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Archive for June, 2008

Tony Blair Sees The Light (Partially at Least)

Not your usual climate mumbo-jumbo by Tony Blair in today’s International Herald Tribune: “Breaking the deadlock“.

Apparently Mr Blair amongs all his other committments, also is the leader of the “Breaking the Climate Deadlock” initiative. This is good news in the sense that somebody somewhere finally must have recognised that at the current rate of negotiation, all talk about climate change and emission reduction truly is just hot air.

Mr Blair shows more insightfulness in other statements: no politician can count on long-term visions alone; whatever is proposed about climate change must be realistic; people should be able to “enjoy the material and social benefits of growth and consumption” even if CO2 emissions are getting cut; the Kyoto protocol cannot simply be repeated; every further agreement must be flexible and open to renegotiation should circumstances change.

There isn’t even any mention of biblical catastrophes. All in all, not the usual miserabilist rant, with a hint of optimism even. I am sure that’ll make Mr Blair very, very unpopular in AGW circles.

That said, there’s still important points to disagree with:

(a) Mr Blair fears the Copenhagen December 2009 agreement will see “each country giving as little as they believe possible”. Well, that’s what happens with international agreements

(b) The goal is still to set emission targets for 2050. That’s simply way too far in the future: most political leaders of 2050 have barely learnt to read, in 2008.

Is there any chance for a break in the “climate deadlock” I think so: provided there is enough flexibility, to the point of being ready even for the case of the climate not changing after all. Otherwise, we’ll go from one Kyoto to another Son of Kyoto, literally with much ado about nothing (or less).

Honesty on Nature’s Climate Feedback

I want to thank Olive Heffernan for being so honest: her blog at Nature’s Climate Feedback, that will surely make Lord Lawson proud despite a tad too many personal attacks, is definitely neither cool nor rational. Exactly “what it says on the tin”…

As for Rosenzweig et al.: could anybody please confirm or deny if the “30,000 phenomena” are the same 30,000 phenomena mentioned in AR4-WG2, chapter 1?

Earth, then Mars…Venus Next in Line for “Giant Impact” Explanation

Big news today about Mars’ peculiar north-south terrain divide having been caused by the impact of a Moon-size object shortly after the planet formed. Since there is also strong evidence for Earth having undergone a similar impact, with a Mars-size planetoid, thereby forming our Moon, it would be odd to imagine that no such catastrophe ever occurred to Venus.

After all there’s lots still to explain about “Earth’s Twin”: a very slow retrograde rotation, an incredibly massive atmosphere and a relatively young (<500 million years) surface. To me, the whole setting cries out loud for an “impact” explanation, rather than the classic “it’s warm because of the CO2!” theory that says nothing about all the other peculiarities (and it’s not exactly necessary…).

Hansen’s “Desperation 350” – And Still They Travel

2008/06/26 4 comments

Full-page ad on the IHT on June 23 by the Taellberg Forum:

<350

Remember this number for the rest of your life

It is left to the reader’s imagination to hear music like in an old Bela Lugosi movie…

Anyway: such an effort is apparently linked to the 20th anniversary of Hansen’s warning to the US Congress about global warming.

We are told, CO2 concentration at the time was 350 ppm, and now it’s 385. We are also told that “Science says” the worst effects happen above the level of 450ppm.

Looks like it’s not too much of a worry then? Don’t even think about it.

For unfathomable reasons (=otherwise a lot of people would become inconsequential), the ad says that we have to go back to levels lower than 350ppm anyway (and yes, there is no scientific basis at all for choosing the value “350”) “peacefully and deliberately, with all possible speed” (rather ominous words if you ask me…): because “<350 is essential to maintain human and planetary well-being

(planetary???)

Why then “350”? Perhaps as a celebratory level for Hansen’s true guidance. But with planetary temperatures refusing to go up, I do expect lots more of this stuff in the near future

I have a small question though: if they believe in what the ad says then…why are they still travelling so much? For example, to the Taellberg Forum, june 26-29 in Sweden.

Spare a Thought for IATA

2008/06/26 2 comments

They emit very very little CO2 compared to everything else, they have set up a “4-pillar strategy to address climate change”, they have been hardly hit by gigantic fuel prices.

They have also been plagued for decades and decades by poor managerial and cost-control skills, resulting in a multitude of bankruptcies and often disappearance of once-thriving companies.

Still, that’s not enough for the miserabilists at the EU trying to force emission trading schemes on anything that moves. And so today, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, decided to pay for a full-page ad on the International Herald Tribune, detailing their perfectly mainstream ideas about climate change.

Much has been said about coercing evil Big Oil and Big Energy companies into emission trading schemes. Let’s see if airlines will be treated any better: one fears not, as the underlying goal is not so much actual emissions, rather the removal of whatever can provide fun

Algorino’s Opera

Very funny and inspired yesterday John Tierney in his parody of a letter to Al Gore about the upcoming opera based on his book “An Inconvenient Truth“.

No prize to guess who the main character Prince Algorino is meant to resemble closely…

Why Are Weather Forecasters Skeptical of AGW?

2008/06/18 4 comments

An interesting topic via the Global Warming blog on Accuweather, where Brett Anderson points to an article by Bill Dawson of The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Note in a couple of Dawson’s interviewees, a slight-but-steady series of slurs against weathercasters that don’t buy into the AGW faith:

Broadcast meteorologists are so busy disseminating information about near-term weather conditions[…] that they simply don’t have much time to keep up with scientific developments related to longer-term climate conditions

many “naysayers” […] are coming from a perspective of the policy first

they’re against it because they think it will hurt the economy

[the “naysayers”] are putting their own personal views – sometimes even fundamentalist religious beliefs – first

[they] have no academic training or degrees in meteorology

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Luckily, Messrs Anderson and Dawson don’t engage in such awful rhetoric, with the former publicly declaring

“from what I personally see, there are also a number of current and retired TV meteorologists with a good deal of atmospheric science eduaction/professional background that are also skeptical about man-made global warming”

Myself, I have a weather forecasting background…who knows, that might explain my skepticism about AGW…in any case, I find it natural to respect people whose forecasts are challenged by thousands of viewers against the hard evidence of each day’s weather.

Is Global Warming Invisible?

2008/06/18 1 comment

Is “global warming” invisible, or at least very, very difficult to depict, one wonders. How else to justify image-rich weekly The Economist’s decision juxtapose to an article about “climate change talks”, a picture of a smog-choked Chinese city? A place where the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is surely the least of their pollution concerns…

Evidently they had absolutely no way to show in pictures what “climate change” and “global warming” actually look like

This goes on par with Scientific American’s inability to find 10 “pictures of a warming world “ (slides 1 and 2 are just one single “evidence”; slides 4, 5, 7 and 10 are no evidence of anything; and slide 9 may be misleading…)

Andrew Revkin, (Language) Gymnastics Olympic Hopeful

2008/06/17 8 comments

Who needs to clarify between what’s certain and what’s possible, when it’s so much more useful to mix those up, especially if all you want to do is push forward your single-minded agenda about upcoming climate disasters?

For an example, step forward Andrew C Revkin, AGWer extraordinaire at the New York Times, and his recent article “Increase in carbon dioxide to have dramatic effects in U.S., report says“. A few excerpts (my EMPHASIS):

“IS influencing”
“WILL…disrupt”

“changes are unfolding in ways that are LIKELY to produce”
“main value of its PROJECTIONS”
“high CONFIDENCE”

“western states WILL face”

“anticipated water flows…are LIKELY”

“runoff…is EXPECTED”
“farmers…WILL face”

“plants are LIKELY to grow…”

“…but WILL BE more subject to…”

As you can see, all you need is a clever use of tenses, then you will be able to say pretty much anything. Including: “Increase in carbon dioxide may or may not have dramatic effects in U.S., report says” 😎

Too bad there’s no “language” competition at the Olympics, otherwise Mr Revkin would have been an almost-sure winner!

Well, At Least He Drives A Prius

This is surely old stuff for many, but still quite funny: a spoof Toyota ad campaign by David Krulik: “Well, at least he drives a Prius

Talk about giving too much importance to “saving the planet”… 😎

 (click on the picture to go to David Krulik’s site)

(note: the pictures are definitely politically INcorrect)

What Have VP Dick Cheney and Activist AGWers Got in Common?

What have VP Dick Cheney and activist AGWers got in common?

They all subscribe to a version of the One per Cent Doctrine, a kind of Precautionary Principle.

As reported by Jeremy Waldron on the London Review of Books commenting “Worst-Case Scenarios” by Cass Sunstein, according to Ron Suskind’s “The One Per Cent Doctrine” (2006) this is what the US Vice-president has to say on how to deal with potential nuclear threats:

If there’s a one per cent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaida build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response . . . It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.

It’s way too easy to read in there one of the favorite AGW lines:

If there’s a one per cent chance that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are tipping the planet towards an environmental catastrophe, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response . . . It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.

Readers of this blog may already know that I find all Precautionary Principles as literally abominable, a refusal of what makes us human. All proponents of Precaution as a Principle should just curl up on the floor and happily wait for life eventually to end, without fear of any danger of course.

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Still, as acknowledged by Waldron, there exists the issue of how to deal with unlikely-but-catastrophic problems. On this, I do not think anybody’s got a clear answer yet. The only sure thing is, Precautionary Principles won’t help, as explained by Waldron:

The trouble with the One Per Cent Doctrine, for example, is that it does not say enough about the costs that may be involved in our response […] we rely on regulatory regimes to investigate the consequences of the introduction of the new product. But the regulatory process takes time, and time may produce its own catastrophes. Many people believe, Sunstein says, that prohibitions on genetic modification or its over-regulation ‘might well result in many deaths’, presumably from hunger in developing countries which the stronger crops might have helped alleviate. […] The point is to alert us to ‘substitute risks’: ‘hazards that materialise, or are increased, as a result of regulation’. If governments take responsibility for avoiding catastrophic outcomes, they must also take responsibility for the catastrophes that attend their efforts at avoiding these outcomes, including other catastrophes that are not addressed because of the expense of addressing this one. […]

Interestingly, Waldron ends his review lamenting Sunstein’s “failure to devote more sustained attention to issues of rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged. […] Worst-Case Scenarios […] would have been a better book had it spent more time on the issues of distributive and corrective justice that attend the prevention of catastrophic harm“.

Because as things stand at the moment, AGW policies mostly hit the poor

 

Economist: AGW Policies Mostly Hit the Poor

2008/06/14 4 comments

Any way you turn the topic, there is no escape: AGW policy interventions such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions, will end up falling hardest on the poor.

That’s not my conclusion. It is what the Economist magazine (a convinced proponent of AGW) just published under the heading of “Buttonwood”. And it needs no commentary:

The fundamental problem is difficult to get round. If governments desire people to use less energy, they have to ration supply by price. They can limit frivolous use (gas-guzzling cars, televisions on standby and the like). But there may be a core demand for energy (heat, light, commuting) where consumers will resist cuts. For that part, the rich will always be able to outbid the poor (not to mention the politically powerful middle class). And that will plague green campaigners

Has Nordhaus Demonstrated We Better Do Nothing About CO2 emissions?

2008/06/09 8 comments

Kudos to the climate-change-believers at the New York Review of Books for providing almost 3 full pages to climate-heretic Freeman Dyson’s review of William Nordhaus’ “A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies” (Yale University Press) (and of Ernesto Zedillo (ed)’s “Global  Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto”).

Well it does provide a welcome change from the usual doom-and-gloom of Hansen, Flannery and McKibben, doesn’t it

Dyson (whose article has been rebuked on RealClimate with way too quick a contempt) doesn’t actually deal with the reasons for his skepticism on the dangers of global warming. After a long preamble on how efficient vegetation is at capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the NYRB article deals (among other things) with Nordhaus’s conclusions about costs and benefits of various possible climate-related policies, in a 100- and 200-year timeframe.

First of all, Nordhaus is very convinced about the need to put a “price” to carbon, to avoid “economic inefficiencies”.

It doesn’t sound such a bad idea, if the majority of people are truly convinced CO2 is a harmful emission. My main concern is, how does anybody find out what that “carbon price” should be, if not an arbitrary value?

As Dyson reports, Nordhaus follows “the conventional wisdom of economists” and does all computations for a 4% discount rate.

For mysterious reasons, this has become a point of contention, with the Stern Report using a discount rate close to 0%, and the RealClimate guys rather naively trying to argue for an equivalence between people actually living today and people possibly living in the future. Luckily, an AGW-believer with a solid experience in economics has torn such equivalence to pieces. It simply makes no sense, morally-economically speaking.

What is the point of stealing from the people of the present thereby removing plenty of resources from the very people of the future one is trying to provide resources to?

And what is the moral case, outside of economics? Well, let’s say you have a sick child and a single dose of medicine…would you really withold it just in case you would have another child, five or ten years in the future?

My criticism of Nordhaus is different. I would have rather preferred computations based on a progressively fuzzier discount rate, since the future gets harder and harder to predict (obviously) the further we try to look into the…future!

Leaving the rate at 4%, Nordhaus’ 1-century results are the following, compared to a “do nothing/business-as-usual” (BAU) situation:

(a) with a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, a $3 trillion net gain
(b) with an updated Kyoto protocol, a $1 trillion net gain (with the US), and zero (without the US)
(c) with draconian, Stern-like limits on emissions, a $15 trillion net loss
(d) with drastic-but-gradual, Gore-like limits on emissions, a $21 trillion net loss
(e) if a cheap way to capture and store CO2 (“low-cost backstop”) is discovered, a $17 trillion net gain

Dyson reports the conclusions as:

(1) Avoid the ambitious proposals
(2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop
(3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails
(4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent.

These objectives, according to Dyson, are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.

I am not sure I can agree with the above.

What I see is a strong case for doing absolutely nothing.

In scenario (a), in fact, the total loss for BAU is about $15 billion per year. Not much to cry about, really. 

Just the complex mechanism that needs to be setup and run for a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, with its load of intrinsic inefficiencies, should be more than enough to bring such a loss to zero.

Kyoto-like interventions (scenario (b)) look absolutely irrelevant, and of course both Stern and Gore (scenarios (c) and (d)) have the single-minded goal to make us all miserable (starting with the Chinese).

The one “hope” is in carbon capture and storing, something presented by Dyson in his preferred terms of genetically-modified trees that could reduce the atmospheric CO2 content “by half in fifty years”.

But…if you believe in CO2 as a greenhouse gas, reducing its atmospheric concentration by half will surely sound like absolute madness…a one-way trip to a worldwide refrigerator?

=======

All in all, then, it looks like the work of a convinced AGWer such as William Nordhaus has been useful in identifying what to do regarding CO2 emissions: nothing, zero, zilch, nada.

Will that accelerate the end of the AGW madness? I don’t think so. Perhaps the above is why Lord Stern, well aware of the overall situation, went through all the pains of trying to argue for a quasi-zero discount rate.

If logical arguments show the best course of action is to do nothing, that concept by itself will simply convince AGWer to become gloomier prophets of doom than ever.

You see…there simply is no AGW worry without catastrophism.

Consistently Working to Make Us All Poor

2008/06/06 5 comments

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard talks in his blog about a recent Goldman Sachs meeting about climate change. In particular, this is what Lord Nicholas Stern had to say after declaring that we have a 50% “chance of destroying civilization within the life-span of people already born, unless drastic action is taken to slow CO2 emissions“:

[We] will have to cut from 6 tonnes of carbon per capita to 2 tonnes

The above means a 90% cut in emissions for the USA, a figure that becomes “only” 83% for Europe. How can that be achieved?

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Well, we should acknowledge Stern’s consistency. He wants people’s activities to emit less carbon than at present; and he knows that the poorer people are, the less carbon they emit.

Hence his single-mindedness on getting everybody as indigent as possible, starting with a dent of 1.5 to 2.5% of world GDP “for insurance purposes“.

Actually, if only we were as destitute as the poorest landless peasant in Bangladesh or Zambia, there would be no reason to worry about the Earth’s climate.

Parallels between Lysenkoism and AGW

2008/06/06 23 comments

Timely broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time” series, about NOTE UPDATED LINK Lysenko and “lysenkoism”, the propaganda-based “science” that Stalin’s agricultural adviser managed to sell as “truth” from 1928 to 1962 at least.

In 1928, as America heads towards the Wall Street Crash, Joseph Stalin reveals his master plan – nature is to be conquered by science, Russia to be made brutally, glitteringly modern and the world transformed by communist endeavour.

Into the heart of this vision stepped Trofim Lysenko, a self-taught geneticist who promised to turn Russian wasteland into a grain-laden Garden of Eden.

Today, Lysenko is a byword for fraud but in Stalin’s Russia his ideas became law. They reveal a world of science distorted by ideology, where ideas were literally a matter of life and death. To disagree with Lysenko risked the gulag and yet he damaged, perhaps irreparably, the Soviet Union’s capacity to fight and win the Cold War.

The MP3 of the programme can be NOTE UPDATED LINK downloaded here.

What makes it relevant to the climate debate is the list of parallels that can be made between Lysenko’s “Soviet biology and genetics” and contemporaneous thoughts of Anthropogenic Global Warming:

(a) Results, and success are declared before an experiment has completed (at position 12m10s, in the mp3 file above). In AGW, just look at the innumerable papers that take AGW as established truth, even as the debate on “attribution” is still very much open among mainstream scientists.

(b) Proponents always declare “victory”, no matter what happens, and are always ready to shift the ground (mp3 position: 14m15s). That’s quite common in AGW circles: nowadays, if the planet warms up or cools down, it’s anyway compatible with AGW theory.

(c) Science is presented as a series of “solutions”, not simply as “knowledge” (mp3 position: 19m45s). AGWers cannot disentangle research from advocacy: for example, the IPCC is politically active, to the point of qualifying for a Nobel Peace Prize.

(d) According to the scientists, central planning is better than free capitalism (mp3 position: 35m45s). From Al Gore to London School of Economics’ Professor Lord Giddens, there is only one thought: free markets are not good enough, and a big State intervention is needed to save the planet from climate doom.

Ironically,  the BBC guests laughed only up to a point to the witty remark made by one of them: that Lysenko’s personality and attitude would have made him a “guaranteed success in British science today” (mp3: 24m15s).

Even more ironic is the fact that Lysenko himself did come up with a geoengineering way to change the climate of Siberia (by planting trees in clusters, so that the weakest ones would sacrifice themselves to let the most resistant plants survive).

And in case you wonder: no, it didn’t work…

 

Welcome (for how long?) to the Circus of Carbon Trading!

The BBC World Service’s Mark Gregory has reportedly uncovered

“[…] serious flaws in the multi-billion dollar global market for carbon credits […] in some cases, carbon credits are paid to projects that would have been realised without external funding.

The BBC World Service investigation found examples of projects in India where this appeared to be the case. Arguably, this defeats the whole point of the CDM scheme, set up under the Kyoto climate change protocol, as these projects are getting money for nothing.

The findings reinforce doubts that the CDM is leading to real emission cuts, which is not good news for the effort to combat climate change […]”

Notably, the Economist has talked about these issues less than a month ago. And with the Kyoto Treaty soon expiring plus an ever-increasing control bureaucracy for the CDM:

a banker with an interest in the future of the clean development mechanism (CDM) […] foresees either buoyant growth or terminal decline for the arrangement designed to encourage financial transfers from long

I wonder if people will ask for their money back, if the whole CDM business will be shown ineffective (or if global climate turns colder…)

What AGW Worry Without Catastrophism?

2008/06/04 4 comments

Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents have an intrinsic need to chase the latest gloomier-than-thou reports and projections. 

In fact: is there anything to worry about AGW, when one removes its usual catastrophist baggage?

Or to phrase the question differently: is it possible to argue for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without espousing the rather too common doom-and-gloom ideas of those that see the planet literally in peril, and civilization as-we-know-it ready to end in a decade or two?

The answer seems to be a resounding “no”, for a simple reason argued by Alex Cull in a comment to my “Discounting the Future” blog: since a slight warming is obviously beneficial, only a lot of demonization can paint it in an unfavorable light

[…] A different point, which follows on from your earlier blog re John Groome’s gloomy assessment of the ills of global warming. This may sound obvious but the projected deaths from global warming have to be very high for the whole argument to make sense, in fact they have to be inflated by any means possible, and the benefits of warming have to be minimised. Earlier springs mean a longer growing season, meaning in turn that fewer people die from starvation, and warmer winters mean fewer cold-related deaths. Obviously these are not catastrophic consequences, so the deaths will have to come from other causes, for instance as a result of more frequent and violent storms and from rising sea levels.

Now, if there is no well-established link between frequent violent storms and global warming, and if sea levels continue to rise by a few millimetres a year, as they have for well over a century, there’s a problem – no catastrophe. Hence the importance of Greenland and, of course, stubborn, recalcitrant Antarctica. Melt these, however long it may take, and you have your catastrophe. Which is why it is crucial for anyone advocating CO2 abatement that the ice caps must be projected to melt much faster than anyone has previously thought, that the resulting sea levels must be projected to rise far higher than anyone has previously thought, and the human casualties must therefore be far greater.

Because, if the number of people dying as a consequence of global warming is not very much different to, or is lower than, the number of people who would die if there were no warming trend, the CO2 abatement argument is dead in the water. If there is still a warming trend, and if it is caused by man-made CO2 but if it is not, on balance, going to kill more people than would otherwise die, and if we could stop this warming trend by reducing CO2 emissions, what on earth would be the point of doing it?

AGW: Three Hoorays for the “Fritzl” Bishop

2008/06/02 1 comment

The Bishop of Stafford, the Right Reverend Gordon Mursell…compared climate change sceptics to the Austrian child abuser Josef Fritzl.

Now why do I feel better? BECAUSE methinks there is isn’t much to worry about climate change, if the bubble needs to be inflated to the point of making a “Josef Fritzl” analogy…

(Does anybody want to guess when a CoE Bishop will finally associate climate change to that other nasty Austrian fellow, Adolf H?)

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