1997 have yet to be fully implemented and their results assessed. Worse, the congressional opposition to this new EPA crackdown has opted for the usually futile tactic of arguing costs rather than science with the agency.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must consider health risks but not costs in determining the so-called “national ambient air quality standards.” Despite the law’s express prohibition on the consideration of costs, Sen. George Voinovich, D-Ohio, is arguing that hundreds of counties would violate the EPA’s new standards, according to an article in the Clean Air Report (July 27). Voinovich asserted at a July 19 hearing on the EPA’s proposed rules that while he was governor of Ohio, the state had difficulty in attracting businesses because of the EPA rules.

While I appreciate the importance of Voinovich’s concerns, his assumption that fellow politicians, the public and the media -- all largely ignorant of the realities of air quality science -- will prioritize jobs over the public health will not carry the day in this debate.

Voinovich apparently doesn’t remember the circus surrounding the EPA’s issuance of air quality rules for soot and smog in 1997. The costs of those rules -- still not fully implemented, mind you -- were estimated to be $100 billion per year for soot and were not estimated at all for smog because they were extraordinarily high (remember that, under the law, the EPA is not supposed to consider costs at all, so their calculation is technically not even necessary).

The EPA did, however, claim that its rules would prevent thousands of premature deaths per year, thus satisfying the legal and political hurdles to issuing the rules -- at least on a superficial level. And this aspect of the EPA’s rulemaking is where Sen. Voinovich – if he really wanted to spotlight problems with the agency and its rulemaking -- should focus his attention.

The stark fact is that there is not a single believable study demonstrating that soot and smog at current levels cause any significant health problems -- let alone any deaths. Yes, the EPA has perhaps dozens if not hundreds of studies that purport to link soot, in particular, with premature death, but every single one of these studies is easily debunked as an exercise in statistical wishful thinking. All of the studies that supposedly link soot with premature deaths rely on extraordinarily poor health and soot exposure data, and weak statistical correlations.

They’re even more laughable given that the precedent cited by the agency for relying on such weak statistical correlations is the EPA’s own 1993 report claiming to link secondhand smoke with lung cancer -- a study that was eviscerated and vacated by a federal court in 1998 because the EPA’s science was so poor and contrived in nature.

The health data the EPA’s studies relied upon was so dubious in quality that when Congress requested that the agency turn over the data for independent review, the EPA’s only realistic choice was to stonewall – and it did, refusing to turn over the data to a Congress that blinked in the face of bureaucratic refusal. It was a daring tactic that served the agency well as it entirely prevented any meaningful review of the agency’s health claims, which subsequently helped the agency beat back legal efforts to block the rules.

What Sen. Voinovich also apparently doesn’t understand is the EPA modus operandi when it comes to science and regulation. You might think that the EPA first looks at the science and then decides whether regulation is necessary – you’d be wrong. The EPA typically decides first whether to regulate, and then it molds and manipulates the science to fit its regulatory decisions. This has long been standard practice at the agency – a 1992 report entitled “Safeguarding the Future: Credible Science, Credible Decisions” by a blue ribbon panel of scientists reviewing the EPA’s use of science concluded that the EPA “adjusts science to fit policy” – and was one of the reasons given by the federal court for vacating the EPA’s secondhand smoke risk assessment.

If Sen. Voinovich is truly concerned about the economic impacts of the EPA’s proposed air quality standards, he would start at the proposal’s Achilles heel –the EPA’s junk science.


The Quixotic Quest for Carbon Neutrality

Post lifted from Cheat-seeking Missiles

Carbon neutrality, as its name implies, is the quest to offset your "carbon footprint" -- the amount of carbon your business or lifestyle puts into the atmosphere -- with credits deemed to reduce carbon output by an equal amount. Basically, it's "burn a watt, plant a tree," but it gets more complex quickly.

Al Gore bragged recently that he and Tipper are going carbon-neutral, and said he proofed his pudding with his flick, An Inconvenient Truth. Variety details how Gore's Opus Climatus became carbon neutral:
Paramount Classics and Participant [Productions] have teamed with NativeEnergy on an eco-savvy way to tout the film: They're offsetting 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by pic-related globetrotting activities such as air travel, car services and hotels.

NativeEnergy calculates a "carbon footprint" based on the promo activities, with Par Classics and Participant splitting the costs associated with the footprint. NativeEnergy will use the proceeds to help build new Native American, Alaskan Native Village and farmer-owned renewable energy projects.

It's nice that the Native Americans got some renewable energy. I wonder how much carbon will be burned delivering the equipment and the trainers, and how that carbon will be offset.

Note that Gore did not attempt to offset the energy involved in making the film; only in marketing it. Production crew travels, lighting sets, manufacturing cameras, editing and duping the film ... indeed, showing the film in air conditioned theaters that folks drive to ... these are carbon-spewing activities that Gore chose not to be neutral on. Why? Presumably because it would be far too costly.

But what's really obvious is that carbon neutrality in this application is nothing more than another Leftist wealth redistribution scheme: Rich politico-enviros and Hollywood producers give some of their money to poor Native Americans, then recover it by writing it off as marketing expense, so the American taxpayers foot the bill.

In concept, carbon neutrality is blissful. It allows us to purge our materialism guilt by giving to the church of Mother Earth. After all, there's nothing wrong with planting trees, or encouraging the development of alternative energy sources through Renewable Energy Credits, another carbon neutrality strategy. Really. I'm not being sarcastic. There's nothing wrong with that. Go for it.

But there's nothing wrong with not doing it, either. Corporations and individuals give in many ways, and the carbon neutrality movement is a very clever way to encourage their giving to go into eco-causes. But that can mean that other worthy causes -- orphaned children, inner city poverty, coversion of lost souls -- will get less money, and human suffering will increase because the enviros are getting more money to chase the windmill of turning back their demon de jour, global warming.

Because this is a Leftist concept, the next logical step will be to mandate carbon neutrality by forcing businesses to pursue it. In so doing, they are fostering Socialism, forcing their thinking into the free market. Their thinking always is detrimental to the free market. When the free market suffers, people suffer by getting laid off ... which is more impactful on their quality of life than global warming.

Finally, as shown in this satellite photo of air pollution in China -- carbon pollutants that are now wafting over our shores from the smelters, factories and diesel trucks of the eco-bruttality that is Communist China -- we see the final fallacy of carbon neutrality. It focuses on the nations that are working hard to increase efficiency and decrease pollutants, and does nothing globally to fix problems in China and India.

Oh, they may have a handy project you can help fund to put windmills in some farm village in rural China, but what's needed is eco-diplomacy, cutting Favored Nation trade status and tough policy, not chanting Om and prancing after carbon neutrality.

Now that the enviros have introduced the concept of carbon neutrality, they should keep their little promotion machine going and let the free market do its stuff. If they do, carbon neutrality is a fine thing.

But it's more likely they will do what they always do. They will guilt-trip us, indoctrinate our children, and not practice what they preach. (How does a big, fundraising-needy enviro group go carbon-neutral on a direct mail campaign to a couple million recipients?) When that fails to turn public opinion enough for them (and they have a very hard time realizing when they've been victorious) they will use legislation and the courts to force their will on us.


If this ever gets off the ground, the Greenies will of course oppose it as "unnatural"

While scientists have made great strides in recent years in understanding and predicting the weather, the idea of taking control of the weather and making it rain has remained within the realm of mysticism and religion. Now Israeli researchers are part of an international team along with American and Belgian colleagues gearing up to perform one of the greatest and most elusive tricks of all by causing the heavens to bring rain. With the potential to alleviate the hunger problem in the world, the Geshem Project (named for the Hebrew word for rain) hopes to turn myth into science.

Scientists plan to produce rain in sub-tropical areas during the cloudless summer months by altering air currents using a unique thermal material developed in Israel. Led by Professor Leon Brenig of the University of Brussels Department of Physics, Project Geshem partners desert researchers from Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev with computer analysts at UCLA in California, and space imagery from NASA. The technique involves spreading a large black solar-absorbing surface over several square kilometers of land to generate intense and asymmetrical thermal emissions. Energy from sunlight is absorbed by the material and then radiated back into the air to heat the lower atmosphere with minimal loss into the ground. The heated air rises taking water condensation high enough to form clouds and produce out-of-season rain.

"It will make a huge difference." Brenig told ISRAEL21c. "In a region where there is 150 mm. a year it would go up to 600-700 mm. a year." Eli Zaady, a researcher on the project and ecologist from the BGU Open Space Agriculture Research organization, explains the technique could increase crops for a given area by 40 percent. "It all depends on the amount moisture in the air," said Zaady.

Sub-tropical climates are vulnerable to drought during the summer due to an atmospheric phenomenon know as the Hadley Cells. First described by their namesake George Hadley in the 18th century to explain the Trade Winds, Hadley cells are convection cycles of air that affect the weather in tropical and sub-tropical climates. The hot equatorial sun heats air in the low atmosphere causing it to rise and flow away from the equator towards the North and South. The air thermals carry water condensation up until it forms clouds that produce rain and the humid equatorial climates. However, as the air-currents reach sub-tropical regions they cool and descend preventing local water condensation from rising high enough to form clouds. The effect deprives sub-tropical areas of rain during the warm months of spring and summer.

"The object is to locally fight against that descent," Brenig says and estimates that air above the black surface could be raised by 40-50 degrees centigrade above the surrounding temperature creating a 'chimney' of rising air currents. The artificial thermal will boost water vapor to around 3000 meters where it can condense into water droplets that create clouds.

Materials with the required asymmetric thermal properties are hard to find. Mirrors, for example, although highly reflective would concentrate the heat in a small area whereas the Geshem project requires heating a wide expanse of air. The search for the 'ideal' black surface brought researchers to Acktar, an Israeli company that specializes in making custom materials with unique surface properties. Founded in 1994, Acktar, is a world technology leader in the development, and production of black, light absorbing coatings that deliver unique performance due to their high specific surface area. The coatings are based on vacuum deposition technologies that use a flow of atoms or ions directed towards a surface to build specific layers or crystalline phases on an atomic level.

Whereas there are other materials that absorb and reflect heat - such as road tarmac for example - the Acktar panels are unique in their highly asymmetrical properties and easy deployment. "You aren't going to put down tarmac over large areas," jokes Acktar CEO Zvi Finkelstein from the company's manufacturing site in Kiryat Gat.

The Ackerman material is so light that the company will be able to wrap several kilometers of material onto rolls for easy deployment and relocation. The material will be laid out on panels in long modules allowing maintenance crews to service the panels from vehicles driving between the rows. By covering an area of between five to nine square kilometers with the black material researchers estimate rainfall on an area of 40-100 square kilometers downwind. Clouds will form along a strip as wide as the black surface and up to 30 kilometers long during the hours from midday till five in the afternoon.

The cost of setting up a full-size black surface would run at over 80 million Euros, about comparable to establishing a desalinization plant. However, the operational costs are minimal and the technology simple to operate. Whereas desalinization requires a safe method of disposing with the saline by-products and energy to drive the process the Geshem method is environment-friendly and powered by the sun. "Solar energy is free," Brenig notes.

The method can be applied to any dry region located in subtropical or tropical latitudes within 150 km from an ocean, sea, or large lake. In coastal regions with high solar radiation intensity, the dominant wind during the day is a steady sea breeze that flows from the coast inland. The predictable wind will cause rains on accurately determined culture zones on the continent almost each day during sunny seasons. Adapted agricultural and water-collecting techniques could then make best use of the predictable rain.

The idea of using a large solar-heated surface to make clouds has been around since the 1960s. However, at that time the only suitable black-surface material was asphalt and the computing power required to test the theory was still decades away. Brenig first toyed with the idea of playing with the weather in the 1980s but was also hampered by limited computer power. "It is hard to simulate because meteorological predications are often not very good," Brenig explains. "We need very accurate predications such as how much rain will be produced to evaluate the efficiency of the system. The problem is that the mathematical models for cloud formations are still in their infancy."

The project was put on hold until 2003 when Brenig contacted the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at BGU. Brenig chose Israel because of its arid regions and BGU's worldwide reputation for desert research. Armed with space images from NASA Brenig turned to the number-crunching super-computers at UCLA to run simulation on models in order to determine the optimal size and shape for the black surface. "Meteorological simulations are the most complex in the world and require the fastest computers," he notes.

Initial simulations confirmed the theory was reasonable and the search began to find an efficient and environment-friendly material to create the black surface. Now researchers are putting the finishing touches to the computer-simulations and hope to garner the financial support for a trial within in a year on an area of 3000 square meters in Israel's Negev desert that will use water vapor and breezes from the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Finklestein estimates the trial will cost around two million euros and Brenig is seeking support from the European Commission, NATO's Science for Peace, and various water authorities to fund the trial. Israeli authorities are keen to back the project and have already indicated that they will approve the required land area.

Zaady says that if the experiment is a success a larger trial will follow and Brenig is confident that if the technique works according to the simulation the idea will be adopted in various sub-tropical regions around the world that are suffering from desertification. Northeastern Brazil, North Africa, the Kalahari and Sahara deserts could all benefit from the method. In southeast Spain where desertification is claiming large swathes of agricultural land authorities have already shown great interest in the project and have indicated they would finance a large trial in that country. "It can bring water to a place where there is no water," Finklestein says. "Where there is water there is life, and then there is no limit to the imagination."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


1 August, 2006

Polluted Thinking

It's a rather striking irony that, as our air grows cleaner, environmentalists' complaints grow louder. Since 2001, they've been screaming that President Bush is "rolling back the Clean Air Act," and that the resulting increase in air pollution will kill people by the thousands. Instead, every category of air pollution has fallen during the Bush years, with 2003, 2004, and 2005 showing the lowest levels of harmful ozone and particulates in the air since the monitoring of air pollution began in the 1960s. What exactly is going on?

A little background in is order. In the late 1990s, the Clinton administration sued dozens of electric utilities under a new and aggressive interpretation of the Clean Air Act's arcane New Source Review (NSR) regulations. NSR was the epitome of the complicated, costly, and counterproductive regulatory regime. It required existing sources of pollution, such as power plants, to meet stringent new regulations if they made any substantial operating changes. This had the consequence of freezing old technology in place: Many plants avoided small upgrades that would have lowered their emissions and increased their electricity output, for fear that doing so would drag them into the NSR morass. Even the Progressive Policy Institute saw that NSR was a mess, calling in 2000 for it to be scrapped entirely and replaced with a market-oriented "cap and trade" system, in which firms able to reduce their emissions to lower-than-required levels could sell their "leftover" emissions allotments to other companies. Cap-and-trade systems have the virtue of concentrating emissions reductions among the firms able to undertake them most efficiently. And because firms can sell any emissions "credits" they don't use, they have a strong market incentive to pollute less. A similar emissions-trading program has worked successfully to reduce acid rain in the northeast since 1990.

When the incoming Bush administration proposed to simplify NSR and adopt cap-and-trade, the environmental lobby went nuts, successfully blocking the administration's "Clear Skies" legislation in Congress. So the White House decided to implement its new approach administratively through the EPA's "Clean Air Interstate Rule," which applied a cap-and-trade program to the midwestern and northeastern states where most of the nation's coal-fired pollution originates.

That program has been in effect long enough for us to see the results, and they should fill any environmentalist with joy. A new report from the National Academy of Science concludes that the Bush system will likely prove just as effective in lowering air pollution as the regulation- and lawsuit-happy Clinton approach - and it will do so at a much lower cost. That should of course put an end to claims that the Bush administration is filling our air with deadly pollutants.

But don't hold your breath. The environmental movement has proved time and again that it can't take yes for an answer. Reducing air pollution has been the single greatest environmental-policy success of our time. Emissions are falling fast, and are going to keep falling. Despite more cars on the road and more drivers per capita, automobile emissions are falling 8 percent a year, and EPA models predict a further 80-percent reduction in car and truck emissions over the next 20 years. Power-plant emissions are going to follow a similar trajectory - and they'll fall even faster if greens relax their reflexive opposition to nuclear power.

Yet the environmental lobby continues to act as though catastrophe were about to befall us, and has been especially shrill in condemning Bush's record. Their intellectual bankruptcy is perhaps most strikingly illustrated by the fact that their current favorite idea for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is nothing other than . . . cap and trade. But when Bush applies the same policy to air pollutants, he is a despoiler of Mother Earth. It's hard not to conclude that their real problem with the president is that he is a Republican.



The radio interview below is with Wendell Cox -- the world's best known critic of urban consolidation. He's looked at housing prices relative to income in six countries, and says Australia has some of the highest there are. In fact there's a strong link between high house prices and land rationing, which forms the basis of urban consolidation. And if that isn't radical enough, Cox also says public transport almost never lives up to the claims made for it, and we should be building more freeways.

Michael Duffy: One of the policies we've been pursuing in Counterpoint is that of urban consolidation which is affecting the way so many of us live, and this interests us strangely for a number of reasons; it's the last bastion of attitudes that were once associated with socialism, such as a distain for private property (in this case, cars) and also what I think is an unwarranted faith in central planning. Perhaps its best-known international critic is Wendell Cox who runs a US consultancy called Demographia and they've got a very interesting website that I'll give you later on. Wendell has done work for many public and private organisations, including in Australia, he's been here before and he'll be here again next month on a speaking tour, but I thought we'd catch up with him first. Wendell, welcome to the program. You have done something very interesting called a Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Tell us about that.

Wendell Cox: That's right. We looked at housing affordability in 100 markets in six nations. My great interest in that has to do with the recognition that home ownership is the principal driver of economic growth. What we found is that in Australia things are pretty bad. As I think most Australians know, housing affordability has been greatly lost. The great Australian dream, I would argue, is in the process of being destroyed for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of future households. As you think, for example, in the Sydney area, housing prices relative to incomes are three times what they should be, three times what they are in Atlanta or Houston. In places like Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth, housing prices relative to incomes are about double what they should be, and this is being caused principally by the kind of regulations you've mentioned and that's the extreme regulation of land going under the name urban consolidation, anti-sprawl, et cetera, and it is doing to have, I believe, very serious impacts on the Australian economy in the long run.

Michael Duffy: Wendell, let's break that down, because you've just given us quite a good summary but let's take it step by step. First of all, which countries did you actually look at?

Wendell Cox: We looked at Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the UK and Ireland.

Michael Duffy: What was the measure? You said you compared house prices with income.

Wendell Cox: That's right. What we did is we looked at median house price and compared it to median household income in each of the countries. Essentially, historically, whether we talk about Australia or the United States or the UK, that measure is normally about three where the market is allowed to operate. What has happened in Australia and in some US west coast urban areas such as Los Angeles and Portland and Vancouver and Canada is these kinds of restrictive land rationing policies have been implemented and have driven the price of land through the ceiling.

Michael Duffy: But talking about the measure for the moment so our listeners understand what's going on here; you're looking at the average house price as a multiple of average individual income, household income?

Wendell Cox: Of median household income, middle household income.

Michael Duffy: So that is a pretty good measure, isn't it, because it gives you some sense of the pressure that an individual family or an individual might be under in any of those different markets.

Wendell Cox: Precisely.

Michael Duffy: Has this sort of thing been done before?

Wendell Cox: Not really at this scale. Most of these kinds of affordability measures have been done only inside countries and this is one of the things that sort of surprised the Australian and the New Zealand media a couple of years ago when we did our first study where there was an assumption that the same things that had gone wrong with the housing markets in Australia had occurred elsewhere...yet if you look in the US, for example, where Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston are the three fastest-growing large urban areas in the first world, housing affordability...with the huge demand those guys have got, housing affordability is down in the three range instead of the eight-and-a-half range or the six range for the median multiple that you find in the other capital cities.

Michael Duffy: So where obviously must have ranked a lot of cities, a lot of housing markets...where did places like Sydney and Melbourne end up on your latest list?

Wendell Cox: Sydney ends up as one of...I think there are about eight worst, I forgot to check, but the worst are actually in California at the moment. Melbourne and the other three large capital cities are in the top 20 or the top 22 or something like that, they all tend to have multiples of about six. What we find is the only place where you find multiples of greater than four is where the kind of unwise policies that have been implemented, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, have been implemented.

Michael Duffy: I'd like to talk about those policies in a moment, but just before we do that, do you know if there is a trend over time? Do you know if things used to be better, in terms of that multiple, in places like Sydney and Melbourne?

Wendell Cox: Far better. If you just look at what has happened in housing prices relative to income in the last five years in Sydney, the average household that is going to buy a house today is going to pay an extra $200,000 at least including interest because of what's happened to those prices, and that is $200,000 that isn't going to go into buying other products and creating jobs.

Michael Duffy: Obviously you've got a lot of data because you looked at a lot of housing markets, something like 100...

Wendell Cox: Right, 100.

Michael Duffy: Is there a common pattern here? Is there a common cause you've been able to come up with to explain why some of these cities are worse than others?

Wendell Cox: Well, it all comes down to land regulation. In the urban areas, especially in the US and Canada where there's a fairly liberal regime that allows the market to deliver as many houses as people want to buy...places, again, like Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg et cetera, we find really no problem whatsoever with housing affordability, a little increase but not much. But of course where we find the real problems are in places like Australia and New Zealand especially, where they have all fallen for this really false doctrine of urban consolidation without ever even having looked at the economic impacts.

Michael Duffy: What is it about urban consolidation that pushes up house prices?

Wendell Cox: What it is, it basically rations land. If tomorrow...if OPEC were to decide it would produce as much oil as it can, we would find gasoline prices, petrol prices, probably dropping by half, but because they've created a shortage of oil, the price is driven up. The cost of production has not gone up. If you look at Australia, over the last 20 years the actual cost of building a house has declined relative to inflation. What has happened is that the land prices have exploded due to the rationing of land, the scarcity of land that has been created by policies, which is really crazy when you think about the fact that something like one-quarter of 1% of Australia is in urban development.

Michael Duffy: Wendell, you said that some American cities (not that many but some) are very expensive, in fact more expensive than Sydney, so have they also adopted these same policies?

Wendell Cox: Precisely. There are differences...for example, the big problem in Sydney is a combination of taking land off the development rolls and creating unbelievable excessive infrastructure charges that one of your former guests, Patrick Troy, has roundly and rightly criticised. In California, principally it is very large infrastructure charges on new housing that bear no resemblance to reality. In Portland and Vancouver and Toronto you have urban growth boundaries, which you also have in Melbourne with their soon to be failing Melbourne 2030 plan, and that kind of thing.

Michael Duffy: Wendell, given the outcomes that you've just been talking about, why do you think urban consolidation was and still is so popular?

Wendell Cox: It is principally popular among a group of planners for whom what the city looks like aesthetically is the most important thing. They have done all sorts of research that's largely wrong, you hear them complaining about land being taken out of agricultural production because of urbanisation when in fact, for example, in Australia all of the land taken out of agricultural production for the last quarter century exceeds the size of the state of Victoria because you've gotten better at producing agricultural products. So a lot of it is based upon a sort of theory that we are ruining the land and that mankind is a scourge on the land.

Michael Duffy: So this is something of an outgrowth of the tremendous boom in the environmental movement, is it, over the last couple of decades?

Wendell Cox: Exactly, and it is based upon the most unsound environmental research you can imagine. The fact is we need to improve and protect the environment, we're doing an awful lot of good things, but we do not need to force people to live in downtown Sydney high-rises to accomplish that.

Michael Duffy: It's curious, there does seem to be a lot of data coming out just in the last year or so that I've noticed acknowledging that the promise of urban consolidation isn't always fulfilled. For example, in Sydney recently they discovered...I think it was water use in high-rises was as great or greater than in free-standing houses, which would appear to be counter intuitive, but that's been found by reputable experts.

Wendell Cox: And there's also the claim always made, especially by your academics in Australia, that suburbanisation creates traffic congestion when in fact it doesn't. Suburbanisation dilutes traffic congestion and makes traffic flow more freely. So that, for example, in our less dense urban areas of the US, we get to work on average 20 minutes faster every day, round trip, than Canadians do. So the point is, a lot of the claims...almost any claim you see made by the proponents of urban consolidation fails to stand the test of scrutiny.

Michael Duffy: Let's talk a bit more about transport because I know Demographia has done a lot of interesting work here, and one of the things you've looked at is the amount of freeways that cities have in relation to their population size. How do Australian cities come out of that?

Wendell Cox: Pretty much dreadfully. Melbourne and Brisbane are not bad, Perth is not bad, but the real losers are Sydney and Adelaide. Adelaide has fewer freeways per capita in terms of lane kilometres than any place, except perhaps Winnipeg. But if you look at Sydney, it comes out near the bottom of the list.

Michael Duffy: In a sense I suppose that lack of freeways creates some of the problems, and then the urban consolidators put forward their theories as if they're going to solve them. I know that they're very keen on things like light rail and public transport. Looking around the world at all the cities you've studied, is there any evidence you can actually shift people out of cars and onto things like light rail?

Wendell Cox: Not a shred. For example, when they built the Portland Oregon light rail line they found a reduction of traffic congestion along the adjacent freeway for a matter of about 30 days. The fact is that the basic problem with public transport, while we all love it, is that it only gets you to one place. If you go to any city, I don't care if it's Sydney or Portland or Perth or Paris, what you will find is public transport gets you to the core but is absolutely useless and uncompetitive in terms of getting you around the urban area otherwise. You think about Sydney, for example, only 13% of employment is downtown. That means 87% of the employment can't reasonably be reached by public transport. And, for example, you can see the light loads on that bus-way that you've built as indicative of this. The fact is that no urban area in the world has any plans for any public transport system that will draw very many people out of cars, and there's good reason for that; no urban area could afford it.

Michael Duffy: There's a certain religious element to this anti-car feeling I've found in people I talk to. One of the things I'm often told here is that if you build more freeways it will just encourage more people to use cars. There's a sort of anti-choice philosophy at the background of all this, isn't there?

Wendell Cox: There is, and in fact what happens when you build more freeways is people do drive a little bit longer in terms of distance but they drive shorter in terms of time because we're not all sitting around waiting so that we can drive 36 hours a day or something. The fact is that a situation like Sydney where there are insufficient freeways and there's no way you're ever going to have sufficient freeways because you'd have to tear up too much of the city, you've got more intense air pollution emissions because the cars are going slower and because they're in more stop-and-go traffic. This whole idea that building freeways creates traffic is sort of like the assumption that building maternity wards would raise the birth rate.

Michael Duffy: I once gave a lecture, not that long ago, at a university on urban planning and at the end one of the horrified students in the class said to me, 'But you can't just let people do what they want!'

Wendell Cox: Yes, but the interesting thing is all sorts of economic studies around the world show that economic growth and affluence happen where people are allowed to do what they want, and that's what is really at risk here. I don't know what the impact is going to be but it is not a good impact when you significantly increase the price of housing for no good reason.



Thirty-one years ago, Newsweek magazine published an extensive account of what it described as a growing scientific consensus of global climate change. "There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production," Newsweek said, adding, "The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it" and "to scientists these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather."

Global warming? Not quite. The Newsweek article about the emerging scientific consensus was about global cooling and the potential onset of a mini-ice age, akin to the one that chilled the Northern Hemisphere between 1600 and 1900. Now we are told, of course, that there's a growing scientific consensus about global warming, with hydrocarbon emissions from humankind's economic activities the chief culprit, although there's a significant body of contrary opinion.

Whether global warming is a scientific fact or, alternatively, a theory being propagandized for ideological reasons is still an open question. But it clearly is a political fact and in politics, perceptions are always more powerful than reality, whatever it may be. The potency of global warming as a political issue is underscored in a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found that most Californians are alarmed and want the state to take steps to deal with it regardless of what happens at the national or international levels. "Californians now rank global warming as more important than at any time since we first started asking about it in June of 2000," said PPIC's polling director, Mark Baldassare. The poll was taken even before California was slammed by a record-breaking and deadly heat wave in mid-July, so it would be a safe assumption that the attitudes found in the PPIC poll have hardened since then.

Not to be punny, but it's a hot potato for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he tries to balance the evident voter interest in doing something about global warming against his very close, mutually beneficial political alliance with business executives. The latter are leery about strict regulations on hydrocarbon emissions, as proposed in legislation, Assembly Bill 32, being advanced by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have labeled AB 32 a "job killer" that "increases costs for California businesses, makes them less competitive and discourages economic growth with little or no proven environmental benefit by adopting an arbitrary cap on carbon emissions." Schwarzenegger needs business support in his re-election campaign but has said he wants to push global warming actions, has already undertaken some steps by decree, and is at least a semi-sponsor of the Nunez bill.

As currently written, AB 32 labels global warming a "serious threat" and directs the state Air Resources Board, over a period of years, to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and set standards for reducing them. Having the ARB become the greenhouse gas czar is a key element of the legislation, one that environmentalists like because of its history of aggressive action on smog, and one that business leaders dislike for the same reason. They envision every business project becoming a battleground, much as occurs now under the California Environmental Quality Act, forcing corporations to buy up emission credits to operate.

Schwarzenegger is now suggesting that the ARB be taken out of the picture and that the power to set and enforce greenhouse gas emissions be given to a new agency directly under the control of a governor and his appointees -- including the power to nix any regulations deemed to be economically harmful. And that's raising the hackles of environmentalists, who see having a governor directly control enforcement as an invitation for business to wield influence through the Governor's Office.



We've deluded ourselves into believing in the myth of the noble and peaceful primitive


Nicholas Wade's 'Before The Dawn' is one of those books full of eye-catching details. For example, did you know the Inuit have the largest brains of any modern humans? Something to do with the cold climate. Presumably, if this global warming hooey ever takes off, their brains will be shrinking with the ice caps.

But the passage that really stopped me short was this:

"Both Keeley and LeBlanc believe that for a variety of reasons anthropologists and their fellow archaeologists have seriously underreported the prevalence of warfare among primitive societies.... 'I realized that archaeologists of the postwar period had artificially "pacified the past" and shared a pervasive bias against the possibility of prehistoric warfare,' says Keeley."

That's Lawrence Keeley, a professor at the University of Illinois. And the phrase that stuck was that bit about artificially pacifying the past. We've grown used to the biases of popular culture. If a British officer meets a native -- African, Indian, whatever -- in any movie, play or novel of the last 30 years, the Englishman will be a sneering supercilious sadist and the native will be a dignified man of peace in perfect harmony with his environment in whose tribal language there is not even a word for "war" or "killing" or "weapons of mass destruction." A few years ago, I asked Tim Rice, who'd just written the lyrics for Disney's Aladdin and The Lion King, why he wasn't doing Pocahontas. "Well, the minute they mentioned it," he said, "I knew the Brits would be the bad guys. I felt it was my patriotic duty to decline." Sure enough, when the film came out, John Smith and his men were the bringers of environmental devastation to the New World. "They prowl the earth like ravenous wolves," warns the medicine man, whereas Chief Powhatan wants everyone to be "guided to a place of peace." Fortunately, Captain Smith comes to learn from Pocahontas how to "paint with all the colours of the wind."

In reality, Pocahontas's fellow Algonquin Indians were preyed on by the Iroquois, "who took captives home to torture them before death," observes Nicholas Wade en passant. The Iroquois? Surely not. Only a year or two back, the ethnic grievance lobby managed to persuade Congress to pass a resolution that the United States Constitution was modelled on the principles of the Iroquois Confederation -- which would have been news to the dead white males who wrote it. With Disney movies, one assumes it's just the modishness of showbiz ignoramuses and whatever multiculti theorists they've put on the payroll as consultants. But professor Keeley and Steven LeBlanc of Harvard disclose almost as an aside that, in fact, their scientific colleagues were equally invested in the notion of the noble primitive living in peace with nature and his fellow man, even though no such creature appears to have existed. "Most archaeologists," says LeBlanc, "ignored the fortifications around Mayan cities and viewed the Mayan elite as peaceful priests. But over the last 20 years Mayan records have been deciphered. Contrary to archaeologists' wishful thinking, they show the allegedly peaceful elite was heavily into war, conquest and the sanguinary sacrifice of beaten opponents.... The large number of copper and bronze axes found in Late Neolithic and Bronze Age burials were held to be not battle axes but a form of money."

And on, and on. Do you remember that fabulously preserved 5,000-year-old man they found in a glacier in 1991? He had one of those copper axes the experts assured us were an early unit of currency. Unfortunately for this theory, he had it hafted in a manner that suggested he wasn't asking, "Can you break a twenty?" "He also had with him," notes professor Keeley, "a dagger, a bow, and some arrows; presumably these were his small change." Nonetheless, anthropologists concluded that he was a shepherd who had fallen asleep and frozen peacefully to death in a snowstorm. Then the X-ray results came back and showed he had an arrowhead in him.

Not for the first time, the experts turn out to be playing what children call "Opposite Land." There's more truth in Cole Porter's couplet from Find Me A Primitive Man:

I don't mean the kind that belongs to a club But the kind that has a club that belongs to him.

Although Porter was the kind that belongs to a club, the second line accurately conveys his own taste in men. He'd have been very annoyed if Mister Primitive had turned out to be some mellow colours-of-your-windiness hippy-dippy granola-cruncher.

Lawrence Keeley calculates that 87 per cent of primitive societies were at war more than once per year, and some 65 per cent of them were fighting continuously. "Had the same casualty rate been suffered by the population of the twentieth century," writes Wade, "its war deaths would have totaled two billion people." Two billion! In other words, we're the aberration: after 50,000 years of continuous human slaughter, you, me, Bush, Cheney, Blair, Harper, Rummy, Condi, we're the nancy-boy peacenik crowd. "The common impression that primitive peoples, by comparison, were peaceful and their occasional fighting of no serious consequence is incorrect. Warfare between pre-state societies was incessant, merciless, and conducted with the general purpose, often achieved, of annihilating the opponent."

Why then, against all the evidence, do we venerate the primitive? And to the point of pretending a bunch of torturing marauders devised the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution. We do it for the same reason we indulge behaviour like that at Caledonia, Ont. We want to believe that the yard, the cul-de-sac, the morning commute, the mall are merely the bland veneer of our lives, and that underneath we are still that noble primitive living in harmony with the great spirits of the forest and the mountain. The reality is that "civilization" -- Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian -- worked very hard to stamp out the primitive within us, and for good reason.

I was interested to read Wade's book after a month in which men raised in suburban Ontario were charged with a terrorist plot that included plans to behead the Prime Minister, and the actual heads of three decapitated police officers were found in the Tijuana River. The Mexican drug gangs weren't Muslim last time I checked, but evidently decapitation isn't just for jihadists anymore: if you want to get ahead, get a head. A couple of years back, I came across a column in The East African by Charles Onyango-Obbo musing on the return of cannibalism to the Dark Continent. Ugandan-backed rebels in the Congo (four million dead but, as they haven't found a way to pin it on Bush, nobody cares) had been making victims' relatives eat the body parts of their loved ones. You'll recall that, when Samuel Doe was toppled as Liberia's leader, he was served a last meal of his own ears. His killers kept his genitals for themselves, under the belief that if you eat a man's penis you acquire his powers. One swallow doesn't make a summer, of course, but I wonder sometimes if we're not heading toward a long night of re-primitivization. In his shrewd book Civilization And Its Enemies, Lee Harris writes:

"Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe. . . . That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary."

It's worse than Harris thinks. We're not merely "forgetful." We've constructed a fantasy past in which primitive societies lived in peace and security with nary a fear that their crops would be stolen or their children enslaved. War has been the natural condition of mankind for thousands of years, and our civilization is a very fragile exception to that. What does it say about us that so many of our elites believe exactly the opposite -- that we are a monstrous violent rupture with our primitive pacifist ancestors? It's never a good idea to put reality up for grabs. You can bet your highest-denomination axe on that.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.