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30 September, 2006


An email to Benny Peiser from Will Alexander ( WJR Alexander is Professor Emeritus, Department of Civil and Biosystems Engineering University of Pretoria, South Africa

I have watched recent developments with increasing alarm. What I completely fail to understand is the fundamental lack of knowledge of the most basic issue of climate change science - the influence of solar activity on global climate. Why do climate change scientists continue to ignore the wealth of literature stretching back for more than 100 years, relating to the multiyear anomalies in the hydrometeorological data and their linkage with solar activity? The following is a short memorandum on the subject. There are no abstract theories or hypotheses so it should not be too difficult for others to check its validity.


The synchronous linkage between sunspot activity, floods, droughts and surface temperature has been recorded and published for more than 100 years in South Africa and elsewhere. My detailed analyses of a very large and comprehensive hydrometeorological database showed a statistically significant (95%) 21-year periodicity in the South African data during the past century. I found no statistically significant 11-year periodicity. I also found that the characteristics of the hydrometeorological data differed during the alternating 11 and 10-year periods that made up the 21-year periodicity. Other South African scientists have noted and published similar anomalies in the data.

I used the regular, periodic changes to develop a successful climate prediction model published in 1995 and updated in 2005. Although not part of the model, I demonstrated an unambiguous synchronous linkage with sunspot activity. This information was also published.

For the past four years F Bailey from the UK and I have carried out independent studies. I studied the hydrometeorological data and he studied solar activity. We made contact earlier this year and found a clear and unambiguous causal linkage between solar activity and the hydrometeorological responses.


The solar system consists of the sun and the orbiting bodies, of which the four major planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are the most important. The solar system has a centre of mass, (SSCM). All bodies in the solar system, including the sun, orbit around the SSCM. The SSCM has a constant velocity through galactic space. At times the four major planets are grouped together in their orbits and at other times they are scattered around the SSCM. When they are grouped together, their combined effect causes the sun to follow a weighted reciprocal path around the SSCM. The distance between the sun and the SSCM therefore varies. This creates a wobble in the sun's trajectory through space.

Our recent analyses demonstrate the following. The alternating grouping and dispersion of the four major planets occurs at regular intervals of about 21 years. This is synchronous with the 21-year periodicity in the hydrometeorological data.

During this period the solar system performs approximately one and three quarter rotations through galactic space. Starting with the sun's position trailing that of the SSCM, the sun accelerates to take up a balancing position ahead of the SSCM. This takes place during the first rotation of the solar system. The duration is typically 11 years. The sun continues rotating about the SSCM but its galactic velocity decelerates as it returns to the trailing position. The duration of this rotation is typically about 10 years. The 21-year solar cycle is then repeated.

Both the acceleration and deceleration processes result in an increase in sunspot numbers while the intervening sunspot minima occur when the sun is in the trailing and leading positions. The mechanism that produces the sunspots is unknown but several theories exist. This synchronous occurrence of sunspot activity with the sun's acceleration and deceleration as the solar system moves through galactic space is beyond doubt.


A consequence of the wobble in the sun's trajectory through galactic space is the ever-changing chord distance between the sun and earth. This in turn results in corresponding changes in the rate of solar energy received on earth. These changes are amenable to mathematical calculation. Our analyses show that the changes in the receipt of solar energy are appreciably greater than those generally quoted in the climate change literature.


The following example should help with the visualisation of the situation. Consider a ceiling fan mounted on the back of an open truck and tilted at a 45 degree upward angle facing the front of the vehicle. A marble is attached to the tip of one of the blades. The truck moves at a constant speed and the fan rotates at a constant speed. However, the road speed of the marble changes. At the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions of the marble its road speed is the same as the truck speed. At the 3 o'clock position the marble is moving forward and its road speed is accelerating. Conversely, at the 9 o'clock position the marble is moving backwards and its road speed is decelerating.

The same happens as the sun orbits around the SSCM. It is the galactic velocity that accelerates and decelerates. This results in increases in sunspot activity. The sunspot minima occur when the sun's galactic velocity equals that of the SSCM. This movement is amenable to mathematical calculation. Confirmation is the synchronous behaviour of multiyear changes in rainfall, river flow and flood peak maxima.


The two main outstanding issues are the physical mechanism that causes sunspot production resulting from the changes in the sun's galactic velocity, and the mechanism that links these changes with global climate. These do not negate the underlying processes. Our findings open a whole new field of research related to present and past climatic processes.


Our findings are based on readily available data published by the responsible national authorities. Our calculations are reproducible by anybody with sufficient knowledge in these fields. Despite a diligent search I was unable to detect any sustained changes in the hydrometeorological data that could be attributed to climate change, against the background of the statistically significant changes associated with solar activity.

Neither of us has received any financial or other support from any source. Our sole motivations were the advancement of science.


(From Energy Policy. Volume 34, Issue 17 , November 2006, Pages 2615-2629. The Doi (permanent) address for the full article excerpted below is here)

Policy-making under uncertainty: Commentary upon the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme

By: Laura N. Haar and Lawrence Haar


The authors undertake a critical assessment of the intellectual foundations supporting the new European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS, or the Scheme), the cornerstone of polices designed to achieve the targets of the Kyoto Agreement of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Despite its considerable scope, the authors found that officially sponsored research and academic efforts in support of ETS were surprisingly limited. Importantly, in advance of implementation, a definitive consensus on both the potential economic impact and the usefulness of the Scheme in reducing the GHG emissions had not been reached. Reviewing the literature, the authors encountered varying and, at times, conflicting viewpoints, officially and in academic research, on the potential economic impact of the Scheme. These included attempts to quantify its benefits and costs, raising concern that this huge and encompassing multi-national policy initiative may have been launched with inadequate intellectual ground-work. According to the authors consistency between the ETS and other EU policies, such as those relating to energy, should have been a key concern, but such aspects have received only minimal attention in both official and academic research. The European Commission has promoted open and competitive markets for gas and power across member states, but the record in achieving such conditions is relatively poor and the authors argue that, as a result, the environmental objectives of the EU Scheme may not be thwarted. In addition, continuing disagreement over the Kyoto Agreement itself-especially with regard to its potential costs and benefits-further frustrates efforts to rigorously justify a policy in support of reducing GHG emissions. The authors argue that, given the scope of the EU Scheme, the paucity of research evidencing that it is likely to succeed in reducing GHG emissions in the form of CO2 is surprising and should be of concern to those affected by it along with environmental campaigners, many of whom are enthusiastic supporters.

1. Introduction

In January 2005 began one of the most ambitious multi-national policy programmes in history, known as the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (or ETS). The ETS is the vanguard for achieving compliance with the Kyoto Agreement on greenhouse gases (GHG) and involves 25 nations acting in a coordinated manner with regard to hydrocarbon emissions arising from combustion and chemical processes from over 9000 installations across the EU. The Scheme involves the allocation and trading of CO2 allowances to energy-using installations across Europe and has been conceived as a means of internalising the external social costs arising from CO2 emissions. Overcoming the disadvantages of quota constraints or a per unit tax on carbon emitted, the EU ETS is designed to minimise the overall cost of reducing GHG emissions by recognising that abatement costs are not uniform and that, through trading of allowances, the compliance costs may be reduced.1

Reflecting the scope and magnitude of the EU Scheme, considerable debate has arisen over its direct impact upon regulated utilities and indirect impact upon consumers and users of energy. Questions such as the following have been raised: Will the Scheme reduce GHG emissions? Will the Scheme promote energy efficiency on the part of energy-intensive sectors? Will the costs of compliance under the Scheme, as reflected in the price of CO2 allowances, be sufficient to promote energy conservation and reduce reliance upon carbon-based technologies? Will the Scheme encourage power generators in the immediate term to alter running regimes and the scheduling of plant merit order towards less carbon-intensive energy sources (and, in the longer term, away from carbon-based technologies) such as renewables? How will the burden of compliance under the Scheme rest between consumers and businesses? Will switching away from coal in favour of natural gas create upward pressure on hydrocarbon prices? Will the international competitiveness of energy-intensive sectors, e.g. bulk chemicals or aluminium sheet, be adversely affected? Will there be a long-term macro-economic impact occurring from transition and structural readjustment costs under the Scheme? These and many other questions in relation to the EU ETS are frequently mentioned in recent business and financial press and various policy forums.2

In the present research, as we examine the intellectual background for the EU ETS, we point out three main concerns. Firstly that, given the scope of the Scheme, it is somewhat surprising that research, both academic and official, into the potential impact has not been exhaustive. To that effect, in Section 2.1, we survey existing efforts and the extent to which a received view has emerged. We also analyse the context in which such research has been undertaken and examine whether its remit was appropriate and its objectives sufficiently ambitious. Secondly, the authors maintain that existing research has overlooked some critical aspects for the Scheme to function properly. Therefore, turning to the gaps in existing research, in Section 2.2, we look at the inter-action between the ETS and present EU energy policy, examining whether the two areas are consistent and compatible with one another. This subject raises a host of new questions on how the structure and behaviour of energy markets relates to the pursuit of environmental policies, such as the reduction of GHG through the EU Emissions Scheme. Thirdly, in Section 2.3, we focus upon the challenges of applying cost-benefit analysis to the ETS within the context of the Kyoto Agreement. We ask to what extent objective quantification of such benefits and costs are possible, and how helpful they might be in validating the EU Scheme. In Section 3, through exploring the intellectual foundations upon which the EU Scheme currently stands, we will examine the extent to which this ambitious policy is intellectually well-supported and the grounds for believing that it will achieve its objectives of reducing GHG emissions.


3. Conclusions

Summarising the above observations and remarks together, several themes may be distilled. Firstly, that the market structure and behaviour required for any such ETS to function as designed may demand a competitive market structure which is not what we have in place nor are likely to have in the future. Research therefore needs to be undertaken into the likely impact of the Scheme given the existing and future energy market structure and conduct in the EU, and, conversely, into how we can achieve environmental objectives given the conditions in place. Both the UK and European energy policy has not been successful in fostering an open and competitive, pan-European market in power and gas and, hence, there is a return to administered prices. The market structure throughout Europe today is highly vertically integrated with several regional cartels. Power, as a traded market on various exchanges, functions largely as day-ahead and within-day balancing and shaping market for power supply, with very limited liquidity along the forward curve. As such it reduces the scope for pure financial participants, critical to a liquid market for power capable of providing investment signals. Recognising such market structure and the potential to exercise market power, the probability remains that the cost of CO2 emissions allowances, as an output tax, will, in varying degrees and depending upon local conditions, be passed forward to industry, businesses and consumers. In such local conditions, the willingness of local regulators to selectively modify the behaviour, through price administration, of power generators figures strongly. In light of the above, the possibility of the second outcome-i.e. combining higher power prices to consumers and businesses but without any measurable benefit in reducing GHG emissions-is a distinct possibility and should be of major worry to environmental advocates.40 Creating simulations, as performed by various consulting organisations and as sponsored by various official organisations, while intellectually interesting, does not answer the questions necessary to rigorously complete the assessment of regulatory impact, address the broader economic impact concerns, and establish if the Scheme will help in reducing atmospheric GHG. Judgemental assumptions on the degree of pass-forward costs, as have been undertaken by consultants and as the DTI has entertained, are only informed opinions. The academic literature, meanwhile, though intriguing, has yet not evolved a received consensus on methods, model specifications and assumptions to be usable for applied policy analysis and research.

Turning to how we justify policy, we have highlighted briefly some of the varied opinions on the benefits of avoiding global warming and GHG emissions and the costs of implementing the Scheme. The absence of consensus in of itself points to the intellectually unstable grounds on which the EU Scheme in service to Kyoto has been pursued: an auto-de-fe. Although taking the lead on GHG emissions as the EU has done may encourage others to join, it is equally probable that almost half the world, driven by growing populations and committed to economic development, will not. The RIA undertaken by the UK Government, as supported by the efforts of consultants, along with other published research sponsored by the EU Commission and other official bodies, does not begin to come to grips with the huge uncertainties of the EU ETS, of whether it is quantitatively justified from a cost and benefits perspective and whether, given the state of energy markets and the behaviour of other countries outside the EU, has any hope of promoting the objectives of the Kyoto Agreement. In sum, we have a massive policy initiative - directly regulating over nine thousand of energy-using installations across the EU and, indirectly, millions of businesses and hundreds of millions of consumers - standing upon weak intellectual foundations. This should be of fundamental concern to individuals and to organisations committed to controlling the growth in GHG. Pursuing and supporting the EU Scheme under circumstances of manifest uncertainty with regard to its success, would seem difficult to defend.

Note: An "auto da fe" ("act of faith") was what the Spanish Inquisition called the burning of heretics. In using the term above, the authors are saying that the EU emissions scheme is a fanatical and destructive act motivated solely by religion. That rather defames the Inquisition. The Inquisition proceeded in a more judicial manner than the prophets of global warming do.

Unprecedented global warming?

One of the most contentious issues of the day is global warming. Those who openly discuss the subject fall into one of two camps. First, there are the environmental alarmists who only see the world in terms of urban sprawl, deforestation, and pollution. For this group, global warming provides the much-needed justification to curtail, or reverse, our current level of earth-unfriendly economic activity. The other group sees no evidence of harmful global warming. They view the draconian anti-business remedies as both unjustified and misguided.

Given the high stakes (from both a monetary and an emotional perspective), it should come as no surprise that there is a temptation for the first group to play fast and loose with the available scientific data. Findings that support global warming are highlighted, and those that do not are downplayed, omitted, or politicized. Global-warming computer models are frequently little more than high-tech "crystal balls." With the multitude of variables and assumptions that come into play, these computer models become highly suspect. In deciding which model to use, the critical question becomes: "How scary do you want the future to be?"

Ground zero in the global warming debate is the 1997 Kyoto Protocol Agreement. This treaty, yet to be ratified by the United States, calls for a reduction in greenhouse gases and fossil-fuel emissions to a level 5 to 7 percent below the 1990-benchmark year by 2012.1 The estimated compliance cost for the United States will be $300 billion a year.2 But the global solidarity to end global warming had a temporary setback last November at The Hague. Participating countries were unable to work out the details.

The Kyoto Protocol seems to be built on the following two assumptions: First, global warming is a function of human activity (with the biggest villains being automobiles, factories, and power plants), and second, we are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of global warming. However, a review of the earth's most recent "geological history" brings into question both assumptions and puts the entire subject in a different light.

For over a million years, the earth has undergone a succession of glacial and interglacial periods. Each glacial period lasted anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 years. In the most recent one, ice covered all of what is now Canada and the northern third of the United States.3 To date, each glacial period has been followed by a very warm, yet much shorter, interglacial period of 10,000 to 30,000 years. In some of these interglacial periods, ice covered less area than today.

The last ice age ended approximately 10,000 years ago. This was followed by a period of significant global warming that lasted -5,000 years. The average temperature in this time frame was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than we find today. This caused the sea level to rise over 100 feet. The warmer climate also made it possible for broad-leafed forests to grow in latitudes much farther north than they do currently. In the most recent 5,000-year period, there have been numerous periods of distinct global warming and global cooling.4 However, the overall long-term climatic trend indicates that the earth has been getting cooler, not warmer.

Agriculture Flourishes

There was a very pronounced medieval warm period from 700 AD to 1400 AD. Indirect evidence suggests that the average temperature was as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than today. In Europe, agriculture flourished at latitudes farther north and at higher elevations than today. Vineyards, which require sunny and warm conditions, existed in areas 300 miles north of the present limits. The cultivation of grapes for wine-making was extensive throughout the southern portions of England from about 1100 to around 1300. The amount of English wine produced was enough to provide significant competition with the French. As further evidence of a much warmer climate, the tree line in the Alps was 300 meters higher than we find today.5

This warm period made it possible for the Vikings to establish colonies in Greenland and Iceland. Greenland, which could honestly be called a green land, was settled near the end of the tenth century. The colony flourished with between 5,000 and 6,000 residents.6 Sheep and dairy cattle were able to graze in areas that are today-icebound.7

By about 1400 the climate had cooled to temperatures that approximate what we see today. However, evidence from a number of sources-glacial sediments, tree rings, and written records-show that from the beginning of the fifteenth century until the mid-nineteenth century major cooling continued to take place in most parts of the world. This period came to be known as the "Little Ice Age." Glaciers around the globe in Europe, New Zealand, North America, and Greenland advanced and have only recently started to recede. The freezing of the Baltic Sea and the Thames River in England became a regular occurrence. London had its first "Frost Fair" on the river in 1607. This winter festival was an annual event until it was discontinued in the 1800s with the return of warmer winters.

The settlements in Iceland and Greenland were especially hard hit by this period of global cooling. Iceland lost half its population. In Greenland, farms were abandoned as the permafrost level rose and glaciers advanced. We do not know exactly how the Greenland colonies came to an end because growing sea ice cut off all contact with the outside world in 1410.

More Global Warming

During the last 150 years there has been another fairly sustained period of global warming amounting to an increase of about 0.7 degree Celsius. In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, the majority of this warming took place naturally before 1940. This warming trend was interrupted by a 35-year cooling period from 1940 to 1975. This caused many climatologists to actually predict that we were entering another ice age.8 At that time the public was obsessed with "global cooling." Today, our obsession is "global warming."

This review of the post-ice-age epoch shows that global warming is, in reality, both common and natural. In fact, for most of this period, the temperatures were much warmer than we see today. While our current level of industrial activity probably contributes to global warming to some degree, the increases that we have seen in the last 25 years are by no means unprecedented.

After viewing global warming from this alternative perspective, it is hard to justify the strong medicine prescribed by the Kyoto Protocol. Ironically, given the fact that the long-term climatic trend suggests global cooling, rather than global warming, our industrial/economic activity may actually serve to impede the natural cooling process. Under these circumstances, the environmental alarmists may want to adopt a new warning label: Enjoy the warm weather, while it lasts!



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 September, 2006

Tunguska Event Responsible For Warming Climate?

So an eminent Russian scientist says. Russians tend to be rather devoted to their mysterious Tunguska event but it may nonetheless have some explanatory role

It's enough to give you a migraine, trying to reconcile all the possible factors that might contribute to climate change. But what if they're all inconsequential, and there's only a single event causing the warming trend? The 1908 Tunguska meteor's explosion over Siberia is what one Russian scientist believes could be behind current global temperature rises. His paper on the subject, which claims that climate change is not the result of man-made greenhouse gases at all, is currently being considered for publication in the journal Science First Hand (published by the Russian Academy of Sciences).

Detailing his theory, Vladimir Shaidurov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explains how changes in the amount of ice crystals at high altitude could damage the layer of clouds found in the mesosphere that influence the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth's surface. Vladimir posits that the Tunguska event early last century could have driven just such a process.

Current global warming models show that the rise in carbon dioxide emissions neatly coincides with the onset of the industrial revolution, but Shaidurov's own analysis of yearly mean temperature changes over 140 years indicate that there was actually a slight cooling in temperature up until the early twentieth century. Shaidurov believes that it was not the industrial revolution that caused the rise in temperature, but the catastrophe known as the Tunguska event, or Tungus meteorite.

The Tunguska event was a large meteor or asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded 8 km above the Tunguska River in Siberia. The cataclysm was calculated to have released energy equivalent to that of a 15 megaton nuclear explosion. It felled 60 million trees over an area covering 2000 square kilometers. There wasn't much in the way of any formal analysis done on the atmospheric effects of the explosion, presumably because it occurred in a remote part of Siberia in 1908. Despite this, crucial to Shaidurov's theory is his claim that the explosion would have caused: "considerable stirring of the high layers of atmosphere and changes in its structure," which he says could have been the catalyst for the rise in global temperatures.

Shaidurov's theory is supported by other studies on Earth impacts and celestial debris that is scattered about at high altitude. Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, the University of Western Ontario, Aerospace Corporation, Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories have already laid their cards on the table and declared in a paper published in Nature that dust from asteroids entering the Earth's atmosphere has a bigger effect on weather than once thought. "Our observations suggest that [meteors exploding] in Earth's atmosphere could play a more important role in climate than previously recognized," the researchers write. These research teams urge that climate modelers should take such events into serious consideration, because dust from asteroids, meteors and the like regularly find their way into high altitude cloud. On one research field trip, Dee Pack, of Aerospace Corporation, watched as an: "asteroid deposited 1,000 metric tons in the stratosphere in a few seconds, a sizable perturbation," adding that meter-sized asteroids hit Earth 50-60 times every year. They suggest that asteroid dust could be modeled as the: "equivalent of volcanic eruptions of dust, with atmospheric deposition from above rather than below." This new information on micron-sized particles might "have much greater implications for extraterrestrial visitors like Tunguska," explains Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario.

Shaidurov explains that these disturbances can alter the delicate bands of clouds that regulate the amount of solar energy entering the Earth's atmosphere. Shaidurov says that it doesn't take much of a change in atmospheric levels of water - in the form of vapor and ice crystals - before it contributes to a significant change in the Earth's surface temperature. He also notes that the most potent greenhouse contributor is water, arguing that a variance in water levels has a far greater effect on temperatures than the greenhouse gases usually blamed for global warming. A rise in water vapor of just 1 percent can raise the global average temperature of Earth's surface more then 4 degrees Celsius.

It was Irish scientist John Tyndall who discovered the importance of water in regard to the Earth's climate 150 years ago, when he stated: "The strongest radiant heat absorber, is the most important gas controlling Earth's temperature. Without water vapor the Earth's surface would be held fast in the iron grip of frost." Tyndall's discovery shows that the system whereby heat reaches the Earth's surface and is then radiated back through a thin band of high altitude cloud is a delicate one.

Further supporting Shaidurov's hypothesis, Andrew E. Dessler of the Texas A & M University, writing in The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change, claims that: "Human activities do not control all greenhouse gases, as the most powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. Human activities have little direct control over its atmospheric abundance, which is controlled instead by the worldwide balance between evaporation from the oceans and precipitation."

Shaidurov believes that only something as destructive as the Tunguska event could have disturbed high altitude atmospheric water levels and destroyed noctilucent clouds in the mesosphere. The event also happens to coincide with the period when warming began rising steadily during the twentieth century.

With people becoming increasingly aware of the damage a massive Earth-bound asteroid could cause, Shaidurov's theory demonstrates how Earth impacts can have varying degrees of effect other than the impact itself; but with results just as devastating. Is it feasible, then, to argue that many of the significant climate fluctuations observed throughout Earth's history have been caused by asteroids, meteorites or comets entering the Earth's atmosphere or impacting the Earth? One of the most cogent explanations for the rise and fall of great civilizations is by Jared Diamond, who argues that a civilization eventually reaches a critical point where it declines and collapses as it extends itself beyond a sustainable level. But is it equally plausible that the resources these civilizations relied upon disappeared through significant climate change caused by the fallout of an Earth impact?

The Earth impact theory is a convenient way to explain why the simultaneous collapse of a number of powerful civilizations during the Bronze Age, for example, also coincided with the rise of cultures and societies elsewhere. In the past this was attributed to such things as war, famine and natural disasters, until researchers started bandying about ideas of Earth impacts being responsible for all of the above. One thing's for certain, an impact on a large enough scale could knock ecological systems around a lot, perhaps even enough to alter the balance of power and give rise to a whole new cultural dominance. This is nothing new, as there are numerous examples of major climate fluctuations throughout history, with some of them being significant enough to plausibly displace or wipeout once prosperous societies. Farming areas scattered about the Sahara and the Dead Sea eventually became deserts around 2350BC, as the terrible growth conditions reflected in tree rings show, while sediment samples taken from the rivers and lakes of Europe and Africa show a ruinous drop in water levels during the same period. These observations are not unlike the predicted changes that could occur in the near future. The latest scientific estimates predict, for example, that during this century and the next, rainforests will disappear, fertility in some regions will drop dramatically, sea levels will rise and some areas in cooler climes will be as hot as today's deserts.

So, are extraterrestrial bodies the cause of climate fluctuations on Earth, and if so, will we see an end to the current rise in temperatures as the effects of the Tunguska event recede; or are some of our cultures destined to suffer the same fate as civilizations before us? Shaidurov doesn't try to predict when the effects of the Tunguska catastrophe might abate, or even if levels will ever return to pre-Tunguska normalcy. The interesting thing to note here, if Shaidurov's theory proves correct, is that if current and past climate changes can be attributed to single isolated events; do our current scientific projections for a worsening of global warming really add up?



Over the past six months, landowners here have been clear-cutting thousands of trees to keep them from becoming homes for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The chain saws started in February, when the federal Fish and Wildlife Service put Boiling Spring Lakes on notice that rapid development threatened to squeeze out the woodpecker. The agency issued a map marking 15 active woodpecker "clusters," and announced it was working on a new one that could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building restrictions.

Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits. The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides, scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have been stripped down to sandy wasteland. "It's ruined the beauty of our city," Ms. Kinney said. To stop the rash of cutting, city commissioners have proposed a one-year moratorium on lot-clearing permits.

The red-cockaded woodpecker was once abundant in the vast longleaf pine forests that stretched from New Jersey to Florida, but now numbers as few as 15,000. The bird is unusual among North American woodpeckers because it nests exclusively in living trees. In a quirk of history, human activity has made this town of about 4,100 almost irresistible to the bird. Long before there was a town, locals carved V-shaped notches in the pines, collecting the sap in buckets to make turpentine. These wounds allowed fungus to infiltrate the tree's core, making it easier for the woodpecker to excavate its nest hole and probe for the beetles, spiders and wood-boring insects it prefers. "And, voila! You have a perfect woodpecker habitat," said Dan Bell, project director for the Nature Conservancy in nearby Wilmington.

The woodpecker gouges a series of holes around the tree, creating "sap runs" to discourage the egg-gobbling black snake, the bird's chief enemy. Because it can take up to six years to excavate a single nest hole, the birds fiercely defend their territory, said Susan Miller, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "They're passed from generation to generation, because it's such a major investment in time to create one cavity," Ms. Miller said.

Like the woodpeckers, humans are also looking to defend their nest eggs. Bonner Stiller has been holding on to two wooded half-acre lakefront lots for 23 years. He stripped both lots of longleaf pines before the government could issue its new map. "They have finally developed a value," said Mr. Stiller, a Republican member of the state General Assembly. "And then to have that taken away from you?"

Landowners have overreacted, says Pete Benjamin, supervisor of the federal agency's Raleigh office. Having a woodpecker tree on a piece of property does not necessarily mean a house cannot be built there, Mr. Benjamin said. A landowner can even get permission to cut down a cavity tree, as long as an alternative habitat can be found. "For the most part, we've found ways to work with most folks," he said. [Pity if you are not "most folks"]


Inhofe Complains the Media Failed to Report Climate Change `Ketchup Money' Grant

Sen. James M. Inhofe took his ongoing battle with supporters of climate change legislation to the Senate floor Monday, where he accused NASA scientist James Hansen of being too close to the "left-wing" Heinz Foundation and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. In comments aimed at discrediting a recent CBS "60 Minutes" story on Hansen, Inhofe, who has called the threat of global warming a hoax, noted that Hansen had received a grant from the foundation and had endorsed Kerry's 2004 run for president. The foundation, Inhofe pointed out, is run by Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz.

The "60 Minutes" report, he complained, failed to mention the "ketchup money" and the "subsequent" endorsement. "Many in the media dwell on any [oil] industry support given to so-called climate skeptics. . . . The foundation's money originated from the Heinz family ketchup fortune. So it appears that the media make a distinction between oil money and ketchup money," said Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of Environment and Public Works. Hansen could not be reached for comment, and Kerry's office had no comment on Inhofe's floor statement.

More here

Excerpt from Senator Inhofe's Speech regarding James Hansen:

"On March 19th of this year "60 Minutes" profiled NASA scientist and alarmist James Hansen, who was once again making allegations of being censored by the Bush administration. In this segment, objectivity and balance were again tossed aside in favor of a one-sided glowing profile of Hansen. The `60 Minutes' segment made no mention of Hansen's partisan ties to former Democrat Vice President Al Gore or Hansen's receiving of a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from the left-wing Heinz Foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry. There was also no mention of Hansen's subsequent endorsement of her husband John Kerry for President in 2004.

Many in the media dwell on any industry support given to so-called climate skeptics, but the same media completely fail to note Hansen's huge grant from the left-wing Heinz Foundation. The foundation's money originated from the Heinz family ketchup fortune. So it appears that the media makes a distinction between oil money and ketchup money. "60 Minutes" also did not inform viewers that Hansen appeared to concede in a 2003 issue of Natural Science that the use of `extreme scenarios' to dramatize climate change "may have been appropriate at one time" to drive the public's attention to the issue.

Why would "60 Minutes" ignore the basic tenets of journalism, which call for objectivity and balance in sourcing, and do such one-sided segments? The answer was provided by correspondent Scott Pelley. Pelley told the CBS News website that he justified excluding scientists skeptical of global warming alarmism from his segments because he considers skeptics to be the equivalent of `Holocaust deniers.'"

For full Senator Inhofe speech - Click Here


The energy output from the Sun has increased significantly during the 20th century, according to a new study

Many studies have attempted to determine whether there is an upward trend in the average magnitude of sunspots and solar flares over time, but few firm conclusions have been reached. Now, an international team of researchers led by Ilya Usoskin of the Sodankyl Geophysical Observatory at the University of Oulu, Finland, may have the answer. They examined meteorites that had fallen to Earth over the past 240 years. By analyzing the amount of titanium 44, a radioactive isotope, the team found a significant increase in the Sun's radioactive output during the 20th century. Over the past few decades, however, they found the solar activity has stabilized at this higher-than-historic level.

Prior research relied on measurements of certain radioactive elements within tree rings and in the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which can be altered by terrestrial processes, not just by solar activity. The isotope measured in the new study is not affected by conditions on Earth. The results, detailed in this week's issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, "confirm that there was indeed an increase in solar activity over the last 100 years or so," Usoskin told

The average global temperature at Earth's surface has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1880. Some scientists debate whether the increase is part of a natural climate cycle or the result of greenhouse gases produced by cars and industrial processes. The Sun's impact on climate has only recently been investigated. Recent studies show that an increase in solar output can cause short-term changes in Earth's climate, but there is no firm evidence linking solar activity with long-term climate effects.

The rise in solar activity at the beginning of the last century through the 1950s or so matches with the increase in global temperatures, Usoskin said. But the link doesn't hold up from about the 1970s to present. "During the last few decades, the solar activity is not increasing. It has stabilized at a high level, but the Earth's climate still shows a tendency toward increasing temperatures," Usoskin explained. He suspects even if there were a link between the Sun's activity and global climate, other factors must have dominated during the last few decades, including the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere., 26 September 2006


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 September, 2006

Even the L.A. Times does not like the California car-maker prosecutions

Editorial below:

The charitable spin on Bill Lockyer's lawsuit against major auto manufacturers is that it's a politically inspired, headline-grabbing stunt by a state attorney general running for state treasurer. The alternative - that he might actually believe this suit has legal merit - may be more frightening.

Lockyer's suit against the Big Six auto companies alleges that because vehicle exhaust contributes to global warming, the companies should be held financially liable for everything from wildfires to a bad ski season.

The suit is the latest salvo fired in the struggle between the state and the auto industry, which has separately sued the state over its attempts to curb global warming. But California shouldn't be in the business of filing meritless suits to gain leverage in other cases.

For Lockyer, this is hardly a first. He joined several other states two years ago to file an almost identical lawsuit over the emission of greenhouse gases by power companies. That suit was rejected by the courts; the states are appealing. The judge zeroed in neatly on the problem at hand: Fighting global warming is a complex regulatory job that belongs to the legislative and executive branches. Once laws are in place, companies that break those laws should be made to pay. But holding law-abiding companies liable for the government's past failures is another matter.

It's true that Congress and the Bush administration have irresponsibly shirked their responsibility on this matter, and a separate, legitimate lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court brought by California and several other states is seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The federal government's lack of action was also a major factor in the Legislature's recent passage of AB 32, which sets the stage for reducing greenhouse gases 25% by 2020. These responses to federal inaction are appropriate; frivolous, extortion-style lawsuits against car makers are not. Lockyer's new lawsuit against auto makers is akin to suing fishermen for depleting the ocean, even when they stick scrupulously to fishing quotas.

Lockyer contends that vehicle emissions - even legal emissions - are an illegal public nuisance partly responsible for a lower snowpack, wildfires and a host of other ills, current and potential. But liability here is a dicey thing to prove. Studies link warming to worsening Western drought, but that says little about any individual fire. If an arsonist sets a match to dry brush, who is at fault, the criminal or the Camry?

Global warming is, well, global. If the ocean level rises or trees die in the forest, how much of the responsibility belongs to a car sold in the U.S. and how much to the dirty Chinese coal plant or deforestation in South America? Presumably, the driver of a Hummer is more liable than the driver of an electric vehicle - as long as the battery isn't recharged using energy produced by a polluting power plant.

Lockyer is right about the threat posed by climate change and our society's responsibility to stem the trend. But in this case, he has mounted a silly legal battle that trivializes a serious problem.


Global warming: time for a heated debate

Al Gore's dogmatic documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" embodies the worst possible response to climate change.

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore presents himself as prophet rather than politician. The former American vice-president uses the documentary to preach what he believes is the only legitimate view on climate change. He implies that anyone who deviates from The Truth According to Gore is – literally – corrupt, insane or possibly hates their children.

Gore’s gospel on global warming rests on two related key claims. On the science he says the debate about humanity’s impact on the climate is over: ‘The scientific consensus is that we are causing global warming.’ To the extent there are any heretics, he argues that they are either the oil industry’s paid lackeys or its stooges in the Bush administration.

His second claim is that climate change is a moral rather than a political issue. By this he means that there is no room for debate about solutions to the problem. The only appropriate measures involve curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and reducing the human impact on the planet. The credits at the end of the film are interspersed with suggestions for human action, including driving less, recycling more and using less hot water. Those who want to know more are referred to The backing track to this peculiar ending is Melissa Etheridge’s ‘I need to wake up’.

The documentary is built around a slide show on climate change that Gore has given over a thousand times to audiences around the world. It includes images of lines on graphs rising precipitously, huge chunks of ice crashing off melting glaciers, drowning polar bears, and floods obliterating some of the world’s largest urban centres. There are also interludes on Gore’s life story, including his son being seriously injured in a car crash, his sister dying of lung cancer, and the failed presidential bid in 2000. The purpose of these biographical elements seems to be to show how The Truth was gradually revealed to Gore.

He certainly has no doubts about his own importance. The trailer for the documentary states: ‘If you love the planet, if you love your children, you have to see this film.’ Presumably those who fail to watch the movie are, at the very least, guilty of not loving their children. It does not specify what should be done to those who watch the film and disagree with it, but, given Gore’s intolerance to criticism, they must be risking eternal damnation.

Unfortunately for Gore there are good reasons to question the fundamental tenets of his faith. His account of the scientific consensus on climate change is willfully misleading. There is much about the science that is still debated and much that is simply not yet known. To the extent that there are problems caused by climate change there are other strategies to deal with it besides his favoured approach of mitigation.

Gore presents his arguments as thoroughly grounded in science. He quotes an extensive study of peer-reviewed journal articles on climate changes, which concluded that global warming is happening and humanity has played a role in creating it. In the film Gore refers to those who disagree with this view as ‘so-called sceptics’ – although if they are not genuine sceptics it is unclear what he is suggesting. In an interview in Metro, a free London newspaper, he went even further, actually questioning the sanity of those who take a different view: ‘Fifteen per cent of the population believe the Moon landing was actually staged in a movie lot in Arizona and somewhat fewer still believe the Earth is flat. I think they all get together with the global warming deniers on a Saturday night and party.’

Yet the apparent scientific consensus behind Gore’s approach is based on a sneaky statistical sleight of hand. Although scientists generally agree that the Earth is warming, and humans have had an influence, there is a lot more to climate science than this insight.

Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that some arguments have never been widely contested: the Earth’s average temperature has risen by about 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past century, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen substantially, and such carbon dioxide can act as a greenhouse gas. But many of the more specific points on climate change are still the subjects of debate, and many others are simply not yet understood. As Lindzen argues, we do not yet understand the natural variability of climate change so it is hard to properly assess the human contribution to warming. The Earth’s climate is an immensely complex system.

Gore takes a worst-case scenario on climate change – to support his argument that if we do not curb emissions immediately we will suffer a catastrophic crisis – and presents it as the scientific consensus. For example, Lindzen points out, in contradiction to Gore, that ‘the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940, that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average’. Many other of Gore’s specific claims on climate change are also contested.

But even if climate change is a serious threat to humanity, it does not follow that Gore’s approach is the only possible solution, let alone the best. On the negative side, curbing carbon emissions, sometimes referred to as mitigation, has substantial disadvantages. Since fossil fuels are still by far the cheapest and most widely available form of energy, cutting back on emissions is likely to have severe economic consequences. Over time it is likely this technology will improve and others will play a larger role, but until this happens curbing emissions could damage existing economic capacity. It is even more of a problem for developing countries, since it makes it harder for them to industrialise.

Gore caricatures such concerns in An Inconvenient Truth as a love of money. He shows a picture of gold bars and says there should be no choice between them and ‘the entire planet’. Members of the privileged elite such as Gore often seem to find it easy to decry affluence – he is the son of a senator, attended an elite private school and went on to Harvard. But for literally billions of people, economic growth is essential if they are to achieve a decent standard of living.

Fortunately, mitigation is not the only possible way of responding to climate change. Another possible response is adaptation. This can involve such measures as building modern flood defences, constructing new buildings away from areas at or below sea level, and developing new types of crops. Given that climate change is a relatively long-term process there are all sorts of measures that could be taken to adapt to its effects.

More ambitiously there is the possibility of geo-engineering. As Joe Kaplinsky has argued previously on spiked, weather modification was considered a possibility by many scientists in the years after the Second World War: ‘There have been a number of proposals put forward for climate engineering. The simplest idea is to inject dust into the upper atmosphere using artillery shells or aircraft. The dust would then scatter some of the sun’s rays back into space, cooling off the Earth. Another proposal is to add iron to the oceans, which would suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by encouraging algae to grow.’ Sadly, such proposals, let alone even more high technology ones, have generally not been pursued as a result of hostility by environmentalists. It is ironic that environmentalists, who claim to be concerned about the impact of climate change on humanity, stand in the way of such solutions.

Gore, unfortunately, is not a prophet in the wilderness. Many of the few remaining politicians and media outlets that once expressed scepticism about curbing carbon emissions – mainly conservatives – are joining the consensus. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s Republican governor, has come round to Gore’s way of thinking. California has become the first American state to legislate for cuts in greenhouse gas emission. In France, President Jacques Chirac is supporting a ‘solidarity tax’ to be levied on air travellers. And in Germany the conservatives and Greens have joined forces to run Frankfurt’s local government. In Britain, the new Conservative leader, David Cameron, has adopted the slogan ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ and has visited the Arctic to see the impact of climate change. Even The Economist, which for a long time took a sceptical line on climate change, has modified its stance.

Now more than ever there is a need for a genuine debate on climate change. Climate scientists should be free to do research without interference or misrepresentation by politicians. It is an immensely complicated field which should conform to the highest possible scientific standards. Meanwhile, the role for politicians should be to debate the best possible policy responses to climate change. Such initiatives need to take into account the costs of mitigation and the possibilities of other approaches to dealing with global warming. The dogmatic attitude embodied in An Inconvenient Truth is the biggest obstacle to finding a solution to the problem.


Hey! How come global warming does not get a mention below?

When major catastrophes strike, like the recent Asian earthquake and tsunami, the mass deaths can lead one to think that natural disasters are the most likely way people can die. Not by a long shot. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the leading causes of death in the United States are, in this order, heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and "accidental injury," a broad category that includes a lot of stuff that just happens. You are more likely to commit suicide or fall to your death than be killed by a tsunami or any natural disaster, the odds say.

In less advanced countries, where residents often live in poverty and huddle near the sea or in poorly constructed houses, tsunamis, floods and earthquakes are a more looming threat. But even in such locales, there are far greater risks over the course of a lifetime.

There are no formal estimates on the risk of death by tsunami, because they occur so infrequently. About 2,200 died in a Papua New Guinea tsunami in 1998; roughly 8,000 in the Philippines in 1976, about 120 in Hawaii and California in 1964. You have to go back to 1896 -- 27,000 deaths in Japan -- to find one that even approached the 150,000-plus scale of the Asian disaster on Dec. 26, 2004.

Michael Paine, of the Planetary Society Australian Volunteers, monitors and calculates risks of low-frequency events like asteroid impacts and tsunamis. He estimates the odds of a tsunami being the average coastal dweller's cause of death, globally speaking, are around 1-in-50,000. For the average citizen in the United States, given that many don't live near the coast, the chances are 1-in-500,000 or even perhaps less likely. Paine stressed this is a very rough estimate. The real odds drop to zero, of course, if you live in the mountains and never visit the shore.

In fact, that sort of risk management -- intentional or not -- goes for many things. Frequent flyers are more likely to die in a plane crash than someone who never flies. A Californian is at greater risk from earthquakes than someone in Minnesota.

Overall, global deaths from sudden natural disasters -- things Nature dishes out over moments, hours or days -- have been on the decline in recent years, with the exception of 2003 and 2004. Officials credit better warnings and swifter response to help victims.

In 2003, the last year for which worldwide deaths have been tabulated by the Red Cross, natural disasters killed 76,000 people. The figure was skewed by two events: a heat wave in Europe that overcame more than 22,000 and an earthquake in Iran that killed upwards of 30,000. (Earthquakes kill roughly 10,000 people every year, on average.)

The previous ten years saw an average of 62,000 global deaths per year from natural disasters. That's far less than the tolls taken by famine, disease and war.

Communicable diseases kill millions of people every year (13.3 million 1998, according to the World Health Organization). In sub-Saharan Africa last year, AIDS killed about two million people, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Even more died because of bad water or sanitation systems. In Kenya, AIDS deaths are "equivalent to two 747 jets crashing every day," stated a recent Red Cross report. Another study estimated that 3.3 million people died due to war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2002. More than three-quarters of the deaths owed to diseases and malnutrition resulting from the fighting.

Globally, violence is a leading killer. It accounts for 14 percent of all deaths among males and 7 percent among females, according to a 2003 analysis by the World Heath Organization. On an average day, 1,424 people are murdered. Somebody commits suicide every 40 seconds.

Perceptions of risk factors can change over time simply because more is learned. The chances of an Earth-impacting asteroid killing you have dropped dramatically, for example, from about 1-in-20,000 in 1994 to something like 1-in-200,000 or 1-in-500,000 today. The new numbers -- their range reflecting the need for further research -- were offered up last week by Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute and David Morrison at NASA's Ames Research Center. Why such a dramatic downgrade? Active intervention. "A significant part of it is that we have now discovered, in the last dozen years, a good fraction of the largest, most deadly asteroids and found that they won't hit the Earth," Chapman told LiveScience.

Also, projections of the destruction a large space rock would cause have been revised downward a bit. Finally, since Earth is two-thirds water, asteroid risks include the possibility of an impact-induced tsunami. And Chapman says asteroid-generated tsunamis may not be as deadly as once presumed....

More here

Australian PM defends the Brethren against the Greens

The Brethren have rightly identified and publicized the Australian Green Party as anti-Christian far-Leftists and the Greens hate them for it

The beliefs of the Exclusive Brethren Christian sect, which includes a refusal to vote, should be respected, Prime Minister John Howard said today. The sect has been criticised, particularly by the Greens, in recent times for its alleged activities in elections but Mr Howard says he has seen more fanatical groups in his time.

"The Exclusive Brethren as an organisation within the law, a Christian sect, is entitled to put its view," Mr Howard told ABC Radio. "I did make the observation that I've met a lot more fanatical people in my life than the Exclusive Brethren. "They have a different, a more disciplined, perhaps some would say a more narrow interpretation of the Christian religion than others, but I respect their right to have (this interpretation)."

Mr Howard, who yesterday said he had met with the group, said the more unorthodox views of the sect, such as not voting, did not means its members should be vilified. "I have to say that strikes me as what you might call an unorthodox Christian ... it strikes me as a little unusual, but that is their right and it should be respected," he said. "It shouldn't be the subject of some vilification campaign against them."



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 September, 2006


Only in California. The bureaucratic maze there prevents expensive wind-power projects from getting underway

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepares this week to sign into law the nation's most ambitious effort to address global warming, a key component of California's push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- increasing the use of renewable power to create electricity -- has faltered. Despite overwhelming public and political support for renewable power, ratepayer contributions of $319 million, and a 2002 law mandating a dramatic increase in the use of sun and wind to create megawatts, California has boosted its use of renewable energy by less than 1 percent of the state's overall electricity use in the past four years.

In the meantime, Texas has surpassed California as the nation's leader in wind power. PG&E, which ran television commercials in the Bay Area earlier this year promoting its environmentally friendly practices, has actually reduced the amount of renewable power in its portfolio during the past two years. And the world's largest wind-power company -- which is investing $2 billion around the country on wind projects this year and next -- is not spending any of that money in California, complaining that overly complicated and time-consuming regulations are slowing development....

Along the Sacramento River and near the Carquinez Strait in rural Solano County, 100 new wind turbines, standing 250 feet tall, tower over herds of sheep and rolling hills as they quietly spin wind into electricity. Each turbine creates enough power to light more than 750 homes for less than what Californians are paying for electricity from a power plant that produces carbon dioxide and other gases scientists say cause global warming. The new turbines are a rarity in California.

Since the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard went into effect four years ago, requiring utilities to contract for much more renewable power, only 241 megawatts of new projects have been built.... Power developers, regulators and independent observers all complain that the standard the 2002 legislation set up has required years to develop and calls for new projects to clear too many regulatory hurdles. "We like to say this project was built in spite of the RPS, not because of it," said Jim Caldwell, director of regulatory affairs for PPM Energy, which owns the new Solano County wind project. The company bypassed the state's regulatory process and simply built the project without a guarantee that any utility would buy the power. "If we would have gone through the process, we thought we'd never get the damn thing built," Caldwell said. The gamble paid off: The company is selling half of the power generated in Solano County to PG&E, and the rest to other municipally owned utilities.

"It is an extraordinarily complicated process compared to any other state in the country," said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who has studied efforts by 21 states to mandate increases in the use of renewable power. Wiser wrote a paper on California's process titled "Does it Have to be this Hard? Implementing the Nation's Most Complex Renewables Portfolio Standard." Wiser said that here, unlike anywhere else, two state agencies -- the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission -- have regulatory oversight of renewable projects, forcing developers and utilities to work with two distinct bureaucracies. And each project faces multiple, and sometimes redundant, monthslong proceedings in front of regulators before getting approval, while most other states only require one....

The world's largest wind developer, FPL Energy in Florida, announced earlier this year that it would not propose new wind projects in California during the next two years, even as it invests $2 billion around the country. The company won a bid through the California RPS process in 2004 to add 30 megawatts of wind power to an existing project, but a company official pointed to the project's estimated completion date -- April 2008, four years later -- as an example of why investing in California is difficult. "We are committed to California, but we look at where we can actually move forward and build projects," said Diane Fellman, director of regulatory affairs for FPL Energy.

There are other factors that also have slowed California's progress and have many believing the state will not meet the 2010 deadline. Transmission lines to renewable-rich areas need to be upgraded. Despite more than a decade of discussions on ways to hook up PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric to the windy Tehachapi region in Kern County and a key solar area, the Imperial Valley east of San Diego, the process to build new power lines is still ongoing. And there are questions about whether some of the projects the utilities have selected to pursue are viable. Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric, for example, have signed deals for hundreds of megawatts with an Arizona company that uses a solar technology that has never produced power on a large scale. "There are some real doubts about whether some of the projects will really happen," said Wiser....

Most involved in the energy industry believe a significant increase in wind, solar and geothermal power is possible in California. Renewable energy is incredibly popular -- a Public Policy Institute of California poll earlier this year showed that 83 percent of adults interviewed supported more government spending to boost renewable energy. The state has plenty of sun and wind -- experts suggest the Tehachapi region could generate enough wind power to light 3 million homes. And, with the price of natural gas having tripled in the last few years, wind power is cheaper to produce than electricity supplied by a natural-gas-fueled power plant. "The frustrating thing is this: Of all the places in the country, California is blessed with all kinds of natural resources that we need to produce renewable energy," said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of a trade group representing some renewable-power developers. "We're awash in riches. And there does not appear to be any significant political resistance to more renewables. But we're stumbling when it comes to turning all of this into real, steel-in-the-ground projects."

More here


And sea levels are rising despite that! Farewell to simplistic assumptions. Nothing disturbs faith though. To the Warming believers quoted below, it is just a "blip" -- a godawful large blip, though.

Despite the long term warming trend seen around the globe, the oceans have cooled in the last three years, scientists announced today. The temperature drop, a small fraction of the total warming seen in the last 48 years, suggests that global warming trends can sometimes take little dips. In the last century, Earth's temperature has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.56 degrees Celsius). Most scientists agree that much of the warming in the past 50 years has been fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.

This research suggests global warming isn't always steady, but happens with occasional 'speed bumps,'" said study co-author Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "This cooling is probably natural climate variability. The oceans today are still warmer than they were during the 1980s, and most scientists expect the oceans will eventually continue to warm in response to human-induced climate change."

Regardless of the cooling trend observed since 2003, average sea levels have continued to rise. The rising of sea level occurs due to the thermal expansion of the oceans from the heating and chunks and runoff from melting ice sheets and glaciers. "The recent cooling episode suggests sea level should have actually decreased in the past two years," Willis said. "Despite this, sea level has continued to rise. This may mean that sea level rise has recently shifted from being mostly caused by warming to being dominated by melting. This idea is consistent with recent estimates of ice-mass loss in Antarctica and accelerating ice-mass loss on Greenland."

In a previous study, researchers reported that in parts of the Antarctic, 84 percent of glaciers have retreated over the past 50 years in response to a warmer climate. But the melting glaciers are not the reason for the cooling. The amount of ice and water from the melting glaciers is very small compared to the overall temperature of the oceans, Willis told LiveScience.

Ocean temperatures have been through dips like this before. There have been substantial decadal decreases, said study co-author John Lyman of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. "Other studies have shown that a similar rapid cooling took place from 1980 to 1983. But overall, the long-term trend is warming."

Determining the amount of heat oceans store is important for determining the amount of total energy absorbed from the sun and energy reflected back. "The capacity of Earth's oceans to store the sun's energy is more than 1,000 times that of Earth's atmosphere," Lyman said. "It's important to measure upper ocean temperature, since 84 percent of the heat absorbed by Earth since the mid-1950s has gone toward warming the ocean. Measuring ocean temperature is really measuring the progress of global warming."

Researchers have not yet identified the cause of ocean cooling in the last three years but hope that further studies will clarify this anomaly. Some say it could be due to events such as volcanic eruptions, but the reasons need to be looked at still, Willis said.


Impoverishing and disruptive effects of land-use restrictions in Britain

Appeasing the property-owning English middle classes, the green lobby, the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the government insists that newly-built housing confine itself to brownfield sites. Britain's antiquated planning system is always absorbing yet more government guidance on housing design, energy use and all the rest. But it gets more Byzantine each year for a reason: to make houses more difficult to build. In particular, the government will not allow working-class people to spread out and invade Britain's green and virgin soil.

The government prefers to cram people it regards as plebs into transport-free cities that are more and more tightly packed. Land must not be claimed, cheaply and easily, from nature. Instead, it must be expensively and with great effort `reclaimed' from horrid, man-made contamination.

As prices for houses around East London's Olympic Village will soon attest, the result is, once again, that the demand for a decent home with reasonable transport links far exceeds supply. It has long been evident that the Thames Gateway area, billed as Europe's largest housing development, will in fact see relatively few new homes built. But it has now become clear that the 40-odd overlapping quangos responsible for the Thames Gateway have, to all intents and purposes, turned it into the London Thames Gateway. An area which was supposed to fan houses out to the east coast will confine them to the east of the nation's capital.

Powered by green dogma, the government's rush for brownfield development is truly zealous. Some 74 per cent of new dwellings in England are now on brownfield land. By reaching this figure, the government is, in 2006, far exceeding its own target for 2008, which was that 60 per cent of new-build should by then be brownfield.

What an achievement! This is a beating of targets of which Joe Stalin would be proud. But through its eagerness to achieve high levels of housing density, the government also fuels the current wave of Malthusian sentiment around the issue of immigration.

As Neil Davenport has pointed out previously on spiked, today's elite outcry over levels of immigration panders to the backward idea that society's problems are caused by there being too many people. But a recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London think-tank, has just highlighted a related but highly important issue. `What will bring the worst of all worlds', its chief executive Douglas McWilliams writes, `is to have the immigration but not the infrastructure, which will condemn all of us to traffic jams, rising house prices and overcrowding in schools, hospitals and elsewhere'.

We can leave Mr McWilliams to his own views on immigration. But his point about infrastructure is absolutely right. In certain local authorities, services such as education and health may well be unprepared for a relatively rapid build-up of local concentrations of immigrants. But in relation to accommodation, it is not the immigrant influx that leads to the perception that Britain is overcrowded and overpopulated, so much as the government's fanatical pursuit of high density in housing - a kind of Brownfield Brutalism that would condemn us all to a nicely designed broom cupboard. I am always suspicious of the view that the white working class feels itself `swamped' by immigrants. But to the extent that towns - Dover, for example - feel this way, it might be apt to blame, not immigrants, but the government's failure to fund expanding infrastructure and greenfield housing.

Ministers fairly crow that the average density being achieved across England is now 42 dwellings per hectare (6). Indeed, Yvette Cooper, minister for housing and planning, has boasted that while densities were `only' 25 homes per hectare in 1997, New Labour can now build 1.1million homes `on less land than the previous government set aside for just 900,000 homes - saving an area of greenfield land greater than the size of Oxford'. But what is a hectare, anyway? It is 10,000 square metres. So 25 dwellings per hectare of land in 1997 = 400sqm for each dwelling, or a land area of 20x20m. And 42 dwellings per hectare in 2006? That's 238sqm for each dwelling - in other words, little more than 15x15m of land.

This is a really drastic reduction in living space - and New Labour has achieved it in just nine years. Today, when so many of New Labour's policies increase urban atomisation and anomie, we are forced into a cheek-by-jowl huddle of smaller and smaller flats, at bigger and bigger prices. And then New Labour has the nerve to turn around and blame a surge of Rumanian criminals as a threat to Britain's social fabric.

Like Gordon Brown's sale of public sector assets, and like green efforts to conserve energy, the rush for brownfield land in fact produces very few savings - in this case, of greenfield land. Why? For two reasons. First, Britain is already predominantly green. Brownfield land is so modest an expanse that even the tightest patterns of house-packing can, at best, free up little land for greenfield status. Second, the government, not content with restricting people's ability to find housing, has anyway long been busy creating new green pastures.

Take Yvette Cooper's saving achieved by going brownfield - an area `the size of Oxford'. That turns out to be a saving of 3,300 hectares; in other words, a colossal 0.01 per cent of the land cover of Great Britain. On top of that, the government has already been adding more land for the Green Belt: a total of 19,000 hectares between 1998 and 2003. A further potential 12,000 hectares of Green Belt has been proposed in emerging development plans.

As it happens, 19,000 hectares is an area the size of Liverpool. So the Green Belt, which we are always being told is on the point of being `concreted over', has actually undergone an expansion that is modest, but much bigger than Cooper's Oxford-sized `saving' of greenfield land through Brownfield Brutalism. It bears remembering that the land cover of Great Britain is 23.5million hectares, used in 2002 as follows:

-- intensive agricultural land - 10.8million hectares, or 45.96 per cent;

-- semi-natural land - 7.0million hectares, or 29.78 per cent;

-- woodland - 2.8million hectares, or 11.91 per cent;

-- settled land accounts for 1.8million hectares, or 7.65 per cent;

-- water bodies - 0.3million hectares, or 1.28 per cent;

-- sundry other categories - 0.8million hectares, or 3.42 per cent.

If settlements are added to the `sundry' component (largely transport infrastructure such as roads and railways), then built-up Great Britain consists of about 2.3million hectares, or just 10 per cent of the land available. But in terms of `settled' houses and workplaces, the figure is actually well under 10 per cent - it's 7.65 per cent. In terms of housing alone, it must be heading towards five per cent, or lower, perhaps. But there is more. It turns out that more than half the land cover of England - 55.2 per cent of the most urbanised part of the UK - is officially `designated' as more or less untouchable: it is of special scientific interest, a special protection area, a special area of conservation, an area of outstanding natural beauty, a National Park, or a part of the Green Belt. In fact, among countries belonging to the Organisation of Economic and Commercial Development (OECD), the UK as a whole has about twice as high a proportion of protected land as the average. Everything is already being done, and then some, to ring-fence the pastoral idyll of the property-owning classes.

We can now see just how immature Ruth Kelly's call for a `mature' debate about immigration really is. Even when we omit Dartmoor, Snowdonia and other great swathes of beauty, Britain has room enough for immigration. But in practice, government policy continues to ensure that housing is both a growing symptom of the British economy's narcissism, and something that is powerfully hard for anyone - immigrant or not - to get hold of. The British economy is narcissistic because its whole focus is on face, not on the creation of genuine wealth. `Look at me!', cries the City to international money capital: `Come into my parlour.' `Look at me!', cries Britain's housing stock: `I am an ageing legacy of the past, but the government guarantees that I will always cost you more and more money.' ....

For the middle classes and a fair bit of the working class, housing has become that much more central to students, newlyweds and parents. For fortysomething parents, indeed, `parenting' is an issue that, to a large degree, revolves around housing. And as if that were not enough, Blairite ex-minister Stephen Byers has confirmed the centrality of housing to family discourse in the UK by setting a hare running about the abolition of inheritance tax, most of which revolves around houses. Alasdair Darling, tipped as Brown's successor at the Treasury, has repudiated Byers. But whatever the outcome, Britain's preoccupation with the money tied up in housing promises only to grow more intense.

Britain's problem is too few houses, not too many immigrants. Nowadays, all roads lead to housing - even if none of them are real roads. In more than seven years, from 1997 to 2004, New Labour has managed to build just 145km of new motorways. It has blighted rural areas with a colossal 400km, or 250 miles, of A roads. And in urban areas it has managed just 99km of A roads. No wonder people feel congested in cities, and cut off in rural areas. The genuine wealth that investment in new infrastructure represents is not part of Gordon Brown's brief. He would rather delude himself, and us, that he is taking what he calls `tough' choices; choices, he says, that will `safeguard stability'. His choices are not tough. They are all too easy. Sooner or later, Brown's choices will bring financial and social instability


A Greenie dictatorship?

Every property in the Waverley local government area in Sydney [Australia] may be required to install solar roof panels under a plan being considered by the council to make it "a world leader in climate change solutions". The council's sustainability committee "will explore ways to integrate key environmental targets and initiatives throughout the organisation and the Waverley community". The committee will comprise councillors and experts on building sustainability and climate change.

The Mayor of Waverley, Mora Main, put up the idea in a mayoral minute, unanimously supported by councillors, directing the committee to advise on maximising solar energy. "Moving towards a 'solar Waverley' may soon see all our rooftops sporting solar panels," she said. The committee will advise on:

* A brief for a study to assess and characterise the total potential for rooftop solar energy in Waverley.

* The application of solar hot water and space heating, passive solar design and photovoltaics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

* Changes to the council's planning rules to prevent overshadowing of useable solar-capture space on neighbouring structures.

* Regulation to ensure development applications maximise the uptake of solar power.

The council says each municipality has a responsibility to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. "As developments in solar technology take it ever closer to cost competitiveness with coal, distributed renewal energy becomes a realistic component of Australia's energy supply," it says in a background paper.

Waverley's move will not find favour with everyone. The Productivity Commission recommended in a report on energy efficiency last year that federal, state and territory governments and the Australian Building Codes Board should examine ways to stop local governments creating variations in minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings. The Federal Government has supported this finding. "Determining effective energy efficiency requirements for houses requires specialist knowledge that is more likely to be available to national bodies than to local governments," the commission said. "The effects of such requirements are predominantly experienced outside of the local government area. In addition, the costs associated with local government area-based variations in energy efficiency standards are potentially higher than for state and territory-based ones. This is because they can cause a higher degree of regulatory fragmentation and uncertainty."

In an earlier report on building regulation the commission warned against the erosion of national consistency of building regulation by local governments through their planning approval processes. A feature of an agreement being developed between the federal, state and territory governments on the building code will - "as far as practicable" - restrict any changes to the code to those arising from geographical, geological and climate factors. The agreement provides for state and territory governments to seek similar commitments from local governments. The Federal Government does, however, recognise the role of local government in developing and trialling new approaches to address climate change "in a context of cost-benefit assessment".

Source. For more Greenie nuttiness from Waverley, see here or 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.


26 September, 2006


Legislation introduced by Senator George Allen (R-VA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to create a federal "National Heritage Area" that encompasses portions of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania is likely to disproportionately harm minority families in the region by making homeownership more inaccessible, say members of the Project 21 black leadership network. The "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act of 2006" is S. 2645 in the Senate and H.R. 5195 in the House.

"Rather than promote initiatives that harm property rights and make it harder for minorities to obtain a piece of the American Dream, Senator Allen should focus on protecting the property rights of all Americans," said Project 21 member and Virginia resident John Meredith. Meredith, who has experience working on environmental and land use issues, is also the son of James Meredith, the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962. "The last thing that wealthy, preservation interest groups need is a leg up from the federal government-especially when that leg up comes on the back of minorities and the lower middle class," said Meredith.

National Heritage Areas are land areas where preservationist interest groups and the federal government have teamed up to influence local land use decisions, frequently in ways that have restricted property rights. A March 2004 report from the General Accountability Office found that provisions of such areas "encourage local governments to implement land use policies that are consistent with the heritage area's plans, which may allow heritage areas to indirectly influence zoning and land use planning in ways that could restrict owners' use of their property."

Although the bill was introduced ostensibly for the purpose of historic preservation, and its advocates - apparently for public relations purposes - have marketed it as a pro-tourism measure, supporters have repeatedly claimed the bill is needed to combat suburban sprawl. New land-use restrictions affecting housing availability could be bad news for minorities in the "hallowed ground" region. A National Center for Public Policy Research-commissioned econometric study, "Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation," found that anti-sprawl policies disproportionately and negatively affect minority homeownership:

Poor and minority families pay a disproportionate amount of the social and economic costs of growth restrictions. The weight of increased home prices falls most heavily on minorities, the disadvantaged and the young, fewer of whom already own homes. The "haves" who already own homes ride the price bubble created by restricted growth policies while the dream of ownership moves further away from the "have-nots." The 2002 study, which examined the social and economic impact of one model for sharply curtailing sprawl, found that growth restrictions would have prevented 260,000 minority homeowner families from homeownership had they been applied nationally over the preceding decade.

Housing restrictions can have strong, negative affects on the quality of life for families who cannot afford skyrocketing housing prices. The introduction to the "New Segregation" study tells the story of a 45-year-old waitress living in Fairfax County, Virginia, who, despite having over $2,000 a month to spend, lives in a seedy hotel with her four children and receives financial aid from the county because the average rent in the area at the time was over $1,100 per month. During the 1990s, due to Fairfax County's severe development restrictions, the county added 110,000 fewer housing units than it did new jobs.

"Serving the interests of preservationist elites at the expense of normal, everyday Americans is unacceptable," said Project 21 Senior Fellow Deneen Moore. "The public outcry over last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kelo eminent domain case shows that Americans want stronger property rights protections - not new threats to private ownership." "I am at a loss to understand how this furthers the interests of anyone but the super-elite," said Project 21 national chairman Mychal Massie. "Suffice it to say that this land-use initiative is harmful and punitive to the very people elected officials promised to protect."


Even the Brits are abandoning public transport

Despite the efforts of their very "Green" government

Thousands of daily bus services will be scrapped and fares will rise by 20 per cent during the next decade in a continuing exodus from public transport to the car, a report has found. The Government is falling well short of its official target of increasing bus use in every region. Passenger numbers are declining in every large city apart from London, the only area where services remain under public control.

The report, commissioned by the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG), which represents local authorities in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle upon Tyne and Birmingham, found that bus companies were exploiting local monopolies to make excessive profits. Fares have increased by 86 per cent above inflation since 1986 and passengers have fallen by half in those cities. By contrast, the cost of motoring has remained stable and the total distance travelled by car in Britain since 1986 has increased by 50 per cent.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said in 1997: "I will have failed if in five years' time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It's a tall order but I urge you to hold me to it." Rail travel has increased by a quarter since Mr Prescott made his pledge but the decline in bus services means the proportion of journeys made by bus, tram or train has fallen from 15 per cent to 12 per cent.

The Government's official target is to increase bus and tram journeys by 12 per cent in England by 2012 and to deliver growth in each region. Last year bus and tram journeys rose by 1.9 per cent in London but fell by 1.2 per cent in the rest of England. The report found that bus services had declined by 41 per cent in Tyne and Wear, 31 per cent in South Yorkshire and 20 per cent in the West Midlands since 1995. Services in Manchester, West Yorkshire and on Merseyside fell by 10 per cent to 12 per cent.

The report concludes: "Projecting these numbers forward gives an estimate that over the ten years from 2004-05 to 2014-15, bus patronage will fall by 20 per cent, fares will rise by about 20 per cent and service levels will fall by about 20 per cent. "Bus services are not providing a high-quality alternative to the private car and so motorists do not have incentives to switch to the only public transport mode that may be available to them."

In London, where the average fare is the same in real terms as a decade ago, bus passenger numbers have risen by 50 per cent since 2000. The services are controlled by Ken Livingstone, the mayor, who sets fare levels and determines the frequency and quality of the service under tightly drawn contracts with bus companies.

In the rest of England, private operators control all aspects of the service and can withdraw from routes with 56 days' notice. PTEG wants its members to be given similar powers to the London mayor. It believes that this will allow cities to offer a better service by cross-subsidising lightly used routes with the profits made from the busiest ones. It claims that private operators are contributing to decline by cherry-picking the most profitable routes, leaving others with an infrequent service that results in increasing numbers of people switching to cars.

The Government has begun a review of the way buses are regulated outside London and is drawing up proposals that would allow local authorities and bus companies to co-operate more closely on service levels. But ministers have balked at the idea of giving authorities the power to set fares, routes and frequencies. The report found one company dominating bus services in each of the biggest six English regional cities. National Express runs 81 per cent of buses in Birmingham and makes an estimated 21 to 35 per cent return on investment. The other companies also make "excess profits" despite presiding over declining services, and often failing to fulfil commitments to invest in newer, more reliable vehicles.


Australia: Geography lessons morph into environmentalism

High school geography is being taught as a series of issues presented in a naive and unquestioning way, often by teachers with no relevant qualifications. Associate professor John Lidstone of the Queensland University of Technology said much of what was taught was "naive environmentalism". And amid calls for a government review, Professor Lidstone said high school students were often not presented with the fundamentals of geography, such as the formation of mountains or glaciers, or the science behind issues, such as the rainfall cycle in Australia when examining drought. "There's an unquestioned acceptance of issues like the greenhouse effect; they're not actually engaging in the debate," he said.

Dr Lidstone, secretary of the International Geographical Union's commission on geographical education for 10 years, said the biggest problem was the subject's integration into social studies courses. "Integrated social studies doesn't do history well, it doesn't do geography well, it doesn't do citizenship-type things well. It very quickly becomes a hodgepodge," he said. "The syllabus lacks coherence and tends to become issues-based. You're asking kids to solve problems that adults and politicians can't solve. "Lost is the awe and wonder of the natural environment, glaciers, how mountains are thrown up, volcanoes and natural disasters."

The Institute of Australian Geographers and the Australian Geography Teachers Association argue that the subject has been bruised by a crowded curriculum that squeezes it into social studies until Year 10 in most states and territories. The institute wrote to federal Education Minister Julie Bishop this month calling for a national review of the geography curriculum along the lines of the recent history summit. "Geography teachers have complained that the subject has been distorted and reduced in rigour by the need to relate it to general statements of educational outcomes, and that the geographical knowledge and skills of Australian students has been significantly diminished as a result," the letter says.

Dr Lidstone questioned whether students were being taught the basics of geography before they were expected to solve the earth's problems. Working with a group of high school students looking at coastal degradation, Dr Lidstone said none could confidently answer in which direction sand moved up the Australian coast. "They didn't know the process of longshore drift. If you don't know what causes it, how on earth do you talk about remedial action, which is what they're being asked to do," he said. "There's too much focus on the issues rather than developing the skills of analysis and how to get data and interrogate it. Often students can only work on the data they're given but learning how to evaluate the quality of the data is pretty difficult."

AGTA president Nick Hutchinson said the desired outcomes listed in curriculums were too vague and imprecise, failing to detail what students should be taught. "The outcomes really destroy content in a sense because they just become such wishy-washy motherhood statements," he said. In South Australia, students are not taught "geography" but a subject called "space, place and environment" while in Western Australia and Queensland, students study "place and space".

There is a national shortage of trained geography teachers, with history teachers shouldering the bulk of teaching in social studies. In the senior years of school when geography is offered as an option, it is forced to compete with environmental management, sustainable futures or recreational and environmental studies - all specialised aspects of geography. Mr Hutchinson said that in Victoria, students must "analyse, organise and synthesise geographical information" while the essential learning statements, since revised, in Tasmania wanted geography students to "create purposeful futures".

Professional geographers and teachers believe geography should be taught as a stand-alone subject in years 9 and 10, in line with the proposal for Australian history. In his letter to Ms Bishop, geographers institute president Jim Walmsley, from the University of New England, proposes more specific topics such as the effects of European settlement on the land of Australia and how it is managed



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 September, 2006


Less than a month ago the know-alls were saying that the hole was finally closing up in response to their wonderful bans!

The hole over Antarctica's ozone layer is bigger than last year and is nearing the record 29-million-square-kilometre hole seen in 2000, the World Meteorological Organisation said. Geir Braathen, the United Nations weather agency's top ozone expert, said ozone depletion had a late onset in this year's southern hemisphere winter, when low temperatures normally trigger chemical reactions that break down the atmospheric layer that filters dangerous solar radiation. "The ozone depletion started quite late, but when it started it came quite rapidly," Braathen told journalists in Geneva on Friday. "It (the hole) has now risen to a level that has passed last year's, and is very close to, if not equal to, the ozone hole size of 2003, and also approaching the size of 2000," he said. The Antarctic ozone hole was at its second-largest in 2003.

While use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has waned, Braathen said large amounts of chlorine and bromine remain in the atmosphere and would keep causing large reductions in the Antarctic ozone layer for many years to come. "We will for the next couple of decades expect to see recurring ozone holes of the size that we see now," he said. The WMO and the UN Environment Programme said in August that the protective layer would likely return to pre-1980 levels by 2049 over much of Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia, Latin America and Africa. In Antarctica, the agencies said ozone layer recovery would likely be delayed until 2065.


Greenies' Campaign Against The Poor

Post lifted from Cheat-seeking missiles

Regular readers know how disgusting I think wealthy European and American environmentalists are, cushioned and comforted on all sides by their nations' advanced technology, because they routinely impose their beliefs on struggling third-world families. My most recent post on the subject was about the Greenies' cavalier killing of thousands of Africans and Asians by refusing to allow DDT to be used to control malaria.

Another disgusting example is in today's Rocky Mountain News, authored by leftist journalist turned anti-environmentalist documentary film maker Phelim McAleer, whose new film Mine Your Own Business documents an environmentalist attack on a proposed mine in Romania.

My admiration for environmentalists started to decline when I was lucky enough to be posted to Romania as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times. There I covered a campaign by Western environmentalists against a proposed mine at Rosia Montana in the Transylvania region of the country.

It was the usual story. The environmentalists told how Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company, was going to pollute the environment and forcibly resettle locals before destroying a pristine wilderness.

The usual story indeed. In Mexico, Borneo and Bolivia, all over the world Greenies create trophy battles that come in handy for fund-raising and making them feel important. But the campaigns are scams.

But when I went to see the village for myself I found that almost everything the environmentalists were saying about the project was misleading, exaggerated or quite simply false.

Rosia Montana was already a heavily polluted village because of the 2,000 years of mining in the area. The mining company actually planned to clean up the existing mess.

And the locals, rather than being forcibly resettled as the environmentalists claimed, were queuing up to sell their decrepit houses to the company which was paying well over the market rate.

In my business, I see this again and again. In one case, the Greenies continue to say our client "will grade the entire site" even though we've shown them the plans, which call for 50% of the site to remain untouched. In another, they continue to say the plan will severe the a wildlife corridor, even though we have shown them how the plan retains the corridor.

But in the Third World it's much worse:
As I spoke to the Western environmentalists it quickly emerged that they wanted to stop the mine because they felt that development and prosperity will ruin the rural "idyllic" lifestyle of these happy peasants.

This "lifestyle" includes 70 percent unemployment, two-thirds of the people having no running water and using an outhouse in winters where the temperature can plummet to 20 degrees below zero centigrade.

One environmentalist (foreign of course) tried to persuade me that villagers actually preferred riding a horse and cart to driving a car.

Of course the Rosia Montana villagers wanted a modern life - just like the rest of us. They wanted indoor bathrooms and the good schools and medical care that the large investment would bring.

Environmentalists were intent on denying others comfort, while they lived in heated apartments and ate hearty meals in comfortable bistros. The selfishness of this movement nothing short of stunning.

You can order McAleer's film here and watch a trailer here. (The link to the trailer in the op/ed does not work.)

Australia: Greenies hit everybody's pocket

The states should be investigated for anti-competitive behaviour over their restrictive land release policies, a leading housing chief declared. Former Housing Industry Association president Bob Day yesterday said the strategies were creating a new era of lifetime renters. He blamed urban planners obsessed with curbing the size of cities for an "artificial" land shortage that was driving up property prices.

Now chair of the Institute of Public Affairs' Great Australian Dream project, launched last month by Treasurer Peter Costello, Mr Day warned of "horrendous" social consequences linked to the affordability crisis. In a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby's conference in Canberra, Mr Day said families were forking out $300,000 more on mortgages than they should. Until the early 1990s, the median house price had consistently been three times that of average household income. Sydney house prices were now more than eight times the average household income, and it was six times the average household income in the other capital cities.

"For those on middle and low incomes, the prospect of ever becoming home owners has now all but evaporated as they face the prospect of being lifetime renters," Mr Day said. Mr Day, a recently endorsed Liberal candidate for the South Australian federal seat of Makin, urged people to drive to the outskirts of major cities to see the "abundant" land suitable for housing. "The so-called land shortage is a matter of political choice, not of fact," he said. "Perhaps we should be asking the ACCC to investigate the anti-competitive behaviour of state and territory government land agencies, and their association with big land developers."

Mr Day challenged the attitude that the spread of suburbia damaged the environment and encouraged car use. He said planners who demonised urban growth had inflicted enormous damage on the economy without any scientific or intellectually sustainable arguments to support their dogma.



Peer review is no safeguard against fads. It tends to protect them, in fact

The past few years have been a period of significant turmoil-some of it quite constructive-for publishers and editors of science journals. Controversies regarding potential conflicts of interest have led some journals to reexamine their rules for revealing the financial relationships of published researchers. Competition from free online "open access" journals, such as the six new journals published by the nonprofit Public Library of Science, has led several mainstream print journals to beef up their online offerings. And some notable journals concerned about fraudulent research have reportedly improved the screening of manuscripts under consideration, in an attempt to catch those who would misrepresent or "beautify" their data. ("Let's celebrate real data," the editors of Nature Cell Biology recently wrote, "wrinkles, warts, and all.")

The most interesting change stirring in the world of science and medical journals-and the change likely to have the most far-reaching impact-relates to peer review. Also known as "refereeing," the peer review process is used by journal editors to aid in deciding which papers are worth publishing. Some researchers may assume that peer review is a nuisance that scientists have always had to tolerate in order to be published. In reality, peer review is a fairly recent innovation, not widespread until the middle of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, many science journals were commandingly led by what Ohio State University science historian John C. Burnham dubbed "crusading and colorful editors," who made their publications "personal mouthpieces" for their individual views. There were often more journals than scientific and medical papers to publish; the last thing needed was a process for weeding out articles.

In time, the specialization of science precluded editors from being qualified to evaluate all the submissions they received. About a century ago, Burnham notes, science journals began to direct papers to distinguished experts who would serve on affiliated editorial boards. Eventually-especially following the post-World War II research boom-the deluge of manuscripts and their increasing specialization made it difficult for even an editorial board of a dozen or so experts to handle the load. The peer review system developed to meet this need. Journal editors began to seek out experts capable of commenting on manuscripts-not only researchers in the same general field, but researchers familiar with the specific techniques and even laboratory materials described in the papers under consideration. The transition from the editorial board model to the peer review model was eased by technological advances, like the Xerox copier in 1959, that reduced the hassles of sending manuscripts to experts scattered around the globe. There remained holdouts for a while-as Burnham notes, the Tennessee Medical Association Journal operated without peer review under one strong editor until 1971-but all major scientific and medical journals have relied on peer review for decades.

In recent times, the term "peer reviewed" has come to serve as shorthand for "quality." To say that an article appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is to claim a kind of professional approbation; to say that a study hasn't been peer reviewed is tantamount to calling it disreputable. Up to a point, this is reasonable. Reviewers and editors serve as gatekeepers in scientific publishing; they eliminate the most uninteresting or least worthy articles, saving the research community time and money.

But peer review is not simply synonymous with quality. Many landmark scientific papers (like that of Watson and Crick, published just five decades ago) were never subjected to peer review, and as David Shatz has pointed out, "many heavily cited papers, including some describing work which won a Nobel Prize, were originally rejected by peer review." Shatz, a Yeshiva University philosophy professor, outlines some of the charges made against the referee process in his 2004 book Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. In a word, reviewers are often not really "conversant with the published literature"; they are "biased toward papers that affirm their prior convictions"; and they "are biased against innovation and/or are poor judges of quality." Reviewers also seem biased in favor of authors from prestigious institutions. Shatz describes a study in which "papers that had been published in journals by authors from prestigious institutions were retyped and resubmitted with a non-prestigious affiliation indicated for the author. Not only did referees mostly fail to recognize these previously published papers in their field, they recommended rejection."

The Cochrane Collaboration, an international healthcare analysis group based in the U.K., published a report in 2003 concluding that there is "little empirical evidence to support the use of editorial peer review as a mechanism to ensure quality of biomedical research, despite its widespread use and costs." The Royal Society has also studied the effects of peer review. As the chairman of the investigating committee told a British newspaper in 2003, "We are all aware that some referees' reports are not worth the paper they are written on. It's also hard for a journal editor when reports come back that are contradictory, and it's often down to a question of a value judgment whether something is published or not." He also pointed out that peer review has been criticized for being used by the scientific establishment "to prevent unorthodox ideas, methods, and views, regardless of their merit, from being made public" and for its secretiveness and anonymity. Some journals have started printing the names of each article's referees; the British Medical Journal (BMJ), for instance, decided to discontinue anonymous peer reviews in 1999. The new system, called "open peer review," allows for more transparency and accountability but may discourage junior scientists from critically reviewing the work of more senior researchers for fear of reprisal.

Perhaps the most powerful criticism of peer review is that it fails to achieve its core objective: quality control. Shatz describes a study in which "investigators deliberately inserted errors into a manuscript, and referees did a poor job of detecting them." And critics of peer review need look no further than recent high-profile papers that turned out to be hoaxes-like the massive case of scientific fraud perpetrated by South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk in Science. Of course, no one should expect a perfect system, or condemn peer review as a whole for its occasional failures. Back in 2003, the editors of Nature Immunology lamented "the expectation in the popular press that peer review is a process by which fraudulent data is detected before publication." Peer reviewers, they argued, cannot be expected "to ferret out cleverly concealed, deliberate deceptions." But even granting this truth, the question remains: Is peer review the best process for promoting the highest quality science?

Beyond the many criticisms of peer review-some new, some perennial-two recent developments are especially intriguing. First, the open-access journals, which already make use of the Internet as their basic means of publication, are now finding ways to incorporate many so-called "Web 2.0" tools for collaboration, comment, and criticism. So, for example, a forthcoming multidisciplinary academic journal called Philica seeks to institute a peer-review process that is "transparent" (meaning that "reviews can be seen publicly") and "dynamic" ("because opinions can change over time, and this is reflected in the review process"). Instead of following the print-journal model of publishing articles after peer-review, Philica will publish articles before peer-review. "When somebody reviews your article, the impact of that review depends on the reviewer's own reviews," the Philica website says. "This means that the opinion of somebody whose work is highly regarded carries more weight than the opinion of somebody whose work is rated poorly. A person's standing, and so their impact on other people's ratings, changes constantly as part of the dynamic Philica world. Ideas and opinions change all the time-Philica lets us see this. This really is publishing like never before."

Another new open-access journal is likely to have an even bigger impact on the scientific community. The Public Library of Science will be launching its seventh journal in November 2006, called PLoS ONE. In an implicit challenge to Nature and Science, PLoS ONE will be the first of the group's journals to publish articles in all areas of science and medicine. Articles published in the new journal will undergo peer review, but some of the standard criteria that older journals use to screen out articles-like "degree of advance" or "interest to a general reader"-won't be used by PLoS ONE reviewers; all papers of scientific merit will be posted to the public record. Only weeks (not months) will go by before a submitted article is published, since instead of coming out periodically issue-by-issue, PLoS ONE will be in a state of continuous publication. A more public review process will continue after publication, as readers will be able to rate, annotate, and comment on papers, and authors can respond to their comments. The original paper will remain as such, but comments, revisions, and updates will orbit nearby, an electronic Talmud on every article of significance.

It is easy to believe, in reading the plans for this new publication, that it truly represents "the first step" in a wonderful "revolution" (as the Public Library of Science puts it). But it is worth remembering that gates and gatekeepers serve the important function of keeping out barbarians; it would be regrettable if the world of science journals came to suffer the sort of "trolling" and "flaming" so common today in comments on blogs and Internet discussion boards. It would be unfortunate if the deliberate, measured character of scientific research and discourse were lost to a culture of speed, hype, and quick-hit comments.

The second major development is that traditional peer review is under reconsideration even within the heart of establishment scientific publishing. This summer, the journal Nature is experimenting with a similar system of public review. Although the journal's articles will continue to go through the standard closed peer review process, a public version of peer review will be working in parallel: certain submissions will be posted online to solicit reader feedback, in hopes that experts will voluntarily review the articles. If this experiment shows that posted "pre-prints" receive enough attention online, Nature will apparently consider altering its traditional peer review practices. The journal is meanwhile sponsoring an ongoing online debate about peer review, with articles about the pros, cons, and future of refereeing.

What to make of all this? Peer review will surely not disappear overnight, but there are clear indications that it will evolve in the next few years as the established journals come to terms with Internet publication. Already in some fields of science, like physics and astronomy, the print journals have receded in importance due to online repositories like arXiv (pronounced "archive") that disseminate studies without the hassle of peer review. The last few decades of peer review may someday be remembered as a peculiar period in the history of science, an aberration produced by an explosion of researcher productivity and the constraints of print publication, eventually superseded by a fuller, nonstop scientific conversation. But we should not declare a revolution too soon or dismiss too easily the significant achievements of the current system, even as we acknowledge its many shortcomings and prepare to take full advantage of the new technologies of publishing.

The New Atlantis, 13:2006


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 September, 2006


An email from Vincent Gray []

I have been an "expert reviewer" for the IPCC since the beginning, and I have written many pages of comments and objections on their numerous drafts. I have also published critical articles on each volume, and for the last, a book "The Greenhouse Delusion, a Critique of 'Climate Change 2001'" which is currently available from the website of the publisher

These volumes are a mine of information on all matters concerned with the climate. They have no index, so only an intimate knowledge can turn up information on any one subject. Anybody can become an "expert reviewer", so you can obtain a copy of the latest draft merely on application.

The IPCC is a propaganda exercise for the supporters of the theory that greenhouse gases have harmful effects on the climate. The Editors and Lead Authors are carefully chosen for their known advocacy, and just to make sure, the "Summary for Policymakers" which is the only part most people read, is agreed line-by-line by Government representatives.

Despite all these precautions they have never made a firm commitment to their theory. A typical statement is the notorious "The balance of the evidence suggests a discernible human influence on the global climate". Note, this is only a "suggestion" (by whom?) and it does not mention greenhouse gases.

The "balance of the evidence" is distorted throughout the volumes, and their treatment of solar influences is typical. Most of the relevant published papers are mentioned, but any that suggest that the sun's influence is important are marginalised or deflated. When in doubt they leave really challenging papers out altogether.

They have the support of most of the important Journals in this exercise. Papers which emphasize the importance of the sun are sometimes published, but they often insert a phrase in the title which discourages readers from finding evidence in favour of the sun's influence. Many of the editors are environmental activists.

Not many people seem to bother with the actual IPCC reports. They are voluminous and require hard work to oppose. However, they are the source of most scientific argument in favour of "climate change" and they deserve more attention from scientists.


Steve McIntyre, 19 September 2006

On Sep 11-12, 2006, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, Sweden hosted an international seminar on climate variability (seminar website here). The seminar had 16 speakers from 14 countries and was attended by 120 people. It was organized by Peter Stilbs and Fred Goldberg, who extended great hospitality to the presenters. Anders Flodstrom, President of KTH, agreed to the seminar and was an impressive figure as convener of the closing panel.

The seminar arose as one of a series of Pro-and-Con seminars sponsored by KTH. In this case, the balance of presenters and audience was non-IPCC. This was not through the fault of the organizers who made diligent efforts to obtain IPCC-types. However, in the end, von Storch, Bengtsson and Kallen ended up being the only "IPCC" presenters. Bert Bolin, former IPCC chairman, attended for part of the Monday session. (He refused to pay a conference registration of about $25 despite being asked for payment - I guess he's used to expense accounts.)

The purpose of the seminar was not to present new results, but to summarize their views for a non-specialist audience. The following notes are not intended to be anything more than a rough impression and no slight is intended to those whose presentations are treated summarily.


On Monday norning, presentations were broadly speaking on reconstructions of climate history, with presentations by Fred Goldberg, Wjiborg Karlen, Bob Carter, Hans von Storch and myself.

Fred Goldberg is a material scientist, who has been an active "skeptic" in Sweden. He presented an account of historical information on the MWP and Little Ice Age. He showed some results on cloudiness thatI had not seen before, illustrated by some interesting paintings. (Fred travels to Svalbard every year and is familiar with the Arctic.)

Wjiborn Karlen is a prominent paleoclimatologist who has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles (curiously he's joint on Moberg et al 2005). He presented information on variability in the Holocene. He showed the Briffa 2000 reconstruction - which, as I've pointed out here, is much influenced by the Yamal substitution. We chatted afterwards; he's very concerned over the integrity of CRU temperature data and stated that no article involving Philip Jones could be relied on; I asked him if I could quote him on that and he said yes.

Bob Carter is an Australian geologist, who has professionally collected important deep sea cores from sediments offshore New Zealand showing climate variability in Deep Time. He presented on variability over Deep Time emphasizing that variability existed on every scale imaginable, showing what "trends" looked like over 10,000 years, 1000 years, 100 years and 10 years. He described the collection and interpretation of cores investigating northward flows of Antarctic water offshore New Zealand. He closed his presentation with an alarming quote from a reviewer for a grant who stated that grants should not be given to scientists who make public comments of the type that Carter has made. When I see the variability in Carter's cores, in which centennial variability of the scale of the past century is routine, assertions that the variability over the past century requires anthropogenic influence seem rather over-confident. His PPT is online here.

Then moi. I explained how I got interested in the climate debate and how our present analysis evolved, beginning with the 2003 exchanges. Some aspects of our dialogue with Mann make more sense in this context. I presented a couple of new graphics - one showing the impact of one contaminated proxy on a von Storch-Zorita pseudoproxy network; one on Wahl and Ammann, but I'm finding that this sort of detail doesn't play very well - not just with this sort of audience, but even highly specialized audiences.

Having said that, my pseudoproxy graphic did get understood immediately by von Storch. Von Storch and Zorita had sent me benchmark pseudoproxy results in the spring. They had reported last year (GRL) that Mannian PCA made "no difference" in a VZ pseudoproxy network in which the pseudoproxies were gridcell temperature plus white noise. In our Reply, we had argued that the pseudoproxy network was an irrelevant test for the impact of Mannian PCA on MBH proxies, but von Storch wasn't convinced by the reply. A few months ago, they sent me a pseudoproxy run for me to reconcile. I replicated the VZ result on a pseudoproxy network of 55 series (their "region 1") agreeing that Mannian PCA did not have an impact on such a network. However, I showed a graphic illustrating the impact of the introduction of one synthetic nonclimatic hockey stick series on the network - Mannian PCA latched onto the nonclimatic HS and, under some circumstances, even flipped over the actual signal.

We had a nice chat in the afternoon - it was a beautiful sunny day in Stockholm. This is the third occasion tis year that we've co-presented: at the National Academy of Sciences, at the House Energy and Commerce Committee and now the KTH Seminar. He thought that my presentation was more relaxed than the previous presentations. He got the point of the new graphic instantly; he suggested that I publish it without mentioning bristlecones - as a purely mathematical exercise, although bristlecones will be the unmentioned elephant in the room. I guess one can be prudent in climate science from time to time.

Although my presentation was obviously very critical of the hockey stick, neither Bert Bolin nor Kallen had any questions or comments. The only critical question came from Bengtsson, who claimed that Mann's error bars covered any problems. I replied that Mann's error bars were meaningless as they had been calculated on calibration period residuals on an overfitted model and were "not worth the powder to blow them to hell". Bengtsson did not pursue the matter.

Von Storch made a classroom-type presentation on detection and attribution. He had little invested in the presentation and pretty much mailed it in, but it was nice of him to show up. He challenged skeptics who thought that solar influence or any other influence was capable of explaining modern warming to do so in the context of a structured climate model - which seems fair enough to me although I wonder what sort of funding and support would be available for such an enterprise.

Colorado State professor disputes global warming is human-caused

Views 'out of step' with others are good for science, academic says

The Daily Reporter-Herald, 19 September 2006

Global warming is happening, but humans are not the cause, one of the nation's top experts on hurricanes said Monday morning. Bill Gray, who has studied tropical meteorology for more than 40 years, spoke at the Larimer County Republican Club Breakfast about global warming and whether humans are to blame. About 50 people were at the talk. Gray, who is a professor at Colorado State University, said human-induced global warming is a fear perpetuated by the media and scientists who are trying to get federal grants. "I think we're coming out of the little ice age, and warming is due to changes to ocean circulation patterns due to salinity variations," Gray said. "I'm sure that's it."

Gray's view has been challenged, however. Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said in an interview later Monday that climate scientists involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that most of the warming is due to human activity. "Bill Gray is a widely respected senior scientist who has a view that is out of step with a lot of his colleagues'," Pielke said. But challenging widely held views is "good for science because it forces people to make their case and advances understanding." "We should always listen to the minority," said Pielke, who spoke from his office in Boulder. "But it's prudent to take actions that both minimize human effect on the climate and also make ourselves much more resilient."

At the breakfast, Gray said Earth was warmer in some medieval periods than it is today. Current weather models are good at predicting weather as far as 10 days in advance, but predicting up to 100 years into the future is "a great act of faith, and I don't believe any of it," he said. But even if humans cause global warming, there's not much people can do, Gray said. China and India will continue to pump out greenhouse gases, and alternative energy sources are expensive. "Why do it if it's not going to make a difference anyway?" he said. "Whether I'm right or wrong, we can't do anything about it anyway."

Queenslanders: Hands off our Reef

Queensland's tourism industry will fight an influential British think-tank that wants the Great Barrier Reef virtually closed. The Centre for Future Studies says visitors may have to win the right to visit the Reef by a lottery system by 2020. The same group - which claims Australians are not looking after the Reef for the long-term - also wants a host of the world's most popular destinations declared almost off-limits. The entire Greek capital of Athens and Italy's Amalfi coast are among those it says should be far more exclusive.

But the suggestion, contained in a report paid for by a British insurance company, has infuriated the local tourism industry and been outright rejected by Australian scientists and the Federal Government. About 1.8 million people a year travel to the Reef, generating $5 billion and keeping about 800 companies in business. And local experts say the ecosystem which comprises the world's largest living organism is in good shape.

But CFS director Frank Shaw - a man whose biography boasts of him owning a "bolt hole" in a Canary Islands tax haven - claims "economic goals" mean other problems are being overlooked. "There is a conflict between environmental concerns and commercial interests," Dr Shaw said. "Rising sea water temperatures are already damaging the Great Barrier Reef." His group's report also names Nepal's Kathmandu; the Florida Everglades, the Taj coral reed in the Maldives and Croatia's Dalmatian coast as places that should limit their tourism numbers. Tourists could be asked to enter a holiday lottery in which they could win or earn the right to holiday in a particular place.

But coral reef expert Terry Hughes, who directs the biggest coral reef institute in the world at Townsville's James Cook University, said the Great Barrier Reef was a big place and the tourism industry had little impact. "I don't believe there is a conflict between environmental concerns and commercial interests," Professor Hughes said. He said rising sea levels were unlikely to impact on the Reef. "It's already underwater and a few more centimetres, or even half-a-metre over the next few decades is not going to have a huge impact," he said.

Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said tourism operators were ferocious defenders of the Reef's pristine environment. "They rely on the health of the Reef and so have become intimately involved in protecting that environment," she said.

The idea of having to compete for a chance to see one of the great natural wonders of the world - or not see it at all - outraged German tourist Susanne Heiduczek. Ms Heiduczek and her boyfriend Martin, both medical students, said experiencing the Reef was one of the best ways to make people appreciate it. "If people can't see the Reef, what will prompt them to fight for its protection?" she said.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said yesterday that tourism operators constantly monitored changes on the Reef in collaboration with groups such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority



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 September, 2006

Review by John Gray of: Heat: how to stop the planet burning by prize British nut George Monbiot

It may be too late to do anything about global warming. So, rather than pretending it can be stopped, shouldn't we concentrate on coping with the disruption?

The belief that human beings are masters of the planet dies hard. I cannot count the number of times I have heard environmentalists warning that we have only ten, 20 or 30 years in which we can prevent disaster. The implication is that, provided we apply sufficient intelligence and political will, we can arrest the dangerous environmental changes that are under way - as if global warming weren't a physical process that does not wait on humans. The assumption that we can stop it becomes less scientifically tenable by the day, and is in fact not much more than a green version of anthropocentrism.

In Heat, the environmental activist and thinker George Monbiot tries to bring the debate about climate change closer to known facts and reasonable conjecture, avoiding the woolly thinking that is so prevalent on the subject. The result is a book that anyone who thinks they know what should be done about global warming must read. One virtue of Monbiot's consistently heretical inquiry is that he recognises the magnitude of the danger: if present trends continue, the result could be a climate shift analogous to that which wiped out much of the world's biodiversity when the Permian era came to an abrupt end roughly 250 million years ago. Even if the change turns out to be much less dramatic, we can forget about carrying on with business as usual.

Monbiot clears the mind of a great deal of cant. As he shows, many fashionable environmental nostrums are either pointless or harmful in their effects. Micro wind-turbines are not worth the time and money spent on them: Britain needs a larger national grid, not a smaller one. Biofuels are a particularly dangerous panacea. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels significantly, we would need to plant them on a vast scale, further reducing the world's shrinking inheritance of land and water. A large part of the present crisis is a result of the agricultural destruction of wilderness, which plays a vital role in maintaining global climate. Between 1985 and 200o, production of palm oil - currently the cheapest source of biofuel - accounted for nearly 90 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia. A large-scale shift to biofuels - as advocated by George W Bush, for example - could have a comparable effect worldwide, increasing the harm done by farming while diminishing food production. The result would damage human welfare and the biosphere as a whole. As Monbiot notes: "Biofuel production is a formula not only for humanitarian disaster but also for environmental catastrophe."

This is not the only example of environment-alist policies that can prove to be self-defeating. It is a pity Monbiot says nothing about the phenomenon of global dimming. As well as greenhouse gases, humans are releasing aerosol particles into the atmosphere through industry and air travel. These are pollutants, but one of their effects is to reflect sunlight back into space - dimming the sky and at the same time cooling the planet. Reducing this kind of pollution - by discouraging flying, for instance, as Monbiot proposes - would make the world cleaner; it would also accelerate global warming.

If so many of the policies touted by environmentalists are counter-productive, how are we to stop the planet burning? Monbiot allows some scope for technical fixes - he is optimistic that new, low-cost methods of electricity transmission can be developed, for example - but the implication of his analysis is that reducing global emissions depends largely on changing the way we live. Since he accepts that emissions need to be cut by around 90 per cent over the next 30 years, the task is plainly a formidable one, and he struggles valiantly to show how this could be done. Some system of carbon rationing must be devised, he believes, and the economy be transformed by redesigning the public transport system, replacing out-of-town shopping centres by a system of warehouses and deliveries, and constructing more energy-efficient homes.

It is hard to judge whether this programme would have the desired effect, but in a sense the question is immaterial. Monbiot is more realistic than most greens. Yet, like them, he overlooks some crucial facts. Britain's emissions of greenhouse gases make up a tiny percentage of emissions worldwide, and while reducing them by 90 per cent might generate a pleasing sensation of virtue, it would have a negligible impact on climate change. Monbiot's programme would have to be implemented globally to be feasible at all, and applied most vigorously in the countries that are the largest sources of emissions: China, India and the United States. However, the first two countries cannot afford to reduce their emissions by anything like the necessary amounts, and a majority of the population in the third country will not accept the changes in lifestyle that a 90 per cent reduction demands.

What of the rest of the world? Does Monbiot seriously believe that oil-rich Russia and resurgent Iran are going to accept policies that penalise fossil-fuel production merely to avert a catastrophic alteration in the world's climate? Or that western countries are likely to hold off from developing Canadian tar sands - which could potentially supply more energy than Saudi Arabia, but at the cost of producing far more greenhouse gases - just because going ahead could set the planet on fire?

However sensible it may be in parts, there is a profound unreality surrounding the programme of action Monbiot proposes. "Curtailing climate change must be the project we put before all others," he writes. But who are "we", exactly? Humanity at large is ridden with intractable conflicts, and delusional bigots rule its most powerful state. An American air attack on Iran would produce an oil shock greater than any that has yet occurred, triggering the search for other sources of energy - many of them dirtier than oil. Moreover, continuing growth in human numbers (a crucial factor in the worsening en vironmental situation that Monbiot mentions only once in the book, giving it less than a single complete sentence) is increasing resource scarcity around the world. It is always claimed that the human environmental impact is a matter of per capita resource rather than sheer numbers, but there is an upper limit. By conservative estimates, there will be some two billion more human beings on the planet 50 years from now. Coming decades are far more likely to bring intensifying resource wars than concerted action against climate change.

There is, in fact, not the remotest prospect of the world adopting anything like Monbiot's programme, but once again this may not matter. As he recognises, it may already be too late: "Because the carbon released now stays in the atmosphere for some 200 years and causes climate change many years into the future, there is perhaps a 30 per cent chance that we have already blown it." It is a sobering admission, from which Monbiot immediately retreats. "I am writing this book in a spirit of optimism," he declares, "so I refuse to believe it."

Here and throughout the book, Monbiot is torn between the angry passion of the activist and the stoic lucidity of the analyst. Like nearly all environmentalists, he believes we would lose nothing by moving towards a more sustainable way of life. But is this actually the case? If there is a 30 per cent chance that the ground on which we are standing is going to give way whatever we do, what is the point in focusing all our energies on trying to make our position more sustainable? Growing numbers of scientists believe the probability of highly disruptive climate change occurring during the present century may be a good deal higher than 30 per cent. If this is so, will we not be better employed preparing to cope with the disruption than by pretending that it can still be stopped?

There are some useful things that can be done. In Britain, we can increase flood defences against rising sea levels, secure our electricity supplies by commissioning replacements for existing nuclear power stations, develop new technologies for cleaner coal and create wildlife corridors to help other species adapt. But first we have to accept that we cannot control the process of climate change we have set in motion. Unfortunately this requires an insight into the limits of human power that is beyond most environmentalists. Like the rest of humankind, they cannot bear very much reality.



World Heritage sites such as the Great Barrier Reef or Kathmandu, in Nepal, could be taken off the tourism map by 2020 due to the effects of climate change and too many visitors, a think tank said today. In a report prepared for UK insurance company Churchill, the Centre for Future Studies (CFS) listed 10 popular destinations that could be either permanently closed or have a visitor cap within 15 years. "I'm reasonably confident we're going to see an increasing climate degradation that is going to impact on various places in the world with increasing severity," CFS director Frank Shaw told Reuters. "Floods, storms, droughts, increasing and erratic temperatures will combine to bring about changes in destination choice for tourists."

Florida's Everglades in the United States, Athens in Greece, Croatia's Dalmatian coastline, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast in Italy as well as the Maldives are some of the other destinations at risk highlighted by the report. The study drew on evidence provided by scientists, governments, as well as tourism and environmental organisations from around the world. Tourism activity on the Great Barrier Reef, situated off Queensland, injects an estimated STG2 billion ($A5 billion) into the local economy each year. "There is a conflict between environmental concerns and commercial interests," added Shaw. "For some countries tourism represents a significant part of their gross domestic product. "But there is evidence Australia and many other governments are considering what can be done to protect national assets."



Housing prices forced up by shortage

When the American radical economist Doug Henwood met London Times editor Robert Thomson in 2003 he wanted to know what it was that kept the UK economy so buoyant in the face of its industrial downsizing. He was bemused by Thomson's answer: the housing market. To any independent observer it seemed obvious that the housing sector was in very bad shape. After all, house completions are at an historic low - 169,000 in 2002, compared with as much as 400,000 in the boom years of the 1960s. Yet on the narrow definition, the boom was a success: rising house prices meant an improvement in assets for homeowners.

How could so sluggish a sector produce such extraordinary growth? The answer is simple. The housing boom is not a housing boom at all; at least it is not a boom in new house production. Rather it is a boom in house prices. And the boom is taking place almost entirely in the second-hand housing market. As Shaun Spiers of the Council for the Protection of Rural England rightly says, the housing market is 'dominated by transactions involving existing, not new homes'. In the inverted world of housing, most houses are bought second-hand. It is as though Sotheby's shifted more units than Ikea.

The simple explanation for the rise in house prices is that it is caused by the shortfall in house completions. The supply of new homes is not enough to meet the demand, so the prices of the smaller pool of homes rise, dampening demand. But increased prices do not seem to have dampened the demand, and the market continues to boom. And worse still, developers have not responded to the higher prices by increasing house building, all of which seems to add up to a bubble in house prices.

In fact, house prices rose year on year from 1997 right through to 2003, by five, 10, 15 and even 20 per cent, only seeming to stop in August 2004, responding, perhaps, to the interest rate rises made by the Bank of England. The causes of the boom are debatable. On the most optimistic reading it is just the effect of rising incomes - a reading that is not without justification. Between 1985 and 2001 the UK workforce grew by a fifth, from 24 to 28 million. Each of these new incomes potentially represents an ambition to own. Economics commentator Heather Stewart argues: 'The number of households in Britain is rising; since the financial liberalisation of the "greed is good" 1980s, everyone wants to own their own home - and not enough houses are being built to accommodate them all.'

It is important to put the housing shortage in perspective - at least in its impact upon house prices. Houses are in short supply relative to the increasing number of incomes chasing them. And as Stewart says, the shortfall is in relation to growing expectations of home ownership that were fuelled in the 1980s. Homelessness, which was a re-occurring problem in the 1980s, has not become more widespread, as some expected it would. The Centre for Housing Research at York University found that there were around 44,000 rough sleepers in England between the ages of 16 and 24. Difficult as these circumstances are, they are not characteristic of the greater part of the population's experience of housing, 14 million of whom own their own homes outright (up by four million on 1991), and a further 27 million of whom have a mortgage, making more than two thirds of the country owner-occupiers.

The shortcoming of the explanation for the boom from incomes alone is straightforward enough: while average earnings are growing at around four per cent a year, house prices are growing at 20 per cent, pricing many out of the market altogether, as we can see from the rise in the rented sector. One might expect some lag between the rise in prices and producers reacting to increase supply, but in fact the lag has turned into a straight refusal. Now the difficulty is to understand why the sector has proved so unresponsive to the price signals that orthodox economics say ought to engender more output.

Embarrassed at the growing problem, the government has tended to blame the developers, accusing them of sitting on land-banks, speculating on future profits instead of meeting demand today. But the developers in turn have a more straightforward explanation for the non-appearance of new homes. They point the finger at the regulatory framework that holds back new growth: the planning laws, the green belt, the onus on greenfield developments, and so on. Alan Evans sets out the economics of the green belt and other controls on development in his Economics and Land Use Planning: 'The supply restriction means that prices rise will rise faster than they otherwise would.'

It is not just that the Town and Country Planning Act makes it difficult to begin building, though that is problem enough. When investors decide where to put their money, the prospect of a delay of years is good reason to put it elsewhere. In tying up capital, those delays increase costs, often prohibitively. But on top of that, the planning regime imposes additional costs. Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act allows local authorities to trade off planning permission against agreements on the part of the developers to make improvements to the site that might normally have been their responsibility. These can include road improvements, the provision of parks, capital improvements to local schools, and hospital or recreational facilities. Section-106 agreements turn planning permission into a tradeable commodity, with which local authorities can wring resources, 'planning gain', from developers over and above their commitments to local and national tax.

As Evans says, authorities 'came to realise they had something of value, which others wanted, and the result was, as an economist might expect, that local authorities tried to appropriate some of the profits for themselves'. Champions of civic responsibility will no doubt applaud the attempts to make the developers pay for the upkeep of the social fabric - but they ought to consider how this windfall tax can act as a disincentive to build. London's mayor Ken Livingstone has been aggressive in the use of Section 106 to achieve goals like the provision of social housing from developers, and most recently, from supermarkets. According to economic writer David Smith, the building industry 'argues that the government has loaded so many extra costs on to builders, including the requirement in many cases to provide social housing in new developments, that this has become a serious constraint'.

There should be no doubt that the restrictive regime of planning has limited development, and that this is a major cause of the housing price boom. However, we cannot be confident that even if the Town and Country Planning Act were abolished tomorrow that developers would meet the new demand. Smith acknowledges the developers are tied down by the obligations arising out of planning constraints, but insists that 'the problem is that private developers haven't filled the gap left by the public sector'. When annual house completions numbered 400,000 in the late 1960s, according to Smith, half were completed by local councils. 'That's not a plea for a return to large-scale council housing', he says, but it does raise the question of whether the private sector is in the right frame of mind to meet the shortfall.

Economic journalist Benjamin Hunt examined in detail the 'risk aversion' that he found endemic among corporate bosses, in his book The Timid Corporation. He identified shareholder activism and its demands to unlock value as one of the main constraints on longer-term investments, and argued that, against expectations, corporations were greatly influenced by the anti-growth mood promoted by environmentalists. 'Greed is good' meets 'the good life' in a mutual antipathy to long-term investments in development.

Certainly in 2001 the Department of Trade and Industry's investigation into competitiveness found that 'evidence does not suggest that the UK is over-investing'; in fact 'the UK remains relatively risk averse' and 'the UK's relatively more risk-averse approach contributes to lower levels of entrepreneurial activity'. In the construction industry, the problem of risk aversion is evident in the low level of building. After all, they make as much, if not more money selling a few over-priced homes as they do selling lots of realistically priced ones. No doubt they are pleased that the planning regulations make it possible for them to make money without having to take any risks or put in any effort.

In some quarters, developers are under fire for hanging on to land without building. Suspicions of gentlemen's agreements to moderate competition might seem like paranoia, but developers have agreed not to compete for labour - as was revealed when Laing O'Rourke outraged rivals by offering extra pay to recruit labourers to build terminal five at Heathrow. The government might find that it is not enough to lift the restraints on development, but will also need to direct investment, with subsidies, to persuade timid investors that their risks are worthwhile. In other words, there will have to be a revolution in attitudes to development on both sides.

Even after identifying the income-driven growth in demand, the regulatory limits on supply and the problem of risk-averse investors, we have not wholly explained the reasons for the house price boom. Economist Sabina Kalyan of the consultants Capital Economics Ltd argues that 'although the number of housebuilding completions has stagnated in the 1990s, the situation has not worsened dramatically - at least not enough to explain the current soaring house price inflation'.

Indeed. At least a part of the boom in house prices is part of a pattern that is nothing to do with houses. Instead of buying houses to live in, many people are now buying houses as a way to invest their spare cash. Of course, most of us generally talk about our homes as 'an investment', enjoying their climb in value, despairing if they fall. But that is not the same thing as the growth of the housing investment market. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister notes the growth in 'the influx of new landlords due to the introduction of buy-to-let mortgages' and that the number of second homes owned principally as an investment more than doubled between 1994 and 2001. The Guardian's perspicacious economics editor Larry Elliott writes: 'Sadly the trend over many decades means that Britain's economy is now much better suited to buying and selling houses than making things.'

Elliott is right to put the housing boom into the wider context of speculative investments. For the past 15 years or so there has been a free-floating speculative bubble, which is largely indifferent to the sectors that it inhabits, taking a hold of them, not for the purpose of creating new products, but for realising profits on alienation, buying cheap to sell dear. The speculative bubble has wandered the globe searching for high returns, stoking boom and bust as far afield as Moscow's banks and Hong Kong's real estate. It has passed through East European and Thai economies - without apparently adding any positive improvements in the 'real' economy of material production. In time, the East Asian asset prices reached unsustainable levels, and investors withdrew their capital - just in time for the boom. As economist Phil Mullan explains: 'Surplus capital attaches itself to certain phenomena at different times, such as shares, bonds, commercial property, mortgages, or gold.'

Housing investments cushion a lot of people against insecurity, but the booming housing market - perversely - is not leading to the building of new houses. To achieve that we need to take the restraints off development, but also use government incentives to create new homes.



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 September, 2006


Once a stuffy scientific body, Britain's Royal Society is now searching for relevance by becoming a very political lobby group. Report below from "The Guardian"

Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence". The scientists also strongly criticise the company's public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading".

In a letter earlier this month to Esso, the UK arm of ExxonMobil, the Royal Society cites its own survey which found that ExxonMobil last year distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent the science of climate change. These include the International Policy Network, a thinktank with its HQ in London, and the George C Marshall Institute, which is based in Washington DC. In 2004, the institute jointly published a report with the UK group the Scientific Alliance which claimed that global temperature rises were not related to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. "There is not a robust scientific basis for drawing definitive and objective conclusions about the effect of human influence on future climate," it said.

In the letter, Bob Ward of the Royal Society writes: "At our meeting in July ... you indicated that ExxonMobil would not be providing any further funding to these organisations. I would be grateful if you could let me know when ExxonMobil plans to carry out this pledge." The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, adds: "I would be grateful if you could let me know which organisations in the UK and other European countries have been receiving funding so that I can work out which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public."

This is the first time the society has written to a company to challenge its activities. The move reflects mounting concern about the activities of lobby groups that try to undermine the overwhelming scientific evidence that emissions are linked to climate change. The groups, such as the US Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose senior figures have described global warming as a myth, are expected to launch a renewed campaign ahead of a major new climate change report. The CEI responded to the recent release of Al Gore's climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, with adverts that welcomed increased carbon dioxide pollution.

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be published in February, is expected to say that climate change could drive the Earth's temperatures higher than previously predicted. Mr Ward said: "It is now more crucial than ever that we have a debate which is properly informed by the science. For people to be still producing information that misleads people about climate change is unhelpful. The next IPCC report should give people the final push that they need to take action and we can't have people trying to undermine it."

The Royal Society letter also takes issue with ExxonMobil's own presentation of climate science. It strongly criticises the company's "corporate citizenship reports", which claim that "gaps in the scientific basis" make it very difficult to blame climate change on human activity. The letter says: "These statements are not consistent with the scientific literature. It is very difficult to reconcile the misrepresentations of climate change science in these documents with ExxonMobil's claim to be an industry leader." Environmentalists regard ExxonMobil as one of the least progressive oil companies because, unlike competitors such as BP and Shell, it has not invested heavily in alternative energy sources.

ExxonMobil said: "We can confirm that recently we received a letter from the Royal Society on the topic of climate change. Amongst other topics our Tomorrow's Energy and Corporate Citizenship reports explain our views openly and honestly on climate change. We would refute any suggestion that our reports are inaccurate or misleading." A spokesman added that ExxonMobil stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute this year.

Recent research has made scientists more confident that recent warming is man-made, a finding endorsed by scientific academies across the world, including in the US, China and Brazil. The Royal Society's move emerged as Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey, warned that the polar ice caps were breaking up at a faster rate than glaciologists thought possible, with profound consequences for global sea levels. Professor Rapley said the change was almost certainly down to global warming. "It's like opening a window and seeing what's going on and the message is that it's worse than we thought," he said.

The Guardian, 20 September 2006

Oil companies greatly dislike the way they are constantly demonized (you would too) so Exxon may well cave in


(From The Daily Telegraph of 16 May 2005)

I've had a letter from Sir David Wallace, CBE, FRS. In his capacity as treasurer and vice-president of the Royal Society, he writes: "We are appealing to all parts of the UK media to be vigilant against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence about climate change and its potential effects on people and their environments around the world. I hope that we can count on your support."

Gosh! The V-P of the Royal Society! How could anyone not support such an eminent body, especially as Sir David warns: "There are some individuals on the fringes, sometimes with financial support from the oil industry, who have been attempting to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change." I say! A conspiracy as well. Definitely time to rally round, chaps, and repel fringe individuals. To help us do so, there's a "guide to facts and fictions about climate change written in a non-technical style" that even non-members of the Royal Society can grasp.

There's no doubt that this is a difficult subject that arouses strong emotions and which, if the more pessimistic projections turn out to be anywhere near the truth, will cause mankind some serious problems in the coming decades. Yet I fear I am going to be a great disappointment to Sir David.

However vigilant we may be against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence, he cannot count on my support, and it's not merely because of my instinctive leaning towards individuals on the fringe. In his helpful, non-technical guide, he refers to a survey of 928 papers (count 'em) on climate change published between 1993 and 2003, which found that three quarters of them accepted the view that man's activities (anthropogenic, in the jargon) have had a major impact on the climate. Amazingly, not a single one rejected it. Never mind that this is probably a greater consensus than can be found for the theory of evolution, the lack of a single dissenting voice smacks of the sort of result Nicolae Ceausescu used to get in his Romanian elections. So just what was this survey?

It is by one Naomi Oreskes, and was published in Nature last December, and it has surprised those whom Sir David might describe as fringe individuals. Among them are eminent researchers who have discovered periods in history when the Earth was hotter, even with lower levels of carbon dioxide than in today's atmosphere, and other scientists who believe that solar activity is the biggest cause of recent climate change. These people are not nutcases, nor are they in thrall to the oil companies (even if they were, does anyone seriously believe that Big Oil wants to destroy the planet?). They are just as capable of doing serious science as those who take it as an article of faith that global warming is all our fault.

Six such individuals have just published a paper* arguing that cosmic ray intensity and variations in solar activity have been driving recent climate change. They even provide a testable hypothesis, predicting some modest cooling over the next couple of years, as cosmic ray activity increases cloud cover. Since the conventional - sorry, consensus - wisdom says we are on a rising temperature curve to disaster, a couple of cool years would deal a serious blow to the anthropogenists.

There is much more in Sir David's briefing paper that other experts could challenge. One of the more terrifying aspects of global warming is the threat of rising sea levels as the polar ice melts, and the oceans expand through rising temperatures, threatening the millions of people who live in places only a few feet above sea level. Dramatic pictures of receding ice shelves in Antarctica seem to back this up, but a report in February to the Earth Observation summit in Brussels found that the ice masses there seem to be growing. Sea level does not appear to be rising; satellites can't detect any change, and low-lying islands such as Tuvalu are refusing to disappear beneath the waves.

As I said, this is a difficult subject, and it would be foolish to assume that everything will turn out fine, whatever we do. But that hardly justifies Draconian measures that will make us poorer, unless the scientific evidence is overwhelming. This was what the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to do, and its findings form the basis for the Kyoto treaty. Yet a closer examination of the scientific case shows that what are now considered by the doomsayers to be firm forecasts of temperature rises are actually "scenarios" of what might happen on different assumptions.

There is a huge margin for error here, certainly enough to justify America's refusal to sign up to the treaty. It's fashionable to claim that George W. Bush has rejected Kyoto because he's too stupid to see the problem (and, of course, he's in thrall to Big Oil), but he can just as plausibly argue that the treaty is based on bad science. Climate change is an important, perhaps vital, debate, but it remains just that. Warning of disaster has become a global industry, and the livelihoods of thousands of scientists depend on our being sufficiently spooked to keep funding the research. The worry is that many of these researchers have stopped being scientists and become campaigners instead. I do hope that the vice-president of the Royal Society is not one of them.


An email from Dr. David Whitehouse (

I wonder if I am not alone in finding something rather ugly and unscientific about the letter the Royal Society has sent to EssoUK (part of Exxon). It is reproduced in today's Guardian newspaper.

It demands EssoUK stop giving money to groups and organisations who do not believe that human activities are totally responsible for global warming. It also asks EssoUK to provide details of all the groups it funds so that the Royal Society can track them down and vet them, "so that I can work out which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public," the letter says.

My disquiet about this is nothing to do with the status of the debate about anthropogenic global warming but about the nature of the debate and the role of the Royal Society in it and the sending of such a hectoring and bullying letter demanding adherence to the scientific consensus.

Theories come and go. Some become fact, others do not. As scientists our ultimate loyalty is not to theory but to reason and to open enquiry even when some think it ill judged. We should value that above all and I am surprised the Royal Society is acting this way. Einstein once said, "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." However the Royal Society sees its role in debates about science, is it appropriate that it should be using its authority to judge and censor in this way?

Carmakers sued over global warming

California today announced that it had filed civil suits against six US and Japanese carmakers for their alleged contribution to global warming, a first such legal fight in the United States. "Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture and public health," Attorney General Bill Lockyer said after filing suit today in the US District Court. "The impacts are already costing millions of dollars, and the price tag is increasing. "Vehicle emissions are the single most rapidly growing source of the carbon emissions contributing to global warming, yet the federal government and automakers have refused to act. "It is time to hold these companies responsible for their contribution to this crisis," he said.

The defendants named in the complaint are Chrysler Motors Corporation, General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor North America, Inc, Honda North America and Nissan North America.

The suit is the first of its kind seeking to hold manufacturers liable for damages allegedly caused by greenhouse gases produced by their vehicles. Carmakers have created a public nuisance, the suit alleges, by producing "millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide". "Global warming has already injured California, its environment, its economy, and the health and well-being of its citizens," the lawsuit charges.


Australian Left supports dam-building

No doubt the Greenies will be fuming but I think they know they have lost this one. They will certainly get no joy from Australia's conservatives

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says a federal Labor government would make water a national responsibility and might put extra money into state projects such as dams and pipelines. Mr Beazley told an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce function in Brisbane yesterday that Labor would release a water blueprint before the next federal election. "We regard all these issues of infrastructure require national leadership and national responsibility," Mr Beazley said. "There is too much finger-pointing that goes on with the states but they don't have the resources. "They are important players and important deliverers but they simply do not have the resources."

Mr Beazley said it was also the Federal Government's role to help the states manage the "political problems" associated with building dams and pipelines. "The states confront, often, so much local pressure they atrophy," he said. "And the commonwealth has to be able to move beyond that and sometimes provide the resources at least to leverage some of the very big projects which need to be put in place." Queensland's state Labor Government recently established water as a separate portfolio.



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 September, 2006


Police have warned fish farmers to increase their security after 15,000 halibut were released from their cages in an attack believed to have been carried out by animal rights activists. Thousands of dead fish are being washed up along the west coast of Scotland after the raid at Kames Marine Fish Farm, near Oban. The perpetrators are thought to have attacked last week. Detectives believe that the attack could be linked to a spate of other farm attacks throughout the country. The letters ALF (Animal Liberation Front) were spray-painted near by.

The loss is estimated to have cost the fish farm at least 500,000 pounds as boats, cranes and offices were also vandalised. The halibut died from starvation or getting caught in seaweed. They were also being eaten by herring gulls and otters.

The fish farmer, who did not wish to be identified, said: "They claim they liberated them into the sea but sadly, as we all know, farmed animals, whether they are fish or any animals, don't survive unless they are looked after. The fish farmer added: "We farm them in a sustainable way. The welfare of the fish is at the forefront of our minds. Isn't it better to have farmed fish than to be pillaging the seas where stocks are declining dramatically?" Fish farms in Scotland, Kent and the South West have been attacked in the past year.


U.S. farmers like the payout, but critics of wind power point to costs

Corn, soybeans and electricity - that's what Jim Young's farm produces, thanks to the rich Iowa soil, regular rainfall and 13 wind turbine towers on his land. Some neighbors don't like the whirling blades, with their tips traveling more than 100 miles an hour on a typical windy day, and the turbines buzzing 350 feet above the ridge where rainfall divides between the Missouri and the Mississippi. For Young, electricity is a cash crop, $4,000 a year for each turbine. The turbines also produce local property taxes of about $13,000 a year each, too. "They're clean, and I don't think they bother anybody, really."

The turbines do bother some folks, including Glenn R. Schleede, a retired power company executive from Round Hill, Va., who said the wind power industry puts out "absolute baloney" to justify its existence. "I'm tired of subsidizing Warren Buffett companies," Schleede said, referring to federal tax subsidies that go to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a division of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that is headed by Buffett. Those are MidAmerican's turbines in the fields around Schaller.

Schleede's criticisms, mostly in academic-style papers he writes, concentrate on the economics of wind power and what he called "false claims about how this is good for an energy system." "In fact, these things, because they're intermittent and volatile and unpredictable, they don't really add a lot of capacity to an electric grid," he said. "When you see these things advertised, they talk about how many megawatts of capacity, the number of homes served and all that garbage. "I would maintain that they don't serve any homes."

But Schleede's objections haven't deterred wind power development in Iowa, where support is so widespread and opponents so scarce that Iowa generates more electricity from the wind than any state except California and Texas. MidAmerican is moving ahead with its fourth large wind-power plant, bringing its Iowa wind investment over the past decade to about a half-billion dollars. Last week, an Iowa Falls investment group announced plans for a separate $200 million wind project in north-central Iowa.

Environmentalists favor wind's no-pollution feature, especially now that power companies are keeping turbines from disturbing wildlife and sensitive habitats. The mono-crop fields of Iowa's factory-line farms are a perfect spot, they say, and every five-second turn of the turbine means a bit of coal unburned.

For environmentalists, a key issue is, if not coal, then what? Mark Kresowik, a Sierra Club organizer who is battling a proposed coal-fired electricity plant in Waterloo, Iowa, said, "Wind becomes a very prominent factor in that discussion." MidAmerican and the investment group, Iowa Winds LLC, are interested because federal subsidies make wind power profitable, thanks to taxpayers. Even Nebraska's public power districts are willing to use a little money from electricity customers to subsidize wind power.

"It's a little bit more expensive," said retired Holdrege farmer Bruce Gustafson, a longtime Nebraska Public Power District board member. "But it's a step in the right direction." Omaha Public Power District pays NPPD an average of $100,000 a month for wind electricity, even though most wind-generated electricity in most cases costs more than power from coal. The electricity comes from NPPD's $81 million wind generation facility near Ainsworth.

OPPD Chairman Del Weber said the publicly elected board supports wind power and makes the NPPD payment rather than building its own wind farm partly because the Omaha district doesn't have the steady, strong wind that would generate enough electricity. Despite the higher cost of wind energy, Weber said, "I think energy companies want to be on top of it. There are some very interesting kinds of developments in wind power."

As wind technology becomes more efficient, natural gas prices are rising, and pollution-control equipment adds to the costs at OPPD's new coal-fired plant at Nebraska City. Electricity from the plant costs 2.9 cents per kilowatt hour, spokesman Mike Jones said, close to the 3.4-cent per-kilowatt-hour cost at NPPD's wind-power plant. Even so, Weber said, wind power seems destined to remain only a supplemental source of electricity. "My guess is that wind power's never going to replace any kind of base power, but I think we should use it wherever we can." ...

Some objections to the wind turbines are financial. Nevada, Iowa, farmer Dale Swanson said he and his son and a woman whose land they farm turned down MidAmerican's offer to locate two or three of the turbines on the property. He objected to the 30-year, fixed $4,000-per-year payment. "As you look forward for 30 years, that's a pretty small price for the amount of things they get for it," Swanson said. The tower and the maintenance road would have cut across some of the best farmland, he said, and the company would have the right to come on the property for maintenance and repairs. He said there was no provision for removing the tower after 30 years, and the concrete base would be expensive to pull out once the contract ends.

An earlier option from MidAmerican called for an inflation adjustment after 15 years, he said, but the contract it actually offered removed that. "They came along and said this was a much better contract, but it wasn't," he said. The switch "was a pretty slick, city-boy deal." "I guess maybe you could say I didn't need the money bad enough that I would put up with that for 30 years." ....

Shane Patterson of Ames, Iowa, an Audubon Society biologist, said he has studied older wind farms in prairie areas of southwestern Minnesota. "They were utterly silent," he said. "It's not a prairie anymore because there are no prairie birds." Power companies now avoid such areas, he said. "I can't speak for every project, but it seems that the power companies are at least willing to listen," he said. "They do want information on where they shouldn't place these turbines."

Spencer banker Lee Schoenewe, who is active in the region's Audubon Society and is a trustee of the Iowa Nature Conservancy, said the groups' latest concern in Iowa is that improperly placed wind turbines cause nesting birds to avoid grassland habitats. The "scarecrow effect" seems to drive away birds that normally nest in grasslands, he said. "We're already in a position where temperate grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, especially in the central U.S. where the wind blows." Power companies have been good at avoiding such sites, he said, and the Nature Conservancy and local Audubon chapter have helped them find sites.

He also has no problem with the government subsidies. "It shouldn't be permanent but to develop alternative sources of energy. As energy gets more expensive, those subsidies certainly should be reduced. I think that's just intelligent in the long run."

But Schoenewe doesn't like the way the turbines look. "My perspective is that they can ruin a landscape, but a lot of people down in the Storm Lake area like to drive around and look at them," he said. "As a conservationist I'm very much in favor of renewable energy. "If we have to put up with losing a gorgeous sunset across a ridgeline in the distance to have this kind of thing available, I guess that's part of the bargain. I'm smart enough to know that there are other things beyond esthetics. "If we can preserve some of the pristine grasslands we have in this part of the country and put the turbines in agricultural fields, that's probably the best balance we can hope for."

More here


Former vice president Al Gore laid out his prescription for an ailing and overheated planet Monday, urging a series of steps from freezing carbon dioxide emissions to revamping the auto industry, factories and farms. [Is that all?]

Gore proposed a Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association ("Connie Mae," to echo the familiar Fannie Mae) devoted to helping homeowners retrofit and build energy-efficient homes. He urged creation of an "electranet," which would let homeowners and business owners buy and sell surplus electricity. "This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue -- it affects the survival of human civilization," Gore said in an hour-long speech at the New York University School of Law. "Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours."

Gore was one of the first U.S. politicians to raise an alarm about the dangers of global warming. He produced a critically well-received documentary movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," that chronicles his warnings that Earth is hurtling toward a vastly warmer future. Gore's speech was in part an effort to move beyond jeremiads and put the emphasis on remedies. He took a veiled shot at the Bush administration: "The debate over solutions has been slow to begin in earnest . . . because some of our leaders still find it more convenient to deny the reality of the crisis." But he saluted a Republican, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for helping to push through sharp reductions in carbon emissions.

Gore noted that few politicians of any party are willing to step into the "no politician zone" [So Gore is not a politician???] of tough steps needed to address global warming. Gore cautioned against looking for a "silver bullet" policy reform that would address global warming, a view many scientists share. "There are things that you can do today and in the midterm, and things to tend to in the long term," said Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "You have to think on all the scales at once, and even that will only help you avoid the worst scenarios."

A spokeswoman for the President's Council on Environmental Quality said Monday that the Bush administration has committed $29 billion to climate research and programs and has reduced greenhouse gas intensity. That is not, however, the same matter as reducing total carbon emissions, which continue to rise.

Gore touched on nuclear power as a palliative for global warming but made it clear that this is at best a partial solution. Nuclear power inevitably raises questions of nuclear arms proliferation, he said. And he warned against thinking that the recent drop in oil prices offers much help: "Our current ridiculous dependence on oil endangers not only our national security, but also our economic security."



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 September, 2006


Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will not rejoin a regional pact to regulate greenhouse gases despite the urging of the state's congressional delegation, a spokesman said on Tuesday. Massachusetts helped form the pact, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with governors from states in the U.S. Northeast, in the absence of federal policy to regulate the gases scientists link to global warming. But late last year Romney, a Republican, pulled out of the agreement which seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants 20 percent by 2019. Romney, who is expected to run for U.S. president in 2008, said the pact would boost power prices for consumers and businesses.

Interest in regional regulation of greenhouse gases has grown after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and the state legislature passed a bill recently seeking to cut greenhouse emissions by about 25 percent by 2020.

The Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote a letter to Romney on Tuesday asking him to rejoin the pact. Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Gov. Romney, said in a telephone interview, "Massachusetts' energy bills are high and going higher. RGGI would have exposed our consumers and businesses to even higher energy costs." Romney, who is not running for reelection, is set to leave office in the first week of January.

Seven states including New York, whose Republican Governor George Pataki initiated RGGI, agreed on a model rule last summer and hope to start freezing emissions at power plants beginning in 2009. The states say that the agreement could push power prices up a very small amount initially, but would eventually cut power prices as plants became more efficient. Rhode Island also left the agreement late last year.


Deepwater Drilling May Open New Oil Frontiers

Oil companies are buzzing after Chevron, Devon Energy, and Norway-based Statoil ASA last week announced the successful discovery of oil at a staggering depth beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Jack 2, as the new test well is called, extends downward for more than five miles (eight kilometers). The well delves through 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) of seawater and more than 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) of seafloor to strike oil in the lower tertiary formation-a layer of rock laid down between 65 million and 24 million years ago.

The find, potentially the United States' largest in four decades, could yield from 3 to 15 billion barrels of crude oil. Even though the top estimate would not do much to slake the nation's growing thirst for fuel, it could boost existing U.S. reserves by 50 percent. But experts suggest that the cutting-edge technologies used to create and operate the well are far more important than any single oil find. Such technologies could open access to previously unattainable oil across the globe. And high oil prices are making the enormous startup costs worth the gamble. "It's giving folks greater confidence to explore in the deepwater Gulf region," said Judson Jacobs, director of upstream technology for Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) in Boston, Massachusetts. The Gulf is hardly unique, he adds. Other promising deepwater locations await exploration off the coasts of Brazil, the United Kingdom, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Deepwater oil exploration begins on the ocean surface with a fleet of seismic vessels. The boats use long cables to send sound waves through the water and sea bottom. Different layers of sedimentary rock reflect unique parts of the sound waves back to shipboard receptors. The data are then analyzed by software to produce a 3-D image of the underground environment. "The real success of the find is the improvement in seismic technology that allowed them to visualize what's happening far underground and recognize the structures [that may hold oil]," Jacobs said. "I think you've seen great advancements in that area in the last five years."

The Jack 2 well, created using a rig called Cajun Express, faced a problem that may not affect other deepwater locations. Thin layers of salt, called salt canopies, overlay the oil-holding structures. "Salt creates havoc for seismic imaging," Jacobs said. The salt alters how sound waves reflect off the rock layers. Yet the drilling team was able to create accurate images of structures below the salt in three dimensions-a huge advance over technological predecessors using 2-D imaging. "Geology is in 3-D," said Steve Hadden, senior vice president of exploration and production at Devon Energy in Oklahoma City. "When you're looking at where in the Gulf of Mexico to drill an 80- to 100-million-dollar [U.S.] well that will ultimately be the size of a dinner plate [on the seafloor], having that 3-D look is very helpful."

New drilling ships and semi-submersible drilling rigs such as Cajun Express allow drillers to work at far greater depths than more conventional platforms that rest on the ocean floor. The existing technology may be able to go even deeper than Jack 2. Cajun Express, created by the drilling company Transocean Inc., may be able to drill to 35,000 feet (10,670 meters). But drilling to such depths provides many daunting engineering challenges. Such equipment, for example, must be built to handle tremendous weight. "The way the drilling process works is that you put sections of pipe together one at a time as you run [the pipe] through the water and down into the earth," Hadden said. "You keep adding to the drill string until you reach the total depth of the well. So [in this case] you've got a 30,000-foot-long [9,144-meter-long] string of pipe hanging off a floating rig," he added. "You can imagine the weight requirements, and you have to have the ability to lift it to the surface to change the drill bit." Twenty thousand feet (6,096 meters) of the large diameter pipe that encases the drill hole tops the scales at over a million pounds (453,000 kilograms).

The enormous pressures found in deep wells are another major hazard. Too much pressure can make it difficult to control the drill bit. Or the pressure could collapse the hole altogether. Drillers must therefore use seismic readings while drilling to predict how high pressures will be at future depths in order to keep the hole viable. And striking oil is only the first step. The find must then be brought to market. This creates challenges for wells such as Jack 2, which is located far from the platform and pipeline infrastructure that already exists in the Gulf of Mexico. To market oil from the new field, its owners are considering building a deepwater pipeline that would connect Jack 2 to existing infrastructure on the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf.

The owners could also employ floating production, storage, and offloading vessels, or FPSOs. FPSOs resemble giant oil tankers, but they are instead equipped with separation equipment that can remove water and gas from crude oil. The massive vessels can then hold the oil until shuttling tankers arrive to offload the product.

Though the Jack 2 find is promising, its success is no slam-dunk. Even conventional oil estimates are notoriously fickle. And unknown subsurface challenges may await to frustrate the area's production. Such variables keep deepwater drilling costs high, but so does the hardware involved. Equipment that can function at high pressure is expensive, as are surface facilities such as FPSOs, which can cost $500 million or more. Costs for the Jack 2 test well alone approached $100 million. "The upfront investments and the risks are not for the faint of heart," Hadden of Devon Energy warns. "It's a very big risk, but there can be a big reward." High oil prices, however, may make developing expensive, unconventional oil sources-and the technology needed to exploit them-more feasible than in the past. "What technology does for us is to help us to understand the geological risks a bit better, so that we're more comfortable taking the financial risk to find these structures," Hadden said.


California retro

For nearly a century, Californians have fashioned themselves the innovators the United States and the world follow. Not so on global warming. The California Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger have just passed and signed global warming legislation that looks an awful lot like a watered-down version of the failed Kyoto Protocol. That's soooo 1990s. Kyoto was supposed to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, the main human-generated global warming gas, to 7% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Nationally, carbon dioxide emissions have risen about 18% since then. California legislation cuts state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a much larger effective cut than Kyoto because of expected population growth in the next fifteen years. Why on earth did they do this, and what will it accomplish?

California's global warming legislation is all politics. Arnold is up for re-election, and California is (and has always been) politically green. Hint: "Sierra Club" stands for Sierra Nevada Mountain Club. While everyone back east pretty much yawns over its antics, people in California pay attention to it much the same way Euros worship Greenpeace (another organization simply ignored here). Greens are in record high dudgeon over global warming. Al Gore's movie has them pumped. The California public is alarmed, and scientists don't see any incentive to quell the hysteria -- after all, it's quite a living. So it's totally logical that there has been a political response.

Specifically, the current clamor revolves around a scientific absurdity: that unless we drastically cut our emissions of carbon dioxide in the next nine years, there will be an irreversible climate catastrophe caused by the rapid shedding of Greenland and Antarctic ice. (While climate populists still say "ten years," they've been making this claim for a year now. Time marches on.) It's science fiction. The slight loss of Greenland ice in the last few years is hardly unprecedented. Its cause is thought to be a reversal of a fifty-year cooling trend that ended in the late 1990s over the southern (melting) part of the landmass. For several decades in the early 20th century -- before humans could be considered a factor in climate change -- Greenland was much warmer than it has averaged in the last decade. Look for yourself. The UN's climate history is at this site.

In the early 20th century, Greenland had to have been shedding ice at a much higher rate than it is today (or, God forbid, today's loss isn't being driven by warmer temperatures!), and indeed this is documented. Check out "The Present Climate Fluctuation," published in 1948 by Hans Ahlmann, in Geographic Journal, a peer-reviewed periodical of the Royal Geographical Society. Antarctica? Suffice it to say that every recent climate model for the 21st century predicts that it will gain, not lose, ice.

Another big driver of the current hysteria is the notion that hurricanes are getting worse because of global warming. Again, there's little that's unprecedented. Today's frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms, the worst kind, is mathematically indistinguishable in the Atlantic and Western Pacific (the world's most active hurricane regions) from what it was a half-century ago...right around the time Ahlmann published his paper. The idea is simple. Warmer water yields more energy for stronger storms. But that notion is simplistic, as other factors that correlate with warmer water serve to mitigate storms. Further, the oceans just haven't been cooperating recently. An upcoming paper by John Lyman in Geophysical Research Letters has the scientific cheerleaders for Gore's apocalypse worried. It shows, inexplicably, that in the last two years the world's oceans lost 20% of the heat they had gained in the last half century.

It's easy to say that California's global warming bill rests on nonsensical overkill. But if people insist that all of these horrible things are being caused by global warming, what will California's leadership do about it? The answer, in the rosiest of policy scenarios, is easy: absolutely nothing. Further, if global warming is bad on the whole (a debatable hypothesis), California's law could easily make things worse. Let's be really rosy, and say that California does lead the nation, and Congress passes a similar law. Further, let's say that California leads the world, and every nation that has to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol -- quotas that virtually no one has met -- indeed adopts and meets the California mandates. According to scientists from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, the amount of global warming the law would prevent by 2060 is .05 degrees Celsius. That's right, one-twentieth of a degree.

That's a reasonable estimate, because Kyoto is predicted to prevent .07 degrees of warming along this timeframe, and California's law doesn't reduce emissions quite as much as Kyoto. But in any case, there's no network of global thermometers or satellites that will ever be able to detect such a change, because global surface temperature fluctuates about .15 degrees Celsius from year to year.

Will California itself meet its own legally imposed emissions limits? Doubtful, unless there will be some chicanery whereby carbon dioxide is fobbed off on, say, power plants in neighboring states. California would have to reduce its emissions substantially while, thanks to immigration, its population rises rapidly. The entry-level car for entry-level Californians will not be a $30,000 hybrid. While the chi-chi may buy them, they will sell their existing cars to the newcomers. Thanks to California's climate, those beaters will live long lives in the Golden State.

If people think that current hurricanes are being juiced by global warming, if they think that the calving of Greenland is unprecedented (despite decades of warmer temperatures in the early 20th century), then they will expect some return for their grief. But hurricanes will continue, and more people will be exposed to them. The earth's temperature trajectory won't be altered a measurable iota. Despite their efforts to lower emissions, people will see absolutely no current weather change that could possibly be ascribed to this policy.

Basing policies on hysterical exaggerations is a sure recipe for failure, particularly when the policies will do nothing but sour people on carbon dioxide emission restrictions. So much for Californian leadership. Sounds much more like politics as usual: full of sound and fury, accomplishing nothing. How retro.



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 September, 2006

Convenient half-truths

Former US vice-president Al Gore's ludicrous scaremongering contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods, says Andrew Bolt

Al Gore says his hot new film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, should alert us to a threat that risks "ending all human civilisation". Instead, the hosannahs the former American vice-president is getting on his visit to spread his ludicrous scaremongering reveals a more immediate danger. Is healthy scepticism and fidelity to facts dead in this country?

Of course, to challenge Gore's claims is to risk being denounced as evil. I found that out when I once pointed out to the holy roller a couple of flaws in his argument and watched him pop. Yet how sad that even our scientists are too cowed or too evangelical to note more than a flicker of concern that Gore's film tortures truth to scare the be-Gaia out of our youngsters. So who dares to point out that Gore is just one of the worst of the fact-fiddling Green evangelicals?

Well, here are just 10 of my own "minor quibbles" with Gore's film. These are my own "inconvenient truths", and judge from them the credibility of Gore's warnings of the end of all civilisation.

1: Gore claims that a survey of 928 scientific articles on global warming showed not one disputed that man's gasses were mostly to blame for rising global temperatures. Only dumb journalists and bad scientists in the pay of Big Oil pretended there was any genuine debate. In fact, as Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University has demonstrated, Gore relies on a bungled survey reported in Science. Peiser checked again and found just 13 of those 928 papers explicitly endorsed man-made global warming, and 34 rejected or doubted it. The debate is real.

2: Gore says the man who first made him realise we were heating up the earth was his late professor, oceanographer Roger Revelle, who noticed carbon dioxide levels were increasing. In fact, Revelle shortly before his death co-authored a paper warning that "the scientific basis for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time". And some warming might even be good, he added.

3: Gore says ice cores from Antarctica, that go back 650,000 years, show the world got warmer each time there was more carbon dioxide in the air. In fact, as the University of California's Professor Jeff Severinghaus and others note, at least three studies of ice cores show the earth first warmed and only then came more carbon dioxide, many hundreds of years later. So does extra carbon dioxide cause a warming world, or vice versa?

4: Gore shows a series of slides of vanishing lakes (like Lake Chad) and snow fields (like Mt Kilimanjaro's) and blames global warming for it all. In fact, Lake Chad is so shallow it nearly dried out as far back as 1908, and again in 1984. So many more people depend on it now that the water pumped out for irrigation has quadrupled in 25 years. No wonder it's drying. And Mt Kilimanjaro was losing its snows more than a century ago, not because of global warming, but-says a 2004 study in Nature-largely because deforestation has cut the moisture in the air. And that worrying picture Gore shows of vanishing glaciers in the Himalayas? Newcastle University researchers last month said some glaciers there are now getting bigger again.

5: Gore shows scary maps of how New York and Shanghai would drown under 20 feet (600cm) of water if all Greenland's ice melted. In fact, various studies say Greenland's snow cover-and Antarctica's-is increasing or stable. The scientists of even the fiercely pro-warming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict seas will rise (as they have for centuries) not by Gore's 600cm by 2100, but by between 14 and 43cm.

6: Gore claims the seas have already risen so high that New Zealand has had to take in refugees from drowning Pacific islands. In fact, the Australian National Tidal Facility at Tuvalu in 2002 reported: "The historical record from 1978 through 199 indicated a sea level rise of 0.07 mm per year." Or the width of a hair. Says Auckland University climate scientist Chris de Frietas: "I can assure Mr Gore that no one from the South Pacific islands has fled to New Zealand because of rising seas."

7: Gore claims global warming has helped cause coral reefs "all around the world" to bleach. In fact, new research from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the seas rapidly cooled from 2003 to 2005. And most bleaching is caused by El Nino events.

8: Gore claims hurricanes are getting worse because of global warming, and he shows pictures from Hurricane Katrina. In fact, America has this year had fewer hurricanes than usual. And most hurricane experts agree with Dr Chris Landsea of the US National Hurricane Centre, who says "there has been no change in the number and intensity of (the strongest) hurricanes around the world in the last 15 years".

9: Gore claims warming is causing new diseases and allowing malarial mosquitoes to move to higher altitudes. In fact, says Professor Paul Reiter, head of the Pasteur Institute's unit of insects and infectious diseases: "Gore is completely wrong here." Reiter says "the new altitudes of malaria are lower than those recorded 100 years ago" and "none of the 30 so-called new diseases Gore references are attributable to global warming".

10: Gore never even hints at other possible explanations scientists have given for the warming globe. And here's just one: increased solar activity. That's a theory suggested by leading American scientists such as Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Fred Singer and Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences. Some even predict we're about to suffer a new bout of global cooling. Says Professor Bill Gray, world hurricane authority from Colorado State University: "My belief is that three, four years from now, the globe will start to cool again." Or as Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of the Russian of Sciences astronomical observatory, warned last week: "On the basis of our (solar emission) research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth's climate by the middle of this century."

I'm sorry to raise these inconvenient truths just when so many of our scientists seem to prefer the certainties of faith over the uncertainties of evidence. But can we please have an adult discussion about global warming without the usual shrieks of outrage from people who think demanding this evidence is blasphemous? We are talking about science, right? But too much of this talk now sounds far too religious to me.

More here

U.S. climate researcher: We've got 10 years left

NASA scientist urges action to stop catastrophe, but records show summer of '36 hotter than '06

While a leading U.S. climate researcher claims there's a decade at most left to address "global warming" before environmental disaster takes place, the federal government issued a report showing the year 1936 had a hotter summer than 2006. "I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most," said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Addressing the Climate Change Research Conference this week, Hansen said if "business as usual" continues, world temperatures will rise by 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit and "we will be producing a different planet."

Ironically, a report issued yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that while the summer of 2006 was the second-warmest on record, the hottest year for the contiguous 48 states since statistics began in 1895 was 1936 - seven decades ago. "The average June-August 2006 temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 2.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) above the 20th century average of 72.1 degrees F (22.3 degrees C)," said the NOAA report. "This was the second warmest summer on record, slightly cooler than the record of 74.7 degrees F set in 1936 during the Dust Bowl era. This summer's average was 74.5 degrees F. Eight of the past ten summers have been warmer than the U.S. average for the same period." Looking back to the winter and spring months of this year, NOAA points out, "The persistence of the anomalous warmth in 2006 made this January-August period the warmest on record for the continental U.S., eclipsing the previous record of 1934."

Hansen, who has claimed previously the Bush administration tried to silence him about his findings on the climate, says the U.S. "has passed up the opportunity" to impact the world on global warming. He's now urging not only more energy efficiency, but a reduction in dependence on carbon-burning fuels. "We cannot burn off all the fossil fuels that are readily available without causing dramatic climate change," Hansen said. "This is not something that is a theory. We understand the carbon cycle well enough to say that."

NASA this week also released the results of two studies suggesting large reductions in the amount of winter Arctic sea ice. Dr. Son Nghiem, who led one of the projects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, "the change we see between 2004 and 2005 is enormous." British professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, said the variations shown by the U.S. studies were "huge," but he told the Independent newspaper, "It remains to be seen whether the rate of change is maintained in future years." As if to allay fears of rising waters, the paper pointed out: "The melting of the Arctic ice will not itself contribute to global sea-level rise, as the ice floating in the sea is already displacing its own mass in the water. When the ice cube melts in your gin and tonic, the liquid in your glass does not rise."

Despite the recent claims, the idea the Earth is heating up is hardly a universal belief. As WND previously reported, another NASA-funded study noted some climate forecasts might be exaggerating estimations of global warming. The space agency said climate models possibly were overestimating the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere as the Earth warms. The theory many scientists work with says the Earth heats up in response to human emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, causing more water to evaporate from the ocean into the atmosphere.

WND also reported that Dr. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, maintains there has been little or no warming since about 1940. "Any warming from the growth of greenhouse gases is likely to be minor, difficult to detect above the natural fluctuations of the climate, and therefore inconsequential," Singer wrote in a climate-change essay. "In addition, the impacts of warming and of higher CO2 levels are likely to be beneficial for human activities and especially for agriculture."

In July 2004, the London Telegraph reported on a study by Swiss and German scientists suggesting increased radiation from the sun - not human activity - was to blame for climate changes. "The sun is in a changed state," said Dr. Sami Solanki of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany. "It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."

The research adds credence to the beliefs of British professor David Bellamy, president of the London-based Conservation Foundation. "Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth," Bellamy told the Telegraph. "I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy-makers are not. "Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement: humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up. They say this is global warming, I say this is poppycock."

More here

A skewed vision of trees from team green

Australian commentator Alan Oxley says Greenpeace is using misleading claims to cut down logging in PNG -- Australia's near Northern neighbour

Greenpeace is running a campaign that is raising eyebrows. It is accusing one large company of rape, enslaving its workers, abusing human rights, employing police brutality and corruption. In the worst criticism Greenpeace heaped on Shell over oil drilling in the North Sea and on Monsanto for developing and selling genetically modified oilseeds, it never resorted to such abuse. So who is the target now?

It is a company called Rimbunan Hijau, one of the largest foreign investors in Papua New Guinea and its largest forestry business. Greenpeace's attack on the company is a proxy attack on commercial forestry in PNG, which it wants to stop. Greenpeace has been joined by the Centre for Environmental Law and Conservation in PNG and the Australian Conservation Foundation. A recently released CELCOR-ACF report claims to present new evidence of the human rights abuses of the forestry industry. But all that is new are claims of five instances of abuse in nine years, all of which are unsubstantiated.

Conveniently, CELCOR and ACF report the complainants need to remain anonymous for their own safety. This means that none of the claims can be tested for truthfulness. Otherwise, the report repeats old claims, some of which have been made for a decade, about corruption, sexual abuse and enslavement in forestry in PNG. It repeats unsubstantiated reports published by Greenpeace in the past four years and unsubstantiated claims of human rights abuse in PNG aired by SBS, which has since removed the transcript of the program from its website.

To freshen the green campaign, the CELCOR-ACF report carries insinuations that Australian military forces and forestry companies are responsible for distribution of arms throughout PNG. This is a calculated distortion of an ugly reality in PNG. Personal safety in the country has never been poorer. Businesses across the country are calling in help from police forces to keep order. For forestry (and other) companies operating in remote environments, this is crucial. These businesses frequently transport citizens, officials and firefighters.

If Greenpeace succeeds in this campaign, it will be bad luck for the poor. Commercial forestry is an important contributor to PNG's economy. Evidently Greenpeace considers it is better to be poor and green than to reduce poverty and educate children. Rimbunan Hijau is a Malaysia-based group whose activities include the biggest forestry business in PNG. Greenpeace says the company is "acting as ruthless robber barons, plundering the rainforest with impunity" and that most of the company's logging (and therefore most logging in PNG) is illegal.

Greenpeace is also trying to orchestrate global pressure against the company. Recently, activists climbed on top of the Cabinet Office in London and called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to stop imports of timber from PNG because Greenpeace has labelled them illegal. In Australia it is lobbying the Government to do the same thing. The organisation also wants a global consumer boycott. It has accused the chief executive of one of the largest timber importers in Britain of complicity in the destruction of PNG's forests by importing PNG timber. The company has buckled and agreed not to buy any more.

The PNG Government vehemently denies that most forestry activity in its country is illegal. Our consultancy has completed an exhaustive analysis of these claims and concluded the PNG Government is right. There have been irregularities in forestry administration, as expected in a low-income developing country, and they have been corrected.

The way Greenpeace decides what is illegal is a set-up. It contends logging is illegal if, at the time it occurs, not all relevant government laws and regulations have been fully applied, not all provisions of all relevant international treaties have been implemented and not all relevant (presumably according to Greenpeace) human rights and labour rights have been provided. Consider what this means. If a government agency doesn't do its job properly, any transaction made by a business operating under regulations administered by that agency is illegal. In our system of law, everybody enjoys the presumption of innocence. The way Greenpeace seems to want it, someone is automatically guilty if a government official is incompetent. This is a ruse. When applied in a poor, developing country where all government administration is rickety, it reflects a callous calculation.

Greenpeace's rhetoric stands in stark contrast to the hollowness of its claims. PNG is lush with forests; they cover 65per cent of the country. Greenpeace claims these forests could be cleared within a decade. That is impossible. Only 31 per cent of PNG forests have been marked for commercial use; that is, forestry and clearance for agriculture. Among the remaining forest, 5 per cent has been reserved to protect biodiversity and 37 per cent remains unallocated. PNG's forests are not endangered, nor is its natural biodiversity.

We also examined every one of Greenpeace's allegations of rape, police brutality and abuse of labour rights and corruption made against the company. We concluded they are baseless or cannot be properly substantiated. Greenpeace says the company practises slavery. The PNG labour department reported that the targeted company pays its work force 2.7 times the PNG minimum wage. Slavers don't do that. The allegation of police brutality is based on claims by one former police officer who has left the country. Forestry companies in PNG work closely with the police. Greenpeace well knows that law enforcement breaks down regularly in parts of PNG. Forestry businesses regularly transport police to remote areas because they have aircraft, while the police don't. They are performing a public service.

Greenpeace wants commercial logging in PNG's native forests replaced with eco-forestry or subsistence forestry. Yet the consequences would be immense. The commercial forestry industry in PNG employs about 10,000 people, generates about 5 per cent of the economy, earns about $250 million year in exports and adds $100 million to tax revenues. In addition, companies such as Rimbunan Hijau provide roads, airfields, air services, wharves and schools and medical clinics in remote areas.

Not only would this all be lost if the industry were closed down, but the PNG Government would have to subsidise the replacement eco-forestry. For 10 years there have been efforts to demonstrate the commercial viability of eco-forestry in PNG and all have failed. Even WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature), Greenpeace's partner in its forestry campaigns, says eco-forestry can succeed only if government pays for it. PNG needs more growth and revenue, not less. Seventy per cent of people in PNG live on less than $US2 ($2.66) a day. Three out of four children in rural areas do not go to school. The Asian Development Bank reported in 2004 that, per capita, gross domestic product in PNG was 10 per cent lower than in 1975. Recently, Patrick Pruaitch, PNG's Minister for Forests, said that if Greenpeace had its way, "the people of PNG would pay the price". He said the Government would resist efforts by international green non-government organisations to weaken PNG's economy.

What is driving Greenpeace to propose such a strategy? It opposes commercial forestry in natural bush, yet there is no environmental science that tells us this is necessary. Native forests can be sustainably logged, as they are in Australia. PNG has plenty of forest to get the environmental balance right. To Greenpeace, PNG is just a pawn in a bigger campaign. For more than 15 years, Greenpeace and WWF have hankered for a global forest convention to implement their goal of replacing commercial forestry with eco-forestry worldwide. Only some European countries support this. Developing countries mistrust their motives and the US does not support it. So the strategy is to whip up concern about illegal logging and goad governments into using trade sanctions to bring developing countries to heel.



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 September, 2006


It is known as the Little Ice Age. Bitter winters blighted much of the northern hemisphere for decades in the second half of the 17th century. The French army used frozen rivers as thoroughfares to invade the Netherlands. New Yorkers walked from Manhattan to Staten Island across the frozen harbour.

Sea ice surrounded Iceland for miles and the island's population halved. It wasn't the first time temperatures had plunged: a couple of hundred years earlier, between 1420 and 1570, a climatic downturn claimed the Viking colonies on Greenland, turning them from fertile farmlands into arctic wastelands.

Could the sun have been to blame? We now know that, curiously, both these mini ice ages coincided with prolonged lulls in the sun's activity - the sunspots and dramatic flares that are driven by its powerful magnetic field.

Now some astronomers are predicting that the sun is about to enter another quiet period. With climate scientists warning that global warming is approaching a tipping point, beyond which rapid and possibly irreversible damage to our environment will be unavoidable, a calm sun and a resultant cold snap might be exactly what we need to give us breathing space to agree and enact pollution controls. "It would certainly buy us some time," says Joanna Haigh, an atmospheric physicist at Imperial College London.

Global average temperatures have risen by about 0.6 °C in the past century, and until recently almost all of this has been put down to human activity. But that may not be the only factor at work. A growing number of scientists believe that there are clear links between the sun's activity and the temperature on Earth. While solar magnetic activity cannot explain away global warming completely, it does seem to have a significant impact. "A couple of years ago, I would not have said that there was any evidence for solar activity driving temperatures on Earth," says Paula Reimer, a palaeoclimate expert at Queen's University, Belfast, in the UK. "Now I think there is fairly convincing evidence."

What has won round Reimer and others is evidence linking climate to sunspots. These blemishes on the sun's surface appear and fade over days, weeks or months, depending on their size. More than a mere curiosity, they are windows on the sun's mood. They are created by contortions in the sun's magnetic field and their appearance foretells massive solar eruptions that fling billions of tonnes of gas into space. Fewer sunspots pop up when the sun is calm, and historically these periods have coincided with mini ice ages.

The number of sunspots and solar magnetic activity in general normally wax and wane in cycles lasting around 11 years, but every 200 years or so, the sunspots all but disappear as solar activity slumps (see "Field feedback"). For the past 50 years, on the other hand, the sun has been particularly restless. "If you look back into the sun's past, you find that we live in a period of abnormally high solar activity," says Nigel Weiss, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge.

Fortunately, an indirect record of the sun's moods stretching back thousands of years has been preserved on Earth in the concentrations of rare isotopes locked into tree rings and ice cores. The story begins way out beyond the orbit of Pluto, at the boundary of the sun's magnetic field. While the sun is magnetically calm, its field extends around 12 billion kilometres into space, but the field puffs up to 15 billion kilometres when the sun is active. Cosmic rays - the high-energy particles from deep space that are constantly hurtling towards us - are deflected by the field, so at active times far fewer of them reach the Earth.

Cosmic correlation

The rays that do reach our planet leave traces in the form of carbon-14 and beryllium-10, isotopes that are only created when cosmic rays slam into the Earth's atmosphere. Plants and trees then absorb carbon-14, while beryllium-10 settles onto the polar ice sheets and becomes incorporated into that year's ice layer. So by measuring the levels of the isotopes in tree rings and polar ice cores, we can work out how many cosmic rays were reaching Earth when the rings or ice layers were formed, and so estimate how active the sun was at those times.

Sami Solanki and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, have looked at the concentrations of carbon-14 in wood and beryllium-10 in ice as far back as back 11,000 years ago. The similarity of the fluctuations in both isotopes convinced them that they were seeing effects due to the sun. The peaks and slumps showed a recognisable pattern: "Periods of high solar activity do not last long, perhaps 50 to 100 years, then you get a crash," says Weiss. "It's a boom-bust system, and I would expect a crash soon."

Although another crash is likely, predicting the sun's activity with any certainty is difficult because of the chaotic way in which the solar magnetic field is generated. If anyone can do it, though, it's solar physicist turned computer programmer Leif Svalgaard, from Stanford University in California, who has been forecasting solar activity for nearly three decades. In the 1970s, he pioneered the best forecasting method yet devised, which uses the strength of the magnetic field at the sun's poles to predict future levels of solar activity.

He too expects a crash. The sun's polar field is now at its weakest since measurements began in the early 1950s, and to Svalgaard, the latest figures indicate that the sun's activity will be weaker during the next decade than it has been for more than 100 years. "Sunspot numbers are well on the way down in the next decade," he predicts. He expects fewer than six new sunspots per month, less than half the average number seen over the past decade.

This is hardly the sunspot crash that observations from 1645 to 1715 suggest. Back then, the appearance of even a single sunspot was major astronomical news, sparking hurriedly penned communications from one observatory to another. Nevertheless, it's a sign of things to come. "Sunspot numbers will be extremely small, and when the sun crashes, it crashes hard," says Svaalgard. "The upcoming sunspot crash could cause the Earth to cool"

Hot link

So what does the sun's magnetic activity have to do with the climate on Earth? To pin down the connection, Solanki and his colleagues compared records of solar activity derived from tree rings with meteorological records from 1856 to the present day. They found that the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere changed in step with sunspot numbers until 1970. This is the evidence that has done more than anything else to convince climatologists to take the link seriously. What's more, the most recent calculations by Solanki's team suggest that the sunspot crash could lead to a cooling of the Earth's atmosphere by 0.2 °C. It might not sound much, but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol.

There is still a big puzzle, though. Astronomers and climate scientists have always struggled to understand exactly how solar activity could influence the temperature on Earth. Whatever the variations in the sun's magnetic activity, the total energy it emits changes by only 0.1 per cent - too small a change to have any direct effect. As a result, the sun's role in climate change is highly controversial. "People have been arguing over this for years," says Reimer.

What other factor is at work? Important clues have emerged recently from solar observatories, including the SOHO spacecraft operated by NASA and the European Space Agency for the past 10 years. Although the change in overall solar energy is small, measurements made by SOHO and other solar observatories have revealed much greater variation in the levels of ultraviolet radiation, which can peak at up to 100 times its minimum level. "This means that there is scope for ultraviolet to have a much larger effect on our atmosphere," says Haigh, who for the past decade has been studying the impact of the sun's variability on climate.

According to computer models she has developed, ultraviolet radiation heats the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere by energising atoms and molecules there. This drives chemical reactions involving ozone and other molecules, which can release still more heat. This heating changes the temperature structure of the atmosphere at all altitudes, although the details are unclear because of the sheer complexity of Haigh's model. "By varying the amount of ultraviolet radiation, solar activity changes the circulation of the whole atmosphere," she says. Change the circulation, and you change the weather.

Haigh's work may help to explain one of the most puzzling aspects of the Little Ice Age: "Europe was badly hit, but other parts of the world may not really have noticed it," says Solanki. This might have been due to the different distribution of land masses in the northern and southern hemispheres. While Antarctica is surrounded by a wide belt of ocean, the distribution of land and oceans in the northern hemisphere is much less regular. This means that the interaction between the circulating atmosphere and the ground is more complex in the northern hemisphere. It gives rise to the North Atlantic Oscillation, an interplay of low and high pressure that dictates the movement of storms across the continents bordering the north Atlantic.

Haigh has found that at times of low solar activity the air pressure over the North Pole is higher than normal and forces storms south, funnelling colder weather to lower latitudes. What happens in the southern hemisphere is less well known, but Haigh says she wouldn't be surprised if the reaction here to changes in solar activity is different.

Solar activity might also influence climate through its effect on cosmic rays. In another study, Solanki has found an intriguing correlation between the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and the number of cosmic rays striking it, with lower temperatures in periods of high numbers of cosmic rays.

How could cosmic rays lead to cooler temperatures? Enter a theory proposed by Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen of the Danish Meteorology Institute in Copenhagen almost a decade ago. They suggested that cosmic rays create an electric charge in particles in our atmosphere that then act as seeds for the formation of clouds at low altitudes. A spell of low solar activity would mean more cosmic rays and therefore more clouds and lower temperatures.

Svensmark and Friis-Christensen's idea is controversial, however (New Scientist, 11 July 1998, p 45). Most climatologists accept that more low clouds would reflect more radiation back into space, thus lowering temperatures.

But many dismiss Svensmark and Friis-Christensen's evidence of a link between cosmic rays and cloud cover as coincidence (see "Cloud cover"). Others want the theory investigated, if only to rule it out. To this end, an international group of more than 50 scientists have proposed an experiment at the CERN particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, to begin in 2008.

No room for complacency

The coming years could settle the sun's role on temperatures once and for all. If the expected sunspot crash does takes place, Solanki's work could receive dramatic confirmation. "Having a crash would certainly allow us to pin down the sun's true level of influence on the Earth's climate," says Weiss.

None of this means that we can stop worrying about global warming caused by emissions into the atmosphere. "The temperature of the Earth in the past few decades does not correlate with solar activity at all," Solanki says. He estimates that solar activity is responsible for only 30 per cent, at most, of the warming since 1970. The rest must be the result of man-made greenhouse gases, and a crash in solar activity won't do anything to get rid of them.

What might happen is that the sun gives the planet a welcome respite from the ravages of man-made climate change - though for how long, nobody knows. During the Little Ice Age, the fall in average global temperature is estimated to have been less than 1 °C and lasted 70 years. The one before that persisted for 150 years, but a minor crash at the beginning of the 19th century lasted barely 30. For now, we will have to keep watching for falling sunspot numbers. "The deeper the crash, the longer it will last," Weiss says.

There is a dangerous flip side to this coin. If global warming does slow down or partially reverse with a sunspot crash, industrial polluters and reluctant nations could use it as a justification for turning their backs on pollution controls altogether, makingmatters worse in the long run. There is no room for complacency, Svalgaard warns: "If the Earth does cool during the next sunspot crash and we do nothing, when the sun's magnetic activity returns, global warming will return with a vengeance."

Field feedback

Sunspots and solar activity are driven by the strength of the sun's complex magnetic field. Although solar scientists are still debating the detail, most believe that the magnetic field is generated in a shell of hot gas 35,000 kilometres thick and buried some 200,000 kilometres deep inside the sun. Known as the tachocline, this layer is made of plasma - a gas so hot that the atoms break up into charged electrons and ions.

Material at different latitudes and depths of the tachocline rotates at different rates. This variability moves electric charges and generates the sun's magnetic field. Once created, the magnetic field is strong enough to influence the movement of the electrically charged gas that creates it, a feedback mechanism that can either strongly amplify or diminish the overall strength of the field. For the past 50 years the field has been building, and the sun has been experiencing a period of unusually high magnetic activity.

Predicting future solar activity is tricky because of this complexity. The best method in use today was formulated in the 1970s by Leif Svalgaard, then at Stanford University. He showed that the magnetic field at the sun's poles is the best predictor. "The polar field is the magnetic seed for solar activity," Svalgaard says.

The polar fields are the accumulation of dead sunspots, transient dark patches on the sun's surface that have immense magnetic fields. When a spot fades from view, its residual magnetic field is gradually swept polewards by a surface current of solar gas known as the meridional flow. At the poles, this flow turns down into the sun, where astronomers believe it sinks to the tachocline and begins a return journey towards the sun's equator. En route, the magnetic field is rejuvenated by the tachocline to produce new sunspots.

Cloud cover

In 1997, meteorologists Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen of the Danish Meteorology Institute in Copenhagen analysed weather satellite records from 1979 to 1992. This was long enough for the sun's activity to complete one of its regular 11-year cycles.

The researchers found that the Earth was 3 per cent cloudier when the sun's activity was at a minimum than when it was at its peak. They also noted the influx of cosmic rays at five experiments across the globe and found that it was as much as 25 per cent higher at the solar minimum. They called their discovery a "missing link in solar-climate relationships" and argued that cosmic rays were responsible for increasing cloud formation by electrically charging the lower atmosphere.

Intriguing as this link is, it is far from proof that solar activity and cloud cover are connected. "You have to demonstrate such an effect with an experiment, otherwise it is not physics," says Robert Bingham, a physicist at the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Bingham is part of an international collaboration building an experiment called CLOUD to test the idea that cosmic rays seed clouds. CLOUD will start up in 2008 using a particle accelerator at the CERN laboratory near Geneva as a source of simulated cosmic rays. The researchers will fire charged particles through a chamber holding a mixture of gases similar to the Earth's atmosphere to determine how often the particles trigger cloud formation. "CLOUD will go a long way towards understanding the microphysics of droplet formation," says Bingham.

New Scientist magazine, 16 September 2006


Global cooling could develop on Earth in 50 years and have serious consequences before it is replaced by a period of warming in the early 22nd century, a Russian Academy of Sciences' astronomical observatory's report says, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Friday.

Environmentalists and scientists warn not about the dangers of global warming provoked by man's detrimental effect on the planet's climate, but global cooling. Though never widely supported, it is a theory postulating an overwhelming cooling of the Earth which could involve glaciation. "On the basis of our [solar emission] research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth's climate by the middle of this century and the beginning of a regular 200-year-long cycle of the climate's global warming at the start of the 22nd century," said the head of the space research sector.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov said he and his colleagues had concluded that a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century - when canals froze in the Netherlands and people had to leave their dwellings in Greenland - could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2060.

He said he believed the future climate change would have very serious consequences and that authorities should start preparing for them today because "climate cooling is connected with changing temperatures, especially for northern countries."

"The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said, referring to an international treaty on climate change targeting greenhouse gas emissions. "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," Abdusamatov said.

MosNews, 25 August 2006

Kyoto 'a slogan, not a solution'

Some lip service to global warming from Australia but no action

Environment Minister Ian Campbell today stood firm on Australia's long standing refusal to sign onto the Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions, declaring it a slogan not a solution. Senator Campbell, fresh back from the UN framework conference on climate change in Switzerland, backed urgent action on climate change but with better quality practical international action. He said there was a sense of frustration that the whole process was becoming too bureaucratic and that more practical action was needed.

But for Australia, that would not involving signing the Kyoto accord. "I don't think people who make alarmist predictions do us much of a favour because the public will switch off. There are going to be substantial serious consequences of not addressing climate change, urgently and with multiple billion dollar investments. "The problem is too serious to offer up slogans as solution. Signing Kyoto is a slogan. It's not a solution. Investing billions of dollars in the technologies we need to transform the way we produce and use energy is a substantial solution." Senator Campbell said Australia could end all carbon emissions overnight but growth in China alone would replace Australian emissions within 10 months. "We could be the best climate change country in the world - and we are one of the best - but without cooperative effective action internationally we will not save Perth's beaches," he said.

Labor has strongly backed Australia signing the Kyoto Protocol but Senator Campbell said the reality was that protocol was being rewritten. He said Kyoto signatories such as France were nine per cent over its Kyoto target, Norway 22 per cent, Portugal 26 per cent and Spain 36 per cent. "The whole world is moving beyond Kyoto and Labor is saying sign up to something that was really drafted six, seven, eight years ago, which we know is not working," he said. "There is no gain to ratifying. We are part of a process that is designing the post-Kyoto world."

Senator Campbell said the Switzerland meeting aimed to prepare a group of some 30 ministers for the next meeting in Nairobi in a few weeks. He said what he sought to achieve was a new focus on technology transfer so that innovative technology could be speedily disseminated through the world. Unlike many of his coalition colleagues, Senator Campbell backed the thrust of the movie An Inconvenient Truth by former US vice-president Al Gore. He said respected scientists agreed with him that the science in the movie was sound and the consequences of not addressing the problems were very substantial. "We have got to remember there are consequences of global warming. There will be sea level rises. There already have been," he said.


Australia: Stupid water policies

Are the states imposing almost useless drought restrictions on water consumers while failing to build the infrastructure to bring water where it's needed?

As last summer ended, booming southeast Queensland was the only urban sprawl on the mainland without water restrictions. But suddenly, it seems, Queenslanders are also running short of water. On the first day of business after last weekend's Queensland state election, the re-elected Labor Government led by Premier Peter Beattie awarded 180,000 pool owners the toughest and most expensive water-saving requirement in the country: compulsory covers for their swimming pools to reduce evaporation loss. Many can expect to be out of pocket by as much as $2000 as a result. Are such restrictions value for money in terms of the cost of water saved? Not always.

Federal parliamentary secretary for water Malcolm Turnbull says the new Queensland "pool tax" is the latest example of short-term thinking and poor water planning in Australia, resulting from serial abuse of water utilities by state and local governments. "Water-saving measures are good, but you have to look at them with a hard head," Turnbull says. "Water is not the only scarce resource. So is money."

Water infrastructure - dams, desalination and recycling plants - is costly to build, but once in place the operating costs of the business are relatively low. State-owned water utilities are a valuable money pot for cash-strapped governments reluctant to give up some of the revenue stream to expand supply.

As part of new water restrictions beginning in Brisbane and other parts of southeast Queensland in November, gardens can only be watered legally by bucket or can. The taps have really been screwed down on backyard pools, effective as of summer 2007. As well as being required to fit a pool cover by the middle of next year, owners will need to complete two of three indoors retrofits: install a dual flush system in their toilet, fit a water-efficient shower head and buy a new, water-efficient washing machine.

Such is Brisbane's water supply that every drop counts, seemingly no matter what the cost. The Queensland Water Commission is quick to point out that 12 million litres of water is lost every day through evaporation from swimming pools. What it doesn't mention is that the cost of this imposed saving will be more than four times the cost of the water. At about $500 a pool cover, and assuming an ambitious but as yet unspecified regulatory regime to deliver savings of two-thirds of all evaporation, it will cost about $4 for each kilolitre of water saved. Presently Brisbane Water sells the same amount of water for 85c. Pool covers as a demand management strategy come in at five to 10 times more expensive than most of the more broadly accepted demand management options, including water-efficient showers and washing-machine rebates. This cost does not include optional extras including cover rollers and the extra cost to pool owners of replumbing their bathrooms. That it has come to this level of crisis management seems extraordinary in the fastest-growing corner of one of the most developed countries in the 21st century.

Dams take a long time to fill and a long time to empty. Queensland's Wivenhoe Dam is only a quarter full, enough water for two years, but who's taking chances? Being surprised by a water shortage is like having a tortoise sneak up on you. You need to be looking the other way for an awfully long time. And yet all state governments except the one in Tasmania have embraced the symbolism of water restrictions as a public response to shallower water levels, starting with Perth in the spring of 2001. Canberra followed suit a year later, then Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in 2003.

For Brisbane, the warnings were writ large on the Wivenhoe Dam wall as early as 1991. The South East Queensland Water Resources Strategy of that year found that "existing storages ... have inadequate yields to meet the needs of the future predicted populations at current rates of water use. Even with stringent demand management, the provision of additional water supplies will be necessary in the future."

The Water Services Association of Australia represents the big water authorities providing water to three-quarters of Australians. It asserts population growth in Australia's cities - with the exception of Perth - has been catered for not by providing new water services, but by reducing per capita demand. In a paper on urban water last year, WSAA pointed out the easy measures had been targeted "and further measures are likely to be intrusive and may encounter community resistance".

In 2004-05, despite water restrictions in every mainland capital except Brisbane, city water authorities paid over $658 million in dividends to their respective state governments. That year, city water users saved 220 billion litres, with one exception: Brisbane.

The National Water Commission is reviewing and assessing the existing water restrictions. Chief executive of the Irrigation Association of Australia, Jolyon Burnett, says there is a bewildering array of water restrictions. "In southeast Queensland until this new state Water Commission took over, there were up to 14 different regulations. It is absolute madness, and the public have felt that this was a bit of a joke."

Burnett argues there are three problems with the present water restrictions. The first is the poor process, with a lack of consultation and lack of warning. "Secondly the lack of science, and thirdly the inequity. Outdoor water use is the only one that attracts mandatory attention," Burnett says.....

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

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17 September, 2006


Self-righteous vandals at work

Striding purposefully down a pristine white sand beach in northeastern Australia, Hugh Spencer ignores the bikini-clad sunbathers and instead heads straight for a thick grove of coconut palms. "Look at this - there are no native plants left. They've all been pushed out by the coconuts," says Dr. Spencer, who heads the Australian Tropical Research Foundation. "The national parks service won't lift a finger - they're seriously underfunded, and they don't want to deal with the issue because it's so contentious."

Swaying coconut trees may symbolize the laid-back lifestyle of the tropics, but in northern Queensland, they are the focus of an acrimonious public debate which has left locals anything but relaxed. Tourism operators say Cocos nucifera palms are essential to the state's tropical ambience, offering the promise of long lazy days spent swinging in hammocks, sipping cool drinks, and gazing out at the azure waters of the Coral Sea. But local governments (known as councils) take a dimmer view, fearing hefty lawsuits if the trees drop their hairy harvest on the heads of unsuspecting, and increasingly litigious, tourists. Conservation groups loathe the coconut palm, saying it is an alien, invasive species that is encroaching on native vegetation and crowding out a narrow band of littoral rain forest - one of the rarest types of forest in the world.

"Coconut palms are a particularly aggressive nonnative," says Spencer. "Of the nuts that fall to the ground, a large majority germinate. Coconuts, urban development, fires, all mean that the littoral rain forest in Australia is vanishing." To some ecologists, the trees are public enemy No. 1, on a par with the hated cane toad, which was introduced to Queensland from Hawaii in the 1930s to control a type of beetle but has since bred in millions and spread across the continent.

So passionate is the debate that Spencer and a band of volunteers are poisoning the trees in a covert campaign of sabotage. Digging through the leaf litter in a particularly dense stand of palms, he points out a tiny hole at the base of a particularly tall specimen. "We put poison in there. We have to do it on days when the weather is bad and there's no one on the beach."

Poisoning the palms is not strictly illegal because they are not a protected species. But at the very least it is "illicit and unauthorized," according to the environmental biologist, who says he would welcome some form of prosecution by the Queensland national parks service because it would raise the profile of the issue. The group's guerrilla tactics have made them enemies. Spencer says he's received hate mail for leading the counter-coconut charge. "Some members of the local council would like to hang me from the nearest coconut tree. But others would like to give me a knighthood," he says.

Coconut palms are one of hundreds of thriving plant species introduced to Australia since British settlement in 1788. Coconuts were first planted here by 19th-century pioneers and later spread along the remote coastline of northern Queensland by postwar settlers and, in the 1970s, bands of hippies.

The problem of nonnative trees is not unique to Australia. For example, Greece and South Africa are infested with Australian eucalyptus trees. Fast-growing, rot-resistant eucalyptus were planted as windbreaks and for their timber. British woodlands are choked with rhododendrons, an ornamental species originally from the Himalayas. In the US, Chinese tallow trees have invaded forests of Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina; while Florida struggles to control the Brazilian pepper tree, mimosas, and two fast-growing Australian imports: melaleucas and casuarina pines.

In Queensland, many people now consider coconut palms an irreplaceable part of the state's tropical appeal. Towns like Cairns and Port Douglas, gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, have boomed in the past decade thanks to resorts with enticing names like Palm Cove and Paradise Palms. "This is a tropical destination, and people expect to see coconut palms, especially on the beaches," says Barry O'Brien, of Preserve Our Palms, a community group set up to challenge any threat to the spindly trees. "We have other dangerous things up here like crocodiles and snakes and stinging jellyfish, but no one is suggesting we kill them. I've lived here 13 years and to my knowledge there's been no one killed or seriously injured by a coconut."

Local authorities say the lack of injuries is testimony to their readiness to remove dangerous trees. Their vigilance is prompted by a growing culture of US-style litigiousness in Australia. Douglas Shire Council, which administers a swath of idyllic coastline north of Cairns, is one of the local authorities to have taken such precautionary measures, chopping down dozens of trees overhanging footpaths or playgrounds over the past three years.

The effort did not please the local tourism industry. "When the council chopped down 100 palm trees at a local beach, everyone was outraged," Mr. O'Brien says. Less offensive to local businesses is the twice yearly "de-nutting," when contract workers climb the palms in spiked boots or use cherry pickers and long saws to remove the dangling fruit. (A coconut palm can produce up to 75 fruit a year.) But for cash-strapped local councils, it is an expensive business - coconut maintenance costs about A$80,000 a year (US$61,500) in Douglas Shire alone, one of a dozen or more local authorities in Queensland that have to manage the problem. Other councils are experimenting with "coco-nets," specially designed nets that catch the coconuts before they crash to the ground. But that, too, is pricey, because the nets have to be emptied on a regular basis.

Eradicating the palms altogether is not an option, however. "Having coconut palms scattered along the coastline adds to the tropical appeal of our beaches," says Bob Jago, the Douglas Shire Council's environmental officer, striking a conciliatory note in the debate. "I would only support removing them where they are growing in national parks."

Meanwhile Spencer and his volunteers feel they have right on their side. In a survey of visitors to the Cape Tribulation wilderness area carried out by the group in 2004, 650 tourists were asked whether they preferred seeing native tropical vegetation or a South Pacific-style coconut palm landscape. Ninety percent said they favored native vegetation. The next stage in the great coconut confrontation will be a fresh assault on the palms by the conservationists. As with earlier campaigns, they will rip out germinating nuts, cut down smaller trees, and poison the big ones. "We've done a huge amount of coconut removal already," Spencer says. "If they're left to their own devices, you end up with a monoculture. But if you tell people [coconut palms are] a weed, they go berserk."



The World Health Organization on Friday called on more developing countries, particularly in Africa, to begin spraying the controversial pesticide DDT to fight malaria. The difference: DDT, longed banned in the United States because of environmental damage, is no longer sprayed outdoors. Instead it's used to coat the inside walls of mud huts or other dwellings and kill mosquitoes waiting to bite families as they sleep.

A small number of malaria-plagued countries already use DDT, backed by a 2001 United Nations treaty that set out strict rules to prevent environmental contamination. But the influential WHO's long-awaited announcement makes clear that it will push indoor spraying with a number of insecticides -- and that DDT will be a top choice because when used properly it's safe, effective and cheap. "We must take a position based on the science and the data," said Dr. Arata Kochi, the WHO's malaria chief. "One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT." "It's a big change," said biologist Amir Attaran of Canada's University of Ottawa, who has long pushed for the guidelines and described a recent draft. "There has been a lot of resistance to using insecticides to control malaria, and one insecticide especially. ... That will have to be re-evaluated by a lot of people."

The U.S. government already has decided to pay for DDT and other indoor insecticide use as part of President Bush's $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control malaria in Africa.

Kochi has positioned indoor spraying as an important but neglected third weapon -- along with insecticide-treated bed nets and new medications -- in the war on malaria, which infects half a billion people each year and kills more than 1 million, most of them children. While some well-known environmental groups have signed on to WHO's decision, it has generated some concern from groups like the Pesticide Action Network, which says there are questions about its effects on developing children. But proponents argue that until better strategies are developed, carefully controlled DDT use is warranted because in recent years, nothing else has succeeded in lowering deaths from malaria. "Indoor spraying is like providing a huge mosquito net over an entire household for around-the-clock protection," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a physician who has urged stronger international anti-malaria programs.

DDT is easily history's most notorious insecticide. While it isn't classified a human health hazard, it was banned in the U.S. in 1972 after decades of widespread agricultural spraying led to environmental damage around the globe. [Baseless assertion!]

DDT never disappeared in developing countries, although political pressure and lack of funding meant few continued to use it. Then a 2001 United Nations treaty that aims to wipe out a dozen of the world's most dangerous chemicals carved out one exception for DDT: indoor anti-malaria spraying, under strict conditions to prevent environmental contamination. Why? When small amounts are sprayed on interior walls, DDT forms a residue that both repels mosquitoes -- discouraging them from flying into the house -- and kills those that rest on the walls, explained Clive Shiff, a professor at Johns Hopkins University's Malaria Research Institute. It has to be applied only about once a year.

Bednets soaked in different insecticides already are used to protect sleeping families. But if the nets are torn or aren't used every night, a mosquito can infect someone. Plus, mosquitoes can develop resistance to those nets' chemicals, Shiff added, pointing to a 2002 malaria outbreak in part of South Africa using bednets. DDT in those houses quelled the outbreak. "It would be naive to say DDT is a magic bullet for malaria. It isn't," stressed Attaran. It won't work in some places where mosquitoes already are resistant to a range of insecticides, he noted. He suspects DDT will be of most use in eastern Africa, where that problem hasn't yet emerged. Attaran called for research "to make sure we're using insecticides and DDT not in a willy-nilly way but in an optimal way in the right places."

Nor, scientists cautioned, is indoor spraying alone a solution, as mosquitoes bite everywhere. Countries are being encouraged to adopt comprehensive malaria programs that also include newer, more effective medications, as Bush's malaria chief, Adm. R. Timothy Ziemer, was to outline Friday. "President Bush has directed Admiral Ziemer to use the most safe and effective tools available to control and combat malaria in Africa," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. Indoor spraying "programs are an important part of his Presidential Malaria Initiative to save thousands of people from a highly treatable and preventable disease."


The Snap, Crackle and Pop of doom?

In August, Bayer Cropscience reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that some of the American long grain rice crop had been commingled with its genetically modified (GM) LL-601 rice. LL-601 is the abbreviation for the gene that confers resistance to the Liberty Link herbicide. LL-601 rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, was field tested between 1998 and 2001 and was dropped by Bayer when other varieties proved more productive and it judged that the time was not ripe for introducing GM rice. No one currently knows how the LL-601 rice got commingled at a rate of six grains of LL-601 to about 10,000 grains of conventional rice.

The announcement by the USDA and Bayer produced a predictable furor. Japan immediately banned imports of American long grain rice (but not short grain rice). The European Union restricted U.S. rice imports to only those that have been tested for the offending gene. Ireland banned U.S. rice exports outright. Gleeful anti-biotech activists called for imposing a worldwide ban on imports of U.S. rice.

Before the flap over "contaminated" U.S. rice could die down, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth declared that they had tested Chinese rice products in Britain, France and Germany and had detected the presence of rice genetically modified to resist insects. The Chinese government responded that no genetically modified rice varieties had yet been approved for commercialization. Which is true, but recent research shows that genetically modified rice offers a potentially great benefits to China's farmers and commercialization appears to be only a matter of time.

So should you dump the boxes of Rice Krispies and Uncle Ben's in your pantry into a biohazard receptacle? Nope. First, keep in mind that you've probably already have been eating foods made with ingredients from Liberty Link crops. The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have found that LL-601 gene and the protein it produces are safe for consumers and the environment in such crops as corn, soybeans and canola. As USDA Secretary Mike Johanns declared, "It is important to note that the protein found in this regulated rice line, LL Rice-601, is approved for use in other products. It has been repeatedly and thoroughly scientifically reviewed, and used safely in food and feed, cultivation, import and breeding in the United States. It is also approved for use in nearly a dozen other countries around the world." Of course, inevitably some American rice farmers are suing Bayer over their lost sales to the regulation-happy Europeans and Japanese. It's a pity they can't sue foreign regulators for lost sales due to stupid directives.

What about that Chinese rice? My guess is that if Europeans are finding traces of GM rice in food products imported from China, it's likely that enterprising anti-biotech activists will soon announce the same allegedly dire findings here. The Chinese rice has apparently been modified using the long familiar technology of incorporating a gene from bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which acts as anti-caterpillar insecticide. Bt is non-toxic to humans and animals and does not kill insects that leave crop plants protected by it alone. So it unlikely that whatever traces of GM rice that make it into foods imported from China will harm Americans who have been eating foods made from ingredients derived from crops protected by Bt for more than a decade now. It is estimated that at least 70 percent of all processed foods on American grocery shelves are made using ingredients from biotech crops.

However, both the Bayer and Chinese cases point up how activists misuse the current case-by-case regulatory approval system.There has to be a better way to protect public health while permitting the swift introduction of safe and beneficial agricultural technologies. In fact, Drew Kershen, a professor of law at University of Oklahoma, offers a three point plan for wending our way out of the current international biotech regulatory morass.

First, GM crops and non-GM crops should be regulated in the same manner for similar or identical risks. If a regulatory system would cover a specific trait were it in a conventionally bred crop, then it should also regulate that same trait in a GM crop. If not, then it should not be regulated in a GM crop either.

Second, once a trait has been approved, it should be approved for all varieties and all crops. There is no need to make a trait go through the regulatory system again and again and again. This would clearly apply to the Liberty Link case.

And third, comparable science-based regulatory systems should mutually recognize one another's approvals of the same traits by either direct recognition or by means of a short, fast-track recognition process. Obviously, just how much confidence to repose in European, Chinese or Indian regulatory systems is subject to debate, but the principle is sound.

In any case, the rest of the world outside European Union will soon be awash in safe biotech crop varieties. The EU will eventually have to choose between stopping all imports and growing all its own food or adopting a more reasonable science-based regulatory system. However, until something like Kershen's sensible suggestions are implemented, the world's consumers will continue to enjoy periodic bogus food scares conjured up by anti-biotech activists.



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 September, 2006


No pictures of GROWING glaciers or GROWING North American forests and suchlike? How odd?

Satellite photographs revealing how the landscape has been altered by human activity have been made available online by Google Earth. The pictures show the changes that have been wrought at 100 locations around the globe. All but one have been selected to show the damage caused to the landscape. One of the most striking series of images depicts how Santa Cruz in Bolivia has had its dense forests cut down to make way for urbanisation and agriculture.

Google has teamed up with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to allow the public access to the photographs. A spokesman said: “The intention is to show the damage being done to the environment and to increase public awareness. It’s usually difficult for the ordinary person in the street to get access to these images. We hope to bring them to a wider audience.”



"An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's movie on global warming, is now the fourth-largest-grossing documentary of all time. But apparently it isn't young adults who are paying the price of the ticket -- or, more important, taking the truth about the environment to heart. In fact, the inconvenient truth today is that youths' willingness to conserve gas, heat and energy has taken a precipitous plunge since the 1980s.

According to data from Monitoring the Future, a federally funded national survey on trends in the attitudes, values and behavior of high school seniors since 1976, there has been a clear decline in conservation behavior among 18-year-olds over the past 27 years -- although we are not yet sure whether these attitudes follow youths into adulthood. This decline, interestingly, is coupled with a rise in materialistic values.

In fact, trends in materialism and conservation are highly related: At times when youths place higher value on material goods, they are also much less likely to say they would conserve resources. And when youths are more materially driven, they are also less likely to believe that natural resources will become scarce in the future. Since the 1990s, the trends in materialism seem to have topped out at a steady high level, while willingness to conserve keeps declining. These opposing values should raise a red flag about the consumer culture and its influence on youth.

Youths also consistently believe that government is more responsible for the environment than they are personally. Importantly, when they perceive that the government's role in solving environmental problems is declining, so does their belief that they, personally, must do their part to save the environment.

Conservation is a collective responsibility. Likewise, in the minds of youth, their own actions to preserve the environment are inextricably linked to their perception of the government's role in environmental conservation. Indeed, environmental attitudes of youth seem to mirror the opinions of those in the White House at the time. The highest levels of conservation occurred in the mid- to late 1970s, at the same time President Jimmy Carter was publicly petitioning citizens to take individual responsibility for conserving resources. The steepest decline in conservation occurred during the Reagan administration, which has been widely criticized for its environmental policies. Willingness to conserve enjoyed a slight surge around 1992-93, when Bill Clinton first took office, but this increase was short-lived. (Al Gore must not have been speaking up too loudly about the environment back then.)

The good news in these trends is that when government responds, so do youth. If our country's leaders follow the example of Al Gore and start to genuinely explore sustainable solutions, it's likely that young people will follow suit. Policymakers and elected officials might also want to note that when youths embrace conservation and pro-environmental attitudes, they are more likely to engage in conventional politics, from writing to officials to giving money to a political campaign, or working on a campaign. Gore argues that in America, "political will is a renewable resource." Perhaps one way to renew this resource is to start focusing more on young people and their understanding of, as well as contribution to, environmental problems.



Nature cures itself -- but it might go "too far" -- the answer? Government control, of course!

Scientists used to worry that San Francisco Bay didn't have enough phytoplankton, the tiny plants at the base of the food web that support aquatic life like clams and fish and on up to the diving ducks and harbor seals. But new studies from the U.S. Geological Survey show that phytoplankton has increased 75 percent since the early 1990s. From San Pablo Bay to the southern tip of the estuary, levels of the microscopic plants are at their highest since monitoring began 30 years ago, transforming the bay into a richer estuary for wildlife.

The reasons behind the increase remain a mystery. Some experts suspect a decline in the phytoplankton-grazing nonnative clams, a reduction in toxic chemicals and sediment, and a shift in ocean currents.

Yet there is a possibility of too much of a good thing. Some scientists worry that if the trend continues for another 10 years, San Francisco Bay could face the kind of problems from decaying phytoplankton that killed fish in the Chesapeake Bay, the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea. Dying plants suck oxygen out of the water as they decompose, robbing fish and other aquatic wildlife of oxygen.

"San Francisco Bay is a different place than it was 20 years ago,'' said Jim Cloern, a USGS aquatic ecologist in Menlo Park. "When we started studying the bay in the 1970s and 1980s, it had a low productivity of phytoplankton. In the last five years, the level has increased to what is comparable to the estuaries of North America and Europe,'' Cloern said. Cloern plans to present his findings today at the annual meeting of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit research group.

Meanwhile, ongoing studies are attempting to find out why the phytoplankton is doing well in the marine parts of the estuary, but isn't growing as fast in the fresher Suisun Bay and the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Michael Connor, executive director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, which runs a regional monitoring program for the bay, called phytoplankton growth one of the most important environmental issues for the bay in the next two decades. "That's why looking at trends and understanding the bay is so important," he said.

In 1980, USGS experts and other scientists estimated that the phytoplankton production in the bay was about 200,000 tons of organic carbon a year, equivalent to the biomass of 5,500 humpback whales or the calories to feed 1.8 million people. Since the 75 percent increase of phytoplankton between 1993 and 2004, the tonnage has grown to between 300,000 and 400,000 tons a year, scientists say.



Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger soon will decide if he wants to save millions of gallons of water annually by using even lower-flush home and public toilets, and a new military favorite that's reminiscent of portable potties -- waterless, no-flush urinals in public buildings. Legislation, which involved an 11th-hour deal between labor and manufacturers to clear the way for non-water urinals, slipped around the public spotlight during lawmakers' end-of-session rush.

Even so, the measure praised as "making California a national leader" in yet another area, drew a few chuckles from lawmakers and bystanders who are already coping with low-flush toilets and were trying to imagine waterless urinals. A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman said Wednesday: "The governor has not taken a position on the bill." He has until the end of the month to do so. AB2496 by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, is aimed at further conserving water in California by reducing average toilet flushes in homes, schools, office buildings and other structures from 1.6 gallons to 1.3 gallons.

Under the bill, co-authored by Democratic Assembly members Loni Hancock of Berkeley and Gene Mullin of San Mateo, urinal flushes would have to be cut back from a gallon to a half-gallon. Various state regulatory agencies would phase-in the new rules for bathroom and restroom equipment installed beginning Jan. 1, 2009. California is now operating under flush standards adopted in 1992. "Upgrading flush-volume standards will save billions of gallons of water and make California a national leader in water conservation," Laird said.

Since toilets account for a third of indoor water use daily by Californians, the bill would save about 200 million gallons the first year alone -- enough to fill 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools. By the 10th year, savings would amount to more than 8 billion gallons annually. That's more than the total amount of bottled water Americans consumed last year.

Through 11th-hour amendments, the bill also "resolved a long-standing dispute between the California Pipe Trades Council and Falcon WaterFree Technologies, a manufacturer of waterless urinals," said Laird. The measure requires the state Building Standards Commission to ponder how to include the non-water urinals in the state's plumbing codes.

Falcon representatives say waterless urinals are better than the old flush models, where the combination of urine and water causes the smell of ammonia oxide. The Falcon fixture is nonporous so it "funnels virtually every drop of urine" down through a biodegradable liquid sealant layer in a cartridge and down the drain, the company says. The cartridge liquid is lighter than urine so it blocks smell. The military, in particular, has embraced the new technology. The Army Times reported last month that "waterless urinals are the wave of the future, and in the Defense Department, the Army is leading the way." The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, noting the Army's use of the urinals, has ordered the Defense Department to submit a report on how the military can more widely follow suit.



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 September, 2006


BY: Andrew J. Leach, HEC Montreal, Canada


The purpose of this paper is to confront economic models of climate change with the reality that limited information exists with which to form expectations about the evolution of the climate. A key element in the tension between those who believe we should impose aggressive climate change mitigation policies and those who do not is the question of if we are merely in a long period of shock-induced, above average temperatures or if observed increases in temperature are a result of carbon emissions. This paper characterizes learning dynamics resulting from the use of observations of temperature to update beliefs about two key characteristics of global climate: the persistence of natural trends and the sensitivity of temperature to atmospheric carbon levels. This paper shows that, contrary to predictions in the literature that uncertainty may be resolved very quickly, the time to learn the true processes may be in the order of thousands of years. Further, this paper shows the effects of uncertainty on the likelihood that observations from the statistical record lead to important estimate and policy errors.

1. Introduction

A large and growing literature in economics addresses the challenge of developing optimal climate change policy in the face of uncertainty and expected future learning. Both the persistence of temperature changes (whether natural or anthropogenic) and the degree to which greenhouse gas (GHG) accumulation causes temperature change will be important for policy formation. In this paper, a model is developed which captures the need to use a limited amount of information to form expectations about a complex system in order to set climate policy. While there exist reasonable data describing the recent evolution of both temperature and atmospheric GHG accumulation, separately identifying the sources of temperature change as natural or anthropogenic solely based on the statistical record leads to significant uncertainty surrounding the relative magnitudes of these effects. If we assume knowledge of the natural process which governs temperature evolutions, then the process of identifying the effect of carbon is made to appear much less complex. This paper describes the nature of the uncertainty that exists over the mechanism of climate change through an empirical exercise, and then characterizes the dynamics which are likely to arise as this uncertainty is resolved using a reduced form, learning experiment. Finally, learning and uncertainty are imposed in an optimal policy model to characterize how uncertainty is likely to affect policy choices and vice versa.

The benchmark contributions to climate change economics are Manne and Richels (1992), Manne et al. (1995), Nordhaus (1994), and Nordhaus and Boyer (2000). Each of these contain extensive reference to uncertainty, but generally treat uncertainty only through sensitivity analysis, reporting results for various parameter vectors. Pizer (1999) introduces a model where the regulator specifically accounts for parameter uncertainty in the social planning decision. Related papers on active learning to resolve uncertainty about the value of parameters governing climate change and the damages it may cause include Kolstad, 1994, Kolstad, 1996 and Kolstad, 1997, Ulph and Ulph (1997), Kelly et al. (2005), Kelly and Kolstad (1999), and Karp and Zhang (2006).

Kelly and Kolstad (1999) is closely related to the exercise undertaken here. This paper proposes a model in which a social planner uses information from temperature realizations to update prior beliefs about the temperature response to atmospheric GHG levels. The planner chooses the optimal level of savings and emissions control conditional on current knowledge of the mechanism of climate change at each point in time, updates these beliefs, and thus adjusts their actions, conditional on observations of climate data. Learning is Bayesian, and so the planner is using information in an optimal manner. A key result shown with the model is that the expected learning time (the time after which parametric uncertainty is essentially removed from the planner's problem) is 90-160 years. The results also show that there is a tradeoff between the benefits of controlling emissions and information....


7. Conclusion

This paper uses both a reduced-form, numerical experiment and a dynamic, optimal policy model to explore the effects of learning and uncertainty on the ability to set effective climate change mitigation policies. In particular, the analysis highlights the fact that it is difficult to determine the benefits of emissions control when the relative importance of natural trends and anthropogenic influences on temperature changes are unknown.

This paper extends earlier results from Kelly and Kolstad (1999) to show that when uncertainty exists over two potential causes of observed climate changes, the time to learn the true parameter values of the climate model may be on the order of hundreds if not thousands of years. Perhaps more importantly, it is shown that the probability that a particular learning path yields very poor estimates of the severity of climate change is greatly affected by the nature of initial uncertainty, and that uncertainty can be expected to be much more persistent where more parameter values are unknown. In part, the results suggest that some trade-off must be made between investments in regulation under uncertainty and investments in accelerating the arrival of new information. Further, the results emphasize the fact that temperature data represent only a single draw from a complicated system about which we have limited knowledge. In such an environment, allowing this single set of observations to over-influence our policy choices may lead to significant errors.

The results presented here are limited by computational complexity. Uncertainty clearly exists over values which are as important for the determination of effective climate policies as those explored in this paper: the extent of damages, the cost of reducing emissions, and future technological progress are but three important examples. Furthermore, even greater uncertainty may exist over the regional distribution of the effects of climate change and potential thresholds and irreversibility in the climate system, which are also not treated in this paper.

Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Article in Press


Ignoring global warming isn't a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity

The typical mainstream attitude toward global warming is preoccupied with only two overriding questions: Is the earth's surface temperature rising? If so, is human activity the principal cause? Once these questions are answered scientifically - and they are indeed questions for science - elite opinion considers the debate closed. The fundamental issue is settled. Science, answering "yes" to both questions, has spoken. Global warming is a problem that we must address.

Still open to debate are subsidiary issues such as the role of command-and-control regulations versus market-based approaches like tradable emissions permits. But the Big Issue - humans' harmful effect on the climate and our consequent need to correct the problem - is settled.

Being neither an atmospheric scientist nor a former U.S. vice-president, I haven't the expertise to judge whether or not global warming is a reality or the extent to which humans cause it. Experts who I trust, however, persuade me that science does indeed show that global temperatures are rising and that industrial activity is at least part of the reason. I'm prepared to believe even the possibility that global warming will eventually kill millions of people.

But I nevertheless insist that science does not unambiguously endorse action against global warming. Put differently - and contrary to today's elite opinion - ignoring global warming is not necessarily a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity.

First, human preferences might counsel against tackling global warming. If global warming's ill-effects won't occur for, say, another 150 years, nothing objective says that people today should sacrifice for that distant tomorrow. Such sacrifice might be demanded by ethics - or by human preferences themselves - but not by science.

Second, and more interestingly, sound skepticism of government action to prevent global warming is itself based on science. Public Choice economics offers objective theory and evidence that political institutions are so prone to malfunctioning that entrusting them with great powers courts great trouble.

Posing the greatest danger is command-and-control regulation, for not only does it aim to achieve goals defined by politicians, it dictates in detail the means to be used by private firms and persons in pursuit of these goals. Such centralized, politicized, and bureaucratized intervention has only weak feedback loops. (For example, how to tell if the mandated method of emissions reduction is better than alternative and now-prohibited methods?) And unsurprisingly, such heavy-handed regulation is especially prone to be hijacked by special-interest groups. When eastern coal producers successfully lobbied for the 1977 Clean Air Act amendment that mandated scrubbers for all coal-burning factory furnaces, the intent (and effect!) had nothing to do with cleaning the air and everything to do with undermining the market for naturally cleaner low-sulfur coal from the west and with creating a market for scrubbers produced by corporations such as Westinghouse.

Even market-based environmental regulation, however, is risky. Tradable emissions permits do give firms flexibility when deciding how much factory output to produce and by what methods, but the overall level of desired emissions is still set politically. This is not because politicians are not scientists, but because the question of what ultimately constitutes an optimal emission level is not a scientific one alone. Neither scientists nor any one else really knows what trade-off individuals are willing to accept in constraining their preferred actions and choices now for the sake of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels in the future. Furthermore, this trade-off will vary from society to society, country to country, company to company, individual to individual. For instance, a poor mother in a Third World country trying to feed her family will have fewer qualms about using cheap, polluting fuels to cook for her children now than the wealthy and environmentally conscious individuals in her own country - not to mention prosperous First World countries -- who can forego some immediate material needs for the sake of the psychic benefit of leaving a stable climate to their great-great-grandchildren. Even elected officials with unalloyed devotion to the public good don't have enough information about the particular circumstances and needs of individuals to know where to set emission levels so as to optimize their costs and benefits. Indeed, the 1990 baseline in the Kyoto Treaty was picked not for scientific reasons but political ones.

Nor will it do to argue that democratic voting offers reliable (or even reliable-enough) feedback to elected officials to set optimal limits, as is generally claimed. Geoff Brennan's, Loren Lomasky's, and Bryan Caplan's recent contributions to the theory of "expressive voting," along with Kenneth Arrow's earlier research on the arbitrariness of majoritarian outcomes, provide solid scientific reasons to doubt both the meaningfulness of preferences expressed in voting booths and the legitimacy of electoral outcomes as reflections of these expressed preferences. Not only, as Arrow proved, are the results of majoritarian voting unavoidably sensitive to the specific rules governing elections, but - as Brennan, Lomasky, and Caplan argue - the fact that each voter bears little personal consequence of casting a ballot one way or another means that each voter, effectively, gets to vote for free. A voter gets to express in the voting booth his or her policy preferences without being constrained to reckon seriously the consequences of how he or she votes.

But if democratic decision-making doesn't offer a cure for the real possibility of negative externalities - that the gain pursued by rational individuals might generate an overall outcome in which everyone is worse off than if each person been constrained to follow an available different course of action - what should be done about the kinds of activities that contribute to global warming?

It is hard to admit, but unless solutions are realistically available that do not themselves pose serious risks of unleashing other problems worse than the one sought to be solved, the externality is best left alone. Public Choice reveals the risks of seeking such solutions from government. More general economics reveals yet other risks: stifling, if not killing, the goose laying our golden eggs, namely industrial capitalism.

Political manipulation to encourage investments in the most environmentally correct - as opposed to profitable - energy technologies, for instance, would simply mean less overall investment in the energy sector. Worker productivity in this sector would fall over the long run, as would overall output. Living standards would decline. Indeed, if investors ever come to believe that Al Gore's demand to "drastically change our civilization and our way of thinking" would become a reality, they would surely liquidate much of their stakes in the economy. The resulting destruction of capitalism's capital will throw us all into the dark ages.

We mustn't forget that industrial capitalism is history's greatest life-saver. Over the past two centuries it has more than doubled life-expectancies and made our bodies cleaner, taller, stronger, better clothed, and more disease-resistant. Capitalism has also made available to us rich experiences and knowledge - including most of science itself - that were simply out of reach before the industrial age. Any heavy-handed assault on capitalism might well impair this magnificent institution and lead to human suffering worse than will be wreaked under worst-case global-warming scenarios. As economists J.R. Clark and Dwight Lee argue, "government regulations that undermine both information flows and adjustments of the market process in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, even if successful, run the serious risk of increasing the long-run damage of any global warming that does occur."

Indeed, until the science of economics, especially that of Public Choice, is brought more fully into the discussion, the science of global warming will remain perilously incomplete.



Asian leaders rebuffed European pleas for tighter curbs on greenhouse gases, refusing to shackle their fast-growing economies to future limits on energy use. At a summit in Helsinki today, the heads of Asia's main developing economies balked at the European push for new binding targets for air pollution cuts once the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun instead called for new technologies to fight global warming, telling a news conference that ``we hope we will be able to contribute to reduced greenhouse gases.''

Developing countries in Asia are counting on rapid economic growth to lift millions of people out of poverty, making it politically difficult to impose a clampdown on energy use. Asia's emerging economies didn't sign up to the original Kyoto targets, which obliged industrial countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. China's economy, now the world's fourth largest, is likely to grow 10.4 percent this year, dwarfing Europe's 2.3 percent, the Asian Development Bank said last week.

French President Jacques Chirac pressed for Asia to accept emissions targets as part of ``our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.'' He said it was unfortunate that EU and Asian environment ministers haven't met since 2003. Two Europeans who spoke in the opening session -- European Commission President Jose Barroso and Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen -- put climate change at the heart of their concerns. ``Climate change is happening and our future is in the balance,'' Barroso said. ``Borders are meaningless and we must develop a concerted response.''

The two Asian speakers -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung -- left global warming off their list of priorities, focusing on industrial development, trade, fighting terrorism and disease. ``One dividing issue is the role of developing countries and developing markets and how big of a burden they should take on scaling down unhealthy output,'' said Markus Lyra, a Finnish Foreign Ministry deputy.

The meeting ended with a broadly sketched pledge to fight climate change ``based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,'' with no mention of numerical goals.


Desalination advance

It's long been an Australian dream: turning the country's unforgiving deserts into lush tracts of green, capable of sustaining communities and crops. However, proposals ranging from diverting rivers into the dry interior, to building canals, to blasting a giant lake in central Australia have never proved feasible. But advances in nanotechnology - engineering materials on a microscopic scale - could finally make creating an enormous oasis in the desert a reality.

South Australian researchers believe a filter they are developing will be able to produce fresh drinking water from salt water with minimal power input and cost. A team working out of Flinders University say the individual components of the system are already in existence and hope to produce a workable filtering device within three years.

The cheap fresh water could be used to irrigate arid areas close to the sea or, if economically feasible, piped inland. ``It could be used in areas like the Great Australian Bight or the mid-west coast of Western Australia where the desert impinges right up to the coast,'' said researcher Professor Jani Matisons.

Nanotechnology involves working with matter on an ultra-small scale. A nanometre is one-millionth of a millimetre. A human hair is around 80,000 nanometres in width. Traditionally desalination has involved a process called reverse osmosis. Salty water is pumped up against a membrane through which water molecules can pass but the constituents of salt cannot. Under high pressure some of the water passes through the membrane, leaving the salt on the other side. The water that does not pass through the membrane becomes briney due to the increased salt content and is discarded. Because of the amount of power involved in pushing the water through the membrane, the process is often regarded as too costly for large scale desalination. The Flinder team will test two types of nanotechnology to see if they can reduce the amount of pressure needed for reverse osmosis and therefore reduce the cost. One involves shaping a matrix of minute carbon nano-tubes into a membrane while the other would see chemical nanotube molecules used as a filtering mechanism. While the team declined to reveal the exact process, their system is expected to create a more porous membrane that would allow water to pass through under far less pressure. Nano engineering will be used to create structures which traps salt molecules and prevent them passing through.

Matisons said it was expected the proposed process would cut the power required for desalination by more than half, greatly reducing costs. Fresh water removed from seawater could be used to irrigate arid areas adjacent to the coast. If transportation costs were low enough, the water could theoretically be piped further inland, helping to green Australia's dry interior.



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 September, 2006


An email from F.James Cripwell [] noting that the basic physics of global warming are being ignored

I suffer from the fact that I can find no-one with whom to discuss the fundamental physics of climate change and global warming; despite my best efforts. It seems to me that there are two separate, but interconnected problems, being discussed at the present time. The first is whether the world is warming up due to all causes; such as changes in volcanic activity, earth's albido, solar radiation, and greenhouse gas concentrations. The second is whether increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are causing the earth to warm up. I am concerned only with the latter.

It seems to me that for the first problem I mentioned, the average global temperature is a good measure of what is happening. But for the question about carbon dioxide, what is required is what might be called an average radiation temperature. Thinking reductio ad absurdum, if the temperature of an area of the desert were to increase from plus 40 degrees Celsius to 41 degrees, while at the same time an equal area of the Antarctic decreased from minus 40 to minus 41, the average temperature of the earth would stay constant. However, under Stephan-Boltzman, more radiation would be emitted by increasing the temperature of the desert, than the radiation loss from Antarctica.

So what is required is not so much an average global temperature, as an average radiation temperature; world global temperatures weighted by Stephan-Boltzman. This could be expressed either as a temperature, or as an emission spectrum showing the average amount of radiation emitted by the earth as a function of wavelength. What is then required is the percentage of this radiation which is absorbed by all the greenhouse gases, before it escapes from the earth.

I am imagining what an infra-red spectrometer, somewhere in space, might observe of the earth's radiation, if the sun were turned off; e.g. sort of like during a total eclipse of the sun. What one would see is the earth's radiation reduced by earthly Fraunhoffer lines. If we had this sort of fundamental data, it would be comparatively easy to assess what the effect of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide actually is, while assessing the effect of water, the dominant greenhouse gas, at the same time, with the same methodology.

Greenpeace goofs over SUVs

You would expect subscribers to a website called to be sympathetic to, even fully supportive of, Greenpeace, wouldn't you? Yet recently some of the site's contributors have expressed anger with Greenpeace over its new anti-4x4 advert. `What a terrible ad. Cruelty gets you nowhere', said Nathan. Someone called Dug added: `That childish ad made me regret donating money to Greenpeace.' What so upset Nathan, Dug and others about Greenpeace's latest media intervention?

The `gas guzzler' ad was launched to coincide with last month's International Motor Show in London. It is set in an office in London's city centre. A seemingly affable bloke enters the office building, but straight away we know that something is amiss. The receptionists sneer at him. His workmates seem reluctant to enter into friendly banter. Most strikingly, a colleague spits into his coffee (seriously - a long horrible spit, at that) and then slams the mug on his table. He sits alone at lunch, shunned by those around him, who prefer to squeeze on to already overcrowded tables rather than sit with this guy. And as he walks into the lift to leave work, we see that someone has stuck a note on his back saying `PRICK'.

What could he have done to deserve such treatment? As he enters the bowels of the car park, you expect some terrible horror to be revealed: perhaps he operates a secret sweatshop of children in the basement of the building, or underground meetings of the BNP. In fact, his only sin - and the reason he is treated as a pariah by his workmates - is that he drives a 4x4.

See the ad for yourself here. Have you ever seen such a petty-minded, dimwitted, teenage-angsty little film? This is bitching dressed up as a serious debate. It is also dripping, you will note, with a kind of loathing for the `wrong' sort of aspirational lifestyle. A Greenpeace press release to accompany the ad says: `The advert satirises the aspirational images and glossy marketing used by motor manufacturers to encourage car drivers to purchase an urban 4x4. In the film, a city employee encounters disdain from his fellow employees, but only at the end of the film does the viewer learn why - he owns a city gas guzzler. The ad ends with the line "What does your car say about you.?"' (Yet for all its anti-big-advertising prejudices, Greenpeace is not above learning a few tricks from aspirational lifestyle marketing. As the press release says: `Greenpeace took advice from advertising industry insiders before producing the film.' So the ad is somewhat hypocritical, as well as childish.)

Greenpeace has been campaigning against 4x4s for years, using a combination of tacky media stunts and `direct action' to demonise people who dare to drive such vehicles. Last year Greenpeace activists stormed the Range Rover assembly line in Solihull, forcing it to shut down for a day. Its volunteers also put cardboard clamps on the wheels of parked 4x4s, and stick fake tax discs on their windscreens calling for extra road tax for `gas-guzzling vehicles'. One car targeted by Greenpeace belonged to British actress Thandie Newton, star, ironically, of the Hollywood blockbuster film Crash. Now Newton has reportedly seen the error of her ways: she sold her BMW 4x4 and has replaced it with a hybrid car.

The `spit on the city boy' ad is the latest stage in Greenpeace's anti-4x4 campaigning. This can be seen as a new kind of `moralvert': adverts that communicate a deeply moralistic message but which don't even have the decency to label themselves `public information broadcasts' or `party political messages'. So there are more and more adverts in public loos telling us we're probably suffering from some STD, ads on TV warning women not to get unlicensed cabs in case they get raped, adverts about how much fruit and salt we should eat (a lot of fruit, not very much salt).

Greenpeace and others slate big advertisers for trying to manipulate consumers. Yet its and others' moralverts are even worse. They don't want to seduce us or make us laugh or have some fun with us; they just want to wag their fingers at our bad behaviour and our poor misguided vulnerability. They are far more morally manipulative than anything BMW or Rover could come up with.

It seems that Greenpeace is somewhat red-faced about the bad reaction to its ad - which might explain why you probably haven't yet seen it on TV or in a cinema. For all the money spent on making the ad, there is now little mention of it on the main Greenpeace website, and on other green-leaning websites, and the video-sharing site, there is much vocal criticism of Greenpeace. On YouTube, one user says: `They hate a man for the car he drives? That shows how loving they are as fellow humans.' Greenpeace, it seems, has been hoist with its own green petard. I should think so, too.



The world's biggest oil company has rubbished claims the planet is running out of oil, saying barely one-quarter of reserves have been used up in the past century. ExxonMobil Australia chief executive Mark Nolan said the theory that oil supplies had peaked and would dwindle over the next 20 years was of "no value", having surfaced regularly since the 1920s during times of high oil prices. "The fact is that the world has an abundance of oil and there is little question scientifically that abundant energy resources exist," Mr Nolan said yesterday. "According to the US Geological Survey, the earth currently has more than three trillion barrels of conventional recoverable oil resources. So far, we have produced one trillion of that."

Mr Nolan said conservative estimates of alternative oil sources, such as so-called heavy oil and shale oil, would probably push the total recoverable resource to more than four trillion barrels. The oil industry and society had "underestimated" the global resource base and the ability of technology to extend the life of oil and gas fields. "We should not forget that we can recover almost twice as much oil today as when we first discovered it over 100 years ago," he said. "And when you consider that a further 10 per cent increase in recoverability will deliver an extra 800 billion barrels of oil to our recoverable total, we have reason to be sure that the end of oil is nowhere in sight."

In Australia, petrol prices are tipped to fall below $1.20 in most capital cities in coming weeks, and as low as $1 early next year, as crude oil prices slide to a five-month low of less than $US66 a barrel. Analysts believe the commodities boom is beginning to lose momentum. They cite easing political tensions in the Middle East, concerns about the health of the US economy and strong supplies as reasons for the fall in key commodity prices. "The mega-run for commodities has run its course," said Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach. However, there were signs yesterday that some service stations might defy falling wholesale prices, with Coles hiking petrol prices by 11.4c a litre to 129.9c at its Coles Express outlets in Western Australia. Coles and Woolworths control 60-65 per cent of petrol sales in most states.

West Australian Motor Traders Association executive director Peter Fitzpatrick said the Coles Express move was an example of the increasing power of the supermarket chains. "With the supermarket chains having such a big proportion of the petrol market, there's no doubt they are using this to maintain profit levels," he said.

Mr Nolan said despite an increase in emerging and alternative energies, the world would continue to rely on fossil fuels. "In our estimation, if you go out to 2030, fossil fuels - that is, coal, oil and gas - will be supplying about 80 per cent of the world's energy," he said. "Even though those smaller providers of energy, such as solar and wind, will have rapid increases, our view is that they'll be less than 1 per cent of the mix out in 2030." Mr Nolan also questioned the benefits of using ethanol in fuel, given the energy needed to "plough the field, sow the sugar cane, wheat or corn crop, harvest the produce, transport it to the ethanol plant and run the ethanol plant". "ExxonMobil is not opposed to the use of ethanol in petrol where this is commercially viable and is acceptable to consumers. "However, we are strongly of the view that, with the assistance that it has already been given, the ethanol industry should now be prepared to compete with other fuels on a level playing field."


William Kininmonth says: Don't be Gored into going along

Global warming militants don't know what they're talking about, says William Kininmonth, a former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation, is author of "Climate Change: A Natural Hazard" (Multi-Science Publishing Co, 2004)

Climate change is again making headlines as the world becomes mesmerised in the public relations glare of Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth. For critics and reviewers alike, the movie is further proof in their minds that we are heading for a climate catastrophe. But what's missing from the debate is sober, rational analysis of some scientific facts. Climate change attracts attention because weather and climate extremes account for 70 per cent of natural disasters. Also, the historical evidence is that climate goes through gyrations that are beneficial or destructive for civilisations.

The periods of the Roman Empire, medieval Europe and the past 200 years were all of remarkable warmth. The Dark Ages of the first millennium and the Little Ice Age of the second were characterised by cold, by advanced mountain glaciers and by social turmoil.

For the past 10,000 years, the Earth has been near peak warmth in the climatic roller-coaster that has characterised the past million years. Yet only 20,000 years ago, great ice sheets covered much of North America and Europe; permanent glaciers were also present over southeastern Australia and Tasmania. The sea level was 130m lower than today and land bridges connected New Guinea and Tasmania with the Australian mainland. The Great Barrier Reef was but limestone cliffs bordering the Coral Sea.

The former US vice-president and his fellow travellers would have us believe that the actions of our civilisation are leading to dangerous climate change, as if climate is not inherently dangerous. There are many inconvenient truths about climate that are being ignored in the scare campaign that is being waged with relentless determination by sections of the community.

Start with carbon dioxide. As a greenhouse gas, it is a spent force for climate change; its present concentration is slightly less than 400 parts per million. Calculations show that 66 per cent of the greenhouse effect of CO2 is caused by the first 50ppm. With each doubling of concentration, (from 50 to 100, then to 200 and 400ppm), the incremental advance of the greenhouse effect is reduced.

Even for a further doubling to 800ppm, as projected by 2100 in the case of unabated fossil fuel usage, the increase in the greenhouse effect will only be 10 per cent of the present component attributable to CO2. Overall, CO2 is a relatively minor contributor to the greenhouse effect, which is dominated by the varying water vapour and clouds of the atmosphere. Increasing the CO2 concentration will have little additional effect.

Evaporation of water vapour will constrain the Earth's temperature and prevent a runaway greenhouse effect. Back radiation from the atmosphere because of greenhouse gases (water vapour, CO2 and so on), clouds and aerosols raises surface temperatures. But surface temperatures are also constrained by evaporation of water from plants, moist soil and the oceans. The tropical oceans generally do not exceed 30C and it is only over the arid inland that daytime temperatures exceed 40C. Any increase in back radiation because of increased CO2 will largely be offset by additional evaporation that will constrain the rise of surface temperature.

The oceans are the flywheels of the climate system. The warm tropical oceans are but a thin lens about 100m in thickness that overlay the cold abyss, extending to depths averaging about 5km. We are familiar with El Nino events, when changed upwelling modifies the entrainment of cold sub-surface water into the warm surface layer of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. As US climatologist Michael Glantz has noted, the changed surface temperature patterns modify the atmospheric circulation and spawn natural disasters such as floods, droughts and storms across the globe.

Global warming is constrained by the need to warm the ocean in advance. The polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are fundamentally stable. Ice cores recovered from there confirm that the ice sheets have survived previous interglacials and have likely existed for more than one million years. The surface elevation of the ice sheets is more than 3km above sea level across much of their extensive plateaus and temperatures remain below minus 10C during the brief summer. It is only at the lower elevations of the coastal margins that temperatures rise above freezing for a few months and the strong solar radiation causes ice-melt. Collapse of the polar ice sheets and a sea level rise of several metres is an unlikely scenario.

There are predictions, based on computer models, that Australia's rainfall will decrease as CO2 concentrations rise. According to published Bureau of Meteorology data, Australia (except for the southwest corner) was wetter during the second half of the 20th century than during the first. Against the prediction, as CO2 concentrations increased, there was an increase in continent-wide rainfall. These trends are likely to be no more than coincidence in the cycles of climate variability.

The Earth's climate system is extremely complex and we have only limited knowledge of many of its aspects. International collaboration is slowly unravelling some of the secrets and providing the basis for preparation and adaptation to change. Scientists' continuing inability to predict with confidence a season in advance should be cause for hesitation when projections of decades to centuries are made. Computer models are not reality and alarmist predictions have no sound basis.



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 September, 2006

Save the planet, don't see the world?

Comment on the British Greenie hatred of air travel

'Help yourself to chocolate biscuits.' Welcoming me into his plush boardroom on the seventh floor of a business building in Baker Street - with a spectacular view of a sunny London skyline out of the window - David Soskin doesn't come across as an evil man. He doesn't look like the kind of person who works in a field so wicked that it makes `genocide and ethnic cleansing look like sideshows at the circus of human suffering'. And yet he is CEO of, the UK's leading travel price comparison website, which facilitates more than its fair share of cheap and cheerful holidays abroad. And according to some of the more shrill critics of the aviation industry - who seriously claim that the pollution caused by flying is giving rise to a `genocide' - that puts him well and truly on the side of the devils. What does he have to say for himself? He takes a sip of tea.

`These people, these critics of flying and cheap flying, are so ignorant', he says, sounding surprisingly posh - and surprisingly unapologetic - for someone who runs a company called CheapFlights. And he has no doubts as to who `these people' are. `Those who slam no-frills airlines are usually newspaper columnists or green spokespeople. They are reasonably affluent, well-educated and tend to live in places like Islington. They are the kind of people used to taking their holidays in the Dordogne and Tuscany and they don't like the fact that that sort of holiday is now affordable for millions of people whom they find it difficult to relate to. One of the proponents of "eco-taxes" on flights is Zac Goldsmith, a scion of one of the richest families in Britain. They are so out of touch with the way ordinary people live. They are snobs.'

It's certainly true that sections of the media set and environmentalist activists have declared war on flying in recent years - especially `no-frills flying', the kind offered by easyJet, Ryanair and the rest, which allows all sorts of people to jet off to sunny and distant destinations for as little as 25 pounds. It was Guardian columnist George Monbiot who claimed that aeroplanes, because they emit a lot of CO2s, are creating a `killing field' that will make earlier genocides look like a mere `sideshow'. He concluded that flying across the Atlantic is now `as unacceptable as child abuse'. A front cover of the left-leaning weekly the New Statesman recently featured a photo of a jet taking off, a stream of grey smoke flowing from its engines, next to the headline: `The growth in flying will propel us into a future of melting ice caps, spreading deserts, rising sea levels and collapsing ecosystems.' Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, argues that flying is a `symptom of sin' (whatever that might mean)

And don't get them started on cheap flying. `There is this feeling amongst environmentalists that it is the package-holidaymakers who rush off in no-frills aeroplanes to Spain and Greece who cause global pollution', says Soskin. `Those travellers are clearly in their sights more than those who engage in supposedly "responsible tourism". There is this idea that people who fly cheaply are themselves pollutants.' In an environmentalist action plan published in the Observer last year, titled `10 things we must do to make a difference' (note the word `must'), point no.2 said: `Put an end to cheap flights.' It called for government action to `curb passenger enthusiasm' for all this no-frills flying. One commentator argues that Brits must `give up cheap flights', those `easyJet quickies', before we end up `scattered like the environmental refugees of New Orleans'. No wonder bishops are sticking their noses into the discussion: this all sounds a lot like the old sermonic claim that living to excess and enjoying yourself is bad for you. Only flying won't just make you go blind - apparently it will cause droughts and disasters, kill the planet, and finish off future generations.

So is it true that people who fly, and especially people who fly lo-price, are effectively wringing the planet's, and by association their own and everyone else's necks? `The facts don't bear that out', says Soskin. `Aviation contributes about three per cent to global man-made carbon emissions - three per cent! That means 97 per cent is caused by other things. And yet flying is often discussed as the "main contributor" of emissions. Just the other day I heard the young George Osborne [Tory shadow chancellor] saying on the Today programme, "As everyone knows, aviation is a major contributor to pollution." No it isn't. Often people don't get their basic facts straight.'

Soskin's figures come from a pretty exhaustive study by The Economist in June this year, which found that aviation's contribution `to total man-made emissions worldwide is around 3%'. In its study of greenhouse gas emissions in America - said to be the most polluting (ie, most developed) country in the world - The Economist found that all forms of transportation contributed 27.4 per cent of emissions; flying on its own causes 3.2 per cent. So even within the world of transportation, flight is overshadowed by cars, ships and trains when it comes to coughing up the bad stuff. And where flight causes 3.2 per cent of America's greenhouse-gas emissions, electricity generation causes 33.9 per cent, industry causes 18.8 per cent, agriculture causes 7.6 per cent, residential properties cause 7.6 per cent and commercial properties cause 4.7 per cent. So actually flying seems to come pretty low down on the Wicked List.

Ah, but aviation is the fastest-growing transport sector, the critics of flying will respond, and thus it promises to become the greatest polluter unless we keep it in check now. Soskin takes something of an old-fashioned capitalist line on this issue. To those greens, journalists, Tory ministers and even government ministers pressuring the New Labour government and the EU to support slapping fatter taxes on flying, Soskin says: `Since when has it been good government policy to discourage growth in one of our successful industries?' He also points out that there is great demand for flying. `More and more people want to fly. They love it. has about three million unique users a month to our UK website. That is three million people looking for cheap flights. They are going to be pretty nonplussed if those flights suddenly have an eco-tax.'

If flying is not the No.1 polluter many people presume it is, then cheap flying is even less so. The irony of all the media and greenish handwringing over no-frills flights that allow the young, the less well-off and just about anyone who earns a half-decent wage to visit far-flung corners of the globe is that cheap flights tend to be more green than old-fashioned, more expensive flights. `The no-frills airlines are a fine example of rather efficient use of aircraft, because they fill their aircraft up and always tend to travel full; they don't have aircraft hanging around chugging out pollutants; they use secondary airports quite a lot of the time, so their planes don't endlessly circle the skies waiting for an opportunity to land, like a BA flight over somewhere as busy as Heathrow', says Soskin. `And they invest in new stock. One of the reasons why easyJet and Ryanair have been so successful is because they tend to operate new aircraft, which are fast and fuel-efficient. So the environmentalist lobby and its supporters have, yet again, got it completely wrong. The no-frills airlines are probably more environmentally-friendly than the airlines they take to Mongolia.'

Another irony of today's focus on flying as a terrible polluter is that aircraft pollute less today than they did in the past. As The Economist put it, `Even though today's aircraft are about 70 per cent more efficient than those of 40 years ago, concerns over emissions have grown.' And aircraft are becoming more environmentally-friendly all the time. They are being made with lighter materials which means they need less fuel to keep them airborne; and something like the new Airbus A380 - the double-decker jet that will be able to carry 555 passengers - will lessen aviation's carbon impact on the environment by flying more people at once, which could lead to fewer take-offs from airports (a lot of emissions are expended during take-off) and less plane congestion on airport tarmacs. It's like cars, says Soskin. `When I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, cars really were gas-guzzlers. They were the most filthy, disgusting polluting things imaginable. But a lot of money went into investment to make them less polluting. It is not beyond the wit of man to do the same with planes.'

So if flying isn't so bad, and millions of people actually think it is quite bloody good, why does it remain the spectre of today's green debates? Soskin thinks it might be because it's an easier target than industry or big business. `But just because it is an easy target doesn't mean it should be the main target.' He says `there is definitely a snobbish element', too, where people who jet off on cheap holidays once or twice a year are seen as being `selfish and uncaring'. I expect it's also because flying fits perfectly with the environmentalist focus on guilt-tripping individuals about their personal behaviour. By describing aviation - somewhat inaccurately - as the causer of `melting ice caps and collapsing ecosystems', green-minded activists and writers can hold individual holidaymakers responsible for pollution and effectively emotionally blackmail them into holidaying less or holidaying more `responsibly'. The focus on flying exposes the deep moralistic strain that runs through today's politics of environmentalism.

Soskin says the campaign against cheap flying will impact most on the less well-off - not just holidaymakers, but also those who work in or benefit from the tourism industry. `Tourism is absolutely key to the economy and wellbeing of some of the poorest countries of the world. Environmentalists don't seem to understand that if you cut off the mass tourism to these countries - in other words, the jumbo jet-loads of people who now holiday in places like Bali, Sri Lanka and Thailand, which have all become mass tourist destinations - then you are very, very significantly damaging those local economies. And that is unforgivable. For these people to sit in their comfortable terraced houses in Islington and opine about where people should go and should not go, in blissful ignorance of how these countries actually depend on tourist money, is reprehensible.'

Strong words, and a good point. It wouldn't be the first time that green-minded politicians and campaigners called for some aspect of everyday life or business to be reined in without thinking through the impact on workers and others. Yet I can't help feeling that it is somewhat disingenuous of Soskin to present cheap flying as something akin to the saviour of the world's poor. That is similar to the argument used by the green lobby. They claim to be protesting against aviation in order to save the Third World poor from future hurricanes and floods, overlooking the fact that it is poverty that means the Third World remains at the mercy of such natural phenomena; while Soskin seems to believe that one reason we should keep holidaying abroad is to keep poor economies afloat, which also leaves more profound questions about the causes of poverty unaddressed and presents flying as a moral good, rather than simply a mode of transport.

No matter. It is a relief in our uncritical times to hear someone stand up for cheap flights and the millions of people who use them. `I think it should be a cause of national celebration that people of all income brackets can now go away on a regular basis, taste foreign food, meet people of different nationalities, embrace people of different cultures, in a way they couldn't 10 or 20 years ago. That should be a cause of unadulterated national rejoicing. Cheap flights are very good things and they should be encouraged.' Now, that's not a line you hear every day.


In Hawaii: insects before astronomy?

An astronomer reports from Mauna Kea, where the construction of star-gazing telescopes has been halted to protect a rare species of bug

A well-built man in long flowing robes holds up what looks like an aubergine with leaves to the clear blue sky. Behind him one can glimpse the silvery dome of a telescope. The ground around his feet is dry, arid, volcanic. It looks like the surface of another planet - Mars, maybe. Is this the opening scene of a low-budget sci-fi movie? Unfortunately not. This was the scene recently on the summit of Mauna Kea, on the big Island of Hawaii, Earth's best site for astronomy, and the men with aubergines were self-styled `representatives of the mountain'. In early August a Hawaiian judge decided that protecting the environmental and religious `integrity' of Mauna Kea should take precedence over astronomy, and development of further telescopes on the mountain has been halted.

The summit of Mauna Kea is above 40 per cent of the Earth's atmosphere. The air is exceptionally dry and dark, perhaps the darkest of all skies on Earth. It is also outstandingly stable, providing some of the clearest images of the distant universe. Three of the world's largest telescopes are here, as well as many smaller telescopes, since astronomers in the Seventies realised the exceptional qualities of the site. Its only real competitor is the Andean mountainous region of Chile, but that is considerably more difficult to access. There is simply no other place like Mauna Kea.

The telescopes here have made a profound contribution to our understanding of the universe; our knowledge of the cosmos is infinitely richer than it was before the University of Hawaii began constructing telescopes on Mauna Kea. Extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology have been revolutionised thanks in large part to observations made on this summit.

But science is not static, something frozen in time. If the observations on the mountain have indicated that the universe might be filled with a mysterious `dark energy' (to complement the equally mysterious `dark matter' which makes up the rest of the Universe), then it is not enough to leave it at that. To discover more about these dark materials and the universe they inhabit, we need new instruments and telescopes even bigger and more ambitious than were the last generation: telescopes with 30-metre mirrors, which can survey the entire night sky to very faint magnitudes, not just every year but every night. (Managing the amount of data generated by such an operation is itself a task of unprecedented scale.)

However, increasingly the `needs' of Mauna Kea itself, and those who claim that it is a sacred or environmentally important site, are being elevated over the need to push our understanding of the universe and stars.

In recent years, attentive readers of astronomical journals will have noticed something strange at the end of some articles. Alongside the usual `thanks to Corporation A for funding and support' or `to Joe X who helped to operate the telescope', there also frequently appears the following statement: `We wish to extend special thanks to those of Hawaiian ancestry on whose sacred mountain we are privileged to be guests. Without their generous hospitality, most of the observations presented herein would not have been possible.' In my simplicity, I thought that making these observations was made possible thanks to 200 years of scientific development and the rigorous application of such science to manufacturing detectors and mirrors - but apparently, it's really made possible by the grace of local communities.

This apologetic attitude on the part of astronomers to building and working on Mauna Kea is a response to demands, both from some local unelected community groups and environmentalist campaigners, for the mountain to be left alone - demands that have grown louder and louder. Being apologetic has backfired on the astronomers, though. On 3 August a judge on the Big Island decided against renewing NASA's permit to construct `outrigger' telescopes for the Keck 10m telescopes. He ruled that the `Mauna Kea Master Plan' document, which outlined the plans for constructing six outrigger telescopes, was not comprehensive enough in its consideration of resource and land management on Mauna Kea. One campaigner against the building of the new telescopes said: `The decision has potentially major implications on the future development of astronomy on Hawaii.. But I think those implications are good.'

Good? As a result of the judge's decision, not only will the new telescopes not be built, but the very idea that man should use his scientific and technological know-how to improve our understanding of our surroundings has been thrown into question. For all the claims that Mauna Kea must be `preserved', the summit is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. There is almost no living creature there. The green campaigners of the Sierra Club have, however, pointed out that there is one rare species of insect on the summit - the Wekiu bug - and protecting this insect has become a main plank of their crusade against the telescopes. Environmentalists have petitioned for the Wekiu bug to be placed on the US Federal endangered species list, and for the summit of Mauna Kea to be designated a `critical habitat for the Wekiu'. As one report noted, this would `impede astronomy projects'. And yet, it has not even been demonstrated that the construction of 11 other telescopes on the mountain over the past 30 years had any adverse impact on the Wekiu population.

The mountain may well be a place of worship for some sections of the Hawaiian community, and I don't have anything against people carrying out rituals there. But I suspect that many of the protesters calling for a halt to the construction of telescopes probably live in air-conditioned homes, drive cars and use the internet - and it is worth remembering that this material wealth and prosperity enjoyed by many on the islands of Hawaii (which would have seemed inconceivable even a century ago) is a product of the curious spirit which drove man to develop and discover in the first place.

Why is there uproar about the telescopes now? Why are the needs of Wekiu bugs now being elevated over the need and desire for discovery? After all, during almost 30 years of development on the mountain (which involved the construction of telescopes far larger than the proposed outriggers) there was very little dissent. The current protests seem to me to be linked to the growth of a Hawaiian secessionist movement, some of whose activists wish to create a state-within-a-state - which has led some to view NASA's and others' telescopes as an `American imposition'. The protests are also informed by our early twenty-first-century malaise, the lack of basic faith in the Enlightenment project of understanding and controlling our world. It is a sad state of affairs when a bug, or even the outdated traditions of ancient worship, can take precedence over getting to grips with the universe.

I have stood on the metal catwalk of the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope at 3am, on the highest point of the mountain, and looked across the mountain, down towards the sea, and up towards the silent skies. It certainly is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. But the human eye only sees a tiny fraction of all there is to see; our senses can only perceive imperfectly all there is to perceive. Our grasp and comprehension of the universe has been vastly augmented by the telescopes on Mauna Kea, which have benefited all of us. We should not stop this adventure of discovery now.


Australia: Nukes the safest

Ask anyone what they most fear when going for a swim at the beach and they'll invariably say it's the likelihood of being eaten by a shark. Shark attacks are always newsworthy. Films featuring sharks, like Jaws, have a strange attraction. Not widely realised, however, is that more Australians die from box jellyfish stings than from shark attacks. The same quizzical phenomenon of fearing the lesser threat can be seen in the present and ongoing energy controversy, according to Western Australian Liberal MHR, Dr Dennis Jensen, a former CSIRO research scientist.

Delivering a Council of the National Interest special lecture on energy in Perth, he outlined how provision of nuclear-generated electricity was far and away the safest option. He demonstrated this point by focusing upon a huge unit of measure known as the terawatt year. Now, the terawatt is best comprehended by firstly defining the watt - named after the Scottish engineer James Watt (1736-1819) - as a unit of power that equals one joule of energy per second. To get to the terawatt one firstly multiplies a watt by 1,000 which is a kilowatt. Next multiply that kilowatt by another 1,000 and you have a megawatt. Now, if you multiply the megawatt by another 1,000 you have a gigawatt. To attain a terawatt you must multiply this gigawatt by yet another 1,000. What this means is that the terawatt you now have is a trillion - one followed by 12 zeros - watts.

When grappling with all these zeros, keep at the forefront of your mind that a 500-megawatt power station is considered worldwide as a sizeable base-load generating unit. Consequently, a station whose output was one terawatt would be equivalent to 2,000 such 500-megawatt stations, something that does not exist anywhere in the world.

Dr Jensen said that engineers and statisticians used the output of one terawatt of power over a year as a unit to compare the safety levels of different types of power stations - coal-fired, hydro-generation, gas fired, LPG and nuclear. He said: "I'll quote figures in terms of normalised deaths per terawatt year. In other words, if you generate one terawatt of energy for one calendar year, how many deaths can you expect in the industry?"

"For coal-fired power stations, there are 342 fatalities per terawatt year which are predominantly related to coal-workers actually extracting the coal. "However, this number would be far worse if the figures where there were fewer than five fatalities per incident were included. "With oil, it is 418 fatalities per terawatt year. "With natural gas, it is somewhat lower - 85 fatalities per terawatt year, and this refers to workers as well as the public. "Incidentally, LPG-related fatalities are extremely high - 3,280 per terawatt year of electricity generated.

"With hydro-electricity - a method that some opponents of nuclear energy favour while some dislike - there are 883 fatalities per terawatt year which predominantly involves the public due to collapsing dams. "Now we come to nuclear energy, with 31 fatalities per terawatt year. This is the lowest of all electricity-generation methods." Dr Jensen said this low fatality figure included Chernobyl's deaths and fatalities in the mining of uranium.

"I know some people might like to point to Chernobyl," he said. "According to the OECD, there have been 56 fatalities as a result of Chernobyl, due to thyroid cancer and the immediate deaths of the workers at the time - the major medical problem was radiation exposure. "The problem with Chernobyl, apart from anything else, was that it had inadequate containment. "But, as can be seen, nuclear energy is actually a very safe option - and it's inherently safer these days with Generation IV reactors. "Western containment has been far better.

"Regarding safety, nuclear power is demonstrably the safest form of power generation. "Consider the thousands of annual coalmining deaths and the probable millions who have died as a result of respiratory ailments due to coal-fired power," Mr Jensen said. "Consider the fatalities resulting from gas or hydroelectricity production, and it becomes clear that nuclear energy is very safe, even when you look at the history and take into account a sub-standard Soviet RBMK reactor."

He said he believed Australia could use Generation IV reactors, which are inherently safe. "These reactors cannot melt down because of the physics of the design of the reactor, not due to fail-safes appended to provide safety," he continued. "Most Generation IV reactors also don't need enriched uranium, so reserves of uranium would last about 50 times as long as it's assumed they will last for conventional reactors. "It is significant that Generation IV reactors, which will be modular in design, will allow small reactors to power smaller population centres and multiple modules to be joined together at the site of larger power demand.

"The economic side is put by some as a criticism. In fact, when you look at what is being considered, the economic argument is not a strong one. "What Parliament needs to consider is whether to legislate to allow nuclear power generation. "Economics should be left to power utilities which choose whether to use it or not. "Interestingly, the fact that many nuclear opponents push this line so strongly indicates that they are concerned that the economics of nuclear energy do stack up."



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 September, 2006


Comment on the Green demonstrations outside the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire

Today's environmental campaigners, motivated by suspicion of modern technology, want to turn the lights off permanently. Listening to a TV interview with one of the self-appointed guardians of the planet, I was stunned by his response when asked what his alterative would be to the loss of seven per cent of the UK's generating capacity if Drax was closed down. He said it was something `we would all have to live with'. I was reminded of a religious sermon with a vicar chastising the congregation for sinning before God. In this case it was the sin of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that offended our moral guardians....

But there is something risky about this, even from the point of view of the environmental movement. Targeting electricity generation is not the same as taking on vivisection, nuclear power or genetically modified crops. By taking on coal-fired power stations environmentalists are now questioning the actual existing fabric of our energy infrastructure without which modern society cannot function. It is not so much fears of new technology that are driving the protests, but doubts about whether already-existing technology is a good thing.

Electricity is an underrated marvel of the modern age. Our capacity to generate vast quantities of electrical energy has only really existed for a century or so. Electrification was the big advance of the early twentieth century in the modern economies of the world. We can easily forget how our lives are dominated by the easy availability of electricity. When there's a power cut our lives pretty much grind to a standstill as people go in search of musty candles and hidden boxes of matches.

It is therefore unthinkable that we should turn the clock back to a time before the national grid. Yet this is what some eco-warriors are seriously considering. Of course, it would be unfair to say they have advocated the abandonment of electricity generation per se; they want us to turn to alternative sources of electrical energy. The government, too, wants to go down the alternative route. The decline of natural gas supplies has driven the government to consider new rounds of nuclear power stations - which no serious green would agree to - and an expansion of alternatives including wind farms and tidal power.

But there is something unconvincing about being told to use wind, solar or tidal power as an alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power. With every statement advocating alternative sources of energy there is the proviso that, even with massive investment in alternatives, there just won't be enough capacity to match current consumption of energy.

We are really being offered another alternative - actually to reduce our demand for energy. During previous energy crises, when fossil fuel supplies looked in jeopardy, we were told to share baths, turn off the lights, cut back and economise. But that isn't quite what today's campaigners have in mind. They don't just want minor reductions in waste and increases in efficiency. They actually want us to reduce our energy use considerably and adjust to a new world of less.

In the past, this was called austerity. Governments that try to impose austerity on society need a pretty pressing reason to do so, as it usually isn't very long before it results in political conflict and either a reversal in policy or the removal of the government. However, today we are told to accept austerity in the name of saving the planet, and it is supposedly radical greens - taking their cue from government dithering about energy production - who are at the forefront of pushing the New Austerity. It is a strange inversion of history that today's young radicals are telling us to give up on modernity and look forward to a future which is not so bright - literally.



One of the bitter ironies of the 20th century was that communism, which began as an egalitarian doctrine accusing capitalism of selfishness and calloused sacrifices of others, became in power a system whose selfishness and callousness toward others made the sins of capitalism pale. The ruling elites of the Soviet Union, called the "nomenklatura," had their own separate and superior stores where ordinary citizens were not allowed to shop, their own separate and superior medical facilities, as well as their own separate and superior living quarters, all off-limits to the masses. Everyone in communist societies addressed one another with the egalitarian term "comrade." But some comrades had the arbitrary power of life and death over other comrades.

Soviet communism is now history but people who talk equality and practice elitism, who wrap their own selfishness in the mantle of idealism, and who sacrifice others on the altar to their own vision without a moment's hesitation are not only still with us but have become the norm on the left. They don't have nearly the power that the Soviet dictatorship had. But they use whatever power they do have in the same spirit. The green ideology of today, like the red ideology of the past, takes it for granted that other people do not have the same rights as the new nomenklatura.

Where the new nomenklatura enjoy a particular lifestyle in a particular community, then the power of government is used to preserve that lifestyle and freeze that community where it is, even if that means freezing out other people who may not have the same money or the same lifestyle preferences. Monterey County, California, is a classic example, though by no means unique. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal quoted residents of that coastal community as saying how much they liked its lifestyle and ambiance -- as a justification of laws that make it nearly impossible for anyone with less money to live there.

First of all, laws forbid building anything on three-quarters of the land in that county. Existing residents who support such laws don't own that land but they can politically keep others from living on it, which is the whole point of much rhapsodizing about "preserving" this and "saving" that. Land prices skyrocket when the supply of land is artificially and drastically reduced, which means that housing prices become astronomical. The consequences for those on the outside looking in were illustrated by the story of a farm worker in Monterey County whose family had been living in a room for years but who now could finally afford to buy a small house. This farm worker was described as "thrilled" to the point of tears as he bought a 1,013-square-foot home for $490,000, even though it would take 70 percent of his income to make the mortgage payments. He planned to rent out one of the rooms to try to make ends meet.

His situation was not as unusual as it would be in most other places. The average share of income required for someone with the average income in Monterey County to buy the average home there is 60 percent. But of course this does not apply to the existing residents who bought or inherited their homes in years past. Far from suffering economically from the laws they pass, they see the market values of their own homes go up by leaps and bounds. One of these residents describes herself as a liberal Democrat and an ardent environmentalist. Election results in this and other affluent counties in coastal California suggest that she is very much the norm among the new nomenklatura.

The green nomenklatura talk egalitarianism like the old red nomenklatura and similarly ride roughshod over others while doing it. Their economic ethnic cleansing has driven tens of thousands of blacks out of some liberal Democratic counties. There were 79,000 blacks living in San Francisco in 1990 and 46,000 today. So many people with children are leaving these bastions of liberal Democratic environmentalists as to force many schools in these counties to close. But the new nomenklatura go around feeling good about themselves while leaving havoc in their wake.


World oil not running out, says energy boss

The world has an abundant supply of oil, and high petrol prices are just the reality of a globally traded commodity, ExxonMobil Australia chairman Mark Nolan said today. Mr Nolan used his speech to the Asia Pacific oil and gas conference in Adelaide today to debunk the theory of peak oil, which suggests oil supplies have peaked and will dwindle over the next 20 years. Such predictions, he said, had been around since the 1920s, particularly at times of high oil prices. "The fact is that the world has an abundance of oil and there is little question, scientifically, that abundant energy resources exist," Mr Nolan said. "According to the US Geological Survey, the earth currently has more than three trillion barrels of conventional, recoverable oil resources. "So far we have produced one trillion."

Mr Nolan said the oil industry had always underestimated the extent of global resources and the ability of technology to both extend the life of existing oil and gas fields and find new ones. "We should not forget that we can recover almost twice as much oil today as when we first discovered it over 100 years ago," he said. "And when you consider that a further 10 per cent increase in recoverability will deliver 800 billion barrels of oil to our recoverable total, we have every reason to be sure that the end of oil is nowhere in sight."

Mr Nolan said that by 2030, conventional fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) would still account for 80 per cent of the world's energy requirements. But Mr Nolan said it was very difficult to predict what would happen in the future with both crude oil and petrol prices. "They are both regionally traded commodities, they are priced by the market, priced by the region," he said. "The fuel price is ultimately driven by the source of the product, which is the crude price, and of course that is traded regionally and internationally."

Mr Nolan's comments were endorsed by the president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Eve Sprunt, who said the proponents of peak oil theory often confused oil reserves with available resources. "When you are talking about reserves, you are only talking about a very small fraction of the total resource base," she said. "The reserves are the portion for which the infrastructure is largely in place, the technology is in place and that can be produced at the current oil price. "But if you are planning for the long-term energy future of your country you need to understand the resource base." "The whole name of the game is moving resources into the reserves category." Ms Sprunt said high oil prices also presented opportunities such as the viable development of other fuels. "It's a time when new alternatives emerge," she said.



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 September, 2006

Germany's wind farms destroy jobs and don't reduce greenhouse gas output

Since the 1980s, Germany's government has promoted and subsidised wind energy with wide political support. In 1991, all parties backed a law forcing utilities to buy electricity from wind-energy firms at 90% of the average retail price, making suppliers and consumers pay for the growth of wind farms. Building wind farms became popular among farmers seeking extra income from pastures and among underutilised shipyards with skilled labour and trying to diversify. Many schemes were in underdeveloped regions, so many local politicians backed them. Later, investors in wind energy could also deduct investments against tax, making the deal attractive for high earners. So wind energy came to be promoted by a wide range of people who could hide their special interests behind the screen of green slogans.

Incentives improved further with the Renewable Energies Act in 2000. This abolished the link to retail energy prices, which had fallen thanks to liberalisation of the electricity market, and replaced it with a guaranteed price of 0.091 Euros per kWh for wind farms, a good three times the German average production cost of electricity of 0.025 to 0.03 Euros.

Germany produces about 3.1% of its electricity from wind energy, but this comes at the cost of an annual subsidy of 4bn Euros or so. But what about the alleged benefits for the economy and the environment? It is often claimed wind power has created 45000 jobs in Germany. But with a large subsidy anyone can create jobs, although, at more than 80000 Euros a job a year, it would be cheaper to send workers on permanent vacation in a tropical paradise.

Wind farms actually lower employment, thanks to higher energy prices for the economy, according to the Bremer Energie Institut. If the economic effects were not bad enough, it also seems ecological benefits of German wind energy exist only in the imagination of its supporters. First, the wind in Germany is unreliable, so wind generators operate at full capacity for about 1400 hours a year on average - just more than 58 days' worth. Britain, claiming better wind, still only managed to reach a third of its wind-power capacity in the very windy year of 1998, according to its trade and industry department. So every wind turbine still needs full conventional energy backup.

Even if wind power did decrease the amount of carbon emissions from conventional electricity firms, those utilities could sell on those carbon savings to anyone else: "carbon emission trading" gives companies an emission allowance, and allows them to buy or sell it, locally or internationally. A 2004 report for Germany's federal economics ministry showed carbon reduction would be zero, at the considerable cost of higher energy prices.

Another concealed environmental problem is carbon emissions from manufacturing turbines. The wind sector is now the second-biggest consumer of steel, after car makers, in Germany. At lower wind speeds you need more than 10 tons of iron for a given output, compared with about two tons for coal, one for gas and half a ton for nuclear.

Germany's wind energy promotion has been extremely expensive, and has probably destroyed jobs. Its ecological benefits under carbon trading are nonexistent, and it needs full conventional backup. The German experience does not prove that wind energy can never be viable, but it does show that state interference with the market can create enormous economic and ecological distortions. If wind energy really is the energy of the future it must prove itself in the market without state subsidies, but this has not yet happened anywhere.


Biofuels from food crops bugs VW

Volkswagen has attacked biofuels made from food crops as unsustainable, setting the German car maker at odds with US President George Bush, US car makers and European governments, which have all been touting ethanol as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol in cars. Bernd Pischetsrieder, chief executive, called on politicians to lower tax breaks for current "first-generation" fuels - made in the US and Europe from corn, wheat, rape seed and sugar beet - and instead provide financial support for new second-generation technologies that promise big cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2).

Mr Pischetsrieder said some of the current biofuels were "totally pointless" and "like a wolf in sheep's clothing". He criticised tax benefits that were not linked to carbon dioxide, since some methods of refining biofuel actually led to higher carbon emissions than from petrol. "The current situation is totally unsatisfactory, both from the environmental and economic standpoint," he said.

Even as Mr Pischetsrieder was speaking in Berlin, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed an increase to renewable fuel requirements - mainly ethanol - from 2.78 per cent of all fuel this year to 3.71 per cent next year, and said it would help cut CO2 emissions.

Mr Pischetsrieder is the highest profile opponent of today's biofuel technology. The handful of opponents of the fuel in the environmental movement have mostly been concerned about increased leakage of carcinogenic fumes, development of monoculture farms and the danger to rainforests from new palm plantations in developing countries, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. Soaring demand for biofuels has contributed to a surge in the price of several of the grains and oilseeds used to make ethanol and biodiesel.

US car makers have been strongly supportive of biofuels, running expensive ad campaigns in an attempt to win back customers concerned about the environment who had defected to Japanese rivals. General Motors and Ford argue that even though the carbon benefits of today's technology are small, and biofuel is more expensive per mile than petrol even with tax breaks, the fuel should be promoted by governments in order to ensure the market is prepared when new technologies arrive.


Australia: The water shortage problem is political, not technical

Managing water supply is the biggest climate-change adaptation facing Australia. And governments and planners realise the problem is upon us. Faced with the converging threats of population growth, a warming climate and increased environmental flows into the nation's river systems, water policy-makers are pursuing a suite of controversial new technologies to ensure urban Australia does not run out of water. "Australia doesn't have a water problem. It has a water-management problem," says Adelaide University's professor of water economics Mike Young. Three-quarters of Australia's population live in the urban centres, but they consume only 8 per cent of available water. Irrigators account for 67 per cent.

The price paid for water by Australian households varies between cities, but lurks at about $1.30 a kilolitre. This translates into less than a dollar a day for most households. Irrigators pay no more than a few cents per kilolitre. The entire flow of water tapped by Adelaide from the Murray is equivalent to the allocation of just 15 large-scale rice farmers. It's little wonder then that talk of linking urban and regional water markets has some farmers more than a little nervous. Allowing urban water authorities to freely buy irrigators' allocations would be like letting loose a busload of Australian tourists in a Kuta Beach department store. Their buying power would be phenomenal. The scale of the transfers is likely to be small - less than 1per cent of Australia's total water supply - but Young says within that range are many farmers who are only too keen to sell to new urban players. "The thing that many people forget is that a small amount of water in a rural setting goes a very long way in an urban area," he says. "We're not talking about very big transfers of water; there can be some local effects but in terms of the national economy the effect on Australian agriculture is not very big."

Increasing water scarcity around the world is driving a similar evolution. Water has become a valuable resource and governments are forced to find ways of getting it to the highest-value users. As sure as water always runs downhill, this is creating tensions between the historical and the new users. In the Australian context, this means a transfer from farms to cities, and it has already started. Adelaide recently purchased water from former dairy farmers in the lower Murray, while Perth's water authority bought similar entitlements from Harvey Water in return for investment in infrastructure that will result in water savings equivalent to the entitlement purchased.

National Farmers Federation natural resources manager Vanessa Findlay says the farm sector recognises that this water market transition is an evolving reality. While acknowledging that the effects would be felt unevenly across regional Australia, Findlay says the political pain of the transition will be eased if farmers see a genuine effort by urban Australia to similarly improve its water efficiency. "But we acknowledge that with increasing population forecast over the next 30 years, taking the position that we are not going to trade with urban Australia isn't sustainable."

Despite this view from farmers, the new market thinking is casting a more critical eye over the appropriateness of maintaining severe water restrictions on urban households while selling them the water at bargain prices. While recognising the need to use tools such as short-term restrictions to deal with a supply crisis, National Water Commission chairman Ken Matthews is more doubtful about institutionalising such arrangements in the long term. "We often hear people say that after the drought ends, we really should institutionalise these urban water restrictions forever. I wonder whether that's so," he told the Australian Water Summit earlier this year. "We know that there are better and worse urban water restrictions in different cities of Australia, and why would we concrete the worst such restrictions into a fixed regime?"

Young says the existing regime of restrictions has thrown up a number of inequities that are unsustainable. "If someone is prepared to pay the full cost to enjoy a green environment and the water is available, then that is a perfectly acceptable use," he says. "We need to build mechanisms that make people aware of the value of water. But at the moment people who have swimming pools are allowed to keep them full but poorer people who can't afford them are not allowed to let their children play under a sprinkler when doing that would use a lot less water than what a swimming pool would evaporate. "I can see prices generally being twice as high as they are today but even with that, water would still be very cheap."

At the International River Symposium in Brisbane this week, water engineer Mark Hamstead postulated that Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are best placed to tap into these irrigators' markets because of their proximity to river systems, which means they are able to set up inexpensive pipelines to make such trading viable. Sydney has the capacity to establish pipelines to the Hunter, Central Coast or the Murrumbidgee river while Melbourne could tap into the nearby Goulburn system. Adelaide is already plugged into the lower Murray.

By contrast, Perth and Brisbane - which combined are predicted to grow by more than a million people within 15 years - have far more limited opportunities to access farmers' water and will therefore rely more heavily on new water technologies being developed. These include the political hot potatoes of desalinisation and recycling, trapping and reprocessing storm water and tapping into ground water, which are all expected to play an increasing role in securing water for urban Australia for the next century and beyond.

Young says urban water authorities are likely to discover that recycling and stormwater capture would be prohibitively expensive, which would make them look again at desalination, which is becoming increasingly efficient. Despite controversy about its high energy use, new technologies from Israel have driven efficiencies up and costs down to nearly half the price for urban water. Desalination is a serious option for cities such as Perth, with limited alternatives and access to inexpensive, low greenhouse emission energy sources such as gas. "The great thing about desalination is that it is not climate-dependent. So you can actually have the water continuously and have it just in time: you don't have to store it and let it evaporate while you are waiting to use it," Young says.

Tom Hatton, the director of a CSIRO water program, says initial public resistance is almost inevitable when new technologies are proposed. The challenge for policy-makers is to foster public understanding and confidence in the ideas being proposed. "Most of our cities have traditionally had one source of water, or maybe two," Hatton says. "Over the next 10 years people will notice they will start to diversify to three or four." Hatton doesn't express a view as to whether such a free market for water is a good thing. What CSIRO is doing is building a national water stock market, to be known as the water resources observations network.

The network is about 10 years from completion and will allow instant trading of water entitlements, adjustment for seasonal and natural flows, and the creation and trading of derivatives such as water futures, options and hedges. It will be better able to allocate optimal environmental flows, remove uncertainty from the market process, optimise prices, find the most willing buyers and sellers, and signal scarcity. "The solutions are going to be different for Perth than they will be in Sydney. Those choices will not be made on perceptions but on analysis and a lot more technical confidence," Hatton says. "We need to get to the point where those in the market almost have real-time modelling available to them to tell them the state of their water system at any given moment and how vulnerable that is in the near term and medium terms to drought, fire pollution and other environmental threats."



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 September, 2006

Bugged, Literally, By Latest Eco-Hysteria

Post lifted from Cheat Seeking Missiles

Here's the headline from the latest OH MY GOD! story posted on the Society of Environmental Journalist's daily journal of eco-hysterical news coverage:

Pesticides lurk in daycare centers

Lurk! To lie in wait, as in ambush; to sneak; to exist unobserved or unsuspected. What a fabulous choice of words; let's send this headline writer a big fat blue ribbon.

Try as they might, the writers at Environmental Science & Technology just couldn't keep up the hysteria (with my emphasis):
Millions of children get exposed to pesticides while attending daycare, concludes the first nationwide study of insecticide residues in U.S. daycare centers. The study, published today on ES&T’s Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es061021h), found low levels of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides. Although the health impacts are unclear, the results raise questions about the risks children face from these chemicals.
What kind of questions are raised? Oh, how about actual concentrations? How about even a remote statistical correlation between any of the compounds detected and any disease? We read on, wondering if there might actually be some kind of point here ....
“We found at least one pesticide in every daycare center,” says lead author Nicolle Tulve, a research scientist with the U.S. EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory. Tulve says that the concentrations were quite low. She did not comment on whether these concentrations might be harmful but notes that no health advisories or national standards currently exist for such exposures.
I'm beginning to wonder if there's a story here ... maybe a "your tax dollars wasted" kind of story ... but it turns out that the story just peters out with a couple of quotes from hand-wringers, never making a single significant point except:
[Paul] Lioy [deputy director of the Enviornmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University] also notes that pesticides are not all bad. These chemicals kill roaches, which can cause allergies in some children.
Well, about time! Pesticides exist for a reason, and pests are called pests for a reason! Besides cockroaches, pesticides kill spiders, some of which have poisonous bites, fleas (remember bubonic plague?), centipedes, scorpions and all sorts of crawly dangers more real than the fear of very low concentrations of very thoroughly tested chemicals.

Also not mentioned in the story: Moms and dads use pesticides at home; restaurants use them; governments use them; doctors use them. Is there any evidence that day care exposure is any greater than what these kids are experiencing elsewhere ... or is there just this exciting emotional pull with day care that grabs reporters' attention?

Methinks the latter.

Green CEOs Bad for Business

Green CEOs and good business just don’t mix. Witness this past week’s embarrassing examples of Ford Motor Co.’s Bill Ford and BP’s Lord John Browne – with General Electric’s Jeff Immelt warming up in the bull pen.

Bill Ford just announced that he would step down as CEO after a disastrous 5-year reign during which company shares lost two-thirds of their market value. While Ford Motor’s woes can’t entirely be blamed on Ford, you have to wonder what Ford Motor’s board was thinking when it selected him as CEO. Ford appears to have had two major qualifications that impressed the board – he was the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford and he chaired the company’s Environmental and Public Policy Committee. While Ford’s genetics didn’t necessarily doom his leadership, his fancying himself as an environmentalist most likely did.

Ford always appeared more concerned about being green than being profitable. In May 2000, he declared that SUVs – his company’s most profitable product – harmed the environment. He lectured a Greenpeace audience that something needed to be done about global warming. Ford focused on turning the company’s massive Rouge plant into an “icon of lean, green manufacturing” and issued reports about vehicle exhaust contributing to global warming. As the SUV-dependent company headed for a rough and certain reckoning with high gas prices, Ford announced in 2004 his support for higher gas taxes to reduce fuel consumption. While higher gas taxes didn’t happen, higher gas prices did, due to foreseeable supply-and-demand forces. Now the public reduces fuel consumption by not buying Ford SUVs.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bill Ford’s green sheen has bought him no peace from environmentalists who, as pointed out previously in this column, ridicule him publicly. The good news for Ford’s shareholders is that he no longer runs the company on a day-to-day basis. The bad news is that he’s still chairman of the board. Shareholders ought to hope that’s only a face-saving move before he transitions to a green activist group where he belongs.

BP CEO Lord John Browne also wants to be hailed as an “enlightened” CEO-environmentalist. Under Browne, BP spends more than $100 million annually on its “Beyond Petroleum” campaign – an effort to convince the public that BP is no more an oil company than Greenpeace. BP not only advocates for global warming regulation – including announcing this week that it will help Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger implement California’s new global warming law – but the company also calls its primary profit-producing product (gasoline) a “necessary evil” in television commercials. (Earth to Lord Browne: Gasoline is a miracle product upon which our civilization depends.)

While Lord Browne has distracted himself and BP management with the “Beyond Petroleum” mindset, BP has come under pressure from a series of negligent and possibly criminal actions. A March 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery complex killed 15 workers and injured many more. Poor maintenance at BP’s Alaskan oil pipeline caused the largest-ever oil spill on the North Slope in March 2006. A BP oil rig damaged by Hurricane Katrina still leaks one year later. BP traders are under investigation for possibly illegal manipulation of the propane, crude oil and unleaded gasoline markets. Lord Browne has tried to paint BP green, but his distraction from core business needs has given the company a black-eye.

General Electric’s shareholders ought to learn the lessons taught by Ford and Browne. GE’s stock price has gone nowhere since Immelt took over from Jack Welch a few years ago, and he apparently sees being green as GE’s path forward. He’s re-branded GE’s products with the gimmicky name, “Ecomagination,” and is lobbying for greenhouse gas regulation, apparently in hopes of passing laws that force customers to buy Ecomagination products.

Just this week, Immelt announced an Ecomagination “advisory council” that includes the likes of Eileen Claussen (whose Pew Center on Global Climate Change lobbies for global warming regulation), Dan Reicher (a former activist with the anti-nuclear, pro-Kyoto Protocol Natural Resources Defense Council); Jonathan Lash (president of the ultra-green World Resources Institute) and James Cameron (chairman of the Ted Turner-funded, global warming regulation-pushing Carbon Disclosure Project).

Immelt describes these and other like-minded folks on the Ecomagination advisory council as “thought leaders on matters of energy, science and the environment.” But they seem more like hard-line green activists whose agendas probably have little in common with that of the typical GE shareholder. Immelt and his green friends may very well succeed in pressuring politicians to encumber the U.S. economy with greenhouse gas regulation – there is, after all, little if any debate that such regulation will increase the cost, and reduce the availability, of energy for consumers and businesses. But since GE’s business fortunes tend to move with the general economy, it’s difficult to see how hampering the economy won’t also hamper GE’s already lethargic stock price.

Suffering the consequences, of course, will be GE shareholders – not the well-paid Immelt or the Ecomagination advisory council members whose green mission will have been accomplished. GE’s shareholders don’t have to suffer the same fate as Ford Motor’s or BP’s – but they will need to take action before it’s too late.


Australian falcons are no Greenies

Workers at the Caltex oil refinery have more than petrol production on their minds these days after two of the fastest killers in the skies took up residence in the plant. A pair of peregrine falcons has made the Kurnell refinery home, establishing a nest among the flaming chimneys and kilometres of pipes - on the side of a six-storey high furnace which vaporises oil at 500C.

The male of the pair was dubbed Steve, in honour of the first worker he took a surprise dive at a few weeks ago. Since then a warning sign has been placed on the ladder leading to the ledge where Steve and his lady companion have made their nest - and hopefully are incubating eggs which will soon hatch chicks. "Employees ... had sighted a pair of peregrine falcons over the plant for more than a year but not realised until recently that the pair were nesting in a large heating unit," refinery manager Tip Huizenga said. "An employee working in a section of the unit was startled when the male peregrine swooped at him a few times. "Investigations around the unit eventually revealed a nest in the unit and a female nesting."

Steve is a regular sight soaring above the refinery or keeping watch on his nest from a distant tower with eyes that can pick out prey from 3km away. When he does find prey they stand little chance: peregrine falcons can dive at 300km/h to strike and kill instantly with their powerful talons.



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 September, 2006

Making kids eco-crazy

It’s back to school time for kids and, of course, for the environmental crazies that means creating a huge mythology of things that will kill them the minute they venture into the jungle of hazards and horrors that await them in school. The biggest hazard I encountered was a kid named Mario who, not surprisingly, ended up in jail. I did not worry about what my clothes were made from, if the acrylic paints would poison me, or the importance of using both sides of the piece of paper.

Let’s understand that, for years now, children have been taught that the Earth is virtually on its last legs and that Global Warming is sufficient for them to abandon all hope of ever being as old as their grandparents, most of whom are probably already dead from inhaling asbestos, having their lungs destroyed by radon, or being slowly poisoned from having used pesticides to kill bugs in their bedroom. Plus, those old people all ate fast foods, drank soda, and probably smoked. If they aren’t dead, they are obviously just a freak of nature.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive an email from something called “” described as “one of the oldest and largest portals for environmental shopping.” According to the folks at, back-to-school time is also the perfect time to “start introducing earth-friendly concepts into their children’s everyday lives.” Or, to put it another way, time to start scaring the living daylights out of them by ruining what fun they might have in the few, short years of their childhood.

One hardly knows where to begin in the long list of life-threatening things the mere act of going to school involves. For example, “Petroleum oil, a non-renewable resource, is used in the manufacture of chemicals and plastic commonly found in most school supplies. Environmentally speaking, using supplies made from natural ingredients is always preferable.”

Wait a minute! Are these loonies telling me that oil is not a “natural” substance produced by the Earth? Are they suggesting that all chemicals are automatically a hazard? That plastic is a bad thing? Yes, they are. And they are telling your children this as well.

For the environmentally demented, recycling is as much a religious duty as facing Mecca five times a day is for Muslims. “Schools should remember to use both sides of the paper, save and reused paper clips, thumbtacks, rubber bands, etc., and recycle newspapers, cans, and bottles.”

Suffice it to say, recycling is expensive, requires a lot of power, and many states and cities have concluded it is a huge waste of money and manpower. It has no practical value other than to make people feel bad about using stuff. is determined to warn parents to dress their children only in “organic cotton and hemp” because “conventional cotton cultivation uses 25% of the world’s pesticides.” It is also one of the most popular cloths in the world and under attack from a wide range of insect predators such as the famed Boll Weevil. You want cotton? You have to kill the bugs. actually says that their cotton products “do not contain toxic pesticides.” What do you want to bet that ordinary cotton clothing doesn’t either?

It is important, too, to make sure the school only provides “organic food and juice, as well as rBGH-free milk.” Have you checked the cost of organic food versus the food that all the rest of us buy at the supermarket?

Perhaps most important of all is to “Make your school a toxin-free zone.” Parents should storm the local school board and demand the use of non-toxic cleaners “which can impact indoor air quality.” Whatever else is going on in school, it is essential that “toxic pesticides” are not used “in or around the school” because of the “significant health risks to your children if exposed.”

Oddly, I know something about pest control, having worked with the industry for several decades. None of the pest control professionals I have known are bent on killing every child in every school in America. Quite the contrary, they are concerned with killing the legions of cockroaches, mice, rats, and other disease-spreading pests that routinely invade school cafeterias and anywhere else food can be found such as desks, lockers, and the teacher’s lounge! They fend off pigeons whose droppings degrade school structures and, universally these days, they do this work at night when schools are empty. Despite being around pesticides all day, these people actually have families of their own and their children are as healthy as yours. Many of them go into the business!

Here are just a few of the school items warns against: magic markers, disposable pens, plastic folders and notebooks, acrylic paints and scented art products, epoxy or instant bonding glues, artist’s pastel crayons, and glossy paper used for art projects. You have been warned!

Somewhere in this great land of ours, some eco-scientists are conducting experiments that will conclusively prove that your children are in more danger in school than if they lived in downtown Baghdad.

It’s all foolishness, of course, but it is a dangerous, malign and evil foolishness. It adds levels of anxiety to the daunting challenge of learning anything in today’s horrid schools that routinely fail to teach the basic knowledge children will need to survive in a world where the competition will be truly global.



Shoppers will soon be able to compost ready-meal packs and fruit and vegetable wrappers alongside grass clippings and food waste as shops try to woo green-minded customers. Sainsbury’s fired the latest salvo in the war to be the most environment-friendly supermarket today when it made available 500 of its ready-meal brands and organic fruit and vegetables in compostable packing. The change — highly likely to be followed by the other retailers — will remove the millions of plastic bags and trays that are currently dumped in landfill sites and cut thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming.

The offensive is also part of the supermarkets’ drive to boost their green credentials. Where once these companies attracted customers by slashing prices on staple goods and petrol, they are now determined to attract the growing number of ethical shoppers. Asda has already moved its food distribution from road to rail to cut down emissions and Tesco, which is following suit, has a scheme that awards customers loyalty points for recycling or using fewer carrier bags.

Supermarket bosses are also keen to woo the estimated one in three of households interested in home composting. A bottle-green logo of an arrow piercing an apple is to appear on all Sainsbury compostable packs, and this could be taken up by companies to highlight the green message. The packs will be made from maize, sugar cane or starch packaging, which breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. This provides organic material that is excellent for bringing out moisture in the soil. If the compostable packs are placed in compost pile in a sunny position in the garden, they may break down in a fortnight. Generally the bigger the heap, the faster the process. Gardeners have been particularly keen on composting this summer because of the drought and the hosepipe bans.

The initiative may force the Government to review its waste strategy. Today, councils have an incentive to collect green waste rather than to promote home composting. They have been told to recycle the highest possible tonnages, which has resulted in green waste collection becoming the fastest growing form of recycling, growing to 400,000 tonnes last year from 20,000 tonnes in 1997. Experts have estimated that the green wheelie bins have generated an extra 300lb of green waste per household a year when most of it could easily be used on a garden. The Waste Resources Action Programme, which advises ministers on waste, believes it should promote home composting.

Almost half of all organic fruit and vegetables will be sold in compostable packs at Sainsbury’s from this week, rising to 80 per cent by next January. All ready meal packs will be compostable within a year. Justin King, Sainsbury’s chief executive, called on rival supermarkets to follow suit and for the Government to give every home a free compost bin. He said: “Our customers tell us that food packaging is extremely important to them. We’re confident that putting 500 types of our food in compostable packaging will significantly help to reduce the packaging that most threatens the environment.”

Jane Gilbert, of the Composting Association, said that she hoped every household would now be given information on how to compost at home. She said that there were no health problems with compost piles of food or compostable packaging but that if compost piles were too small it could take six months for waste to break down into organic matter. A good average size for a household compost bin was about a metre squared, she said.


Greenie puritans

To the women of Miss Kitka's it was their regular act - a striptease down to vintage underwear, and a few balloons popped for added spice. But to some of the attendees of the Canberra Climate Change forum it was all too much. Red-faced organisers of the 17th annual forum have apologised for their "inappropriate" choice of entertainment during the forum dinner. But that did not stop two government departments from withdrawing their $8000 sponsorship for the annual event.

The House of Burlesque show involved stripping one woman of red balloons with a pin, but forum organisers said it was intended to be "lighthearted entertainment". Miss Kitka, better known as Australian National University student Rebecca Gale, said you would see more nudity on a beach and that members of the audience had overreacted to the "tongue-in-cheek" act. "It is very unfortunate and upsetting," she said. "We are being portrayed as strippers and while there is an element of striptease, the least anyone stripped down to was vintage underwear."

However, when Miss Kitka came out clad in red balloons and offered pins to anyone who wanted to help her pop them, the temperature increased more rapidly than any predictions for climate change. While that was going on, another troupe member stripped off a coat, hat, gloves and dress.

In a statement delivered this afternoon, the ANU organisers apologised for their "misjudged" choice of entertainment. "The ANZ Climate Forum organising committee apologises for any offence taken at the forum dinner," the organisers said in a statement read out at the close of the forum. "The intent was lighthearted entertainment. "In retrospect the choice of entertainment was inappropriate for the occasion. "We understand if the sponsors wish to withdraw."

An ANU spokeswoman said there was no nudity involved in the event. "The Department of the Environment and Heritage's Australian Greenhouse Office considers the nature of the 'entertainment' at this event to be highly inappropriate," said the department's deputy secretary, Howard Bamsey. "Our representative was among those who walked out ... (and) we are withdrawing our sponsorship of this event." Environment Minister Ian Campbell has withdrawn $3000, saying the Government "could not be associated with such inappropriate activity". The Bureau of Rural Sciences, part of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, has withdrawn $5000 in funding.



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 September, 2006


It is being justified in terms of the Global Warming religion in order to make the British government bow down but the effect of reducing road congestion should be desirable to all. Mind you, turning the railway tracks into dedicated roadfreight highways would be infinitely more beneficial but that would require a government willing to REALLY upset the status quo

An unprecedented increase in freight trains will rid the motorway of 12,000 lorries a day but risks causing a decade of disruption for rail passengers. Network Rail, the rail infrastructure company, said yesterday that it will remove bottlenecks from its network to allow mile-long goods trains to operate between ports, power stations and distribution centres. It will also create room for an extra 120 freight trains a day by 2015, with bulk goods, such as imported coal, fuel and building materials, expected to fill much of the extra space. Each train will be able to carry 2,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 100 lorry loads. The boom in freight will reduce congestion on the roads but rail passengers may face delays from engineering works and are also more likely to find themselves stuck behind slow-moving freight trains.

Announcing Network Rail's frieght strategy for the next ten years, John Armitt, its chief executive, said: "We must maximise what rail can offer because otherwise we will end up with a lot more trucks on the road." He said that the increase in rail freight capacity would cost up to 500 million pounds, which would have to be funded by the Government. Ministers are committed to expanding rail freight but have said that decisions on the future level of rail spending would be made next summer.

In addition to laying extra lines on routes that have only a single track, Network Rail said that it would widen dozens of bridges and tunnels to allow trains to carry the standard international size of freight container. It also promised to lengthen passing loops - the parallel stretches of track where freight trains wait while being overtaken by faster passenger services - on the East and West Coast Main Lines to accommodate longer trains.

Supermarkets have begun the switch back to rail, to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions caused by distribution and to improve their public image. Last month Tesco started moving non-perishable goods by train from the Midlands to its main Scottish distribution centre as part of a plan to save 4.5 million road miles a year and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,000 tonnes. It joins Asda, which moves its goods from southern ports to northern depots by rail. Other companies, including Sainsbury, Toyota and Nissan, have also announced plans to carry their less time-sensitive goods by rail, and even mail trains, which were all but dead in January 2004, have made a comeback.

EWS, Britain's largest rail freight company, said that trains produced a tenth of the harmful emissions of trucks per tonne carried. Network Rail proposes to increase the total weight of goods carried by train by 30 per cent by 2016. The growth will be higher when the long distance travelled by rail freight is taken into account. EWS predicts that the number of tonne-kilometres - the industry's preferred measurement, which multiplies the number of tonnes by the number of kilometres travelled - will be 50 per cent up on current levels by 2015. That would restore rail freight to the level last achieved in the 1950s, when steam trains still dominated the network Graham Smith, EWS's planning director, said that the growth would be achieved only if the Government addressed the unfair advantage enjoyed by road hauliers. "We welcome Network Rail's vision for growth, but it will not happen unless the costs of using the rail infrastructure are made more affordable," he said. "We are being undercut by road hauliers coming from Europe, where they buy cheaper fuel and pay lower wages to Eastern European drivers."

EWS is lobbying against the Rail Regulator's proposal to double track access charges paid by freight operators. It said that it may have to cancel all goods trains through the Channel Tunnel from November 30, when the public subsidy for cross-Channel rail freight ceases. EWS is facing additional costs of 8,000 pounds a train for using the tunnel, but says that it can afford only 500 pounds a train.

Mr Armitt said that Network Rail's predictions assumed Britain's continued reliance on imported coal for power generation in the next ten years. "Even if we see a new nuclear programme, that will take time to deliver and may only deliver 20 to 25 per cent of generating capacity, so there will still be big demand for coal," he said.


Biotech forests

Last March, activists at the 8th Conference of the Parties (COP-8) for the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Curitiba, Brazil called for a global moratorium on genetically modified trees (GM trees). The activists claimed that genetically enhanced trees could harm the environment and the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities. In response, the COP-8 passed a resolution recommending the CBD signatories "take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees." The precautionary approach "recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm." In general, it is chiefly decisions that would permit the deployment of new technologies that the precautionary approach postpones. We shall see that this line of attack cuts both ways when considering the effects of genetically enhanced trees.

In response to the COP-8 resolution, the United Nations Environment Programme is considering a global moratorium on the planting of genetically modified trees. UNEP is accepting comments on the proposed moratorium until September 1.

Are GM trees a danger to the natural environment? Opponents claim that the potential effects of GM trees include the contamination of native forests, the destruction of biodiversity and wildlife, loss of fresh water, the collapse native forest ecosystems, and cultural destruction of forest based traditional communities and severe human health impacts.

What biotech opponents mean by "contamination" is that GM trees could interbreed with conventional trees passing along their modified traits. That could happen, but is that a real threat to native forests? For example, one of the traits that biotechnologists have modified is boosting soft cellulose and reducing tough lignin fiber in wood. Such trees are easier to turn into paper and produce much less waste. However, trees with this bioengineered trait would have great difficulty surviving in the wild, so it is very unlikely to spread to native trees. Oregon State University forestry professor Steven Strauss dismisses activist concerns over GM trees somehow wiping out wild forests as "sheer nonsense." As for destroying biodiversity and wildlife, GM trees are much more likely to help than to harm. How? By boosting the productivity of tree plantations.

Opponents dismiss tree plantations as "green deserts" devoid of the natural biodiversity of wild forests. Actually, tree plantations do harbor a lot of wild species, but even if they didn't they would still offer significant environmental benefits. Right now about one-third of the world's industrial wood comes from tree plantations and if it could all come from tree plantations that would dramatically relieve pressure to harvest natural forests. An Israeli biotech company claims to have been able to engineer eucalyptus trees that grow four times faster than conventional trees. The modified trees are being field tested by a major Brazilian forestry company. If it works, this means that more trees can be grown on less land.

In fact, Roger Sedjo, a senior fellow at Resources from the Future notes that "all of the world's timber production could potentially be produced on an area roughly five to ten percent of the total forest today." Sedjo points out that this would mean that "more of the earth's forests could remain in their natural states, thereby maintaining continuous habitat for biodiversity conservation." It's hard to see what could be more eco-friendly than saving natural forests from loggers' axes.

What about the claim that biotech trees would harm indigenous and local communities? Again, to the extent that indigenous communities are directly dependent on native forest products and species for their livelihoods, reducing commercial pressure to cut down those forests will protect their traditional ways of life. Another concern is that forestry corporations in cahoots with developing country governments will expand tree plantations onto indigenous lands. Surely the better and more direct solution to problems caused by defective land tenure is to give indigenous people strong property rights to their land rather than banning biotech trees.

Biotechnology can also help protect and restore tree species that are threatened by pests and disease. For example, the American chestnut was devastated by an introduced fungal disease that killed more the 3.5 billion trees in the first half of the 20th century. These majestic trees could reach 100 feet in height and five feet in diameter. The chestnut had been the dominant hardwood species throughout the Appalachian Mountains. An enterprising squirrel, we are told, could travel from Maine to Georgia without touching the ground through the interlinked branches of chestnut trees. Now scientists at the University of Georgia and the State University of New York are investigating ways to insert blight-resistance genes into American chestnut artificial seed embryos. Thanks to biotechnology, the American chestnut could be restored later this century to the forests from which it has been missing for nearly two generations.

Looking at current silvicultural practices can also help clarify the benefits and risks involved with GM trees. "Many ecological criticisms of GM trees appear to be overstated," concludes a recent study by silviculturalists at Oregon State University. "The ecological issues expected from the use of GM poplars appear similar in scope to those managed routinely during conventional plantation culture, which includes the use of exotic and hybrid genotypes, short rotations, intensive weed control, fertilization and density control." For example, choosing to plant a conventional poplar or a poplar genetically modified to produce less lignin will have far fewer ecological effects than choosing between planting a poplar, modified or not, and a conifer species. "The specific changes in wood chemistry imparted by GM will be orders of magnitude less than the vast number of new chemicals that distinguish a pine from an aspen," notes the Oregon State study.

Some activists are not content to campaign for moratoriums backed by the United Nations. In 2001, the activists from the radical Environmental Liberation Front destroyed genetically modified trees at the University of Washington-Seattle and a poplar farm in Oregon.

Recall that under the precautionary approach favored by anti-biotech activists the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm. By opposing biotech trees, it seems that the activists have gotten it backward. The risks to the environment, specifically to wild forests, are far too great to postpone further research and development of genetically enhanced trees. The only sensible conclusion is that imposing a United Nations' moratorium on GM trees risks serious and irreversible harm to the earth's wild forests.


Greenie dam-hatred bears fruit in Australia

Brisbane could become the first capital city to wear harsh level-five water restrictions, which include a total ban on outdoor watering. Queensland Water Commission chairwoman Elizabeth Nosworthy said it was "almost inevitable" that level-four restrictions would be introduced in southeast Queensland at the end of next month. And if this summer is as dry as the last, when little rain fell in catchments, level-five restrictions could be introduced as early as next March.

Australia's capital cities have to date been able to avoid the level-five restrictions that have been imposed in regional centres such as Toowoomba in Queensland and Goulburn in NSW. Although water is a central issue in the Queensland election campaign, the Beattie Government has been tight-lipped about the forced water conservation measures, including the level-four restrictions set to be introduced after the poll this weekend.

Under level four, residents face mandatory swimming pool covers and a further crackdown on garden watering. At the same time, businesses will be forced to install water-saving devices, such as waterless urinals and water limiters on taps.

Ms Nosworthy said businesses would have to do much more to save water, but she indicated that the 180,000 swimming pool owners in southeast Queensland would be the main residential targets under level-four restrictions. She said 11 million litres of water were wasted every day through pool evaporation and mandatory covers were under consideration. "Pools is an issue that we really have to deal with," Ms Nosworthy told The Australian. "People in the community without pools would expect people with pools to be taking responsibility for doing the right thing." Industry sources put the average cost of a backyard pool cover at $500, with another $500 for a roller to operate it, but the state Government has promised rebates. Ms Nosworthy said level-four restrictions had not been finalised and proposals would be discussed with local councils at a meeting on September 11 - two days after the election.

Residents of Brisbane and other southeast Queensland centres were banned from using hoses under level-three restrictions earlier this year, with only buckets and watering cans being permitted for outdoor watering. Ms Nosworthy said that while buckets could now be used at any time, their use could be restricted under level-four rules to late afternoons and nights. She said restrictions might need to be phased in over time if, for instance, retail outlets did not have sufficient supplies of pool covers. It was unlikely residents would ever be able to again water gardens freely. "I think those days are over," Ms Nosworthy said.

Hawkins Home Garden Living Centres owner John Hawkins said more than 40 plant nurseries in southeast Queensland had been forced to close because of water restrictions, with the loss of 1000 jobs. He said the industry might not be able to withstand the impact of further restrictions. "Level five would wipe us out altogether," he said. Premier Peter Beattie has denied he called an early election to avoid community anger at level-four restrictions.



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 September, 2006

Greer, the disgusting Greenie

Although he was an outspoken conservationist, lots of Greenies disliked Steve Irwin out of jealousy -- he got so much of the publicity and admiration that they crave -- AND he was a supporter of Australia's conservative government. So they made various specious complaints about him "disturbing" the animals he filmed. So what we see below from Australia's chief ratbag -- "publicity at any price" Germaine Greer -- is a regurgitation of that. It shows what scum she is (and always was) that she should at this time defame such a brave and brilliant man. It is a credit to Australia's responsible Left that her words were rightly dismissed by one of their chief spokesman as "politically correct claptrap"

Feminist Germaine Greer should keep her thoughts about the death of Steve Irwin to herself, Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said today. In an article in British newspaper The Guardian, Ms Greer said that the animal world had finally taken revenge on Irwin for causing stress to the animals he handled. "I think Germaine Greer should just stick a sock in it," Mr Rudd said in Canberra today. "You have got a grieving mother, you have got a couple of grieving young kids and a grieving nation and what to you get from Germaine Greer? You get a bucket load of politically correct pap - it's just nonsense.

"Steve Irwin was a nature conservationist, an animal conservationist and made a huge contribution to the preservation of wildlife worldwide. "And what do we get from Germaine Greer? - some gratuitous, politically correct claptrap. She should put a sock in it," he said.

Greer said she had "not much sympathy" for Irwin if he was grappling with the stingray that killed him on the Great Barrier Reef. Those on the boot with Irwin say he was not in any way harassing the stringray when it lashed out at him as he swam over it.

But The Guardian quoted Greer as saying: "As a Melbourne boy, Irwin should have had a healthy respect for stingrays, which are actually commoner and bigger in southern waters than they are near Port Douglas." She described Irwin's behaviour as "bizarre", noting the famed incident when he held his baby son while feeding a crocodile during a show at his Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast. "The whole spectacle was revolting," Greer said. "The crocodile would rather have been anywhere else and the chicken had a grim life too, but that's entertainment at Australia Zoo. "The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing ten times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn."

Police yesterday said footage of the incident showed Irwin in no way harassed or provoked the stingray.


Below is a reality-based account of Steve Irwin:

An American diver who owes his life to Steve Irwin says he was shattered to learn about the Crocodile Hunter's death. "He saved my life," an emotional Scott Jones said today from his home in Iowa. "I've lost a good friend."

Mr Jones was part of a tragic scuba diving expedition in the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Mexico, in 2003. Mr Jones' friend, 77-year-old Katie Vrooman, died during the dive after a sea surge knocked her twice against rocks. Mr Jones fought to hold on to her unconscious body for almost two hours and, while hanging off rocks and floating in the water, attempted to resuscitate her. Eventually Mr Jones had to let Ms Vrooman's body go and he spent a harrowing night alone perched on rocks.

In a lucky twist of fate, Irwin and his film crew happened to be in the vicinity shooting a documentary and heard an SOS call on their radio that two divers had gone missing. Irwin, who had never met Mr Jones or Mr Vrooman, decided he would abandon his film project to try to find them.

Mr Jones was precariously sitting on a rock outcrop dehydrated and scarred from being battered on the rocks. Irwin, dressed in his khaki shorts and shirt, dived in the water and swam across to save Mr Jones.

At the time, Mr Jones did not realise Irwin was a celebrity. The quietly-spoken Mr Jones said he had heard of Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan, but not the Crocodile Hunter. "After they got me on to the main boat, Steve helped me get my wetsuit off me and he went below to do something," Jones recalled. "Somebody behind me said 'So what do you think of the Crocodile Hunter?' "So I was looking around for Crocodile Dundee. I thought when the makeup comes off Dundee's looks must change. "But, when I finally got home my daughter turned the Animal Planet channel on and I started watching his show from then. "It was wild. He was jumping on crocodiles and things like that."

Jones and his wife Deborah sent flowers to Irwin's wife, Terri, and kids, Bindi and Bob. They are also planning a trip to Australia to speak to his family. "We'd love to go to Australia and tell his wife and kids just what a great man he is," Mr Jones, who declined to tell his age, adding it was a secret, said. "He was a hell of an educator, from kids all the way up to old farts like me. "He was a hero." Mr Jones, an experienced diver, said he was surprised a stingray, "one of the most gentle creatures in the ocean" caused Irwin's death.



Sweden has an international reputation for being environmentally progressive. With two weeks to go before elections, it turns our only a very small percentage of those politicians registered at Parliament actually have an eco-friendly car - and Green Party politicians are most likely to have a polluting old car.

Although ethanol, biogas and hybrids have been big sellers in Sweden the past few years, of the party leaders only Centre leader Maud Olofsson owns one.

Many cars produced in the 80s and before lacked catalytic converters, a small device used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from internal combustion engines. Through a chemical reaction, toxic byproducts from the engine are converted into less harmful emissions.

Even though politicians own so few eco-friendly cars, many have really old, toxin-spewing vehicles.

In the country's car parks, it is estimated 7 percent of cars lack catalytic converters. Politicians in the Green Party and the Centre Party - both of which claim a strong belief in a health environment - have an exceptionally higher number of dirty cars, reported TT.

Some 22 percent of Green Party cars and 18 percent of Centre Party cars lack catalytic converters.

If the boundary was set at 1994, the year converters became much more efficient, one half of Green Party cars pass wouldn't pass the test. About 42 percent of Left Party members drive cars made pre-94, and do 38 percent of Centre Party members



The growing Whitney glacier is portrayed as a rare exception but it is not. The Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand, for instance, is growing rapidly. I guess they will find some "special explanation" for that too

Whitney Glacier on Mount Shasta is growing, and scientists think global warming in Northern California is the reason. This is not the way global warming works in most parts of the world.

In the Arctic and the Antarctic, and all along the West Coast north of the California border, temperatures are rising and glaciers are melting. Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier on the northern end of the Cascades, for example, has retreated by nearly a mile in the past century and continues to shrink. But Whitney Glacier, on the southern end of the Cascades? "It's still growing," said Slawek Tulaczyk, a glaciologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

According to an article last summer in California Wild, a journal of the California Academy of Sciences, Whitney Glacier is the only ice river in the world that is larger today than in 1890. Tulaczyk and his team, who began studying the glacier in 2002 and now have expanded their work to the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada, link the advancing frozen mass to the unique way California is being affected by global warming.

While in the short term it means more snow, their findings also contain a dire forecast: High-altitude snowpack, a steady source of water for the state as the snow melts during the summer, is probably doomed. Tulaczyk said he and his team reviewed records dating back five decades collected from monitoring stations that measure the snowpack and its moisture content. By comparing those statistics against temperature trends, certain conclusions can be drawn. A key conclusion is that global warming is not just about rising temperatures, but about the capacity of warmer air to carry moisture.

As California's temperature rose by 1 degree Celsius over the past half-century, Tulaczyk said, the snowpack has moved higher up in the mountains. But because warmer air in the winter can carry more water, the amount of snow falling at the high peaks has grown. "At the higher elevations and on Mount Shasta there is more snow being dumped," he said. By their calculations, it takes a 20 percent increase in snow precipitation to counteract a 1-degree rise in the temperature.

So far, greater snowfall at the higher elevations has been able to balance out the loss of lower-elevation snowpack. But with models forecasting temperature increases of another 3 or 4 degrees, Tulaczyk said snow precipitation at the higher levels would have to double to maintain equilibrium. That's not likely to happen, he said. And that means that Whitney Glacier, as well as the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, soon will begin to disappear before the summer months when their water is most needed.

In a paper published by Climate Dynamics, Tulaczyk and his team reach this grim conclusion: Greenhouse-driven temperature increases will "result in the loss of most of Mount Shasta's glacier volume over the next 50 years with near total loss by the end of the century." In a separate paper, the research team says the same thing will happen in the Sierra Nevada. "Glaciers exist only where snow can persist through all of the summer," Tulaczyk said. "So, disappearance of glaciers on Mount Shasta would mean also that there will be no summer snowpack on the mountain. The mountain will be more like most of the Sierra Nevada. It will have a winter snowpack that will completely melt in spring and summer." ...

For now, however, the still-growing glacier can cause a different sort of problem. In July, during a hot spell, the U.S. Forest Service issued a warning to motorists: Highway 97 was being flooded because of the volume of water melting from Whitney Glacier.



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 September, 2006


A 2004 Science article by E. Palle, P. R. Goode, P. Montanes-Rodriguez, and S. E. Koonin entitled "Changes in Earth's Reflectance Over the Past Two Decades" and a follow-on 2005 Geophysical Research Letters paper by Palle E., P. Montanes-Rodriguez, P. R. Goode, S. E. Koonin, M. Wild, and S. Casadio entitled "A multi-data comparison of shortwave climate forcing changes" provide support as a reason for the recent observed upper ocean cooling that is reported in Lyman et al. The two Palle et al papers are excellent scientific contributions on the monitoring of the radiative imbalance of the climate system. The abstract of the Geophysical Research Letters article reads:

"Traditionally the Earth's reflectance has been assumed to be roughly constant, but large decadal variability, not reproduced by current climate models, has been reported lately from a variety of sources. We compare here the available data sets related to Earth's reflectance, in order to assess the observational constraints on the models. We find a consistent picture among all data sets of an albedo decreased during 1985-2000 between 2-3 and 6-7 W/m 2, which is highly climatically significant. The largest discrepancy among the data sets occurs during 2000-2004, when some present an increasing reflectance trend, while CERES observations show a steady decrease of about 2 W/m 2."

An important excerpt from the paper is,

"One of the theoretical arguments used by Wielicki et al. [2005] against the large albedo increase in 2003 was the lack of response (cooling) in global temperatures and/or ocean heat content. This can be solved by the new ISCCP data, where the cloud increase 2000-2004 is mainly due to increasing mid and high clouds. These high altitude clouds will increase the Earth's reflectance, especially if the increase occurs over the relatively dark oceanic areas, but the net forcing of these high cloud changes is probably near zero or even positive, due to their strong infrared absorption."

The Lyman et al paper suggests that the net forcing is actually negative. The Wielicki et al 2005 Science paper is entitled "Changes in Earth's Albedo Measured by Satellite" by Bruce A. Wielicki, Takmeng Wong, Norman Loeb, Patrick Minnis, Kory Priestley, and Robert Kandel with the abstract:

"NASA global satellite data provide observations of Earth's albedo, i.e., the fraction of incident solar radiation that is reflected back to space. The satellite data show that the last four years are within natural variability and fail to confirm the 6% relative increase in albedo inferred from observations of earthshine from the moon. Longer global satellite records will be required to discern climate trends in Earth's albedo."

Thus the Wielicki et al 2005 paper was published to refute the Palle et al Science paper. An unsettling issue with the two Science papers, is that Palle was refused the opportunity to publish a response to the Wielicki et al criticism of their research. This is yet another example where a magazine that reports on climate science has inappropriately taken sides on an issue, and used its position to squelch alternative views of the science.

The Lyman et al paper, [preprint here] which documents ocean cooling, provides scientific support for the finds in the Palle et al study.


Global warming tops post-Katrina worries

A year after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, global warming alarmists are still exploiting the intense hurricane season of 2005 for political purposes. A new study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute explores the relationship between tropical storms and climate change and makes recommendations for what policy makers can do to reduce exposure to such dramatic weather events in the future.

Contrary to some activist rhetoric, the science linking global warming with hurricanes remains a field of active inquiry and dispute. Current research indicates that some storms may get stronger, but others may get weaker, while the question of whether intense hurricanes have gotten more frequent has received differing answers depending on how far back one cares to look. “The findings of scientists working with tropical storm data continues to evolve, as does our understanding of how global warming will affect other elements of the climate,” said CEI Senior Fellow and co-author Marlo Lewis. “Given the lack of knowledge about how much storms will actually change in the coming years, it is imperative to direct government funding to the problems we can actually do the most about.”

Diverting precious resources into policies designed to reduce global warming rather than strengthen our resiliency in the face of hurricanes actually harms people in hurricane-prone areas. Instead, government policies should concentrate on reducing perverse incentives that encourage development in hurricane-prone areas. “The one thing that is clear about hurricanes and global warming is that the question is largely theoretical and of no help to Americans who live in hurricane-prone areas,” said CEI Senior Fellow Iain Murray. “Congress and the states need to think hard about whether their policies have brought misery to those people and reform them for the better.”



A good short sharp comment from Jeff Jacoby. See the original for links

``Traffic congestion is choking our cities, hurting our economy, and reducing our quality of life,'' begins a new report from the Reason Foundation, the respected libertarian think tank. Rush-hour gridlock paralyzes 39,500 lane-miles of roadway each year, eating up $63 billion in lost time and fuel. But much worse is to come. By 2030, the number of severely congested lane-miles will reach nearly 60,000 per year, an increase of more than 50 percent. Commuters in the largest metropolitan areas will spend 65 percent more time in traffic than they do now. Within 25 years, at least a dozen major cities will be choked with travel delays worse than in today's Los Angeles, which is notorious for having the worst traffic congestion in America.

The solution is the obvious one: Build more highways, and manage them more intelligently. ``The old canard `we can't build our way out of congestion' is not true,'' the authors write. They estimate that 104,000 new lane-miles will be needed by 2030, at a cost of about $21 billion a year, much of which could be raised through electronic tolling. The return on that investment would be a stunning 7.7 billion fewer hours spent in traffic each year, along with all the wealth and freedom those time savings would generate.

All this is heresy, of course, to the car-haters and PC nannies who are forever lecturing us to quit driving and use mass transit. But we are overwhelmingly a nation of drivers; the real ``mass transit'' is the traffic on our highways. If the highways don't grow to keep up with that traffic, the strangulating misery of gridlock will only get worse.

Kyoto not the way to cool the world

The Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse emissions is ineffectual and the world must be more realistic about the chances of preventing climate change and prepare for the inevitability of global warming, according to the head of one of Britain's foremost scientific societies. Frances Cairncross, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and chairwoman of the Economic and Social Research Council, was addressing the Festival of Science in Norwich, east England. She told Britain's biggest general science meeting that while measures to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming were essential, they had been emphasised ahead of the equally vital need to develop ways of coping with climate change. Ms Cairncross said the Kyoto Treaty would not stop temperatures rising, as the US and large developing nations such as China and India were not involved. She said even if a global agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions was reached, a significant degree of warming was still likely.

London's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Ms Cairncross said developing drought-tolerant crops, constructing flood defences, improving building insulation or banning building close to sea level were as important as cutting emissions. She said the world needed to be more realistic about the chances of preventing climate change. "We need more sheltered public spaces. It is going to be either sunnier or rainier," Ms Cairncross said. Plants, insects and animals that needed to migrate north away from hotter climates should be provided with species corridors, among many other measures, she said. "Adaptation policies have had far less attention than mitigation and that is a mistake," Ms Cairncross told the meeting. "We need to think now about policies that prepare for a hotter, drier world."

Ms Cairncross said the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions was having little impact. India and China - representing a third of the world's population - had not signed up and the US "does not take any notice". Developing a successful global deal would mean "persuading this generation to accept sacrifices on behalf of posterity; and persuading countries that will gain from climate change, or lose little, to take action not on behalf of their own grandchildren but of the descendants of people in other nations". "We cannot relocate the Amazon or insulate coral reefs, so we need mitigation too," she said. "But the Government could and should put in place an adaptation strategy right away."

Despite the arguments about the mix between renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels, the bottom line was that, "with present technologies, no combination of existing energy sources can conceivably bring about the reductions in energy use that we need, or at least, not without a disruption that is politically unimaginable".

Ms Cairncross's message will be controversial as many environmental groups have discouraged talk of adapting to global warming as an inevitability for fear that it will hand politicians an excuse for failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Extreme rainfall has become more frequent and intense over the past 40 years in parts of Britain, particularly in Scotland and the north of England. Scientists from Newcastle University - who analysed British weather records from 1961 to 2000 - say the findings provide further evidence of climate change. They also suggest that the five million people who live near rivers - 10 per cent of the British population - can expect to be flooded with increasing regularity in the future, which has implications for the management of flooding and water resources.



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 September, 2006

Britain: The war on hot air

In the 1980s it was the bomb, in the 1990s globalisation. Now CO2 is the enemy du jour. Jonathan Leake on why green is the new black

It looked like any other demo. Hundreds of young protesters swarmed around the police on Thursday waving banners and shouting slogans; a few were arrested — and then the rest went home. Each week in London and other major cities such protests are routinely ignored by the public and the national media. However, in the candlelit tents pitched in a field close to Yorkshire’s mighty Drax power station, a hard core of protesters have spent the past few nights celebrating one of the green movement’s greatest publicity coups in years.

“We had 600 people, hardly enough to fill Trafalgar Square,” gloated one protester, “but at Drax we got top billing on every news programme and coverage in every newspaper. It shows that climate change is an issue whose time has come.”

Such good organisation. Such clever media management. Could it be that these demonstrators had a bit more to them than it seemed? Indeed they did. Around half of those attending the Drax climate camp were veterans of diverse direct action groups including road protesters, anti-globalisation demonstrators and anti-GM groups.

“Drax was like a reunion,” said Mark Lynas, an environmental activist and author. “There were dozens of familiar faces, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. It was hugs and kisses all round.”

This alliance has alighted upon a common goal that they hope to make the cause celebre of the decade: a war on carbon dioxide.

Never mind that Drax is a highly efficient energy provider or that Britain cannot function without its electricity: the multi-chimneyed behemoth produces 7% of British CO2 pollution. Therefore, it is a target for protest. The Drax protesters are planning further demonstrations and disruption at power stations, factories, airports and motorways around Britain. “Anything that produces CO2 in large quantities is now a target,” said one activist.

Their campaign against CO2 is a vehicle for a much more radical political agenda, however. “Our movement is based on questioning the whole basis of economic growth,” said Robbie Madden of Rising Tide, one of the organising groups. “The road protesters provided the inspiration for the Drax camp. We have an honourable tradition of breaking the law for a higher aim which is to change the way people live and think. Climate change is an issue that can help us do that.”

How intriguing then that David Cameron, the Conservative leader, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, are also riding this environmental bandwagon. On Friday, Cameron announced that the Conservatives would join Friends of the Earth’s call for new environmental taxes and legislation to cut Britain’s CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger was putting the finishing touches to a landmark agreement to slash California’s CO2 emissions by 25% by 2020. Schwarzenegger has made it clear that he thinks his new environmental taxes will get him re-elected. Similarly, the Conservatives’ own polls have shown that Cameron’s green policies are playing a major role in giving him his recent lead over Tony Blair.

If the war on CO2 emissions has become such fruitful ground for tacticians of both the left and the right, there is obviously something afoot. Could it be that this congruence of radical chic and mainstream politics marks the point at which the anxious public begins to accept real changes in lifestyle to halt global warming?

Scientists have been warning about the dangers of global warming for more than a decade now. Only last week, John Holdren, new president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, suggested that global sea levels could rise 13ft by the end of this century — much higher than previous forecasts. “We are experiencing dangerous human disruption of the global climate and we’re going to experience more,” Holdren said. Like Sir David King, Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser, Holdren believes that the world has just a couple of decades to take the action needed to limit the global temperature rise to no more than 2C. Above this level, he warns, the world would face catastrophe from runaway warming that could melt ice caps and glaciers and force hundreds of millions from their homes.

Such warnings have been largely ignored by the general public in the past. No longer. In June, supermarkets were shocked to find themselves the target of a demonstration by the Women’s Institute (WI). Mothers were mobilising against them for using too much packaging — a prime source of CO2.

WI members all over the country demanded to see supermarket managers and then remonstrated with them on the shop floor. Soon afterwards, Tesco announced it would be cutting down on plastic bags and packaging. It also launched a multi-million pound celebrity advertising campaign in which consumers are urged to stop using plastic bags. “We all know we are using too many carrier bags. That’s why from now on, we’ll give you a green Clubcard point every time you re-use a bag,” says the Tesco website.

The backlash against gas-guzzling vehicles, especially 4x4s, has also spread rapidly. The Alliance Against Urban 4x4s now operates in cities across the country. “We want to make people realise that driving a big 4x4 in town is as socially unacceptable as drink-driving,” said one activist last week.

There are clear signs that people are beginning to alter their lifestyles to become green. Recycling, once the preserve of the few, has become almost the norm. Travelling by air is no longer the automatic option. Energy providers promote their green credentials. Octavius Black, 38, managing director of Mind Gym consultancy, flies regularly for business but has cut out holiday flights. “Since I watched Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, about climate I have now given up taking flights to go on short holiday breaks and I am cutting down on business flights whenever I can,” he said. “I also changed my electricity supplier to one that uses renewables.”

It is hard to judge how far such behaviour extends. Flight bookings are surging, and the number of cars on the road is also increasing. But, a website-based service that calculates carbon emissions and invests in projects to offset them, has seen business surge recently with a 10-fold increase in sales. Similarly, the number of holidays from Britain sold as “responsible” or “sustainable” has now risen to 450,000 a year. This is still a small percentage of the total but, according to the consumer research firm Mintel, by 2010 the annual “ethical” holiday market from the UK will have swollen to 2.5m trips a year — not all of them climate-related but apparently indicative of an electorate increasingly willing to make sacrifices to safeguard its future.

While the new Tories capitalise on this sea-change, Labour still seems to be floundering. “So far Cameron has stolen all the green limelight,” said a government advisor in Defra, the environment ministry. “He doesn’t have any policies but he does look good and we have been left behind.”

The government’s efforts to deal with climate change have long been crippled by the fear that any meaningful measures would involve taxation. It remembers the fuel tax protests of 2000 when lorry drivers threatened to bring the country to a standstill over the rising cost of fuel. The green movement has been planning to reverse that setback ever since. Two years ago the chief executives of Britain’s biggest environmental groups — ranging from Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Greenpeace to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) — began regular private meetings in London.

The outcome of those discussions is the Stop Climate Chaos campaign, a coalition of around 30 organisations which, says Tony Juniper, director of FoE, aims to take climate change out of the ghetto. “We want to make it a truly populist issue with a mass movement that will force it up the political agenda.” Stop Climate Chaos will hold its first big demonstration in London on November 4. With its emphasis on saving mankind from self-destruction, it hopes to equal the pulling power of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which at its peak in the 1980s had more than 1m members.

What may concern ministers most is not that the Drax militants are expected to turn up on November 4 but that middle England is likely to come along, with delegations expected from the RSPB, the WI, Oxfam and many more highly respectable groups. Cameron’s green Conservatives are also expected.

For the RSPB, traditionally one of the least militant of organisations, it will be the biggest demonstration it has been involved with. “The government is not making enough progress on climate change and we want to generate political pressure to change that,” said Mark Avery, the RSPB’s director of conservation. “We have more than a million members — that’s more than all three main political parties put together. They would do well to remember that.”

(From The Times)


President Bush wrote this on March 13, 2001, "As you know, I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy. The Senate's vote, 95-0, shows that there is a clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns."

The United States Senate by a 95-0 vote rejected the Kyoto Treaty--that means Democrats and Republicans were unanimous. That means Clinton, Kerry, Kennedy, Schumer, Boxer, Feinstein and every other radical liberal voted against confirming the Kyoto Treaty. They knew it would harm American jobs, our economy, families, and yes, it would harm our environment.

But, happily for the 49 other states, our Governor supported only by Democrats in promoting AB 32, is willing to risk the California economy. I know that Texans, the Utah economic development commission, Arizona business leaders must believe they died and gone to heaven. They won't have to sell their States to California business, they will have a choice of businesses to accept.

Senator Chuck Hagel, July 24, 2002 reminded us that Bill Clinton, even though he signed the Treaty, refused to allow the Senate to vote on it (his Vice President never complained about that, Al Gore), " The Clinton Administration never submitted it to the Senate for debate and consideration. I suspect it is because they knew what is still true today - if put to a vote in the Senate, the Kyoto Protocol would face resounding defeat."

He went on to say: "The Kyoto Protocol is collapsing under the weight of the reality of its economic consequences." Hagel is not a conservative Republican, he is a McCain Republican, yet he understands the economic consequences were wrong for the United States.

The Mercury News described AB 32 this way, "The bill, AB 32, mandates that California reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent -- to 1990 levels -- by the year 2020. Major carbon-emitting industries will be forced to report their emissions to the state Air Resources Board, which will craft regulations to reach those goals. Those regulations would take effect in 2012."

``Being the only state to have absolute caps on carbon emissions puts California at a competitive disadvantage,'' said Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, who predicted that the legislation ``will have little impact on global climate change but a severe negative impact on California's economy.''

Every Republican in the California Assembly and State Senate voted against AB 32, the Schwarzenegger/Democrat California version of adopting the Kyoto Treaty. No one believes this creates jobs, the only debate is how many jobs it will cost. Just like Democrats believe tax increases create jobs, they and the Governor are playing Russian roulette with the economy and the families of California.

Republican Assembly leader Plescia was quoted in the RoundUp, "Assembly Republican Leader George Plescia of San Diego condemned the agreement shortly after it was announced." "'Adopting costly and unattainable regulations will drive businesses and jobs out of California into other states -- and even into other countries with no commitment to improve air quality,' he said in a statement. "



Eco-author Jared Diamond says humankind is committing "ecocide" by failing to recognize environmental degradation before it is too late and bringing on its own collapse. Diamond says such societies as the Mayans of Central America, and the Vikings on Greenland likewise brought about their own doom. He warns many modern societies are also headed for eco-doom--including the State of Montana. The state of Montana? In collapse? Why?

Diamond claims key problems, including raging forest fires, unsustainable farming, and impending climate change. Montana 's first problem, Diamond says, is that its vast forests are threatened by huge forest fires. It costs the federal government too much to thin the trees and take out the dead wood, which lightning ignites into massive flames. The state's timber industry has already declined 80 percent, which Diamond says is because Montana can no longer compete with tree-growers in warmer climates.

Debra Okonski, reporting for the Montana think-tank PERC, says the federal government has blocked Montana timber harvests--responding to the tree-huggers like Diamond. She says the state's private forest owners keep their trees thinned, their forest fuel loads low, and profitably sell timber. Montana certainly won't run out of trees in the middle of a global warming. Both warming and additional CO2 stimulate tree growth.

Diamond claims Montana's farming will collapse due to soil erosion, fertilizer pollution, and spreading salt water seeps. Fortunately, technology, is already resolving those problems. No-till farming uses herbicides to control weeds rather than plowing, and cuts soil erosion by 65-95 percent. It similarly cuts fertilizer run-off from the fields. No-till also doubles soil moisture. Montana's no-till farmers no longer fallow half their 9 million acres every year, leaving them bare to searing winds and explosive raindrops. Ending fallow also helps prevent the downhill seepage of salts from fallow fields, which Diamond says caused the salinity problem.

Global warming will reduce the snowmelt for irrigation, says Diamond. Meanwhile, Egypt has bioengineered a new wheat variety that needs only one irrigation per season, instead of eight--because of a gene borrowed from barley. The new drought-proof wheat, farmed with no-till, will help Montana to stay in the wheat business.

Diamond goes on to lament "rich people" buying land in Montana for second homes. However, he vacations there himself, noting that recreation is one of the booming industries of the 21st century. If Montana manages its forests and wildlands well, it ought to harvest more and more dollars from skiers, hunters, fisherman, and a wide variety of vacationers. This is collapse?

Diamond believes the Modern Warming is being caused by human-emitted CO2. The planet is certainly warming, but the microfossils in seabed sediments tell us the Earth has had 600 moderate, natural warmings in the last million years. Solar-created beryllium isotopes in the sediments link the warming to changes in the sun's irradiance. The Modern Warming may favor some shifts in Montana's tree species. After the last Ice Age, the warming climate triggered a rapid spread of lodgepole pine in Montana and Douglas fir across the Pacific Northwest. But that's adaptation, not collapse.

Jared Diamond is overstating our environmental problems, and ignoring strategies and technologies that make modern societies more sustainable. That's not information, it is alarmism.



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 September, 2006

Global warming: Too vital for guesses

Growing belief in global warming is pressuring governments and scientists to get their projections right says environment writer for "The Australian", Matthew Warren:

Al Gore is a kind of nerdy superman. He pushed the development of the internet, won the popular vote in the 2000 US presidential election without being elected and has made a movie about himself giving a slide show about saving the planet from climate change. His film An Inconvenient Truth, unsurprisingly, has polarised believers in severe climate change and their critics with its dire predictions of "a planetary emergency", including melting ice sheets, rises in sea levels, more frequent and severe cyclones and spreading tropical diseases. Due to open in Australia on September 14, the film catalogues mainstream science on climatic change as the basis for a swift and decisive shift to lower greenhouse gas-emitting energy systems across the developed world.

Prominent Australian climate-change sceptic Bob Carter, a geologist at James Cook University in north Queensland, provided this blunt review: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."

Cinema launches of the film across the world inevitably leave a trail of scientists praising or condemning the former US vice-president's claims. Despite nearly two decades of consolidated research on the subject, there is still limited agreement about climate-change science. It is accepted that in the past 4.6 billion years the Earth's surface temperature has had a series of significant warm and cool periods, much hotter and cooler than now. Natural global warming 20,000 years ago removed giant sheets of ice that would have buried much of the northern hemisphere. The Earth is in a relatively cold period, not a warm one. Within these significant periods are much shorter and sharper natural fluctuations in temperature.

In the past millennium, temperature changes have manifest into smaller warming and cooling cycles; a noticeably warm spell from 1000 to 1400 called the Medieval Optimum, during which came the Viking colonisation of Greenland, followed by a Little Ice Age that lasted until the mid-19th century.

The Earth has been warming for about the past 200 years, a split-second in geological time. Since the start of the 20th century, global average surface temperatures have risen between 0.6C and 0.7C. Last year was the warmest year of the instrumental record, which dates back, coincidentally, only to the mid-19th century, when the present warming cycle kicked in. It is also agreed that the level of greenhouse gases have increased directly or indirectly because of human activities.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide are about 375 parts per million in the atmosphere, up from pre-industrial concentrations of about 280 parts per million. Other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are also higher. As Will Steffen, the director of resource and environmental studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, points out in a recent report to the federal Government, "the evidence for a warming Earth is stronger and the impacts of climate change are becoming observable".

Alarmists v sceptics: As the planet heats, so does the debate. The fundamental divide is between a growing majority of scientists who say there is increasingly certain evidence linking higher than predicted temperate changes with these known anthropogenic (man-made) increases in greenhouse gases, and a vocal minority who say such a claim is unsupportable.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988 and provides the collective opinion of government climate scientists from more than 120 member countries. It is considered the eminent body in the world on the science of climate change. Since its first report in 1990, the IPCC has been evolving its modelling of the complex climate systems and has become more confident and certain of its modelled climate projections. In the 2001 third assessment report, it projected a temperature rise of between 1.4C and 5.8C by the end of the 21st century. Its draft fourth report, due for release next April, has narrowed the projected temperature range considerably to about 3C at the present rate of greenhouse gas emissions. Stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at present levels would reduce this increase by about 1C by 2100. Increased confidence in improved climate models projects sea-level increases of 14cm to 43cm by 2100, with further increases of up to 80cm in the following century, projected increased storm intensity, but not frequency, and sustained reductions in rainfall in Australia of about 0.1mm a day.

It has been well publicised that such changes could inundate some island nations and low-lying stretches of mainland countries, notably Bangladesh. CSIRO research predicts the biggest local effect would be to increase the impact of storm surges, particularly on Australia's tropical northern coastline.

These new findings are unlikely to silence the critics of the IPCC who describe them as alarmists: a tight-knit self-serving peloton earnestly riding at increasing speed in the wrong direction. In reply, the climate-change mainstream portray their critics as a handful of cranky, anorak-clad sociopaths and contrarians operating mostly outside the accepted scientific processes who, given the chance, would argue about what time it was.

The sceptics continue to argue that the development and evolution of these climate models is self-serving and predictive: in other words, that they assume a causal link between anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and climate change and then retrofit their models to fit the theory. They claim that man-made increases in carbon dioxide levels are tiny compared with the Earth's natural exchanges: about 5.5 gigatonnes of carbon a year from human activity compared with about 750 gigatonnes in the atmosphere, another 1000 gigatonnes in the surface oceans and 2000 gigatonnes in vegetation and soils. The deep oceans, they say, contain 38,000 gigatonnes. To them, increased confidence in such modelling is inevitable but reveals nothing except the ability to refine and adapt new data to reinforce a predetermined, but flawed, thesis.

The sceptics argue that such modelling, even at its most advanced stage, is trying to reconcile natural systems that contain too many unknowns or unknowables to be meaningful. These include the complex interaction between the surface ocean and deep oceans, the role of currents in shifting energy around the planet and the complex interplay between the surface and layers of the atmosphere that includes myriad feedback effects. They claim these gaps inevitably have to be filled by assumptions, sometimes little more than educated guesses, which allow scope to manipulate outcomes and undermine the integrity of the findings. Such disagreement is absolutely normal in the history of scientific argument and debate.

What makes climate change so different is the stakes. The economic, social and environmental effects of a significant change in the Earth's temperature are potentially so severe that the issue has lured the interest of the broader community and business, and right on their tails are the politicians.

Beyond doubt? British philosopher Karl Popper observed that there was no such thing as an inalienable truth in science. Science, he said, was never right, it was always just increasingly less wrong. The contestability of any scientific theory is fundamental to the robust and progressive development of science. Only by continually challenging scientific theories do we make progress. While individuals in the political spin surrounding the climate-change debate repeatedly talk of the science being beyond doubt, the scientists are generally more circumspect. The IPCC talks of increased confidence in its models rather than in absolutes, and acknowledges some, albeit fewer, uncertainties remain about aspects of their modelling. Their critics are more certain of the uncertainty.

US paleoclimatologist Tim Patterson told a congressional committee last year that there was no meaningful correlation between carbon dioxide levels and Earth's temperature during this geologic time frame. "In fact, when carbon dioxide levels were over 10 times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half-billion years," Patterson said.

The hockey stick debate: This refers to the shape of one of the high-profile diagrams used by the IPCC to demonstrate the relative severity of recent climate change. US climatologist Michael Mann has used tree rings, ice cores and other proxies of past climates to reconstruct northern hemisphere temperatures during the past 1000 years. The modelling shows relatively stable temperatures for most of the millennium, then a sharp spike towards the end of the 20th century, producing a hockey stick appearance that gave a powerful visual cue to the scale of recent climate change and that figured prominently in public debate when the IPCC released its third assessment report in 2001. Mann's research said the 1990s were likely to be the warmest decade in the millennium.

In 2003, Canadian economist Ross McKitrick and engineer Stephen McIntyre tried to replicate the research and couldn't, claiming it was based on insufficient data and that it was the design of Mann's model that produced the hockey stick. What ensued was two years of claims and counter-claims on internet blogs and in the media between the scientists, and a growing band of supporters on both sides. Eventually the US Congress bought into the dispute and commissioned an independent review, which found that Mann's statistical work was flawed and unable to support the claims of the hottest century, decade and year of the past millennium. Yet further modelling by other climate scientists has since supported Mann's original conclusions.

What is a credible authority? Mainstream climate scientists repeatedly make the point that while they stick to the accepted regime of advancing their theories and models through the discipline of publication and peer review in important scientific journals, most of their critics do not. They also claim that many of their critics are industry-funded and not independent. Their critics counter that the IPCC process has been dominated by government-funded scientists with an interest in promoting a climate problem that would justify further research and therefore funding.

Policy response: The new IPCC report will further fuel demand for immediate and drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to contain the effects of increasing climate change. Given the most recent projections, it is likely that the suite of policy responses may need to consider processes to help adapt to climate changes that appear increasingly likely to occur.


New Report Warns Against Expansive New Regulation of 'Invasive Species'

Says Limits Would be of Dubious Value But Would Require Massive New Regulations on Property Use; Most 'Invasive Species' Actually are Beneficial

Calls by some federal lawmakers to add burdensome new regulations to quarantine, to control or to kill so-called 'invasive species' are of dubious environmental value and represent a real threat to property owners, 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, efforts on Capitol Hill to regulate non-native species -- plants or animals that are considered by some to be alien to a particular ecosystem -- is based more on "emotion rather than science." Gattuso argues that adding new invasive species regulations would be a disaster for sound scientific practices and would require massive expansion of government regulatory control on land.

The study, "Invasive Species: Animal, Vegetable or Political?," argues that most non-native species are not an environmental calamity but, in fact, adapt to their surroundings and are even useful for ecosystems, the environment, human health and industry.

"In spite of the fact that most non-native species are harmless, lawmakers are reacting to hype and exaggerations," writes Gattuso. "[T]here is no scientific evidence of actual global extinction caused by a non-native species. Nor do exotic species threaten species 'richness' or 'biodiversity.'"

To the contrary, non-native Asian oysters are better than native oysters at filtering out water pollutants. Non-native South American water hyacinth blankets eat raw sewage, which provides a natural way to clean up polluted waters.

"The well-kept secret about exotic species is that cases of destruction are the exception; most non-indigenous species are benign or beneficial," writes Gattuso. "Collectively, nonnative crops and livestock comprise 98 percent of our food system."

Soybeans, kiwi fruit, wheat and nearly all cattle are examples of invasive species. And several states such as Maryland, Vermont, California and South Dakota honor non-native species as their State Flower or State Birds. "In fact, invasives have become such a common part of our environment, culture and even diet that we don't think about them," writes Gattuso.

However, these benefits have not prevented Congress from introducing numerous bills that assign billions of tax dollars to eradicate or otherwise to prevent the spread of invasives. Under some lawmakers' plans, government would have sweeping new authority to screen out non-native species and to regulate these species where they exist - on private as well as public lands.

"The 'invasive species' bills pending in Congress are not based on science but rather assume all non-indigenous species are harmful unless proven otherwise," writes Gattuso. "The key problem with government's handling of the issue of non-natives is that it takes a simplistic view, bundling all the species together and exaggerating their effects on ecosystems and commercialism."



Rare but not impossible, Sacramento breezed through the month of August without reaching or exceeding 100 degrees. Consider it a reward for enduring the blistering heat of July. Temperatures in downtown Sacramento have remained mercifully in the double digits since a record-breaking heat wave ended July 27. "This is one of the nicest Augusts I can remember," said Don Noxon, who knows of what he speaks. A forecaster for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, Noxon has lived here since 1952.

That's not to say it hasn't been balmy in August before. Looking over the period of record, which stretches back 129 years, this is the 24th August in Sacramento to escape triple digits. Before 2006, the most recent year it happened was in 1991. It's worth noting that 1991 is distinguished by another bit of weather trivia: In that year, the mercury reached triple digits on Oct. 10, the latest date of the year. In other words, it's not over until it's over. September can be hot, too. An average September in Sacramento sees three days of 100 degree-plus temperatures.

So far, though, there appears no end to the spate of relatively mild days and cool nights. The forecast high for today is 97, moderating to the mid-90s on Saturday and low 90s on Sunday. Between Labor Day and Thursday, the forecast calls for highs between the mid-80s and mid-90s. The moderate temperatures of August had a noticeable impact on electricity use. Demand for the month, as tracked by the California Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid for about 80 percent of the state, reached a peak of 43,709 megawatts on Aug. 9.

By contrast, July's peak -- a record-breaker -- was 50,270 megawatts, reached on July 24. Another contrast: The overall average temperature in August was 1.9 degrees below normal, while July was 4.4 degrees higher than normal. The difference between the two months may have played a part in people's perception of August as unusually pleasant. As Dace Udris, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, put it, "Maybe it's because I hated the end of July so much that August seemed great." In terms of electricity bills, August may well turn out to be great -- or at least, not as bad as July, which produced some whoppers. SMUD said its preliminary figures -- based on a small sampling of 20,000 bills that have been prepared for residential customers, out of 560,000 -- show an average August billing of $95.07. That's 4 percent lower than bills in August 2005, and markedly below the average residential SMUD bill of $123.67 in July, Udris said. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. also saw significantly lower peak demand. Spokesman Jon Tremayne said it will be another week or so before the utility company can say what August bills will look like as a result.

The back-to-back unusual months of summer inevitably raise questions about global climate change. But they're not questions that climate scientists can definitively answer, at least not based on two months of weather. "Nobody makes statements about global warming based upon single months or single years," said Bryan Weare, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of California, Davis. "There are some projections that say the variability will be greater on a warmer Earth," Weare said. "But to try to make anything out of two months really doesn't make any sense."



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 September, 2006

Evidence Of Ancient SUVs In Antarctica

Post lifted from Cheat Seeking Missiles

Giant, prehistoric SUVs roamed the frozen Antarctic continent between 12 and 14 million years ago. It must be true because:

A 30-mile maze canyons in Antarctica was carved out of bedrock by the catastrophic draining of subglacial lakes during global warming between 12 million and 14 million years ago, according to university researchers who warn a similar event today could have serious environmental consequences.

Although scientists have previously theorized that the Labyrinth region in southern Victoria Land was created by water released from lakes that had formed under glaciers, researchers at Syracuse University and Boston University say they found geological evidence to bracket the timing of the last major flooding and link it to a global warming trend at the time. (source)

Warmies tell us incessently that it's our oil-fired lifestyle that's the problem, so we now can conclude that odd as it seems, there must have been prehistoric gas-guzzlers.

Remember, we can lick global warming! All it takes is adopting a less oil-consuming, less warm in the winter, less cool in the summer lifestyle ... and waiting out the current planetary temperature cycle.


The world's top climate scientists have cut their worst-case forecast for global warming over the next 100 years. A draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained exclusively by The Weekend Australian, offers a more certain projection of climate change than the body's forecasts five years ago. For the first time, scientists are confident enough to project a 3C rise on the average global daily temperature by the end of this century if no action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The draft Fourth Assessment Report says the temperature increase could be contained to 2C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are held at current levels.

In 2001, the scientists predicted temperature rises of between 1.4C and 5.8C on current levels by 2100, but better science has led them to adjust this to a narrower band of between 2C and 4.5C. The new projections put paid to some of the more alarmist scenarios raised by previous modelling, which have suggested that sea levels could rise by almost 1m over the same period.

The report projects a rise in sea levels by century's end of between 14cm and 43cm, with further rises expected in following centuries caused by melting polar ice. The new projections forecast damage by global warming, such as stronger cyclones, modest sea-level rises and further shrinking of the arctic sea ice.

CSIRO research predicts the biggest impact of sea-level changes of this scale would be to increase the effect of storm surges, particularly on Australia's tropical northern coastline. The forecast temperature rises would also result in lower rainfall over most of the Australian mainland and exacerbate the threat to the survival of coral reefs and shellfish by increasing the risk of bleaching and increasing the acidity of the ocean.

Australian Conservation Foundation energy program manager Erwin Jackson said theprojections required an urgent and immediate response from the federal Government to drive accelerated investment in low-emissions technology in Australia. "Every day we delay taking action, the problem gets worse," Mr Jackson said. "The Government keeps throwing up the costs of action but totally ignores the costs of inaction. "No one ever said that saving the planet would cost nothing - that's the bottom line."

A recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report on the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions estimated Australians would incur a fall in real wages of about 20 per cent if the nation was to unilaterally cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

John Howard this week said that sort of scenario would have an "enormously damaging" effect on the economy. "I accept that climate change is a challenge," the Prime Minister said. "I accept the broad theory about global warming. I am sceptical about a lot of the more gloomy predictions. "I also recognise that a country like Australia has got to balance a concern for greenhouse gas emissions with a concern for the enormous burden to be carried by consumers ... of what you might call an anti-greenhouse policy. It's a question of balance."

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the draft IPCC report was still undergoing a thorough review process before its approval by the panel next year. "It highlights the need for an effective global response to climate change as Australia alone cannot alter the pattern of world emissions," Senator Campbell said. "We are taking a leading role internationally to achieve effective engagement by all major greenhouse gas-emitting countries."

The new projections are based on the results of 23 climate models, developed by government climate scientists from IPCC member countries. According to current climate change models, stabilising global greenhouse gas levels to 400parts per million offers a good chance of avoiding 2C global temperature increases. This would require global emissions to be 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

CSIRO recently concluded that the goal of 60 per cent reductions might be considered the minimum needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Any further reductions in global temperatures would require cuts in emissions of about 80-90 per cent in industrialised countries by 2050, which would require a faster transition to near-zero emissions technologies.



Understanding hurricane history takes on new urgency in the wake of the worst hurricane season on record. In 2005, the Atlantic basin produced more tropical storms, 28, and more full-blown hurricanes, 15, than any year in at least the past half century. Last year, memorable for its four major hurricanes, could also lay claim to three of the six strongest storms on record. And as bad as it was, the 2005 season was just an exclamation point in a decade-long hurricane onslaught, which will end-well, scientists can't agree on when, or even whether, it will end.

That's because late last year, around the time Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore in Mississippi, climate scientists were engaged in an urgent debate. According to one group, the increasing intensity of Atlantic storms comes from a natural climate cycle that causes sea surface temperatures to rise and fall every 20 to 40 years. According to another group, it comes from human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. (So far, no one has linked the number of hurricanes to global warming.) In the first scenario, the fever in the Atlantic might not break for another decade or more; in the second, it might last for the rest of this century and beyond.

After the war, the U.S. Weather Bureau-renamed the National Weather Service in 1970-established a formal program of hurricane research. To study these formidable whirlwinds, flights continued to transport scientists through turbulent eye walls and the eerie stillness of the eye itself. In the 1960s, earth-orbiting satellites began providing even higher observational platforms. Since then, forecasters have progressively narrowed "the cone of uncertainty," the teardrop-shaped blob that surrounds their best predictions of where a hurricane is likely to go. At 48 hours, track forecasts are now "off" on average by just 118 miles; at 24 hours, by less than 65 miles, both significant improvements over 15 years ago. Despite these advances, hurricanes undergo sudden surges in power that are easy to spot once they start but dauntingly hard to predict.

Like a giant bumblebee, the P-3 Orion buzzes in from Biscayne Bay, dipping a wing as it passes the compact concrete building that houses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Miami-based Hurricane Research Division. The plane, a modification of the submarine hunters built in the 1960s for the U.S. Navy, is one of two that fly scientists in and out of some of the planet's mightiest storms, including Hurricane Katrina as its engorged eye neared landfall.

Among those on that flight was research meteorologist Stanley Goldenberg, whose third-floor office looks, appropriately enough, as if a hurricane just blew through it. Goldenberg is well acquainted with hurricanes blowing though. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew demolished his family's rented house in Perrine, Florida. A computer-enhanced satellite image of the hurricane, with its monstrous circular eye wall, now hangs on his wall. "The bagel that ate Miami," he quips.

Hurricanes belong to a broad class of storms known as tropical cyclones, which also occur in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They do not develop spontaneously but grow out of other disturbances. In the Atlantic, most evolve out of "African waves," unstable kinks in the atmosphere that spiral off the West African coast and head toward Central America. Along the way, these atmospheric waves generate ephemeral clusters of thunderstorm-producing clouds that can seed hurricanes.

At the same time, hurricanes are much more than collections of thunderstorms writ large; they stand out amid the general chaos of the atmosphere as coherent, long-lasting structures, with cloud towers that soar up to the stratosphere, ten miles above the earth's surface. The rise of warm, moist air through the chimney-like eye pumps energy into the developing storm.

Ocean warmth is essential-hurricanes do not readily form over waters cooler than about 79 degrees Fahrenheit-but the right temperature is not enough. Atmospheric conditions, such as dry air wafting off the Sahara, can cause hurricanes-along with their weaker cousins, tropical storms and depressions-to falter, weaken and die. Vertical wind shear-the difference between wind speed and direction near the ocean's surface and at 40,000 feet-is another formidable foe. Among the known regulators of vertical wind shear is El Ni¤o, the climate upheaval that alters weather patterns around the globe every two to seven years. During El Ni¤o years, as Colorado State University tropical meteorologist William Gray was first to appreciate, high-level westerlies over the tropical North Atlantic increase in strength, ripping developing storms apart. In 1992 and 1997, both El Nino years, only six and seven tropical storms formed, respectively, or a quarter of the number in 2005. (Then again, Goldenberg observes, the devastating Hurricane Andrew was one of the 1992 storms.)

Five years ago, a possible explanation for this pattern emerged. Goldenberg shows me a graph that plots the number of major hurricanes-Category 3 or higher-that spin up each year in the Atlantic's main hurricane development region, a 3,500-mile-long band of balmy water between the coast of Senegal and the Caribbean basin. Between 1970 and 1994, this region produced, on average, less than half the number of major hurricanes that it did in the decades before and after. Goldenberg then hands me a second graph. It shows a series of jagged humps representing the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation, a swing of sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic that occurs every 20 to 40 years. The two graphs seem to coincide, with the number of major hurricanes falling as waters cooled around 1970 and rising as they began warming about 1995.

Scientists have yet to nail down the cause of the multi-decadal oscillation, but these striking ups and downs in surface temperatures appear to correlate-somehow-with hurricane activity. "You can't just heat up the ocean by 1 degree Celsius and Pow! Pow! Pow! get more hurricanes," says Goldenberg. More critical, he thinks, are atmospheric changes-more or less wind shear, for example-that accompany these temperature shifts, but what comes first? "We still don't know which is the chicken and which is the egg," he says. "The ocean tends to warm when the trade winds get weaker, and the trade winds can get weaker if the ocean warms. Will we lock it down? Maybe someday."

After leaving Goldenberg's office, I drive across town to the National Hurricane Center, a low-lying bunker whose roof bristles with satellite dishes and antennae. Inside, as computer monitors rerun satellite images of Katrina's savage waltz toward the Gulf Coast, top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials have gathered to announce the agency's best estimate of how many tropical storms and hurricanes are likely to form in 2006. It's not an encouraging forecast: eight to ten hurricanes, fewer than last year, but four to six of them Category 3s or higher. (Last year there were seven.) The predictions are based, in large part, on the multi-decadal oscillation. "The researchers are telling us that we're in a very active period for major hurricanes," says Max Mayfield, the center's director, "one that will probably last at least 10 to 20 more years."

From his 16th-floor office on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, meteorologist Kerry Emanuel commands a crow's-nest view of the esplanade along the Charles River, the dividing line between Boston and Cambridge. In 1985, he remembers, the windows wept with spray blown up from the river by Hurricane Gloria, a moderately strong storm that, nonetheless, made a mess of the Northeast. A painting by a Haitian artist that shows people and animals drowning in a storm surge hangs on a wall near his desk.

Last year, right after Katrina hit, Emanuel found himself in the media spotlight. A few weeks earlier he had published evidence in the journal Nature that hurricanes in both the North Atlantic and the western basin of the North Pacific had undergone a startling increase in power over the past half century. The increase showed up in both the duration of the storms and their peak wind speeds. The cause, Emanuel suggested, was a rise in tropical sea surface temperatures due, at least in part, to the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Even scientists who would expect hurricanes to intensify in response to greenhouse warming were stunned by Emanuel's suggestion that global warming has already had a profound effect. Computer simulations of a warming world, notes climate modeler Thomas Knutson of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, suggest that by the end of this century, peak sustained wind speeds could increase by around 7 percent, enough to push some Category 4 hurricanes into Category 5 territory. But Knutson, along with many others, did not think that the intensity rise would be detectable so soon-or that it might be five or more times larger than he and his colleagues anticipated. "These are huge changes," Knutson says of Emanuel's results. "If true, they may have serious implications. First we need to find out if they're true."

Emanuel's paper raised the ante in what has grown into an extremely intense debate over the sensitivity of the earth's most violent storms to gases spewed into the atmosphere by human beings. In the months since the dispute began, dozens of other studies have been reported, some of which support Emanuel's conclusions, others of which call them into question. The debate has grown so impassioned that some former colleagues now scarcely speak to one another.

Sorting out the differences between the two camps is not easy. Goldenberg and Landsea, for example, grant that greenhouse gases may be contributing to a slight long-term rise in sea surface temperatures. They just don't think the effect is significant enough to trump the natural swings of the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation. "It's not simply, yes or no, is global warming having an effect?" says Landsea, the science and operations officer for the National Hurricane Center. "It's how much of an effect is it having?"

Emanuel, while respectful of Landsea, is not backing down. In fact, he has now stirred up a second storm. "If you'd asked me a year ago," Emanuel says, "I would have probably told you that a lot of the variability in hurricane activity was due to the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation. I've now come to the conclusion that the oscillation either doesn't exist at all or, if it does, has no perceptible influence on the temperature of the tropical Atlantic in the late summer and fall"-that is, in hurricane season.

Emanuel says that much of the cooling in the tropical North Atlantic in the 1970s can be traced to atmospheric pollutants, specifically to a haze of sulfurous droplets spewed out by volcanoes and industrial smokestacks. Global climate modelers have recognized for years that this haze in the atmosphere acts as a sunshade that cools the earth's surface below. Emanuel says that now that this form of air pollution is on the wane (and this is a good thing for all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with hurricanes), the warming influence of greenhouse gas pollution, and its effect on hurricanes, is growing ever more pronounced. "We will have some quiet [hurricane] years," he says. "But unless we have a really big volcanic eruption, we'll never see another quiet decade in the Atlantic in our lifetime or that of our children."

Is such a grim prediction warranted? Scientists on the periphery of the debate aren't yet sure. For now, says meteorologist Hugh Willoughby of Florida International University, the points of agreement among experts are more important than the differences. Whether a natural oscillation or greenhouse warming is to blame, the odds of a major hurricane striking the U.S. coastline are higher than they have been for more than a generation. And the dangers such storms pose are higher than ever.

Adjusted for inflation, the 1938 New England hurricane destroyed or damaged some $3.5 billion worth of property. Today, estimates Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the same hurricane would leave behind a tab of up to $50 billion. The 1900 Galveston hurricane would cause property losses as high as $120 billion. And at the very top of Pielke's list of catastrophic disasters is a replay of the Category 4 hurricane that slashed into Miami in 1926, eighty years ago this September. Were the same hurricane to hit the Miami area in 2006, Pielke estimates, the bill could approach $180 billion. "And," he adds, "if you want to compare apples to apples, Katrina was an $80 billion storm."

More here


It's peak North Atlantic hurricane season again and much is being made of a supposedly increased hurricane threat due to man-made global warming. It's a contentious issue, to say the least. has tried to slice through a little of the overblown rhetoric to see what, if any, cold, hard facts are available.

If you look at a graph from the Chronological List of All Hurricanes Which Affected the Continental United States: 1851-2005 compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the years 2004-2005 represent the only time in this relatively short record that there have been two consecutive years with more than four hurricanes making U.S. landfall.

This, however, does not constitute proof of global warming-enhanced, landfalling hurricane activity. Since 1928 -- the mid-point of the period 1851-2005 -- there have been 134 landfalling hurricanes as compared to 145 landfalling hurricanes prior to 1928. So there's actually been a significant decrease in hurricane frequency though global temperatures likely have warmed somewhat since 1928. There also hasn't been an increase in the number of stormy seasons. Pre-1928, there were nine years with three or more hurricanes compared to only five years with three or more hurricanes post-1928.

There appear to have been more category four and category five storms post-1928 as compared to pre-1928 (12 vs. 9). But since that difference depends on measurements of maximum hurricane wind speeds, it could easily be questioned given dramatic technological improvements in modern hurricane data collection.

Looking at the data by decade, it's apparent that the anomalously quiet 1920s were followed by surging landfalling hurricane frequency in the 1930s and 1940s. But after the 1940s, the remainder of the 20th century was rather quiet.

The statistics for 2004 and 2005 may look ominous at first blush, but we have no way of knowing how the remainder of the decade will ultimately pan out. With annual landfalling hurricane counts of 0, 1, 2, 6 and 6 for the period 2001-2005, it could be a big decade -- or not.

The question originally posed, of course, was whether the increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is associated with more or more-severe landfalling hurricanes. To answer this question, we plotted storms against atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Curiously, the post-World War II period of increasing fossil fuel use and associated increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is concurrent with the most sustained lull in landfalling hurricane activity throughout the record. While this doesn't disprove any association between global warming and landfalling hurricane frequency or intensity, it lends no support to the contention either. It then strongly looks as though 2004-2005 was simply an unlucky anomaly since hurricane trends bear no similarity to the annual atmospheric carbon dioxide trend and, by extension, to global warming.

The last time there were 15 landfalling hurricanes in a four-year period was back in the 1880s. Even so, the entire 1880s ended up having only one or two more landfalling hurricanes than the preceding and subsequent decades. History, therefore, cautions us against jumping to rash conclusions about whether the opening decade of the Third Millennium will likely become a record-breaker. We'll have to wait and see -- but history suggests it's somewhat unlikely.

Finally, we've also plotted a new graph of global temperature data -- from the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research -- against atmospheric carbon dioxide data -- from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations available in the world. The graph shows very little change in either global temperature or atmospheric carbon dioxide level since 1850. That's because we plotted the ranges on scales that better suit planetary history as opposed to the global warming lobby's fascination with dramatized illustrations of relatively small temperature change over short time periods. Temperatures are plotted in degrees Kelvin, the absolute temperature scale, and carbon dioxide levels are plotted in terms of their historical range, which has been more than an order of magnitude greater than current levels.

Has the planet warmed over the last two centuries? Almost certainly it has. But we can say with equal certainty that, from a planetary perspective, it hasn't warmed very much and, when viewed on a more appropriate scale, nowhere near the "dangerous" levels claimed by alarmists. And no one knows with any certainty why the warming has occurred.

This is why the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) estimate of average global temperature change - 0.6 ń 0.2 degrees Centigrade during the 20th century - is really a trivial matter when viewed in the proper historical context. Simply put, a change in absolute planetary mean temperature of 0.2 percent is unlikely to have caused catastrophic climate change.



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 September, 2006


When the price of oil is high, talk turns to alternative forms of energy, including wind, biofuels and solar. One kind of solar energy isn't getting much publicity. But solar thermal power is quietly becoming a significant source of electricity in the Southwest. In the desert south of Las Vegas, crews working on a project called Nevada Solar One are assembling a parabolic trough of curved mirrors connected in a huge array. At the center, a closed-loop tube will be filled with oil that will be heated by the sun. The hot oil will flow around the 400-acre project and into a building where it will turn water into steam. It, in turn, will turn a steam turbine, which will make electricity.

Solar PV, or photovoltaics -- panels on roofs -- are what most people think of when they think of solar power. The largest PV array in the world, located in Germany, produces 10 megawatts of electricity. But Nevada Solar One will produce 64 megawatts -- enough to power 40,000 homes in the Las Vegas area during the hottest part of the day.



Popular fads are hard for politicians to resist when the harm of them is not immediately apparent

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Hummer-driving Republican with his own Gulfstream jet, has delighted Democrats and environmentalists by promising to sign a Bill that will require his state to reduce its carbon emissions by a quarter over the next 14 years. In the process he has established himself as the leading voice in the US for action on climate change, which President Bush has so far refused to tackle with federal legislation. It has also confirmed California as the country's most influential political laboratory and virtually guaranteed Mr Schwarzenegger's own re-election in November. Not bad for one flourish of what is presumably a rather robust gubernatorial pen.

The smog that fills the Los Angeles basin for most of the year has long since served as a reproach to Californians for their extravagance, but it has never dented their confidence in shaping the future. The Golden State has pioneered bold anti-pollution measures before, with mixed success. This time, the fate of an agreement to drive greenhouse gas emissions down to their 1990 level by 2020 will depend on the ability of research-led business to produce the requisite clean new technologies, and the willingness of the biggest polluters - especially power generators - to invest in it.

If they do, history may smile on the somewhat optimistically-named Global Warming Solutions Act. But Mr Schwarzenegger has already sealed an astonishing comeback by endorsing it. Nine months ago, after stubbornly promoting a series of failed reforms tailored to his partisan base, his political future appeared terminal. He has since appointed Democrats to run his own staff and the state's Environmental Protection Agency and steered decisively back towards the political centre, opening a 14-point lead over his nearest rival. A second term in office is now his to lose. If he wins, it will be thanks partly to a strategy of distancing himself from Mr Bush not just on climate change but also on such key domestic issues as stem-cell research, which he supports, and sending troops to guard the Mexican border, which he opposes.

Mr Schwarzenegger hopes his lead on carbon emissions will be "an example for other states and nations". It will certainly be studied carefully. California's relentless modernity, as well as its sheer size as the world's eighth-largest economy, gives its "local" politics global significance - and if he is as serious about the environment as he says he is, George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, on a visit to Japan, should head there from Tokyo even at the cost of 1.2 extra tonnes of carbon.

The Governor could propose a system that will require carbon emissions from every significant industrial polluter to be measured, with cuts mandated and enforceable by 2012. Mr Bush believes such cuts cannot be achieved by legislation. The more popular Mr Schwarzenegger believes they cannot be achieved without it. They agree, however, on the central role of new technologies in which California hopes to lead the world.



Popular fads are hard for politicians to resist when the harm of them is not immediately apparent

Taxes on motoring, flying and other polluting activities would rise under a Conservative government, according to George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor. He said that the Tories would raise more money from green taxes and less from taxes on employment, investment and savings. The policy is aimed at giving the Conservative Party a green image, but risks alienating both motorists and right-wingers, who want more emphasis on tax cuts. He made one of his clearest statements yet on tax on a trip to Japan, where he is studying ways of reducing pollution, including the use of super-fast trains to curb demand for internal flights. Today he will take a ride on a magnetic train capable of travelling at 360mph, which he said could virtually eliminate domestic flights if brought to Britain.

Mr Osborne and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, are touring Asia as part of their strategy to portray the party as a government in waiting, being taken seriously by foreign leaders and with a coherent range of policies. Mr Cameron will next week visit India, where he will meet business and political leaders. Speaking in Tokyo, Mr Osborne said: "I believe we in Britain should move some of the burden of taxation away from income and capital and towards taxes on environmentally-damaging behaviour. Instead of a tax system that penalises hard work and enterprise, I want to move towards more effective and fair taxes on pollution. I want the proportion of tax revenue raised by green taxes to rise." He refused to be drawn on any details of tax changes, but said they were considering fuel tax and vehicle excise duty, as well as tax on aviation, and a new carbon tax to help to tackle global warming.

Steve Norris, who leads a Conservative working group on transport, said that he was sure the party would reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, whereby the tax on petrol and diesel is automatically increased every year. The fuel duty escalator was abolished by Gordon Brown after protests by lorry drivers and farmers.

Ed Balls, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, hit back: "I think the question George Osborne failed to answer is: is he really saying that he thinks taxes on motorists should be going up now at a time when petrol prices are so high? If you are going to be a serious Opposition you need to come along and say what are your proposals, how would you pay for them. Until then people won't take you seriously."

The Shadow Chancellor also insisted that Britain should compete with the rest of the world by developing a series of high-speed rail links with magnetically levitated trains, connecting major cities. Such "maglev" trains already operate in Japan and China, and are being tried out in Germany. "If Japan is developing this technology, if China has already introduced this kind of train, if Germany is looking at this technology, why are we not doing so in Britain?"

Mr Osborne's claims that such travel would tackle global warming by reducing demand for flights was rebuffed by Cliff Perry, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who said that maglev trains produced more pollution than slower trains and were the "railway equivalent of Concorde". An aide to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, said that the maglev network would cost tens of billions of pounds. "No party will ever be taken seriously when they throw around commitments on tax and spending like this. David Cameron and George Osborne are proving that they simply do not have the maturity and experience to address the serious issues facing Britain's future," he said.


Australia: A gay Green politician

A Greens candidate has pleaded guilty to being a public nuisance after undercover police arrested him at a local gay beat. Candidate for Townsville John Boucher yesterday admitted visiting a public toilet in Townsville three weeks ago and undoing his fly outside a cubicle. But the 55 year-old said he was investigating the site after he heard homosexual men were being unfairly targeted by police at the beat.

Greens campaign coordinator Ian Gittus said Mr Boucher last night regretted having pleaded guilty, but wanted to put the episode behind him quickly. "He didn't go there for sex," Mr Gittus said. "He went there to investigate and as soon as he went in there, three undercover police arrested him." Mr Boucher is a probation officer with Queensland Corrective Services and is also a long-time gay rights activist.

Throughout his campaign he has argued for equal rights and social justice issues. Mr Boucher will remain part of The Greens campaign, with the full support of the party. "We do feel that police are harassing gay men in Townsville and we call for a hotline for gay men to call if they are being harassed," Mr Gittus said. Mr Boucher was fined $300.



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 September, 2006


Twenty states have set standards that require utilities to obtain some of their power from “renewable” resources like windmills and solar panels. California wants 20% renewable power by 2017 and New York 24% by 2013. California will succeed by conveniently defining hydroelectric dams as renewable. New York’s less inclusive definition gives it 0.2% renewable capacity today. Texas is ahead of schedule in getting to 2,000 megawatts (2% of capacity) by 2009.

Ask most people about renewables and you will probably hear about solar power and fuel cells. In reality renewables generate only 2.2% of America’s electricity. Thirty years of work on solar power and it still produces only 1% of that 2.2%. California has geothermal resources and Maine has wood chips, but almost everywhere else renewables mean windmills, helped along by substantial federal subsidies.

Of course, even if renewables are expensive they might reduce some of the global warming caused by CO2 emitted by fossil-fuel powerplants. There are uncertainties about whether warming will really be bad (think longer growing seasons) but let’s assume it actually will get several degrees hotter (choose your own figure). The nations that signed the Kyoto Protocols on global warming agreed to cut their emissions over the future. If each of them made the sacrifices of full compliance (the betting is that few will even come close), the world would end up only a tenth of a degree cooler. And if that big an effort gets no results, state and local government policies can only be empty gestures. Economic activity will shift away from them toward other areas or nations -- remember that China and India are exempt from the agreement.

Renewables may not help much with global warming, but the nation might still benefit from all the new jobs that will come from building and operating them. Recent work by Professor Lloyd Dumas of the University of Texas at Dallas predicts that happy result. Dumas cites research showing that if 20% of future power plants are renewable, they will create two to three times more jobs than if they all burn fossil fuels.

It’s the same argument we hear from consultants hired by local governments to estimate the employment that a tax-financed subway or stadium will create. Both they and Dumas conveniently forget that the money to pay these newly employed workers is unavailable for spending by consumers or investment by businesses. Workers who used to produce those goods move to other jobs, possibly after a spell of unemployment.

Even if new workers somehow materialize, electricity will be expensive. It takes skilled people to build and operate a megawatt of capacity, and more of them for renewable facilities than conventional ones. And more renewables are required to get the same output: clouds can make a solar panel ineffective, and calm air or gale force winds do the same for windmills. It takes about three solar generators or windmills to achieve the same dependability as a single gas-burning generator. Voila’ three times more jobs.

It is easy to invent policies that create lots of jobs -- just make delivery trucks illegal and create work for human porters. Want to create jobs, hire people to shatter window’s in homes and businesses and you would create a boon in the glass making industry. However, it wastes the skills and services of a labor force that could have produced things that people really wanted, just like a renewables policy.

All over the world, for several centuries workers have become more productive and their services have risen in value. Renewable power plants as currently constituted are just a high-tech method of throwing that improved productivity away.



Coal is the most geographically widespread and accessible hydrocarbon in the world. Its distribution is in marked contrast to oil and gas in that reserves are located in some of the major areas of energy consumption. As China and India have relatively poor oil and gas resources, coal is seen as central to meeting their future energy demand growth. Both countries have been expanding coal production at a rapid rate.

Since reserves are so widespread and prolific, in contrast to other hydrocarbons, coal scores high in terms of security of supply. It is also favored because of its low cost of extraction. The rise in oil and gas prices over the last three to four years has made steam coal look increasing economic as a power generation feedstock, while burgeoning demand for steel has increased the consumption of metallurgical coal.

Coal's failing is that it is dirty. Compared with gas, coal produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy. However, the cost and location of coal, combined with expected growth in energy demand, have led policymakers in many countries to conclude that the world's future energy needs cannot be met without coal. The International Energy Agency projects that coal use will grow each year until 2030.

Such a scenario is incompatible with targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Faced with two possibilities--to replace coal with cleaner alternatives or make coal clean--policymakers are opting for the latter. Not least in this calculation are the political difficulties of attempting to run down national coal industries.

The power industry has already made large steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations. Engineering firm Mitsui Babcock, for instance, is installing in China a supercritical boiler plant. A more efficient plant means less coal can be burnt for the same energy output, thereby reducing emissions per unit of energy produced. There is little doubt that the installation of more efficient coal plants is an important contribution to reducing emissions where it replaces existing coal-fired plants. However, when meeting additional energy demand growth, high-carbon-dioxide output capacity is still installed.

As a solution, some companies are promoting carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), which aims to capture carbon dioxide and store it permanently underground. CCS technology is not commercial at present, but companies such as Mitsui Babcock advocate building CCS-ready plants now so that CCS technology can be retrofitted once it is developed. However, there is no guarantee that CCS will ever be commercially viable on a large scale.


Australian Leftist governments plan to stop cow farts!

The success of the Labor states' proposed carbon emissions trading scheme may hinge on stopping cows breaking wind. A joint discussion paper released by the states says agricultural emissions must be cut by 60 per cent and part of the solution is reducing flatulence in cows. Livestock produces more than 60 million tonnes of methane gas annually - the equivalent of 10 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The discussion paper was released this month to support the case for a state-based carbon emissions trading scheme.

Prime Minister John Howard has attacked the idea and Premier Peter Beattie, although supportive, is concerned about the impact of the proposed scheme on Queensland's coal industry. The paper says agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide are a particular concern. "In order to achieve around a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by the middle of this century, agricultural emissions would need to be addressed at some point," it said. "Achieving emissions reductions in agriculture will require a significant research and development effort."

Reducing flatulence in cows is identified as one of the most promising research areas. In particular, it points to "preliminary rumen ecology" research being undertaken in Queensland. Scientists at the Department of Primary Industries are working on three projects. These include investigating whether bacteria found in the gut of kangaroos - which emit very little methane - could be used to reduce emissions from cattle and sheep.

Principal scientist Athol Klieve yesterday said three different types of bacteria had been isolated. "We have been looking at them in a fermentation apparatus . . . to see how well they can colonise, and see if they can reduce methane," he said. "There are promising indications that if we can work out a bit better the requirements they need to be able to persist in the rumen, they will be able to reduce methane emissions." Dr Klieve said the other two projects involved putting coconut oil and cotton seed in cattle feed. "It is known a lot of these liquid-based feed materials do reduce methane emissions," he said.



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.