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Barbara Boxer’ Contribution to Global Warming: Hot Air



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Barbara Boxer presented a long speech on global warming yesterday. It had all of the rigor that we have learned to expect from the good Senator.

She “has a vision” that the US should “reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050”. Lotsa luck on that one. Is it conceivable that she’s even thought through the economic implications of this? Or is this a statement that we’re all supposed to know isn’t to be taken seriously?

Luckily, she has a plan for doing this. Here it is: “First, we must become far more energy efficient. This saves money, makes us more competitive, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sounds great. I’ve got a plan to help. First, we must invent a perpetual motion machine, and then we figure out a way to halve the gravitational constant.

Creation causes global warming



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A headliner on Yahoo News today (you can’t make this stuff up):

“Scientist says cremation should meet a timely death”

Wed Apr 18, 10:30 AM ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian scientist called Wednesday for an end to the age-old tradition of cremation, saying the practice contributed to global warming.

So, he might have added, does breathing.

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The MSM reports the news!



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An unusual day on Planet Media.

As Kathryn notes below, a study finding that global warming may actually reduce hurricanes has been picked up – not just on Drudge – but across the media landscape. Reuters, the Miami Herald, and Detroit news radio are all running the story.

Like William Broad’s sensible NYTimes piece on climate experts’ revulsion at Gore’s movie, the hurricane story will eventually be overrun by the MSM’s Green indoctrination campaign, but it is there. One line particularly caught my eye: “Illustrating the bewildering complexity of the climate, a study found. . . .”

“Complexity” is right, and should be the news standard instead of “the consensus is.”

Also picked up today by AP and Detroit media is a study that explodes the myth of ethanol as a viable “clean” alternative. ‘’Today, there is a lot of investment in ethanol,’’ Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson says. ‘’But we found that using E85 will cause at least as much health damage as gasoline, which already causes about 10,000 U.S. premature deaths annually from ozone and particulate matter.”

GM challenges the Greens



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More news from the Society of Auto Engineers World Congress here in Detroit. Bob Lutz, GM’s refreshingly outspoken vice chairman, had recently challenged environmentalists who claim that automakers can make alternative fuel vehicles but are engaged in a conspiracy with oil companies (really!) to withhold them.

Said Lutz in a Wall Street Journal interview: “This is a challenge I want to put out to people who think they have a solution, and are so much smarter than we are. Let them come and see us. If the technology were readily and easily available, what on earth would our motive be for withholding it?”

Well, at SAE this week, one David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists answered the challenge, claiming to Lutz in an arranged meeting that GM could build a minivan that would reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent at just $300 per vehicle! Well, maybe. . . but no one would buy it. Which presumably is what Lutz explained since Friedman told the Detroit News after the meeting that the two sides remained at “loggerheads.” Lutz left the talking to GM spokesman Chris Preuss who gave the press this beaut: “The challenge with the environmentalists is that there is a complete lack of business and technical experience from which they can draw conclusions.” Translation: They’re full of it.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Sequestration



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Via Greenwire:

The ancient tradition of cremating bodies should be discontinued because of its possible contribution to global warming, an Australian scientist said today.

Advocating burial over cremation, Professor Roger Short of the University of Melbourne said that incinerating bodies releases carbon dioxide that could otherwise be stored.

An average Australian male will produce 110 pounds of CO2 during cremation.

Short said the deceased should be buried in cardboard boxes under trees, where their decomposing bodies would feed that CO2 and valuable nutrients to the tree. “The important thing is, what a shame to be cremated when you go up in a big bubble of carbon dioxide,” Short said. “Why waste all that carbon dioxide on your death?” (Agence France-Presse).

As far as the English church is concerned, burial is traditional, and therefore right…

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Would You Buy a Car Designed by the Union of Concerned Scientists?



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The Union of Concerned Scientists, a thinly-disguised liberal environmentalist lobby group, has been saying for some time that they can design a car better than Detroit. Today, GM invited them to demonstrate how. They weren’t impressed:

GM spokesman Chris Preuss said, “The challenge with the environmentalists is that there is a complete lack of business and technical experience from which they can draw conclusions.

“The fact is that we must balance dozens of complex regulatory and consumer issues in producing vehicles — safety, performance, fuel economy and affordability, to name but a few The more we can inform and engage the misconceptions, the more robust the societal discussion will be. For that reason, we think the meeting was very worthwhile.”

The UCS spokesman said:

“I think we will have to build a driveable vehicle” to convince GM the technology works.

I can’t wait to see how the UCS Motor Company performs.

Re: Katrina killer?



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Top hurricane scientist Chris Landsea has the following to say over at Prometheus:

One implication to me is that this further provides evidence that the busy period we’ve seen in the Atlantic hurricanes since 1995 is due to natural cycles, rather than manmade causes. We’ve seen a big reduction in wind shear in the last thirteen hurricane seasons, which is OPPOSITE to the signal that Vecchi and Soden have linked to manmade global warming changes. Another implication is that this paper reconfirms earlier work that suggests that global warming will cause very small changes to Atlantic hurricanes, even several decades from now.

Of course, it’s all based on global climate models, which, as noted below, are accumulations of guesses and fudges factors as well as data, so it may all be wildly wrong.

Political Manipulation of IPCC Results: An Example



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I believe that there is a hierarchy of seriousness in climate science.

At the base of the pyramid is the peer-reviewed scientific literature. I don’t see any nefarious conspiracy or systematic “paradigm failure” among climate researchers. It seems to me that there is no more than a normal amount of hackery and careerism. A couple of the big trouble-spots are:

  • The insulation of the climate modelers from third-party validation. Every predictive modeling community has a tendency to over-estimate its own accuracy, and that makes third-party validation critical. The lack of this outside check for climate models is partially a result of the reality that a true validation study for a multi-decadal climate model (i.e., make a prediction on date X for some future date Y, and then when Y rolls around compare the prediction to actual) would take many years, but they are hiding behind this and avoiding serious studies that would validate the prediction skill of models for climate prediction for even a few years. We don’t really know how accurate climate models are. This is a real scandal, given how reliant the whole enterprise is on these model predictions.
  • The quality of long-term temperature reconstructions. Steve McIntyre (the guy who broke the Hockey Stick) has an amazing site that has applied careful statistical analysis to many of the major long-term climate reconstructions that are the basis of claims about how exceptional current temperatures are. He has uncovered case after case of bad data and/or analysis that are not rounding error issues, but go to the heart of many claims in widely-cited studies.

All that said, generally what you see in this field are real scientists trying to do real science.

The next level up in the pyramid is the IPCC detailed report for each Working Group. These have historically appeared to be serious attempts by scientists to summarize relevant research findings.

 

The next level in the pyramid is the IPCC Summary for Policymakers for each Working Group. These are really treaties negotiated between government representatives. It is generally important to the governments to have the scientists, whom I assume the governments see as one constituency among many, remain willing to sign it to retain credibility. This has normally disciplined these reports to the extent that they’re not totally crazy. Spin, emphasis, and decisions about inclusion vs. exclusion, however, are often manipulated in these reports. When it comes to the backroom, late-hour negotiations about what word is included where, you can bet that the professional negotiators outwit the academic scientists pretty much every time.

At the top of the pyramid you have any statements made by senior UN or government officials. These should all be treated with the level of seriousness you would give to a typical political campaign promise that “my Administration will eliminate all poverty in America” or something.

What is disheartening, though probably inevitable as the economic stakes have risen, is that politicization seems to be seeping downward in the pyramid.

I wrote a post a few days ago that criticized an analysis in a draft Working Group technical report. This analysis implied that increasing global temperatures were responsible for increasing economic losses from weather-related disasters. The basic point that I made was that both cursory examination of the analysis presented and review of relevant technical literature produced in this area over the past 10 years indicated that the conclusion was completely unwarranted, and inclusion of this analysis in what is supposed to be a summary of relevant research was not in any way accurate. I found this pretty inexplicable.

Yesterday, Laurens Bouwer, one of the expert reviewers for this chapter posted his experience with the details of how the current IPCC report went about addressing this topic. He says:

“As reviewer for WG2 I have repeatedly (3 times) asked to put a clear statement in the SPM that is in line with the general literature, and underlying WG2 chapters. In my view, WG2 has not succeeded in adequately quoting and discussing all relevant recent papers that have come out on this topic.

Initial drafts of the SPM had relatively nuanced statements such as:

Global economic losses from weather-related disasters have risen substantially since the 1970s. During the same period, global temperatures have risen and the magnitude of some extremes, such as the intensity of tropical cyclones, has increased. However, because of increases in exposed values …, the contribution of these weather-related trends to increased losses is at present not known.

For unknown reasons, this statement was dropped from the final SPM. Now the SPM has no statement on the attribution of disaster losses, and we do not know what is the ‘consensus’ here.”

In other words, selective editing of the technical reports is being used to manipulate the conclusions presented.

Global Warming, Katrina Killer?



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Engineers: Fuel realities



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With a new Democratic Congress and a full-throated MSM campaign of Green indoctrination promising a new playing field, this week’s annual Society of Automotive Engineer’s (SAE) World Congress here in Detroit is understandably abuzz with climate-change and fuel-efficiency talk.

But SAE engineers paint a different energy reality than the alternate fuel fictions of Schwarzenegger, Pelosi & Co.

 


At a Tuesday afternoon panel called “High Performance and Fuel Economy: Can We Have Both?” General Motors Executive Director of Powertrain, Larry Nitz, said: “Customers are absolutely unwilling to give up performance for fuel economy.”

 


“The press misses that most of the time,” added fellow panelist Don Whitsett of Aisin, a major auto supplier of transmissions and power trains.

 

“We have to produce cars that customers will drive, not just that reporters will write about,” Whitsett continued matter-of-factly. “We must produce profit, otherwise we cannot produce new product.”

One would hope such fundamental statements about market economics would not be necessary in the 21st-century United States, but it is refreshing to hear given the propaganda spewed daily by an ill-informed political and media class claiming a switch to alternative energy is free.

Climate Humor



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Patriot Post has a little Al Gore climate humor to brighten up your day.

Meanwhile, Cellulosic Ethanol Remains Out of Reach



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While many green environmentalists rightly condemn corn-based ethanol and other destructive biofuels, they often have good things to say about cellulosic ethanol. Today’s New York Times offers a salutary reminder of how the technology remains elusive:

Government officials gave optimistic speeches. In the background, workers prepared a new network of pipes, tanks and conveyor belts.

That was in October 1998, when ethanol from crop wastes seemed to be just around the corner.

It still is. Last February, company officials gathered here once again, to break ground on a plant designed to make ethanol by yet another method.

At the time of the first ceremony, the Energy Department was predicting that ethanol produced from cellulosic waste would be in the market by about 2009 in the same volume as ethanol from the conventional source, corn.

But no company has yet been able to produce ethanol from cellulose in mass quantities that are priced competitively with corn-based ethanol. And without the cellulosic ethanol, the national goal for ethanol production will be impossible to reach.

“Producing cellulosic ethanol is clearly more difficult than we thought in the 1990s,” said Dan W. Reicher, who was assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the time of the first ceremony and who spoke here then.

This is the case with so many technologies that people are claiming will provide the breakthrough with just a tad more government investment. Caveat emptor.

Ethanol starves the poor



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Yet more evidence that current biofuels policy, subsidizing wasteful, inefficient corn-based ethanol, is bad for humanity and the planet. Two professors from the University of Minnesota summarize how biofuels will starve the poor in the new issue of Foreign Affairs magazine:

The International Food Policy Research Institute, in Washington, D.C., has produced sobering estimates of the potential global impact of the rising demand for biofuels. Mark Rosegrant, an ifpri division director, and his colleagues project that given continued high oil prices, the rapid increase in global biofuel production will push global corn prices up by 20 percent by 2010 and 41 percent by 2020. The prices of oilseeds, including soybeans, rapeseeds, and sunflower seeds, are projected to rise by 26 percent by 2010 and 76 percent by 2020, and wheat prices by 11 percent by 2010 and 30 percent by 2020. In the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where cassava is a staple, its price is expected to increase by 33 percent by 2010 and 135 percent by 2020. The projected price increases may be mitigated if crop yields increase substantially or ethanol production based on other raw materials (such as trees and grasses) becomes commercially viable. But unless biofuel policies change significantly, neither development is likely.

The production of cassava-based ethanol may pose an especially grave threat to the food security of the world’s poor. Cassava, a tropical potato-like tuber also known as manioc, provides one-third of the caloric needs of the population in sub-Saharan Africa and is the primary staple for over 200 million of Africa’s poorest people. In many tropical countries, it is the food people turn to when they cannot afford anything else. It also serves as an important reserve when other crops fail because it can grow in poor soils and dry conditions and can be left in the ground to be harvested as needed.

Thanks to its high-starch content, cassava is also an excellent source of ethanol. As the technology for converting it to fuel improves, many countries — including China, Nigeria, and Thailand — are considering using more of the crop to that end. If peasant farmers in developing countries could become suppliers for the emerging industry, they would benefit from the increased income. But the history of industrial demand for agricultural crops in these countries suggests that large producers will be the main beneficiaries. The likely result of a boom in cassava-based ethanol production is that an increasing number of poor people will struggle even more to feed themselves.

The biofuels boondoggle is a stupid and tragic policy that needs eliminating as soon as possible. We are already seeing rises in food prices here in the US as a result:

The Agriculture Department says that retail food prices are likely to climb by 2.5% to 3.5% in 2007, fueled in part by strong demand for corn-derived ethanol. But Michael Swanson, an agricultural economist at Wells Fargo & Co., thinks the rise could be an even sharper 4.5%.

Food prices are volatile by nature, and economists generally shrug off such jumps because they tend to be offset over time by equally abrupt price declines. But Kenneth Beauchemin, a U.S. economist with consulting firm Global Insight, says that the difference now is that the government’s push to promote ethanol, unlike a storm or other temporary factor, “could affect prices for the next 10 years.”

Others also expect food inflation to persist. “Consumers are going to feel it at the meat counter first, and they’ll see marginal increases in other food products for awhile, but we see the price increases lasting for a period of years,” says Cal Dooley, president and chief executive of the Grocery Manufacturers and Food Products Association.

Food prices are already on the rise. The price of cereals and baked products increased 4.2% during the 12 months ended in February, according to the Labor Department. Meat, poultry and fish prices gained 2.7% over the same period.

So prices are rising for food and energy as a result of global warming alarmism. Gosh, the average Joe must be so happy Al Gore has brought this to the forefront of the power elite’s attention.

China Rejects Emissions Caps - Again



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Remember last week when it was announced that China was going to take part in talks about a post-Kyoto regime (Chris Horner suggested why they might be interested in that here)? Well, this week’s news from China is that they aren’t willing to adopt emissions caps:

“Before generally accomplishment of modernization by the middle of the 21st century, China should not undertake absolute and compulsory emission reduction obligations,” said a translated summary of the report, shown to Reuters.

The document was drafted over four years in consultation with powerful ministries, suggesting a broad official consensus. The final version, which gives no figures for total current or future emissions, is not yet approved for publication. It is separate from a national plan on climate change Beijing is expected to unveil April 24.

Instead, China will focus on reductions in emissions intensity – just like the US under the current President – with set targets that sound impressive. My colleague Marlo Lewis, however, comments:

According to the International Energy Agency, CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion: Highlights 1971-2003, China’s emissions intensity in 2003 was 0.61 kilograms of CO2/GDP using Purchasing Power Parity (p. 86). China’s emission intensity dropped by 50.9% from 1990 (1.21 kg CO2/GDP) to 2003 (0.61 kg CO2/GDP). So it looks like China’s goals–a 40% drop in carbon intensity by 2020 and an 80% drop by 2050–will not require much if anything beyond BAU [business as usual].

As so often in the hyperbole-filled world of global warming alarmism, yet another “breakthrough” proves to be nothing of the sort.

Scratch one totem



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A year or two ago, the disappearance of the snows of Kilimanjaro was the poster child for global warming alarmism. Unfortunately for them, it turned out that the Kilimanjaro area wasn’t warming and that the recent disappearance of the glaciers was more likely down to a climate dislocation in 1880 exacerbated by deforestation (my colleague Marlo Lewis summarizes the temperature evidence in Chapter II here, while Nature subscribers can find the article about deforestation here).

Now it seems that the Kilimanjaro glaciers are likely to be around for decades yet:

“About five years ago Kilimanjaro was being used as an icon for global warming. We know now that this was far too simplistic a view,” said Thomas Moelg.

“We have done different kinds of modelling and we expect the plateau glaciers to be gone roughly within 30 or 40 years from now, but we have a certain expectation that the slope glaciers may last longer,” added colleague Georg Kaser.

Of course, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth haven’t caught up with the science yet.

UN Security Council Greenhouse Gasbags



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The United Nations’ Security Council will be discussing international responses to global warming today. What will be the result of their taking is issue up at this high level? It is hard to believe that it will bring more attention to the issue than it has already gotten lately, but will this meeting lead to new treaties or highlight faultlines — the areas of policy disagreement — between the different Security Council members with their different levels of development and agendas. My views are here.

They Shouldn’t Make It This Easy



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Don Berry has this to say in the March issue of Prospect magazine:

“We need a planet-saving alternative to democracy. Mankind is set on exhausting the planet’s resources. Voters in rich nations will not want to give anything up; voters (or dictators) in developing nations will seek what the rich have. Since democracies must reflect what majorities want, they cannot stop this process. (Dictatorships won’t care.) Science will not rise to the challenge. Old ideas about philosopher-kings and benign dictatorships may be revived. Completely new ideas may emerge. Either way, democracy as we know it will not survive the century.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Berry has a nomination for World Emperor (hint: his initials are DB).

“Kyoto will be disaster for Turkey, says State Planning Agency “



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Que Idiota



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Having dinner in Madrid last night with friends, I was informed that their local video-rental store — that is to say, yet one more poseur business and/or alarmist commentator whose livelihood depends entirely on the concept of people plugging things in and turning them on — has begun accompanying each rental with a gratis copy of “An Inconvenient Truth”, thereby “doing his part” in the struggle against catastrophic man-made global warming . . . also thereby marking the occasion by doubling each customer’s DVD-watching carbon footprint.

No word on how many squirrels they think it takes to run each customers’ DVD player.

Green propaganda in academia



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Back in the saddle here in Detroit after a week touring college campuses in Virginia (Tech not among them). The Green religion (along with racial diversity, of course) has predictably taken hold in the leftist bastion of academia. “Save the Planet” flyers dot campus billboards at William & Mary and GW, the best parking spaces are reserved for hybrids at U. of Richmond, etc.

 

Still, I saw no evidence of the huge, Soviet-style propaganda posters or ubiquitous workplace signs that one sees at corporate facilities like Ford urging employees to be Green (or expounding on the virtues of diversity).

 

Academia may have met its match in the modern, politically-correct corporation.

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