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China Syndrome



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OK, so the greens already trumpeted China’s recent assertion that it would undertake greenhouse emission reduction efforts…on its own, thank you very much, and conveniently coming mere days after influential Sen. Pete Domenici seemed to switch camps to reject the idea of supporting domestic US legislation unless China was on board some international program, or at least really looked like they were doing something, too.

Next up is a media-gasm over China purportedly agreeing to remove one of the two major Bush Administration objections to joining Kyoto, which are shared by a 95-0 Senate and then-Vice President Gore when he agreed with this standard on December 11, 1997: participation by key developing countries (not-so-secret code for China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia, the giant economies all taking a free-ride on Kyoto as agreed). All available evidence indicates — contrary to John Kerry’s debate zinger to Newt that Europe just doesn’t know how to make carbon cap-and-trade work, but the US does, nyah nyah — that the other objection, that a pact must not substantially harm the US economy, can not be met under foreseeable technologies.

Those holding with a copy of the China-Japan statement referred to in the media (see here) inform me that “the media is spinning it. Nothing new there. China signed on to an ‘effective’ framework but with one with the common stockphrase from Europe ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ or something to that effect.”

To repeat: China did not agree to actual emission reductions, to becoming a covered “Annex I” Kyoto Party (though I suggest that is one major gambit that we should expect from them, for the following reasons), or even to changing the current dynamic. Remember, Kyoto’s extant structure is based upon the “common but differentiated responsibilities” loophole that allows anyone who insists on not threatening their economic growth stays outside of Kyoto’s rationing.

In brief, why we should expect China cleverly agreeing to become a covered Kyoto Party are as follow: the EU — facing no one to buy credits from post-2012 and thus the prospect of actually having to reduce emissions because cdm and ji aren’t capable of the necessary volume — will IMHO offer the Chinese a very favorable baseline and “reduction” (like Australia’s and much of Europe’s….that means an increase) in order to become Annex I. This would remove one major US objection and isolate us in a way we simply aren’t now.

China, of course, has no intention of ever reducing emissions or becoming anything other than a recipient of wealth transfers any more than does Russia. Russia, sage observers posit, will sell GHG credits to the best of its ability then hold out for another sweetie deal or walk…but will never agree to rationing (after all, as the argument goes, the richest countries still have yet to perform). It would just be the ideal way for them — and Brazil, India, SoKo, Indonesia and others — to play the game, getting paid even more simply to hobble everyone. This redefines foreign aid as Kyoto aid, but with far worse complications. Amazing if the US doesn’t aggressively find some way out of this trap first.

The Tyranny of Consensus



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The 18 Doughty Street program Clare Fox News discusses the use of “consensus” in the scientific debate over global warming. Guests are Professor Sir Colin Berry, Tony Gilland of the Institute of Ideas and Brendan O’Neill of Spiked-online. Full program available for viewing here.

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Correlation Equals Causality



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The indispensable Roger Pielke highlights, in a recent post, a risible piece of analysis presented in the detailed work product used to support the most recent UN IPCC Summary for Policymakers.

 

The key analytical exhibit purports to demonstrate that global warming has caused escalating economic losses using a “gee whiz” chart that shows a rising trend in global temperature from 1970 to 2005 moving in rough lockstep with a rising trend in global economic losses from weather-related catastrophes over the same period. 

I’ll resist the temptation to take the low road in illustrating the obvious point that correlation does not equal causality.

 

OK, I won’t. What the authors don’t mention is that, obviously, ANYTHING showing an increasing trend over the past 35 years will show a great fit with the losses from weather-related catastrophes line. The variable “Jim Manzi’s Age” is statistically correlated with estimated losses at the 5% significance level – so apparently I am personally responsible for many billions of dollars of disaster costs.

 

The much more significant point is that it’s equally obvious, even to a non-expert like me, that the first thing you would have to consider in evaluating the chart presented in this report is the growth in global wealth between 1970 and 2005, the proportion of this represented by physical assets and the spatial distribution of this wealth vs. disaster-prone areas in order to start to normalize the trend in weather-related losses.

 

Not surprisingly, competent analysts have considered these issues in detail. For example, see this, this and this. Not to mention this and this.

 

What these papers show is that once you normalize for population, wealth and inflation at the national level, there is a weak upward trend in normalized weather-related disaster losses only if you include the 2004 / 2005 hurricane season. The authors are explicit that that US losses dominate these numbers and that a shift in US population into more vulnerable areas in Florida probably accounts for any trend.

 

It took me 15 minutes on Google to find the relevant research, and maybe two hours to assimilate it. Apparently this was too much work for 2,500 scientists.

 

What’s so shocking is not that IPCC report doesn’t agree with these conclusions, but that it doesn’t even address them – it’s blind to the fundamentals of the analysis in this area.

Kyoto Vote, cont.



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George Will has another trenchant column on the politics of “global warming” today, noting that “Democrats could demand that the president send the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate so they can embrace it.” Yes, they could, but they won’t. President Bush could “transmit” the document to the Senate seeking a vote, which he won’t.

Neither step is a condition precedent to the Senate voting on Kyoto, however.

There is no requirement in the Constitution or statute that the President ask the Senate to vote on a duly signed treaty before the Senate may do so. Period.

The closest thing to such a requirement is the Case-Zablocki Act, which requires that the texts of international agreements other than treaties, entered into by the United States subsequent to August 22, 1972, be transmitted to the Congress as soon as practicable after such agreement has entered into force with respect to the United States.

Treaties quite clearly are not bound by this. Or by any similar requirement.

So, given the rhetoric about “greatest threat!,” Bush’s “irresponsibility,” and the like, such rhetoric– which, by the way, is used for full political effect overseas–one might think that at least one hand-wringing Senator would take the initiative to attain a vote on Kyoto.

That presumes that the rhetoric is serious. It isn’t. It is shamelessly political. It also presumes that Bush will not fight back. To date, that presumption is correct. Thanks to George Will mentioning the idea of Bush suggesting a vote at least twice, however, the relevant issues might just enter the parlance in the proper circles.

Frankly, were Bush to now, finally, transmit the treaty even without a recommendation of ratification or rejection, he would set himself up for (disingenuous) claims of “oh, well, it’s too late now. Nice job!” Instead, he ought to promptly and aggressively begin wondering aloud why no Senator who believes such things as are said about this issue has ever even asked him to send it up let alone asked her colleagues to join her in a vote.

This is like energy taxes as a policy response. Some of my esteemed colleagues apparently miss the nuance distinguishing “well, then let’s have big energy tax increases!” from “if you’re serious, please explain why you do not propose big energy tax increases?”

The same principle applies in this instance.

The Moralizer



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Iain’s colleague at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Marlo Lewis, spoke yesterday on An Inconvenient Truth at a luncheon in Asheville, North Carolina sponsored by my organization, the John Locke Foundation. I thought this line was one of Marlo’s best:

“Al Gore says global warming is a moral issue, but I really think for him it’s a moralizing issue,” Lewis said. “It’s a way he is able to impute guilt and responsibility into the inanimate workings of nature. So if there’s anything out there you don’t like happening — like Katrina — you can blame somebody. You can hold Bush responsible for not supporting the Kyoto Protocol.”

I think this captures the essentially religious nature of much of the climate-alarmist movement. They desperately need for their apocalyptics to be accepted as truth. For some, it’s a desperate attempt to save socialism from the dust bin of history. For others, apparently including Gore, the motivation is even weirder.

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I’ll Be Sure to Wear My Parachute Pants



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Pulses are racing in minivans everywhere with news of the exciting plans for the Live Earth concerts sponsored by Al Gore to focus attention on global warming.

The Times of London reports today that:

Madonna and the Police will be the star attractions at a series of concerts stretching from London to Shanghai.

And goes on to say:

Red Hot Chili Peppers, the reformed Genesis and Madonna will be headline attractions at the British concert.

I guess Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls are booked that weekend. Adam Ant has a prior commitment to deliver a lecture on “Global Climate Model Parameter Uncertainty Estimation: A Bayesian Perspective.”

Heresy in the UK



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When the Sunday Times of London starts running editorials questioning the IPCC, you begin to think that maybe reason will prevail in the end.  The link is here:

 

 

It’s interesting to note that the online comments run 9 – 2 in favor of the editorial.

Time to go to the Track



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Remember when I suggested that Ford CEO might be telling a fish story? He was.

Gosh. I’m on a roll.

Unspeakably Trivial



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Sitting, as I am, in a part of Portugal once known as Al-Gharb ( “The West” , or as we now call it, The Algarve) and as such part of Al-Andalus, which Osama insists must be returned to Islamic rule before peace can be declared of course my mind has wandered to other things called Al.

The prefix Al means “the” (please, linguists, don’t pile in, this is good enough for our purposes here) in Arabic and the diversity of the language means that Al Gore can mean some different things in different places.

My translator in the Green Zone in Baghdad insists that Al-Gore means “the valley” and John provides two further variations:

If it’s Al-Ghor (the guttural ‘ghein’ sound) then it’s a declivity, lowland, depression.

If it’s Al-Gor (an Egyptian hardening of the letter ‘jim’), then it’s injustice, oppression, tyranny, outrage.

Iain Murray of this parish offers:

Algor, funnily enough, is Latin for “cold.” The plural, Algores, is a colloquialism for “bad weather.”

So take the meaning as you wish, a cold, depressing tyranny? Or the ex-Vice President?

(Yes, yes, I know, a fine one to talk, someone whose last name means “a man who knows how to build barns”.)

Personal Disclosure



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I should add that my grandfather was a coal miner. His face was covered in coal dust every day he came out of the colliery, like Tommy Shotton’s shown here. That’s the human face of workers who toil every day in oppressive conditions to bring affordable energy to people.

You can understand if I take that ad campaign personally.

Literal Smears



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Readers of the Wall Street Journal this morning will have noticed several really expensive ads depicting pretty faces smeared with coal dust and the headline “Face it: Coal is filthy.”

I wrote about this on The Corner when these ads started running in Texas. They aren’t financed by the usual enviro groups, but by a shadowy organization called the Clean Sky Coalition. As is its right, it doesn’t reveal its funding, but the Austin American Statesman discovered that it is funded by natural gas corporations. It’s as clear as case of bootleggers joining baptists as you could ever find.

The Dallas Morning News had the following to say:

Smokescreen

The secretive group responsible for the “Coal is Filthy” advertising campaign should come clean about its moneymen and motives. The newly created Texas Clean Sky Coalition has tried to link itself to established environmental groups while conveniently failing to mention that some of its funding comes from competitors who own natural gas power plants. Coal is a dirty and dangerous way to meet our state’s energy needs, but these shadowy tactics stink up the debate.

Well, coal is also the most efficient way to get affordable energy to people, and air standards in Dallas are pretty good. Arguing that coal is something it isn’t in order to get a competitive advantage by legislation that one can’t get via the free market is actually a pretty filthy practice itself.

Disclosure: The organization for which I work, CEI, accepts contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations including the energy industry. CEI does not accept any government funding.

The Ethanol Hoax



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This Nation piece is (not surprisingly) front-loaded with a lot of needless sarcasm and bluster, and I’m sure the writer buys in to a lot of the global warming alarmism we spend so much time decrying here at Planet Gore. But it gets one thing right: Ethanol, despite what the New York Times seems to want us to think, is not the grand energy solution that a lot of its boosters claim.

Giving It All Away



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The Washington Post has this depressing bit about the Gingrich/Kerry debate yesterday:

Even his one big difference with Kerry — Gingrich favored tax incentives to reduce carbon dioxide rather than a government “cap and trade” program — was negotiable. “I am not automatically saying that coercion and bureaucracy is not an answer,” he granted.

Fred Thompson



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While doing a radio show moments ago a caller asked who, after Newt’s dismal showing, might have have the guts to tackle, not pander to, the climate alarmist stance as a presidential candidate. The host, WIBC’s Greg Garrison, noted that at that very moment Fox was announcing that former Senator Fred Thompson — who has already been as good as one could ever hope a political candidate could possibly be on the issue given its pitfalls — has announced his lymphoma, to note that it is in remission, mind you.

Details later, prayers immediately.

Al’s Balancing Act



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Good politics, bad policy says Sam Thernstrom

Planet Kucinich



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Well, this is certainly worth, um, “analysis”.

Choice excerpts:

“News reports have indicated that refinery profit margins on the West Coast have increased substantially, from an average of $17 per barrel over the past five years to $39 per barrel currently.

“The number of refineries in California has fallen by more than half since the early 1980s, but more important, the remaining refineries have not increased supply capacity to keep pace with consumer demand. West Coast refineries ran at about 76% of capacity in 1985. Outages at one refinery were easily compensated for by increased production at other refineries. Now, West Coast refineries are running at nearly 92% of capacity, leaving little room even for maintenance without spiking prices due to lack of supply.

It simply defies explanation that there could possibly have been a decline in the number of new oil refineries built in California since the early 1980s, what with lawmakers of Cong. Kucinich’s caliber around (yes, he had yet to grace Congress’ hallowed halls, but his, er, type, is no stranger).

As we approach this year’s peak driving season, the Subcommittee wishes to know how these factors of decreasing capacity, decreasing supply, rising profitability and increasing market concentration may be related to cause new record highs in the price of gasoline.

That vexing question requires a Blue-Ribbon Commission.

The Douglas-Douglas Debate



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Newt seems to have a more sensible position on global warming than Kerry, but this debate sure wasn’t his best day.

 

I think the root of Newt’s problem was that he implicitly agreed not just that humans have impacted global temperatures, but that we are on the verge of a global disaster that demands immediate, radical action. Once he had conceded this unsupportable premise, he was then reduced to arguing that his “market-based, technological” approach could address the crisis faster and better than a cap-and-trade system for carbon.

Scientific Predictions



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While we talk about what the world might be like in 2054, Hall of Record reminds us of 1954.

Brrrrr!



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As every “since…..!” story begs, whose fault was it then?

Problems with Leo the Eco-Hero



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Roy Spencer elsewhere on NRO today:

The glaring hypocrisy of the global-warming crowd would be more amusing if it weren’t so serious. We heap our pious contempt on big polluters when we’re the ones who are driving this pollution. We could simply stop our consuming, of course — though that’s certainly not what Al Gore and his ilk do: They simply purchase forgiveness in the form of carbon credits, thus avoiding the inconvenience of actually reducing their fossil-fuel use. As for me, I’m offsetting my carbon footprint by not cutting down the big trees in my backyard like I had planned to do.

Indeed, why does it seem that environmental concerns are almost exclusively a pastime of the affluent? Maybe because most of humanity is still too poor, too busy trying to make ends meet, and too busy tending to the sick and dying who don’t have access to clean water, refrigerated food, or modern health-care.

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